I spent Friday at the 31st Annual Children’s Literature Conference as part of their YA Panel. I had the opportunity to talk to area teachers and librarians, listen to featured speakers Laurie Anderson, Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, Sara Prineas, and Thom Barthelmess. The conference was held out in the cornfields – almost literally. Northern Illinois University, the host site, is out in DeKalb Illinois, over an hour’s drive into nowhere. Lucky me, I only got lost twice. The conference theme was Literature 3.1: The Book & Beyond and the day long program featured a wealth of information on using technology to reach young readers. After Sara Prineas deomonstrated its power, I am now a SKYPE convert. I plan to get with it and plan to move into the 21st century asap.
Best of all, at least for me, was the opportunity to chat with one of my own personal heroines – Laurie Halse Anderson. She shared a lot of writing advice with us – including not to publish book one of a trilogy until you’ve finished book three, because your public will hound you you come up with a release date. (They even get mad at you for wasting time on useless things like shopping or even blogging) I found her a dynamic speaker who readily shared herself with her audience. We learned that her husband was also her first love (and gave her her first kiss). And that writer’s should always marry carpenters – and she has the cottage to prove why – and why she calls herself the “mad woman in the forest.”
|Me and Laurie – a major moment for me!!|
Until I heard her I had no idea that SPEAK was not only a controversial book, it iwas also a personal one for her. She talked at length about a teacher who helped her over a trauma that left her considering suicide by looking her in the eye every day and reminding her she was a real person. Her story reminded me to thank all the people in my life who helped me over rough spots, as she was able to publically thank him on the eve of his retirement. As many people still move to ban SPEAK and consider it pornography, she reminds us of the importance of reaching out to the young because you never know what they may be experienceing. Her emails and letters from readers show how many understand and need the lessons of that book. The best part of this is that she and I will share the same venue again in November when we both speak at NCTE Annual Convention in Chicago.
Thanks to the audience who attended the YA panel that included myself, Kathi Baron (another author with my publisher, WestSide books), James Klise, James Kennedy, Claire Zulkey, and Adam Selzer.
This group of librarians and teachers were attentive and interested in using the works of local authors in their classes and libraries.
There’s nothing like meeting a personal heroine. This was not a day – or a conference I will forget anytime soon.