Saturday, November 08, 2008

Yalsa Literature Symposium: The Graphic Novel Precon

I've been in Nashville the last couple of days for YALSA's first ever Young Adult Literature Symposium. Things started for me with a special pre-conference called Picturing the Story, which focused on comics and their potential use in education and libraries.

Thanks to a kind invitation from Francisca Goldsmith and other folks at YALSA, I was minimally involved in running the pre-con. I brought some anime short films to show during registration, helped with the setup a little bit and moderated one panel discussion. Considering this was my first time doing something like this I think it went pretty well.

My panel discussion opened the day by focusing on the entire creation process of a graphic novel. Basically how it gets from the head of the creator to the page, from the page to the publisher, the publisher to the library and, finally, the library to the reader. The panelists were Svetlana Chmakova (author/artist of the Manga-influenced comic Dramacon), Kurt Hassler (an editor from Yen Press), Angela Frederick (a librarian from Nashville Public Library), and two teen readers to give us perspective direct from the target audience.

Svetlana was a huge hit. She opened things with a Powerpoint showing her background, some of her early work, and samples showing the illustration process she used in creating Dramacon. From there we moved into questions, and I was really pleased. Everyone on the panel, especially the teen readers, were really thoughtful and entertaining in their answers.

The rest of the pre-con moved along pretty well. Stella Farris, a school librarian from Austin, TX, presented a good primer on Manga. Somehow the questions from the audience all got steered towards yaoi, but considering all the misconceptions people had that was probably a good thing. Peggy Burns from Drawn & Quarterly, one of my favorite publishers of comics, did a good talk on adult graphic novels that teens might like. Although I've read a lot of what she talked about, there were a couple of titles that I definitely need to look for and check out.

But by far the star of the day was Gene Luen Yang. Although best known as the author/artist of American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel to be a finalist for the National Book Award, he's also a high school teacher. He did a mesmerizing presentation that somehow managed to cover different ideas of what makes a comic, how comics are influencing other media and how comics can be used in the classroom. He's a definite fan of comics and comics culture and his humor and enthusiasm really shined through his whole talk. Someone mentioned they would try to make his Powerpoint and audio from his talk available online; if that happens I'll be sure to put up a link. I was fortunate enough to meet with him for dinner that night along with some of the other presenters. On top of everything else Gene Yang is an incredibly nice and very genuine person.

I'll probably have more conference stuff later, as I go through and properly digest other sessions.



francisca said...

Just fell across this today, months late! And you should know you're underselling the role you played in getting the precon off the ground and flying!

Hebdomeros said...

Well, you, Gregory and all the wonderful performers made everything easy for me :)