This part of the country is quickly becoming a literary hub in the United States. There is already a very long list of authors, poets, and illustrators who live here. Then Suzan-Lori Parks moved here a few months ago.
And the latest news?
See, I told you this is the best place in the world.
For those of you lucky enough to live here – I know what you want to do on Saturday. You want to participate in the 10th annual Paige’s Butterfly Run. This run is held in the memory of Paige Yeomans Arnold, a strong, gentle, beautiful child who died of leukemia in 1994. The Run raises money for cancer research, to support families who have a child fighting cancer, and for a scholarship in Paige’s honor.
You can participate in a certified 5K run, or (if you are out of shape like me) you can enjoy the 3K fun run/walk. BH and I will both be there. I’ll probably be bringing up the rear. You have to register by tomorrow, though, so hurry!
Paige’s mother, Ellen Yeomans, is a dear friend of mine. Not only is she a terrific author, but she is the area’s SCBWI regional adviser, and she teaches courses in children’s literature. She is one of the movers and shakers who are defining the area as a literary hub.
So yeah, by the end of the dinner where I met (brace yourself, more sqweeing ahead) KATHERINE PATERSON, I was whooped. There were a couple of other parties to go to, but I had to speak early Friday morning, so I was a good girl and went to bed.
Woke up at an obscenely early hour on Friday and dressed with fear and trepidation. This was the day I had been dreading since December. I put on my magic bracelets and grabbed my speech.
See, I had been invited by the kind people at the Children’s Booksellers and Publishers Committee to be one of the speakers at the opening Children’s Breakfast. This was a huge honor and a big challenge. Would you want to speak to 850 tired, hungry, undercaffinated booksellers at the crack of dawn? Well, yes, if you’re an author, of course you would. But what if they put you in the line-up with Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and Marc Brown?
It helped that I was able to meet “the boys” before the event started. They were all very, very kind, and they signed all of the books that I had lugged with me. We trooped backstage and made our way to the breakfast (shades of that scene from Spinal Tap where the band gets lost behind the stage in Cleveland). The next few hours passed in a blur. I remember being on stage. I remember making the decision to skip page 3 of my speech (sure hope that worked out.)
But the best part was being able to share with booksellers the feedback that I get from my readers (some of it filters in here on the LJ). I told them that you guys love great books. I told them that books make a positive difference in your lives…. that is the interesting books; the ones you like and you actually read. Yes, I said that teaching the classics in high school is turning kids off to books. I imagine I will be yelled at for that, but so what? It’s the truth.
And then it was over. I had a meeting with my agent, and not nearly enough time to walk the convention floor before I had to catch a cab to the airport and then the plane home. And who did I wind up sitting next to on the plane? That’s right, the Ambassador to El Salvador. Turns out he knew my mother-in-law in Pulaski. Small world, eh?
Today I am writing with the music cranked loud. I also have to get to the email I just unearthed in my Junk mailbox. Spammers are evil.
(Pardon the crumbs, but I am inhaling a sandwich as I type this.)
From the glorious (and rather flat) state of Indiana, I flew into Washington, DC. Got in so early that my hotel room wasn’t ready, which was fine with me because I needed a belt and (gasp!) stockings. Our hotel was at 23rd and M, which meant that Georgetown was a short walk away, so off I went.
(Nostalgia interlude: I graduated from Georgetown University, so the area was very familiar…but not. They have turned M Street into an upscale mall complete with Pottery Barn and overpriced EVERYTHING. Ack. I could only find one old stomping ground (i.e. bar): Mr. Smith’s. Oh, Georgetown, what hath they done to thee? End of interlude.)
I finally stumbled into Urban Outfitters and then had to start muttering “belt, belt, belt, you can only buy a belt” under my breath because I wanted to buy much, much more. Bracelets, in particular, were calling my name. In fact, several of them had leapt onto my wrist when I looked up and saw Sarah Dessen, aka writergrl. That was a blast. We caught up with each other (hadn’t seen each other since TLA in Austin the year before), and coordinated our dinner outfits.
OK – “coordinated our dinner outfits” is a phrase I never, ever thought I would type, unless someone was holding a gun to my head. This is the Power of Sarah – she makes females like me (i.e. rowdy tom-boy types) coordinate. And, heaven help me, I liked it. Amazing. (Here is Sarah’s BEA entry).
I did buy a belt. I also bought a pair of kick-butt studded leather bracelets which sdn said reminded her of Wonder Woman. This thrilled me because I had a life-size poster of Wonder Woman on my closet door when I was a kid. Which completely explains why I adore Xena so.
Then I had to buy stockings, because I had to go to an auction and a dinner and I had to wear (sigh) a dress.
The silent auction was a fundraiser for the Association of Booksellers for Children, one the coolest groups on the planet. It was wicked, wicked crowded and LOUD, but I ran into all kinds of friends and made some new ones. (See photos.) ABC sponsored the dinners, too, where I was fortunate to be seated between two of my favorite booksellers in the country, Jewel Stoddard and Elizabeth Bluemle (who is also an author!). Jerry Pinckney and Eoin Colfer both spoke, but the highlight of the night for me was being present for the awards given to Anne Irish and Katherine Paterson (she won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award).
But it got better.
Elizabeth was gracious enough to introduce me to Katherine Paterson. Katerine Paterson touched my hand. She smiled at me. She was the definition of graciousness. She had never heard of me, of course, but it didn’t matter. IT WAS KATHERINE PATERSON. SQWEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!
Honest, I did not make that noise in front of her. But I was making it in my head. I GOT TO TOUCH HER HAND!!!
::composes self:: Enough fangrlling.
I hate having my picture taken. Loathe it. Would rather have root canal. It brings up lots of old body image stuff for me and makes me feel like there is a colony of ants crawling under my skin.
And now I have this career where I travel a lot and many kind readers want to have their picture taken with me. When I get to meet my favorite authors, I like to have my picture taken with them, too, so I understand the impulse and I honor it. In fact, when I have my picture taken at booksignings and schools, I usually get goofy and act like a big ham. This is how I cover up my terror and discomfort.
Recently, readers have started pointing out that I no longer resemble my jacket photo, taken in 1999. And the goddesses in the publicity department have been grumbling, too. So I did a lot of research and found a photographer that maybe, just maybe, could take a picture of me that I could live with.
Last week BH and I traveled to Maine, to the studio of Joyce Tenneson, the photographer. Joyce and her assistant Raquel were the kindest souls imaginable. I was terrified, but they performed magic. We shot outside her studio, on a hill that overlooked a cove on the Maine coast. Joyce was able to make the sun shine on command and conjured the wind to blow a couple times. She sent us home with lots of shots to choose from.