Coming: Teen Book Festival, ‘the gold standard’ for YA book festivals

Charles Benoit, local author, will be among the Young Adult fiction writers at the Teen Book Festival

Every year for the last decade, young adult fiction authors have come from across the United States to Rochester in May for the Teen Book Festival. This year, a local author who was inspired as a young adult will be among 30 of the authors gathering at a local college for a day.

The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with authors parading in at 8:45 a.m.) on Saturday, May 16, at the Otto Shults Community Center, Nazareth College of Rochester.

In an e-mail interview, author Charles Benoit, who has taught social studies in the Rochester City School District as well as in international schools in Kuwait and Trinidad and Tobago, said there is one person who made a big difference in his life. A professor at Monroe Community College complimented Benoit, telling him he had a talent for writing. Although Benoit did not start writing until years later, when he was 40, the remark stuck with him. Asked why he started writing, Benoit said it was because of boredom. He and his wife had been living in the Middle East: “I didn’t have many books to read in Kuwait, and I was bored by the ones I did have. I thought. ‘I love to read. I like to tell stories. Why not write a book?’ I thought it would be easy…” On the contrary, getting a book published took time — a couple of years for his first novel.

He is now a prolific author. Benoit is the author of YA mysteries You, Fall from Grace, and Cold Calls. He has also published three adult fiction books: Relative Danger, Noble Lies, and Out of Order. When asked why he chose to come to The Teen Book Festival he said, “TBF is the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to YA book festivals. When I meet authors in different parts of the country and I tell them I’m from Rochester, they all want to know how they can get in TBF. You have no idea how lucky we are to have this event; there is literally nothing like it in the country.”

This year the Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival, mainly known as TBF, will be celebrating its tenth anniversary. In 2005, Stephanie Squicciarni, the Committee Chair, and other librarians from public and school libraries formed TBF. Kimberly Rouleau has been a TBF committee member for six years, and she said in an e-mail this about TBF: “The purpose of TBF is to provide a book festival dedicated specifically to teens, as teens tend to be overlooked in libraries. We want to encourage teens to read and let them know that we value them as part of our community.” Sales of teen books will be part of the festival.

At TBF there will be a Teen Author Panel. This is when teenagers who are authors — including Thomas senior Sarah Hamilton — will be answering questions and giving advice.

As for advice from Benoit, he says, “Be thoughtful about what you choose to read. Every author I ever read did something to shape my writing, whether it was word choices, plotting, pacing or character depth.”