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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Kids and Writing Conferences

Hi everyone! I am YA author B A Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them. 

This month is a "you pick it" topic so I've decided to use it to delve into a little personal history.
 
I attend a number of conferences each year, some aimed at readers, others at authors, and even those for professional librarians and educators. In a few months I will be on my way to St. Louis to attend the 9th annual conference of African American librarians.  Then it's on to Peoria, Illinois, not once but twice, to moderate a panel at the Illinois Reading Council and to give a presentation on finding diverse books at the Illinois Library Association.

But that's the future. For this month's blog post I'm turning the clock back to 2013 and a conference I spoke at in Kennar, Louisiana, Romance Slam Jam.
Smashwords seminar
Booksigning

The conference covered four days of fun and informative events that included spectacular new Orleans cooking, an awesome high school brass band, a well-attended booksigning, and events that included a seminar from Smashwords founder Mark Coker.

The conference included a special activity for young readers and aspiring authors. Several area schools and libraries sent teens to an author meet-and-greet on Saturday. As the author of three YA novels, Pull, Being God, and Minority of One, I was one of four African American YA authors invited to talk to the young people. 

As a YA author, it is always a joy to see a room filled with teens, some had never heard of or  seen an African-American author in person. It was inspiring to see these young people, hear their comments about reading, and to be pummeled by questions from aspiring young writers. The event grounded me and helped me remember why I write YA fiction. It was all about enthusiasm, hearing honest questions and seeing their delight once they got over the novelty of meeting actual published authors of color. You could tell some of them had not fully believed authors who looked like them really existed.

These are kids that many publishers claim don't read, yet they scrambled for books and then stood in line to get those autographed. Four of the young people were assigned to interview me, and I was pummeled with questions about the writing life. Two argued over who would get to introduce me and share what they had uncovered to the rest of the group. The winner had been one of the quietest girls in the room, but she stood next to me with pride as she introduced me and my work on getting more diversity in YA and children's fiction.

When it was time for general questions, several attendees pulled out actual lists they brought with them.  One was impatient when she was interrupted for the scheduled prize raffle drawing, she wanted to keep going on her list. The event lasted two hours and the adult chaperones finally had to pull the kids away to get them back on their bus to go back to their home libraries.

Kids of Color are absolutely hungry for books about them, and for authors who look like them.  I have been writing for years and have been to several writers conferences, conferences for educators and librarians, and many schools.  This was the first time I looked into a room full of young faces and felt like a true role model.

I have not let it be the last.

2 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

And the fact you have not let that experience be the last is why I find you so inspiring, B.A. Your passion for #weneeddiversebooks is awesome. Thanks for reminding us that when we touch a reader's life, our own is transformed.

Paty Jager said...

What a great experience for you and the kids! I agree we need books that will inspire the kids to read and to become authors if they want. I try to add diversity in my books but they are't written for children. However, I've had several children I know come to me for advice because they want to be authors. You are an inspiration to all of us B.A.!