Saturday, October 27, 2012

Midwestern Rambles

This fall I'm trying to continue my explorations of the Midwest. I led an all-day intensive children's book writing workshop at Skokie, IL, in September; on one beautiful autumn weekend I went on a hike with a philosopher from Indiana University at McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana's oldest state park; next month I'll be giving a guest lecture at two children's literature classes at Illinois State University in Normal, IL; and this week I gave a guest lecture at a children's literature class at Indiana State University in Richmond, IN.

My trip to Richmond was part of a guest-lecture exchange between me and another scholar friend. We agreed that she'd come teach my class one day, and then I'd return the favor, so that our students could have the treat of something different to shake up the ordinary classroom routine. It's about a two-hour drive east along I-70 from Greencastle, in the west of Indiana, to Richmond, right on the Indiana/Ohio border. As I drove I listened to Indiana music by local folksinger/songwriter Carrie Newcomer, especially my favorite of all her songs, "Wish I May, Wish I Might," a haunting, wistful celebration of all the varied festivals around the state from Dogwood Days to the Pork and Pumpkin Rendez-Vous.

My talk to Alisa's class went well, I think, and then the real fun of the visit began, as I had the chance to observe a costumed rehearsal of Act Two of the children's musical Pocahontas, which she is directing for the Richmond Civic Theater, with seventy children (!) in the cast. The theater is housed in a historic building that once saw vaudeville performances by Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx, and it was wonderful to sit there watching young Indians and settlers parade across the stage. Afterward we dined at the Old Richmond Inn with her husband and ten-year-old book-loving daughter, Annetta. The evening concluded with a spirited round of the card game Authors back at Alisa's house, which I narrowly won, a victory deemed appropriate since, after all, I am an author.

I may return to Richmond in the spring to do an author visit at Annetta's school and to see the Richmond Civic Theater production of The Hundred Dresses, based on the book by Eleanor Estes on which I've published a scholarly essay. It's so satisfying when I can be an author (even winning an Authors card game!), and be a scholar, AND explore the adopted state I love so much.

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