Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 8, 2011

The Burlington Book Festival

Here’s a view of Main Street Landing by Lake Champlain where a lot of us talked about words at the Burlington Book Festival.

Tanya Lee Stone and I gave a presentation on nonfiction for young readers.We talked about research, falling in love with our subjects, and ways we collaborate with illustrators, which often is mostly as a historical reference provider.

Soon we joined Jo Knowles for a panel about writing for teens, responding to great questions from Ruby, a young friend of Tanya’s, and the audience. We revealed the lengths of time between the dream of writing and publication. And who feels compelled to write every day (that would be me, even for fifteen minutes) and who is less compulsive. We discussed the ways revision teaches us about theme and adds layers – Jo changing points of view and tenses from one draft of a novel to the next, Tanya and I often starting a longer book as a picture book, distilling, which points us toward the essence of what we have to say, while we go on to expand the scope. My husband, Peter, took pictures,including this one of Jo encouraging a writer.

I listened in to part of the panel about books for middle readers. From the left, Cynthia Lord (Touch Blue, Rules), Erica S. Perl, (When Life Gives You O.J.),  Linda Urban (Hound Dog True) Sarah Albee (Poop Happened!), Ammi-Joan Pacquette  (Nowhere Girl), Sarah Aronson (Beyond Lucky), Kate Messner  (Marty McGuire, Sugar and Ice) all told some of the stories behind the stories.

The day ended with what was called a super panel, which included those above as well Elizabeth Bluemle (How Do You Wokka-Wokka?) and Kara LaReau  (Otto: The Boy Who Loved Cars) fielding questions about inspiration, agents, waiting, and discipline. We signed books sold by Phoenix Books and Café.  In the corridors we caught up with what are we crossing our fingers about now, or what some really thought about the cover of her book. I met new readers and writers, too. One young writer told me she wrote eight pages in her notebook. “There was so much I didn’t know!”

There’s still a lot I don’t know, but as years pass there’s a little bit less. And today, I imagine this writer opening her notebook with its ribbon marker filled both with eight pages of revealed mysteries as well as empty pages which are the most important of all. We may both be looking at blank paper or screens, trying to make something new from what we don’t know and are excited to find out.

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