Saturday, August 4, 2007

Children's Literature Institute at Simmons College

Here is my recap of Food Glorious Food!, the Children's Literature Institute I attended at Simmons College from July 26th-July 29th. I haven't included information about the presentations of all the children's authors and illustrators. My notes are incomplete. Sorry! Here's what I do have to tell you about:

David Macaulay showed us his work-in-progress, The Way We Work--a book about the human body. It will be published in Fall 2008.

Alice Hoffman talked about an author’s voice as being one of the most important things about a writer. She likened it to an author’s fingerprints—a unique style born of the writer’s life experiences.

Natalie Babbitt spoke about writing being a weighty kind of therapy. Her advice to a writer: Set your story in a time that allows you to have characters do and say what you want them to. She also talked about chocolate and bacon being two things she takes great pleasure in today.

Roger Sutton talked about professional reviewers writing book reviews. He quoted one individual as once saying that “sometimes words just don’t taste write.” He also discussed some words that may be overused and lack specificity—charming, beautiful, interesting, delightful, appealing, entertaining. As he was speaking at an institute that featured a focus on food in literature, he mentioned that “edible metaphors can bite us in the ass.” He also opined that “Reading is not eating.” I think I got both quotes correct. You can always ask Roger! I did have the opportunity to finally meet Roger and chat with him briefly.

I finally got to meet Angela Johnson, the author of one of my favorite poetry books for young adults—The Other Side: Shorter Poems. Did you know that Angela was once a nanny for Cynthia Rylant—and that Cynthia sent out one of Angela’s manuscripts without her knowledge? Good thing Cynthia did, too, because the manuscript was accepted for publication. I talked to Angela about The Other Side and about another favorite book of poems by Cynthia Rylant, Waiting to Waltz. It also happens to be one of Angela’s favorite books. If you haven’t read it—I highly recommend that you do.

Arthur Yorinks told the funniest story about himself, actor Alan Arkin, their wives, a poodle, a pair of red Reboks…and a canoe trip down a river in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia—which he compared to the writing process. It was like a standup comedy routine. He was so funny. I can’t capture in writing Yorinks’ flair for storytelling. Sorry again!

Jack Gantos was funny and entertaining as always. He was serious about books, too, and talked about how you—as a reader—may be finished with a book…but the book may not be finished with you. He also advised us not to forget the older books that are “already good.”

Sy Montgomery, an award-winning author of nonfiction books for children and adults, told us the heartwarming story of a pig that was an important part of her life for fourteen years—a pig that brought her closer to the people in the community where she lived, a pig that helped her learn lessons about life. This was the pig she wrote about in her national bestseller The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood. Montgomery’s was a wonderful presentation, which included slides of a little runt pig who grew to an enormous size. Everyone rushed to buy The Good Good Pig after her presentation. I had to pick one up at Banbury Cross this week because I wasn’t quick enough.

I enjoyed the presentations of all the speakers—even though I haven’t written about them all. Another thing I always enjoy about the Simmons Institute is getting to know the other attendees and talking about books with people who also love children's literature. They are teachers, and librarians, and children’s authors and illustrators—many of whom I have met at Simmons in previous years.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. That sounds like it was a lot of fun.

Elaine Magliaro said...


The institute was wonderful. There were so many speakers on Friday that it was hard to digest everything that was said. I find it difficult taking copious notes because I often miss important portions of the presentations. Too bad I don't have a better memory.

Anonymous said...

I have a copy of Waiting to Waltz. Love it! And Jack Gantos, another favorite author. Have you read any of his young adult boks. Great reads.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I read his autobiography--A HOLE IN MY LIFE. Great book! My daughter used to love the Rotten Ralph books when she was little.

By the way, Jack is a presenter at every Simmons Children's Literature Institute now. He's taken the place of the late Robert Cormier. The next institute will be in 2009.

Vivian Mahoney said...

This sounds so wonderful. I'll need to look into this for next session.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I've been attending the institutes regularly since 2001. They've all been great. You should come to the one in 2009.