The Hippo


Jul 5, 2020








Emmy Laybourne, featured speaker at the inaugural Derry Author Fest. Courtesy photo.

Attend the inaugural Derry Author Fest

Where: Derry Public Library, 64 E. Broadway, Derry
When: Saturday, May 2, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Admission: Free
Registration: Helpful, but not required; open to all
Authors will be available for book signings in the children’s room after their programs.
10 a.m.: YA panel with Emmy Laybourne, Erin Bowman, Lori Goldstein, A.C. Gaughen and Camille DeAngelis (12 to adult)
10:30 a.m. until 3:45 p.m.: Book sale with Water Street Bookstore 
10:55 a.m.: “I Can Help!” workshop with David Hyde Costello (ages 12 and younger; he’ll bring along his 6-foot-tall cardboard giraffe)
11:45 a.m.: “A Premise is a Promise” with Emmy Laybourne (ages 12 to adult)
noon: Celtic stories with Simon Brooks
12:40 p.m.: “The Little Things: How Small Details Enhance Nonfiction” with Rick Holmes (12 to adult)
1 p.m.: Folk Tales with Cora Jo Ciampi
1:35 p.m.: Publishing panel with Erin Dionne, David Elliott, Eric Pinder and Erin Moulton (12 to adult)
2:30 p.m.: The Shape of Story with Emmy Laybourne (12 to adult)
3:15 p.m.: Reading and signing with Emmy Laybourne (12 to adult)

Like Writers’ Day, for free
Inaugural Derry Author Fest features Emmy Laybourne

By Kelly Sennott

 Emmy Laybourne grew up in a house full of storytellers. Her dad was a TV producer, her mom an executive at Nickelodeon. (Actually, she “sort of invented  Nickelodeon,” Laybourne wrote on her website; she even has an in-depth Wikipedia page.)

“We were always talking about stories in my house — about what worked and what didn’t,” Laybourne said via phone. “Her mission, when she grew Nickelodeon to be what it was in the ‘80s and ‘90s, was for it to be a place where kids were empowered. … Where kids could watch the kinds of shows they wanted to watch without being talked down to.”
So it shouldn’t be surprising that Laybourne went on to become a master storyteller. She shaped her skills by studying English at Vassar College, performing improv, writing for Comedy Central and acting in Hollywood films like Superstar alongside Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell. (She was Mary Katherine Gallagher’s BFF Helen.)
But when she was invited to be part of the Derry Public Library’s inaugural Author Fest this Saturday, May 2, it was because of her credentials as a young adult author, particularly her very successful Monument 14 series, which chronicles a group of kids who lock themselves in a chain superstore for protection against an apocalyptic disaster.
She’s one of 13 authors and storytellers giving presentations or hosting workshops that day. Teen librarian Erin Robinson (also an author who goes by Erin Moulton) said they asked Laybourne because of her varied experience and appeal to both kids and adults. (Robinson also got many Laybourne requests when she asked patrons for ideas.) 
The event, Robinson said, is kind of like a free and abbreviated Writers’ Day.
“There are some great literary festivals in New Hampshire and Mass., but we wanted something just for [southern New Hampshire],” Robinson said via phone. “And we wanted something that would be free for the public — because, you know, that’s the whole point of the library. … People are pretty excited. I know some people who’ve taken off work May 2 to attend.”
Laybourne said she’s happy to visit Derry because she’s never been to this part of the country before. She also loves “being part of the beginnings of things” and talking about story structure.
One of her workshops is called “The Shape of Story,” which is handy for anyone — writers, entrepreneurs, business folk — and is told with the help of a few YouTube clips that have extraordinary story structures, some of which involve babies, birds and video game-playing frogs.
She draws from her writing and acting experience, which taught her to create characters and write without hesitation.
“My experience as an actor helped me in how I create characters. I can really get inside a character, and also outside a character. I can really think about how they look, think and talk,” Laybourne said. 
It also taught her to ignore her inner critic — at least during the first draft.
“When you’re doing comedy improv, which is something I did a lot of, you can’t be in your head. You can’t be criticizing yourself. I think a lot of writers have trouble with that, with writers’ block. … I think that has to do with the inner critic acting up. In improv, you learn to ignore the inner critic. … When I sit down, I don’t have that voice saying, ‘Oh God, who do you think you are? This will never be as good as Monument 14!’”
Whenever Laybourne isn’t writing YA or talking about it, she’s reading it; she grew up hearing from her mother how important it was that kids got high-quality programming (in fact, her parents are still her beta readers), and she feels the genre does things traditional, adult literary books cannot.
“I love kids, I love teenagers, and I love YA. I want to write what I love to read,” Laybourne said. “I think YA novels in general have more classically structured plots than adult literary novels. … Adult novels … contain meandering thoughts and beautiful characters full of acute observations about life. … But I like a good story well-told! I’m not into rambling narratives. I do like acute observations, but I like them set against a kick-[butt] story.”
During the event, attendees may hear about Laybourne’s latest YA novel, Sweet, about a bunch of B-list celebrities who take a diet drug while riding a luxury cruise, which combines two things she finds very funny: weight loss and celebrities. She dedicated the book to her dad, who helped her research by going on a real cruise with her.
“He’s the first person I go to with any ideas I have,” she said. “He loves story structure. It’s such a weird thing to pass on to a child.” 
As seen in the April 30, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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