Ten TBR Books Ricki Learned About at NCTE/ALAN


I was aware of several of these books before I went to NCTE/ALAN, but attending the conference and speaking with the authors and publishers made me even more excited about them. I could make a list that has dozens of books on it, but these ten came to my head first, and I am genuinely excited about all of them!

1. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

The topic is of utmost importance. I am really looking forward to reading this one.

2. Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callendar

Hearing this author speak… wow, wow, wow. And Lizette said this book is incredible, and I trust everything out of that woman’s mouth.

3. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

I was fortunate to meet Jewell at the conference. She is such an inspiring woman. I am really looking forward to this book.

4. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Katie Halata said this book is incredible and lives up to the hype. And I trust everything that Katie says.

5. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The premise of this book is very intriguing to me. I am really excited to crack the cover.

6. Spliced by Jon McGoran

Everyone is raving about this book, and I am really interested to read it. The cover is really neat, and the story idea sucks me in!

7. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Who doesn’t love Laini Taylor? She is an incredible writer, and I am excited to read her newest series!

8. A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

I will read any book featuring another culture, and I am looking forward to reading about the refugee experience in this book. I’ve heard it is excellent.

9. Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth

I heard a section of this book read aloud at the conference. It took everything in me not to cancel my next meeting and just read this book!

10. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

This author was one of the kindest people that I’ve met. She has such a warmth about her. I am very, very excited about this book. The premise is really neat, and I think it’s going to be a favorite.

If you attended NCTE or ALAN, what books are you most excited to read?


Kellee’s NCTE/ALAN Reflection 2017


Every year when I am applying through my district to attend the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Annual Conference followed by the ALAN (Assembly on Literature of Adolescents of NCTE) workshop, I have to write up a rationale about why I like to attend the conference, and it is always hard to put into words. And each year the conference seems to be getting better and better.

I consider myself lucky that I get to attend this conference each year because it really does recharge my professional battery. I would not be the teacher I am today without my NCTE and ALAN peers, and I know I will keep growing because of these conferences and the people I know through them.

Like Ricki shared yesterday, we are huge advocates for ALAN. It is the organization where I have found all of my like-minded educators who believe that reading and access to a diverse and wide-range of literature is the key to a literacy education for our adolescents. (PLUG!: It is only $30 a year to join, and you get our newsletter and The ALAN Review!)


A few of the highlights this year include:

1. I am going to start with the same thing as Ricki: The “YA Lit IS Complex: Authors and Teachers Reframe the Conversation About Young Adult Literature and Text Complexity” session. It featured YA authors Laurie Halse Anderson, M. T. Anderson, Matt de la Peña, A. S. King, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, and Angie Thomas. I was in charge of moderating Laurie Halse Anderson’s round table, and I had the pleasure of working with her and her brilliance. The session, chaired by the incredible Jennifer Buehler, was based on her book Teaching Reading with YA Literature which is a must read also. I really hope I get to be part of any future sessions Jennifer decides to propose!

Please feel free to check out my handout about the complexity within and activities to do with The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Andersonthat I shared at my round table on Slide Share (click here).

Also, check out the notes I took while Laurie talked on Twitter (click here).

2.  I was also very lucky to be part of the  “The Vision of ALAN: Rationales and Strategies for Using Young Adult Literature in Secondary Classrooms” an ALAN-sponsored session with some of my favorite ALAN people (including the one and only Dr. Ricki Ginsberg! And we forgot to take a picture together! We’re the worst!). Five roundtables, each hosted by a past chair of the Walden Award, focused on different young adult literature (YAL) topics including the literary merit of YAL, using YAL in the classroom, and research supporting YAL. Attendees will be free to move to the roundtable of their choosing, and will have opportunities to switch tables/topics during the session. Roundtable leader(s) will provide materials for attendees to take back to their school sites, including book lists, teaching strategies, and rationales for challenged titles.

Please feel free to check out my handout about text sets that I shared at my round table on SlideShare (click here).

3. Author panels are some of my favorite to attend and be part of! First, I was lucky enough to be the chair of an amazing author panel on the use of unconventional narrators within the author’s books and within the classroom. Katherine Applegate, Lisa Bunker, Josh Funk, and Adam Rex each shared some about their writing process and then also shared a way their book could be used in the classroom.

Please feel free to check out the presentation on SlideShare (click here).

4. I then attended an teacher dream come true session called Reading as a Personal Art which included Nancie Atwell (my education hero and this was the first time I’ve seen her speak!), Kelly Gallagher, and Penny Kittle. The focus was on how they include reading in their middle and high school classes, how they get include rigorous and thought-provoking activities with the reading, and how English teachers need to think of themselves as literacy teachers, not literature teachers. One of my favorite thing they shared was the cross-country social justice book clubs Penny and Kelly are doing in their classrooms.

5. The next panel I went to was another awesome author panel: Positive Social Engagement moderated by Michele Knott with Lisa Yee, Jennifer Ziegler, J. Anderson Coats, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, and Ammi-Joan Paquette. The panel looked at ways to use literature, and their books specifically, to help students find their place in our world and make sure that they are a positive part of the future.

(P.S. These are only some examples of the panels! Wowza, right?!)

6. The ALAN Breakfast was by far one of my biggest highlights for a few reasons: A) RICK RIORDAN spoke, and I actually got to meet him. I’d seen him here in Orlando two years ago, but it was an auditorium tour. You should have heard my students squeal when they saw my picture with him! B) NEAL SHUSTERMAN was awarded the ALAN Award for his outstanding contribution to young adult literature and gave a truly enthralling speech. C) I was the chair of the ALAN Award committee, so I GOT TO INTRODUCE NEAL!

Please feel free to check out my introduction on Google Docs (click here).

7. I also have to give a shout out to the publishers who sponsors dinners, cocktail hours, book signings, and so much more for the educators at the conference. We are lucky to have you!

8. The ALAN Workshop should probably have its own top ten list because it isn’t fair to give it only one spot when those two days are such a joy in my life, so I will share my top five panels I loved at ALAN:

  • MINE! 🙂 I presented with Julia Keller and Jodi Lynn Anderson on their science fiction books The Dark Intercept and Midnight at the Electric.
  • Joseph Bruchac was entrancing and also such a pleasure to talk to afterwards. I wish I could absorb all of his knowledge and stories.
  • The key notes were ON POINT this year! Monday opened with Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds and Tuesday started with Meg Medina. True brilliance.
  • The “In Conversation” panels were fascinating this year! Two examples: Chris Crutcher and Laurie Halse Anderson talked about sex, and Donielle Clayton and Cindy Pon spoke about diversity in sci-fi/fantasy.
  • The line up in general was fantastic. I am in awe of Laura Renzi and the vast array of authors that she put forth for us to experience.

9. Friends! My heart always feels just a little bit empty when I leave. I have some educators, publishers, and authors who I consider friends who I only see at conferences, so it is always hard to leave them. (Shout outs to Jennie, Michele, Aly, Jason, Dani, Wendy, Daria, Katie, Beth, Beth, Lee Ann, Sarah, Jennifer, Ricki of course!, and all of my other wonderful PLN friends! Also, I was so happy to meet Amber and Kristen!)

10. Books and Authors! So. Many. Books! I already had a problem choosing, and now it is worse. And so many authors to swoon over! I have so many photos; too many to share, but if you want to check them out, you can view my Google Drive folder (click here) if you’d like.


Ricki’s NCTE/ALAN Reflection 2017


Ricki's NCTE:ALAN Reflection

Every year, I think to myself, “Golly, that was the best conference yet.” This year was no different. I was fortunate to be invited to be a part of several phenomenal sessions. I learned so much from my colleagues and from the many wonderful authors who attended the conference.

It’s no secret that the ALAN Workshop is my favorite part of the conference. I live and breathe ALAN. If you aren’t an ALAN member and love young adult literature, I highly recommend this organization. Please feel free to contact me (or Kellee, for that matter) if you’d like to learn more!

My favorite part of the conference was the ALAN Workshop. This should come as no surprise to readers. I am a diehard ALAN member. As we say during the workshop, #IamALAN. If you aren’t an ALAN member and love young adult literature, I highly recommend that you join. The assembly is like a family—the members are extremely accepting and their passion shines.

I so enjoy the time I spend with old friends at NCTE and ALAN. Two of my students attended this year, and one commented, “It’s so interesting how well you know these people because you only see each other once a year.” It’s quite true. I consider some of my greatest friends to be the folks that I have met at this conference. Based on my work with The ALAN Review, I was able to meet new friends this year, particularly the reviewers for the journal.  It is is such a wonderful community to be a part of, and for that, I am very grateful.

A few of the highlights this year include:

1. The “YA Lit IS Complex: Authors and Teachers Reframe the Conversation About Young Adult Literature and Text Complexity” session. It featured YA authors Laurie Halse Anderson, M. T. Anderson, Matt de la Peña, A. S. King, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, and Angie Thomas. I was in charge of moderating M. T. Anderson’s table, and I was shocked at the turnout for this entire session. Someone counted 300 people in the tiny room. I feel so, so lucky to have been a part of this session, which was chaired by the incredible Jennifer Buehler. I have my fingers crossed that she does the session again next year.

2. The CEE-sponsored session about YA voice, culture, family and identity. Benjamin Alire Sáenz spoke, and he (once again) captured my heart.

3. The Meet the Editors session. This is my third year with this session as a presenter (with The ALAN Review). I love hearing what scholars are working on, and this year, I was able to connect with some people who I’ve always wanted to meet.

4. Getting to dine with some of my favorite bibliophiles and authors. Kellee Moye makes me so happy!

5. The “Vision of ALAN” session. It was so fun to work and present with some of my favorite colleagues. Our roundtable was focused on research in YAL, and I loved sitting beside my friend and soulmate, Wendy Glenn.

6. The “Future is Now” session. WOW! This is a massive session that features preservice and new teachers. It’s incredible!

7. Taking fangirl photos with some of my favorite authors, and capturing these moments with my two students.

8. Neal Shusterman‘s ALAN Award speech and Rick Riordan‘s breakfast speech. My goodness. These two men are FORCES.

9. The ALAN Workshop keynotes! Both were incredible! Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely, and Meg Medina make my heart feel full.

10. All of the books! I don’t even know where to begin! I am going to cut this post short. It is time to READ! 🙂



Top Ten Tuesday: Ten TBR Books We Learned About at NCTE/ALAN


top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Ten TBR Books We Learned About at NCTE/ALAN


I knew about several of these books before I went to NCTE/ALAN, but actually going to the conference and talking to the authors and publishers made me even more excited about them. I could make a list that has dozens of books on it, but these five came to my head first, and I am genuinely excited about all of them!

1. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock


Speaking with this author was truly a joy. She was interesting and funny, and it made me really want to read her book.

2. Riding Chance by Christine Kendall


This book is a really interesting premise. After he takes a wrong turn, a young man is sentenced to the stables. I am excited to read this book.

3. Wish by Barbara O’Connor


The cover immediately drew me in. I saw a few bloggers posting positive reviews of this book, but when I actually held it in my hand, I couldn’t wait to crack the cover!

4. Gem and Dixie by Sara Zarr


I have a very strong bond with my sister, so I am really inspired to read this book. I started it on the plane and really enjoyed it.

5. Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan


I love reading about art, and listening to this author made me quite excited to read this book. Several of my friends have read it and loved it. They said they couldn’t put it down!


After NCTE/ALAN, I went home and immediately read a few of the titles I received such as The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, The Outside Circle by Patti Laboucane-Benson, Loving Vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell, HiLo: The Great Big Boon by Judd Winick, but here are five books I haven’t gotten to yet that I plan on reading soon.

1. Ghost by Jason Reynolds


Jason Reynolds’s book Ghost was a National Book Award Finalist, is one of my book club’s Mock Newbery choices, and sounds amazing–I need to read it sooner than later.  Also, listening to Jason Reynolds describe how running is equivalent to teaching yourself how to suffocate and how he incorporated that idea into this book made me want to read it even more.

2. Scythe by Neal Shusterman 


My students and I always adore Neal Shusterman’s work. He just has a way of coming up with the most unique ideas then making them work in such brilliant ways. Oh, and Neal read some of this at ALAN–MUST READ!

3. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo


I think if I didn’t put this on here, Leigh’s legion of fans would be so disgusted by me. Every time I said I hadn’t read this while at NCTE/ALAN, I was met with a face of pure shock. I’ll get to it soon, everyone!

4. Lion Island by Margarita Engle


Margarita Engle is one of my favorite authors, and her books in verse that deal with forgotten or hidden histories are always so beautiful and interesting. I very much look forward to learning about this time in Cuba’s history and  go on this journey with Antonio.

5. Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson


IT IS FINALLY OUT! I cannot believe I haven’t read it yet, but I haven’t, but I will! If you haven’t read Chains or Forge, do it now then you can read Ashes with me!

If you attended NCTE or ALAN, what books did you learn about that you want to read?

RickiSig and Signature

Ricki’s 2016 NCTE and ALAN Experience



If you haven’t been to the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) convention or ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE) Workshop and you love books, this would be a real treat to yourself. The NCTE convention occurs each November the Thursday through Sunday before Thanksgiving. Then, the ALAN Workshop occurs the Monday and Tuesday following the NCTE convention. Attendees include teachers, librarians, teacher educators, authors, and publishers. I’ve gone every year since 2006, and I absolutely love attending.

I love meeting all of the great, incredible new authors. But this year, I was able to meet two of my childhood icons, Ann M. Martin, author of The Baby-Sitters Club series and S. E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders.


Ann M. Martin


S. E. Hinton

The NCTE convention allows us to fulfill our childhood dreams, but it also helps us fulfill adult dreams. This year, I was honored to chair a panel that featured Laurie Halse Anderson, E. K. Johnston, and Amber Smith at the ALAN Workshop. Laurie led the discussion, which was centered on issues of rape and healing. All three authors have phenomenal books that critically examine this topic.


Me, E. K. Johnston, Laurie Halse Anderson, Amber Smith

My first presentation was “Opportunity for Advocacy: Examining Young Adult Literature’s Treatment of Erased Identities and Histories.” I was really proud with how this presentation went! Wendy, Kellee, and I presented different ways that young adult texts erase or deny identities and how this can be used to promote advocacy. Two of the handouts that emerged from this session will be available this Wednesday and Thursday


Me, Kellee, Wendy

I also presented at a roundtable session, “Advocating for Hope: The Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award and Its Importance in Promoting and Providing a Positive Outlook.” We used the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award books to show different creative ways to help students search for messages of hope. We also discussed how to create text sets of hope.


Advocating for Hope Roundtable

I also presented at a roundtable in the “Culturally Diverse Young Adult Literature: Voices of Advocacy & Community” session. Meg Medina and Kekla Magoon started out the presentation and discussed the importance of culturally diverse literature to promote advocacy. My roundtable featured Kekla Magoon’s How it Went Down. We talked about how interdisciplinary ideas, like dog-whistle politics, could be used to help students analyze perspective and work toward advocacy.

My last presentation was in a paper panel called “Examining Responses to Young Adult Literature in English Education and English Language Arts Classrooms.” Wendy Glenn and I talked about our research study about the ways students labeled as struggling negotiated their reading identities in nontraditional and traditional English courses. The full paper is available in the Research in the Teaching of English‘s August 2016 journal. The article is published here.

I also attended some great presentations about identity, equity, and advocacy (my interests). I learned so much and am very excited to keep rethinking my instruction and research.

From old friends to new, I am always excited by the incredible connections I make at this conference. I am lifted up by the individuals who share this passion for reading and feel so grateful for my NCTE and ALAN families. Thank you all for another wonderful year that invigorated me and made me feel even more alive and excited to begin this next year—for I genuinely believe that reading saves lives.

Until next year, friends! Will I see you there? 



Kellee’s 2016 NCTE and ALAN Experience



What is NCTE and ALAN? The figurative answer is BOOK LOVING EDUCATOR HEAVEN! The literal answer is NCTE stands for the National Council of Teachers of English and ALAN is the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE. Each November, the annual NCTE conference followed by the ALAN workshop is six days of educators of reading & writing, books, and authors. I have attended both every year except last year since 2010, and it is one of the things that truly fills my teaching tank.


This year at the conference, the focus was advocacy, and I began my time there with a panel about authors as advocates which featured Jason Reynolds, Meg Medina, Greg Neri, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Sharon Draper, and Ibtisam Barakat. The panel brought up many important topics though specifically focused on how literature can be windows and mirrors for our students. The easiest way to share the brilliance of these authors is to share what they said (from my Twitter feed, so may not be exact quotes):

Greg Neri

  • “I may not have the answers, but I can raise important questions.”
  • “My books serve as gateways that raise questions that teachers might not be prepared to talk about.”
  • “Talk TO kids not AT kids.”
  • “Kids have a voice. They just need to be assured they can use it.”

Meg Medina

  • “I wrote with the intention of kids recognizing themselves and their experience on the page.”
  • “Take a risk on new author voices.”

Sharon Draper

  • “How do we advocate for change? By getting kids to read which makes them think.”
  • “Books are an opportunity to begin conversation.”
  • “DO NOT USE THE TERM THOSE KIDS. Every kid that walks into the classroom needs an opportunity. They all need you.”
  • “Put all the books out there and let kids find the books they need.”
  • “Books touch people in ways authors don’t expect.”

e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

  • “Give that one piece of literature that can give a reader a window of who they COULD be.”
  • “Books create conversation. When we are in conversation we create opportunity.”
  • “None of us are blind to the hate/oppression in US. Young people more than ever need an opportunity to be heard.”

Jason Reynolds

  • “Greatest form of advocacy, underrated form of advocacy, are the mundane stories.”
  • “Very dangerous thing to tell a kid that the way they natural speak, the way their family speaks, is improper/wrong.”

Ibtisam Barakat

  • “You can destroy children by words.”
  • “When a president of a country targets one particular group, that’s dangerous.”
  • “Kids (we) only learn from people we like. It’s all about the relationship.”
  • “To be here for years and still feel like an outsider. Our whole culture is mispronounced.”
  • “When dealing with children all political views and prejudicial feelings should be put aside and the child should be treated as just that, a child.”


I then went directly to my first presentation titled OPPORTUNITY FOR ADVOCACY: EXAMINING YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE’S TREATMENT OF  ERASED IDENTITIES AND HISTORIES that I was presenting with Ricki and her adviser at UConn, Wendy Glenn. I loved working with Ricki on this presentation, and I really felt like there were amazing conversations were had while discussing figurative and literal erasing of histories and identity.

Following this presentation was our session about the Walden Award. I was lucky enough to introduce the award and its history to our attendees.

View the introduction presentation at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3gaomzCT6B7NWE0V1NMcV9qRjA

We then worked with our attendees on how each Walden Award winner fit the idea of hope, what hope is, and how you can use the intersection of art, music, writing, and reading to promote hope within the classroom.

Some of my favorite part of this round table is the discussion of what hope is and why it is important:

  • “What is hope? Hope is the thing w/ feathers. -Dickinson | Belief in the possible. | Footholds when you are slipping. | Knowing I’m not alone.”
  • “Everyone has a different definition of hope.”
  • “How is a positive outcome different than a hopeful outcome?”
  • “Some books with neat, positive outcome may not seem real while hope seems real and is a bit open and messy.”
  • “Hopeful endings let the reader be part of the conclusion of the story.”
  • “A little bit of light in the darkness is a lot. Hope is the sun beyond the dark clouds. -Daria Plumb”
  • “Don’t want to leave kids just in the loss, the dark. Need to look at hope, the light. -Wendy Glenn”

One thing I love about NCTE is being able to see some teaching super stars present about their work. I never get to see everyone that I hope to because of conflicting sessions, but I was able to get to see Linda Reif and Harvey Daniels this year, both who I have never seen before.


The first session I attended was Linda Reif’s where she shared her Heart Map poetry books that she does with her students to help the explore poetry in a more authentic and memorable way that leads deeper understanding of poetry through reflection, art, and reading. The final product is a beautiful heart book filled with  poems, reflections, and artwork.


Then I went to see Harvey “Smokey” Daniels who was one of the first education authors that I really connected with, so I was so excited to finally be able to be inspired by him. His newest text is The Curious Classroom, so he engaged us in discussion about inquiry and how to bring inquiry into our classroom. I took away the reminder that inquiry does not have to be a large unit project or assessment but can just be a way to start each day or a way for students to find what really interests them. I look forward to reading The Curious Classroom and work even more towards making my class a hub of inquiry.


My final presentation was an author panel with Tim Federle, Elana K. Arnold, Claire LeGrand, Heidi Schulz, Anne Nesbet, and Rita Williams-Garcia on how they take the life they live and use what they know to write their fiction. The panel was fantastic, and I felt that it was a perfect mix of seeing amazing authors and activities that could be used directly in the classroom. The authors were so good, I had to take some notes! (And there were more that I didn’t get to write down because I was so enthralled.)

  • “All of life is material for writing. I rewrite the past as I wish I’d done.” -Tim Federle
  • “I’m the protagonist of my own life story.” -Tim Federle
  • Take lots of notes because “you never know when you’re living history.” -Anne Nesbet
  • “Delphine had to learn to form her own opinion and defend herself.” -Rita Williams-Garcia

The presentation below have each authors’ writing tip that will help your student writers move from life to notebook to fiction.

View the presentation at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3gaomzCT6B7OUlBaXZzLVpoUWM

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On Sunday, I attended one of my favorite events at NCTE, The Scholastic brunch, which introduces the attendees to six books and the authors, in groups of 3, take part in readers’ theater of scenes from each book. This year the authors were Ann E. Burg (Unbound), Alyson Gerber (Braced), Christine Taylor (Riding Chance), Mary E. Lambert (Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes), Peadar O’Guilin (The Call), and Jordan Sonnenblick (Falling Over Sideways).

Throughout these 4 days, I was very lucky to see so many wonderful authors, some new to me and some I consider friends. I want to thank all of the authors and publishers for everything they do during NCTE!


Sharon Draper
Margarita Engle
Laurie Halse Anderson
Cindy Jenson-Elliott
Sharon Draper
Becky Albertalli
Kevin Henkes
Rita Williams-Garcia
Matt de la Peña


Greg Neri
Adam Silvera
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Joseph Bruchac
Janet Fox
Ranson Riggs
Reyna Grande
Jeannine Atkins
Nora Raleigh Baskin


The amazingness that is the ALAN workshop’s first event is the ALAN breakfast on Saturday morning, and this one definitely start with a bang: S.E. Hinton was the esteemed speaker. I also love the breakfast because the ALAN Award and Ted Hipple Service Award are both given out. These two awards given to advocates for adolescent literature and ALAN are always accompanied by amazing speeches, and this year was no different!

Hipple Award Winner: Marge Ford

  • “ALAN is a force of like-minded people. We are story people.”

ALAN Award Winner: Gary Salvner

  • “Just as stories have changed me, I pray that they can change others.”
  • “We don’t need to build a damn wall, we need to open doors and give kids skills to rebuild the world.”
  • “Share books that promote reconciliation and understanding.”


We then were lucky enough to see S.E. Hinton speak. She was the perfect mix of funny and insightful and thoughtful and blunt.

  • “First half of my life people thought I was male; the second half they thought I was dead.”
  • “No better writing teacher than Jane Austen and the library is free.”
  • “I wrote The Outsiders because I  was upset about the social situation at my high school.”
  • “If you don’t write because you don’t know who is going to read/publish it, you’re not a writer. Focus on writing.”
  • “I flunked reading/writing when I was writing The Outsiders.”
  • “I used initials for first reviewers to keep bias out.”
  • “Don’t think your enthusiasm doesn’t matter. Even if students may not like something, enthusiasm spreads.”
  • “I couldn’t teach because couldn’t leave the kids at school. I would take them home with me & worry.”
  • “Writing a screenplay is writing a coloring book where actors, directors, & others add color. Communal story telling.”
  • The Outsiders is what it is because of when I wrote it.”

On Sunday night with the ALAN cocktail party, the festivities officially began! The cocktail party is a free event for attendees of ALAN that give the authors and attendees time to mingle before the workshop begins on Monday. Thank you to the publishers who host the cocktail party!

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Monday started with a bang! A.S. King was the key note speaker followed by Matt de la Peña. Both speakers blew away the audience with their truth about the state of our country, the importance of literature, and a focus on love.

A.S. King

  • “I was often told to be more normal.”
  • “I thank my 9th grade teacher for allowing me to write a 1st person narrative from the POV of a specific can of succotash.”
  • “My characters’ voices are in my head and go out my fingers.”
  • “I plan nothing. My process is based solely on trust in a very untrustworthy world.”
  • “No matter what I do in life I’ll be doing it as a woman and that will piss some people off.”
  • “Rejection letters taught me that woman are not supposed to be weird.”
  • “Teachers know how to assess. You are in a contact state of assessment. You are teachers!”
  • “People who make THE TEST are not even educators! Teachers’ jobs have grown more challenging.”
  • “Relevant contemporary novels are not dangerous. No where as dangerous as thinking that all kids should learn the same.”
  • “Failure is spectacular for risk takers! Risk takers are test proof.”
  • “Innovation is the child of necessity.”
  • “Classrooms are shelters for figurative tornadoes all around us.”
  • “Education is being bought and sold while poverty is crushing the souls of our children.”
  • “Write a common core of compassion and put it into every lesson.”

Matt de la Peña

  • “Everyone has things they are proud of & wear on their sleeve & have things they are ashamed of. What makes us human.”
  • “I want to go into schools where there is no one like me to show them there are people like me.”
  • “Favorite thing about being home is reading books to my daughter.”
  • He then read to us a story called LOVE which I cannot wait to see in completion form.

I must also mention what I felt was one of the most moving and powerful moments of the ALAN workshop: The Get Lit Poets. Four teens joined us and performed poetry for us that is incomparable to much I have heard before. Visit their YouTube channel to view their work.


One of the highlights on the Monday of the ALAN workshop is always the Walden Award presentation. This year’s award was given to All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely with the honors given to All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez, and Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin. Chair Mark Lechter asked each author (all were able to attend but Jennifer Niven) to discuss the concept of hope.

Jason Reynolds

  • “Hope is not self fulfilling.”
  • “Just because you say you have hope doesn’t mean you do. It is not cerebral; it exists in the gut.”
  • “Hope is thrown around so much, it doesn’t mean much any more. You have to do something.”
  • “Students want to have these discussions, they just need somewhere to have them.”
  • “Do something. Earn it. Every day.”
  • “This book came out of their friendship. This is what it looks like. It can happen.”

Brendan Kiely

  • “Tricky to talk about race and racism as a white person. But necessary.”
  • “But it is incredibly important to think about our accountability to threatened communities.”
  • “Hope is action.”
  • “Identity politics are civil rights. Let’s go out there and BE hope.”
  • “First need to deconstruct the part of me that is the problem so I can be part of the hope.”
  • “Hope is the kind of road that I travel to find and share love.”
  • “Love and love and love. I want to write in search of hope.”

Neal Shusterman

  • “So many books about mental illness only show the dark side; this novel shows light.”
  • “When you start to spiral, remember there is hope.”

Ashley Hope Pérez

  • “Hope is not about happy endings. Not about naive optimism. Hope is about particular orientation to the future”
  • “Hope depends on the reader, and the work the reader is willing to do.”
  • “Hope in seeing the character’s resilience.”
  • “Giving tiny seeds of hope for readers to go the future that we really want to have.”

Ryan Graudin

  • “Hope is not an emotion. It is a force. It is the call to take action.”
  • “We need something to keep us going. That is what hope is.”


My author panel was the last of the day Tuesday and was a wonderful exclamation point at the end of a workshop that many of us will never forget. My panel focused on re-imagining love stories with Kristin Elizabeth Clark, Kenneth Oppel, Bill Konigsberg, and Brendan Kiely. Each of their love stories is a deviation to the traditional, and we focused on that during the moderated discussion.

  • “Love is love. It all feels the same on the inside.” -Kristin Elizabeth Clark
  • “I wanted to celebrate rush of first love & make it more complicated than Romeo & Juliet.” -Kenneth Oppel
  • “I’m always looking for the love story that hasn’t been written yet. | I’m exploring what youngest generation is doing with labels. I learn the most from them.” -Bill Konigsberg
  • “The one purpose of life is to learn how to love & hold onto it. | It [Last True Love Story] is a dual love story; It is a journey of teens falling in love & end of life, holding onto love.” -Brendan Kiely

Mixed in with these panels and speakers were panel after panel and speaker after speaker of authors and educators and editors sharing their passion. Search #ALAN16 or @ALANorg on Twitter to view some of the amazing insights shared. Here are some more of my favorite quotes from both days:

  • “The word diversity needs to be replaced with American.” and “Don’t hide behind the canon. We have robust literature that represents all teens now.” -Laurie Halse Anderson  (while wearing her GOT CONSENT? t-shirt)
  • “Urban fiction is a label to say the book is a little bit dangerous. We need to be self aware that the label Urban sweeps cultures under the rug. Erases identity.  Using the term URBAN FICTION is simplifying things. And anything easy should be thought about.” -Jason Reynolds
  • “Whatever the setting it, it is vitally important to humanize every single character on the page.” -Ibi Zoboi
  • “Soon the only thing mentioned on vocab tests and in schools about American Indians will be the term extinct.” -Tim Tingle
  • “There are many of us [Native Americans]. We write nation specific. We all have diff cultures. What we have in common is genocide.” -Eric Gansworth
  • “Challenge of writing Vincent Van Gogh’s life was figuring out how reliable he was as a narrator” -Deborah Heiligman
  • “Writing fiction is like baking a cake with best ingredients from store; nonfiction like baking with what your partner brings home.” -Candace Fleming
  • “Humans are good that way. If you love something hard enough, it rubs off onto others.” -Maggie Stiefvater
  • “I like young people to understand that adults are just people. They are flawed. | Risks aren’t in the situations; it is in creating characters who are real. Writing a kid who’s an amazing human being, a character who is real, beautiful, absolutely sincere, is the risk. ” -Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • “Cave paintings show creativity is as important to the human necessity as food & air. Creativity is an elemental human trait.” -Jeff Zentner
  • “Art brings together people. And gives us a world point of view.” -Kayla Cagan
  • “Women’s stories disappear, and it can be hard to rebel. Better to see a female fight and lose than never fight at all. Every girl deserves a hero of their own.  | Fiction and stories have shaped human existence.” -Frances Hardinge
  • “It’d be a shame to not swim in the sea of stories.” Peadar O’Guilin
  • “Not all art is going to be seen as beautiful by all.” -Rahul Kanakia
  • “There are no limits to what books are suppose to be.” -Randi Pink
  • “I want readers to be enraged, to empathize with characters & advocate anywhere they see injustice.” -Patricia Powell
  • “There is a difference between failing and being a failure.” -David Arnold

Noah Schaffer kindly took so many photos while attending the ALAN workshop, and he has shared them publicly with us on Facebook. Join the ALAN Public Group to view them (and LIKE our ALAN Page (https://www.facebook.com/alanorganization/) while you are on there!).

Like NCTE, ALAN allows me to see many authors that I love!


A.S. King
Jason Reynolds
Jon Sciezska
Candace Fleming
Maggie Stiefvater
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Peadar O’Guilin
Ryan Graudin
Brendan Kiely


And Trent visited! Trent with:
Brendan Kiely
Kenneth Oppel
Bill Konigsberg
Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Neal Shusterman

Probably my favorite part of the two days though are my time with my friends who truly support and push me as the educator I am and hope to become. I am always terrible about getting photos of everyone (including one with Ricki!), but here are the ones I took.

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With Michele Knott and Jennie Smith


Trent with:
Cathy Blackler
Jennie Smith
Jen Ansbach
Katie Halata

Until next year, friends! Will I see you there? 


Kellee Signature

Ricki’s NCTE/ALAN Reflection 2015


Ricki's NCTE:ALAN Reflection

Each year, Kellee and I bounce our way through the NCTE convention and the ALAN Workshop. I always love writing my reflection post immediately following the conference. As you may have ascertained from previous posts, Kellee was called home from the conference, so I am taking one for the team and writing a reflection that will endure on the blog for two consecutive days. 😉

As every year, the NCTE conference and ALAN Workshop were incredible. I went to more sessions than I ever had, and I learned so much! I so enjoy the time I spend with old friends, and I enjoy meeting and making new friends, as well—teachers, teacher educators, librarians, authors, and publishers. This year, based on my work with The ALAN Review, I was able to connect with many of the reviewers and authors of manuscripts. I loved putting names to faces. This is such a wonderful community to be a part of, and for that, I am very grateful.

My favorite part of the conference was the ALAN Workshop. This should come as no surprise to readers. I am a diehard ALAN member. As we say during the workshop, #IamALAN. If you aren’t an ALAN member and love young adult literature, I highly recommend that you join. The assembly is like a family—the members are extremely accepting and their passion shines.

A few of the highlights this year include:

1. A great session that featured many of the authors of major textbooks in the field of Secondary English Education. I teach Kelly Gallagher’s book and have taught Jim Burke’s book, so it was neat to meet them in person!

2. The Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award session at NCTE! I was fortunate to participate in this roundtable session with all of the former and the current chairs of the award. We had a great turnout, and the participants were so thoughtful! It was a lot of fun.

3. The Meet the Editors session. This is my second year with this session as a presenter (with The ALAN Review). I love hearing what authors are working on, and this year, I was able to connect with some other graduate students who are doing great things in the field.

4. Getting to dine with some of my favorite bibliophiles and authors. Sarah Dessen made balloon animals at the dinner table. That woman makes me laugh and laugh.

5. The moment when Ruta Sepetys waved to me and said she was worried I might forget who she was. Umm, Ruta, it pained me to wash my arm after you touched it a few years ago. I remember ever conversation we’ve ever had. I will never forget you.

6. The moment when Francisco X. Stork said, “Hey, I remember you!” All of the stars aligned at that moment.

7. Taking a photo with Lois Lowry. I felt a bit like a fangirl, but sometimes we have to resort to these kinds of things to make our lives feel a bit more complete, right?

8. Working the exchange table at the ALAN Workshop. This year was far crazier than extra years due to a surplus of books, and I admit that I got overwhelmed at times. I loved spending time with some of the other ALAN members behind this table, though. I got to know them much better, and it made the overwhelming nature of this table a bit more calm.

9. Chris Crutcher’s ALAN Breakfast speech. I cried and cried. It was very moving. I also really enjoyed Jandy Nelson’s keynote. This year’s ALAN Workshop had four keynotes, and I missed a few because I was volunteering, but thank goodness I didn’t miss Jandy’s!

10. All of the books! I can’t wait to get started on all of the amazing ARCS and new texts that I received this year. I have received one of my two boxes thus far, and I hope the second arrives tomorrow. On that note, I am going to cut this post short. It is time to READ! 🙂