Saturday, May 28, 2011

37th Annual Illinois Young Authors Conference

Last weekend, May 20th & 21st, I had the honor of being a guest author at the 37th Annual Illinois Young Authors Conference, sponsored by the Illinois Language and Literacy Council and the Illinois Reading Council!  The conference is a celebration to honor exceptional writing by students in grades K - 8 and to give these young authors the opportunity to meet with published authors and hear about the writing/publishing process.  Jan Dundon, Children's Coordinator at Anderson's Bookshop, was kind enough to ask me to participate!  The conference was held in Normal, IL, on the Illinois State University campus where my son attends.

I drove down there on Friday afternoon with three writer-friends, Suzanne Slade, Barb Rosenstock and Hilary Wagner.
Hilary, Suzanne, Me, Barb
That night, we attended a reception in the Bone Center Bookstore and had a question and answer session with students, parents and volunteers.  I was particularly impressed with the questions posed by the young authors!  I was happy to be seated next to Ruth Spiro so I could get to know her better.  She gave some really thoughtful answers to many of the questions!

The next morning, we met again at the Bone Center where the students and their parents attended an opening ceremony and the authors met with their volunteer escorts.  Then, each author was escorted to a classroom where they held their small group sessions.  I spoke to three groups of students for 30 minutes each.  The first group had 21 kindergartners, the second and third groups had 21 first graders each.

I read my book, 1 Zany Zoo, to each group; explained about Book Tour Alex (the kids kept referring to her as "your Barbie" :-) ; and the students showed me their books, which were so creative!  My favorite titles were "The Banana Who Wanted to be a Hot Dog",  "The Princess with the Broken Heals" and "The Middle Stinks - the Life of a Middle Child".  I asked him if it was a funny book and he gave an adamant "NO!"  The kids were adorable - I had so much fun!

After the small group sessions, we returned to the Bone Center for a delicious lunch.  We then went to different auditoriums for the Recognition of Young Authors & Closing Ceremony.  Here, I stood on stage and each group of students with whom I spoke, were called up to the stage.  Their group leaders read their names, the names of their books and then I gave them each child a copy of my book.  It was awesome!
After the Closing Ceremony, we returned to the Bone Center (again) and signed books for those who chose to buy them.  Then, Suzanne, Barb, Hilary and I said goodbye and thanks to Jan and made the drive home.

What an event!!  I don't think they ask the same authors two years in a row but I hope to be asked back in the future!

PS - The biggest lesson I learned that weekend - don't wear brand new shoes without socks to an event on a large college campus - ouch!!  Can you say blisters?   Also, don't wear a long, baggy shirt that makes you look grossly overweight or 9 months pregnant!