We had two really wonderful events this fall. Each reminded me how lucky we are to have such talented authors and illustrators share themselves with us and our community.
The first visit was Phillip and Erin Stead, the team behind the Caldecott winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. We rented Shelburne Town Hall to accommodate the 100+ school kids who came to the morning story hour. We smartly sent home order forms for all the kids. We learned something, too, that might just sound elementary, but giving the teachers a set of books to share increases book sales. And, by getting the order form back in a timely way, we had a chance to add a few more of the most popular title: Creamed Tuna Fish & Peas on Toast. Who knew? It’s a lovely book, just not that we were necessarily expecting to be such a hit with the second-graders.
The room was packed and then Erin and Phillip read. Erin is quite shy but held her own quite nicely with the kids. Philip told the crowd about his wife’s shyness and asked them, “If you’re really shy, close your eyes and raise your hands.” This loveliness set the tone for a great visit. Phillip and Erin each explained how they worked. The kids were leaning in during this. Erin’s description of using woodcuts and only eight colors for A Sick Day for Amos McGee was just fascinating. And all the kids could relate to Phillip’s use of collage in Hello, My Name Is Ruby.
I love how these two handled kids’ questions. When asked how long it took to finish a book, and a little girl’s hand shot up and shouted, “Ten hours!” Neither of them laughed out loud, as the rest of the adults did. They seemed to know that ten hours feels like a lifetime to kids.
Erin clearly has had practice at signing lines. The stamps were a great idea and help speed the line of over 100 kids along. Very smart for line management as well as for protecting herself from overuse injuries.
Dayna Lorentz came back in September to present No Easy Way Out, the sequel to No Safety in Numbers. What I love about events with Dayna are the cupcakes and the insight into the complex mind of a writer. Dayna spent a lot of time explaining how she crafts the books.
Writing mystery/thrillers is a complex work. Dayna explained that the books work on the tension between the expected and the unexpected. Each book builds from one to the next. She created elaborate mind maps for all the characters, major and minor, represented by a different color Post-it. She had to keep track of lots of details and this helped her to remember all the things that had already happened with the characters and the government. She shared that she trashed the entire first draft. The whole thing! And then she started over.
I loved these three coming to the store and sharing so honestly about aspects of their craft that often remain unspoken. A little peek into the studio or office is always a treat that’s almost as good as cupcakes.