APALACHICOLA. AUGUSTINE, ST. & the ALA
Collecting here, 3 A+ events. PLUS Happy National Day on Writing.
APALACHICOLA, up first. My husband caught a redfish! From shore.
Everyone caught on, to the idea that Apalachicola, Florida, tucked with salt into the river and bay and estuary of the same name, is a mighty fine place to hold a Florida literary festival.
It is a delight to walk inside tberestored Ormond House, where my hubby & I once stayed overnight during the life it led as a stately B & B. It was also equally grand to stroll into the beautiful restoration work-in-progress Raney House & imagine voices of times past.
It even much more cause for delight to be presenting at the restored Fry- Conter House & see a child-height book case. And to realize that this displays, like peacock feathers, large colorful illustrated books. And to understand that this bookcase is like at least 30 given to regional children via a mighty fine program. Celebrated at “Autumn-Authors in Apalachicola.”
This mission of the Franklin County/Apalachicola outpost of the national program, Bring Me a Book, is reason to walk with a spring in your step. The best books given to those wee readers who need it most. The furniture to help keep books tidy and to show appreciation
for the treasure. A piece of furniture that doubly serves as perfect picture frame, to showcase the picture book cover art. Furniture that helps the offenders serving prison time locally, who craft the bookcases for young minds. What better place to learn about this synergistic effort, than the historic Fry Conter House, restored, answering to the name, Apalachicola Museum of Art.
The festival is the beneficiary of so much effort from Apalachicola’s Head Reader Caty Greene, who writes with great style . Thanks be also to Dale Julian, maven of Downtown Books & Purl, plus other workers & doers.
HISTORIC ST. AUGUSTINE
SO on the other coast, know about the Florida Heritage Book Awards, where I was fortunate to meet Lucy Anne Hurston. I treasure her book, about her aunt, the multi-accomplished author Ms. Zora, who I denote here as an anthropologist. It is important to underscore her work in the field, as armor against the idea of Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott, to dissuade bright minds from concentrating their studies in this field of endeavor.
I gnashed my teeth over missing Ms. Lucy Anne Hurston’s presentation due entirely to my own fault of yapping with folks at the wrong time & not keeping track of the flow of things, but am not missing the chance to dwell in her book. It is a beauty of design, research & information. Please read it & enjoy the pull -out fascimile manuscripts, letters, notes & what have you, shared so generously in SPEAK SO YOU CAN SPEAK AGAIN: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. It is from Lucy Anne Hurston and the estate of Zora Neale Hurston. It helps a reader understand Mz. Zora’s hurculean accomplisments in an up-close way. You will tingle. The Christmas cards she drew and sent are priceless, along with everything else, including singed papers recovered when workmen cleared out her home after her death. This is a museum between covers, what it would take a researcher a lifetime to accumulate, in one treasure box of a book. Find an interview with Lucy Anne Hurston here. The book contains a CD with Zora Neale Hurston excerpts.
Next on the agenda, reuniting with parts of my past – both at the conference and offsite in a home visit to a friend of days ago who with her devoted hubby, is busy raising a new set of young readers whilst watching the family teen readers spread their wings. First up, esteemed University of Florida History professor emeritus Dr. Michael Gannon, who I enjoyed visiting with at a head banquet table. He is the prolific author of many manner of in-depth history books. Most easily consumed for novices to the peninsular topic is FLORIDA: A SHORT HISTORY. A bonus is the CD twinned with this book; you hear his broadcaster voice, which is how I first came to know him, interviewing him as a student reporter, about his radio days past in St. Augustine. Likewise it was an old times moment with a newsroom pal from days back, Randy White. The prolific creator of the famous derring-do character of the world, Doc Ford, introduced me to the talented pianist and chanteuse Wendy Webb, who creates a quite wonderful treasure trove of music.
It was a pleasure to spend time at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society table.
And to be finely hosted at my presentation by author Jane R. Wood, creator of an inventive middle grade novel series with history as its rich backdrop. Jane also whips us non-business type authors into shape with the publishing tips seminar she presents with her creative colleague Frances Keiser.
Whilst there for my presentation on Betty Mae Tiger Jumper and SHE SANG PROMISE, the picture book biography illustrated by Lisa Desimini, I found my way to some uncommon views of the Ancient City (ongoing research for SCENIC DRIVING FLORIDA heritage travel guide, now in the 3rd ed.)
The plaque that commemorates an courageous event that never should have happened. Thank you to writing colleague David Nolan, who I also missed seeing there with my yapping & thanks to whoever else is responsible for this historic marker being in place today. Having known about the harsh response to those toiling in the cause of Civil Rights – may their memories always be upheld – I didn’t before inform myself exactly where the infamous pool incident unfolded. Now I know & I can more readily steer pals to a commercial site that holds this history- the Hilton, at city bayfront, near the lovely Bridge of Lions. Walk in, as parking is a bear.
A MOMENT for CALDECOTT
Tipped off by a I also found my way through neighborhoods to the St. Augustine gravesite of Randoph Caldecott – gates closed. While a writer never needs a reason to return to the atmospheric & lovely St. Augustine, if one is required, that visit is part of my to-do list, next St. Augustine jaunt.
THE ALA – not in Florida, again
WE hopped, skipped & jumped over to New Orleans & the colossal conference of some of the key upholders of our First Amendment, the folks of the American Library Association.
Most daily events were held in a building 1 and 1/3 mile long. I learned this description at the spiffy early bird orientation, where I also found a cheerful publisher’s representative who knew of the rural Cherryville to Quakertown, N.J. region, where I played in woods and fields as a beginning reader of comic books.
And there was almost an entire round table of enthusiastic USF information and library studies students playing the ice-breaker bingo game there, too. And well they should have been there as the esteemed professor, Dr. Henrietta Smith, former NYC children’s librarian, and longtime USF stalwart was honored at this ALA with the Virginia Hamilton Practioner Award for lifetime service award for her outstanding contributions to the library world through many decades.
Events glittered throughout at least 5 other venues, including the co-headquarters.
This Marriott at 555 Canal Street turned out to be a hotel filled with accommodating staff. (I hope you are reading this, Mr. Bill Marriott, who is a blogger of sorts – give that property an award.) My family & I were tickled to live on what turned out to be like a club floor, with the 2 pools & a giant deck & also, a room- with- a- view bend & stretch room all just steps away from our large, corner-view room. But of all the fine physical aspects of the hotel, we loved best the quiet of our room & the grand views from two picture windows. Well done, staff.
To feel the geography of the region, we immediately headed to the mighty, muddy Mississippi River.
We crossed over to the community of Algiers on the no-frills public ferry as walk-ons. The commuter boats are said to have churned along on this route since 1827. We enjoyed a walk along the levee & gazed at a giant sculpture of mega-talent Louis Armstrong, commanding a big levee. We decided to dine on lip-smacking Creole dishes from the delicious kitchen of The Dry Dock Cafe, where we also bought a gift certificate for Paolo’s pal, (who was out of town) who was the gem of a person who tipped us off to this gem of a side trip. Our ferry ride back was ever better, as it was darker and thus, we enjoyed our approach to a lit riverfront view. We expect to linger longer in atmospheric Algiers on our next New Orleans’ visit.
Next day, it was time to hop the red, Canal Street electric car (the one that says museums and NOT the one that takes you to a cemetery) & head to the enormous city park, with its miniature choo-choo train, carousel, sculpture garden, swans, boat rides & for our purpose – the New Orleans Museum of Art. Inside we learned about Edward Degas’ months living with & painting family, in New Orleans & we enjoyed his oil of his sister-in-law, who was blind.
We also were thrilled to see the exhibit of famous shoulder pins of the first woman who worked as the U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Not frippery say careful curator notes, which quote world leaders on how they assessed her shoulder pins (wasp or bee for tense times) to denote the mood of Madame Secretary.
We moved through galleries of Fabregre gems, viewed more astounding paintings from a variety of periods, saw sculpture, glassware, drawings, photography & installations. It was almost too much for the eyes & neurons to take in, but fortunately the legendary Brennan’s restaurant dynasty operates a stylish cafe on site & sit & sup on its aqua sofa facing a giant picture window over the city park, we composed our overloaded eyeballs.
I found Florida here. A finely made example of longshirt of the 1930s, created in lasting detail by a Seminole Indian fabric artist, who made it as everyday clothing for a man to wear in South Florida. I delight in having at hand in Bookseedstudio some of this sort of art in fabric – a few pieces of modern Seminole Tribe of Florida patchwork.
My favorite single object d’art at NOMA was the giant- format photograph of a retired NYPD officer. This sturdy individual lived in the museum with other retired of New York’s finest, 24/7. The now iconic image, by a talent who will remain unidentified here until I find my notes, was taken at the front of the lobby grand staircase to the second floor galleries. No NOMA art was lost after the August 28,2005 hell of water and wind that was Katrina, I was told. Many thanks to the Museum for hiring the art guards and to the NYPD retiree crew who lived with the art.
As I expected, response to the catastropic disaster wove itself with dignity and thought, through the ALA events.
For those who don’t follow this organization, you should know that it was one of the first groups to NOT cancel an already planned 2006 conference, when many booked convention groups were understandably uncertain about meeting in the devastated region. And I heard more than once, that New Orleans will always & forever to eternity hold the ALA in high esteem bordering on love, for that.
The first panel I selected was on the recovery of library service along the coast in Louisiana & Mississippi, following Hurricane Katrina (and also, Rita, the hurricane that followed Katrina.)
I was not the only one wiping away a stray tear when a community speaker, a library trustee, mind you, broke up at the start of sharing about the aftermath of that event. Everyone appreciated his honesty. And he forged on with his talk, much the way I imagine that the sturdy citizens of the Gulf communities did. We lucky attendees benefited from the heartfelt sharing in this conversation. I would have more on this here, but as is my habit, I unexpectedly gifted some place along the way with my notes, so Memory serves here. Many thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for its philanthropy regarding the importance of Books, Library services & community connectivity.
After this, events
continued to glow,
each one somehow wonderful in a different way from the next.
A shelf of images of my days of delight in being at ALA, with gratitude to my publisher, National Geographic, which brought out the book that brought me here, with fabulous artist Lisa Desimini. It is She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader. I also applaud the dedicated folks over at the Amelia Bloomer Project of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association.
The best parts of my participation in the breakfast that celebrated the 2011 Amelia Bloomer Project Book List, besides being able to meet & thank the industrious committee members in person, were:
listening to Margarita Engle speak with eloquence about The Firefly Letters, which I love; & also,
meeting the energetic Olga Cossi, who sharees the opposite side of a particular discussion topic with me but has my huge respect for her life achievements. I am glad to have her sign, Pemba Sherpa.
This goes without saying & will sound shamelessly self-promotional, but I offer my almost favorite photograph of the weekend, of artist extraordinaire Lisa Desimini, presenting at the AB Breakfast on a book I know & love well. One great image of Lisa signing books with a writer nearby her has temporarily disappeared from my files & I plan to contact photographer-daughter who is featured on a bench, below, to retrieve a copy.
At a separate ALA event, meeting Donna Jo Napoli & having her sign multiple books of hers that I brought from home was quite the ticket. I am an unabashed fan of children’s authors who write in great ways.
The photograph of 3 folks was taken at a festivity, to salute, via our wearing of gold paper laurel wreaths, this book on Greek legends & myths by Donna Jo Napoli, with museum quality artwork from Christina Balit. Congratulations Donna Jo!
My exterior party shots are more adequate, though. Here are some F & Gs of the Greek legend goodness, Treasury of Greek Mythology, propped up in the NG pub. party site window by the energeticNG party elfs.
That big black truck cab? Above? Somehow it drove away from this part of the blog. No it’s not a truck character for a picture book. (Although should it be? The lines this beauty drew – just for climbs into the shiny cab and a unique photo op! And also for a visit with rare & fun exhibits inside.) The Library of Congress takes this show on the road to rural areas.
Do you know books are benches? The lovely model attending her first ALA, worked part-time in a Florida library this summer.
It was beyond joy to unexpectedly be able to hug my longtime writing colleague, Mary Fears, an expert researcher on slave genealogy, a workshop leader on Civil War re-enactoring, and the prolific author of several books, plus a featured actor in the independent film, Filling the Gap, from Essence of History. How great to run into folks you know well at ALA! Equally beloved is Amanda Cockrell, director of the grad. progran in children’s literature at Hollins University, Roanoke, Va, who stopped by the Nat. Geo booth when looked fuzzy – at least to the camera. Librarians were eager to know about Amanda’s YA novel, What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay, from Flux, at the round table event earlier that day. Most wonderful was the chance to indulge in quality time with artist extraordinaire LISA DESIMINI, who is, even as I type, creating new wonderfulness for not only children’s authors but writers of adult fiction.
People who attend conferences are lavished with goodies – most that I collected will be divided up.
A HIGHLIGHTS bag went to a writer I’ve known forever who is multi-published by that wonderful magazine. A SCHOLASTIC bag went to a writer I’ve also known forever who is pubished by them. And my favorite book that I snared at 2011 ALA, Trickster, I asked to have inscribed for the AH-TAH-THI-KI Museum at the Big Cypress Reservation, Florida. And it resides there now, the Museum curator confirms.
A few more words or images about 2011 ALA in New Orleans.
This is from an artfully designed 2010 collection of stories and photographs, New Orleans, from Seattle’s Chin Music Press (Broken Levee Books imprint) & also available at the 2011 ALA:
“There are a series of bumper stickers…
New Orleans: Proud to Call It Home
New Orleans: Proud to Crawl Home
New Orleans: Proud to Swim Home…:
PLUS – I was happy to find books for sale nearly everywhere I looked in the city, such as this collection of alligator-themed tomes at the clever Jackson Square toy emporium, Little Toy Shop and this much-appreciated shop, Crescent City Books.