Texas Children’s Book Festival in Corpus Christi

So the first thing I noticed when I arrived in Corpus Christi is how very flat it is.

The only other place I’ve been that’s as flat is Kansas.

Both are so flat you forget the planet is round. You imagine setting a Greyhound loose and that the poor dog will eventually keel over not from scaling treacherous terrain, but from the sheer exhaustion of not having anything obstructing its path for, say, twelve thousand miles.

Anyway. Such a landscape is conducive to lovely and voracious winds. Winds that buffeted our festival tent to dangerous heights and literally PULLED THE TENT STAKES out of the earth. Strong men had to grab them while shouting manly things to each other like, “This ain’t good….the whole thing might blow.”  The entire time I was terribly excited, as though we were part of the Flying Dutchman’s crew.

The kids involved were troopers and ran with it. Four-year-olds are remarkably adaptable. (Note the suspicious child in the front. I love that guy.)

The festival committee was amazing. Librarians converged from everywhere to make the whole thing possible. So down-to-earth and go-with-the-flow and deeply concerned with kids and literacy, of course, and with the fate of such programs under the budget cuts.

But not to despair! With such hearts devoted to kids reading, we shall overcome. We shall.

On Thursday, I got to meet amazing author/illustrators Don Tate and Keith Graves. Both are super sweet, amicable, fascinating folksies. I tried to convince them to visit the beach with me after dinner but turns out they had the mature idea of getting to bed at a decent hour. I can’t blame myself for the impulsiveness though; lovely as Austin is, we are landlocked.

Keith Graves, me, Don Tate

Norma Puente, wonderful elementary literary coach, and me

Don Tate and me at Neyland Branch Library

Awesome children’s reading room at the library

View from my hotel room. Corpus is home to the first Whataburger, I believe.

On Friday I got to meet author Carmen Tafolla. Don, Keith and Carmen are great inspirations. I really love other author/illustrators. We are always slightly bewildered by the whirlwind of publishing, no matter how savvy we might be. Commiserating together is nourishing. Especially while ingesting vast quantities of bacon-wrapped shrimp.

On Friday the lovely Paige Dinn of the festval committee took me over to present to the kindergarten-through-second grade of Crockett Elementary School. Among the questions I was asked—and bear in mind these were questions posed by people under the age of seven—were:

“How do you FEEL while you’re writing a book?”

“What makes you pick those colors?”

“Do you like writing or illustrating more? Is it frustrating to do both?”

Can we say brilliant? Can we say I’m not worried about Crockett Elementary’s contribution to the future of our species? Can we assume this school is churning out people who will help us evade the zombie apocalypse?

Then the lovely librarian presented me with a bouquet of tissue flowers and a copy of Tomie DePaola’s “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush,” a book I have long loved.

Anyway. It was a great festival put together by amazing people. I feel very lucky to have been a part of it.

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