I’m posting a series articles that I wrote for the Alaska Association of School Librarian’s newsletter about a conference I attended in Minneapolis the week before Thanksgiving.
ALAN Part 1: It’s Like the Oscars for Librarians!
This is the first in a three part series about my experience as a first time attendee at the ALAN Workshop.
The ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE) Workshop is an annual event, but for some insane reason I have never attended until now. Truly, there is no excuse. My sincere hope is that this series of articles will motivate any librarians or English teachers out there to join ALAN and attend one of their life changing workshops!
The ALAN Workshop is traditionally held on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, right after NCTE’s annual convention. (Are you checking your calendars now? Because you should be. Georgia. 2016. Be there!)
There is an author reception the night before the ALAN Workshop officially begins. It’s set up as a casual meet and greet, but to librarians it feels like the Oscars. This was a night to honor the authors who walk us down a red carpet of adventure, suspense, drama, imagination, or history every time we crack the pages of their books. A night to thank them, congratulate them, and let them know how their books have touched the lives of our students.
When I first walked past Jandy Nelson (The Sky is Everywhere & I’ll Give You the Sun) I made an utter fool of myself. I stopped, in awe, and mumbled something about it being a true honor to meet her. She, being a regular human, wasn’t sure how to respond to this strange person who was treating her like the Dalai Lama. I decided it would be best to get a drink, take a deep breath, and try again.
Luckily the amazing Suzanne Metcalfe, AkASL 2014 Librarian of the Year from Dimond High School in Anchorage, was attending the conference with me. She has attended this conference for years, and generously showed me the ropes.
So try again I did. Here we are with Jandy Nelson:
This time I simply introduced myself, and told her a few stories about how her book has touched the patrons in our library.
I told her about the teacher who walked out the door with I’ll Give You the Sun on a Friday afternoon, and then on Sunday sent me this scathing email: “The next time you recommend a book to me, can you make sure I don’t have anything to do all weekend first?”
At that, Jandy Nelson held her hand to her chest and seemed genuinely touched. So I shared another story: “After recommending your book to a student, she came back to the library, slammed the book on the circulation book, and exclaimed, ‘I NEED SOMETHING ELSE! JUST LIKE THIS!'”
And then, perhaps against my better judgement, I told her one more true review:
ME to TEACHER: “So what do you think of I’ll Give You the Sun?”
TEACHER to ME: (whispering) “I’m obsessed with it. I even read it when I pee.”
In some circles, that might have been strange. But we’ve all been there: so engrossed and touched by a book that we simply cannot put it down. Even when we (ahem) pee. Hey, as long as it’s not a library copy, who am I to judge?
Guess what? Jandy Nelson absolutely *loved* reading The Snow Child by Wasilla author Eowyn Ivy. And she would love to come to Alaska. Let’s make it happen, people!
The star struck author visits continued throughout the reception.
Here we are with 2015 Newbery Winner (Crossover) Kwame Alexander:
And can you believe it? Sharon Draper, an icon!
Here I am with A.S. King, who was honored for this year’s Walden Award winning title Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. (And did I mention that Suzanne is such an ALAN superstar that she is part of the Walden Award committee?!)
My students are going to think I’m the superstar when they see this picture of me with Ellen Hopkins! They devour her books!
And then for real and are you kidding me, I had a personal conversation with Laurie Halse Anderson. Genuis!
There we many more authors I admired from afar or stalked unsuccessfully (Ruta Sepetys you broke my heart).
It quickly became apparent that if these were the Oscars, I was the paparazzi. But how could I help it? These are the people who write books that change my students’ lives. They are my heroes. They make my job EASY!
And here’s the craziest part: these authors treated *us* like the heroes. They thanked us for getting the right book to the right reader at the right time. They were genuinely honored and grateful that we were out there, championing their life’s work.
So my ALAN Day 1 experience was like the Oscars all right… except the Red Carpet was a two way street.
Thank you #ALAN2015