Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 10, 2010

Coming Home

I had a wonderful weekend at the Children’s Literature New England colloquy , where Peter Sis charmed us with the story of his life, Ashley Bryan read poems for an hour, and many amazing writers talked brilliantly about books we’d read beforehand. We were reminded that anything can happen in Vermont as we admired pear trees in bloom and we walked, at least through the parking lot, under falling snow. I joined a discussion about nonfiction, which was fascinating, though I was uncomfortable when a writer expressed her conviction that writers should never blur the lines between nonfiction and fiction. I can’t agree that writers should never invent dialogue since we’d lose graphic novels, movies, poetry, some lovely picture books, and, well, The Little House books. Life is more complicated than the Dewey Decimal system, and even library cataloguing must resort to some acrobatic blurring: in another conversation, some librarians spoke of what they did with the 398s, or to must of us, fairy tales, which sit right next to non-fiction. It’s a confusing world, but we learn as we muddle through.

I met some people including some I’d “met’ here on Livejournal.: writers Tami Lewis Brown tamilewisbrown and Helen Hemphill helenhemphill whose thoughts I’d read on the Through the Tollbooth Talking by the door. Tami, who was delaying just a little setting off to finish revisions on her novel, spoke of a revelation she’d had from a vivid dream, which reminded her of the uses of drama, even, sometimes, kind of cheap drama. “I believe in subtext,” she said. “But sometimes it can be too sub.”

Of all the wise things I heard spoken this weekend, this may be my favorite line. I, too, love what’s subtle, but I’ve long known my tendency to sometimes be a bit too. You don’t want to smack readers in the face, but you do want them to notice. Or maybe best of all you want them to notice without knowing they notice theme creeping in.

Spending time with people who care about books and children was a great way to mark the end of the semester, and now I feel ready for a summer of writing. Practicing walking the lines between obscure and obvious, the lines where we try slip into hearts.

Em: Thank you for the tulips!



  1. I wish I could have come! But it is just too far from Frankfurt. I was at the last CLNE–where we met briefly. It was such a great conference.
    Maybe next time I can make it.

  2. Ooh! What pretty tulips!
    That subtext line is pretty great too!

  3. Leave it to Tami to drop a line like that at the door. What a great weekend! Thanks for putting down some thoughts for those of us who couldn’t be there–I love thinking about those pear trees! Zu

  4. Leave it to Tami to drop a line like that at the door. Sounds like a great weekend! Thanks for sharing some thoughts for those of us who couldn’t be there. I love the sound of those pear trees. Zu

  5. I hope you can make it next time or that we meet again before then!

  6. All tulips are great, but yellow ones with orange streaks are kind of perfection.
    And the subtext remark hit home.

  7. Thanks for stopping by. I think Tami has a deadline in a very days, so it’s good if we send grateful-to-her and happy thoughts her way.

  8. The tulips are beautiful!
    Jeannine: Thanks for your good comments about CLNE. It was a fun time, and I really enjoyed meeting you. Hope your trip home was safe and uneventful, even with the snow. I don’t blog other than the Tollbooth…some of my posts show up on my home page at LiveJournal (I don’t really know why!) We’re working on an update to the Tollbooth site for this fall. Again, great to meet you. I’m happy we’re friends! Helen

  9. Re: The tulips are beautiful!
    Great to meet you, Helen! I’ll look forward to the revamped Tollbooth come fall. Hope your summer is creative!

  10. Oh my gosh! How funny.
    I PROMISE you my editor would agree that my subtext is often a little too sub! If I was brave I’d forward your post to her. But um I’m not that brave!
    It was so great spending time with you, Jeannine! I can’t wait until the next time.

  11. I hope it doesn’t feel too creepy to have dropped a line that ended up in a blog. But the moment seemed to deserve memorializing. I have a way of thinking I just took ten giant steps and no one else thinks I moved half an inch, in my writing.
    It was great sharing some words and laughs with you!

  12. No! I think it was lovely. And actually I’d sort of forgotten I’d said that but it’s something I REALLY need to remember while I’m working on this revision.
    I felt like CLNE helped me leap forward, too.

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