In early September, Tessa Gratton (The Lost Sun, Random House), Sonia Gensler (The Dark Between, Knopf), Myra McEntire (Infinityglass, Egmont USA), and Tara Hudson (Elegy, HarperTeen) fired up a minivan and hit the road on a five-day grassroots tour through the Midwest. Dubbing it the YA AdVANture, the authors – who had met online through the Elevensies group of 2011 debut YA novelists – visited five cities to sign books and talk to teens, booksellers, and librarians about young adult literature.

Here, author Tessa Gratton reflects on their road trip.

Day 1: Dallas

We were at the Frisco (Tex.) B&N, but beforehand had a dinner with readers that was hosted by Epic Reads [an interactive platform that connects readers with HarperTeen books like Hudson’s]. The four of us split up and had fun conversations over pizza before heading over for the panel at B&N. It was a crowd of nearly 50, and they asked great questions. One asked me to recite something in Old English, because I’d told Twitter the first person to do so would get a free audiobook of The Lost Sun.

We were there talking and signing until after 9 p.m., and it was hard to leave.

Day 2: Little Rock

Our longest drive was from Dallas to Little Rock. Of course, we didn’t even come close to running out of things to talk about between us!

Thanks to football [local high school teams had their season openers that weekend] the crowd at the Little Rock B&N was smaller, but it was just a signing and we ended up having some long, intense conversations with readers. There were six people who even stayed to chat with just us for 90 minutes! And they all bought books.

Day 3: Memphis

Again, football kept our numbers down, and the crowd at The Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis was smaller than Dallas, but we still had a good time. The booksellers had mini-cupcakes and lemonade and were incredibly welcoming. The store was our first indie, and it was huge! Also: charming. So many books and warm wood bookshelves, bright colors and friendly faces.

Day 4: St. Louis

Our event was cancelled last minute, so we had an impromptu tweet-up at the Gateway Arch. The weather was dull, but all those gray clouds made it easier to admire the arch itself, and kept the riverside park free of most tourists so we had the run of the place. We hung out with some reviewers and the writer/blogger Mandy Buehrlen, who runs YA Book Central. They joined us for lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory near Busch Stadium.

That night we trekked out to the suburbs with the van to meet 12 librarians from the St. Charles City-County Library District. There were giveaways and signings, and we all chatted about the relationships among libraries, the Internet, writers, and publishers, and had a lot of laughs. They practically had to run us out of the restaurant!

Day 5: Kansas City

Our final event was at a new indie store in Old Overland Park just outside Kansas City, Kans., called Mysteryscape. Though a mystery bookstore, the owners, Cheri LeBlond and Acia Morley, have been working to create an amazing space for YA. We were welcomed with decorations and fancy coffee and had a fabulous panel with about 25 in attendance. The four of us were a little slap-happy by then, but managed to talk about surprisingly controversial topics like ”creating strong heroines“ and “marketing books for boys.” At least, I think we managed it with style.