Along with 3,200 other librarians, I attended the “School Library Journal: SummerTeen Virtual Conference” in August.  From my deck.  With my dog.  And the birds.  I didn’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic, and parking was a piece of cake.  Additionally, there was no charge to the school for gas, and the conference was free admission.  Pretty awesome.

I listened to an inspirational speech from Jason Reynolds, author of several realistic fiction books for young adults, via Skype.  His writings focus on grief and loss, family, violence, and urban struggles.  He reminded me that young people can experience true pain and that they shouldn’t be dismissed with a nonchalant ‘it’ll get better’ response.  “Sometimes, due to grief, you don’t completely heal.  You mend but not wholly heal,” he said.  Instead, students should be met with a listening ear that is grounded in humility and empathy.  Mr. Reynolds believes books can be an easy door to the world and hopes to reach teenagers through his novels.

My second session was titled “The New Age of Young Adult Nonfiction.”  With an emphasis on reading nonfiction due to the Common Core Standards, it was enlightening to hear about new narrative nonfiction books that are sure to interest my students.  I learned about debut books from M.T. Anderson (“Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad”), Paula Ayer (“Foodprints: The Story of What we Eat”), and Susan Campbell Bartoletti (“Terrible Typhoid Mary: a True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America”).  I enjoyed hearing about these new titles from the authors themselves as they explained their writing procedures and gave some interesting anecdotes and tidbits.

Thirdly, I had the chance to explore exhibits that were set up by publishing companies.  I checked out book trailers, author websites, additional newly released books, and a few publishing companies for which I didn’t know existed.  I experienced all this without waiting in lines, fighting crowds, or stretching my neck to see around taller people.

I enjoyed my virtual conference very much and hope you have as great of an experience the next time you attend a seminar.