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Cooner to speak at prestigious Scottish book festival

Aug. 1, 2014
Jeff Dodge

A Colorado State University education professor and author of teen fiction will speak at the prestigious Edinburgh International Book Festival this month.

Donna CoonerDonna Cooner, director of CSU’s School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation, is author of Skinny, a 2012 novel about an overweight teen girl’s self-image and her inner critical voice. The book, Cooner’s debut novel, was a Colorado Book Award finalist and made the American Library Association’s Best Young Adult Fiction List.

At the Scotland event, which is considered one of the world’s preeminent book festivals, she and two other authors will speak on an Aug. 16 Children’s Programme panel aimed at kids aged 12 to 15.

The discussion will focus on the pressure teens are under to look and behave a certain way, achieve big things, deal with family issues and navigate the politics of friendship and enemies.

Teen stress panel

Cooner will also be speaking on the Aug. 17 panel “You Are Not Alone: First Steps to Coping with Teenage Stress.” She will join two other authors, including an expert on the teenage brain, to discuss how stress can turn into psychosis, and why talking to someone is a vital first step in coping.

The presentations are funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of a project linked to three years of interdisciplinary research taking place at Durham University in northern England. The Durham project is called Hearing the Voice, and it aims to help better understand the phenomenon of hearing a voice no one else hears. The research team includes academics from cognitive neuroscience, English literature, philosophy, theology, psychology and psychiatry.

In addition to the two panels, Cooner will be reading the work of an exiled Somali writer as part of the Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers Series.

Cooner, whosenew book about a teen vlogger called Can’t Look Away is to be released in late August, will also be giving presentations on creative writing at various Scottish schools during her Aug. 15-22 trip.

Complementary work

Cooner’s current research at Colorado State University centers on school/university partnerships central to the preparation of new teachers. She said her contemporary teen fiction is often informed by her work in surrounding school districts and the needs of new teachers. In return, she hopes the schools she works with also benefit from her stories.

“Writing for teens complements my job in training teachers to deal with high-stress issues in the classroom,” she said.  “Sometimes the worst bully children face is the one who lives between their own two ears.”

The trip to Scotland has some additional personal meaning for her. Cooner’s maternal grandmother emigrated from Scotland to the United States when she was 12 years old, but Cooner has never been there.

“This is like a homecoming for me,” she said.

The School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation is in the College of Health and Human Sciences at CSU.