Monday, October 21, 2013

Less Than Three Conference, by Matthew MacNish


I spent the weekend in Saint Louis, at the Less Than Three conference. It was the best conference/convention I have ever attended. It was small, intimate, heavy, and powerful, but it was also wonderfully inspiring.

The theme was bullying, and how we can all work to prevent it, and the panels and the authors presenting on them were simply amazing. There is a full list of the authors who attended, here, but since this is a Middle Grade blog, I thought I would focus on those who write it.

Dale E. Basye is the author of Heck, Where the Bad Kids Go.

From Goodreads:

When Milton and Marlo Fauster die in a marshmallow bear explosion, they get sent straight to Heck, an otherworldly reform school. Milton can understand why his kleptomaniac sister is here, but Milton is—or was—a model citizen. Has a mistake been made? Not according to Bea “Elsa” Bubb, the Principal of Darkness. She doesn’t make mistakes. She personally sees to it that Heck—whether it be home-ec class with Lizzie Borden, ethics with Richard Nixon, or gym with Blackbeard the Pirate—is especially, well, heckish for the Fausters. Will Milton and Marlo find a way to escape? Or are they stuck here for all eternity, or until they turn 18, whichever comes first?

Lisa McMann is the author of The Unwanteds series.

From Goodreads:

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.

Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret— behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime.

In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation.

But it's a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.


Shannon Messenger is the author of Keeper of the Lost Cities.

From Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.”
There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.


There may have been more than these three authors who write Middle Grade, but it was mainly a Young Adult focused Conference, and these three were the only ones I know for sure write Middle Grade.

I met all of them, and even shared dinner with these three and several others in the hotel after the Con. It was the most wonderful time. Talking to authors, who are the greatest people in the world, about bullying, and about kids, and about love, acceptance, and compassion makes for the most amazing conversations.

All that said, I would be completely remiss if I didn't mention Heather Brewer, also known as Auntie Heather, who is the organizer of the event, and was the keynote speaker. Heather is an incredible, beautiful, inspiring human being. In the keynote address, she shared her own experiences with bullying, and the suffering she endured as a child, and it was so moving, there was not a single dry eye in the room. She also brought to the stage a young woman who had been bullied, and I got the distinct impression that when this girl reached out to her favorite author, the correspondence and friendship that followed saved her life.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this conference, and how amazing it was, but I think I've said enough. I highly recommend you all attend it next year, so that you will understand that sheer joy that I experienced.

Questions? Fire away in the comments!

20 comments:

  1. I was there too! It was such an incredible conference. So well done and so amazing to see everyone come together in one place and talk about an issue that isn't talked about nearly enough. So inspiring and such and amazing experience!

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    1. I'm sorry we didn't meet! But I completely agree.

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  2. Sounds like an amazing conference, Matt!! I'd love to attend sometime if the timing is right. This week we start an anti-bullying focus at the school where I teach.

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    1. You should definitely come, Paul. I would love to meet you.

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  3. Glad you got to go, and that you met so many of your writing heroes, Matt. Was Heather Brewer the founder of the conference? And was it it called Less Than Three?

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    1. Heather Brewer is the founder, yes. And it is called Less Then Three like "<3."

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  4. Sounds like a great conference!

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  5. It always sends a thrill up my spine when I hear about authors saving lives by being there for kids. Usually it's just through reading that kids are saved (think of 13 Reasons Why, Empty, and other books). What Heather did, befriending that young girl and bringing her up on stage at the conference, is touching.

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    1. OMG, Joanne - how did you know? When I saw Heather bring that amazing kid on stage, I immediately thought of Empty, by K.M. Walton, and that just opened the flood gates. Thankfully there were tissues everywhere.

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    2. I just had dinner with Kate Walton last week. She's amazing. She does school talks all the time about Kindness Matters. I'm sort of surprised she wasn't at that conference! Anyway, the conference sounds great. Even if (or maybe because) you needed tissues!

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    3. She must have been busy. I love Kate and her books.

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    4. Matty! You totes stole my Kate idea. xx

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    5. I forgot you brought that up! I need to give you credit.

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    6. That young lady is my daughter, her name is Jordan Brooks. She is amazing but of course I am partial being I am the mom! Heather DID save my daughters life, and I will be FOREVER in debt to her for befriending jordan, and listening and being there when she felt that was the only place she could turn. I learned a lot from that conference! I am so grateful we were able to attend!

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    7. Anita, after the conference, I now know Jordan on Facebook, and I just have to say: your daughter is AMAZING! I am proud to call her a friend. I didn't originally name her in this post, because I wasn't sure exactly what her comfort level with public exposure was, and I didn't want to out her without permission, so to speak. If you (or she) would like me to edit this post, and name her, and/or link to anything your heart desires, I would be HONORED to do so. Please let me know.

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    8. This sounds like a very inspiring story. Telling it might help other children who are struggling also.

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  6. Sounds like an awesome convention with awesome people doing awesome things. They should call it Awesome Times Three. :-)

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    1. LOL. If you were on Facebook, you could see my photos.

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!