Full of energy at the beginning of the children’s literature summer institute at Simmons, I spent my lunchtime on Friday writing notes on my thoughts about the conference so far. My plan was to continue to write my notes to myself throughout the conference…guess what? Didn’t happen. But at least I can post here the notes that I did write, and if I’m still awake after all that typing, perhaps I’ll try to write about the rest of the weekend.
Notes from the morning of Day One
So here I am at “The Body Electric,” the summer institute for the children’s literature department at Simmons: just finished my budget lunch of yogurt, a corn muffin, and water I brought from home, and I’m sitting here in the student union (or whatever it’s called, this lounge area wasn’t here when I attended Simmons), freezing with cold because I forgot to bring a sweater. It’s only 12:15, and I’ve only been to three hours of the institute so far, four if you count morning coffee time. Grace Lin was the first speaker of the day, and I really enjoyed hearing her speak to an adult audience (when she came to my library last year she did a presentation for young kids and a second presentation for older kids). She talked about her artistic development and how she moved into her Chinese folk art style. I loved hearing her speak about her college year in Rome and how she had a realization that Italian art was not her art.
After Grace Lin came Gene Luen Yang, who spoke with all the character of a practiced, excellent highschool teacher (which he is) and who treated us to lots of humor and high spirits. I can’t wait to read American Born Chinese, one of those books I meant to read years ago but never got around to. He talked us through the three separate storylines of American Born Chinese, and his discussion of the Monkey King character brought back vivid memories of reading and re-reading a book my aunt and uncle brought me years ago – I was probably ten or eleven – from a visit they made to China: Monkey Subdues the White-Bone Demon. I loved, loved, loved that book (and yes, it’s in English), most especially the character of Monkey. I also appreciated that a member of the audience asked at the end of Yang’s talk about the difference between “cartoon,” “comic book,” and “graphic novel.” I’d always suspected that the name differences between comic book and graphic novel were primarily due to marketing, and Yang confirmed that. He also said that he calls himself a cartoonist.
On a personal level, I’m feeling old and inexpert. Old because a large number of my fellow attendees are current grad students and young and fresh-faced. At one point I thought I saw one of my former classmates from twelve years ago, then came to the sad realization that this young woman was twelve years too young to be my old friend. And I’m feeling inexpert because there are so many books I haven’t read and there’s so much I don’t know. If only there were twenty four extra hours in the day – if only.
And then there’s the side note of money. I bought waaaay too many books. Aagh. I’m rather ashamed, but also thrilled. I do love my books, and I’m looking forward to getting them signed by the authors and illustrators and then putting those signed books on display in the library.
That’s all from the first part of day one…to be continued with my memories from the rest of the institute…