Sunday, July 13, 2008


PHOTO CAPTION: Middle Schooler I met in Kerman, Iran. Girls asked their American and UK visitors in English, "Which would be better to study, electrical or mechanical engineering?"

A treat for me at ALA was an opportunity to speak with Greg Mortenson, co-author of Three Cups of Tea, and a mountaineer from Montana who built over fifty schools for women and girls in war torn and earthquake ridden villages of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I had not read his book, but have heard about his development work in this region from others who had met him. His lecture and slide show inspired me and I was thrilled to hear that a YA edition is forthcoming. It will help bring a humanistic view of this part of the world to young people, who are faced with primarily negative images of the Middle East in our mainstream media. Perhaps it will also encourage young readers to make a contribution of this nature to the world. Many schools are helping Greg through Pennies for Peace. /

When I spoke with Greg, I thanked him for sharing with the audience Iran’s positive role in his work in Pakistan. During his talk Greg explained that in order to build schools in northern Pakistan, he needed permission of Iranian clerics, the Supreme Leaders, whom the local Shi’a mullas looked to for guidance. When word finally came, he was invited into the Imam Bara Mosque where he sat among eight members of the Council of Mullahs, who had gathered there to read the dispatch from Qom, Iran. “Dear Compassionate of the Poor,” it began, “our holy Koran tells us all children should receive education, including our daughters and sisters…you have our permission, blessings and prayers.”

So often during the talks I have given on Iran, the setting of my novel Anahita’s Woven Riddle, I am asked if women in Iran are permitted to work, drive cars or go to school. The answer is yes to all of these. Many hold advanced degrees and they work in every sector of society. I have been told that they are better represented in government than women in the U.S. The young women I met in Iran who lived in orphanages, attended middle schools or universities spoke more than one language, many knew two or three.

Thank you, Greg, for your good deeds, good words, good thoughts.
~~Meghan Nuttall Sayres

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More from ALA

Left to right:
Susan Van Metre, editor of ANAHITA'S WOVEN RIDDLE, Meghan Nuttall Sayres, Jason Wells, Director of Marketing, Abrams Books For Young Readers at ALA in Anaheim, CA on Saturday, June 28.

ALA, June 2008

Both Meghan Nuttall Sayres and Kelly Milner Halls attended the American Library Association's annual conference in June of 2008 --in Anaheim, California this year. And what a whirlwind of activity that experience turned out to be.

Meghan signed for her publisher, Harry N. Abrahms/Amulet Books of course. But she also took part in a wonderful opportunity, the YALSA Coffee Klatch, Sunday morning, June 29. A ticketed event, YA librarians gathered at round tables with two empty chairs and enjoyed a "speed dating" experience with award winning authors, including Meghan, John Green, Sherman Alexie, Terry Trueman, A.M. Jenkins, and others. For five minutes, an author and her or his publicist joined a table to talk about writing for young adults. Once five minutes had passed, the whistle sounded, and the authors moved to a new table to repeat the discussion with a new group of fans. Meghan was terrific, of course.

Kelly (on the right in photo above with Crutcher fan, Mary) presented on a PLA (Public Library Association) panel about nonfiction for reluctant readers with photographer Nic Bishop on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm in the convention center. Not a seat was empty and people were standing at the doors as Kelly and Nic shared their passion for nonfiction and the kids that love it. Laughter and tears made it a special event because everyone in the room was there for the love of those kids. Kelly signed books for over an hour at the Lerner booth after her panel.

Why go to ALA? Because librarians are the gatekeepers when it comes to children's literature. We as storytellers work hard to create material worth reading. But the librarians bridge the gap between writers and readers. They work so hard and so selflessly to make themselves aware of the books and authors waiting for discovery, and they offer them up, often one-on-one, to the kids most likely to connect with them.

We owe librarians much more than our thanks. Attending ALA is one way to express our appreciation. Meghan and Kelly were both grateful to have that chance.