Speak with Chelsea in conversation with debut authors Laura Gao, Brian D. Kennedy, Jean Louise, and XiXi Tian to chat about the challenges and joys of getting your first book out in the world.
Chelsea Banning: a writer, reader, and lover of all things fantasy. Chelsea started writing in 10th grade and hasn't stopped since. She started writing Flash-Fictions that bloomed into novels. Along with writing, she has worked at Renaissance Faires on the street cast, directing fairy guilds, announcing and squiring at joust shows with her husband, and working clothing booths. She also owned a small performing business offering various fairytale and superhero characters for kids for seven years. Chelsea currently lives in Ohio with her family where she works as a librarian and also loves to go camping, swimming, and exploring.
Laura Gao: a queer artist, author, bread lover, and continental drifter. Originally from Wuhan, China, Laura immigrated to Texas where their art career began by doodling on Pokémon cards and has since blossomed to be featured on NPR, the Museum of Chinese in America, and most notably, their parents’ fridge. Having graduated with a degree in Statistics from the University of Pennsylvania, Laura became favorite child #2 of 2 when they decided to dive into the arts instead.
Thankfully, their graphic memoir, MESSY ROOTS, debuted on the 2022 Indies Bestsellers List and has been shortlisted for the Harvey Awards and the Texas Maverick List. Besides drawing and fending off early-onset back pain, Laura enjoys biking through Ghibli-esque worlds and binging SNL. Laura’s pronouns are she/her and they/them.
Brian D. Kennedy: writes books for young adults. Born and raised in Minnesota, he now lives in New York City with his husband and their very photogenic dog. When he’s not writing, Brian can be found working at an LGBTQ non-profit. His slightly unhealthy obsessions include: seeing as many Broadway shows as possible, buying weird trinkets off eBay, and all things Dolly Parton. His debut, A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY, was published June 7th, 2022.
Jean Louise: grew up with her mother and two sisters in an old Victorian house on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. Although she always loved making up stories, the idea of becoming a YA fantasy author wasn’t anything she’d ever considered until she was in her twenties. Her first short story was a romance novel parody that ended up being a hit among her friends. After that success, she started writing seriously, which led to her earning an MFA in Writing for Children at The New School. Her debut YA Fantasy novel, WAKING FIRE, will be released on January 10, 2023!
Currently, she lives on Long Island, New York, with her cat Martha. When she’s not working at her day job or writing her next novel, Jean can be found with her nose buried in a graphic novel or taking down bad guys in her favorite video games. Fun Fact: Her full first name is Jean-Paul!
XiXi Tian: Her name is pronounced like two C's. Just getting it out there upfront now after years of awkward classroom roll calls and failing to correct people who mispronounce it for months (it's too late after awhile!).
She was born in China and grew up in central Illinois, where she lived most of her life. She went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and then Harvard Law School, studying practical things, while writing a laundry list of original fiction that never got published and a healthy dose of fan fiction. Now, XiXi lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their cat Umberto. When not writing, she is usually doing the other time-consuming profession: being a tech lawyer.
Her first novel, THIS PLACE IS STILL BEAUTIFUL, was released Spring 2022 with Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.
This program is a collaboration with Ashland Public Library and other local libraries.