This is a hat that I'm both sad and relieved to be taking off. It has been so much fun (and work—but that's why it's a job, right?) to help coordinate the children's literature conference the past two years. Last year's conference was wonderful, but this year's conference was...even more wonderful. The group of authors we had this year was just spectacular to work with. They were all so gracious and encouraging, interested in each other's work and in the people around them at the conference. Perfectly engaging.
Andrew was at a conference in Montreal all week, and the days before he left Alexander and Benjamin were out with a not-COVID stomach bug/fever/cough, and I had so much going on, and was getting up in the middle of the night with throwing-up children, and trying to pull everything together for the conference and get all my work done for my poetry class and finish a draft of the analysis section of my thesis and...and...and...I felt like I was about coming apart at the seams!
Reid/Grandpa kept the boys for us Thursday/Friday/Saturday and dropped me and the girls off at the conference center. Rachel and Miriam were expert baby tenders, and Zoë was also a very helpful baby entertainer. Phoebe, for her part, was a chaos machine. However, she was really quite well-behaved on Friday. By Saturday, however, she'd had it and was a little more difficult to manage.
Anyway, it was just a wonderful time! I got to meet Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, which was really cool. I'm discussing When Stars Are Scattered in my thesis, so it was lovely to hear a bit about their writing experience firsthand.
Here's a shot of Karl Newson, Anne Sibley O'Brien, and Carole Boston Weatherford doing some book signings. All delightful speakers coming out with such wonderful books and projects. We recently had Karl's book I Really Really Need to Pee out from the library and the kids thought it was hilarious. We loved Annie's Hocus Pocus! It's Fall! and Abracadabra! It's Spring! but she was really here along with Kirsten Cappy to represent I'm Your Neighbor, a wonderful project to promote a sense of belonging in communities. Carole Boston Weatherford's list of publications absolutely blows my mind; she's very prolific, and so, so casual about it. I wish I could have gone to her workshop (but I missed it...along with so many other sessions that would have been wonderful to attend).
Here's everyone gathered for a picture at the end—our key note speakers, along with Dr. Panaou (my boss and thesis committee member) on the far right, and some wonderful local authors in front.
Meeting Reem Faruqi was a wonderful treat, too! The kids and I recently read Unsettled together, which was beautiful! And Reem and I have been emailing back and forth so long that I felt like I already knew her! She's expecting her fourth girl, and here I am holding my fourth girl! (Reem and I were also "masking buddies," along with Carole Boston Weatherford and a handful of other people).
Zoë was especially excited to meet Randi Sonenshine. Last year (or, I suppose, a year and a half ago) when Randi emailed me about something conference related her name sounded so familiar to me, so I thought about it and finally connected her name to The Nest that Wren Built, so when I wrote back I told her we'd recently borrowed her book from the library (because we had) and that Zoë, in particular, just loved it. In response Randi sent Zoë a package with her own signed copy of the book and some bookmarks. Zoë was over the moon!
When Randi's next book—The Lodge that Beaver Built—came out, I went ahead and purchased a copy in advance so that I could take it to the conference and have Randi sign it there. So naturally the day before we left I could not find it anywhere! I had assembled a billion other books I needed to take to the conference—to show during my own presentation, to have various authors sign, and to let sit in the hotel room for Phoebe to read—but we could not find The Lodge that Beaver Built anywhere! We turned the house completely upside down looking for it...and then finally found it on a bookshelf in Zoë's room that everyone had looked through at least twice.
This morning, Zoë came down from our hotel room to stand in line and have Randi sign her book and to give Randi a picture that she had drawn (of a bulldog—which is UGA's logo). She walked away just beaming, and then opened the book to read what Randi had written and just...fizzled.
"Mom," she gulped. "This...this is all wrong!"
"What is?" I asked.
Randi had verified the spelling of her name and everything—Z-O-Ë, with two dots over the e.
"She wrote 'find the poetry in nature, and keep drawing you beautiful art.' She meant to write your!"
"I'm sure she'd be happy to fix it if you ask her," I said. "Just get back in line and ask for your r!"
So Zoë did! And Randi thought it was hilarious! Shanda McCloskey, illustrator of Little Red and the Big Bad Editor was sitting at the signing table as well and she and Randi were just cracking up over what a good editor Zoë was! Randi happily gave Zoë the needed /r/ and Zoë skipped off...but not for long.
Soon she was asking me if we could go back and ask for a picture as well. She takes a while to warm up and feel brave enough to do things sometimes, and that's okay!
Here's Randi and Zoë together:
I have other stories...but those will have to wait. I am exhausted.
Oh, I guess I will say that Andrew's flight home from Montreal was supposed to take him to Detroit for a three-hour layover, and putting him home after bedtime. Which...was fine. I wasn't looking forward to having to do dinner and bedtime on my own after a long and tiring week (though I will admit that Rachel and Miriam are always wonderful helpers with that sort of thing), but sometimes these things can't be helped.
And he was obviously choosing the cheapest flight available since it would otherwise be ludicrous to fly two hours from Montreal to Detroit, sit for three hours, and then fly for two hours from Detroit to Atlanta.
But he texted me just as we were loading into the van after the conference to tell me that he didn't have a seat when he went to check in (I thought he didn't have a seat at all, but he simply didn't have a seat assigned), so he went to the desk to get that worked out and the person at the desk went ahead and verified his seat for the first leg of his flight and then offered to do the same for the next leg as well.
"Oh, wait! You're going to Atlanta?" they asked and then pointed to the next terminal over. "They're leaving straight for Atlanta 40 minutes after this flight leaves for Detroit. Do you want me to see if I can get you on that plane instead?"
So that's what they did! They found an empty seat on the direct flight and switched his ticket. Now Andrew just had a two-hour plane ride from Montreal to Atlanta! And he got home five hours earlier than planned—just in time for dinner (which Rachel and Miriam helped me make) and bedtime (which Andrew helped with)!
Anyway, when we got everyone loaded into the van, I said, "Bad news: Daddy was bumped from his flight. So he has to wait 40 minutes to catch the next flight."
The kids all moaned and groaned because...they like having Andrew around.
"His new flight goes straight from Montreal to Atlanta, so it's going to put him home around 5:30 instead of 10:00."
There was some silence while everyone processed this information before Grandpa said, "Well, that's the best sort of bad news!"
And it was! I think we're all happy to be home in our own beds, especially Zoë...who graciously slept in the stroller for two nights. Honestly, this room said "sleeps four," which I thought would be perfect for sleeping five (we're small people!), but I think "sleeps 4" it was a very generous description. These beds were not queen beds, just full beds. Fitting three people into one of those beds was going to be a little tricky (especially given how...wriggly...some of our sleepers are). So, Rachel and Miriam shared a bed and Phoebe and I shared a bed and we pushed the lone chair in the room into the space between the beds and then parked the stroller up against that to create a makeshift bed for Zoë (and she actually slept rather comfortably there, if I do say so, myself (at any rate she made no complaints about having to sleep there a second night)).