Last Friday, I was lucky enough to be one of the two keynote speakers for Vermont’s annual Dorothy Canfield Fisher Conference, a full day celebration of books and reading. When this invitation landed in my email a while back, I have to admit that I did a little happy-dance. First, because Vermont teachers and librarians are some of the nicest, funniest, most dedicated people you’ll ever meet. And second, because the other keynote speaker was Barbara O’Connor. I left home at the crack of dawn so I’d arrive in time for Barbara’s morning talk, and it was so worth it. She talked about realistic fiction for kids. How real should it be? Barbara’s keynote was funny and thoughtful and got me thinking about my own writing, too.
Barbara and I have chatted back and forth on Twitter and Facebook for years, but this was the first time we’d ever met in person, unless you count 20 seconds on an escalator once. I was at a big conference –NCTE or IRA or something like that — and heading up the escalator to one of my sessions, when I saw Barbara on the other side of the railing on the down escalator. “Barbara, hi!” I called and waved wildly in the way that only true author-stalkers wave. Barbara waved back and said hi but now claims to have no recollection of this. So we’ve decided to call this our first meeting.
One of my favorite things about this conference is the number of kids who are invited to present sessions alongside their teachers and librarians. I was sad that I didn’t get to sit in on all their sessions, but I did catch a glimpse of some Camels Hump Middle School students giving book talks to tables full of teachers and librarians. They all handled themselves so beautifully, and it was clear that when you love books, there really are no age boundaries. We’re all just book people.
Another happy conference moment came when I had time to look through the books on next year’s DCF List. That’s Vermont’s Children’s Choice Award, and the nominations this year include many of my favorite titles from 2013. Seeing friends’ books on display at a conference is always fun — like spotting the actual friends through a crowd of people — so I couldn’t resist snapping a photo.
Many thanks, Vermont teachers and librarians, for such a wonderful, warm welcome at this year’s DCF conference. I loved spending the day celebrating stories with all of you!