Another signing for Clarion Monday morning, a quick bite to eat with Dinah, and then on to dessert with a group of writers and librarians, where we laughed until our sides ached. The day finished with a dinner given by Clarion for the Newbery committee, my parents, and me. It was held in a private room at the Ritz. I got to change seats with every course so I had a chance to visit with everyone. With the speech behind me, I felt relaxed and so happy to be able to chat with the committee members. It was a perfect evening.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what I wore—believe me, finding the right dress was as difficult as writing the speech! The dress was ice blue, almost silver, spaghetti straps, very straight and simple, with a little beading here and there in two tones of pink, and a matching jacket, also beaded. The ballroom lighting had an interesting effect on the color—I heard some accounts that the dress was pale green and others that it was ivory. I wore the pearls my mother had given me as a wedding present, with a pendant of pink topaz that had been made for the occasion. Although I did a fair bit of agonizing over what to
When I entered the banquet hall, I was taken aback to see two gigantic screens flanking the dais; I had not been warned that each of my pores would be magnified to the size of a quarter. . . Thankfully, I couldn’t see the screens while I spoke. I am pleased to report that dinner was not rubber chicken; it was salmon and filet mignon, and although I was too nervous to eat much, what I did eat was very tasty. Impressive, considering that at least a thousand meals were being served.
Carole Fiore, president of the Association of Library Service for Children, opened the award presentation. Kathleen Odean, chair of this year’s Newbery Award Selection committee, spoke next and presented plaques to Honor winners Polly Horvath (for Everything on a Waffle) and Marilyn Nelson (Carver: A Life in Poems)—both MUST-READS, in my opinion. Then Kathleen introduced me and gave me the Newbery Medal in a beautiful wooden box. (I’m getting goosebumps just typing that. . .) I loved Kathleen’s introductory remarks, and she has graciously given me permission to reprint them here.”
The text of my speech is available in the July/August issue of Horn Book magazine. I’m grateful to all those who spoke to me afterwards, telling me how much they had enjoyed hearing it. Speechwriting and speechgiving are new for me, so the kind comments were greatly appreciated. And yes, it’s true that I presented the Medal to my father. It was, after all, Father’s Day, and I am very grateful that both
Caldecott committee chair Kate McClellan spoke next and presented plaques to Bryan Collier (Martin’s Big Words, text by Doreen Rappaport); Bryan Selznick (The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, text by Barbara Kerley); and Marc Simont (The Stray Dog). Then she gave the Caldecott Medal to David Wiesner, who now has a remarkable collection-two Caldecott Medals (for The Three Pigs this year and for Tuesday in 1992) and two Honors (Sector 7, 2000 and Free Fall, 1989). David’s speech, also available in the July/August Horn Book, gave great insight into his artistic vision and process. He also did the fabulous cover of that issue
—check it out at the Horn Book website and see if you can spot the joke.
A hug after I gave the medal to my dad.
A big smile of relief after finishing the speech.
Proud parents with the Medal.
After the speeches, a long receiving line—another wonderful opportunity to meet librarians from all over the country.
Back to the exhibit hall for my first Clarion signing. As I got near the booth, I passed what I thought was a long conga line . . . it turned out to be people waiting for my signing, good grief! What a treat to meet librarians from all over the country; I loved finding out where they were from and only wish I could have spent more time chatting.
The signing finished at 3:30; back to the hotel for a little rest, then spiffying-up for the Newbery-Caldecott banquet. Gulp.
Breakfast (grits, of course—what did you expect??) with Kimberly Willis Holt, author of the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor title My Louisiana Sky and National Book Award winner When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. Kimberly was one of the very first people I ‘met’ online five years ago, and she has been unfailingly kind and helpful ever since. We had a lovely visit, but drat, I didn’t have a photo taken with her. Hopefully we’ll meet up again soon so I can remedy that.
My first signing in the exhibit hall, for Listening Library. It was fun meeting so many people who love books! The highlight: Meeting the members of the Eva Perry Newbery Club from North Carolina — thirty-five kids on a field trip to ALA, what a terrific idea!
Meanwhile, my family was having fun in Atlanta without me:
Then it was off to a lunch arranged by my agent Ginger Knowlton with authors Susan Campbell Bartoletti (winner of this year’s Sibert nonfiction award for Black Potatoes), Nancy Werlin (Black Mirror and many others), and Dian Curtis Regan (Princess Nevermore and many others!), at a place called South City Kitchen. A salad and chicken livers (yum) and great conversation.
The wake-up call jangled the inner core of my brain at 6 a.m.: Clarion’s kick-off breakfast would begin in an hour. I had, um, a little headache. I’d planned to wear my chima-chogori (traditional Korean dress and jacket) to the breakfast, but that plan almost came undone. I was sharing my room with Marsha for the one night, until my family arrived later that day, and I didn’t want to disturb her by turning on all the lights. So I struggled into the garments, which do not button or zip or snap; instead there is a complicated system of narrow slippery ribbons to be crossed and wrapped and tied. This is not easy to do when you hardly ever wear the thing, and the room is dark, and you have a little headache.
After several attempts, I gave up, praying that my final groping effort would keep the clothes on me somehow, and made my way to the elevators; thank goodness the event was being held in my hotel. All of Clarion was at the door of the ballroom to meet me, and immediately I began to feel much better. I have to confess, though, that having flash bulbs go off repeatedly at that hour of the morning as your photo is taken several times does not make a little headache any smaller. I met some lovely people there, including Andrea Davis Pinkney, new head of children’s publishing for Houghton Mifflin (of which Clarion is an imprint), whose work as both author and editor is inspiring.
From left, Marjorie Naughton, Clarion’s marketing director; my genius editor, Dinah Stevenson;
Virginia Buckley, editor of many wonderful writers, including Katherine Paterson
More Clarionettes! From left: Deb Shapiro, formerly Senior Publicist at Clarion;
editor Jennifer Greene; art director JoAnn Hill; editor Michelle Coppola.
With Ed and Eve Bunting.
From the breakfast to a waiting car that took me and David Wiesner and Deb Shapiro (then of Clarion’s marketing department, now of Simon & Schuster, and boy do I miss her!) to Hobbit Hall bookstore in suburban Atlanta. What a great place! A nice crowd of kids and parents, and best of all, I got to see David’s presentation, in which he showed the stages of the work for The Three Pigs. A terrific lunch at the Buckhead Diner (fried green tomatoes for the first time, and meatloaf, and mashed potatoes to die for); stock signing at another store –Chapter Eleven (“Books so cheap you’ll think we’re going out of business”); and back to the hotel at around 3:30, where I met up with my family.
Another signing that I missed: Mary Jane Auch (left) and Vivian VandeVelde (right), with librarian Sharon Salluzzo, signing Troll Teacher (which Vivian wrote and MJ illustrated) at the Holiday House booth.
At 6:00, Random House had a cocktail party at the Margaret Mitchell House, which is now a museum. Adrienne Waintraub did a wonderful job running the party — great food, my son must have eaten at least a couple dozen of the coconut butterflied shrimp! One room of the house has a wonderful display of letters Mitchell wrote during and after the writing of Gone With The Wind. I wish I’d had more time to read them, and will definitely go back the next time I’m in Atlanta. I got to meet UberEditor Wendy Lamb and another of my heroes, author Peter Dickinson. Dinner at a Chinese restaurant with The Clan — my husband and two children; my parents; my brother and his wife and my niece and nephew (Emma and Craig, who are pictured elsewhere on this site); and Nancy and Kathleen. And the day finished up with another drink with The Posse (We Value Consistency).
The trip through Wonderland began right at the Rochester airport, because authors Mary Jane Auch, Roxane Chadwick, Marsha Hayles, and Vivian Vande Velde were on the same plane as me. We didn’t get to sit together, but it was still great to chat with them at both ends of the flight. In Atlanta, my first ‘event’ was lunch (spinach and goat cheese grits) at the Ritz with my genius editor Dinah Stevenson. As many of you know, Dinah edited both A Single Shard and David Wiesner’s Caldecott Medal book, The Three Pigs. She is only the sixth editor in the history of the awards to have edited both Medal books in the same year — so more than anyone else, it was her weekend to shine!
Later that afternoon, a group of online friends threw a corker of a party at the Georgian Terrace, hosted by Susan Taylor Brown, Ann Mannheimer, and Patricia McMahon in their huge and incredibly elegant suite.
As if wine, food, and friends weren’t enough, the group then presented me with the most amazing gift. I opened a beautifully wrapped box to find another box inside (don’t you just love that) — a wooden one, with a silver plate on top inscribed with the words, “Like Jade Like Water,” which is based on a line from A Single Shard. Inside the box there was a little silk pouch (don’t you just LOVE that!??) containing a pendant on a silver chain.
A shard of Korean Celadon, no less. The pendant had been brought from Korea by Patricia years ago, on her return after living in Seoul. She told me that it was waiting for me all that time-but I am still in awe of her parting with it. I wish the photos could do it justice, but you simply cannot get an idea of how beautiful it is unless you see it in real life.
From the party to dinner with The Posse, as they came to call themselves, a la P. Diddy’s entourage — my critique partner Marsha Hayles, and two friends I’ve known for years, Nancy Quade and Kathleen Cotter. Kathleen is a librarian in Great Neck, NY, and Nancy used to be one, but she isn’t anymore — she came to ALA just to be with me. We ate at a restaurant called Mumbo Jumbo, which I booked because of the name — it sounded very Wonderlandish. (It was good, too. I had grits again. I like grits.)
Afterwards, a dessert affair for Listening Library at the Four Seasons hotel, where Tim Ditlow and Cheryl Herman took good care of me. I got to meet one of my heroes, Virginia Euwer Wolff!
After the party, Nancy and Kathleen forced me to have a drink with them in the Four Seasons bar (What’s that—it was my idea?? Are you sure? I don’t rightly recall. . .), so the day ended on a very merry note.
I was somewhat less merry the next morning. . .
Newbery Award Banquet!
For this month, there’s just one update, but it’s a big one: a report on the American Library Association Annual Conference held in Atlanta in June. Hope you enjoy it!
Look for the next update in September, and in the meantime, wishing everyone a terrific summer of reading and writing!
2002 American Library Association
My ‘Newbery year’ continues with lots of lovely things happening!
–A couple of months ago when I was in New York City, I stayed with my dear friend Nancy. She had a dinner party for me-and dessert was this amazing cake!
That’s a replica of the Newbery Medal, all done in frosting. (For some reason the photo came out smeary-looking. It didn’t look like that in real life-it was perfect!)
–For a class book project, fourth-grader Perry Knowlton dressed up as Tree-ear and sent me a photo:
I was floored by his costume-the details are terrific! I could never have done anywhere near as good a job myself. (I know this for a fact. When my son had to dress up to represent the state of Idaho, I used a scarf to tie a potato on top of his head. That was his costume.)
–On the road: In May I was in Albany for Frank Hodge’s wonderful conference, “Let the Reading Begin.” It was the seventeenth and last LRB; I went last year and had a wonderful time, and this year was even better. How could it miss, with guests like Jerry and Eileen Spinelli, Karen Hesse, Bruce Coville, Kate DiCamillo, Mem Fox, Ben Mikaelsen, and many many more! We were treated to a terrific talk by Mem Fox on the importance of reading aloud to children, and a performance of one of Bruce’s books by members of his “Full Cast Audio” staff. (Watch for these audio productions, a wonderful way to hear a book!)
Frank Hodge’s “Newbery Corner.” From left, Kate DiCamillo (N Honor, Because of Winn-Dixie, 2001); me; Karen Hesse (Medal, Out of the Dust, 1999); and Jerry Spinelli (Medal for Maniac Magee, 1990, Honor for Wringer, 1994). Thanks to Gail Denisoff for the photo!
I also presented awards to the young winners of the Susan B. Anthony writing competition here in Rochester; gave a presentation to the Rochester Area School Librarians association; and talked to the Monroe County Children and Young Adult librarians. I LOVE meeting folks who like to talk about books!
–Recent reading: Still not as much time to read as I would like, but I did steal some time for a few books.
NEXT MONTH: A report from the ALA Annual Conference in Atlanta, where I will give the Newbery acceptance speech and receive the Medal-yikes! Wish me luck.
Lincoln: A Photobiography, by Russell Freedman. Nonfiction. 1988 Newbery Medal winner. Pick any of Freedman’s biographies-amazing examples of compelling nonfiction and absolutely seamless writing. Eleanor Roosevelt, Martha Graham, Babe Didrickson-I can’t choose a favorite.
Coram Boy, by Jamila Gavin. Upper midgrade/YA historical fiction. A wonderful cast of characters in this tale that illuminates what happened to abandoned children in 18th-century England. Winner of the 2000 Whitbread Prize for best children’s novel in England. (Only complaint: I wish there were an author’s note at the end.)
Loser, by Jerry Spinelli. Midgrade contemporary. Donald Zinkoff—new to the list of my favorite-ever characters—and terrifically effective use of the present tense.
April – what a wild and crazy month! Debra Shapiro, Senior Publicist at Clarion Books, keeps track of my schedule for me. Here’s a copy of the calendar page she kept:
It’s a good thing there was that ‘family vacation’ in the middle of the month! Sometimes things get a little hairy–but mostly I’m having a wonderful time.
School visits to St. Louis School in Pittsford, NY; The Dalton School in Manhattan; P.S. 151 in the Bronx; Second Avenue Elementary and St. Joseph’s Montessori in Columbus, OH; and Marin Horizon School in Mill Valley, CA. I had a great time meeting the students and staff at all the schools-thanks for making my visits so special!
–Travels: I spoke at the Writing for Children conference in Columbus; a book-talk event sponsored by the Sacramento Bee; and the International Reading Association annual conference in San Francisco. Highlights:
In Columbus: meeting author Sharon Draper (Tears of a Tiger; Forged by Fire; her latest book due out next month is Double Dutch), who gave a wonderful opening address and also passed on to me some great tips on public speaking. I also met the talented author/illustrator/storyteller Shonto Begay-his books are next on my ‘to-read’ list!
In Sacramento: Meeting a great group of young and young-at-heart readers-including my two nieces, Michelle and Ailish Dobbin.
In San Francisco: Visiting with a whole bunch of wonderful authors! An Na, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Greg Smith, Deb Wiles, Jane Kurtz, Franny Billingsley, Kathleen Duey, Walter Mayes, Verla Kay, Pat Mora-all people I’ve long wanted to meet. And wonder of wonders, I got to have dinner with two of my writing heroes-Eve Bunting and Katherine Paterson! I heard Eve give a wonderful presentation on her work, and I got to thank Katherine for her very direct impact on my life as a writer. The “On Writing” page of this website tells how an essay in her book The Spying Heart inspired me to make a habit of writing two pages per day. If it weren’t for that tip, I might never have written a book! As it is, every one of my novels was written ‘two pages per day,’ so it was a tremendous thrill to be able to thank her in person.
–At long last, I’ve been able to update my “Reading” page. I haven’t been able to read as much as I usually do, but I did want to let folks know about a few good titles I’ve read.
–Wanna fight!? Here’s a fascinating list from the Allen County Public Library system in Indiana. The folks there do a terrific job promoting interest in books for young people. This link is to their ‘Newbery rankings’: Which book is the best Newbery winner ever? See what you think! And if you’d like, you can share your thoughts in my guestbook.
Newbery rankings by the Allen County Public Library system