As a conference title, it’s pretty catchy: NCTE in San Antonio, “Shift Happens” (though I bet there’ve been more than a few email typos along the way: It’s called what?!). The first NCTE I attended was in ’04, in Indianapolis, and I remember leaving the conference feeling a whole lot happier about life than I had been when I walked in: so many informed and passionate teachers, who read so widely and cared so much about their kids. No matter what else was wrong with the world that fall (which, one recalls, was plenty), life was going to continue, and things were going to be, in some fundamental way, OK.
As much as writing is a business and a profession, it’s also a state of mind, and as consuming as these kinds of conferences can be (especially to a timid forest creature like myself, who spends most of her time under this pixelated rock), the nourishment and stimulation they provide – those minds, those ideas, those sharp elbows! all clashing and meshing – is like nothing else. And as a forest creature, I like meeting the other creatures in the forest, too. Writing is by necessity a solitary occupation (see Ventura, Micheal, “The Talent of the Room”), but it doesn’t have to be lonely.
I’ll be presenting on Tuesday, 11/25, on an ALAN panel: “The Edge: Negotiating Boundaries in Young Adult Fiction,” along with Ellen Hopkins and Barry Lyga, on a topic that so many YA writers know so well, that in a way defines YA as a literature: where is the edge, between a book that’s meant for young people (and what does “meant” mean, anyway? Written for? Allowed for? Marketed to?) and one that isn’t? And who decides where to locate that edge, where to draw those lines, and what happens when they’re crossed? It’s a volatile topic and I’m excited to be part of the discussion.
So see you in San Antonio, I hope. Let’s mingle in the forest, let’s tell each other what books we’ve been loving lately, let’s rub elbows, let’s talk.