I had the joy of sharing a presentation time slot with Shelly Shaffer. We were both presenting books with types of activism in them. I really enjoyed hearing about Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro. Shelly’s focus on the characters and their choices of whether to be a bystander or an activist was very powerful. She included multiple media formats (read alouds, YouTube videos, and a PowerPoint) as a way to engage the participants in the session. I have learned so much from this ELATE session each of the years that I have been able to be a part of it. I think it is one of the best parts about NCTE! (Mark was also one of the authors presenting at the ALAN Workshop.)
Simon Fraser University
This year’s ALAN Workshop was a delight, filled with thought-provoking panels, insightful keynote speeches, and informative breakout sessions. Ricki Ginsberg, Sarah Ressler Wright, Jim Blasingame, the Board, and the whole ALAN team turned lemons into lemonade this year, bringing people a fantastic selection of panels and presentations in an accessible and flexible format that I’m sure many attendees besides myself appreciated very much!
Middle/High School Librarian
Louisiana State University Laboratory School
Baton Rouge, LA
Wow! True to form, this year’s ALAN Workshop featured two jam-packed days of wisdom, wit, and camaraderie. The virtual format allowed me to attend my first ALAN Breakfast, and Angie Thomas’s address was truly inspiring. I have pages of beautiful quotes and lists of books to read and recommend from authors like Frederick Joseph, George M. Johnson, Tiffany D. Jackson, and so many more. Nikki Grimes told us, “Somebody needs the story you have to tell.” This year, more than ever, we did need these stories--their love, their optimism, their fire, their commitment to a better world. Thank you to the ALAN team for putting together a successful virtual space for such powerful stories to be told!
Louisiana State University Laboratory School
Baton Rouge, LA
I’m so grateful to the ALAN organizing committee for hosting an inspiring virtual workshop. Not only do I have pages of notes filled with quotes to post on my classroom walls and books to share with my students, but I also have the experience of participating in a community of readers and writers. Samira Ahmed’s keynote talk reminds us that “love is a revolution” and “joy is a form of resistance.” Thank you, ALAN, for inspiring joy and love through story.
State University of New York at Oswego
I never thought that I would be able to attend an ALAN Workshop via my phone while walking along the Erie Canal. I got many miles in while enjoying the speakers and learning about new YA books. Talk about multi-tasking! One of the best parts for me was receiving a text message Monday morning from one of my undergraduates who was also registered, saying, “Good morning, Professor. It’s Erin. How is your ALAN going?” We texted our way through the next two days, so in a way we attended the workshop together. Enthusiastic new teachers like Erin, so passionate about reading, will assure that the spirit and mission of ALAN will continue to thrive in the future.
Southeastern Louisiana University
The 2020 ALAN Workshop demonstrated that no obstacles have a chance when books, passionate readers, and writers are involved. I sincerely appreciate everyone, who was involved in the preparation of this year’s big event, for their dedication, time, efforts, and endless generosity. Ricki Ginsberg deserves a special prize!
A thrilling start with Angie Thomas and Nikki Grimes energized the participants from the very beginning. I especially loved Angie’s hope that The Hate U Give would be outdated. I love the novel; don’t get me wrong, but this is a profound idea meaning that the issues of racial injustice and police brutality will become history, and we will be busy reaching other, more promising goals.
The two days were packed with funny, sad, inspiring, truthful, and majestic stories. Huge thank you to all the writers—we are at ALAN because you share your stories, and we want to bring them to our students.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
If there is one thing I want to remember about this year’s workshop, it is the meaningful relationships with treasured colleagues and authors that build from year to year. Even as my arms itched to carry my ALAN box from registration to a much-awaited seat in the ballroom, even as my eyes longed to look around to others’ stacks so that I could trade books and make friendly introductions, and even as I smiled at the computer monitor and not at the faces of my ALAN family members, I felt a strong community of fellow YA lovers and knew I was home. It was thus fitting that Samira Ahmed used her powerful Tuesday keynote to remind us to lead with love. May it be so in the ways that we read and teach--and may we gather again and celebrate new and old traditions for ALAN 2021.
California State University, Bakersfield
While I am always in awe over the talented authors that I hear, I was particularly blown away by Malavika Kannan who wrote an #ownvoices book titled, The Bookweaver’s Daughter. At the age of 19, she has already participated in multiple forms of resistance, beginning with the Pulse Shooting in Florida that occurred during her junior year of high school. You may be familiar with her viral Huffington Post article, “I Led my High School’s Walkout to Demand Gun Reform. Here’s What I Learned” (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/high-school-walkout-gun-reform_n_5aba7939e4b06409775ab481 ).
In addition to her writing, she started The Homegirl Project intended to empower women of color. What I found particularly fascinating about her, and the other authors in her panel (Mark Oshiro and Kim Johnson) is that they all saw fantasy as a way of exploring social justice issues, and ultimately inspiring activism. This is something that I am incredibly interested in, as fantasy is my favorite genre, while activism is my favorite form of pedagogy. While Malavika praised previous activists for paving the road thus far, and claims to merely be picking up the torch, she is also passing it on to others, and I look forward to continuing to foster activism through young adult literature with books like hers, and the others on her panel!
Senior at State University of New York at Oswego
My professor Sharon Kane raves about ALAN every year. Because Covid made the format virtual this year, I jumped at the opportunity to attend. I was so excited for all of the things I’d learn, but even more so for my book box. I have never been able to hear so many authors speak about their books ever in my life! I’ve never been to ALAN in person, but I think being able to see everyone’s rooms, the bookshelves behind them, and their zoom profile pictures made the whole experience that much more intimate. Having the live chat running, I learned even more about the other ALAN attendees. Being a senior English and Education major, I can never seem to get enough YA in my classes, but this workshop has more than satisfied that craving. I can’t wait to share with my host teacher what new YA books she needs to add to her shelves. I will definitely be putting the ALAN workshop on my calendar for next year. For now, I’m enjoying getting a jump on my January reading.
Louisiana State University (graduate student)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
This year’s ALAN, despite its differences, still inspired the closeness and conversation I’ve grown accustomed to over the three years I’ve attended the Workshop. Despite the crappiness of 2020, young adult authors are channeling their frustrations and hope into their works. The author panels showed me how close the YAL writing community is, as they chimed in on each other’s books and themes. I also appreciated the conversations happening in the chat. Thanks to all of you who shared author quotes and social media channels from the panels, as I kept a running Google Doc of links, book titles, and profound ideas that I wanted to remember. (Y’all rock!) The chat also resonated with encouragement and praise from ALAN attendees.
One panel that I found particularly relevant was on “Intersectionality and Mental Health,” as mental health (or brain health as someone in the chat reworded it) has become more important in recent months as young people deal with months of isolation away from schools, peers, and families which once played important roles in their lives. I particularly appreciated the authors noting that mental health is “just being wired differently” and spoke to the importance of YAL-reading adults as being a necessary part of the conversations to normalize diagnoses, treatment, and medication. Shout-out to someone in the chat who acknowledged that “teachers are first responders” in advocating for their students with these diagnoses. I always leave ALAN inspired as both a reader and an educator: inspired to read more YAL and to read more diversely, but this year, I’ve come away understanding my role in sharing these titles and authors with my former students, fellow educators, and student teachers.
Basic High School
This year’s ALAN was extremely rewarding. Everyone who work so hard to put it together deserves an around of applause. It was inspiring to hear Angie Thomas advocate for unimpressed readers. Advocating for our youth to have books them impress them.
Samira Ahmed’s keynote presentation on revolution was awe inspiring. A revolution isn’t an act of violence but an act of love. In a year that has been turbulent with so many unknowns, it was refreshing and hopeful to be surrounded (virtually) with people who want to to support our youth to be the change the world needs.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
I felt that the 2020 ALAN Workshop was fantastic success. It went off without a hitch. I am sure that Ricki felt some pressure and was aware of any tiny glitch as the workshop progressed. From my point of view it was wonderful. Once again, I think there were so many great moments. To just pick one, I have to select Eric Gansworth's keynote. This author is amazing and his ability to share stories from his own childhood on the reservation is amazing. If Eric is not an author you have read yet, then it is time to remedy that as soon as possible. Pick up Apple Skin to the Core or If I Ever Get Out of Here.