Thursday, November 10, 2011

Juggling sharks

It's been mostly a juggling act at work lately, trying to keep all my projects and deadlines from crashing down around me.  Or maybe it's more like an endless swim across choppy seas - exhilarating, sure, but then there are those lurking sharks down below and an uncertain and constantly shifting shoreline somewhere up ahead.

So far, I've managed to keep my nostrils above water.  It sure has helped that this is now officially Book Season, filled with invigorating, soul-warming author events.

Last Saturday, the Children's Literature Council of Southern CA held its annual Fall Gala.  Hearkening back to the early days of its 50-year history, the Council decided to throw a glitzier event than the breakfasts that have predominated over the last decade.  Dress was "semi-formal," drinks were served, and (because the event was held in the afternoon), guests could segue into cocktails and dinner afterward at one of Pasadena's many fine restaurants.

The keynote speaker was Lois Lowry, whom I don't think I've ever heard speak. Her presentation, accompanied by dozens of photos from her childhood, was poignant and funny, rich and humorous, and just the right length (we wanted more but were left well satisfied).  I felt like the only person in the audience who hadn't known that The Giver and Number the Stars feature jacket photos that Ms. Lowry took herself in the 70s. 

What is particularly nurturing about the Fall Gala and similar local events is that it is essentially a gathering of good friends.  Even in the early days when I didn't know many folks, I felt surrounded by good, interesting, smart folks who love books as I do - and as I got to know them, this turned out to be true.  It's a great opportunity to greet old friends and make new ones.  Unfortunately, I was so busy doing this on Saturday that I missed out on meeting Lois Lowry herself, though I would have been too shy to do more than beam at her.  Next time, darn it...

Luckily, there were yet more bookish delights yesterday at the quarterly YA Librarians' Information Meeting.  Planning and convening these meetings is one of my responsibilities (same for the Children's Librarians' Information Meeting) - and while the other 3 YA meetings this year have been packed to the gills with updates, training, and presentations, it felt necessary to end this very challenging, crazy year with something more spiritually enriching.

So - I invited Jennifer Hunt, VP of Acquisition and Development and editor-at-large at Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers (and newly relocated to LA - yes!), and seven local YA authors (Cecil Castellucci, Holly Goldberg Sloan, Sherri Smith, Margie Stohl, Carol Tanzman, Janet Tashjian and Lisa Yee) to come speak to each other and our YA librarians about all things YA Lit - the controversies, the trends, the struggles, the passion.

Yee, Tashjian, Tanzman, Stohl, Smith, Sloan, and Castellucci

Lisa Yee and Janet Tashjian
Wow!  The morning zoomed way beyond my expectations (which were pretty high to begin with).  Jen moderated the discussion with humor and insight, but the authors needed no prodding to share often quite hilarious stories and thoughts.  (Sherri Smith talking about the color of the hand on her first book Lucy the Giant?  Priceless!).  The YA librarians welcomed the chance to sit back, relax, and revel in the presence of folks who produce the books they love - and the authors were thrilled to be talking with the folks who actually get those books into the hands of teens.  It was a revitalizing morning.

Which is good - because I'll need all kinds of energy and good vibes for this weekend's CA Library Association conference!


  1. I didn't know about the Lowry cover photos either. It was a great gala. Martha

  2. Nor did I know about the jacket photos, or Lowry's father's gift to her of that extraordinary camera. Thanks for your coverage of the Gala--you captured that wonderful nurturing quality of the CLC.