This week I revisit ALAN 2018. It was a great experience! I made new friends! I heard great keynotes, panels, and conversations. Now, I have to try to do what Mark and host of others before me have done as President. Wish me luck and more importantly, send me ideas and offer to help. One moment in the event that I will remember is the opportunity to introduce Ellen Hopkins and Kody Keplinger. I allude to this conversation a couple of weeks ago when I was still planning for it. Their discuss of guns and gun violence was excellent.
Before we look to far into the future, let's look at what happened. Quite a few people have sent me a paragraph and a photo that highlights their experience. I also have to give a shout out to Noah Shaffer, several of these photographers were taken by him, but some where true selfies or shots taken on phones by friends.
Voices from the Sea of People behind the Books.
From Steffany Maher
From Steffany Maher
There were many powerful moments at the ALAN Workshop this year. For me, though, the most poignant was Bill Konigsberg’s vulnerable speech, in which he shared his triggered moment at NCTE (see “Proud Fierce Papa Bear” at billkonigsberg.com). Not only was Bill brave in standing up for LGBTQ+ young people and confronting the panelist who was harassing marginalized people, but he also demonstrated how to stand against hate speech, thus empowering others to do the same. Bill writes books that save lives—already a super power!—but this weekend he was a hero in person as well. Thank you, Bill!
As with past ALAN experiences, it's been difficult for me to narrow down to one favorite moment. Of course there is the not-so-different-from-Christmas-morning anticipation of opening those book boxes and the joy of seeing a long-awaited book such as Shout. Or there is the not-so-different-from-family-reunion joy of connecting with beloved colleagues who love young adult literature as much as I do. And I will never downplay the not-so-different-from-being-completely-starstruck feeling of shaking a respected author's hand and telling them just how much their writing has impacted my--and my students'--life. This year was a bit different because I had the privilege of introducing a conversation between Sandhya Menon and Kayla Cagan. Both writers recognize the transforming power of art, especially among young women. Not only did their discussion inspire me to encourage my own students toward books that nurture an artist identity, but it also made me think about how I've never tried painting. Sandhya and Kayla will be happy to know that I'll be borrowing my daughter's watercolor brushes, paints, and paper this week--that is, after I finish Art Boss and From Twinkle, With Love.
From Jayna Zimmerman
Going to ALAN for the first time was extremely exciting. No matter how much I was prepared for book box…the generosity of the publishers blew me away. Perhaps the best part of the workshop was listening to Ellen Hopkins discuss gun violence with Kody Keplinger. Both women bring a unique perspective to the trauma of gun violence our nation is experiencing. Through People Kill People (Hopkins) and That’s Not What Happened (Keplinger) center on opening conversations about violence and the accessibility of firearms. I deeply appreciated being in a conversation and having resources I can use in the classroom to navigate a challenging topic with students. I can’t wait to set up another trip to ALAN!--
From Stefani Boutelier
ALAN18 was my first workshop and it was quite the (overwhelming) experience. Aside from the books, trading, and signings, the experience of hearing authors talk about their books intrigued and excited me. I found Bill Konigsberg's speech the most compelling as it left me in tears and reminded me how powerful words can be in conversation and in text. Adolescent literature can be the catalyst to connect with students, allowing us to open minds and open hearts along the way. I look forward to reading the texts and sharing the ideas from ALAN with my students.
From Joe Godina
I have been attending the ALAN Workshop since 2013 and it is always the highlight of my school year. I will be forever grateful to all the people who work so hard to put on this incredible event. Thanks to the publishers I am able to bring back so many books to my classroom to share with my students. Each year I come back to school refreshed and ready to conquer the world again. For me, the highlight of ALAN18 was getting to meet Gae Polisner. I have been teaching her novel The Memory of Things for the last two school years and her and I have become friends over this time. ALAN18 provided me with the opportunity to meet Gae face to face for the first time. This is the magic of ALAN, connecting teachers to the authors they share with their students.
Five hundred book walls
Each magical brick creates
Mirrors and windows
The ALAN Workshop is something special. This was my third year attending, and I can honestly say that a buzzing room full of educators and authors is some of the best company—I always leave feeling inspired (and a little sad that all good things must come to an end). There are too many highlights from ALAN ’18, so I just picked one from each day. Closing out Monday’s session, Tomi Adeyemi spoke about the power that teachers have to unlock, or lock, students’ potential and change how our students see themselves. She later signed Children of Blood and Bone for my former student who recommended the book to me last school year. Above her signature, Tomi wrote a note that read: “For Queen [name of my student], I wrote this for warriors like you.” On Tuesday, Elizabeth Acevedo talked about how she doesn’t write books that give answers because it’s important for readers to wonder and ask questions. As I stood in her signing line, it felt a bit surreal and so very cool because The Poet X is easily one of my top five favorite reads of this year (as well as a must-listen audiobook) and she’s a National Book Award winner! When I first read the book, the dedication warmed my heart because my grad school teaching internship back in 2013-2014 was at Buck Lodge Middle School, and I remember being blown away by the performance she gave during an assembly in the school’s cafeteria. I love that her students inspired her to write The Poet X and now her words pay tribute to them and inspire countless others.
At ALAN, I’m always reminded that representation matters. Our students deserve to be seen, and they deserve to be heard. They also need to be exposed to stories that celebrate diversity and make marginalized identities and perspectives visible. I’m grateful for all the authors and the 500+ educators who keep these values at the heart of what they do. ALAN ’18 was a much-needed time to reflect and refuel, and I hope to continue to attend the workshop in the future.
I look forward to the ALAN conference all year. It is my Christmas morning because it feels like coming home. Seeing fellow educators who are all so passionate about reading, connecting with friends I only see once a year, and of course experiencing all the authors and books! This year was one of the best. Cynthia Leitich Smith did a fantastic keynote and set the tone for the inclusivity that YA lit can sow in the classroom. Bill Koningsberg’s speech made me weep for the work we have yet to do, and reminded me of how important it is to create a safe space out of my classroom. Ellen Hopkins and Kody Keplinger grabbed the issue of gun violence, and Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman talked about using their own experiences in their writing. I left the day fired up and ready to hug all my students. Thank you, ALAN for another great conference!
One of the best parts of NCTE 2018 and ALAN was actually seeing and being able to hear Kylene Beers and Teri Lesesne. Both women are such major contributors to ELA and ALAN and have struggled with serious health issues. What a gift that they could be there!
Second I loved the session "Crossing Selma's Bridge..." featuring you, Gretchen, Laurie Halse Anderson, Luke Rumohr, Rich Wallace, Sandra Neil Wallace, Brendan Kiely, and Shentia Clark. It simply was so relevant and poignant, and scholarly and worthwhile!
I could only stay for Monday for ALAN -- I liked Cynthia Leitich Smith's keynote; Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman were great too -- especially because Laurie is so supportive of newer authors.
NCTE 2018 was a whirlwind, but it couldn't have been more rewarding. It's always great to touch base with friends in education and publishing, and to meet new ones. I'm still reliving the thrill of having Sandra's name called as the Orbis Pictus winner -- a career highlight for sure.
During this year’s ALAN workshop, diverse voices in YA literature were lifted up and applauded. The love and acceptance among the ALAN members was, and usually is, my biggest takeaway. Long time member Rick Williams told me and my daughter that ALAN is a family, and it’s true. ALAN is a family that savors stories and cherishes the written word, and in this family all are welcome. One of the things I enjoy most about attending this annual event, in addition to the talented and amazing authors and the box of books, are connecting with teachers and librarians from all over the country. Although I may only see some of them once a year, sharing with and learning from these colleagues is an invaluable part of the ALAN experience. Knowing we all left Houston armed with new books to share with our students, gives me hope that we can enrich the lives of the young people we teach and change the world one story at a time.
From Hannah Parker
This was my second year attending ALAN and I can honestly say that this will be a conference that I will attend every year, if possible. ALAN gives me hope for the future of education and for my students. My favorite part is listening to the authors discuss important topics and their novels. In listening to the authors I always think of a student that would love this book, or might connect to the character. This is the most valuable to me as it is truly giving me the ability to connect my students to a book. I was told that ALAN is a family, I saw this over and over again as members reconnected, strangers became friends in signing lines, and a senior member accepted the friendship of an eager second year teacher. There is something special about a good book, that any book lover knows, but there is something truly magical about a group of teachers who give two days of their Thanksgiving break to sit, listen, learn, and enjoy a box of books.
From Celeste Trimble
One of the highlights of my experience at NCTE/ALAN 2019 was listening to Cynthia Leitich Smith's ALAN keynote and sitting down with her over coffee afterwards to talk. Although there was a dearth of Indigenous voices during NCTE, Cyn brought many Indigenous authors and illustrators into her slides, lifting them up while discussing her own journey as a writer. Additionally, it was important to see her model how she is learning from her own mistake of not supporting Indigenous narrative conventions in a writing workshop, because we all have mistakes we need to admit and grow from. Thank you, ALAN, for inviting her and giving her the space to discuss the incredibly vital and often neglected work of Indigenous authors and illustrators of literature for youth.
ALAN 2018 marked my first ALAN conference and I didn’t know quite what to expect. Being greeted with a huge box packed with (very heavy) young adult titles was quite a shock. My new friend, Book Box, and I were fortunate enough to get first-row seats for two days filled with author readings, conversations, and panels on YAL’s many forms, some genres were like familiar friends and others new acquaintances. I think my TBR exploded a little, which is never a problem. (Many thanks to FedEx for delivering them safely home). I liked how each author focused on his or her writing as a form of writing resistance and each panel, though composed of two to three people, was like peeking in on a conversation. The writers and their works took on hard to discuss subjects, which many adults shy away from, yet are important in young people and teens’ lives. I was also happily surprised at my fellow attendees’ passionate responses to the panelists works and words. Though many of us endured a busy four day NCTE, I was thrilled to see so many faces at 8am on Tuesday! Bringing in the many books recommended and spoken of during ALAN 2018 makes me think of the many ways in which we can encourage young people to activists in the classroom, at school, and in their communities. ALAN 2018 showed me that young adult literature extends much further than the books we read and enjoy and into acting upon the issues that the books present. I was thoroughly inspired by my first ALAN experience and I truly hope to continue attending.
From Josh LaRoche
As a first time ALAN attendee, I am amazed and lost with the event and people. I was invited to a meet and greet reception with the authors. For me this was more of an experience in being a wallflower. I am not what one would call a “mingler.” There were two authors that I easily struck up conversation with, David Bowles and Destiny Soria, but that was mainly out of me standing in the right place and asking who they were and what they wrote – yea I never heard of them or their work, which will hopefully change when I can afford their works or visit a library.
When the conference started Saturday morning, I laid out the contents of my mystery box-o-books and stared at titles and authors as some of the authors in my box appeared on stage. I only have one of those books that I decided to wait in line to have signed, People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins, since I read a little of the author note and the first few pages. This book is slated as number two on my reading list of this box. For number one, I found the book Nyxia by Scott Reintgen, which fits into my sci-fi preference for personal relaxation reading. This book intrigues me especially since, in the realm of my reading, not many books seem to have a main character that happens to be black.
As a first-timer at ALAN, I was there for the books. I knew there was more to it, of course, because my friends would rave about how wonderful it is. But who can turn down a big box of YA books? Not me! But having attended, I was surprised and moved by the bravery. Bill Konigsberg and Jarrett J. Krosoczka both shared their personal, often painful, journeys that influenced their writing and their desire to write for young people living rich, and sometimes very difficult lives. Authors in conversations with each other revealed the ways that schools silenced them, and how they want to write books so kids know they don’t have to be silenced. Teachers I spoke with talked about defending the inclusion of YA books in their classrooms despite challenges from parents or administrators because they knew the kid who needed to read that book. So, yes, I came away from ALAN with a great box of books that I’ll share with my preservice teachers. And I also came away understanding just how many people are out in the world, doing the work to make that work a better place, one book, one classroom, and one kid at a time.
I attended ALAN five years ago in Boston and I had forgotten what a heartwarming and magical place ALAN is until I arrived in Houston. Attending the author reception on the first night was one of the best ways to kick off the conference. Being able to speak with authors like Bill Konisberg, Gayle Foreman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Chris Crutcher, Mindy McGinnis, and many more helped set the tone for the weekend. Everyone in the room that night expressed a love for writing and reading YAL and most importantly, a love for what YAL offers adolescents. There’s an overwhelming amount of comfort that comes from being surrounded by people who hold similar values about literature and believe so deeply that giving adolescents access to high-quality, diverse, and engaging literature is not only important but imperative to the lives of teens. As a doctoral student, it was also exciting to meet scholars in the field of YAL whose work I’ve read and even cited. In addition to the scholars in the field of YAL, it was inspiring to talk to with the many teachers and library media specialists at the conference who also believe that putting the right book into the hands of students can be life-changing. Hearing Tomi Adeyemi speak was one of my favorite moments of the conference as I believe she sent such a powerful message to everyone in the room when she said, “teachers have the power to lock or unlock a person’s potential” and “reading is currency.” Of course, the top highlight of the weekend was being named one of the new editors of The ALAN Review alongside Dr. Susan Groenke, Caitlin Metheny, Suzanne Sherman, and Mary Cate LeBoeuf from the University of Tennessee. I still can’t stop smiling!