On Thursday, April 18th at 7 pm, Jennifer A. Nielsen inspired readers of all ages from the Toronto area with her message to never give up on their dreams during her author event in Etobicoke.
In much the same way that The False Prince and The Runaway King, the first two books in the Ascendance Trilogy, hook readers, she captivated the mixed audience of young boys, girls and middle grade and young adult fiction readers and writers at Chapters Queensway with a narrative she constructed about her own path to publishing this series. Starting with a tale depicting her competitive nature as a young child, Jennifer A. Nielsen weaved in other examples of what she called her “character flaws” in a self-deprecating voice, paralleling what readers love about Sage, the main character from the Ascendance series, and garnering laughs from the audience.
Nielsen went on to discuss how teachers, librarians and her parents supported her love of reading and writing at a child, but she showed that her road to writing and publishing wasn’t without its share of obstacles. By the age of 11, she set out to write her first novel upon learning that S.E. Hinton had done it at 14, but when a locksmith, who she called to research lock picking for her novel, didn’t take her seriously, she stopped believing in writing, stopped pursuing it for fun. Even as an adult when she started writing seriously, Nielsen shared with the Toronto audience that she received stacks of rejections for three manuscripts before she was ever published at all, let alone as a Scholastic Press author. Again, astute attendees would’ve seen parallels to Nielsen’s own life and Sage’s refusal to give up, whether he’s facing difficult or dangerous situations in The False Prince or outright impossible ones in The Runaway King, especially after she read from the latter in possibly the first ever author event vote.
These parallels between Nielsen and Sage beg the question, was Nielsen able to write the character of Sage so authentically because she has a lot of stick-to-itiveness herself? Did she make the obstacles that Sage faced difficult so that overcoming them would cement him as a hero that young readers would latch onto when it was their dreams on the line? Unfortunately, these are questions without answers for now. However, one thing is clear: attendees from the both Toronto area and further afield left feeling inspired by Nielsen’s message of hope that one’s dreams really can come true. Jay C. Spencer, a MG/YA writer who came all the way from London for this author event, tweeted: “It was worth every kilometer I drove tonight to meet & listen to @nielsenwriter’s inspiring words.”
Perhaps the memory of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s words about The False Prince and The Runaway King on April 18th will be the subject of an aspiring author’s own introduction to a reading of their novels in time.