The rest of these weeks blog posting is a collection of paragraphs from colleagues and friends who attended the ALAN Workshop. Explore and feel their passion.
Paul W. Hankins
Also, I can’t believe how many YA authors I’m having the opportunity to hear from. Panels, individuals, conversations between two authors, book talks, sessions. My favorite so far today has been Hannah Moskowitz – she’s down-to-earth, funny. She writes about characters who are Jewish and have mental illness but these parts of their identities are not the conflicts in the novel – they’re just part of life. I’m going to read ALL of her books J
I recently attended a session at NCTE regarding the use of paired graphic, prose, and informational texts in the classroom. I walked into the auditorium and found a seat as well as a place to put my laptop. I looked up at the panel of speakers and found myself surprised to see Eliot Schrefer, the author of Endangered and Threatened sitting in one of the panel chairs. As he was talking, I found myself soaking in every word, not only for me but also for my students. My 8th graders are huge fans of Schrefer’s work; I never have a copy of his book left on my bookshelves. His books are always in the hands of my students. After the panel I mustered up the courage to thank him for writing such great texts to engage my students. I told him that he made my job a little easier as a teacher. His response by handing me his business card wihis email address along with his offer to visit my students if he is in Dallas area again left me speechless and inspired. We need more authors like Eliot Schrefer who not only care about the current status and successes of their novels, but also genuinely care for the students reading and enjoying every turn of the page in their books. Schrefer inspired my students, who struggle to find joy in reading, to find a love for something beyond the pages of a book and to submerge their imaginations in a story beyond the realms of their lives.
Stephanie Krolick Branson
I attended ALAN from 2003 to 2007 as an English Teacher for high school students who had exhausted all of their other public school options. The workshop provided a wealth of great books for my reluctant and struggling readers. It also provided ongoing inspiration for my own writing. In 2015 my debut novel, Surviving Bear Island was published and I was invited to be on the Debut Author's Panel.
So I was planning on writing my YA Wednesday paragraph about how I couldn't wait to read I’ll Give You the Sun, the Printz award winner from Jandy Nelson that I felt certain I'd connect with as soon as Nelson exclaimed at ALAN this year that, to write real and true and meaningful poetry, “kids have to put their asses in the wind.” But then...I literally couldn't wait and devoured the whole book on my plane ride from Minneapolis to Houston. So here I am, on my final flight of the day, on my way home from what is, without a doubt, the most meaningful and rejuvenating professional development I get all year, thinking about how to talk about this book that made me shamelessly cry seated next to strangers. I think the best review I can give it is that it gave me hope. I usually leave ALAN each year thrilled, of course, but also a little devastated about the year that stands between me and next year’s conference, but this year, after breaking into I’ll Give You the Sun, I'm reminded that the year will be filled with unique, interesting, and important books to explore and pass on to students. Nelson’s novel is written from two perspectives- twins Noah and Jude- who are reeling and flung apart, at least emotionally, after the unforeseen death of their mother. The book gives each character the chance to tell their story- Noah tells the beginning and Jude tells the middle until they catch up with each other at the end. The stories layer until the truth about their mother is uncovered and the distance between these round and complex characters is revealed. An engaging story, Nelson beautifully explores the harsh realities of adolescents who find out that while their parents aren't infallible, the world can still be put back together again.
Diane Wilhelm Tuccillo
Thanks for reading. Until next week.
Steven T. Bickmore