Monday, November 14, 2005

My Day at the Fair

I've been talking about the Connecticut Children's Book Fair for months. I was not all talk and no action. It was held this past weekend, and I actually went yesterday. I don't make a point of going every year because while the Fair always hosts highly regarded writers, it does seem to focus more on picture book authors and illustrators. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but my own interest is in books for the middle grades and older.

Okay, first I'll talk about the event in general. I have taken part in at least three book fairs (including the Connecticut Children's Book Fair sometime back in the 90s) and additional group signings, and they are all alike. Most of the authors sit alone at tables looking as if they wished they'd stayed home and done their laundry or mowed the lawn while one big name is getting writer's cramp from all the signing he or she is doing. Yesterday was no different, at least during the hour and a half I was there. Lonely authors sat watching shoppers who milled about among the tables of books offered for sale. Until Tomie dePaolo showed up for his signing. He was seated at the far end of a ballroom. The line of people waiting for him to sign books extended the length of the ballroom and out the door. And this was for his second signing of the day.

I can't imagine anyone being envious of an author at a book fair.

Okay, now that you've got the feel for the book fair experience, I will go on to give you the high points on the author presentation I attended--Suzanne Collins's, of course. Her audience filled up about three-fourths of her room, which was far better than the dozen or so people I had when I gave a presentation at that book fair. (I once saw an author at a book fair giving a presentation to three people--believe me, these are rough gigs.) Collins gave an interesting presentation, and she was prepared to address both adults and children, which isn't easy.

I took all kinds of notes during her talk, but I've decided not to relate every detail because what if you have a chance to hear her speak and I've already told you everything she has to say? If I were her, I'd be really ticked off if someone was giving away all my material.

However, she did say one thing that was really significant for me personally, so I'll pass that on. I love The Underland Chronicles, which is strange because I don't care much for fantasy. However, Collins says she doesn't think of them as fantasy. She thinks of them as a war story. That's what she has in mind when she's writing. Perhaps that's what I'm responding to, the war story, not the fantasy.

The fourth book comes out in May, 2006, which means we'll be competing for review space. Shoot. And the fifth book will be coming out the year after. As a reader, I'm glad the books will be coming out so soon. As a writer, I'm chagrined because she can work so much faster than I can. And that's on top of holding down a job as head writer for a children's show, the name of which I can't remember.

I said hello to three acquaintances while I was at the fair. Patricia Hubbell is the only one I think had a clue who I was.

Children's Book Week

Susan at Chicken Spaghetti tipped me off to the fact that this is Children's Book Week. I never seem to know about these things ahead of time. Susan has a list of ways individuals can observe the event. Personally, I'm hitting my local elementary school's book fair tomorrow.

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