Francisco X. Stork, a nationally recognized author of serious novels for young adults, will be the keynote speaker February 9 at Saint Leo University during the annual professional development conference of the Florida Council of Teachers of English (FCTE), which will be hosted by the university February 8 and February 9.

Conference sessions and events will be held in the Student Community Center and in Kirk Hall. The campus is located at 33701 County Road 52, St. Leo, 33574, and is four miles east of Interstate 75 (Exit 285).

Those who are not yet members of FCTE but who are interested in hearing Stork and the other speakers may register online at and attend a Friday evening reception. Alternately, people can register onsite at 8 a.m., Saturday, February 9. The cost is $50 for members and $75 for non-members, who will be granted membership for one year with their payments.

Stork will speak at 9 a.m. on Saturday in the Student Community Center.

Stork's books are published by Scholastic Inc. and are enjoyed by middle grade, young adult, and adult readers. His stories feature teen characters from Chicano families (as was Stork's) who are trying to overcome problems that can stymie adults. Sometimes Stork's teen characters are trying to navigate deeply personal issues, such as an autism-like disorder in Marcelo in the Real World; serious depression and other forms of mental illness in The Memory of Light; or the loss of family members in Irises.

But Stork also likes to write stories where the broad social issues of immigration, social and economic class, and violence challenge his characters and may provide a backdrop to other problems. His most recent novel, Disappeared, is set in Juarez, Mexico, and features a young adult woman's search for her best friend, who was kidnapped.

The author has been able to draw on some of his own life experiences in crafting his fiction. He was born in Mexico and moved to Texas in his boyhood. He learned English during his grammar school years and did well in school, despite the prolonged money and housing problems his family endured. He eventually became an attorney who started writing in his spare time. A few years ago he retired from his position as a lawyer with a public housing agency in Massachusetts and spends all his time writing and with his family.

Two other guest speakers will address the conference: Carol Jago, a literacy expert and former president of the National Council of Teachers of English; and Dorina Sackman, now a consultant to schools, and the 2014 Florida Teacher of the Year.

The conference program also includes sessions featuring professional presentations. The theme for the conference is innovation.

Saint Leo University is known for producing well-prepared, highly qualified classroom teachers from the university's College of Education and Social Services. Undergraduate education programs are offered at University Campus and at certain Education Centers in Florida. Saint Leo also offers graduate programs in education including master's degree options and the Doctor of Education in School Leadership.