Back from the Festival
My trip to the 43rd Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi marked my first out-of-state literary conference and my first taste of sweet tea. Quite an experience.
Note to all you non-southerners: Sweet tea is not iced-tea with sugar. Picture +a half-cup of sugar in this glass and you’ll start to get the idea. If you’re feeling brave, check out this site for a recipe.
I attended the Festival as one of four Graduate Ambassadors, which means that I not only got to go to the Festival in exchange for helping the organizers during the event, but I got to witness the behind-the-scenes workings of a regional conference. Though the event is geared toward librarians, library science students, and teachers (i.e. not me), it was a worthwhile trip and I’m so glad I had this opportunity.
Highlights included talks by author Richard Peck and illustrator/writer David Wiesner. Though I wasn’t very familiar with Peck or his work, he was a fantastic speaker. David Wiesner I knew — you’ll probably recognize his Caldecott-winning book Tuesday:
I also really enjoyed hearing from author/illustrator Lulu Delacre, who wrote her first book after not finding any books featuring Latino characters for her young children (still a widely-discussed issue in children’s/young adult literature). Unfortunately, I don’t think her talk resonated with the majority of the attendees. Besides (offering the potential for…) opening up important discussions of diversity within books for children, her talk created an interesting tension alongside Peck’s rallying cry of not writing from what you know or experience, but from what you observe.
A big perk to the trip was the chance to do a bit of research at the University’s de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection. More on that later. And of course, another great thing about events like this is meeting people who are also passionate about children’s books! Bonnie, another Graduate Ambassador, shares her thoughts on the Festival here. The Festival offers (4? I’m not sure) Graduate Ambassador positions every year, so if you’re in LIS school or interested in children’s literature, start checking the Festival website next fall.
If you attended this year, please drop a note! There’s not nearly enough chatter out there on this event. Or, if you know of/have been to other children’s/YA literature-related events, I would love to hear about them.