Thursday, June 9, 2016

Books and Bliss in Columbus, Ohio

Greetings from Columbus! I'm here attending the annual meeting of the (scholarly) Children's Literature Association conference. This might be the 20th one I've attended; certainly I've attended heaps and heaps, and in 2012-13, I served as the organization's president. This is always my happiest week of the year.

The conference officially begins today, but yesterday was the all-day meeting for the Executive Board (of which I'm no longer a member) and of the Phoenix Award Committee (on which I'm now serving the first of a three-year term). The Phoenix Award Committee gives an award to a children's book published 20 years ago which did not win a major award in the year of its original publication but is judged, by our committee, to merit one now.

I arose early and took myself on a delightful walk from our Sheraton hotel right across from the Ohio Statehouse to the picturesque neighborhood of German Village, with its historic houses and brick sidewalks.

The walk terminated in Schiller Park: how many major American cities have a park named after a poet? Here is its charming "Girl with an Umbrella" fountain, as well as the imposing statue of Friedrich Schiller.

Of course, along the way I found a German bakery/cafe for hot chocolate and whipped cream, and cinnamon-crumb-topped coffee cake.

Back at the hotel, it was time to hurry to the Phoenix Committee meeting. All year long, I've been reading titles published in 1998 in preparation for deliberating about the 2018 award (we work two years ahead for various logistical reasons). By the time of the conference we were down to our ten finalists. We spent the entire morning lovingly discussing each one, celebrating its strengths, noting its weaknesses, and then reached a consensus decision on the winner. I'm not allowed to disclose it at this time, but trust me, it's a wonderful book, The rest of the day-long meeting was taken up in phone calls to the winners selected last year and plans for next year's festivities.

In the evening, I had dinner with two beloved once-a-year conference friends, and stayed up late talking to one of them about our shared love for Louisa May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl.

All this before the conference actually begins, with the registration table open in another hour-and-a-half - just enough time for a quick walk to the German Village, and more hot chocolate, with more whipped cream....

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