Writer and editor Daniel Ehrenhaft loves to make teens laugh, whether it’s his Edgar Award-winning Wessex Papers series or the entertaining civics lessons of Americapedia, a humorous textbook Ehrenhaft co-authored that covers the basics of American politics, religion and culture. But Ehrenhaft’s real love can be found with a red pen. “The joy I feel as editorial director of Soho Teen, in working with authors I love, and having the privilege to publish their books, is endlessly rewarding,” he explains. “The YA community is so wonderful and mutually supportive, and it has been for decades. It keeps reinventing itself with the same goodwill.”
City Paper: What makes teens so much cooler than adults? Or at least more fun to write about and for?
Daniel Ehrenhaft: The passion that you feel as a teen for things you discover and love — books, music, history, a crush — has an intensity that can never be faked or recreated.
CP: You live in Brooklyn. Are you a hipster?
DE: Absolutely! Though at my age, I have aches and pains all over. Occasionally I am a kneester, and sometimes a shinster. This morning I am a neckster because I slept funny. Walking around Brooklyn doesn’t help.
CP: Will the YA author band, Tiger Beat, be performing at YALLFest?
DE: “Performing” is one way of putting it. I prefer “melting your brain with searing riffage.”
CP: What do you love most about writing books for teens? And/or What do you find most challenging about it?
DE: I love the unfiltered passion teens feel. As far as challenges go: The digitally connected age is a day-by-day education and constantly evolving. Working at Soho Press, I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who are younger, smarter, and better-looking than I am. The last part sucks, but I can live with the rest.
CP: What do you hope teens will get from reading your books?
DE: As far as my own books go, I hope teens laugh at least once. As far as the books I publish at Soho Teen, I hope that teens will discover–as I did–something that opens their minds and makes them see the world in a different way, with each book.
CP: If you were stranded on a desert island and could take one book, which one would it be?
DE: Something I haven’t read. I mean, seriously? Can you imagine being stranded on a desert island with a book you know by heart?
CP: Any advice for aspiring young writers?
DE: READ! Share your writing with friends, teachers, librarians, and family members who love to read and write as much as you do. Trusted feedback is invaluable.
CP: What makes YALLFest special to you compared to other book festivals?
DE: Melissa De La Cruz and I went to college together, and she represents everything that I love about YA: Brilliant writing, generosity, commitment to community, a wicked sense of humor…(caveat: I am insanely jealous of her effortless talent). Margie Stohl and I share the same literary agent and even though we only met last summer, she has proclaimed an undying love of my high school band, Big Flannel. Translation: Margie has stoked my teen ego. She also shares the aforementioned Melissa de la Cruz qualities. It’s a no-brainer.