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NCTE: Atlanta: Blog Blitz: Day One

The next few posts will probably come out quick and in need of a lot of editing later, but I have to capture each day as they happen or something will get lost.

Day One: Stepping out onto the Ground Transportation lot, I immediately run into long-time friend and NCTE: Boston Roommate, Patrick A. Allen (CONFERRING). Right behind him is another friend, super encourager, Gary Anderson. These interactions happen before I even step onto the Super Shuttle. The ride into downtown Atlanta is a mixture of catching up and chatting up the anticipation of the weekend’s activities.

Going to pick up my lanyard, I run into Wonderopolis Wonder Lead, Barbara Phillips who is now growing into a new role with NCTE. I’m so excited for her. Colby Sharp is coming up the opposite escalator and I get to say hello for a brief moment, but I will see him later. There are at least five or six more friends I have a quick encounter with before I decide to hit an afternoon session.

Thursday afternoon sessions are a little light as most attendees are still enroute to the site, but I find a two-hour workshop chaired by another friend, mentor, encourager, book champion, Penny Kittle. She is leading a group celebrating the work of Thomas Newkirk. On the panel: Gretchen Bernabei, Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Tom Romano, Ellin Oliver Keene (please. . .look these people up).

In the room: Donalyn Miller, Katherine Sokolowski, Mary Howard, Ralph Fletcher, Carol Varsolona (please. . .look these people up). I’m missing people all over the place here in the hurry to capture this experience.

I took pages and pages of notes from the presenters who shared the insights they have gathered from the work of Thomas Newkirk. How much might I have paid to have had the same experience back home?

I walk back to my hotel (just a quick five-minute walk from the convention site) to refresh for the evening. I have a date to keep.

At 6PM, I arrive at BuccaLopo to share appetizers with: Sylvia Vardell, Janet Wong, Georgia Heard, Laura Purdie Salas, Irene Latham, Lisa Moehler. Walking in later are Michael Salinger, Sarah Holbrook, Heidi Morehordst, and Mary Lee Hahn. We talk about poetry and kids. And we celebrate the news of Lee Bennett Hopkins and his being recognized as a Hall of Fame artist in the state of Florida. We are a small community in celebration here. But I have to quickly walk away to the Houghton Mifllin Harcourt dinner.

Who do I get to take this five-minute walk with? Dr. Sylvia Vardell and Newbury Award Winning Author, Linda Sue Park. Linda and I talk about pottery as we find the restaurant where we will dine with more authors and educators.

Rathbun’s Wine House should not be missed if you are in town this weekend. Dark, quiet. Food is amazing.

During the course of the dinner, authors changed tables with each course. Over the course of the evening, I got to sit with and talk to Linda Sue Park (who shared with us some really neat back stories from the new picture book, YAKS YAK, as well as from the new series that is coming soon). With the main course, we were joined by Ronald Smith, Coretta Scott King Award Winner for HOODOO. Ronald shared with us his experiences as an ad executive turned children’s writer and what makes a successful school visit for him. And with dessert, we were joined by Greg Neri who shared with us his experiences as a member of the National Book Award jury. All three conversations were beyond the books we know and left me walking away with a renewed appreciation for who these people are that bring us these amazing books that we read, love, and share.

My last interaction at Rathbun’s was with Steven B. Frank, author of the upcoming book, CHARLIE & ARMSTRONG (which is shaping up to be my weekend, while-at-NCTE read). Frank’s book is set in the 1970’s and we got to talk about this a little bit. Then, I gave him a book recommendation of Silas House’s ELI THE GOOD.

I got a cab ride back to the hotel with. . .Sylvia Vardell. She was affirming and encouraging, gently guiding through a series of questions and comments that served to get me thinking about current and future roles within the children’s literature community.

And. . .that was only Day One.

Today. . .I chair a panel on bibliotherapy with an amazing group of middle grade and young adult authors. Stay tuned for how this features in the NCTE: Atlanta: Day Two experience.

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