68th Annual NYSEC Conference Speakers
Jill Bialosky is the author of four acclaimed collections of poetry, most recently The Players. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and The Atlantic, among others. She is the author of three novels, most recently, The Prize, and a New York Times bestselling memoir History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life. She is an editor at W. W. Norton & Company where she oversees the Norton poetry list and lives in New York City. In 2014 she was honored by the Poetry Society of America for her distinguished contribution to poetry.
In “POETRY WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE” (Atria Books; August 15, 2017), poet, novelist, and New York Times bestselling author Jill Bialosky takes a wholly original approach to memoir, refracting her life through the prism of poems that have shaped, inspired, and helped her make sense of the world around her. At once highly personal and marked by keenly observed universal themes, Bialosky’s probing exploration touches on both familiar poetic classics and lesser-known gems that have had special significance.
“Poems are made from the lives lived, borne out of experiences and shaped by solitary thought,” Bialosky writes. “Like a map to an unknown city, a poem might lead you toward an otherwise unreachable experience, but once reached, you recognize it immediately….This memoir is also a form of mythmaking, for experiences are heightened, altered and shaped by the form in which they are told….and the poems I present provide to a certain extent a window into my way of thinking and associating. Such is the mystery and wonder of a poem.”
Bialosky’s lifelong immersion in poetry began in the fourth grade with the discovery of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” An awkward child whose father died before she was old enough to remember him, Bialosky finds that the poem speaks to her of an alternative life where her father had lived and her mother was happy and offered her a way to think about her own path she might forge. As her life progresses from girlhood to adolescence to adulthood and motherhood, poems bear witness to her experiences, large and small, to the ways in which we live in the world and to our shared humanity. Emily Dickinson provides insight into questions of faith, Sylvia Plath illuminates the mysterious pull of depression, Louise Gluck on envy, James Wright and Keats on first love. Poems offer signposts for the significant moments in a life—sexual awakening, leaving home, the loss of a parent and the deaths of a child, the joys of motherhood, a sister’s suicide, a mother’s aging, the day in New York City when the Twin Towers fell.
Bialosky frames each poem with its Life and Afterlife—chronicling how the poem spoke to her at a formative time and also how its meanings and implications have deepened for her over time. As an acclaimed poet and editor herself, Bialosky moves beyond the personal to investigate the essence of what makes these poems more widely significant, explicating the art of poetry for readers who will surely find their own connections to these poems—and to others and in doing so demystifies poetry and makes a compelling argument for its necessity in our lives.
With equal parts candor, empathy, and passion, Jill Bialosky shows how intricately tied poetry is to our own experiences and, at the same time, offers a celebration of the power of an enduring art form. “POETRY WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE” is a singularly moving and illuminating work from “a fearless and clear-eyed and compassionate writer” (George Howe Colt, author of November of the Soul).
Author, teacher, coach, and speaker, Laura Robb has completed more than 43 years of teaching in grades 4-8. She presently coaches teachers in grades K to 8 in Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Robb always works with those students who need the most support from teachers.
Laura Robb has written more than 25 books for teachers. In 2016, two new books were published: The Reading Intervention Toolkit, by Shell Education in April 2016 and Read Talk Write: 35 Lessons That Teach Students to Analyze Fiction and Nonfiction, published by Corwin Literacy in October 2016. Corwin Literacy also published Robb’s Vocabulary Is Comprehension: Getting to the Root of Complex Texts was available in September 2014.
Her newest for Heinemann is a First-Hand Curriculum: Smart Writing: Practical Units For Teaching Middle School Writers and a book, and a professional book, Teaching Middle School Writers: What Every English Teacher Needs to Know.
For Scholastic, Robb has completed several bestsellers including the second edition of Teaching Reading in Middle School, Differentiating Reading Instruction, Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science, and Math, and her newest, Unlocking Complex Texts; the book provides teachers with detailed reading and writing about reading lessons. Robb has designed classroom libraries for Scholastic for grades 3 to 9. She developed, with Jeff Wilhelm, XBOOKS for middle school readers: nonfiction print texts with an online curriculum organized by themes such as forensics, tyrants, war, medicine, and strange.
Robb is a keynote and featured speaker at conferences and leads workshops all over the country and in Canada. She writes articles for education journals.
She is a regular contributor to www.therobbreviewblog.com and has a series of podcasts with her son, middle school principal, Evan Robb on https://therobbreviewpodcast.podbean.com.
Liz Rosenberg is the author of five books of poems, six best-selling novels, and more than 30 award winning books for young people of all ages. She has won an IRA Choice Award, The Patterson Prize, and served on the National Book Award committee for Young People’s Literature, and for more than 20 years wrote a book review column in the Boston Globe.
She teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Binghamton, where she won a Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Her newest books are HOUSE OF DREAMS: A Biography of L. M. Montgomery (Candlewick Press) and INDIGO HILL, a novel (Lake Union Books).
Alfred W. Tatum
Alfred W. Tatum is the Dean of the College of Education at University of Illinois at Chicago and the director of the UIC Reading Clinic. Tatum’s research focuses on the literacy development of African American males, particularly the roles of texts and writing to advance their literacy development. He is interested in how texts can be used as tools to preserve one’s humanity.
He is the author of Reading For Their Life: (Re) building the Textual Lineages of African American Adolescent Males, and Fearless Voices: Engaging the Next Generation of African American Male Writers as well as the the NCTE James N. Britton Award–winning Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement Gap.