Thursday, March 5, 2015

“If you take a bag of leaves to Kinko’s…” (Charlotte S. Huck Festival)

On 2/27-28/15, I had the honor of being one of the author speakers at the 19th annual Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival in Redlands, CA.

This was a triple win for me: I love the chance to speak, see publishing friends, and come to California.

In this case, I got to spend time with two of my best author buds in the biz—Peter Brown (met 2008) and Jenni Holm (met 2010). Got to meet some I’d previously only corresponded with—Avi and editor Allyn Johnston. Got to meet a picture book legend (and a regular in my house when my kids were younger)—Lois Ehlert. 

Lois, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Peter, Jenni, me, Avi

And got to mingle with many other lovely authors, attendees, and volunteers. Special shout-out to Andy, who escorted me to my talks, and Pam, who introduced one of those talks.

Lois (age 80) was a crowd-pleaser. She stood for an entire hourlong keynote and,
alongside her editor/co-presenter Allyn, served up one zinger after another while explaining her process in creating children’s books, many of which focus on nature.

A one-liner the authors at my table particularly liked involved Kinko’s. First she charmingly explained what it is in case anyone in the audience had not heard of the national copy chain. Then she said she keeps them in business. Then she said “If you take a bag of leaves to Kinko’s, you have to go early.” (Translation: fewer stares to avoid.)

 Avi, Peter, musician Emily Arrow (see below)

Allyn and Lois

Earlier that week, I spoke at two impressive schools, Kimberly Elementary in Redlands and Cajon High School in San Bernadino. The staff at both were so committed to doing as much as possible for their students, and the students were thoughtful and funny.

world cultures on display at Kimberly Elementary, Redlands, CA

At the festival, singer/songwriter Emily Arrow performed songs she wrote about Peter’s The Curious Garden and Lois’s Snowballs and got the crowd involved. She gives off an Ingrid Michaelson/Joni Mitchell vibe (which I hope she will take as a compliment) and I have a feeling she’ll soon be a fixture at kids’ book conferences.

During author Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s moving talk, I caught a glimpse of a book whose title inspired the title of my upcoming WWII picture book. Can you spot it? 

Probably not—the photo is blurry. The blue-spined book with yellow type is called Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

I received humbling feedback on my talk, including this:

And a young man named Gino was so moved by Bill Finger’s story that he whipped up this drawing, leaving a blank at the bottom and asking me to fill in a name:

While still at the 19th, I was invited back to the 21st festival. Of course I said yes.

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