Western’s 16th Annual Children’s Literature Conference

Photo by Bianca Lancia

By Bianca Lancia

How did I spend my Saturday you ask? I attended the 16th Annual Children’s Literature Conference at Western’s Performing Arts Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 23.

The PAC was filled to the brim with 600 people eager to learn about the ins and outs of writing and illustrating books for children and young adults.

The audience was comprised of teachers, librarians, students, writers, parents and children. The energy in that room was truly infectious.

Hosted by Nancy Johnson, English professor at Western, the conference featured some of the most talented children’s authors and illustrators in the country. Speakers included Candace Fleming, Eric Rhomann, Barbara O’Connor, Neal Shusterman and Jerry Pinkney.

Originally, the reason I attended the conference was for a requirement in my Young Adult Literature course. Little did I know how inspired and awe struck I would be by the talent standing before me.

I am not necessarily interested in writing books for children, so I wasn’t ecstatic about the title “Children’s Literature Conference,” however, I am interested in writing young adult and adult literature.

I realized very early on in the day that anything related to children’s literature can be easily applied to any kind of writing, for any age group.

Each speaker brought a unique essence of passion to the stage. O’Connor emphasized the importance of creating real characters with real lives through her books. She said as authors, parents and teachers we need to “prepare children for the world as it is, not as we want it to be.”

O’Connor doesn’t sugar-coat life for her young readers, she writes realistic fiction. Through her honest depiction of true southern communities, she shows the good, the bad and the ugly of this world.

In my own writing, I hope to be as honest and transparent about the world we live in. Even in fiction, we can still create parallels to the real world that readers can make meaningful connections with.

I want to show readers that life is hard all around, no matter where you look at it from.

My goal is to give them hope and show them they aren’t alone in their feelings and experiences.

As Neal Shusterman put it, we have the power to change the world, “one person at a time.”

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