You are a middle school teacher.
You signed up for the Kennesaw (GA) State University Children’s Literature Conference.
You are excited for the three author keynotes spread over the course of a day.
You are especially excited for the first keynote—Chris Crutcher.
But only after you get there do you learn you will miss Crutcher.
Because even Chris Crutcher gets sick sometimes.
* * *
I was honored to be asked to deliver one of the other Kennesaw keynotes. The first day of the conference (3/20/13) was aimed at elementary educators, the second at middle and secondary educators. Three keynotes were scheduled per day; mine was on the first day.
The night before, Bryan Gillis, the infinitely thoughtful conference organizer, emailed to ask if I would also be willing to fill in for a keynoter on the second day. While en route, Chris Crutcher (whom I’ve not met) had started to feel unwell and was advised to turn back.
When you’re asked to pinch-hit for a legend in your industry, you do two things:
- Say you’re not worthy.
- Say yes.
The first day, I was the second of the three keynotes. I focused on two fliers—Superman and Nobuo Fujita.
The second day, I was the last of the three keynotes. The topic that time was Batman.
Being the last keynote of the day is typically challenging; people are tired and eager to go.
Being the last keynote of the conference amplifies the challenge.
And being the last keynote of the conference when people were expecting an A-list author is a challenge wrapped up in a Come to Georgia moment.
But with Batman on my side, I took on that challenge with enthusiasm.
And the audience was most gracious. (It helped that Bryan gave me one of the most humbling intros I can recall receiving.)
Plus I got to see my photo inside a waterfall:
Even before my first keynote, Chris was feeling better, which I was relieved to hear. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet him but did get to meet three other authors and spend time getting to know a fourth I already knew.
Thank you to Bryan and his wife Nancy for their tireless efforts, genuine interest, and trusting manner. Thank you to the conference attendees for not running me off the stage—and for expressing considerable support for my work, notably my Fujita project.
And with full respect, thank you to Chris Crutcher for the opportunity you didn’t plan nor want to give me. I’ll sub for you anytime…though I’d rather meet you.