ALAN v26n1 - The President of ALAN Discusses Lessons She Has Learned

Volume 26, Number 1
Fall 1998

Lois Stover, 1997-1998 ALAN President, Discusses The Lessons She Has Learned While Planning the 1998 ALAN Workshop

As the final details of the 1998 ALAN Workshop are falling into place, I am ever more excited about what is in store for us on November 23 and 24. On those two days we come together--teachers, librarians, publishers, authors, teacher educators--as a community dedicated to helping young adults connect with books. In keeping with the overall theme of the NCTE Nashville Convention, "Learning from Our Students - Growing as Teachers," the theme for the 1998 ALAN Workshop will be "Knowing Our Students - Reading Their Worlds." Participants will experience sessions about all the different kinds of worlds our students inhabit-- comic, tragic, sad, serious--and about the ways in which the worlds of the books reflect the various worlds in which our students live: fantasy worlds, historical worlds, non-fiction worlds, poetic worlds, worlds unknown to us because they're located in other countries, Internet worlds, the worlds of athletes, part-time workers, those in trouble with the justice system, worlds created by series authors, by Newbery winners, and more.

Speakers at the workshop will be invited to explore various issues related to the ways in which they come to know their readers, the ways in which young adult readers respond to texts, and the ways in which we all can use such texts as a vehicle for staying in touch with the hearts and souls of our students.

Linda Reif, author of Seeking Diversity and co-editor of Voices from the Middle , will be our keynote speaker, and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor will be the breakfast speaker. Reif, as a teacher and writer, knows the worlds of students and knows what teachers can and should do to reach students no matter what world they are inhabiting. Naylor, author of over eighty books for young children, elementary school readers, middle school and high school readers is equally adept at portraying the joys and tragedies, the tensions and the comic moments of adolescence. A Newbery winner for Shiloh , she's also known for her wonderfully funny series of books about Alice McKinley, as well as for high school novels such as The Year of the Gopher , Send No Blessings , The Keeper , and Ice .

As always, we are grateful to the numerous publishers who generously support the workshop. This year, we'll have representatives from Candlewick Press, Clarion, HarperCollins, Scholastic, Farrar Straus Giroux, Alfred Knopf/Random House, Harcourt, Bantam Doubleday Dell, Dorling Kindersley, Penguin, Orchard, Atheneum, Henry Holt, and TOR.

We'll meet authors who have not been participants at the ALAN Workshop in the past, such as Martin Waddell, from Ireland, or series authors Wendelin van Drannen, Jennifer Armstrong, and Lurlene McDaniel.

We'll hear from some relatively new voices, such as Cynthia Grant and Michael Cadnum, Tim Wynne-Jones and Virginia Walter, as well as from well-known writers, including Richard Peck, Bruce Coville, Jane Yolen, and Graham Salisbury.

Writers who have a lighter, more comedic touch will be with us, such as Paula Danziger, Ann Martin, Vivian Vande Velde, and Cherie Bennet.

Newbery winners Karen Cushman and Sharon Creech will join us, and we'll hear about culturally diverse worlds from authors such as Suzanne Fisher Staples, Jacqueline Woodson, Lori Carlson, Gloria Houston, and Angela Johnson. Jim Murphy, writer of non-fiction, Neal Shusterman, a science-fiction author, Dean Hughes, and Louise Plummer will also participate.

In addition to hearing presentations by authors, workshop attendees will be able to participate in a number of small group sessions offered by teachers and scholars. Topics will range from descriptions of interdisciplinary thematic teaching possibilities for high school students, to explorations of programs designed to promote reading among young adults, to discussions of how gender and racial issues are portrayed in such texts. Additionally, we will have round table discussion options available for participants during the break-out sessions. Facilitators will lead discussions on topics ranging from the teaching of the college young adult literature class, to what young adults really read, to how to use young adult literature to help students develop as writers.

In developing the program, it's been my pleasure to work with both the publishers and with NCTE. I've learned that some of my favorite young adult authors just do not travel to conferences. I've learned that others have been ill or injured and so could not participate this year, though regretted having to say no to an invitation. I've learned that in putting together the program we have to balance a variety of issues--the publishers often have authors whom they would like to introduce to the group and so there is a process of compromise in negotiating who will be invited that takes place when we request a particular author. The publishers provide all of the copies of books and biographical material that we receive in out bags; given their reserves and their resources, sometimes they cannot provide 340 copies of a single title, but they are always generous in trying to give every participant at least a title by an author who is appearing. I've learned that conference planning requires an ability to be flexible in the face of last minute changes that affect a speaker's ability to participate. And, I've relearned and relearned what a terrific group ALAN is, how wonderful it feels to be part of a group with a definite mission, and how important our collaboration with publishers of young adult literature is as we work together to get quality books into the hands of middle and high school students. The past few months have been quite an adventure, and now I'm hopeful that we can all enjoy our annual celebration of books and their teenage readers. Thanks for your confidence in allowing me the opportunity to serve ALAN over the past year!

Reference Citation: Stover, Lois. (1998). "ALAN President Discusses The Lessons She Has Learned While Planning the 1998 ALAN Workshop." The ALAN Review, Volume 26, Number 1.