Since I posted about the Virginia Festival of the Book last week, I felt I should tell you all about it. I forgot to bring the camera, and I still haven't figured out how to get pictures off my phone, so if you need pictures, you'll have to visit the festival website and see the official ones.
Friday evening Sarah and I went to Sweet Reads, the dessert reception to honor Ashley Bryan and meet all the children's authors participating in the festival. Fran Slayton and her friends at the Charlottesville Catholic School did an incredible job coordinating the event.
I bought a couple of books, chatted with some librarians from other branches in our system, and caught up with a few SCBWI folks. Ellen Braaf, our SCBWI Regional Advisor, made the trip from northern Virginia. We always enjoy seeing her. I talked with local authors Kathy May, Kathryn Erskine, Anne Marie Pace, and Fran. Several of the Slushies have taken Kathy May's class on writing for children, and she always is so encouraging, even though it's been awhile since I was her student. Sarah and I are super excited for Kathy Erskine, because she's going to be on the faculty at Chautauqua this summer. How cool is that?
The focus of the evening was the presentation for Ashley Bryan. Fran listed a few of his many accomplishments in children's literature, and Nikki Giovanni and Kekla Magoon, who both know him well, spoke about him. Then Mr. Bryan rolled up his sleeves and did what he does best--poetry. He did a recitation where he walked among the children on the floor, and then had them repeat back his lines. His warmth and humor were wonderful.
Afterward, people had an opportunity to meet all the authors. With 29 of them there, there weren't even long lines to get books signed. I had a special request to ask Jacqueline Kelly to sign several copies of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate for me, and she generously agreed.
Saturday morning, Sarah and I met our friend and blog follower Kristi, who had come in with her husband from Richmond for the day. After a few minutes catching up over coffee, we went to our separate panels. Sarah and I went to the one on picture books, featuring Jacqueline Jules, Kim Norman, Susan Stockdale, and Charlottesville's own Anne Marie Pace. Each of them talked a bit about how their books came to be.
Sarah and I walked to the next panel with Kristi, Adam, and Ellen Braaf. We had a beautiful sunny day to stroll over to the Village School, where five YA authors read from their books. The panel featured John Connolly, Jacqueline Kelly, Valerie Patterson, Tammar Stein, and Steve Watkins. Each of their books was very different, and not a vampire or werewolf in sight!
Sarah had to leave right after that. I had lunch with Kristi and Adam, and then we went to the second half of the first pages critique panel featuring the Mosely Writers. We all felt their critiques were kinder and gentler than those we've seen at other conferences. I realized that those panels are usually editors and agents. I think the difference is that a writer has been on the other side of that very public critique, and an editor's job is to really push to get the best work out of someone.
By the time that panel ended, I was ready to go home. I visited with a few folks in the lobby of the Omni before I left. All in all, a great day at the festival.