YALSA YA Lit Symposium 2014

by Aimee Meuchel, Tualatin Public Library

  • Austin? Check
  • Great Authors? Check
  • Scholarship from OYAN? Check
Aimee with Author Andrew Smith

Aimee with Author Andrew Smith

Four days and three nights in Austin proved to be a fun literary adventure.  I was expecting temperatures in the low 70s and instead was greeted by the same cold front that Portland was experiencing with highs of 36 degrees and lows of 28.  Brrrrrr.  Luckily all of the events are in one hotel and you don’t have to leave unless you want to!

I arrived Thursday night and explored Austin on foot.  The next morning, I further explored (ate excellent crepes and drank amazing coffee) until my preconference Friday afternoon.  I attended Tough It Out! Rugged Characters in Young Adult Books.  This session was facilitated by Rollie Welch, Summer Hayes, and Ellsworth Rockefeller, authors of the VOYA column Man Up!  Matt de la Peña, Patrick Jones, Lauren Oliver, Andrew Smith, and Blythe Woolston were the featured authors.  It was a lot of fun to hear the authors speak about their tough characters and learn more about toughness.

Saturday began bright and early.  It was a day full of sessions and a night of book signings!  I attended YA Realness: what makes ‘contemporary realism’ feel true to readers? with our own Sara Ryan.  Also featured were Sara Zarr, Matt de la Pena, Joe Knowles, and Coe Booth.  The best part?  Matt de la Pena announcing that John Green writes Chick Lit!

The most profound session I attended was Talking Book covers with Young Adults: Whitewashing, Sexism, and More.  It was presented by Allie Jane Bruce and Malinda Lo and Jacqueline Woodson (days before she won the NBA)

were the featured authors.  It was fascinating to hear the authors talk about book covers and publishing.  I’m looking at book covers and reading blurbs very differently now that I’m more aware.  Examples: Liar by Justine Larbalestier had a cover with a white girl on the ARC but in the book she is of mixed-race.  Woodson has had her main characters presented in silhouette to disguise their race.

Aimee with author Lauren Oliver

Aimee with author Lauren Oliver

After the Teens’ Top Ten Author Luncheon with Julie Kagawa, Lauren Oliver, and Jennifer A. Nielsen (free books), I attended “Where are the heroes of color in fantasy and sci-fi?”  and “Bridge to Tweenabithia: Reader’s advisory for the gap between juvenile and young adult”.  That evening was the Book Blitz!  Every participant received 6 free books from publishers.  I was lucky enough to get books by Lauren Oliver, Andrew Smith, Blythe Woolston, and more.  My teens enjoyed receiving them as presents.

Sunday was a half day.  It began with GenreQueer: Smashing the closet which talked about LGBTQ representation in teen fiction.  My final session was Keeping it Really WEIRD (books for the fringe & reluctant readers) with tons of authors including the inestimable Bruce Coville.  Lunch was the final event with a speech by R.L. Stine.  He is a funny guy.  Seriously.  He was a comedy writer when he fell into the horror thing.

This experience was awesome.  I met librarians, tons of media specialists, and AUTHORS!  I was a total fangirl for 3 days.  Andrew Smith and Lauren Oliver may have thought I was stalking them.  Susan Campbell Bartoletti is one of the most charming people I have ever met.  I hope she took my Doctor Who and Where’d You Go Bernadette? Recommendations to heart and loved them.

The conference is in our own backyard next year.  It is not a cheap event, but it is worth every penny.  While I didn’t bring back any fresh ideas for programs, I brought back my renewed passion for YA lit.  And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about for all of us bookpushers!