What I learned at ALA 2012: Part 1

Thanks to the YALSA Baker & Taylor Scholarship and our very own OYAN Scholarship, I attended my first ever ALA Annual Conference in sunny SoCal.   This month I’ll use the blog to make my scholarship report with a series of posts about the conference.  I attended a pre-conference, several workshops, all the banquets, several author events and the orgy of the exhibit room floor.  Hopefully, something will be of use to you!

YALSA Pre-conference: “Books We’ll Still Talk About 45 Years From Now”

We were given a short list of 30 titles to read in advance.  Luckily, there were only 10 titles I hadn’t read including (I’m almost ashamed to say), To Kill a Mockingbird, Nation, The Outsiders, and Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I know, you’re wondering how I could have NOT read The Outsiders, not to mention …Mockingbird?  Shocking, but true.  And if truth be known, I still haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird.  Something had to give and that was it.  Anyway, it was a really good movie!  ;>)

Shortly into the workshop I realized that it was more like a Printz award committee meeting.  Which would have been fine if I hadn’t been producing the OYAN Mock Printz workshop for the past 5 years!  However, it was an opportunity to hear Jacqueline Woodson, Mark Shusterman, and Allie Condie provide thoughtful and eloquent answers to questions about writing for teens.  The nuggets I noted were:

  • Characters have to be easy to connect with;
  • That books must deal with issues with which all people grapple;
  • Voices must be relevant and authentic;
  • Avoid using slang and specifics; and
  • Remember that we’re all 14 inside!

Shusterman quoted Madeleine LeEngle, “The essence of childhood doesn’t change” whether you’re writing realistic, dystopian, or historical fiction.

Of course, the hosts plugged the authors’ new books:

  • Shusterman: the sequel to Unwind, came out in AugustUnWholly,
  • Woodson: coming in Oct., a new picture book  – Each Kindness
  • Condie: coming in Nov., the 3rd of the Matched trilogy – Reached

Then we broke into small groups and using a weighted voting system, narrowed the list of 30 to one title we all felt would still be read in 45 years.  And the winner is…(drumroll, please)…Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Next up: Authors! Authors! Authors!