Monday, April 12, 2010

Colorado Teen Literature Conference: A Report

I left early Saturday morning, breakfast and coffee to go, to attend the Colorado Teen Literature Conference in Denver—and of course I forgot my camera, so no pics, sorry…. Anyway, once in Denver, I was greeted by friendly volunteers and pastries (breakfast, round 2 = happy Fleur), and then the morning keynote by author Matt de la Pena. He was funny (talking about the time nobody showed up for his book signing, and about stealing a father-son conversation on the train), humbling (about his simple upbringing in a poor, largely Hispanic town), and honest (about how he didn’t really read much until someone handed him The Color Purple). I had read Ball Don’t Lie, but have now added We Were Here to the TBR pile—nice guy, and hugely popular with the girl readers, too, for obvious reasons.

Next, I attended a session by author Roz Monette, who was talking to teens about ways to get publishing credits. She suggested letters to the editor and book reviews, things I hadn’t even thought of. Great info I’ll be passing on to my teens during next school year’s workshop, so cheers to Roz.

I then attended a session by brilliant Pueblo County Teen Librarian Sarah Wethern, who gave us a mountain of blog links (of book reviewers, mostly) I’ll be checking out this week. Will update you on those… Great stuff.

Then it was lunchtime, with keynote author Ellen Hopkins, who writes her novels in verse (for those of you unfamiliar with her work). She was very open about her reasons for writing Crank, and shared some beautiful poetry and an enraging story about censorship that made my freckles itch. Unfortunately, her keynote ran a little long, and she was rushed of the stage practically mid-sentence (next time, try a little finesse, conference organizers?).

My next session was on censorship (nicely tied in with the keynote), where author Lauren Myracle shared her experiences with censorship by libraries (mostly in Texas, it seemed), and reader mail that she read. Major props to her for the honesty; those letters and censorship can’t be easy on her. I added Peace, Love and Baby Ducks to my pile.

The last session was an author Q&A, with Matt de la Pena and Ellen Hopkins, and a bunch of smart teens who had prepared some really good questions. We learned some more about their writing process (Ms. Hopkins doesn’t outline, and edits as she goes; Mr. de la Pena outlines and changes that as he writes). Fun, and lively, which was such a great ending to the conference.

So I left with a smile into Denver traffic, and with a new list of books to read. I highly recommend this conference for any of you planning to go next year!


  1. It would be so nice to have a conference in my neighborhood. But getting people to come to Detroit is always difficult.

  2. I guess I'm pretty lucky to have a few local venues (particularly one in YA). I figured with Detroit being a metropolis, there would be something local there. Strange.