Monday, December 3, 2012

National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention 2012

The weekend before Thanksgiving my husband and I hopped on a plane and flew across the country to attend the National Council of Teachers of English Conference where I would be presenting on a panel about significant gimmicks in the composition classroom.  Our final destination - Las Vegas, NV.  Now, before I detail the events of the conference, I need to set the stage for our arrival by describing our layover in Chicago.  Holiday travel is a bear, and my airline of choice - American - apparently does not offer direct connections from Raleigh to Vegas (next time I'm flying Southwestern).  So my husband - who does not fly much - and I are wandering around the Chicago O'Hare airport for FOUR hours before our flight leaves.  During this four hour stretch, I manage to find a speck of wifi, and I'm perusing the NCTE conference app when I spot a document entitled "Meet the Authors!"  Now I know that many Young Adult authors attend this conference because their books are taught in several middle schools and high schools and they are very invested in adolescent education, but I didn't know who would be attending yet.  I open it up, scroll through, and, lo and behold, I see David Levithan, Maggie Stiefvater, Sonya Sones, and...Ellen Hopkins...the woman whose books and outspoken advocacy against censorship of literary materials influenced the direction of my ENG 111 course - the very course I was flying to Nevada to present on!!  I am hyperventilating, and my husband is pretending not to know me.  I search the signing times and discover that Ellen Hopkins is only signing on Friday while I'm stuck in the airport, but, silver lining, she would be presenting on a panel of YA authors at 4:00 p.m.  Our flight was scheduled to land at 3:00 p.m., and we could literally see our hotel and the conference host, MGM Grand from the tarmac.  "I have to make this panel," I swore solemnly to my husband.  We arrive on time, but a filled gate keeps up from docking immediately.  Then we have to wait for our shuttle.  We finally arrive at the MGM Grand at 3:50 p.m., and the checkout line is 20 minutes long.  A little after 4:00 p.m., my husband and I enter our hotel room, and I resign myself to the fact that I will miss seeing Ellen Hopkins.  I refuse to enter the panel late as I see that as the epitome of rudeness.  But there are still things to be done!  After we drop our luggage, I go check in and locate my presentation room.  I will be presenting the following morning at 8:00 a.m. (in Vegas!!).  It is then that I remember the room Ellen Hopkins was presenting in was just one hallway over from mine.  It is 5:00 p.m., and the panel is scheduled to end at 5:15 p.m.  A tiny flicker of hope is resurrected in me.  I peek into the open doorway from the adjoining hallway and see that the panel is still going on - I still refuse to enter, now an hour late, but I talk my husband into waiting until it is over, so I can at least go up and introduce myself to Hopkins after the panel.  Sweet, patient man that he is, he agrees.  So we sit and wait for the longest fifteen minutes of my life, and then people began leaving the room, and I screw up my courage, enter the room, and approach the front table where the panelists sat.  Other attendees were wiser than I and had books for her to sign, so when I finally reach the front of the short line that had formed in front of her, the first thing out of my mouth is, "I don't have anything for you to sign."  But I quickly recover and explain I was late for her panel, but I just wanted to introduce myself.  I briefly describe my banned books course and her role in it to which she graciously thanked me and away I went where I promptly spent the rest of the evening fangirling to my husband, my mom, my sister, my best friend, and my librarian.

Saturday, we were up and at 'em as were a surprising number of conference attendees.  My panel averaged between 20-30 audience members.  Not bad considering it was 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning in Vegas, and my colleagues and I were presenting on a very specialized topic - the use of significant gimmicks in the composition classroom.  Erika embeds the imagery and terminology of the vampire in her classroom.  I love how she encourages students to see grammatical errors as "vampires" in their writing.  I use banned books in order to facilitate original research papers, and Summerlin uses advertisements to encourage critical thinking about a writer's ability to "sell" an idea.  Although our room was not equipped with the most up-to-date technology, we still managed to rock it.  From there I attended two phenomenal panels on cognitive and metacognitive reading strategies and enhanced classroom discussion techniques, an interesting but ultimately inapplicable for my classroom panel on young adult literature and Wikipedia, and a horrible panel on grammar instruction.  Overall, I count it a success.  By this time, my husband has abandoned me to wander around Vegas, so I take the opportunity to enter the hallowed halls of the Exhibit Room - a gymnasium sized building with rows and rows of publishers hawking their wares at reduced prices.  I was drooling and seriously wishing I had a brought a bigger suitcase.  My first stop was Simon & Schuster where I received a (free!) copy of Sonya Sones' One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, which she promptly autographed.  While she was signing, I told her about my banned books course.  She brightly replied, "I'm on the ALA's Top 100 Banned Books list."  "I know! My students read your books," I said.  And then, Sonya Sones makes my day.  "You should invite me to come visit."  Momentarily stunned, I quickly recover, "Ok - how can we make that official?"  Minutes later, I am wandering towards Penguin with a dazed smile clutching Sonya Sones' e-mail address in my hand.  (Currently, plans to make this visit a reality are underway!)  At Penguin's table, I pick up a $5.00 copy of David Levithan's A Christmas Carol remix called Marley's Ghost and receive a galley copy of his newest book Invisibility, co-authored with Andrea Cremer, due out summer 2013.  I slightly redeem myself from the last time I met David Levithan where I babbled incoherently about how much I loved his work by remarking on how much I love the vignette style of The Lover's Dictionary, which I've recently re-read.  Then I traverse to Anderson's Bookshops where I procure a copy of Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races, which I am currently loving, and The Raven Boys.  We chat about our mutual love of red appliances a la Grace in The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, and I advise her on the best place to purchase a red toaster (Target) before returning to the hotel room for fangirl round two.

A totally successful conference in my opinion. 

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