Friday, August 7, 2009

Frank Portman, "Cultivating Your Teen Voice"

Second morning panel I'm attending is:

FRANK PORTMAN, "Cultivating Your Teen Voice"

(Pictured above is Frank and his trusty guitar!)

Some quick highlights:

Frank Portman began his panel by performing one of his songs on guitar called "You're the Only One." He talked about writing in an authentic teen voice and read an excerpt from his novel KING DORK that made everyone laugh.

Funny moment: One conference goer asked, "Are you texting?" He smiled and held up his cell phone and said, "No, I'm keeping track of time." :)

What books did he like? "I was very interested in comics when I was a kid. But I did read several books, so I kind of know what I'm talking about."

"YA is great because it's wide open. It's a tradition that goes back a long way. That said, I think it's a terrible mistake to tailor your writing to a demographic in any kind of direct way because it will be fake."

He warned aspiring writers NOT to think that "because you're writing from a teen POV, it must be less complicated - simpler, dumber - than a regular book. That will not produce a good book."

He discussed the conundrum of how "sex sells" but it also frightens publishers because of the age group (his book is hilarious and very candid - he jokes about his editor called once and said, "Frank, we have to talk about the nipple problem." LOL!) But he says there's a difference between overt vulgarity and a realistic sense of how to approach the topic of sex in YA literature. In fact, his next novel will be from the point of view of a female teen character!

Overall, a packed room that loved Frank's music performance, honesty, and humorous presentation.

Posted by Paula Yoo


  1. Thanks Kate. Frank's a great guy. You can find out more about him at his website here: His new book Andromeda Klein comes out August 25th.