Submitted by Jennifer M. from Dayton's Bluff Library
On April 29th I helped at Teen Lit Con at Two Rivers High School in Mendota Heights through Dayton's Bluff Library’s Teens Know Best partnership with Metro State University. This was the first Teen Lit Con I have attended, and it was a lot of fun to see so many teens excited about books and meeting authors.
The organizers describe Teen Lit Con as:
"[A place] where teens and authors collide. Hear authors speak. Take writing and book arts classes, play book related games, learn about MN book creators, get a book signed, discover books you haven’t read yet. New for 2023 coMIXgraphiCON, a mini con within TLC that focuses on comics and graphic novels. There are many ways to experience Teen Lit Con and you choose how to get it done."
I served as an ambassador at two different breakout sessions: “It’s Okay to not be Okay – Mental Health in YA Lit” where I introduced the presenter and “coMIXgraphiCON: Make Your Own Comic Book – Getting Started” where I helped set up and manage the space.
"It’s Okay to not be Okay" was presented by librarian and blogger Amanda MacGregor who talked through mental health struggles and how representation in books has changed over the years. She shared a list of recently published YA books with good mental health representation that she gave permission to share. I appreciated her candor when she talked about mental health, and I would recommend her blog teenlibrariantoolbox.com for more resources. Characters in books can help readers realize they are not alone and give a vocabulary, context, and language to help understand and describe their experiences. For readers who have not experienced mental health difficulties, book characters also help readers develop empathy for others.
"Make Your Own Comic Book" was presented by Saint Paul teaching artist Erin Holt, opens a new window. They walked participants through the history of comic books tracing them back to ancient Japan. Erin also showed participants how to make a folded single-sheet book and how to use that to write a comic.
The 13 authors who were featured this year were:
- Darcie Little Badger - A Snake Fell to Earth
- Kathleen Glasgow – Girl in Pieces
- Kazu Kibuishi (author/illustrator)- Amulet series
- Dustin Thao - You've Reacher Sam
- Bryan Bliss - Thoughts & Prayers
- Shannon Gibney - Dream Country
- Nicole Kronzer - The Roof Over Our Heads
- Sarah Mai (author/illustrator) - Cool Country
- Carrie Mesrobian - The Whitesun Daughters
- Jenna Miller - Out of Character
- Kyle Tran Myhre - Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough
- Brent Schoonover (illustrator) - Captain America: the ghost army
- Jason Walz (author/illustrator)- Last Pick series
This is a really cool event. With so much happening it’s hard to believe that Teen Lit Con is completely volunteer run. I hope to see more Saint Paul Public Library people there next year.
Reading books in which characters are working through struggles can help a reader know they aren't alone and that there are paths forward. Amanda MacGregor, writer for teenlibrarytoolbox.com, offered the following list of books featuring characters living with mental health challenges at Teen Lit Con 2023. She can also be found on Twitter @CiteSomething