- Tanya Lee Stone
Young adult and children's-book author Tanya Lee Stone is a hard woman to get hold of. The 48-year-old South Burlington resident, who recently signed a contract for her 100th book, frequently travels for author visits, book signings, conferences and other events.
This week, though, Stone will be in town. On Saturday, October 25, she'll celebrate that 100th book with an event titled "Stage Write!" that she organized to benefit the Young Writers Project. The Burlington-based nonprofit works to hone the writing skills of teenagers in Vermont and New Hampshire by offering writing prompts, tips, workshops and publication opportunities on its website.
"Even though it's my 100th book celebration, I didn't want the evening to be about me," Stone said in a phone call from Cleveland, Ohio, where she recently spoke at a gathering of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance.
"I wanted [the celebration] to be about the writing community in general," she continues. "Everyone who's a working writer has something to celebrate. So it's about all of us who are creating literature, and making it about a community of artists and writers."
Noteworthy regional authors will join Stone for Stage Write! at Union Station in Burlington this Saturday, including Chris Bohjalian (Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands), children's author Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia, The Great Gilly Hopkins) and Gregory Maguire (Wicked).
The evening includes dramatic readings from those four authors' books, a silent auction, book signings and more. Stone hoped to raise at least a couple of thousand dollars for the YWP through ticket sales, the auction and donations; at $35 a pop, the event is already sold out. While the night is mostly an "adult party," she says, some YWP teenagers will participate in the readings.
Stone says the YWP was a natural choice for the beneficiary. "I'm an author that's been lucky enough to have a good career, and other people have supported me along the way," she says. "I wanted to support an organization that supports young writers."
The nonprofit, founded by former Burlington Free Press managing editor Geoffrey Gevalt, has been on Stone's radar for years. "They're a really strong organization in Vermont," she says.
Another of Stone's goals in throwing a literary bash? To give authors from different parts of the state and different categories and genres an excuse to mingle. "The children's lit community and the adult lit community don't mix that often," she notes.
And, of course, Stage Write! is a celebration of Stone's personal career, which has yielded a jaw-dropping volume of published works in just over two decades.
Recently, Stone has carved out a niche writing nonfiction books for children and young adults that focus on women and people of color, but her career didn't start that way. For the first seven years, she says, she wrote for the "library market," producing simple, easy-to-digest books on topics "like earthworms or butterflies or flags." Often she'd write a series on a single topic. "In the first six or seven years of my career, I wrote, like, 60 books," Stone remembers.
In 2006, Stone published a YA verse narrative called A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl that continues to have an impact; in 2013, her frank depiction of high school dating culture hit No. 6 on the American Library Association's Banned Books List.
In 2011, Stone decided to branch out. "I really started changing the way I wanted to write," she says. "I wanted to stretch myself as a writer and write the kinds of books I'm passionate about."
Right now, the prolific Stone is working on three projects: a picture book, a YA narrative nonfiction book and a literary adaptation of a 2013 documentary called Girl Rising — that last one is the 100th book she's celebrating. She estimates that she works on two to three book projects per year.
"My career has sort of been in two halves. Now," Stone adds with a laugh, "the books I write take longer."