Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins in Illinois

I write this from a computer set in an alcove tucked up against a lace-curtained bay window in the circa-1920 house of my dear children's literature scholar friend, Roberta Seelinger Trites, who teaches in the highly regarded children's literature program at Illinois State University in Normal, IL.  Roberta and I were two of the American delegates to the "Image of the Child in Chinese and American Children's Literature" conference held in Qingdao, China, last June. It was on the high-speed bullet train from Beijing to Qingdao that we hit upon the plan of my coming from DePauw to ISU (about a two-and-a-half-hour drive) to speak to both of her children's literature courses some time in the coming academic year.  So here I am.

Roberta told me that her house bears a resemblance to the "old house in Paris covered with vines" in Madeline, which indeed it does. The room I'm staying in has a crib filled with well-loved old dolls. For breakfast we just had homemade pumpkin muffins with cream cheese. Of course, I also had Swiss Miss hot chocolate as my beverage.

Shortly we'll head over to the campus. I'll get to eavesdrop on paper conferences with Roberta's students during her early morning office hours. She's such an acclaimed scholar and veteran teacher that I'll learn a lot from watching her teach. The classes I'm visiting have both read my middle-grade novel The Totally Made-Up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish, and Roberta assures me that they have prepared plenty of questions to keep conversation lively. In between the two classes I'll have lunch with some of her colleagues, who are also friends of mine from annual conferences of the Children's Literature Association, as well as graduate students.

The whole day should be wonderful. The whole visit has been wonderful already. And then I'll drive home tonight to my happy little life at DePauw, enriched by my jaunt a couple of hours west, just as a few weeks ago I was enriched by my jaunt a couple of hours east, to Indiana University East. I love getting to be DePauw's self-styled ambassador to the Midwest.

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