Thanks, ALAN11!!!

Posted on 24 November 2011 Thursday


Between work and preparing for the ALAN conference, I’ve not been blogging much. I’ve been back  home for a couple of

Ari opening her wonderful box of books

days now and have processed much of my experience, so I think it’s time to try to write about it.

Simply put ALAN is incredibly awesome!!!!!

Rita Williams Garcia signs One Crazy Summer which will have a sequel "P.S. Be 11"

ALAN, the Assembly of Literature for Adolescents, meets annually as part of the National Council of Teachers of English conference. This was the first year I attended and between its proximity (Chicago) and an invitation from Lyn Miller Lachmann to be part of a panel, I couldn’t miss it this year. Through funding from my school and a generous Minde Browning Grant from the Central Indiana Community Foundation, I was able to attend.

Lyn moderated a panel entitled “ Teen book bloggers forge a new reviewing model” which also included teen bloggers Ari (Reading in Color) and Maggie (Maggie’s Bookshelf-Bibliophilia). If you don’t know these blogs, you really need to start visiting. These teens are doing amazing things on their blogs, not just as teen bloggers but as bloggers. I’m extremely grateful to Lyn, Ari and Maggie for asking me to present with them and am awed by the fantastic work they do.

I liked being made to feel a part of the young adult literary community, having in-depth conversations with professors, authors, teachers, bloggers (BrainLair!!), and literacy coaches about media literacy, schools reform aroudn the country, literacy trends and what our students read.

And then there was Laurie Halse Anderson. She says  “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”. And then, her voice, her body shakes and she lies on the floor before she falls. I don’t know that she ever put the microphone down. She delivered her entire speech, most of it while lying on the floor. Talk about walking the walk!

Authors spoke and of course some promoted their books, but many promoted causes like the rights of children whether they be gay or straight or Asian, smart or athletes; about protection from bullies and abusers; the requisite for fair and decent education and more. And they talked about equality, promoted diversity and championed literacy.

“We have to talk about things that make us uncomfortable.” Megan McCafferty

“There’s not a lot of curiosity in anything labeled standardized” Dom Testa

I got Paul Yee's autograph twice, on two different books!

Chris Crutcher “No act of heroism doesn’t include standing up for yourself”.

Sarah Dessen: “Stories are as vast and as diverse as teens themselves. There is no single teen story”.

“YA is not adult-lite. It’s teen extra-strength”. Kristen Chandler

M.T. Anderson spoke of a new, non-linear narrative, one in which place rather that character drives the story which has no beginning and no end. Check out inform7.com or the Fry Chronicles app.

Walter Dean Myers recalled how technology has changed research methods; how a simple email can be used to immediately gather information, online tools translate on demand, interactive components engage readers in new ways and book publishing is just becoming more and more exciting.

Did you know Dom Testa has a foundation called Big Brain Club where ‘smart is cool’? He begins working with middle schoolers to let them know how important it is to have a good attitude towards education.

I think if it were up to authors and readers, we’d have more books that truly reflect the world around us. Have you read the statistics on how few MG and YA books were published by Black authors this year, and the reaction that it has more to do with what’s submitted that racism in publishing?

And, there was the public librarian who chose me to give all of her books written by or featuring people of color because she

authors Medeia Sharif, J. L. Powers and Lyn Miller Lachmann

felt she couldn’t use them in her library. She should have waited until Coe Booth said “Suburban students need to read Tyrell to be prepared for the world”.

So gracious, Mr. Francisco Stork!

And I wondered about the panel of four authors (two White, one Black, one Asian) who said a character’s ethnicity didn’t matter, only the quality of the story. They all pretty much said if it’s a good, well written story then readers would enjoy the message of the story. Is this how we talk about race to White audiences? Do we simply share milquetoast with this audience?

Thanhha Lai said “Once you find your voice, the story is there” and as she was finding her voice Nikki Grimes told her “You own it, girl! You’re a poet!”

Matthew Quick was inspired by Sandra Cisneros.

Coe Booth wanted to be the white Judy Blume.

Matt de la Pena was influenced to read and keep reading after picking up The Color Purple. He hooked his dad with 100 Years of Solitude.

 Ari read so few Black characters that when she was younger she wanted to be White. In her book world, there were no Black

I finally met Coe Booth in person!

characters. And in our presentation she continued talking to tell about her blog and why it exists. Maggie, who was too ill to attend, wrote eloquent responses to questions from Lyn about what blogging and reading has meant to her. Lyn Miller Lachmann coordinated our presentation. She and I provided groundwork information while Ari and Maggie exemplified the power of teen bloggers. These are the readers Rita Williams Garcia referred to when she said that “too often we choose books for reluctant readers, ignoring what well read readers bring to the table”.

Cheryl Rainfield said “I lived too dark. There are teens today who live too dark… I write books I needed as a teen”.

“When you sit at the bottom of the barrel, it’s very quiet.” Francisco X. Stork

Katie Alender “I hope the future of YA is diversity”.

There was much that was said that I didn’t write here, some that may have I mis-heard and some that I wrote down but cannot read. What I know is authors show us our world, some more eloquently, some with greater vision and some with greater skill than even they themselves will ever know.

In between spaces

the cracks

the part we try not to step on,

A reader

is sitting there.

~Rita Williams Garcia

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