If you weren’t present at the YALSA Genre Galaxy preconference on Friday, you missed a day of great networking, learning, sharing, and yes — swordfighting.  Our speakers did a wonderful job of both educating and entertaining attendees, who enjoyed a full day focusing on genre fiction (and nonfiction!).

For a taste of what we experienced, here’s Elizabeth Bird’s video of author James Kennedy kicking off the day with a little commentary on his ability to best Neil Gaiman and win the Newbery!

Amy Alessio interviewed Genre Galaxy preconference speaker Patrick Jones about his take on edgy fiction. Enjoy their conversation below! (for more information about the preconference, visit the Genre Galaxy wiki!)

Why do you think so many teens want edgy or ‘urban’ fiction now?

The urban part reflects the literature catching up with the music. The influence of rap and hip-hop culture washes over every part of teen life, so that it would finally find its way into book isn’t a surprise. I just wonder why it took so long. It also mirrors what is going on in the adult market with rise of street fiction for similar reasons. As far as edgy, that is certainly a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” (“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the Who). I wrote an article over a decade ago celebrating that new edge in YA fiction, so it never surprises me. As I’m writing this, there was a big article in the Wall Street Journal about teen fiction; it was the usual decrying of the books being too dark. You get that article every ten years it seems.
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(Have you signed up for Genre Galaxy yet? Join the day of stars and get ideas for books and programs in several genres to inspire teen readers. This event will be held all day Friday, July 10 in Chicago! Authors include:

James Kennedy | Dom Testa | David Lubar
Simone Elkeles | Patrick Jones | Libba Bray | Holly Black

Contact Nichole Gilbert at ngilbert@ala.org to order a ticket and reserve your place!)

Were you a fantasy reader as a teen? Who were your favorite authors then and now?

I wasn’t much of a fantasy reader. I read the classics of fantasy, of course-Tolkien, Lewis, Alexander-but other than that, I didn’t go in for it much. Partly because fantasy wasn’t as huge as it is now, but mostly because I was more into science fiction: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, Madeleine L’Engle. I also belonged to a science-fiction book club, and every month in the mail I got an unpredictable melange of awful and awesome and quirky books. Some of it shocked my delicate eyes, because it was SF for adults, and there would be bizarre alien sex scenes or rough language that I vaguely disapproved of. Read More →

Librarians’ hearts were aflutter yesterday as the New York Times reported on school librarians in their Future of Reading column. Motoko Richs’ article “In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update” features a day in the life of Stephanie Rosalia, a librarian at Public School 225 in Brooklyn. The piece marvels at how she does not simply stamp books and shush students, but rather teaches information literacy. It rose quickly to the #1 slot as yesterday’s most emailed NYT article.

My Twitter network was quite active as we traded links to various responses, and, regrettably, the comments on the article itself. Most dismaying was comment #24 from “suenoir,” a reader who identified herself as a school board president from King County, WA and who felt that school libraries & librarians are superfluous in the face of the Internet and public libraries. She commented: Read More →

Particular titles dominated people’s conversations here in the Mile High City, so I headed out to the exhibit hall to see for myself.  Here’s some buzz on forthcoming YA books for 2009:

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson is the youth version of Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.  The author was heard assuring librarians that the gory details were neither gratuitous nor excised from this adaptation for younger readers. Read More →

There were two books keeping me sane during my wild and woolly flight back from Anaheim: Hunger Games from Suzanne Collins, of Gregor the Overlander fame… and Barry Lyga’s Hero-Type, reviewed on the blog by Carlie Webber.  Hunger Games was the one book I was determined to get at Annual, and it certainly lived up to its promise.

Hunger Games inherits the crazy premises of both Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” and Stephen King’s Bachman novella The Running Man.  It’s an unholy marriage to be sure, but the result is compelling, addictive, and relatable for a generation raised on the Survivor television series. Read More →

Even though Teen Tech Week was in March, our library used that time to promote something new (for us, anyway) – a teen video contest. One of the challenges we face as a medium-sized library system is keeping our programming lean and focused, so we combined two ideas to make this program work:

1) our Central Library wanted to have a teen video contest this spring

2) we needed high school involvement to fulfill a Big Read grant in April/May

The combination of the programming was great, as it allowed us to use contacts we’d made with Kansas City Public Television and TimeWarner Cable. We were also able to reach out to school districts in a different way through broadcast media classes. In addition to giving the contest a tight focus, we were also able to encourage teens to experience The Maltese Falcon, our Big Read pick.

We’re nearly ready to announce the winner – and we’ve had a lot of fun with this initiative. Check out the demo video that the KCPT interns made for us below, and try a video contest yourself – you won’t regret it!

It’s time to hear from election candidates again – this time those running for the Margaret A. Edwards award committee in 2010.

Candidates are: Terry Beck, Roxy Ekstrom, Kathie Fitch, Cathy Lichtman, Mary Anne Nichols, and Maren Ostergard.

First, tell us a little about yourself.

How do you decide if a book is a “window to the world” for young adults?

What strategies would you use to help the group achieve consensus on a winner?

What new, ineligible author do you think might make a great MAE winner in the far future? (Remember that eligible books must have been printed 5+ years prior to the current award year.)

Thanks for sharing your answers with the membership!
Erin Downey Howerton, MAE committee member 2008

The 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee is charged to select from the previous year’s publications the best young adult book (“best” being defined solely in terms of literary merit). Now is your chance to meet the hard working folks who want to spend the next year reading, and rereading, and rereading, and taking extensive notes on hundreds of titles competing for this prestigious award.

Running on the spring ballot for the 2010 Printz Committee are:
Priscille Dando, Teri Lesesne, Jack Martin, Richie Partington, Sheila Schofer, Ann Theis, Cheryl Karp Ward, and Carlie Webber.

Candidates:
1. Please tell us a little about yourself.

2. Tell us how you define “literary quality.”

3. The books will be coming at you fast and furious – what’s your reading plan for the year?

4. How do you promote the Printz winners in your library?

Thanks, and have fun introducing yourselves to the membership!
Erin Downey Howerton
2008 Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee Member