I am also grateful for the ALAN executive committee, the ALAN officers, the elected board members, and an untold number of volunteers who help activities to run smoothly. The ALAN booth, the Breakfast and the workshop does work without all of the volunteers. Without question the workshop had a few glitches. Rest assured that as an executive board we are well aware of them and we are working hard to address them and remedy unsatisfactory situations.
You can all be confident that you are in good hands with Ricki Ginsberg at the helm as President. The other officers, board members, and volunteers continue to amaze me with their knowledge and passion. So, hang on. I am sure that Ricki will usher in another great workshop. It you want to help right this moment, ask a colleague or a friend to join ALAN. We are stronger together.
For today, however, I solicited some memories from ALAN members. From my point of view. I thought the two keynote speakers were amazing and passionate about reaching and helping adolescents. All of the single speakers exceeded my expectations. I loved the people in conversations and those on panels. While I have read a book by most of the authors who attended, I have new books to read and authors who are now on my "do not miss their next book list."
Take a look at the shared memories.
ALAN19 was a little different this year, and I absolutely loved it. This was my fourth time being a part of this conference and the changes were definitely welcome. I was able to chat and interact with many more of the authors at the reception, favorites being those who my own 8th graders love so much: Raina Telgemeier, Mark Oshiro, Amy King, and Nic Stone.
Another highlight for me was the honor of moderating a panel of authors: Zach Smedley, NoNieqa Ramos, and Ismee Williams (I don't have a photo of this, but Noah took some).
The conference was the most stress-free I have experienced yet; I could sit and listen to all of the authors without distraction of people getting up for signings or having to decide between a signing or listening. I'm so glad because maybe I would have missed Randy Ribay, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Jo Knowles.
Mostly, my favorite part was spending time with my sister-friend, Dr. Gretchen Rumohr and her daughters Nola and Marcie. They are my bookish family and it was a treat to get literary with them!
"Here are three authors who books can save a life: Cyndy Etler, Zetta Elliot, and Laurie Halse Anderson. It was my true honor to introduce the last panel at ALAN this year and listen to these three authors speak about their inspirational stories."
ALAN 2019, wow! Once again, it was a cornucopia of books and YA authors, new and award-winning old timers, including Elizabeth Acevedo, twice! The program nailed its theme, and we heard from a wide range of voices and perspectives starting with Padma Venkatraman opened the program with a stirring keynote, and she was followed by panelists and single speakers, including voice actors who talked about audio books. For me, two authors’ presentations stood out: Randy Ribay and Jo Knowles. I hope The ALAN Review will publish each of their addresses.
The 2019 ALAN workshop was a conference that ran smoothly workshop that focused on the future of the children in our classrooms. What was even more empowering to see was how authors were promoting other authors and the social issues that every single one was passionate about. It was powerful to see and watch educators and authors build off one another’s message to show how we are all fighting for the same thing in the classroom and in the world — understanding, compassion, empathy, and to bring people of all walks of life together by building bridges and breaking walls.
Attending ALAN is always an unforgettable experience, but it was made even more special this year by attending my first ALAN breakfast. Now, it's a tradition I will be sure to attend every year! At the breakfast, John Greene's speech was breathtakingly honest and vulnerable and I consider myself lucky to have been there to listen. One of the best parts of ALAN is hearing some of my favorite authors speak (Hi, Elizabeth Acevedo and Kekla Magoon) but also getting introduced to new voices in the field. I love hearing from authors I've never read before and leaving with their books to add to my ever-growing "to be read" pile. Talking with new authors like Cyndy Etler about the power English teachers have to help their students and Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal about the importance of representation made me excited to share these conversations with my preservice teachers in the Spring. This year was the first year I was able to introduce authors, which was so exciting! I loved reading the beautiful works of Helene Dunbar and Leah Thomas' and being able to introduce them to our ALAN family. Now the countdown until next year begins!
I had a great experience introducing Meredith Russo, Ginny Rorby, and Nicole Melleby. Meeting them and talking to them about their books and hearing how very much they cared about their readers reminded me why ALAN is one of my favorite conferences. But, one of my most positive experiences at ALAN happened outside of the author talks. I got to play "book fairy" and put great books in teachers' hands. One of the young teachers, a first-time attendee, hugged me as I handed her a stack of three books and said that getting books at ALAN was the best teacher gift she had every gotten. I saw her again the next day when I got to give her UNDER WATER and she started jumping up and down with excitement. She said she had been looking for that book for two days. The excitement for books and the energy that comes from listening to authors talk is so invigorating but seeing teachers light up with joy when they get a book makes my whole year!
ALAN is a little like Literary Speed Dating. All those short, inspiration and energy-packed presentations from authors leave me fired up and hungry for more! They also prod me to take bigger risks with my own writing and really stretch.
That said: the personal high point of the conference for me was meeting my fellow panelist, Sylvia Zeleny. We were startled at how quickly and deeply we connected, and for me especially it was profound to see that despite the differences in our personal backgrounds and experiences we created characters who yearned for the same things and had much in common.
Thanks for including me this year, Steve. It was an honor to participate … and fun to see you!
Regards from Maria
I go to ALAN to spend time with colleagues from afar, talking books and writers and writing, to meet new teachers and scholars of young adult literature, and to encounter writers I had not been familiar with. My highlight comes from the latter: Listening to Randy Ribay speak about teaching literary theory. I didn't expect to hear something like this from the stage: "I believe," Ribay argued, "we can boil some of these [literary] theories down to their core ideas and train learners to apply critical lenses to ANY text." Huzzah! Here's a link to the speech:
One of the best parts of ALAN is meeting up with old friends and making new ones. At the 2019 ALAN conference in Baltimore, I was joyfully reunited with Cindi Koudelka, a middle school teacher from Illinois. Cindi and I met at the Summit on Research and the Teaching of Young Adult Literature at UNLV in June 2018. Cindi just completed her Ed.D. in Literacy Education through Judson University; therefore, a celebratory beverage was in order. The ALAN reception on Sunday evening provided the perfect opportunity to make that happen. At that event, I also reconnected with Sybil Durand, assistant professor at ASU, who introduced me to Mikey Hall, a new doctoral student who is interested in expanding research related to my book, Mental Illness in Young Adult Literature (ABC-CLIO/Libraries Unlimited, 2019). One of the best moments of the night was being able to introduce Mikey to YA author and mental health expert extraordinaire, Chris Crutcher! Moreover, ASU doctoral student, Rebecca Chatham and I also chatted about all things YA lit. I'm not sure if my having been born near Phoenix in 1964 has anything to do with the ASU-connections I experienced at this year's ALAN, but it was certainly wonderful. The photo we snapped at a local pub afterwards does not do justice to the amazing time we had talking about YA books, sharing advice about graduate school, and mulling over potential collaborative projects we could take up next year. So cheers to ALAN, and we'll see you in Denver next year!
For me, what added to the impact of Randy Ribay's incredible individual talk was his humility, which seemed tied to his experience as a teacher. He was humorous and candid about how his students don't generally care that he's a published author, and they didn't watch the live stream of the National Book Awards. However, Randy's insights into how teaching critical literary theory can help teachers use books like The Patron Saints of Nothing to prepare our students for the dark and difficult parts of our world rather than worrying that our students aren't prepared for the dark and difficult parts of a book, prove both his intricate knowledge of his audience as well as his care and concern for the young readers he writes for.
When I attended my first ALAN Workshop about ten years ago, I felt like I'd entered a wonderland. Two days of listening to writers speak about their work...the chance to meet and visit with authors...a box of beautiful new books to take back to my students...a room full of teachers and librarians who shared my passion.... It was every YA book lover's dream come true. This year's workshop provided the same magic--it never gets old! Inspiring words from authors from A (Anderson, Laurie Halse) to Z (Zoboi, Ibi) will take me back to school ready to share stories and spark conversations with students. I was honored to get to know first-time novelists Amelie Wen Zhao, Emily X. R. Pan, and Jillian Boehme as I moderated their discussion on powerful females--such a fun experience, and such an insightful conversation about their characters and their work! As we move through the remainder of the school year and into the future, I will be delighted to share my excitement about what I've learned with the teens and teachers at my school.
Oh, ALAN: How do I love thee? How do I even count (or rank the ways)? Here are my top choices:
---Authors that legitimize YA literature and offer intellectual rigor: Randy Ribay's keynote advocated for Critical Theory and its value as a lens in each of our classrooms
--Authors that connect with us, want to hear our life stories, and validate our work in classrooms: my conversation with A.S. King allowed me to thank her for writing The Year We Fell From Space and explain why I was so excited to read it.
--Authors that remind us why we read, and want our students to be readers: Anyone who heard Jo Knowles' keynote was reminded that books can break our hearts in all of the good ways, and that we should never fear writing, or reading, such books. I, with my daughters (also in attendance this year!) am grateful.