There is something special about finding “your people” in the world. As book lovers, we seem to find our kindred spirits almost organically at work, church and in our neighborhoods. Finding “your people” is such an important part of life that I relish any chance to help my students meet and connect with other teen book lovers like them. CMLE made that happen for Rogers and Sauk Rapids – Rice high school students this past spring.
On Saturday, May 6 2017 at Henry Sibley High School, Minnesota’s metro public libraries brought one of the most popular and controversial authors of the moment to Twin Cities teens. Sauk Rapids – Rice and Rogers High Schools were able to load up teenagers and get them to St. Paul for the big event through the support of CMLE. What made the day so hype-worthy was that we saw, wait for it… Jay Asher! Yes, that Jay Asher, whose books had suddenly become the topic of controversy and passion with the airing of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix.
Adults had suddenly become aware of Jay Asher and his writing, his honest conversations about hard subjects and the power that words and ideas can have in a teenager’s life. Those of us who work with teens, read YA and love the awkward eagerness of all things before age 25 already knew all about Jay Asher. We spend our days talking to young adults about serious and not so serious topics. Sometimes hair color and friend drama is as deep as it gets but that’s what makes this age so great. They are thinking, growing, learning, observing, trying on different personas nearly every week and they aren’t shocked when a YA book tackles a tough topic like suicide. Young adults welcome stories that push the edges and make them think deeply about life.
As a result, I wasn’t surprised when we were packed into the auditorium at Henry Sibley High and the atmosphere was what I can only describe as electric. It was the first session of what was going to be a day filled with book-loving kindred spirits galore. When Jay Asher, Jeff Zentner, Box Brown and Meg Medina walked onto the stage for the first author panel of the day the auditorium exploded with the kinds of screams and roars and clapping that is usually only heard at a rock concert. I am not kidding. The teenagers shook the roof! Let that soak in. Teenagers screaming their heads off, nearly fainting over authors not athletes, millionaires, movie stars or music icons. They were with their people and they were screaming at the top of their lungs for what they loved – ideas, emotions and creativity in books.
The rest of the day went well. It followed a typical conference schedule with a variety of sessions and activities. The teens had opportunities to be a part of several writing workshops, meet Minnesota authors, buy books, get autographs, try out Book Speed Dating, discuss creative nonfiction, find out about the behind-the-scenes work of creating graphic novels and meet real book editors. One of the most highly attended sessions dealt with mental health issues in YA lit. You literally could not get in the door of that session it was so full. There were also t-shirts and concessions and an exhibit hall and temporary tattoos. All good events have temporary tattoos.
When the afternoon came to an end, my 11 students from Rogers High School and the 25 students from Sauk Rapids – Rice High School piled into the bus and started home. I was so grateful that we joined the teens from another high school for the long ride. There were plenty of awkward introductions and graphic novel discussions and shy exchanges of artwork and books between students who had never met before. Book lovers find common ground quickly and everyone headed home happy. CMLE was the impetus behind this amazing day. They encouraged us to coordinate between our schools, facilitated our communication and awarded us a grant to cover the cost of the bus. As a result, this day was free to our students and for several of them, I’m sure, that made attending Teen Lit Con possible.
The new school year is here and it’s once again time to bring teens and books together. It’s time to start fostering relationships that drifted over the summer, get the book clubs up and running, unpack the first book order of the year AND it’s time to talk to our teens about Twin Cities Teen Lit Con 2018. Why not join us? Rogers High School is going to make sure we are at the next convention. We’d love to connect with your teens and share the love of all things authors, illustrators, writers and YA lit with you. Start thinking now about giving your teens the opportunity to find “their people” at Twin Cities Teen Lit Con in the spring.
Book Club Advisory
Rogers High School