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Annual Convention Speakers

The 2014 NCTE Annual Convention features a multitude of amazing authors, educators, and presenters. These speakers include:



Sonia Nazario

Sonia NazarioSonia Nazario has spent more than 20 years reporting and writing about large social issues in the United States, including hunger, drug addiction, and immigration.

“Enrique’s Journey,” Nazario’s story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the United States, won more than a dozen awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, the George Polk Award for International Reporting, the Grand Prize of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Guillermo Martínez-Márquez Award for Overall Excellence.
Expanded into a book, Enrique’s Journey became a national bestseller and won three book awards. A young adult version, published in 2014, has broadened the book’s use to middle schools.
In 1998, Nazario was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for a series on children of drug addicted parents. She won a George Polk Award for Local Reporting in 1994 for a series about hunger among school children in California.

Nazario will be speaking at the Thursday General Session.


Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright EdelmanMarian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life.

A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman was the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. She has received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include: Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change;  The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, I'm Your Child, God:  Prayers for Our Children; I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children; and The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.

Edelman is married to Peter Edelman, a Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. They have three sons and four grandchildren.

Edelman will be speaking at the Friday General Session.


Friday General Session Panel

Rudine Sims BishopIn addition to Marian Wright Edelman's presentation, the Friday General Session kicks off the Convention with a provocative panel discussion among leading authors about an immediate and enduring controversy: the need for more diverse characters and topics in children’s and YA literature.

Reshaping the Landscape of Story: Creating Space for Missing and Marginalized Voices
Rudine Sims Bishop (Chair)
Christopher Myers, Matt de la Peña, Mitali Perkins, and Rukhsana Khan

Each of these panelists has taken leadership as authors and/or illustrators in speaking out about the underrepresentation of people of color in books for children and young adults. The heart of the panel will be the importance of literature as mirrors and windows, as well as its importance as maps of imagination in the lives of children. The panel discussion will explore the continual decline in people of color in books and why that matters, and will suggest steps for action and ways we can each assume responsibility for change.

Christopher MyersMatt de la Peña photo by Caroline SunMitali PerkinsRukhsana Khan
Christopher MyersMatt de la PeñaMitali Perkins Rukhsana Khan

Carmen Agra Deedy

Carmen Agra Deedy is perhaps best known for her children’s books, including The Library Dragon, the ALA’s Pura Belpré Honor Book, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, and New York Times Bestseller, 14 Cows for America. While she is an award-winning author and storyteller, Deedy is also an accomplished lecturer, having been a guest speaker for the TED Conference, the Library of Congress, and Columbia University, among other notable venues. She is also the host of the three-time Emmy Award-winning children’s program Love That Book!

Most important, Deedy spends much of the year traveling across North America and the Caribbean performing for children. They remain, unapologetically, her favorite audiences.

Deedy will be speaking at the Elementary Section Get-Together on Thursday.


T. A. Barron

T. A. BarronT. A. Barron grew up in Colorado ranch country and traveled widely as a Rhodes Scholar. He is the winner of the 2011 de Grummond Medallion for “lifetime contribution to the field of children’s and young adult literature” and many other awards.

Barron is the author of more than 25 highly acclaimed books, many of which are international bestsellers. They include The Lost Years of Merlin (now being developed into a feature film), The Great Tree of Avalon (the first book in the New York Times bestselling series), The Ancient One (the tale of a brave girl and a magical tree), and The Hero’s Trail (nonfiction stories of courageous kids).

Though he’d dreamed as a young man of becoming a writer, Barron couldn’t find anyone to publish his first novel. He joined a business, eventually became president, then decided to try again. So in 1990, he surprised his business partners by moving back to Colorado to become a writer and conservationist.

In 2000, he founded a national award to honor outstanding young people who help their communities or the environment: the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, which honors 25 highly diverse, public-spirited kids each year. He recently produced a documentary film, Dream Big, profiling seven winners of the Barron Prize.

When not writing or speaking, Barron serves on many boards, including those of Princeton University, where he helped to create the Princeton Environmental Institute, and The Wilderness Society, which recently honored him with its highest award for conservation work. His favorite pastimes are hiking, camping, and skiing in Colorado with his family.

Barron will be speaking at the Middle Level Section Get-Together on Thursday. 


Jim Burke

Jim BurkeJim Burke teaches English at Burlingame High School in California, where he has worked since 1992. He is the author of more than 20 books, including The Common Core Companion series and The English Teacher’s Companion. He is currently working with Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein on a high school edition of They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing for W. W. Norton.

He has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Award from the California Association of Teachers of English, Exemplary Leader Award from the Conference on English Leadership, Best Social Network for Educators as moderator of the English Companion Ning, and the Intellectual Freedom Award from NCTE. He currently serves on various committees at PARCC, the Advanced Placement program, and the College Board 6–12 English Language Arts Advisory Committee.

Burke lives in San Francisco with his wife, three children, dog, and two tortoises.

Burke will be speaking at the Secondary Section Get-Together on Thursday and at the Conference on English Leadership Post-Convention Workshop Luncheon on Monday.


Joseph Bruchac

Joseph BruchacJoseph Bruchac is a writer and traditional storyteller whose work often reflects his American Indian (Abenaki) ancestry and the Adirondack Region of northern New York, where he lives in the house in which his grandparents raised him. He holds a BA in English from Cornell University, an MA in literature and creative writing from Syracuse University, and a PhD in comparative literature from the Union Institute of Ohio.

Founder and executive director of the Greenfield Review Literary Center and the Greenfield Review Press, Bruchac draws on his Abenaki Indian ancestry for much of his writing. A martial arts expert, he holds a 5th-degree black belt and Master’s rank in Pentjak-silat and a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. He and his two grown sons, James and Jesse, who are also storytellers and writers, work together on projects involving the preservation of Native culture, Native language renewal, the teaching of traditional Native skills, and environmental education. He is the author of more than 120 books in several genres for young readers and adults, and his experiences also include running a college program in a maximum security prison and teaching in West Africa.

Bruchac’s newest books include a picture book coauthored with his son James, Rabbit’s Snow Dance; a bilingual collection of poems in English and Abenaki co-authored with his younger son Jesse, Nisnol Siboal / Two Rivers; and the young adult post-apocalyptic novel Killer of Enemies, winner of the 2014 Native American Librarians Association’s American Indian Youth Literature Award.

Bruchac will be speaking at the Middle Level Section Luncheon on Friday. To purchase tickets for this event, see the convention registration form.


Matt de la Peña

Matt de la Peña -- photo, Caroline SunMatt de la Peña is the author of five critically acclaimed young adult novels: Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, I Will Save You, and The Living. He’s also the author of the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (illustrated by Kadir Nelson).

His debut novel, Ball Don’t Lie, was made into a major motion picture of the same name starring Ludacris, Nick Cannon, Emilie de Ravin, Grayson Boucher, and Rosanna Arquette. In 2013 de la Peña wrote a book in Scholastic’s popular Infinity Ring series called Curse of the Ancients. He has also published short fiction and essays in various newspapers, literary journals, and websites, including The New York Times,, Pacific Review, One Teen Story, The Vincent Brothers Review, Chiricú, George Mason Review, and Allegheny Literary Review.

De la Peña received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches creative writing at NYU and Vermont College and visits high schools and colleges all over the country.

De la Peña will be speaking at the Conference on English Education Luncheon on Friday. To purchase tickets for this event, see the convention registration form.


Doug Hesse

Doug HesseDoug Hesse is founding executive director of writing and professor of English at the University of Denver, where he has been named Distinguished Scholar. He is also the current Vice President of NCTE.

Hesse is author of some 60 essays and chapters, in journals ranging from CCC and College English to English Journal and JAC, and coauthor of four books, including Creating Nonfiction with Becky Bradway. His scholarship focuses on creative nonfiction, narrative and rhetoric, pedagogy, program administration, and professional issues in writing, composition, and English studies.

He has made more than 100 conference presentations, over 30 of them as keynote or plenary speaker. Past national leadership roles include serving as chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, president of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, chair of the MLA Division on Teaching, member of the MLA Committee on Contingent Labor in the Profession, and associate director of the WPA Consultant Evaluator Service.

Before coming to Denver, Hesse spent 20 years at Illinois State University, where he directed the writing program, the graduate program in English, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, and the University Honors Program. His PhD is from the University of Iowa.

Hesse also sings with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

Hesse will be speaking at the College Celebration on Friday on "Writing as Exploration and Seduction, Even in Stolidly Practical Times." He will also be speaking on “Who Gets to Write the Ending? Values and Affiliation in an Age of Contested Expertise” at the Affiliate Roundtable Breakfast on Sunday. To purchase tickets for the breakfast, see the convention registration form.


Andrew Smith

Andrew SmithAndrew Smith knew ever since his days as editor of his high school newspaper that he wanted to be a writer. He is the award-winning author of several young adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger (starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness; an Amazon “Best of the Year”; and an ALA Top 10 for 2014) and The Marbury Lens (YALSA BFYA and “Best of the Year” in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist).

His seventh novel, Grasshopper Jungle, won the 2014 Boston Globe–Horn Book Fiction Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature and received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness.

Smith lives in Southern California.

Smith will be speaking at the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN) Breakfast on Saturday. To purchase tickets for this event, see the convention registration form.


Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline WoodsonJacqueline Woodson is the author of more than 30 young adult, middle grade, and picture books, including Each Kindness, Beneath the Meth Moon, Feathers, and Miracle’s Boys, the last of which was adapted into a miniseries directed by Spike Lee.

Woodson is a three-time Newbery Honor winner, a two-time National Book Award finalist, and winner of a Coretta Scott King Award, three Coretta Scott King Honors, and a Caldecott Honor as well. She’s also the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young adult literature, and the winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Each Kindness. In 2013 she was the United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

Woodson lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Woodson will be speaking at the Books for Children Luncheon on Saturday. To purchase tickets for this event, see the convention registration form.


Cory Doctorow

Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow is a science fiction novelist, blogger, and technology activist. He is coeditor of the popular weblog Boing Boing ( and a contributor to The Guardian, The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines, and websites. He was formerly director of European affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (, a nonprofit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards, and treaties. He holds an honorary doctorate in computer science from the Open University (UK), where he is a visiting professor; in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.

He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards and has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and British Science Fiction Awards. His latest young adult novel is Homeland, the bestselling sequel to 2008’s Little Brother. His latest novel for adults is Rapture of the Nerds, written with Charles Stross and published in 2012.

Doctorow co-founded the open source peer-to-peer software company Opencola, which was sold to OpenText Corporation in 2003, and currently serves on the boards and advisory boards of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the Clarion Foundation, the Glenn Gould Foundation, and the Chabot Space & Science Center’s SpaceTime project.

His forthcoming books include In Real Life (a graphic novel), Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free (a nonfiction book about copyright), and a children’s picture book.

Doctorow will be speaking at the Secondary Section Luncheon on Saturday. To purchase tickets for this event, see the convention registration form.


Peter Cook, Kenny Lerner, and Flying Words Project

Flying Words ProjectFlying Words Project is an American Sign Language (ASL) literature poetry troupe comprising deaf poet Peter Cook and his hearing coauthor, Kenny Lerner. The goal of Flying Words is the same as that of all poets—to play with language. ASL is a language of moving pictures, so Cook and Lerner juxtapose imagery you can see in creating their work. The pieces are first written in ASL. When a poem is completed, Cook and Lerner then try to figure out how to voice it—in other words, how to express just enough with words and sounds so that hearing members in the audience can see the images for themselves.

Cook is an internationally renowned deaf performing artist whose works incorporate American Sign Language, pantomime, storytelling, acting, and movement. He lives in Chicago and teaches in the Department of ASL-English Interpretation at Columbia College, where he received the 1997 Excellence in Teaching Award. He loves to tell stories to his son.

Lerner has worked with Cook as part of Flying Words Project since 1984. Lerner received his BA from Beloit College and his MEd in deaf education from the University of Virginia. He teaches “History of Modern America” while tutoring all history and science technology and society courses offered at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

Cook and Lerner will be speaking at the College/CCCC Luncheon on Saturday. To purchase tickets for this event, see the convention registration form.


Jon Klassen

Jon KlassenJon Klassen is the author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back, a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, and This Is Not My Hat, winner of the Caldecott Medal.

He is also the illustrator of House Held Up by Trees, written by Ted Kooser, which was named a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year, and Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett, which won a Caldecott Honor.

Originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Klassen now lives in Los Angeles.

Klassen will be speaking at the Children's Literature Assembly Breakfast on Sunday. To purchase tickets for this event, see the convention registration form.


Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye -- photo, Chehalis HegnerNaomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and American mother. Her adolescent years were spent in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas, and her experiences within different cultures have influenced much of her work.

Nye has received a Lannan Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, and four Pushcart Prizes. Her collection 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her collection Honeybee was awarded the Arab-American Book Award. She has also edited several honored and popular poetry anthologies, including Time You Let Me In, What Have You Lost?, Salting the Ocean, and This Same Sky. She is the author of the novels Habibi and Going Going.

She currently serves on the Board of Chancellors for the Academy of American Poets. She lives with her family in San Antonio, Texas.

Nye will be speaking at the Conference on English Leadership Luncheon on Sunday. To purchase tickets for this event, see the convention registration form.


Ernest Morrell

Ernest MorrellErnest Morrell will deliver his NCTE Presidential Address during the Sunday General Session.

Powerful English Today and Tomorrow: A dream, a request, and a call!

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
—Frederick Douglass

What is the point of teaching English if it does not help our students to be more powerful consumers and producers of language? But we should ask ourselves: powerful for whom, and for what purposes, and in what contexts? In order to answer these questions, I believe we need to consider who our students are and exactly what world they will inhabit, or should I say, the world we hope they will reinvent. Take, for instance, the fact that this fall our entering high school ninth grade class represents children all born in the twenty-first century. The incoming kindergarten class will graduate in 2028. Many of these kids will live and work until the threshold of the 22nd century! And we know that these young people are not only technologically sophisticated, but they are also linguistically, culturally, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse. More so than they have been at any time in our nation’s history. And this is not accounting for the other 95 percent of the planet has, for the most part, joined us on Twitter, Instagram, and Google Chat!

Though we are in flux as a discipline, my dream is that in its bicentennial (2111), NCTE and the discipline of English will be as vital as ever. We will have successfully integrated new technologies of communication, we will have successfully integrated diverse voices into our literary canon, and we will have classrooms in which participatory learning and meaningful projects guide not only our curricula, but also our assessments. There won’t be achievement gaps predictable along lines of race, class, and gender, and teachers will have the resources and autonomy they need to create the classrooms of their dreams.

I could go on (and on!) with my dream, but let me get to my request. As we contemplate these realities and the role and purpose of English, I request that we have the courage to reconsider the disciplinary questions of what to read, what to do when we read, and what we ask students to do once they have read. What forms of student production make the most sense? And how do we decide? I ask that we consider what English education our students need from us, even if it is dramatically different from the English we experienced or the English we’ve become accustomed to provide.

And my call is simply that we act—as individuals, as departments, as schools, as affiliates, and as a national body—to ensure that our English is, for everyone, relevant, humane, liberating, affirming, and enjoyable, and that it allows all of our students to become analytical, creative, and powerful beyond their wildest dreams.

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