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The RoundUp

The student news site of Clements High School

The RoundUp

The student news site of Clements High School

The RoundUp

Calling All Book Nerds: Teen Book Con 2024

Vasundhara Jayender
Tahereh Mafi and Melissa Albert converse at the keynote.

The annual Teen Book Con at Alief Taylor High School was held on March 23, and teens from greater Houston were in attendance to celebrate a love for young adult literature. This year’s Teen Book Con was hosted by Valerie Koehler, the owner of the Blue Willow Bookshop. She has been working in this industry as a bookseller for over 27 years.

“We’ve been working with the librarians and this is our 15th time [hosting Teen Book Con],” Koehler said. “We’ve been working with them to bring authors in and connect them with teen readers.” 

I love to share stories, I love to share reading, and I love helping people.

— Valerie Koehler

Her connections within the industry have helped her reach her goals within her work. Koehler says her favorite part of the job is “talking with people about books and getting excited about authors… and books.” Koehler’s passion for books and her dedication to fostering connections within the literary world has been instrumental in her success. Reflecting on her journey, she emphasizes the joy she finds in engaging with others about literature and supporting authors. 

“I’m not a writer, I’m an avid reader and a bookseller,” Koehler said. “I love to share stories, I love to share reading, and I love helping people.”

This love for storytelling and community led her to seize an opportunity to acquire a local bookstore, cementing her role as a beloved fixture in her neighborhood’s literary scene.

“There was an older bookstore in my neighborhood and it was the right time, so I bought it and here I am,” Koehler said.

Over the years, Koehler has gained invaluable experience in the literary industry and built connections with high-profile authors. 

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities throughout the years to meet some wonderful authors,” Koehler said. “Today, I’d like to talk to all of them… A really cool thing [at Teen Book Con] is that it’s concentrated on one day. You can hear 23 authors talk about their books and talk about their life, and we love doing it because I learn something new every time.”

Teens attending the conference had a variety of opportunities to learn something new, from breakout panels to creative booths, and the chance to connect with other, like-minded individuals. 

(from left to right) Axie Oh, Tony Keith Jr., and Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé at a breakout panel. (Vasundhara Jayender)

“I’ve been to the first [break out panel] and I’m waiting for the next one to happen,” eighth grader Jakyrauna Taylor said. “My favorite part was when she told her experience of how she first started writing her books and I actually write a little bit, so it encouraged me to write more.”

Although Teen Book Con and similar events target teens and young people, those of all ages are welcome to attend and feel inspired.

“I’d love to meet Judy Bloom,” volunteer Lynytte Alidon said. “Once, I met – through TeenBookCon – Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas. Today, John Schu. He’s such a nice man.”

Alidon volunteered as one of the booksellers during the event and she has been working at Blue Willow Bookshop for the past seven months. 

“I do enjoy meeting authors who write it and I like events like this because I wish I had events like this when I was a student,” Alidon said. “Then when I was a teacher and librarian, I loved bringing students to events like this because they could meet the authors who actually wrote the books and say ‘Hey, this is the person who wrote this book. I have it in my hands’.”

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About the Contributors
Grace Hu
Grace Hu, Reporter
My name is Grace Hu, and I'm a sophomore. I enjoy creative writing and badminton competitively outside of school. I like reading and cooking in my free time. My goals for this year are to get good grades, score well in my AP classes, and earn at least a gold for my thriller work for Scholastic.
Vasundhara Jayender
I'm VJ and I'm a senior! I love to read and write, and you can almost always find me doing one of those two things while listening to some music. I'm excited to join the Round Up and I look forward to writing lots of articles!

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