Two weekends ago I helped host Ruth Spiro at the Champaign Barnes and Noble. Ruth is the author of Baby Loves Quarks and Baby Loves Astrophysics. These board books are so clever that I want to give them to every baby I know! They address these daunting topics on such a simple level that you can hear adults around the world sighing, “ah! this is just the right level for ME, never mind my baby!” She does such a great job
demystifying and simplifying these scary/intimidating topics that I’m thrilled there are more coming in the series. Keep your eye out for Ruth Spiro, she is an author to watch!!
Ruth also arranged for the world’s most adorable cookies, decorated based on the illustrations of the books. They added such a fun, festive touch to the event that I keep thinking back to them! The colors! The yumminess! The fun shapes!! And then this past weekend I went to the Youth Literature Festival sponsored by the University of Illinois College of Education and University Library. I went to three talks, one by Sharon Flake, one by Greg Neri, and one by Sarah Aronson. Sharon Flake talked about facing your fears, whether to do with writing or other pursuits, and the power of 1)articulating those fears and then 2) articulating your desires/goals. I went to her talk because I’m a fan and also because I’d never seen this topic offered at a conference before. I was not disappointed. Sharon is a wonderful public speaker and her sharing her own insecurities and listening to ours was a powerful and energizing way to start the day for me. I did not know Greg Neri before I went to his talk but I was interested because he had written a fictionalized account of the friendship between Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Fictional, but based on fact, because those two towering writers were childhood and lifelong friends. Greg was a really engaging speaker and I learned not only about his process, which he compares to finding a chunk of gold on the street that everyone else walks by, but also about some of his other books. For example, Ghetto Cowboy, also fictionalized, was based on black, urban cowboys in north Philadelphia and Brooklyn. I was completely entranced! I bought and read Ghetto Cowboy that afternoon. Really an incredible story, that a group of people in a neighborhood the city has neglected and forgotten created a community around horses as a way to engage kids (and adults) in something bigger than themselves. I highly recommend this book!! Sarah Aronson’s talk was engaging too. It was more about craft and she encouraged the audience to write about what energizes them. She used an experience of her own to walk us through some elements of story structure and she talked about a time when she did nothing but write for six months. She didn’t talk to her agent, she didn’t talk to any editors, she just wrote. The energy in her voice was enough to convey how much she loved this phase and at the end of that time period she’d been wildly productive and had a great time. Sarah’s talk was a nice bookend to Sharon’s talk for me and I left the event (previous commitments) reminded about how I love to spend time in the company of others who are as passionate about writing as I am. Now! Back to my own writing projects!!