Young Adult Literature, Young
People, and Their Stories:
Some Words from the President
About the 2000 ALAN Workshop
Connie S. Zitlow
It matters; they matter; and you matter - the literature, the young people and their stories, and you, who as teachers, librarians, and others, bring books and readers together. And those who write and publish these stories that ring so true certainly matter, also. I hope you who care so deeply about literature and about young people are with me at the 2000 ALAN Workshop, on November 21-22 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I chose the workshop theme," Literature Matters: Young Adults and Their Stories," in keeping with NCTE's Ninetieth Annual Convention theme, "Teaching Matters." Tome the workshop phrase conveys the power of language that brings someone's experience alive - the carefully chosen words crafted by literary artists in their novels, poems, and films that make aspects of the world more vivid, helping us see our own lives in new ways and showing us the worlds of others.
Literature Matters: Young Adults and Their Stories.
When we play with the workshop theme (changing the parts of speech), we see the various ways we can interpret it: Literature in all its wonderful formats does matter in the social and personal lives of teens and the matters of literature used by authors to tell stories in a variety of formats are as important as they have ever been. We who love books never seem to tire of the pleasure of learning more about them, of being in the company of writers who respect and honor young people, of the delight in meeting favorite authors, becoming acquainted with new ones, and hearing their stories and those of their characters. We derive great satisfaction from talking with writers about their work and telling them how they have enriched our lives and those of our students.
The primary responsibility of the ALAN president is to plan the annual workshop, and I have been keenly aware of the incredible accomplishments of presidents who have presided me. I began last fall making long lists of potential authors for the 2000 workshop and talking to their publishers. It has been a thrilling experience, not only to have the appearances of so many authors confirmed, but to know how pleased they are to be a part of our event.
Some have not been to ALAN before; some are relatively new voices; and others are returning as well-known favorites. Even those who had to decline my invitation did so with praise for ALAN and with regret that they could not be a part of the workshop in Milwaukee.
We are privileged to have with us the premier young adult novelist, Robert Cormier, and his editor and publisher Craig Virden. Certainly the honors Cormier has received attest to his enormous literary achievements. The multiple awards won by many of the authors on the program show how much these authors and their works matter - beginning with the ALAN breakfast speaker Katherine Paterson. At the workshop Kathryn Lasky and Janet Hickman join Katherine Paterson as they tell about young people of yesterday. The list goes on: M. E. Kerr, honored with the 2000 ALAN Award, talks about "Risky Subjects"; Walter Dean Myers tells about "The Truth Behind the Fiction of Monster." We hear about matters of freedom from Gail Carson Levine and Pam Munoz Ryan. Rodman Philbrick, Ruth White, and Sarah Dessen help us listen to the voices of teens. Words about the historical fiction of Jeff Shaara and the powerful non-fiction of Ellen Levine are followed by Joan Bauer's "Thoughts on Hope and Humor."
A favorite ALAN author returns: Christopher Paul Curtis, who won so many major awards with Bud, Not Buddy, is now Bucking the Sarge. In their highly acclaimed works Virginia Euwer Wolff, Kimberly Willis Holt, and Canadian author Martha Brooks tell about compassionate teenagers making choices. We travel to imaginary worlds with Donna Jo Napoli, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and T. A. Barron; visit the lives of extraordinary women in the imaginative nonfiction of Kathleen Krull, and hear about Ann Turner's poetry. With the literary artistry of Kyoko Mori and of Han Nolan, we are reminded of the multiple settings of the stories of young adults, and we consider what "home" can be with Ellen Wittlinger and Jerry Spinelli.
The workshop begins with the keynote address given by Gary M. Salvner, Distinguished Professor of English Education at Youngstown State University. Gary, an author, editor, and former president of ALAN, has brought over 60,000 students together with some of the most distinguished authors of young adult literature in an annual English Festival, which he has led for 23 years. The Festival focuses on rewarding reading and writing among young people. Gary cares deeply about what matters most in what we do: connecting young readers with good books.
During the course of the two days we have an opportunity to talk about poetry, film, nonfiction, and realistic fiction in 22 different small group breakout sessions as presenters lead us in exploring some key questions: What are young people reading? Who is writing these books? How are they used in various classrooms?
I thank you for the opportunity to spend this year immersed, not only with the words of young adult literature, but with the people who have brought those words to life. Planning the workshop has been a pleasure. I am grateful to those who have led ALAN before me and have established our wonderful collaboration with the publishers who make it possible. The 2000 ALAN Workshop happens with the gracious support of Ballantine; Candlewick, Clarion, Dorling Kindersley Ink, Farrar,'. Straus & Giroux, HarperCollins, Harcourt, Henry Holt Holiday House, Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, Pengui Putnam, Random House, Scholastic, and Simon Schuster.
ALAN workshop participants' powerful feelings for each other while sharing in the joyous celebration of book and young adults is always a highlight of my year. I hope it is that kind of event for you, too, as we gather in Milwaukee and realize again how literature matters and we matter and the stories for and about young people matter.
Reference Citation: Zitlow, Connie S. (2000) "Young Adult Literature, Young People, and Their Stories: Some Words from the President About the 2000 ALAN Workshop." The ALAN Review, Volume 28, Number 1, p. 5-6.