It's Saturday night, and I have spent the entire day writing and revising material for the Conference Preview. It is February 13, 2010, and this conference is scheduled for 13 months from now, but we advertise the upcoming conference at the current conference. That means the materials have to be done earlier than you might expect; they have to be sent to printing in time to be ready to distribute at the conference the year prior. My deadline for materials to be done and sent to printing is four days from now.
What's making it so difficult to meet these deadlines? Well, work, for one. I have a very demanding job, as most educators do, and it takes a lot of time. Another problem - and one that I hadn't anticipated - is that many authors and other featured speakers will not commit to a booking more than a year away from the event. Of course as you just read, we need to have them lined up earlier than that. And that conference preview is a great marketing tool for us, so it is best to have all of the big names in it. I've checked out the conference previews for the past three years, and they all have around 30 people's pictures and biographies in them: so far I have 15. I'm not overly worried about it: we can still get great people to come after the printing deadline, and add them to the Preliminary Program, and I can tell you all about them in this blog. But it would make me feel a little odd to be the one Vice President who had to go to a four page conference preview instead of an eight-pager!
Speakers Outside the Box
One of the practices we like to follow at IRC is to not discuss the next year's conference until the current year's conference is over. That way people won't get confused (and possibly let down) about when which speakers will be attending. By the time anyone discovers this blog and starts to read it, though, the 2010 conference will most likely be over, so I can go ahead and let you know right now about a few of the exciting speakers we will have scheduled for 2011. Should I tell you about them all right away? Nah. I won't. But I will tell you about one in particular tonight because I have discovered even more about him myself today and am even more excited that he will be joining us. His name is T.A. Barron, and he hails from Colorado. He writes mostly fantasy books for young adults - he has a series on Merlin and a trilogy on The Great Tree of Avalon. He says he has written most of life, but didn't get serious about trying to do it for a living until he was already the president of a company. He had a sort of epiphany one day and walked out of a board meeting to go be a writer. Cool, huh!
This year he is going to be a featured speaker at the International Reading Association's annual conference in Chicago at the end of April, and I am going to do my best to get to meet him and chat with him. But I already know what sets him apart from others and why he represents someone who is 'outside the box' on his own terms: he believes there is a hero in all of us, and that includes every kid. That feeling of the potential for heroism permeates his work. On top of that, he has created an award in honor of his mother, who was his hero. Every year, he gives out ten awards, the Barron Prize for Young Heroes, to young people who demonstrate heroic leadership in service projects. You can watch a short video in which T.A. and one of the recipients are interviewed here. I am looking forward to having someone with such a positive outlook about today's youth join us in 2011.