Monday, March 15, 2010

Greetings from Warrensburg

It's the first real day of the festival, the first day when the dozens of school buses arrive, disgorging the thousands of school kids. I just finished my four sessions. I always sort of dread giving my talk yet again, but then as soon as I'm there, and the kids are there, the magic is there, as well.

I always give exactly the same talk. Over the years of giving the talk countless times, I've learned which stories bore them (now dropped from the talk) and which are guaranteed to make them laugh; sometimes I stumble upon a particularly successful line during the question period that then becomes incorporated into the body of the talk. The content of the talk does vary a BIT, depending on which recent books I use as my examples of my writing process. But the heart of the talk is the same.

There are two parts they always love most, as I know from the letters they send me afterward. I begin by telling them about the book I wrote in eighth grade, T Is for Tarzan; I tell them that the book was not about Tarzan, but about ME, because my nickname in eighth grade was Tarzan. I promise them that if they remember to ask me during the question period why my nickname was Tarzan, I will tell them, but that I hope they forget, because it's embarrassing. I then tell them the best story from T Is for Tarzan (after first acting a bit nervous about telling it), which was about how much we hated our French teacher, whom we nicknamed the Cow, and how we organized the Great Cow Crusade to collect money to buy her a one-way ticket to Calcutta, India, where cows are worshiped. I tell them a lot of other things in the course of the 30-minute talk, but the parts they remember most are 1) the Great Cow Crusade, and 2) why my nickname was Tarzan. Because of course they never forget to ask, and of course I act upset when that is invariably the very first question, but then I tell them that I was called Tarzan because I was famous for doing a certain ape dance. "You don't want to see the ape dance, do you?" I ask. "Yes!" they cheer. And so I do the ape dance.

I like telling my cow story. I like doing my ape dance. And now I'll do them each again four times tomorrow.


  1. So apparently our collaboration to help Heifer International was the second Cow Crusade you have participated in. Now I know why you were so excited about the name "Cow Crusade". Hopefully, the cows we bought for Heifer were sent to India, and we can retroactively claim that they were sent in apologetic honor of your poor French teacher.

  2. Oh, Scott! I do tell the children how VERY SORRY we were afterward for our TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, ATROCIOUS behavior. I make the whole thing an object lesson in how not to behave as we did!

  3. Dang! What a blockhead I must have been down in W'burg, missing the opportunity to see you Tripping the Ape Fantastic. A woman of many talents, many facets are you, dear Claudia