Passages of Hope

November 10-13, 2016
Vermont College of Fine Arts
Montpelier, Vermont

In the world of children’s literature an unquestioned belief has long been that art for the young should present a vision of hope.  In 1818 Mrs. Sherwood showed virtue as a bulwark against eternal damnation.  In 1865 Lewis Carroll celebrated the power of youthful imagination to counter the chaos created by adults.  In 1952 E.B. White presented a vision of the cyclical and self-healing natural world. In 1978 Katherine Paterson gave us a child who scraped out her own hope in the face of adult weakness and neglect.

Today, with holes in the ozone and fractures in social institutions and in the very ground under our feet, how can we present hopeful narratives that are both authentic and rigorous?  Where does the obligation to instill hope stand in the twenty-first century?  In this conference you are invited to join writers and illustrators for the young in tackling questions of the nature of hope. Is it synonymous with optimism?  With a happy ending? What is the responsibility of the artist? Does the belief still hold?


Kwame Alexander is a poet, author, public speaker, producer and playwright. He founded Book-in-a Day, creative writing workshops for middle and high schools, and LEAP for Ghana, a literacy program. His books include The Crossover and Booked, both novels-in-verse. His website is bookinaday.org

M. T. Anderson is the author of picture books and fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults including The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation and Feed. His most recent book is Symphony for the City of the Dead. He is a former faculty member of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His website is mt-anderson.com.

Photo by Jennifer Armstrong

Deirdre Baker teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto and is a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star. She is the author of the children’s book Becca at Sea and is co-author of A Guide to Canadian Children’s Books in English.

Alison Bechdel is a cartoonist and graphic memoirist. She created the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In 2006, her graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was published and in 2012, she published Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama. Her website is dykestowatchoutfor.com

Liz Bicknell is Editorial Director and Associate Publisher of Candlewick Press in Somerville, Massachusetts. She has published award-winning books for young children, middle grade readers and teen readers.

Ashley Bryan, artist and writer, has created more than fifty books for children including Beautiful Blackbird and Sail Away. A professor emeritus at Dartmouth College, he was awarded one of their Social Justice Awards in 2016. He is a CLNE Honorary Board Member and received the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award. His forthcoming book is Freedom Over Me. His website is ashleybryancenter.org.

Photo by Tsar Fedorsky

Susan Cooper is the award -winning author of the Dark is Rising novels. Her works also include picture books, nonfiction, and screenplays for television. She was honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for the body of her work. She is a CLNE Honorary Board Member. Her most recent book is the novel Ghost Hawk. Her website is http://www.thelostlnd.com

Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver writer, reviewer, and former librarian. Her books include Odd Man Out, Outside In, and her most recent title, Ben Says Goodbye She is a CLNE board member and a former faculty member of the Vermont College of Fine Arts.  Her website is sarahellis.ca

Nicole Griffin is a CLNE board member and author. Her young adult novel The Whole Stupid Way We Are was published in 2013. She is the author of the Smashie McPerter books. Her website is ngriffin.com

Kathleen T. Horning, a former librarian, is the director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books. In 2010 she delivered the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture for ALA/ALSC and was the 2015 recipient of ALSC’s Distinguished Service Award.

Gregory Maguire is a founding Co-director Emeritus of CLNE and an award-winning novelist of books for children and adults. He was a professor and co-director of The Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College from 1979-1986. He is an honorary board member of The Examined Life. His works include Wicked and Egg & Spoon. His most recent book is After Alice. His website isgregorymaguire.com.

Daryl Mark is a CLNE board member and the former Coordinator of Children’s Services for the Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Marilyn Nelson, poet and teacher, is the award-winning author or translator of over twenty books. Her young adult books include Carver: A Life in Poems and How I Discovered Poetry. She is professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut and the founder of Soul Mountain Retreat, a writer’s colony. She is the former Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut. Her most recent book is My Seneca Village. Her website is marilyn-nelson.com

Martha V. Parravano is executive editor of The Horn Book Magazine and coauthor, with Roger Sutton, of A Family of Readers (Candlewick). She is coauthor of the Horn Book’s Calling Caldecott blog and has served on the 2008 Newbery committee and chaired the 2013 Laura Ingalls Wilder committee.

Katherine Paterson is the author of more than thirty books including Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins. She has twice won both the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award. From 2010-2011, she served as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. She is a CLNE Honorary Board Member. Her newest title is Stories of My Life. Her website is terebithia.com.

  is the award- winning author/ illustrator of more than thirty picture books for children.  His books include Caldecott Medal Award winners Hello, Goodbye Window and A Ball for Daisy.  His latest book is Home at Last, a collaboration with Vera B. Williams.

Pamela Muñoz Ryan has written over forty books for young people, and is the recipient of many awards. Her novels include Esperanza RisingThe Dreamer, and Echo, her most recent book. Her website is pammunozryan.com.

Barbara Scotto is Co-director and Treasurer of CLNE and CLNE/Examined Life Liaison. She is the course facilitator for The Examined Life: Greek Studies in the Schools and has served on various notable and award committees for ALSC/ALA.


Steve Sheinkin is the award-winning author of histories for children and young adults. His books include The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, and Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. His most recent book is Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. His website is stevesheinkin.com.


Rebecca Stead is a former public defender who always loved reading and writing stories. She is the award-winning author of four novels for children, including When You Reach Me and Liar & Spy. Her most recent book is Goodbye Stranger. Her website is rebeccasteadbooks.com.


Suzanne Fisher Staples, a former UPI news correspondent in India and Pakistan, is the author of novels for young adults including Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, Haveli and Shiva’s Fire. She is the program director of The Gathering, a weekend conference held at Keystone College in Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a CLNE board member. Her website is suzannefisherstaples.com.


Deborah Taylor is the Coordinator of School and Student Services for the Enoch Pratt Free Library. She is a book reviewer for several publications and serves on the Advisory Board of CLNE. She is the 2015 recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Martha Walke is Co-director and Registrar of CLNE. She is a retired teacher and school librarian. She is an avid sheepdog handler.