One Fantastic Day
I spoke at an American Association of University Women's luncheon yesterday, and it went extremely well. I spoke at one last year around this time and went nuts getting ready for it. Because I'd already spent a lot of time prepping for other speaking engagements these last few months, I didn't get into worrying about this one too much. I revised last year's talk, liked it better, and just practiced it a few times. I did wonder a bit on the drive there if maybe that had been a mistake. I find that the severity of a situation descreases in direct proportion to the amount of time one spends worrying about it. I didn't worry about this talk so the potential for it blowing up in my face was great.
But it didn't. People bought my books. Some teachers and a librarian stopped by, made purchases, and talked. People said they liked my speech. I enjoyed the other speakers. The meal was good.
It's very, very rare that a public appearance goes this well for me. I usually do well at schools, but otherwise I'm pretty disappointed in myself.
I Seem To Find Something About Children's Books Everywhere
I recently read most of Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose 1983-2005 by Margaret Atwood. Atwood and I go way back, though she doesn't know it. I read some of her poetry while I was in college studying Canadian Literature because I was trying to get in touch with my Canadian roots. Of course, Atwood's roots are English Canadian while mine are French Canadian, which meant we didn't connect all that well. Especially since I didn't understand her poetry. But I continued reading her fiction and was a fan of The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace, though I couldn't get through The Blind Assassin.
Okay, what does this have to do with kidlit, you're probably asking. Well, Atwood has written six children's books, most recently Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda. And some day I will read some of them. Really.
What I did want to talk about today was something from Writing with Intent. The book includes an afterword by Atwood for Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery. She says:
"...for a Canadian woman--once a Canadian girl--Anne is a truism. Readers of my generation, and of several generations before and since, do not think of Anne as 'written.' It has simply always been there."
I think that is true of many children's books. Some people might say it's true of books for adults, too. But we read adult books as adults. We remember a before. Little Women and Little Men have always been there.
Of course, Anne of Green Gables may be in a league of its own. I don't know if we have anything in the U.S. that compares to the Anne obsession in Prince Edward Island. As you approach the province, you find Anne becoming more and more of a presence, with Anne dolls and knick knacks being sold in all kinds of weird places in New Brunswick.
Yeah, I've been to both Orchard House and Fruitlands, but I've never seen Jo March potholders or chocolates, the way I saw Anne Shirley potholders and chocolates in P.E.I.. You have to see that place to believe it.