Top Ten Authors We Were Excited to See at ALAN by Kellee Moye and Mindi Rench

Each year during and immediately following the NCTE (National Council Teachers of English) annual convention, ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) holds a breakfast on Saturday morning, a cocktail hour on Sunday evening, and a workshop on Monday and Tuesday. During the two days of the ALAN workshop, we find ourselves completely surrounded by YA enthusiasts and the authors that write these novels–it is pure heaven! Each time we attend an ALAN conference, we walk away with our heads full of bookish thoughts and excitement over the new releases to come. ALAN is a special organization; its members are teachers, professors, librarians, and authors who are dedicated to getting great books into the hands of kids and supporting students’ right to read.  It is the only true professional organization that focuses on literature for young adults.

alan

Here are the top ten authors we were so excited to be able to see at ALAN this year (It was exceedingly hard to choose just ten of the amazing authors who took the time to come to Boston to talk to a HUGE room filled with educators who eat, sleep, and breathe YA lit!):

crutcher1. Chris Crutcher 

Chris Crutcher doesn’t only write literary and popular young adult novels, Chris is also an advocate for educators. Hearing him speak is always empowering and makes us want to continue being the educators that bring the right books to our students at the right moment. Chris also usually tackles the subject of censorship, as his novels are highly challenged, and is always inspiring in why these tough novels are so important for adolescents.

  • “You can tell who the good teachers are because they like the same stories (as their students).”

  • “I think the value in books like mine – is to bring dark subjects into the open.”

  • “I was successful (as a teacher/counselor) when a kid walked away from me feeling empowered, like they felt that could change what happens next…things can change when they feel like things can change.”

lha2. Laurie Halse Anderson

 Laurie Halse Anderson was able to stay upright this year at ALAN (two years ago Laurie has very ill at ALAN and gave her speech lying down on the floor before going to the hospital) and we are all thankful! Her words are as powerful as her novels. She writes what she calls “resiliency fiction,” books that feature characters facing tough situations in life and learning to power through and come out stronger on the other side.

  • “I write resilience fiction. These books have scars and muscles.”

  • “I want all my books to be about resiliency because isn’t that what we want our children to become: resilient.”

  • “I leave a gap for the reader to fill with their own personal experiences, a magical connection. The Power of Literature.”

schrefer3. Eliot Schrefer

 Eliot Schrefer is not only a phenomenal author, but he is a great person.  At ALAN this year, we were lucky enough to see Eliot speak twice since he was on a panel about YA novels from around the world and he also was a 2013 Walden Honoree for Endangered and spoke on the Walden panel as well. He was inspired to write his novel Endangered after being curious about a brand of clothing he bought one day.  That search for “bonobos” led him on a journey that included trips to bonobo sanctuaries and eventually a powerful novel about conflict in the Congo. He is now extending this journey to complete an “Ape Quartet” of novels. Threatened, about chimpanzees in Gabon, comes out in 2014.

  • “Books don’t just matter to middle class kids who read. Books can matter to kids who are struggling to survive.”

  • “World building isn’t just for fantasy worlds. I spent time in Congo learning how ants move crazy like across the ground.”

  • “Even the supportive friends for writers matter. We need to be held up AND laid into.”

gantos4. Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos was the ALAN 2013 Keynote speaker–what a great way to open the workshop!. Jack Gantos was a delight: hilarious, intelligent, and inspiring.  He really knows how to make his audience laugh out loud. Gantos looks to his own life for inspiration for his writing and readers, both young and old, have much to learn from his experiences.

  • “Authors stand on a pillar of books that have influenced them.”

  • “I would not have a history of my own writing if it wasn’t for my history of reading.”

  • “If students have access of great books, it gives them access to the mind.”

myracle5. Lauren Myracle

 Lauren Myracle is never afraid to speak truths to her audience and this year’s ALAN was no exception–she tackled the need for edgy books to help our adolescents make their way through such a tough time in life. Lauren is close to our heart because she won the 2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for her novel Shine, a haunting story about a girl struggling to come to terms with the harsh realities of life in her small town.

  • “Edgy books are not safe. We are not here to be safe. We are here to serve the needs of our students.”

  • “Don’t only embrace edgy topics, but bring them into the classroom.”

blume6.  Judy Blume

Yes, THE Judy Blume! Although she did not attend the ALAN workshop, Judy was honored with the 2013 ALAN award at the ALAN breakfast on Saturday morning during NCTE (and she also opened NCTE on Thursday at the general session). Judy Blume is, of course, a groundbreaking author in YA literature.  For many adults, her books such as Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, Deenie, and Forever helped us to navigate the world of adolescence.  These books continue to resonate with teens today because of their honesty and direct approach to the issues teens face.

  • “There wasn’t YA books when I began publishing. I hate categories. Just let them read.”

  • “We are all warriors [for intellectual freedom]. We have to work to protect that freedom.”

  • “Together we (teachers + authors) help kids grow up with freedom to read what they want to read.”

king7. A. S. King

A. S. King is yet another powerful voice of young adult literature. She joins the ranks of Lauren Myracle, Chris Crutcher, and Laurie Halse Anderson who are not afraid to write and talk about what adolescents really need. She also talks about her own childhood has helped shaped who she is as an author. In her books, King tackles tough issues such as identity, bullying, and sexuality. King is another 2013 Walden Honoree for her book Ask the Passengers, and we were thrilled to hear her speak as a member of the Walden panel.

  • “Why hide compassion? Compassion was a sign of weakness.”

  • “I wanted to write about questioning (sexuality) but also wanted to write about love not being a weakness.”

rowell8. Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell is an up-and-coming young adult author who has written four novels, two of which are some of the biggest hits of 2013: Fangirl and Eleanor & Park. Rainbow may have been one of the most anticipated authors at this year’s ALAN as it was her first one and her books are the talk of the YA town.

  • “Falling in love as a teenager is falling in love with every cell.”

  • “Every teenager’s love is like Romeo and Juliet and it will not last.”

saenz9. Benjamin Alire Saenz

Benjamin Alire Saenz’s novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has won or been honored by 5 different awards: Lambda Literary Award, Stonewall Book Award, Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award, Pura Belpre Author Award, and Michael L. Printz Award. The stickers on the cover have to overlap to not cover up the title! His speech given at ALAN was just as beautiful and meaningful as his novel.

  • “I wrote the book for the most selfish of reasons… I needed to give myself a gift and that gift has kept on giving to me.”

  • “Writing should make us generous.”

  • “Books are essential to our culture. It is a cultural necessity. In our public school we make a culture of sports instead of a literary culture.”

rosoff10. Meg Rosoff

Meg Rosoff is most known for her 2004 novel How I Live Now which won the Printz, Guardian Prize, Brandford Boase Award, and made the Whitbread Awards shortlist. How I Live Now was a dystopian novel before it was a “thing.” At ALAN, Rosoff was not only talking about How I Live Now (which became a major motion picture this year) but her newest book Picture Me Gone which delves into “relationships between parents and children as well as love and loss.”

  • “Adolescence is three basic drives: trying to figure out who you are, what you are going to do and is anyone going to love you?”

  • It’s not the despair that gets you; it is the hope.”

Kellee Moye is a middle school reading coach and teacher in Orlando, FL. This was her 4th NCTE and ALAN and cannot imagine her professional life without it. She is also the current chair of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee. You can find her on twitter @kelleemoye and read her blog at http://www.unleashingreaders.com.

Mindi Rench spreads the #nerdybookclub love as a junior high literacy coach in the Chicago suburbs. Mindi is honored to be a member of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee. You can find her on twitter as @mindi_r and read her blog at http://nextbestbook.blogspot.com.

Together Kellee and Mindi host the #rwworkshop chat (http://rwworkshop.wikispaces.com) on Twitter at 9PM ET on the first Wednesday of every month. Hope to “see” you there!