Donna Jo Napoli:
She was eloquent on the subject of censorship, arguing that it is simply wrong-headed to try to keep kids from reading about the difficult, awful, dark things in life - violence, sexual abuse, poverty, racism, prejudice of any sort, and so on.
- The "unprotected child" who is living with this kind of horrible thing can read about a child who is suffering something terrible and see that in fact, bad things do happen to innocent, good people through no fault of their own. And, though powerless, children may discover that they have some kind of knowledge or resources that will pull them through and help them survive.
- Even more importantly, "protected children" will see that their own lives are good not because they somehow deserve them more but because they are lucky - and hopefully they will grow into adults who don't feel entitled and who are aware of all the misfortune in the world and may even feel compelled to do something about it (like vote to end tax breaks for the rich!)
He provided a nice segue from Napoli, as he shared how both teens and adults have had powerful reactions to Stitches.
He also narrated a hilarious slide show (illustrated by himself, of course), depicting himself signing at an uncaring chain store and then at the indie Nickleby's, where he was bear-hugged by Walter the Giant. (note to self - remind librarians who have author programs to love those authors up - save them parking places, welcome them with huge respect, and beg, borrow, and steal an audience for them)
Judy Blume!!!! Oh my god!!!!!! And jeepers, she is a lithesome, gorgeous, girlish 73. What is it about writers, anyway?
Can't possibly distill her informal talk with Lin, as my head was in the clouds. Forgot to take notes, except for a dashed "must re-read all of Judy Blume."
Holy cow, he was a 2nd-grade teacher for 10 years. How lucky were those kids?! He recounted how the boys would pick up a book, look at it sideways (at the spine) and then at the cover, and only pronounce worthy of possible interest if it was skinny and cool-looking. Which explains how the Time Warp Trio books came about.
Quotable quote - "Preschoolers are like Alzheimer's patients on acid - everything's brand-new and a little freaky."
Oh, and he actually made an innuendo about Judy Blume - possibly inadvertently. After reading us chapter 5 of Spaceheadz, which consists only of a hamster "eeking," he said that Judy Blume really liked that chapter. "At least I think it was Judy Blume - it was kind of dark." He paused as we all sniggered. "Did I really say that? Oh god!" He actually blushed!
He counseled that kids should be allowed to be bored, as "boredom leads to improvisation."
And his parting words of advice, which I keep thinking about as they seem both profound and puzzling? "Spend a large portion of your life 'out of context'" - which will have a bit more meaning to those who remember the dirty bird from The Phantom Tollbooth.
She gave some excellent advice on using family stories to create great historical fiction, that actually work just fine for anyone writing historical fiction (the Library of Congress is one-stop shopping for research and you never have to get out of your jammies; interview your older family members before they die; always keep your story first, not the research). And she showed some fabulous family photos...
I didn't attend Sunday, as I had relatives in town and figured I should spend a bit of time with them - but it sounds like it was amazing.
And now back to work and my scary to-do list - feeling more than ever that getting kids and books together is a damn good reason to get up in the morning.