Guess who loves my shirt?

That would be my new BFF, even Stephenie Meyer. And I think she possibly said something nice about my hair. And then I turned bright red and started babbling, because I have Inner Poise. (Secret: This is kind of a lucky shirt. I bought it at an H&M outside Philly a couple of years ago. Am thrilled the luck hasn't worn off yet.)

The conference was absolutely wonderful. Stephenie Meyer spoke first, about her experience with getting published for the first time, and how there were so many things she wasn't prepared for and that she would have done differently if she'd known what she was getting into. Basically when she wrote Twilight she had no thought of getting it published and knew nothing about the industry. She said that if you're going to be a writer, you had better love to write, because the other parts (like looking for an agent and sending out queries and negotiating contracts and editing and revising and touring) are not as much fun. So if the actual writing is not fun for you, you'd be better off picking something else. She was really funny and down-to-earth. Her legions of teenage (and older) girl fans were there in their "I Love Edward" and "Bite Me" and "10 Signs You're a Twilight Addict" shirts. During a break, I eavesdropped as two girls behind me discussed which Twilight characters their friends were most like. It was actually so much more involved than that but I just can't even get into it.

A really interesting bit was when Stephenie talked about people who accuse her of being anti-feminist, not only because she identifies herself as a Mormon stay-at-home-Mom but also because her female protagonist isn't a superhero figure with powers but her boyfriend is. She takes exception to that on two levels:

1) She thinks the lone human in a world of superheroes is the much more interesting character. Because she is at such a disadvantage, it takes real bravery for Bella to stand up against the superheroes.

2) To her, feminism is about choice. And so she's tired of hearing people yap about how you're only a real feminist if you choose these certain pre-approved things that bring you either a lot of power and influence or a lot of money.

Seems like we've had this conversation around here before.

During a Q & A session, I told her that I know her fans are mostly female, but it was actually my teenage brother who told me about her books. So I asked about her male readers and if she knows what it is about her books that appeals to them. She said she always loves to hear from guys who enjoy her books, and she thinks one big difference between guys and girls is that girls are used to reading from the male perspective. In contrast, she thinks that guys haven't necessarily spent as much time reading books from the female perspective. But once they get past the "And then I saw Edward and he was just sooo beautiful" and all of that then they can just get into the story and appreciate it.

Also, she remembers my brother coolboy and asked me to tell him Hi. He's probably doing Snoopy Dances in the Dominican Republic right about now. Also I got his books signed, but that's a secret so shhhhhh!

Joan Bauer spoke next and was absolutely amazing. Seriously, the woman had me getting misty-eyed a couple of times. She was just so very warm and engaging and energetic and has this huge laugh. She talked about setbacks she's had in her personal life, and how a lot of her writing has been about her trying to get to the bottom of things she's been going through. She says writing (and reading) are valuable because that's how you know that there are people out there who have felt the exact same things that you feel. And then she talked about how we just love to tell ourselves that we don't have anything to offer, and gave the example of Moses who just had this cracked old staff. But God told him to throw it down, and God turned it into something amazing.

When we had the book signing, her line moved the slowest because she shook each person's hand and asked them questions and chatted with them. By the time I got to her they'd asked her to speed it up a bit, but I still got a handshake. If any of you have the chance to meet her or see her speak, do it. She is just a lovely, lovely person and a dang fine writer.

Last was Rosemary Wells, who talked about the plight of education and literacy in our country. (And really, she was speaking to a bunch of teachers and librarians. So she couldn't have picked a more fired-up audience.) She said that we are at a crucial time and this may be our last chance to raise a generation of literate people who are able to compete on the global level at which our government is setting us up to compete. She says the children of other nations are being much, much better prepared than ours are.

She talked about No Child Left Behind, and how many teachers are restricted to teaching only what will be on the standardized tests for fear of losing funding. (This won't be news to anyone.)

She cited a 2006 study carried out in several Midwestern states where all the teachers were asked what would be the one thing they would change about the educational system. The answer for over 60% was: The Parents.

They talked about the parents who expect teachers to take responsibility for every aspect of their children's education, but are so ignorant and litigious that they threaten to sue any time they don't like what they hear. So now school administrators and teachers have their hands tied.

You have the parents who overcompensate and demand that the teacher spend more time addressing their child's needs, even though the teacher's time is divided between all of his or her students, some of whom may need more help than others.

She talked about how parents might receive some kind of take-home packet about literacy and reading at the hospital when they give birth, but from that point on the kids are pretty much lost to the system until they re-emerge for kindergarten at age 5. By then they may already be at a disadvantage they will never overcome.

With all of this in mind, she wrote and illustrated a children's book called My Shining Star: Raising a Child Who is Ready to Learn. It's written for parents and talks about principles they need to teach their children in order for them to be successful when they start school. Of course, the trick is that the parents who most need to hear this either a) can't read, b) don't care, or c) don't buy books or visit the library. She doesn't get any royalties from it, and if there are organizations like schools or libraries who want to buy large quantities then they can get them at a large discount through the publisher.

So yes. It was a pretty great day. It got me all fired up to be writer and right social wrongs and to nurture my new friendship with the fabulous Stephenie Meyer. Perhaps I should become a published author as well, and then we could hang out.


Lindsay said... [reply]

I only got to teach in the public schools for a year before I moved to place where teacher don't retire and open up spots for the young 'uns like me...BUT, I've had enough experience "in the field" to agree 100% with Rosemary Wells. If parents were more involved in their children's education, an awful lot more learning would get to happen, which would benefit everyone -- students, teachers, and parents.

Sounds like a really fabulous conference!

abby said... [reply]

I envy you and the good time you had that conference. You might want to check out Stephanie Meyer's comments at the National Book Festival at loc.gov.

kristen said... [reply]

Amen to the parenting issues. My students who are more successful have parents who care. We also need to get rid of the helicopter parent....yeah, you know what that is.

April said... [reply]

I'm so freaking jealous, you have no idea!! I love the "Twilight" books!!!!! I can't wait for the third installment. Lucky you!

The McCulloch Family said... [reply]

I am currently trying to get my hands on a copy of that book. Dying to read it. Maybe I will send it to all the parents I know who are on track to screwing up their kid. I'm sure they would love the book.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Okay, are the pictures not showing up? Because there are supposed to be 3 pictures in here. And they WERE showing up earlier. Stupid Blogger. Will repost the pictures when I get home tonight. grrrr!

Tusk said... [reply]

I skimmed it before reading the post properly, and thought you said Jack Bauer was talking.
How anti-climactic.

CoolMom said... [reply]

Very inspiring post. I think there are many reasons why we are less literate than we were a generation or two ago. Too many distractions: computers, video games, ipods, and the over scheduling of children's free time. When I was in elementary school we had to read a book every week and write a book report every Friday. But the main reason I think I like to read is my mother took me to the library and she was an avid reader. Long live mom's who take their kids to the library!!!

The Divine Miss A said... [reply]

I am so jealous that you got to meet two of the best YA authors out there. Very jealous. Thanks for giving us the scoop, though. Perhaps we can still be friends. As long as you can keep us updated on other cool librarian things.

Also, Amen Rosemary! Amen Coolmom!

P.S. The first pic shows for me, but not any other ones.

metamorphose said... [reply]

I'm also having trouble with the pics. I see the first one.

Panini said... [reply]

That sounds so good!!! I'm totally putting Stephanie on the list. (been there for awhile but you reminded me) - want to come down for Marilynne Robinson's thing in Provo this weekend? I'm driving, but I'm probably staying until Sunday . . .

chosha said... [reply]

There was so much anticipation floating around beforehand, I'm really glad the conference was as good as you imagined it would be.

I'd read a book you wrote. Actually I always wished I knew more about your thesis, especially when you were off interviewing people. Very curious.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Chosha, you are very kind. And as for my thesis, I'll email you a copy if you have the stomach for it. Just email me at miss.nem@gmail.com and I'll write back!

ambrosia ananas said... [reply]

You lucky girl. I love Twilight. Also, your hair looks fantastic.

And now, a tanget. Sorry for posting this here and not on the feminism thread. Per my beliefs, I'm a feminist. However, I still have a knee-jerk ick reaction to the word, despite having many wonderfully brilliant feminist friends. It's on account of the very few but outspoken feminazis I've come across who argue things like that anyone who wants to get married is supporting patriarchy, or shoot down any evidence that men might actually care about their families, too. Or try to do #2 in this post and make it feel like women aren't Real Feminists (and therefore aren't Worthwhile Women) if they don't want to be full-time professionals instead of, say, stay-at-home moms. Basically, when I hear feminist, I think raving, man-hating lunatic. And then I hope for evidence that the person is one of the many rational feminists and not one of those feminists. /tangent

daltongirl said... [reply]

I love how you go away to conferences and pretend that you're all about reading and books and stuff, when what your patrons really know is that you're an illiterate book burner. And that is what makes me think the word of "hypocrisy" when I read this post.

I say this mostly to cover up the embarrassing fact that I have not yet read "Twilight," despite the recommendations of Persons I Respect very much.

And now I'm off to purchase that Rosemary Wells book, because I think my sister could use it.

Azúcar said... [reply]

What a great conference! Forgive me for echoing some of the other posters.

Other Half is student teaching at the moment and I'm already hearing about the parents of these kids: either the uninvolved or overly involved in the wrong way.


I feel bad for any parent who tries to go up against Other Half as he will obliterate their idea of what a teacher will and won't do for their spoiled brat. The funny thing is they won't ever realize they're being spun.

Lizardbreath McGee said... [reply]

I think this is about the fourth time I've heard talk about Stephenie Meyer in the last two days. I think 'tis a sign from above that I need to read her books!

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