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Best of the National Book Festival: Leigh Bardugo, 2018

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Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the Library of Congress National Book Festival. Each weekday, we will feature a video presentation from among the thousands of authors who have appeared at the National Book Festival and as part of our new year-long series, National Book Festival Presents. Mondays will feature topical nonfiction; Tuesday: poetry or literary fiction; Wednesday: history, biography, memoir; Thursday: popular fiction; and Friday: authors who write for children and teens. Please enjoy, and make sure to explore our full National Book Festival video collection!

The following post was written by Sasha Dowdy and Monica Valentine, program specialists in the Library’s Young Readers Center.

This event from the National Book Festival is especially for teens, and this blog post includes prompts for writing and thinking that young readers, families and teachers can use to explore the author and the author’s work. Recommended for ages 13+.

In today’s video, young adult author Leigh Bardugo discusses “Crooked Kingdom” on the Genre Fiction stage at the 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., with Washington Post audience editor and science fiction and fantasy columnist Everdeen Mason. Bardugo is a New York Times best-selling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse series. She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism and even makeup and special effects.

Leigh Bardugo’s presentation starts at 1:36, and timestamps for major topics are below:

  • Planning and executing 6 points of view (2:36)
  • Strong female characters and overcoming trauma (8:30)
  • Improving your own writing (14:33)
  • Living with the discomfort of your first draft (15:39)
  • Elevating diverse voices (16:34)
  • Fantasy as a savior from mundanity (21:25)
  • Researching and writing a biracial character (27:57)
  • Q&A starts (29:36)

Writing and Thinking Prompts

  • Have you read “Six of Crows,” “Crooked Kingdom” or any other works by Leigh Bardugo? How has this talk changed the way you think about this author?
  • What surprised you about the author talk? If you are an aspiring author, which piece of advice was the most valuable?
  • If you had been at the talk, what would you have asked Leigh Bardugo?

In her talk, Leigh Bardugo offers a lot of writing advice. Use the guide below to develop your writing skills!

Leigh Bardugo encourages the use of “historical inspiration as a point of departure,” and finds inspiration in Russian imperial history (32:48).

  • Which historical time period, person or event are you drawn to or want to explore more?

Research your chosen historical event/time period/person. You can look for images, music, maps, newspaper articles or manuscripts on – use the drop-down menu in the upper right hand corner to narrow down by type of material. Look in the links below for portals and resources for researching the Library’s digital collections. Is there one particular item that speaks to you? What is compelling about it? How could you discover more about this topic?

Stories about friendship, love and finding family are all equally important for Leigh Bardugo (10:50).

Look for stories from the time period you’re interested in about love, friendship or family. How do you feel about this story? Who are the “characters,” what do they care about, and what are their conflicts?

  • Leigh encourages aspiring writers to “Live with the discomfort of your first draft” (15:39) and she creates a “zero draft” for her books (34:00).

Create your own “zero draft” for your story and find inspiration in drafts by famous authors:

The 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival, which is free for everyone, will be held on Saturday, Aug. 29. You can get up-to-the-minute news, schedule updates and other important festival information by subscribing to this blog. The festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You too can support the festival by making a gift now.