Yesterday I attended Literary Lights for Children at the Boston Public Library. Fantastically wonderful authors were honored this year for their considerable contributions to children’s and young adult literature. To make it even better, each author was introduced by a teenager chosen from the local public schools. The students did a fantastic job. Here’s a run-down of the honorees:
Jerry Spinelli, author of Stargirl and Maniac Magee, told us how books are nothing but “a pile of pages” until someone reads them. Writing a book is really a joint endeavor with the reader, who makes the book come alive by reading it. His comments really hit home for me, as a writer.
Karen Hesse, author of Out of the Dust and The Music of Dolphins, gave a lovely speech during which she read aloud a poem she wrote for the student who had introduced her, who is a poet, herself. Hesse even gifted this student a journal in which to write her poems. This whole thing got me choked up, it was so beautiful. I haven’t read Out of the Dust in many years, but hearing her speak made me eager to read her other books!
Grace Lin, author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and The Year of the Dog. The ever lovely and talented Grace Lin did not fail to charm us all. She told us about writing what she thought was “the best story ever!” – only to receive rejection after rejection from publishing houses. After writing new stories and eventually getting published, she looked back on that old story – and it was terrible. I think many writers would report similar experiences (I know I can). Grace signed my copy of The Year of the Dog – I can’t wait to read it (after my revisions).
Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Stardust, and a whole bunch of other freaking awesome stuff. He spoke about the importance of daydreaming and making things up, and how we shouldn’t squash these tendencies in children. He pointed out that everything invented was first imagined – even the chairs we were sitting on. So we need people to imagine new things, new stories. Awesome.
In further awesomeness I got my copy of The Graveyard Book signed by Neil Gaiman. I gave him a postcard of my books with a little message on it, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak in any comprehensive way. And I was right! He shook my hand and I smiled at him. That was pretty much all that I could manage.
It was a good day to be a reader, and a writer. I was feeling cranky about my draft on Saturday, but now I’m feeling a bit more up to the challenge. I have no doubt that I have these authors to thank.