Deep in the Heart of Texas- YALSA YA Lit Symposium


I, for one, am completely excited for this weekend. YALSA’s YA Lit Symposium is coming to Austin, and that is close enough to drive- well, at least for That Guy, Willow (our new rescue dog), and me, we love road trips. That Guy and I lived in Austin for the first few years we lived in Texas as well, so it’s also a sort of homecoming every time we get back there.

It’s also exciting for me as I’m presenting! It seems silly but I always feel weird about presenting- it’s like, why does anyone want to hear what I have to say? Then it hits me that I actually DO know what I’m talking about, having been on committees and working in YA literature and tween and teen services for years. I just sometimes don’t feel it. One of my insecurities that I need to work on. That, and figuring out what to wear to look authoritative.

I’ve never been to one of the YALSA YA Lit Symposiums before as they’ve been too far away and my travel funds have been funneled towards Midwinter and Annual (yes, I am one of the many librarians and library staff who, while I get paid work time to attend conferences, I do not get reimbursed for registration, hotel, travel, or food), so I am really excited at all they have to offer! AND that it’s all in one place, especially as the weather is supposed to be crappy (dress warm, oh people not from Texas, and bring layers, because rooms will either be freezing or saunas because down here we are not used to this type of weather).

Here’s what I’m hoping to attend; if you’re coming, what are you looking forward to?


Tough It Out!  Rugged Characters in Young Adult Books, Friday November 14, 1-4:30pm, Tickets $69
Fighting to the death, girl assassins, guys with anger management issues and teens connected with high school sports are trending topics in young adult books.   Today’s teens are totally in tune with WWE and MMA and the violence associated by these events, and over eight million teens—both boys and girls—participate in high school sports.  Join us as we examine the young adult books—fiction and nonfiction—featuring tough guys and girls whether they’re competing to survive in a dystopian world or finding themselves conflicted about serious problems connected with sports.
Facilitator: Rollie Welch, Summer Hayes, Ellsworth Rockefeller  Participating Authors: Matt de la Pena, Patrick Jones, Lauren Oliver, Andrew Smith, Blythe Woolston Room:  Texas I, 2nd floor

6:30 – 8:00pm. Opening Reception, sponsored by Harper Collins.  Meet and mingle with fellow YA literature enthusiast at this fun, informal event.  Light refreshments along with beer, wine and soft drinks. Room: Texas IV-VII


8:30-10:00am YA Realness: what makes ‘contemporary realism’ feel true to readers?
Award-winning authors known for their contemporary realistic YA fiction discuss their approaches to writing authentic stories, including the role of characters’ race, culture, gender, sexuality, and economic status, and consider the question of whether realistic YA always invites controversy and censorship by including truths that make readers uncomfortable.
Presenters/Participating Authors: Sara Ryan, Sara Zarr, Matt de la Peña, Jo Knowles, Coe Booth. Room:  Texas I, 2nd floor

10:30am-12:00pm  Talking Bookcovers with Young Adults: Whitewashing, Sexism and More
Explores the success of a program for 6th graders at the Bank Street School for Children in New York City. With their Librarian, Humanities teachers, and Diversity Director, students learn to recognize and address the implicit and explicit biases found in book covers and content. Students engage in conversations about identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, body image, class, and ability as they relate to books and beyond. Includes example lessons, photos, videos, and discussion questions.
Presenter: Allie Jane Bruce Participating Authors:  Malinda Lo, Jacqueline Woodson.  Room:  Texas I, 2nd floor

Noon to 1:30, Tickets $45. Teens’ Top Ten Author Luncheon featuring Julie Kagawa,  Lauren Oliver, and Jennifer A. Nielsen. Room:  Texas IV-VII, 2nd floor

1:30-3:00pm Where are the heroes of color in fantasy and sci-fi?
Through a panel discussion, we will explore the shortcoming of heroes of color in YA fantasy and sci-fi. We will discuss the roles of librarians, writers, and the publishing industry in promoting and encouraging a more diverse crop of protagonists and supporting characters. We will also speak to how the genre is a perfect place to explore diversity and provide resources for librarians to broaden their YA fantasy and sci-fi collections.
Presenters: Sarah Murphy, Kerry Roeder, Angela Ungaro Participating authors and editors: Amalie Howard, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Joe Monti, and Cynthia Leitich Smith.  Room:  Hill Country Ballroom, 1st floor.

3:30-5:00pm Bridge to Tweenabithia: Reader’s advisory for the gap between juvenile and young adult
Middle-schoolers. Tweens. Are they juveniles or young adults? Which books should we give them? Are books being written for them? Which books feature characters and life situations that reflect their own lives? This session provides insight into today’s tweens based on research and anecdotal evidence. Librarians will leave this session ready to match their tween patrons with the perfect books using our reader’s advisory best practices as well as booklists including various genres, maturity levels, and reading levels.
Presenters: Jenna Goodall, Jessica Liddell Participating authors:  KA Holt, Steve Sheinkin, Kekla Magoon, P.J. Hoover.  Room:  Texas I, 2nd floor

5:30 – 7:00pm Book Blitz! What’s more fun than the opportunity to meet and interact with dozens of YA authors?  We can’t think of anything?  At this event, each attendee will receive 3-5 free books, generously donated by the publishers, which can be signed by the authors.  Light refreshments. Cash bar. Room:  Zilker I & II, 1st floor


8:30-10:00am GenreQueer: Smashing the Closet (This one I HAVE to go to….)
Panelists will explore the representation of LGBTQI people in young adult genre fiction (mystery, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, romance, sports fiction, etc.). The discussion will include an overview of the genre, a guide to any prominent stereotypes or tropes involving LGBTQI people, and examples of books that librarians should consider including in their collections.
Presenters: Christie Gibrich, Katelyn Browne Participating authors: Malinda Lo, Robin Talley,  Kristen Elizabeth Clark Room:  Texas IV – VII, 2nd floor

Keeping it Really WEIRD (books for the fringe & reluctant readers)
Not all YA readers march to the same drummer. Some have a decidedly different point of view. This program will celebrate the diversity of all kids wonderfully weird and the books that keep them reading. By combining both fiction and nonfiction expertise, our session will cover all the freakish bases, from Roland Smith’s CRYPTID HUNTERS to Kelly Milner Halls TALES OF THE CRYPTIDS and everything in between.
Presenters/Participating Authors: Chris Barton, Andrew Smith, Lisa Yee, Jonathan Auxier, Bruce Coville, Laurie Ann Thompson and moderated by Kelly Milner Halls.  Room:  Texas I, 2nd floor

Noon – 1:30pm Closing session with R.L. Stine and Luncheon.  Unwind after your busy weekend with colleagues and listen to a R.L. Stine talk about trends in YA literature. Room:  Zilker I & II, 1st floor

As you can see, it’s a lot of very exiting and very important ideas being shared- a lot of advocacy for POC, GLBTQI, and other YA readers. And these are just the ones that I highlighted- there are at least two other sessions going on each time period, and it is SO hard to pick just one! Often I had to draw a really hard line- which would serve my community better won out over which serves my personal interests better.

If you’re coming to the Symposium this weekend in Austin, come find me. That Guy, Willow and I are staying at the conference hotel, and I’ll be tweeting as long as networks don’t go down with the temperatures. I’d love to say HI!

What do you think?

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