Back From The Coast

I just returned home from four days at the Oregon Coast. I spent the first three days at Warrenton Grade School, just southwest from Astoria. Kathi Merritt, the librarian, has been a good friend of mine for years. This is the fourth time she’s had me visit. An added plus is that I got to stay at the Cannery Pier Hotel. It’s a beautiful facility with balconies that overlook the Columbia River. It’s a treat to watch the birds, the changing weather, and the big freighters moving down the river and out to sea.

What a good time we had! I’ve seldom had so much fun sharing my stories. The children were a terrific audience. I enjoyed their different responses. And they were different, considering that I spoke with the whole school, from the pre-k and special ed to the 8th graders. We did a special evening program for families. All the children got gingerbread man cookies. Kathi handed out the cookies as they were leaving. She didn’t want cookie crumbs all over her library carpet. I came home with two gingerbread men. Let’s just say they didn’t last long.

Yesterday, on my way home to Portland, I did another program at Knappa at Hilda Lahti Elementary School. I owe thanks to Principal Leila Collier and Librarian Stephanie Baldwin for making me feel welcome and for preparing the children so well that they knew my books better than I did. Hilda Lahta is even smaller than Warrenton. We were able to have all the programs in the library. Again, I talked to the whole range of students. The high school is just across the parking lot, so several seventh and with graders were able to come over, take part, and even stay to have lunch with me. I firmly believe it’s important for authors to meet the children who actually read their books. Writing can be such a lonely business.

The older children gave me another special treat. They’ve actually read some of the books I published myself on the Amazon platform. I got several thumbs up’s for American Leprechaun, Magic Unlimited, and Snot Boy. The children found it hard to believe that no publisher wanted those manuscripts. They sure liked them and asked me to write some more. I might just do that.

They were also curious about my beginning work in writing scripts for graphic novels. They wanted to hear more about how I went about that. I think I’ll have to find a way to incorporate the early sketches Raul sent me into my slide show. I should stick the photograph of me and Madame Omou in with my Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock slides. I met Madame Omou in Mali when I visited the International School there. She was the school secretary and also a griot, a traditional West African storyteller. Madame Omou told me some of the story in Bambera, its original language. Stories aren’t told in Africa. They’re sung. I love sharing that with children here at home.

One special thing that came out of this week was the chance to share my newest book, Rattlestiltskin. It won’t be coming out until May. However, I did prepare a Keynote presentation of Erin Camarca’s glorious illustrations. I showed the pictures and talked my way through the story. I got better at it each time. Judging by the reception, I’d better make that book a regular part of my program.

I’m tired and glad to be home. To tell the truth, though, I almost wish I had to get up this morning to go to another school to do another presentation. Great kids and great teachers always give me a rush. No matter what the disappointments that come my way—and there are many—doing a successful school visit always makes it worthwhile.

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