Last week I was in Kirksville, Missouri, for a children’s book festival. I’m pretty sure that, were it not for that festival, I’d never have visited that green, rolling countryside dotted with contented cows (cattle, I was corrected) or experienced the open-armed hospitality (home-churned ice cream over home-grown rhubarb crisp, anyone?) or met the zillion volunteers who make the festival happen for well over a thousand kids, some of whom ride buses for over an hour to get there.
(These two were great storytellers themselves.)
I could say the same about Sheboygan, Wisconsin, or Houghton Lake, Michigan, or any of the other out-of-my-way places I’ve been lucky enough to visit, all because of dedicated librarians and teachers and community volunteers who work so hard to bring writers in. It’s impossible to thank them enough, though I try.
Kids often ask me where I get my inspiration, and I always answer, “From you!” But festivals also give me the chance to talk to and listen to other writers, some of whom I’ve only fan-girled over from afar. Hearing them talk about their own struggles, laughing with them over best things kids have ever asked us, recommending each other books and movies–I mean. Conversations do not get better than these.
At Kirksville I met Leslie Connor, Ingrid Law, Chris Grabenstein, Natalie Lloyd, Rob Buyea, Liesl Shurtliff, David Schwartz, Fred Koehler, Michelle Cuevas, Katherine Hannigan…here we are, holding up the darling signs that decorated our dinner tables.
Being a writer has given me gifts I never anticipated.