It has always felt fitting to me that the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual convention is held on the week before Thanksgiving. There’s no conference out there that makes authors feel so unbelievably grateful for the educators that live and breathe the love of language and stories. For me, this year was filled with more overwhelming gratitude than most, because it’s the first time in five years that I have a new book coming out.
I’ve said it before: It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an author in possession of a diverse book, must be in want of a teacher, librarian or bookseller to introduce it to a reader. This was absolutely true with my first book, None of the Above, which I was told was a “tough sell” because its main character was intersex. Only by the grace of dozens of teachers, librarians and booksellers is the book still in print – and selling – today.
I was reminded just a few minutes minutes into my signing line for This is My Brain in Love of how wide the impact is that teachers make when one of the attendees, Michelle Bulla, said that she had attended a session of mine in 2015, and that None of the Above is now a reading option in her high school.
Then the next morning, as I prepared for a 8am roundtable organized by the amazing Sarah Mulhern Gross and Mollie Noel on how to teach “contentious” issues using children’s literature, I was approached by Kristin Luettchau, a teacher in NJ who had literally just taught None of the Above in her class – after she had it taught to her in her teacher education program by the wonderful Emily Meixner.
THREE GENERATIONS of readers!
Finally, there were the author friends. Oh, how I have missed them. The whole convention had a “class reunion” feeling, and I was able to hug/get copies of books by/eat + drink/laugh with so many incredible people who I haven’t seen in years. I can’t be more thankful for their friendship, their encouragement, their nagging “when are you writing another book” questions.
It was a reunion of sorts for many of us who were founding members of We Need Diverse Books. It’s hard to believe the organization has been around for only five years; just walking around the exhibit floor, it’s clear at each imprint how WNDB has changed the landscape of publishing. It’s certainly possible that if it weren’t for how the industry has changed, I would never have believed that This Is My Brain in Love – with its intersectional conversation about race, wealth and mental illness – would have been published. Much love to Ellen Oh, Lamar Giles, Aisha Saeed, Meg Medina, Miranda Paul and the amazing librarians Sarah Park Dahlen and Edi Campbell who continue to keep the movement going strong.
Perhaps the most special moments of the conference, though, were when Ellen Oh and Laurie Halse Anderson both shared with me that, after reading early copies of This is My Brain in Love (see their lovely blurbs here), they shared the book with their children. An author couldn’t ask for more.
My cup runneth over.
Thank you to everyone who has supported my writing career. I’m so excited that it’s about to enter Phase Two.