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‘Girl band’ of popular teen writers at Bellingham library

Ally Condie, Jandy Nelson and Meg Wolitzer are shown Monday, Nov. 2, at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida.
Ally Condie, Jandy Nelson and Meg Wolitzer are shown Monday, Nov. 2, at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A trio of popular women writers will appear this weekend as part of a whirlwind U.S. tour promoting the paperback release of their bestselling young adult novels — including the winner of this year’s Printz Award, the top honor for teen literature.

Ally Condie, Meg Wolitzer and Jandy Nelson are part of what Entertainment Weekly called a “girl band” of writers.

Condie is the author of the bestselling dystopian fantasy “Atlantia” and the acclaimed “Matched” trilogy; Wolitzer wrote “Belzhar,” about a boarding school for smart but angst-driven teens; and Nelson’s award-winning “I’ll Give You the Sun” explores the complex relationship between fraternal twins, a boy and a girl – with shocking and heartbreaking results.

My friendships are essential to me, and always have been.

Meg Wolitzer, author of “Belzhar”

“I adore writing teen characters, love how heightened emotions are at that age, how it’s a time full of first loves, first losses, first everythings,” Nelson said by email. “It’s always a wild roller coaster of a creative experience writing teen characters. I love it.”

Their tour started Monday at a bookstore in Coral Gables, Fla., and continues with appearances in Texas, Kansas, Illinois and California.

Their finale is free at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, in the downstairs lecture room of Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Ave. Village Books will have copies of their work for sale.

Wolitzer either plays lead guitar in the “band” or hangs in the background, clanging a triangle. Nelson plays clarinet and you’ll find Condie on piano but not behind the mike.

Wolitzer’s earlier books — such as “The Interestings” — were aimed at adult audiences but featured teen characters, and frequently delve into the nature of friendship.

“My friendships are essential to me, and always have been,” Wolitzer said by email. “My first writing teacher said, ‘Write about what’s important,’ and she meant what’s important to each writer. So friendship is a good and durable subject to explore in a book.”

If you’re wondering, Wolitzer said she either plays lead guitar in the “band” or hangs in the background, clanging a triangle. Nelson plays clarinet and you’ll find Condie on piano but not behind the mike (“I definitely don’t sing,” she said in a phone interview).

They haven’t chosen a band name, but were kicking around ideas like the Grateful Read, Misplaced Modifiers, Oxymorons, or Mixed Metaphors.

I’m always asking ‘Why?’ and I won’t do it if it’s not right.

Ally Condie, author of “Atlantia”

Condie said “Atlantia” was inspired by “The Little Mermaid” — the original tragic Hans Christian Andersen story, not the happy Disney version. Characters in “Atlantia” are human, because Condie said she wanted to ponder themes of sisterhood and family. “Atlantia’s” apocalyptic undersea world emerged as she contemplated environmental issues in her native Utah.

“We’re just so ‘can-do’ here,” Condie said. “We can do anything (but) we’re not very responsible about our natural resources. It’s ridiculously beautiful, but we don’t take care of it. It made me think, ‘What kind of world would that be?’”

Condie, who taught high school English before turning to writing, said she comes from a family that emphasized reading.

It’s always a wild roller coaster of a creative experience writing teen characters. I love it.

Jandy Nelson, author of “I’ll Give You the Sun”

“I was very lucky,” she said. “My parents had very demanding jobs, but they were always reading for pleasure. I loved the classic kids’ stories. I read ‘Anne of Green Gables’ 32 times (she made hashmarks on an inside page).

In her writing, Condie creates strong girls — like Katniss from “The Hunger Games” and Tris from “Divergent” — who defy authority.

“That is the teacher in me,” Condie said. “I’m always asking ‘Why?’ and I won’t do it if it’s not right. It’s really fun to be in a classroom where kids are coming up with their own ideas, where kids have things to say.”

Reach Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com. Tweeting @goMittygo and @BhamMitty.

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Find Robert Mittendorf’s Out With the Kids column online at BellinghamHerald.com/out-with-kids.

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