April 12, 2010 by elliottzetta
I didn’t wake up with a migraine today, but I am a little under the weather…I’m not used to talking much—are all writers like that? I’m used to spending most of my time alone, in my head, though I love hanging out with friends. Trouble is, I usually need time to “recover” from my limited social outings, and this weekend I had to be “on” all the time. But it was *so* worth it! I remember my sister once suggested that I join a runners group, and I replied, “Why would I do that? I don’t even like people.” But that wasn’t exactly true—I just don’t function well when I’m outside of my head for too long. Living out loud, I mean. I do better with a LOT of silence in my life! and I probably write b/c it allows me to be silent yet still have a voice—that’s what I do with this blog, right? But sometimes it’s worth it to venture out into the world, and this past weekend was a prime example of that. The Empire State Book Festival was a lot of fun—I wasn’t too freaked out, my fellow panelists were really interesting, and the audience was warm and receptive. I got home last night and found an invitation to the Hudson Children’s Book Festival from a teacher who attended our panel in Albany. I also found this message in my Facebook inbox:
i was at the book festival yesterday and just wanted to send a note to tell you how much i enjoyed your reading.
i work in a bookstore in saratoga springs, ny and though we don’t have a very diverse population, it is slowly changing. i find it difficult to recommend books to young readers in general, but more challenging to recommend books to young readers of color.
i look forward to reading your book, so my excitement shows through my recommendation!
When you speak out, you never know who’s going to hear your words. And when you listen, you never know what you might learn. As Joseph Bruchac pointed out, Abenaki wisdom reminds us that people have two ears and only one mouth, so they should listen more than they talk…Mr. Bruchac gave a very polished, compelling talk about his historical fiction novels; he started the panel and I went last but made sure I started my 7-minute talk by telling the audience about my “magical” experience of reading March Toward the Thunder
and then passing the 69th Regiment Armory. Lyn Miller-Lachmann and Julie Cummins were also great, and Ryan Smithson didn’t read
from his book at first, but when an audience member loaned him her copy, he read a moving account of his first visit to Ground Zero. I was struck by his emotion, and the heartache he still feels when he recalls that moment (which preceded his enlistment in the military). March Toward the Thunder
is also about teenage boys who go to war, and while reading I found myself tearing up a few times when the soldiers put down their guns and instead showed compassion for one another. In a strange way, I realized that it’s actually the tenderness in
men that sometimes draws them to war…not (just) aggression or a desire to dominate/destroy—it’s not a real-life video game for many of these young men. It’s a desire to protect something precious and beautiful…Ryan’s book is coming out in paperback soon: Ghosts of War
After our panel ended, we went to the “meet and greet” in the bookstore and met some wonderful parents and educators…I met Bobbi Katz
and she shared some of her *many* books with me; we
discussed poetry and writing nonfiction…I met Joel Friedman and had a great conversation about the South and what it means to leave NYC. Mr. Friedman is the Deputy Director of NYLA
(New York Library Association) and he should be proud of this inaugural book festival. I’m really glad I went—I even met a fellow blogger, Sarah Rettger (Archimedes Forgets
) who directed me to WORD
, a bookstore in Brooklyn managed by Laurie Halse Anderson’s daughter, Stephanie
…part of me would love to hide at home all day today, but I must venture back out. It’ll be worth it, I’m sure—who wouldn’t want to talk to educators about books?