Just the Cleaning Out I Needed!

The Virginia Festival of the Book was the comprehensive literary laxative that I needed. Bumping up against writers and agents all day gave the soul a smart polishing as well. I hardly know where to start, I had so much fun!

Once I made it into the C-Ville Omni after being lost in the damn parking lot for a few minutes, I found myself lost in an enormous foyer filled with book kiosks. Authors were signing books, writers were hawking self-published projects, and all I could smell were new pages hot off the press. I’m a book freak. When book orders come to my classroom, I open the box just to smell the books. Now that’s my kind of aromatherapy! I should have been a librarian. I’m just TOO weird.

I did finally overcome the book sale attention deficit to make it to my first workshop on self-publishing. The commentators did a terrific job of convincing me that I didn’t have a snowman turd’s chance in hell of ever getting together a book on my own. Between the copy-editing, book designing, formatting, publishing, electronic formats, publicity, and distribution, I would find my sanity thumbing a ride south to a Key somewhere off Florida. Not for me.

My next forum was on publishing children’s books. I picked up a few books by the authors on the roster for the signing afterwards. When I walked in the room, the cheery energy took my hand and led me right to an aisle seat amidst a bunch of happy looking industry hopefuls. The moderator, Fran Cannon Slayton, author of When the Whistle Blows, began the session by explaining that each author on the panel would tell their own publishing story.

Laura Joy Rennert, author of Buying, Training, and Caring for Your Dinosaur and the upcoming Emma, the Extra-ordinary Princess, spoke first. She’s actually a senior agent from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency in California. I soon realized I was sitting fifteen feet from an agent who cuts six figure book deals for middle grade and young adult authors on a fairly regular basis. I thought of all the children’s manuscripts I have been working on lately. They’ve all been cooling in my hard drive for a couple of months, but suddenly I could feel my story Frank the Flamingo flap to the forefront for some attention. I tried to slow my racing heart so I wouldn’t develop sweat stains on my new blue shirt.

Ruth Spiro, author of Lester Fizz, Bubble Gum Artist, was next in line to share her story of being a stay-at-home mom who got her first story published on the first try, yadda, yadda, yadda. Lester is a really off-beat character with an unusual talent, so I see why her quick success was possible. Frank the Flamingo is also one wackadoodle anthropomorphic bird. I can do this.

Emily Ecton spoke next. She’s a writer and producer for NPR’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me. She’s the author of Boots and Pieces, The Curse of Cuddles McGee, and Night of the Living Lawn Ornaments. She gave off a sweet, unassuming vibe. Anyone who writes about hamsters and lawn ornaments has to be way cool. Frank is a lawn ornament. Tee-hee

After Emily, Deborah Heiligman, author of Charles and Emma and twenty five other kids’ books, took the mike. What a funny personality! She’s a former Scholastic News writer. I’ve read many an issue of that publication with my students! She emphasized what great training it was for her current career to have to write that tightly. I liked her style.

Finally, Bonnie Doerr, eco-mystery author of Island Sting, shared her experiences in publishing. She’s a fellow reading teacher like me! I felt an INSTANT kinship! Her mission is to promote both reading and greener living. I love the cross-curricular appeal of her novel—she definitely knows how to hook reluctant readers! I couldn’t wait to take Island Sting back to school with me.

I loved meeting the writers after the forum. Emily Ecton seemed delighted that I had bought one of her books for the signing, and Laura Rennert’s autograph reminded my daughter to hug both her dinosaur AND her mommy every day. Ruth Spiro and I talked about using Lester Fizz to teach onomatopoeia, and I had a blast talking with Bonnie Doerr. We exchanged information, and she offered my kids a free Skype visit if enough students read Island Sting. What a cool opportunity!

My day was off to a terrific start!

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