Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Plum Creek Literacy Festival 2013

On 9/26-28/13, I had the honor of being one of nine authors headlining the 18th annual Plum Creek Literacy Festival at Concordia University in Seward, NE.

It capped off my first-ever week in Nebraska, during which I spoke for 20 hours…not in a row. Every day from Monday to Saturday included three hourlong talksexcept for Wednesday, which included five. Two schools in Omaha, two in Grand Island, then the festival.

Shoemaker Elementary School, Grand Island

The same day I spoke in Grand Island, the top story in the local daily paper was apropos:

I’d met Marla Frazee and Judy Schachner in 2008, and I’d corresponded with Candace Fleming and Barbara McClintock. First time meeting Eric Rohmann, Neal Shusterman, Kevin Henkes, and Anna Dewdney. All lovely people.

me, Marla Frazee, Judy Schachner, Anna Dewdney, 
Eric Rohmann, Candace Fleming, Barbara McClintock

We were not only colleagues (and admirers) of each other…we were also roommates.

We had a sorority house (Marla, Judy, Barbara, and Anna) and a fraternity house (plus Candace, since she goes with Eric). With Neal and Kevin, I shared not only a program but also a bathroom. (To be clear, we took turns.)

And it was a blast. We started to feel like more than roommates and something like a family. Hey, the cliché works.

 Marla Frazee, Eric Rohmann, Judy Schachner

 Eric Rohmann, Judy Schachner, Candace Fleming, Kevin Henkes

Candace Fleming, Kevin Henkes, Neal Shusterman, Barbara McClintock

This was a literacy and literary marathon. Early mornings, large audiences (some approaching 600 kids), an abundance of books to sign, little downtime.

Some kids came in capes. Made me feel naked without one.

The house in which the men and Candace stayed had its, well, old-fashioned charms. And a few mysteries…such as what we found in the closet Kevin, Judy, Marla, Barbara, and Candace are about to look in:

Suffice it to say that upon seeing it, a couple of us let out a compact scream…

In one of my sessions, a girl in about fourth grade sitting toward the back of the auditorium raised her hand and told me that her dad bought $6,000 worth of Superman merchandise…and is in jail. She went on to say that he likes Superman because Superman reminds him how to be a good guy instead of a bad guy. I didn’t quite understand the whole thing, but I was nonetheless
moved, and asked her to come up after the talk, which she did. I was struck by her courage and poise, and learned her name is MaKaylie. 

She is a Girl of Steel.

Thank you to Vikki Gremel, Leah Serck, Janell Uffelman, Dawn Navis, and the many dozens of kind and tireless volunteers who made our stay there warm.

the table for one of our dinners

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