Years ago, I remember reading a post on children’s writers’ online message board (yes, we editors lurk) about how slow things are at publishing houses during the summer months. “All the editors are at their vacation houses in the Hamptons!” a writer complained.
HA. Here in Chicago, there are no jaunts to the Hamptons for us, only trips to the Lake Michigan beaches. But sometimes we manage to escape to other fabulous Midwest destinations, such as Mankato, Minnesota. I’m a big fan of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, so when the first-ever LauraPalooza academic conference and fan fair was announced at Minnesota State University, I knew I had to go.
The conference was everything I’d hoped it would be and then some, with more than two dozen presentations and a field trip to one of the Little House homesites in Walnut Grove, MN. I met scholars, book authors, independent researchers, teachers, illustrators, librarians, and even a meterologist who gave a great talk on the weather conditions behind The Long Winter. (And yes, I met some people who were wearing sunbonnets, too.)
As a bonus, the conference offered a free visit to another beloved children’s book destination—the childhood neighborhood of Maud Hart Lovelace, AKA the setting of the Betsy-Tacy books. Of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity to be led around by a Maud Hart Lovelace impersonator (dressed in excellent 1940s garb!) and see where Betsy, Tacy and Tib lived. All this children’s literary tourism is making me resolve to get out to Putnam, Connecticut to see Gertrude Chandler Warner’s home town and the Boxcar Children Museum. (Josalyn is planning a trip there; she’ll report back!)
(Quick quiz: what are TWO things all the authors mentioned in this blog entry have in common?*)
I answered the query letter for Dori’s first book with us nearly a decade ago, and since then we’ve worked on several novels, including The Truth About Truman School. She began the Buddy series with another editor but now I’m lucky to be back working with her on the new Buddy books.
As it happened, the Iowa City Book Festival was in progress on the day I was in town, and Dori was doing a bookstore signing. So of course I had to show up and take pictures. I was also able to show her a cover sketch for the fifth Buddy Files book, The Case of the Library Monster (coming in the spring).
After lunch (must turn in expense report), Dori went home to brainstorm Buddy #6 and I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting my favorite places from when I went to college in Iowa City, including the wonderfully creepy Mammal Hall in the university’s natural history museum, before driving home to Chicago.
Does the Hamptons have old taxidermied animals? Or people dressed up in sunbonnets and as classic children’s book authors? If not, I’m not interested. I suppose another visit or two to Montrose Beach is in order for complete vacation fulfillment, but this trip came pretty close.
*Did you get they’re all 1.) great children’s book series authors and 2.) have three names? Of course you did.