Readers & writers in joy at UCF Book Fest

Loreen Leedy (left) and Carmen Agra Deedy

If you are a picture book fan as I am,  please  imagine my joy – in hearing children’s authors of fantabulous picture books read their creations. In person.

Read isn’t the right word. They chortled. They sang. They lilted. They trilled. They whispered. They acted. And yes, I guess, they also read.

I’m wishing that my photographs could show the full range of expressions. And that means all the rapt faces of the kiddos. And,  fotos of all the children’s authors. Including private exhibitors who did the hard work of setting up & taking down their exhibitor books. I’m offering apologies that missing in mugs, are the scheduled children’s authors I was delighted to chat with:

Victoria Bond & T.R.Simon (ZORA AND ME), & Sea Grant/UCF authors Suzie Caffrey & Diahn Escue. But still, despite such deficiencies in reportage, please: Read on.

This goodness & joy unfolded like a spring lily at the 2nd annual (it’s a babe as festivals grow) University of Central Florida Book Festival. In Orlando.

Marianne Berkes & her seahorse

And since Florida has lost book festivals nearby, let’s not take the newbie for granted. Check back at the UCF book festival site, to see if the whispered date is a go for 2012; April 21 @ UCF.

(Bulletin – I returned home after a couple extra days away, to find that  M.R. Street, my critique partner, has finished revisions of her new novel.  Since I have novel R’s LOOMING  before me – I cheer for finished revisions. This post is dedicated to M.R. Street. Hope to have you sign your book for me at some future UCF book festival.


Snazzy opening reception anchored in Barnes & Noble/UCF, surrounded by lovely & hefty books, served with a generous side of  tasty tidbits (as reported by my hubby) , decadent deserts & non-electric (my favorite kind) classy music, performed  just for us. And this included what melts my heart – a talented harpist & her harp. I searched for my next-day co-presenters, but there were so many good book folks to stop & chat with from one end of the bookshop to the other, including poets, novelists (such as new talents powerhouses, Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon, & veteran non-fiction writers such as newspaper columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., who shared that his FIRST novel is in the works – everyone  didn’t always connect with who they set out to shake paws with.

THEN as if that wasn’t enough, we were treated to a pre-Broadway bound group of hoofers extraordinaire who sing & dance & speak about – reading & BOOKS.

Oh, were they great! My photo is borrowed from Florida Book Award winning author ( THE RED UMBRELLA) & now, book festival photographer, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, whose own mug is in this post, with another knockout UCF BF author presenter. the always Hon. Gov./Sen. Grand Floridian Bob Graham. Who everyone should thank many times over for his advocacy to preserve a portion of Florida’s special lands. (Gonzalez/Graham  foto taken at a different book event, as I didn’t always have  the camera handy,  at UCF.)

The BOOKENDS or BOOK ENDS. Either way – fantabulous!
History mavens: your blogger (left) Amie Leavitt & Judy Lindquist

The fact that this troupe, the BOOKENDS (Book Ends? ) isn’t yet appearing at the New York Public Library & at the Chicago Public Library & Boston PL  & D.C. PL & Seattle, etc. & Miami etc. & such, may have to do with their occupations. They are students, middle school students. Thus, they & their teachers keep a schedule more hectic than that of  published writers.  These young singers/actors/readers/writers/movie makers/ are phenomenal. Their energy alone could have lit the B & N lights, without electric wattage. The encore to the reception performance unfolded Saturday at the festival. (Which I didn’t get to see, alas.) Brava! & Bravo! to the BOOKENDS. I hope I am fortunate enough to experience you again, in other venues. Many thanks to  Christina Diaz Gonzalez for her beautiful online photo posts of these great kiddos, here: UCF Book Festival /Reader’s Theater Troupe

BookPALS/PencilPALS Florida coordinator Natalie Rogers (left) & her fan. Photo Credit: DYLAN

I am a devoted fan of the program that provides letters once a month (old-fashioned, placed in an envelope, with a U.S. postage stamp in the upper right hand corner) called PencilPALS & the companion program, called BookPALS (readers visit a classroom on schedule, to read JUST for the joy & love of reading.)

So it was the high point of my  book fest lunch hour that I found my way from the 3rd floor author’s lounge & lively convo. to the bustling activity of the exhibit floor to meet the maven of all this BookPAL/PencilPAL goodness, none other than Florida Coordinator Natalie Rogers. And here she is! I treasure this moment. If you have  a background in performance, such as theater, advertising voice overs or other stage presentations, please consider signing up with this program.

The photo was taken by 1 of her 2 young sons attending, who has a career in photography if you ask me. This young man also tenderly oversaw the patient waiting of his younger brother.  Mom,  do you think these wonderful young readers deserve an extra book for  this? Yes?

Okay, back to the authors. (And many thanks to dear hubby Paolo Annino for many of the fotos that I didn’t take.)

Marianne Berkes is a Florida interpreter of the natural world for the young bunch – bridging our stale living rooms with the freshness of all outdoors, and doing so in rollicking rhyme.  She manages to teach the newest concepts of space, she helps young ones ones count, while letting them know about science & nature found everywhere, especially under the sea and most recently, over in Australia.  It was a pleasure to spend time with her. She introduced me to Suzie Caffery & Diahn Escue, who accomplish the same challenging job of explaining high science concepts with ease. BUT often to even younger fry. That they also do this whilst at the same time, teaching preschool in Florida in an exemplary fashion, means I am in awe of this dynamic duo. Here are some of the dedicated & delightful Caffery/Escue team’s, wonderful, rhyming, books. The next one will tackle explanation of Florida’s ancient Indian middens to the youngest & I am eager to line up for a copy of THAT gem.

Cute Caffery/Escue Collaborations

Marianne Berkes & I were fortunate to be paired (tripled?) with the generous, multi award-winning, Carmen Agra Deedy, on a panel, “Opening Children’s Hearts to Culture & Nature.”

After watching & listening to Carmen play all the parts in her picture book ( illustrated in a dazzling yet soft way, by artist Michael Austin) MARTINA, the BEAUTIFUL COCKROACH, (a title of great import in Florida) which I would have bought a ticket to see & hear, ringside as I was, I am more than ever before an unabashed fan.  In my packing before the trip I left behind my 2nd library bag with Marianne Berkes, Loreen Leedy & Carmen Agra Deedy (I love saying Leedy & Deedy in the same sentence) books in it, so I didn’t get those autographs. But I did get this one on the p. book I bought from the wonderful perky B & N staff at the fest. How cute is this image of Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha?  Carmen is super not only with writing & storytelling, but also in artful autographing with squiggly lines. Lesson noted. Actually, many lessons from Carmen, and the other authors, noted. Loreen Leedy, you should know, holds more talent than the average bookstore author – as a gifted illustrator AND writer. And, a wonderful aunt, so-  read on.

MARTINA, as drawn by Carmen Agra Deedy
LOOK AT MY BOOK by Loreen Leedy author & illustrator, How Kids Can Write & Illustrate Terrific Books

One of my best moments of a day of  beautiful moments, involved  a young reader  &  my alligator word search hand out. I have the habit of challenging kiddos to make all the words they can, out of the letters in alligator – some 30 words are possible. (This only makes sense if you know that the subject of my p.b. bio, Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, wrestled alligators when her husband was too ill to entertain tourists, his job to keep food on the table for her & the kiddos in South Florida, after his service to the U.S. in World War II.) As a tipoff for the alligator word search, I said there are 3 words with only 2 letters. Wrong! CONGRATULATIONS to the sharp-eyed word-searcher, who has a great career ahead in editing, if you ask me. (The video takes place in front of one of the many fine vendors. I restrained myself with a purchase from those enticing  book crates-  but picture book fan that I am, it was tough. Do visit, online or in Orlando,  Leedy’s Books . ) And see more on the UCF festival as reported in 2010 (the FIRST one) by Loreen Leedy here & with her 2011 video clip, here . Great to finally meet you, Loreen.

As for the Culture & Nature  panel I mentioned, it was sweet for me by Saturday afternoon, to recognize faces in the audience – folks I had chatted with during the weekend. This is the lone unfuzzed foto I have of our panel. The foloup questions made us think. And I appreciate that so many readers are curious about Betty Mae Tiger Jumper; the picture book biography about her, SHE SANG PROMISE, was the reason for my travel to Orlando.

My focus wasn’t novels, but let me not wind down without sharing that I’ve asked at my library for purchase of  SAVING HOME by Judy Lindquist and Amie Leavitt’s intriguing  THE BATTLE of the ALAMO. It has the set-up where the young reader, following an Arkansas farm boy, can select an outcome. Clever, no? And Judy has a Timucua girl character in her St. Augustine-set story. History in novels is what I love to read. And can you sneak any  closer to Florida’s celebrated literary heritage than by treating yourself to the un-airconditioned days back when, in

ZORA and ME? Imagine Zora Neale Hurston’s best childhood friends. Imagine the fun & trouble these 3 kiddos conjured up, in Eatonville, FL. New talents Bond & Simon have looked into that crystal ball , in a clear, beautiful way. BRAVA!

SAVING HOME by Judy Lindquist
Amie Jane Leavitts BATTLE of the ALAMO
NOT FEATHERS YET Lola Haskins (sweet that her granddaughter is the cover model )

And I am nuts about great books on our craft. So it was good to renew an aquaintance with NOT FEATHERS YET author, poet  Lola Haskins, & also to discover that the wonderful novelist Judith Ortiz Cofer, has this gem: LESSONS from a WRITER’S LIFE.

LESSONS from a WRITERs LIFE Judith Ortiz Cofer

As promised, here as coda, I present The Hon. Bob Graham & Christina Diaz Gonzalez, from a moment when  I snapped them at Florida Heritage Month events  in Tallahassee, March 2011. PLUS, an extra bonus,here is the official 2011 UCF Book Festival poster with  calm books above calm water in the unique vision by UCF Book Festival artist Pamela Miller. Everyone who could, got her autograph of their copy. And some lucky folks bought more of her work.

Read about the aritst, here.

"Worlds on the Horizon" by Pamela Miller


One response to “Readers & writers in joy at UCF Book Fest”

  1. It all sounds wonderful! I know Carmen Deedy from years of sharing a publisher–and we became grannies at virtually the same time. She is first and foremost an incredible storyteller. Absolutely spell-binding. To put it mildly, she does the voices!

    Adrian Fogelin


your thoughts? please leave a comment, to pop up after moderator o.k. thank you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: