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.
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.
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.
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!