Nine Things from NYSRA

I spent Thursday and Friday at the NYS Reading Association Conference in Saratoga Springs.  Here’s a roundup of the highlights…

1. The Authors Progressive Banquet was fun and stress-free. I didn’t even spill anything.  I was a little concerned about how the logistics would work, because the authors start the evening at one table and then rotate, switching tables for each course. Turns out you got NEW silverware every time you moved and didn’t have to take it with you.  That worked out well, though I think I might have been drinking from another author’s water glass at one point. It’s hard to say…

2. I found out about four minutes ahead of time that all the authors would be giving a brief, two-minute talk to the ENTIRE group in the ballroom during that banquet, which caused me to panic momentarily, but not for long because there just wasn’t that long to worry about it. I think I said something coherent.

3. I was on a quilt!


 NYSRA had authors sign quilt squares and put them together into three gorgeous quilts for a raffle. Wasn’t that a great idea?

4.  I got to meet Eric Luper (

) and hear his presentation about his YA novel Big Slick and his journey from reluctant reader to novelist.

High school teachers, take note:  Eric is smart and engaging and funny, and I predict that pretty soon he’ll be booked solid for school visits because he’s going to connect with teen boys in a big way.  Plus, he has wicked-cool poker chip key chains as giveaways. What more could you want?

5.  I spent some time chatting with Susan Goodman, who writes children’s non-fiction and has a funny book about elections called See How They  Run coming out this May. My students are going to love this one!

6.  I met Mitali Perkins and got to tell her in person how much I liked Rickshaw Girl.

7. I heard Anita Silvey talk about current trends in children’s publishing.  She said fantasy and science fiction are still strong, historical fiction is on the rise,  publishers are looking for “no-blush” MG and Tween books that families can enjoy together, and this is the age of the graphic novel.  Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is now on my must-read list.

8. I gave a presentation called “Historical Fiction as a Bridge to Content Area Literacy” and got to share bunches and bunches of my favorite HF titles.  We talked about dozens of titles from different time periods — some well known and some that flew under the radar.  I shared excerpts from Spitfire, Sarah Miller’s Miss Spitfire, and Elizabeth Bunce’s A Curse Dark as Gold (March, 2008), which is a shining example of how historical fantasy can be used to introduce students to a time period (in this case, the Industrial Revolution).

9.  Not exactly conference-related, but still a highlight… I had perhaps the best chocolate chip cookie of my life at Four Seasons Natural Foods in downtown Saratoga.  It was really, really crunchy….a sweet ending to a fantastic two days of talk about reading, writing, and why we love stories so much.

Dinner on the Move

Tomorrow night, I’m participating in the Authors Progressive Banquet at the New York State Reading Association in Saratoga Springs. 

Here’s how it works.  Ten people sit at each author’s table at the beginning of the meal and get a signed copy of that author’s book.  After the salad, the authors get up and move to the next table to sit with ten new people for the main course.  Then the authors move again to sit with another ten people for dessert.  Doesn’t this sound fabulously fun? (In truth, my first book has only been out for a couple months, so any time people refer to me as “the author,” it’s automatically fun.) 

But  here’s the thing… I’m a planner, and the memo about this dinner left unanswered questions.  Do the authors take their silverware with them to the next table?  What about drinks? And bread?  And what about clumsy authors who tend to spill things when they get up from tables?  This could mean trouble for lots of people’s clothing, given all the moving around.  What does one wear to an  Authors Progressive Banquet?  (I’d ask

, who’s going to be there, too, but I know he’ll probably be wearing one of those cool poker-guy outfits like in his author photo, and what good is that?)  And most importantly, what’s for dessert?  Is it something chocolate?

Enough worrying… I’m off to finish packing.   I’ll report in on the state of my silverware and my dining companions’ clothes when I get home.