Monday, February 27, 2012

Indianapolis Youth Literature Conference

This past Saturday, I was up at 5am. WHY would I do that? To head up to Indianapolis for the 2012 Indianapolis Youth Literature Conference! It was a fabulous day of talking about books and hearing some great talks from authors.

The conference was held at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, which is FABULOUS.

Six floors of books and media and they have some seriously cool stuff for kids

First up was Nick Bruel, author of the Bad Kitty books (which are the latest hot series among kids at my library). 

Nick was a hilarious start to our morning with his talk:

The 8 things included J.K. Rowling: 

(How dare she switch to writing adult books! It's not like adult authors just suddenly decide to CHANGE and start publishing YA books....... wait.....)

And German translations of his book:

After Nick's talk, we went into the first breakout sessions of the day. Nick did a session and they had a great panel of teen authors, but I slipped into a booktalk session about great new kids' books. Shirley Mullin of the indie bookstore Kids Ink gave us a great presentation featuring some of her favorite 2011 and 2012 titles. 

I was familiar with a lot of them, but Shirley can always turn me on to some that I've overlooked!

Our next keynote speaker was Philip Hoose (pronounced "hose" like a garden hose), author of the award-winning Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.

I really dig the smaller size of the paperback, as I think that's more appealing to teens than the larger size of the hardcover. Look at all those awards!!

Philip definitely wins "Best Sweater of the Day" award. He talked to us about tracking down Claudette Colvin and how he researched her story.

After hearing all about Claudette Colvin, it was time to break for lunch. When we came back from lunch, we sat down for a talk from my personal favorite author of the day: Shannon Hale! Shannon Hale is the author of many books for adults, teens and kids, including AustenlandThe Goose Girl, Newbery-honor winner Princess Academy, and the rip-roaring graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge. Here is one of my employees immersed in Rapunzel's Revenge before Shannon's talk began:

Shannon was determined to keep us from getting sleepy after lunch and gave a funny and high-energy talk.

She may have yelled at us a little bit to make sure we were all awake. :) 

Shannon talked about wanting to be a writer since she was very small and shared some pictures and stories about her family. Here, her son is showing off his Bad Kitty project for school: 

Shannon is a very engaging speaker, completely comfortable in front of a crowd, and if you get the change to hear her speak, I urge you to do it! She doesn't travel much lately (she's got 4 kids at home!), so I feel really lucky to have been able to hear her. She told us what it was like to get The Call about her Newbery honor and how she makes time for writing with four kids in the house (a babysitter comes 15 hours a week).

After Shannon's keynote, it was time for breakout sessions again. I stayed to hear Shannon's breakout session, but others went to hear Philip Hoose talk about researching and writing nonfiction or our very own Michele Farley talk about the Caldecott Award and her experience serving on last year's Caldecott committee.

In Shannon's breakout session, she talked about how some of the books she was given and chose to read in high school and college turned her off of reading for pleasure for many years.

Teachers must be able to choose what books to use in their classroom and choosing books with teen protagonists and books that speak kids' language can save reading lives. Teens need books with teen protagonists so they know that they are valued,  that it's not just adults who are the protagonists of stories.

And reading is so important because it affects your brain in a way that no other activity does. It helps readers gain a sense of empathy for their fellow humans and develop imagination.

One of the attendees asked Shannon if she had a response for conservative Christians who might object to the fantasy in her books. Shannon replied that the Bible is full of parable and that much fantasy can be read as parable.

After the last breakouts, we had a chance to get books signed, but the lines were pretty long and we were all tired after our very early start, so we headed back to New Albany. It was a great day, just the thing to get my staff excited about reading some of the books they heard about!