Skip to content

YALSA YA Lit Symposium: The Student Perspective

yalsa_ya_lit_symposium2014Are you getting excited? YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium in Austin is just a few days away! If you’ve never been to a YA Lit Symposium, you might be wondering what it’s all about. Leading up this year’s Symposium, we’ve been featuring interviews with Symposium attendees past and present to give you a picture of why you should attend and what to expect.

Our final interview features Alyson Feldman-Piltch, who shares with us the valuable perspective of a library school student. 

What was the most memorable thing about the YA Lit Symposium you attended?

This was the very first conference ever attended, so that in itself makes it fairly memorable.  I just remember being in awe that I was in the same room as all these authors- and that they actually wanted to talk to me; and that other people wanted to talk to me too!  I was nervous that as a student I wasn’t going to fit in, but I talked to people, made some contacts, and even keep in touch with a few!

What was your favorite author experience/presentation at the Symposium?

Right before I came to the Symposium I had read No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Michaeux Nelson.  Since I had never been to a conference before, I had no idea if I would actually get a chance to interact with the authors, so I wrote her a letter thanking her for sharing her family’s story and telling her how much I appreciated her book.  In the hubbub of some mixer, I handed her the note and just sort of walked on my way, but later on she came up to me and thanked me for my note.  I was totally on cloud nine.

Since you attended your first Symposium as a library school student, tell us a little about what that was like. Is the Symposium a good experience for students?

One of the reasons that I think smaller conferences and symposiums are important- especially for students- is because it gives you the opportunity to meet others in the field.  At Annual, you may never see the same random person twice, but at events like the Symposium, you get to interact with people on a more one on one basis.   There are group discussions in sessions, and people really get the opportunity to hear one another.  It’s a great networking opportunity.

Additionally, the Symposium, allows you to focus a more specific theme- Young Adult Literature.  The amount of information allows you to really look at what the is in store for YA Librarians and the field, and gives students the opportunity to see if this is a topic they are truly interested in pursuing without necessarily taking a class or even trying a job out!

Let’s talk practical tips– of all the great offerings at the Symposium, how do you decide what to attend? How do you plan out your schedule?

For me, I look for topics that will interest me the most.  My focus of study is in multicultural literature, so I will also scan through to see if there are sessions that can relate to that or cross cultural communication.  Then, I go through and see if there are any sessions on certain trends or themes.  At the last Symposium, that included a panel on Australian authors, and how to incorporate technology into your teen literacy programming.  Finally, I go through and see if there are any about topics I don’t get to hear about often, or are unique.  When we were in St. Louis, it was getting to hear teenage boys speak first hand about finding lit that speaks to them.  After all of that, then I sort of go through all the ones I pick and prioritize between the ones that overlap, and try to establish a game plan.

Which session are you most looking forward to at this year’s Symposium?

There are a lot. But honestly? R.L. Stine because dude scared the bejesus out of me as a kid.  I still have nightmares about the cover of the Night of the Living Dummy: Monster Edition.

Thanks, Alyson! Smooth travels to Austin!