Last Wednesday, I was lucky enough to attend the SLJ Day of Dialogue. It was my first time and it was amazing! It was a day filled with laughter, information, and best of all books! For more insight into the day, check out the official hashtag on Twitter: #sljdod13
Kevin Henkes was our morning keynote speaker. He talked about reading to his children at the breakfast table. The books they read together sparked conversation and allowed them to read together as a family. He read books his kids might not have chosen for themselves, but they loved just the same. He then read the first chapter of his new book, The Year of Billy Miller.
Next came a panel on informational picture books with authors Jim Arnosky, Jennifer Berne, Elisha Cooper, and Jonah Winter. They talked about researching, making the text come alive, and boiling down the research to make the book exciting.
Afterwards we learned about “Middle School Drama and Trauma” from Ayun Halliday, Josh Farrar, Gordon Korman, Holly Sloan, and Linda Urban. They talked about using laughter as a coping mechanism and how middle school students will mock anything. They also brought up social networking with a younger audience and how it’s not the same. They talked about the word “tween” — which Urban particularly doesn’t like, as it implies a gap. Middle grade years are so complicated, and 12-year-olds are starting to choose their own opinions, discover what they really love, and start asking the really serious questions.
After lunch came the afternoon keynote speaker, Holly Black. She talked about her love for vampires and how it inspired her upcoming title, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. She even read us some poetry from her teen years, which she admits is awful. She’s always been a fan of dark fantasy. She grew up in a creepy old house, further aiding her imagination.
The next panel was “Real-World Horror in YA” with Julie Berry, Adele Griffin, Elizabeth Scott, Matthew Quick, and Elizabeth Wein. This panel got personal, with the authors sharing life stories. Writing real life horror does take a certain amount of courage, but it takes more courage to live through it. Each story comes with a glimmer of hope even through the darkest of times.
The final panel was “Visual Storytelling” with illustrators Lizi Boyd, Oliver Jeffers, Matt Phelan, Chris Raschka, and David Wiesner. They put together slides of their illustrations and talked about their artistic methods.
We were also treated to showcases of upcoming books by the publishers. It was great to learn about some of the books I would later see at BEA. After the sessions came author/illustrator signings along with some delicious treats.
— Jennifer Rummel, currently reading House of Rules by Chloe Neill