Arizona State's Dr. Jim Blasingame & Author Kwame Alexander Kick Off the 2015 Conference
The animated and magnetic Dr. Jim Blasingame, of Arizona State University’s Department of English, opened the 2015 LSU Young Adult Literature Conference & Seminar with a bang this morning with his keynote, “It’s All About Voice: How Do Authors Create a Uniquely Adolescent Voice.”
Following an introduction by longtime friend, colleague and conference founder and Director, Dr. Steve Bickmore,
Dr. Blasingame led the audience on an exploration of “voice” in Young Adult Literature. His talk highlighted the myriad of nuances that go in to creating an authentic and compelling teen voice in fiction.
In the process, Dr. Blasingame looked at the genius of authors who capture the angst and ecstasy that is purely adolescent in flavor: Asking, what are John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, Stephen Chobsky, Christopher Paul Curtis, Coe Booth, Sharon Draper and others doing that piques the interest of young adults? What reels them in, plucks at their heart strings and helps them to make meaning of the narrator’s experience and their own lives?
“Teens are trying to figure out who they are,” he explained. “But the great struggle in this is how they balance this need for acceptance without sacrificing their own individuality in the process.”
Dr. Blasingame said that literature can help teens navigate this fragile existence because they can identify with what the characters in novels are going through and realize that they are not alone in their own struggles of feelings of adolescence. More importantly, they can see and hear themselves in the voices of characters through the sarcasm, vulnerability and struggle of the protagonists.
For more information on Dr. Blasingame, click here.
Follow him on Twitter @JimBlasingame.
Despite acknowledging that he is, obviously, “a black writer” who wants to write books that will touch black children like his own daughter (“I want my daughter to see literature that is both a mirror and a window.”), Alexander hopes and believes that his work can transcend pigeonholes and labels.
“Black life is human life,” he said. “We all laugh. We all cry. We all hangout. We all love in the same way. We all do the same things. These stories, while featuring black characters, are universal.”
He also spoke about the challenges he faced in getting his latest work, The Crossover, which garnered him this year’s Newbery Medal, published. He shared that while receiving 20 plus rejections form publishers, he heard every complaint under the sun about why a book about basketball and told in poetry would never sell. In the face of these criticisms, Alexander never wavered.
“When you write, you write about what you want to write about and in the way you want to write about it. And you don’t compromise that,” he encouraged the aspiring writers in the room. “We can make the world a better place one word at a time.”
To learn more about Kwame's work, click here.
Follow him on Twitter at @kwamealexander.