Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Do Books Save LIves?

A lot of the authors I saw speak in the past week  have written books that readers have credited with saving their lives, either literally (helping them escape from dangerous situations or suicidal thoughts) or metaphorically yet still for realsies--showing them that they are not alone, that they have value, that they deserve love. And I get that. That moment when you find yourself on a page is powerful, and when that finding changes your trajectory, I’m sure you would remember that book and honor that author for the rest of your days.

There was a lot of talk at the conference about those books that save lives. But Matt de la Pena, who I’m pretty sure brings an astouding  insight to every conversation he’s ever in, kept pointing out that books don’t save lives. Readers save their own lives, using books as tools. In other words, he’s handing the power they already have back to the kids who are his readers.

A related beautiful thought that he shared was that readers can save authors. He talked about how his academic success made him feel like a sell-out, like he was no longer “Mexican enough.” Meeting kids who have recognized their mixed race, Chicano selves in his books brings him back into the fold. I managed to avoid full-on bawling throughout the conference, but this was one of the times when I was more than a little teary.

And then there was Jason Reynolds, who said that although we say, “There’s no such thing as a kid who doesn’t like reading; they just haven’t found their book yet,” maybe it’s more that the non-reader kid hasn’t found their person who is going to hand them that book.

It all comes back to relationship. Book, reader. Teacher, student. Author, reader. Student, teacher. Book, teacher, author, student. Matt also reminded us that what we do in the classroom, bringing together a student and a book, might not have immediate effect. But years later, they might come back to that thought, that book, that moment when they felt seen.

I’m coming home determined to see my students, and to let them know that I value them. To name the qualities I see that they may not even consider. To not make them read between the lines in order to figure out that I see them as capable, as delightful, as enough.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Books and Authors at NCTE2017

15 graphic novels (mostly nonfiction)
3 picture books
6 gifts (kids, sister, colleagues)
13 books signed to my students
3 books signed to me
7 books that duplicate books I have so we can do partner or book club reading
16 middle grade novels
29 young adult novels
2 books in Spanish



I feel like a kid late on Halloween evening, sorting out my candy. Here are the ones I'm most excited to read.


Authors I blurted ridiculous things at: Eric Gansworth, Renee Watson, Laurie Halse Anderson, Laini Taylor, Maria Padian, Patrick Ness, Jason Reynolds, Meg Medina, Megan Whalen Turner, A. S. King, Matt de la Pena, Ellen Hopkins, Dusti Bowling, and teacher writers Robert Probst, Pernille Ripp, Penny Kittle, and Donalyn Miller

Authors I was chill with: Aaron Levy, Brandon Kiely, Daniel Jose Older, Andrew Smith, Neal Shusterman, Adam Rex, N. H. Senzai, Karen Romano Young. (You will notice this is a much smaller list.)

Authors I creepily took pictures of despite not being in their signing line for various reasons: Adam Silvera, Julie Murphy, Angie Thomas

Donalyn Miller, who knew me by name. Okay, so I was wearing a nametag. I still believe she recognized me.

Laini Taylor, who I always keep an eye out for in Portland. Which isn't weird, unless you tell her that while she's signing your book. In which case, it turns out, it's a little weird. Hey look, we coordinated our outfits! 'Cause we Portlanders are like that.

Megan Whalen Turner. At least I chose not to tell her that I'd written an entire blog post about her last summer, referring to her as "Margaret" about half of the time.

Total stalker photo of Angie Thomas.  I apologize, Angie! 

Aaaand total stalker shot of Adam Silvera. Who is very tall, and, according to a guy in line behind me later in the day, extremely charming.

I saw Eric Gansworth's name on a list of "diverse authors" a few weeks ago, read If I Ever Get Out Of Here last week, met him and got his new book signed this morning, and won $20 from Powell's with my review of the earlier book this afternoon. Native American from New York/Ontario area. 

Penny Kittle, writer of Book Love, founder of the BookLove foundation, granter of my 500 book classroom library start, encourager of the grant winners who gathered to share our work, and Big Name that drew over 80 people to come see us on a Sunday morning, when most activities have wound down. Am i gushing?  I think I'm gushing.

Meg Medina, who said, "You want me to be goofy?" Yes, please!

I promise I will write more about Jason Reynolds. I got to hear him twice. One of the best speakers I've ever been privileged to listen to.

Ellen Hopkins. Gah. Her next book is going to be about gun violence, and the verse part will be from the point of view of Violence, interspersed with prose chapters written in second person from six characters who might be pushed to pick up a gun. She believes in growing as an author!

Adam Rex drew an adorable orange on every damn book he signed. The man is a hero.

Laurie Halse Anderson and Karen Romano Young at a fairly swanky evening event we got invited to.

Posing with Linda Mullaly Hunt (Fish in a Tree), Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (The War that Saved My Life) and Matt de la Pena (everything good) after their panel with Kat Yeh about reaching reluctant readers. I'll write more about that one too. I can't decide if their brains or their souls are more beautiful.

Someone randomly handed me a ticket to the secondary luncheon. I figured free food, and I think I've heard good things about this Daniel Jose Older guy, so sure I'll go! Remember what I said about Jason Reynolds being the best speaker I've ever heard? I forgot that I've also heard Older speak. WOW.

Benjamin Alire Saenz. I asked him if he knows the guy who works in the next room over from me. He does. It was kind of a silly question.

I've mentioned this guy, right? And Julie Murphy is adorable and hilarious and kept calling herself out for being flustered even though she was super awesome. 

I wish Matt de la Pena was, like, my neighbor or my nephew or something. It's not THAT kind of crush, but I do really wish he was someone I could just call up and chat with. Super kind, super insightful, super genuine human being. 

Huge line today to see Patrick Ness. I met him two years ago in Minneapolis, and I pretty much WAS the line that day. He'd had time to chat with me and sign each book in the Chaos Walking series individually and with personalization. I mentioned that, and he said, 'Hey, I thought you looked familiar! No, really!" We have that Northwest connection, so I choose to believe him. I have NOT heard him speak, but I've read his books and seen his tweets and good works, and he's another one I just want to hang out with all the time. 

Though honestly? I think being pals with Patrick and Matt and Jason and Laurie and Amy and Meg and Adam and Julie and Angie and Renee and so on and so forth would probably force me to really look critically at my life and my work and my privilege and my actions. These are not people who skim along the surface of things, ever.



Friday, November 17, 2017

I Met Jason Reynolds. That Is All.


Actually, it's not all. But I am beat, so I will fill you in later on how damn wise he is.