Sarah Dessen packed the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall on Friday night.
Hello writers! My name is Kelsey Ramaley and on January 18th my mother Jenny and I attended a reading at the Carnegie Lecture Hall featuring YA author Sarah Dessen (Route 19 Writers Fran and Carol also attended!). I am currently a senior studying at Penn State University but I hightailed it back to Pittsburgh when I heard that Sarah Dessen would be lecturing in Oakland. Throughout middle school, I tore through a number of Dessen’s books including “That Summer”, “This Lullaby”, and my personal favorite, “Dreamland”. To me, Dessen presented books that were both relatable and intriguing and I admired her honest, “no fuss” writing style. Her books were easy to read and yet at the same time, laced with subtle details that propelled forward some pretty heavy plot lines. Upon entering the lecture, it was clear that about a hundred other college aged girls shared the same enthusiasm I did regarding Dessen’s books.
Dessen gave about an hour long presentation, beginning with a brief lecture, followed by a reading from her latest book, “What Happened to Goodbye”, and finished with a Q&A session. Dessen herself can be described as nothing less than a total sweetheart and a literary force to be reckoned with. Throughout the lecture, Dessen touched on her approach to the writing process and advised young writers to “be disciplined” and make a clear effort to write for at least two hours every day. She also explored topics such as managing social media as an author, literary inspiration, and publishing.
My favorite part of the presentation was the Q&A session in which Dessen handled questions ranging from “Where do you come up with your characters names?” to “What advice do you have for young writers looking to be published?”. At one point, a young audience member stood up and thanked Dessen for, “helping her survive high school”. Dessen was an excellent presenter and it was wonderful to see her audience so engaged in her writing. Dessen sold her first book in 1994, was first published in 1996 and continues to churn out successful books while maintaining a loyal fan base. I am confident that every writer who attended her presentation left feeling excited and inspired about writing, I know I did.