Monday, March 25, 2002

Another Day, Another Conference

On Saturday I attended the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature in Westport, Connecticut. The festival, in its second year, was named for the home of Robert Lawson. Now, if you're like me, you've never heard of Robert Lawson. However, like me, you've probably heard of some of his books--The Story of Ferdinand, Mr. Popper's Penguins, and Ben and Me. He's the only author/illustrator to win both the Caldecott and Newbery Medals. He lived in the first half of the last century, back in the days when people (at least people in Westport) named their homes. (For years I've been trying to think of a name for my raised ranch. They only things I can come up with wouldn't look very nice engraved on stationery.)

Anyway, the festival's theme was "Authors of Historical Fiction." The festival began on Thursday night with an opening address, which I missed. On Friday the guest authors visited public schools in Westport. There was a dinner with the authors on Friday night, which I didn't manage to get to. On Sunday there was a puppet show. I think I was visiting relatives that day. However, on Saturday morning the Festival organizers held a symposium on writing historical fiction for young people, and that's what drew me to Paul Newman's home town. Joseph Bruchac spoke on turning to oral tradition for inspiration in writing history and talked about 'lost history' of such people as his own Abenaki ancestors. Patricia MacLachlan explained that the story behind Sarah, Plain and Tall came from her great-grandmother's experience and her own early life living on the prairie. Richard Peck suggested curriculum changes for public schools. The keynote address was given by Katherine Paterson. She explained that, though she writes historical fiction, current events have an impact on her choice of time periods to write about.

In the afternoon, the authors led workshops. I attended one led by
Patricia Reilly Giff, whose advice to writers was to take a character, put him in a situation, and give him a problem.

The really interesting thing about this symposium was that the authors were all really fine speakers. Some of them even had marvelous sounding voices.

I stumbled upon a Web site called All About Patricia Reilly Giff by "Amanda." She says that Ms. Giff's hobbies are "sitting on the beach, wearing her bathrobe, and reading in the bathtub." Those are my hobbies, too! Except for sitting on the beach.



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