In my last post I forgot to talk about the professional connections workshop that I attended Friday morning, a fascinating presentation by Adrienne Pruit, special collections archivist at the Free Library of Philadelphia, on “‘The Nightmare of Pedagogues’: Tomi Ungerer’s Subversive Body of Work.” I almost didn’t go to this session (attendees are given a choice of five different professional connections sessions) because I don’t know much about Tomi Ungerer – and the woman who sat next to me for the first part of Friday made me feel like an idiot: “Do you know Tomi Ungerer??? Do you know his work??” Oh dear, I thought, I’m so illiterate – I can’t go to this session. But I did anyway, and I’m glad I did – I learned a lot. Adrienne talked to us about what she and her team of archivists do, what collections they are working on cataloging (the only one I remember besides Ungerer is Virginia Lee Burton’s Life Story), and told us quite a bit about Ungerer.
Then we had our lunch break, and we came back from lunch for the disappointing announcement that Mordecai Gerstein would not be speaking; but, in his stead, Laban Carrick Hill stepped up to the challenge and gave a great talk entitled “Wonder Where Is All My Relations: Negotiating Identity and Self in Children’s Literature.” Hill is author of the fabulous Dave the Potter, illustrated by the amazing Bryan Collier. If you haven’t yet read the book, go buy a copy.
Then came a presentation by Sandra Jordan, Jan Greenberg, and Brian Floca, authors and illustrator of Ballet For Martha: Making Appalachian Spring. I enjoyed hearing about how Jordan and Greenberg write collaboratively; it fascinates me that there are people who can do that, and do that successfully. And then Floca showed us some of the photos and video that he used from the Martha Graham dance company to assist him in creating the gorgeous illustrations for this book. Yet again, another terrific book created by talented people. It’s truly amazing how many of these talented people I got to listen to over those three days; I’m not sure my brain has totally absorbed all that I saw and heard yet.
Then came another professional connections session – this time I chose a presentation by a designer at Charlesbridge Publishing on how she designs picture books. And then >whoosh< back for another speaker, Sara Pennypacker, author of the Clementine series of books. Pennypacker is an engaging and funny speaker who had lots to say about life and kids and literature. I love that she is proud that her character Clementine belongs to a whole, functioning family, and that she based Clementine on her now-grown son’s personality. She pointed out to us that Clementine is a gender-neutral character, something so obvious that I’d missed it.
Next up were the spirited and intelligent pair of Victoria Bond and Tanya Simon, co-authors of Zora and Me. I haven’t yet read this book, but can’t wait to do so; perhaps it will even work as a book group book. And once again we got to peek into the inner workings of an author collaborative team, as Bond and Simon led an incredibly engaging conversation with the audience. I was really, really impressed by these ladies, and am only angry with myself for being too tired/intimidated to talk to them at the speaker’s reception at the end of the day.
But wait – there’s more! Friday was the loooong day of the institute, stretching from morning coffee starting at 8:00 AM through to the final lecture of the day which began at 7:00 PM (and yes, there was also a reception afterwards). Jacqueline Woodson – how do I describe her lecture? Smart, quick, poetic, graceful, inspiring; all of these can apply, and more. I really enjoyed hearing her speak, just as I enjoyed hearing her speak twelve years ago at my first institute, and I only wished that my sister could have been there, too, because Woodson’s poetic sense would have suited Jean, I think. And when I met Woodson at the speaker’s reception, I told her that, and wished that I had bought a book of hers for Jean (but I didn’t…sorry…the wad was already spent, and there is a copy of Stitches coming my sister’s way).
Swaying on my tired feet at the speaker’s reception, dreading the drive home, I waited in long lines to meet Gene Yang, Sara Pennypacker, Brian Floca, and Jacqueline Woodson. At times like those I feel sort of like a vulture, swooping around the authors and illustrators, waiting for them to sign my book. It makes me feel a wee bit dirty and cheap, actually, but of course that didn’t stop me from asking each of them to sign some books. And I know that it’s a good way for the authors and illustrators to sell books and to spread the word so that even more books are sold – but still. Sometimes I look around the room and see glints of rather revolting autograph lust in the eyes of my fellow fans, and I try awfully hard to not be like them. But then again, I am like them. Alas.
And so ended Friday. I left home at 7:00 AM and returned back home to a worried husband at 10:15 PM (this is why I drove and didn’t take the T, even though the T would have been the socially responsible option). Worn and tired, yet also invigorated, I fell into bed to get some rest before another long day. To be continued in another post on another day…