Monday, March 19, 2012

Once a Year in Warrensburg

I'm here in Warrensburg, Missouri, for the 44th Children's Literature Festival sponsored by the University of Central Missouri. This is my fifteenth or sixteenth time attending. This year thirty-four authors are in attendance, about half of them local to Missouri and surrounding areas, about half flown in from around the country; four thousand schoolkids are signed up to come to the university campus today and tomorrow, accompanied by a thousand supervising adults.

It is all so wonderfully familar to me:
Dinner at Hero's restaurant as we arrive on Saturday
Sunday morning walk by a few of us to see the cows
Sunday luncheon, and then reception and book signing
Sunday evening reception at White Rose Pavilion
Four talks to kids on Monday
Monday afternoon outing to the old-timey downtown shoestore to buy shoes
Monday evening dinner in the library
Four talks to kids on Tuesday
Tearful farewells
Fly home

I love when things stay the same, but this year some things are different. A few of the best-loved authors who have been coming the longest are not here this year, for reasons of health - their own ill health, or the health of their families. In the past year, two cherished festival authors have passed away. People all sound a bit more discouraged this year about the state of the publishing world and the state of the larger economy. It's harder for even veteran authors to get contracts. Books go out of print at faster and faster rates. Slashed school budgets mean less money to fund author visits; high stakes testing means less time for curricular "extras" like having a visiting author come to town.

But the spring here in Warrensburg has never been prettier: magnolia, cherry, crabapple, red bud all in bloom. The cows were truly excellent! I'm SO ready for a new pair of shoes! I love these authors and this festival so much. The publishing world may be scary right now, but Warrensburg isn't. It's a sweet, dear, familiar, beautiful, affirming place to be.

1 comment:

  1. As they shout to the Miss America contestants during the parade on the boardwalk: "Show us your shoes!!"