Thursday, June 5, 2014

Celebrating Steven Bickmore and the LSU Young Adult Writing Conference #LSUYAL2014

Earlier this year I read a call for presenters to attend the Young Adult Literature Conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I looked at the dates and thought, "Hmmm, Crandall, you've never been to that state and you've been looking for a location to pull together almost a decade of reading young adult novels featuring stories of relocated refugee youth. You should take a vacation in Baton Rouge and spend five days running a workshop."

Fortunate for me, Steven Bickmore, the conference coordinator gambled on the proposal. Today is day #4 of the conference and this experience has been one of a kind. My mind is spinning with thoughts about my own work and the happiness I feel for having this experience.

I've spent most of this year looking at creativity, kuumba/kreativitet, and pontificating about the 'out-of-the-box' potential of going beyond the normal to make colorful statements of the world. I met an accomplice with Steven Bickmore. I did not know Dr. Bickmore until this chance presented itself and I'm very thankful that I chose to attend.

Steven Bickmore is the 'Oz' behind the curtain. His passion for teenagers, coming of age novels, teaching and working with educators oozes out of every pore of his body. Yesterday morning, he offered a keynote where he offered history, need, and purpose for young adult literature in American Schools that was humorous, insightful, engaging, and motivating. As he covered the history of the field, I quickly realized there is no one like him. He is a true original who carries immense wisdom into everything he does. It was clear that he follows everything he loves and, because of this, this even was made possible.

This week I've had the fortunate of working with librarians, graduate students, academics and professional writers in an intimate forum to share the love of books written for adolescent readers. The pastiche of author insight with teacher practice has been absolutely amazing. Every second of the day: from 8 a.m. breakfast to 7 p.m. library readings has been memorable. I'm a better man because of it.

I am writing this morning to applaud Steven Bickmore's hard work, dedication, drive, and enthusiasm. Without his vision and perseverance, this opportunity most likely would never happen. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with so many amazing individuals and I am refueled for hosting the Invitational Summer Institutes in Connecticut and the Young Adult Literacy Labs.

Steven, Thank You.

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