Newbery Award Banquet!
For this month, there’s just one update, but it’s a big one: a report on the American Library Association Annual Conference held in Atlanta in June. Hope you enjoy it!
2002 American Library Association
Friday, June 14
Later that afternoon, a group of online friends threw a corker of a party at the Georgian Terrace, hosted by Susan Taylor Brown, Ann Mannheimer, and Patricia McMahon in their huge and incredibly elegant suite.
More partiers: Toni Buzzeo, Jennifer Jacobson, Franny Billingsley.
A shard of Korean Celadon, no less. The pendant had been brought from Korea by Patricia years ago, on her return after living in Seoul. She told me that it was waiting for me all that time-but I am still in awe of her parting with it. I wish the photos could do it justice, but you simply cannot get an idea of how beautiful it is unless you see it in real life.
From the party to dinner with The Posse, as they came to call themselves, a la P. Diddy’s entourage — my critique partner Marsha Hayles, and two friends I’ve known for years, Nancy Quade and Kathleen Cotter. Kathleen is a librarian in Great Neck, NY, and Nancy used to be one, but she isn’t anymore — she came to ALA just to be with me. We ate at a restaurant called Mumbo Jumbo, which I booked because of the name — it sounded very Wonderlandish. (It was good, too. I had grits again. I like grits.)
Afterwards, a dessert affair for Listening Library at the Four Seasons hotel, where Tim Ditlow and Cheryl Herman took good care of me. I got to meet one of my heroes, Virginia Euwer Wolff!
I was somewhat less merry the next morning. . .
Saturday, June 15
The wake-up call jangled the inner core of my brain at 6 a.m.: Clarion’s kick-off breakfast would begin in an hour. I had, um, a little headache. I’d planned to wear my chima-chogori (traditional Korean dress and jacket) to the breakfast, but that plan almost came undone. I was sharing my room with Marsha for the one night, until my family arrived later that day, and I didn’t want to disturb her by turning on all the lights. So I struggled into the garments, which do not button or zip or snap; instead there is a complicated system of narrow slippery ribbons to be crossed and wrapped and tied. This is not easy to do when you hardly ever wear the thing, and the room is dark, and you have a little headache.
After several attempts, I gave up, praying that my final groping effort would keep the clothes on me somehow, and made my way to the elevators; thank goodness the event was being held in my hotel. All of Clarion was at the door of the ballroom to meet me, and immediately I began to feel much better. I have to confess, though, that having flash bulbs go off repeatedly at that hour of the morning as your photo is taken several times does not make a little headache any smaller. I met some lovely people there, including Andrea Davis Pinkney, new head of children’s publishing for Houghton Mifflin (of which Clarion is an imprint), whose work as both author and editor is inspiring.
From the breakfast to a waiting car that took me and David Wiesner and Deb Shapiro (then of Clarion’s marketing department, now of Simon & Schuster, and boy do I miss her!) to Hobbit Hall bookstore in suburban Atlanta. What a great place! A nice crowd of kids and parents, and best of all, I got to see David’s presentation, in which he showed the stages of the work for The Three Pigs. A terrific lunch at the Buckhead Diner (fried green tomatoes for the first time, and meatloaf, and mashed potatoes to die for); stock signing at another store –Chapter Eleven (“Books so cheap you’ll think we’re going out of business”); and back to the hotel at around 3:30, where I met up with my family.
At 6:00, Random House had a cocktail party at the Margaret Mitchell House, which is now a museum. Adrienne Waintraub did a wonderful job running the party — great food, my son must have eaten at least a couple dozen of the coconut butterflied shrimp! One room of the house has a wonderful display of letters Mitchell wrote during and after the writing of Gone With The Wind. I wish I’d had more time to read them, and will definitely go back the next time I’m in Atlanta. I got to meet UberEditor Wendy Lamb and another of my heroes, author Peter Dickinson. Dinner at a Chinese restaurant with The Clan — my husband and two children; my parents; my brother and his wife and my niece and nephew (Emma and Craig, who are pictured elsewhere on this site); and Nancy and Kathleen. And the day finished up with another drink with The Posse (We Value Consistency).
Sunday, June 16: Part 1
Breakfast (grits, of course—what did you expect??) with Kimberly Willis Holt, author of the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor title My Louisiana Sky and National Book Award winner When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. Kimberly was one of the very first people I ‘met’ online five years ago, and she has been unfailingly kind and helpful ever since. We had a lovely visit, but drat, I didn’t have a photo taken with her. Hopefully we’ll meet up again soon so I can remedy that.
My first signing in the exhibit hall, for Listening Library. It was fun meeting so many people who love books! The highlight: Meeting the members of the Eva Perry Newbery Club from North Carolina — thirty-five kids on a field trip to ALA, what a terrific idea!
Meanwhile, my family was having fun in Atlanta without me:
Then it was off to a lunch arranged by my agent Ginger Knowlton with authors Susan Campbell Bartoletti (winner of this year’s Sibert nonfiction award for Black Potatoes), Nancy Werlin (Black Mirror and many others), and Dian Curtis Regan (Princess Nevermore and many others!), at a place called South City Kitchen. A salad and chicken livers (yum) and great conversation.
Sunday, June 16: Part 2
Back to the exhibit hall for my first Clarion signing. As I got near the booth, I passed what I thought was a long conga line . . . it turned out to be people waiting for my signing, good grief! What a treat to meet librarians from all over the country; I loved finding out where they were from and only wish I could have spent more time chatting.
The signing finished at 3:30; back to the hotel for a little rest, then spiffying-up for the Newbery-Caldecott banquet. Gulp.
Sunday, June 16: Part 3
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what I wore—believe me, finding the right dress was as difficult as writing the speech! The dress was ice blue, almost silver, spaghetti straps, very straight and simple, with a little beading here and there in two tones of pink, and a matching jacket, also beaded. The ballroom lighting had an interesting effect on the color—I heard some accounts that the dress was pale green and others that it was ivory. I wore the pearls my mother had given me as a wedding present, with a pendant of pink topaz that had been made for the occasion. Although I did a fair bit of agonizing over what to
When I entered the banquet hall, I was taken aback to see two gigantic screens flanking the dais; I had not been warned that each of my pores would be magnified to the size of a quarter. . . Thankfully, I couldn’t see the screens while I spoke. I am pleased to report that dinner was not rubber chicken; it was salmon and filet mignon, and although I was too nervous to eat much, what I did eat was very tasty. Impressive, considering that at least a thousand meals were being served.
Carole Fiore, president of the Association of Library Service for Children, opened the award presentation. Kathleen Odean, chair of this year’s Newbery Award Selection committee, spoke next and presented plaques to Honor winners Polly Horvath (for Everything on a Waffle) and Marilyn Nelson (Carver: A Life in Poems)—both MUST-READS, in my opinion. Then Kathleen introduced me and gave me the Newbery Medal in a beautiful wooden box. (I’m getting goosebumps just typing that. . .) I loved Kathleen’s introductory remarks, and she has graciously given me permission to reprint them here.”
The text of my speech is available in the July/August issue of Horn Book magazine. I’m grateful to all those who spoke to me afterwards, telling me how much they had enjoyed hearing it. Speechwriting and speechgiving are new for me, so the kind comments were greatly appreciated. And yes, it’s true that I presented the Medal to my father. It was, after all, Father’s Day, and I am very grateful that both
Caldecott committee chair Kate McClellan spoke next and presented plaques to Bryan Collier (Martin’s Big Words, text by Doreen Rappaport); Bryan Selznick (The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, text by Barbara Kerley); and Marc Simont (The Stray Dog). Then she gave the Caldecott Medal to David Wiesner, who now has a remarkable collection-two Caldecott Medals (for The Three Pigs this year and for Tuesday in 1992) and two Honors (Sector 7, 2000 and Free Fall, 1989). David’s speech, also available in the July/August Horn Book, gave great insight into his artistic vision and process. He also did the fabulous cover of that issue
—check it out at the Horn Book website and see if you can spot the joke.
After the speeches, a long receiving line—another wonderful opportunity to meet librarians from all over the country.
Monday, June 17
Another signing for Clarion Monday morning, a quick bite to eat with Dinah, and then on to dessert with a group of writers and librarians, where we laughed until our sides ached. The day finished with a dinner given by Clarion for the Newbery committee, my parents, and me. It was held in a private room at the Ritz. I got to change seats with every course so I had a chance to visit with everyone. With the speech behind me, I felt relaxed and so happy to be able to chat with the committee members. It was a perfect evening.
Tuesday, June 18
Tuesday morning I was privileged to attend the Coretta Scott King Award breakfast. Award recipient Mildred Taylor (for The Land) was unable to attend, so her editor Phyllis Fogelman read the speech Ms. Taylor had prepared. Fiction Honor winners Marilyn Nelson (Carver) and Sharon Flake (Money-Hungry) also spoke, as well as the illustration winners: Jerry Pinkney, Award for Goin’ Someplace Special-a book I LOVE-and Bryan Collier, Honor for Martin’s Big Words; and Jerrome Larrigue, John Steptoe New Talent Award recipient (for Freedom Summer, text by Deborah Wiles). There was a warm and celebratory spirit at this event and I enjoyed it immensely.
As well as hearing the winners speak, Mrs. King herself addressed the audience. It was truly thrilling to hear her, and I couldn’t have picked a better way for my magical weekend to finish.
I flew home Tuesday afternoon, replete with memories of my magical time at ALA. A gazillion thanks to all who attended, and all who were there in spirit!
Photo credits: Lynne Polvino, JoAnn Hill, Ed Park, Ben Dobbin, Kay Winters, Julie Hubble, JoAnn Jonas