November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

SLJTeen Live! 2016 Keynotes: Maggie Stiefvater’s Hijinks and Meg Medina’s Librarian “Duende”

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School Library Journal’s fifth annual virtual conference on all things teen and YA took place on Wednesday, August 10, with a record high of over 4,000 registered attendees. Formerly known as SummerTeen, SLJTeen Live! featured author panels, professional development sessions, and two keynote speakers—Maggie Stiefvater, author of the “Raven Boys” saga (Scholastic), and Meg Medina, Pura Belpré Award–winning author of Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass and most recently, Burn Baby Burn (both Candlewick). Both keynotes and the other sessions are now available at the event’s archive.

Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefwater. Photo by Robert Severi

New York Times-bestselling and Printz Honor-winning author Stiefvater kicked off the all-day event and regaled the audience via webcam with her compelling and hilarious storytelling skills. The Raven King author’s vignettes ranged in topic from awkward ugly babies to race car driving with John Green. She spoke about her writing workday, struggles under deadline, and what inspired her to start writing in the first place. With unforgettable and wacky facial expressions, she touched upon her brief career as a portrait artist; how she “balances” life as an author, artist, and mother; and some of her social media faux pas. Throughout her travels and creative adventures, Stiefvater is often inspired by people she meets and their stories, and she is often tickled by “a little bird [of] hope” that points her in the direction of new ideas and projects. During the question and answer period, Stiefvater had the opportunity to address fan queries, such as playlists for each of her books; rumors about a possible follow-up series featuring Ronan, one of the secondary characters of the “Raven Cycle”; and the film development status of her books.

Meg Medina

Meg Medina

After a day of young adult literature panels and YA library services panels, SLJTeen Live! concluded with an inspirational talk from Medina, who began by sharing what first motivated her to become a reader: her local Queens (NY) library, and Troll Book Club pamphlets. Speaking about her Cuban American family, Medina quoted one of their sayings: “Ser culto y ser Buena/Be cultured and be good,” which she has applied to her work as an author and literacy advocate, especially as someone writing from a marginalized viewpoint. Medina went on to praise libraries that have duende—the spice or little something extra that make them the heart of the school and the community: “Duende is when you walk into a school that’s really functional or a library that’s really vibrant. That duende takes some work to find. It doesn’t happen by accident. I think the way it happens is mostly through librarians.” She cited examples such as the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, which remained open even after violent tragedy. She also spoke about an event at Hermitage High School in Henrico, VA around bullying, during which Medina and Erin Jade Lange, author of Butter (Bloomsbury), spoke. It was a cross-departmental event that was more than a regular author visit, she said. “From guidance to the library to the drama and English department—they decided, ‘we have a problem at this school and teen literature can help solve it.’” How do you get duende? How do we get this secret sauce? Sometimes it’s family, removing barriers, removing expectations, reading broadly, and promoting books by marginalized authors all the time, not just during heritage months. Medina reminded librarians to examine their spaces and ask “Who is not here?” A diverse staff is probably the most important way to reach underserved communities, she added. Medina closed by thanking librarians for being the “general badasses that they are.” To see both presentations and the conference’s other sessions, check out the archive.  

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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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