Past Conference Speakers
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 24 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children, The Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. Some of his other works include picture books, Animal Arc and Surf’s Up; novels Booked, The Playbook, He Said She Said and the forthcoming Solo. Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his Page-To-Stage Writing Workshop published by Scholastic.
A regular speaker at schools and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love: Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, and recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded. In 2015, Kwame served as Bank Street College of Education’s Inaugural Dorothy M. Carter writer-in-residence. The Kwame Alexander Papers, a collection of his writings, correspondence, and other professional and personal documents is held at the George Washington University Gelman Library.
Visit him at KwameAlexander.com.
Elfrieda H. Hiebert
Elfrieda “Freddy” Hiebert (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin) has had a long career as a literacy educator, first as a teacher’s aide and teacher of primary-level students in California and, subsequently, as a teacher educator and researcher at the universities of Kentucky, Colorado-Boulder, Michigan, and California-Berkeley. Her research, which addresses how fluency, vocabulary, and knowledge can be fostered through appropriate texts, has been published in numerous scholarly journals and books.
Through documents such as Becoming a Nation of Readers (Center for the Study of Reading, 1985) and Every Child a Reader (Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement, 1999), she has contributed to making research accessible to educators. Hiebert’s contributions to research and practice have been recognized through awards such as the American Educational Research Association’s Research to Practice award (2013).
A few things about me… I have written five books altogether, with three of them on writing (the first is Wired Style, the second is Sin and Syntax, and the third is Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch). The latter is intended as a romp through the history of language and, in particular, English. It is filled with ideas to play with in your writing. Sin and Syntax is a subversive guide to grammar and good writing and contains “catechisms”—quirky grammar quizzes and writing prompts. Wired Style was intended to fill gaps back in the early days of the Web. The books have gotten me dubbed “Marion the Librarian on a Harley, or E. B. White on acid.” That works.
If you are a writer or a lover of all things syntactical, you might also be interested in my eight-part series on sentences for “Draft,” in the Opinionator area of The New York Times. (The essays there by other writers are awesome.)
My other books, though, are an intellectual coffee-table book on hula titled The Natives Are Restless and a picture book for children, set in Hawaii‘, called Iwalani’s Tree. I also write articles on politics, culture, history, and travel, as well as essays on everything from the name I share with my grandmother and my odd taste in food. (More on all my work at www.constance-hale.com.)
I grew up in Hawaii, speaking “proper” English at home and Hawaiian creole (or “Pidgin”) with friends. This weird bilingualism explains my fascination with language, which didn’t stop there. I left the islands to get a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Princeton, after which I spent a few years writing short stories and performing monologues in dim San Francisco coffeehouses. I can’t say I went straight after that, but I did earn a masters from the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, after which I worked as a reporter and editor at the Gilroy Dispatch, the Oakland Tribune, and the San Francisco Examiner. I really started dabbling in the idiosyncrasies of the mother tongue, though, while copy chief at Wired.
Freelance writing suits my personality, as I have eclectic interests. I’ve written about Latin plurals and Latino culture, Berkeley politics and Hawaiian sovereignty. My stories have appeared in newspapers from the Los Angeles Times to the Miami Herald, as well as in magazines like The Atlantic, National Geographic Adventure, Afar, Smithsonian, Health, and Honolulu. I love the travel essay as a form, and have been published in many anthologies including France, A Love Story (Seal Press) and Best Travel Writing 2006 (Travelers’ Tales).
I am as passionate about editing and teaching as I am about writing. I worked at Wired Books and today edit for Harvard Business Press. I have also directed conferences for mid-career journalists, including the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism in 2008 and 2009, and the East Meets West conference in 2012 and UC Berkeley’s Latest in Longform conference in 2014, 2015, and 2016. I run an annual writers retreats in Hawaii in spring and speak and teach all over the place. I am a founder of The Prose Doctors, an editor’s collective, and work one-on-one with many published writers. And, almost every day, I work at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.
Oh, and if you’ve heard that I dance a damned good hula, I do.
Gae’s most recent young adult novel, The Memory of Things, has been a hit in middle and high school classrooms across the country since its publication last fall. The Memory of Things is set on 9/11/01 in New York City; it follows a sixteen year-old high school student named Kyle, who is evacuated from Stuyvesant High School after the twin towers are hit.
During his trek home across the Brooklyn Bridge and in the midst of chaos, he finds a girl his age who is disoriented and covered in ash. Although she is a complete stranger and he is trying to escape the frantic scene around him, Kyle decides to take her into his home and tries to help her reunite with her family. While trying to assist this girl in finding her family, Kyle is also anxiously awaiting a reunion with his own family because his mother and sister are in California and his father is an NYPD detective who is on the scene at ground zero.
The Memory of Things is a coming-of-age story about the formation of an unlikely friendship between Kyle and this mysterious girl that unfolds during a national tragedy. These two young strangers must support one another in order to persevere through this immeasurable tragedy. Ultimately, The Memory of Things focuses on maintaining hope, finding unity and resilience in times of unimaginable tragedy, and social responsibility to strangers, family, and the community.
In addition to writing The Memory of Things, Gae is also the author of several other young adult titles, including The Summer of Letting Go and The Pull of Gravity. Gae is very well-connected in the world of higher education, and she even co-hosts teachers Write!, a virtual writers’ camp for teachers and educators. She has been enthusiastically received by middle and high school English and social studies teachers; she has even done speaking engagements and classroom Skype sessions with middle schools and high schools across the country.
Some of the topics that Gae frequently speaks on are the importance of memory, and how students can gain empathy through literacy (including through reading historical fiction). She believes that empathy is key to being a good citizen. We also featured the memory of things at the 2016 NCTE annual convention, and educators flocked to our booth to pick up copies and gush about Gae. Given this year’s theme, she’s a perfect fit.