Sunday, June 26, 2011

Conference Fini

The Children's Literature Association conference finished last night with the annual banquet, this year held outside on the lawn of the beautiful academic quad on the campus of Hollins University. The centerpiece of the banquet is always the presentation of various awards, such as awards for the best scholarly book and article in the field of children's literature, and climaxing in the acceptance speech for the association's Phoenix Award.

The Phoenix Award is an award given to a children's book published twenty years ago that did not win a major award at the time of publication but that has stood the test of time. It's hard to imagine a nicer phone call for an an author to receive than to find out that her book is receiving this kind of recognition a full two decades after its initial foray into the world.

This year's Phoenix Award winner was The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolf, originally published in 1991. Virginia was present to receive her award and in her speech shared fascinating stories about how she had actually followed up on letters sent to her by young musician fans fifteen or twenty years ago, something she was able to do via the Internet for those who had distinctive enough names to trace and who also had an Internet presence - which these now no-longer-all-that-young persons did, as most of them had gone on to continue their passion for music with musical performance careers. My favorite line of her speech was a line taken from one fan letter, in which the writer reported having heard a recent rendition of the same Mozart violin concerto that character Allegra plays in the book; she decided that Allegra's (fictional!) performance was the superior of the two.

So now I need to go back and try to remember which books I published in 1992, 1993, 1994, so I can begin fantasizing about getting that phone call of rebirth from the ashes, a second chance at immortality, one more reason for hope to spring eternal in a writer's breast.

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