Posts Tagged ‘Jack Gantos’

Jack Gantos Lunch – YALSA Institute, Part Two

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Here’s another installment of notes from the YALSA Institute I went to in Portland last month. I want to get the notes posted before I go to ALA Midwinter Meeting next week. If you attend a conference and never go over your notes, did it really happen? There were some good ideas offered, and copying out the notes reminds me of them in a setting where I can take my time thinking about them.

The next event of November 7, after the events of Part One of my notes, was an Author Lunch with Jack Gantos.

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I was wonderfully lucky and accidentally found a place at the same table with Jack Gantos!

He’s delightful to talk with in person. I still haven’t read his new book, which is biographical, but we were given a copy and it’s at the top of my pile of books to read next. After we ate, he got up front and gave a presentation to everyone.

He began with appreciation for librarians (knowing his audience).

“I love the library because they have to take you in.”

He has written 20-25 books in the Boston Public Library, but has since switched to the Boston Atheneum, a subscription library. If anyone dares use a cell phone in that library, he comes down!

The library is the place where everyone comes together. In the library, you are anyone you want to be at any age you ever were.

He talked about other authors and books. Kevin Henkes is too nice. When Jack Gantos stands next to him, he feels the blackness in his own soul.

The magic of literacy is that when Frog is sad, Toad is sad, and the reader is sad, too.

We’re reckless junkies for feelings – that’s why we read.

You want the book to move into you like a squatter – for about 3 days.

Writing a picture book takes the same energy as writing young adult or middle grade novels.

He writes from his childhood journals. He went to 10 schools in 12 grades. His friends were the Joey Pigza kids – they’d worn out everyone else, so they were friendly to the new kid.

Here are his notes about where he lived in Florida:

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When you’re at the library, watch someone reading a book and see their face change.

We know this simple truth about each other: Inside there’s so much more than on the outside.

There’s something exclusively yours every time you read a book. Yet you want to share.

There’s a time in your life when you’re completely uneven. His new book, The Trouble in Me, is about that unevenness and self-loathing.

His books have been used for Community Reads. Everyone leaves feeling so connected.

There’s a Literary Spiritualism among those of us who read and get involved in the community of readers.

You wouldn’t be the same person if you didn’t read good books and put good books in the hands of other readers.

Let’s be little fires for literacy.

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(This is a terrible picture, but it shows his enthusiastic gestures.)

Notable Books and Library of the Early Mind – ALA Annual Conference Finishing Up Day Two

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

After attending the program on Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends, I stopped in at the end of a meeting of the Notable Books for Young Readers Committee. These meetings are open, so you can come and listen. I heard them discuss a few books I’ve read: Okay for Now, by Gary Schmidt, and The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, by Wendy Wan Long Shang. They also discussed a book I have checked out, The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens, and made me aware of a book I hadn’t heard much about: Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys.

The format of the discussion was interesting. First, people talk about the strengths of the books, and then any “concerns.” For some of the books, there was no question that the books were very good, more a question of whether they are “notable.” For Okay for Now and Between Shades of Gray, one “concern” was that they are edging toward Young Adult, not children’s books. Indeed, later when I attended a Best Fiction for Teens committee meeting, exactly those two books were mentioned.

However, that concern worries me. I haven’t read Between Shades of Gray yet, but it sounds like an outstanding book. And Okay for Now is absolutely brilliant. Will these books get overlooked by award committees because they will be enjoyed by both children and teens? It will be interesting to see what they decide.

After that meeting concluded, I was fading fast and went back to my hotel for a nap. Then I went to dinner with my roommates, April and Katie. They had gotten a recommendation from a waiter, and we ate at the Cafe Desire, which was indeed excellent. I love this picture of them:

I was lucky with my roommates. I “met” April from the DC KidLit Book Club e-mail list, but we had never met in person. She’s a new teen librarian at the brand-new Rust Library in nearby Loudoun County, working with some of my former co-workers. I loved her enthusiasm and initiative getting involved with YALSA. She’s been friends with Katie for a long time, and Katie is a high school English teacher who is finishing up a Library Science Master’s. She had a good perspective on what teens like.

After dinner, I’d been looking forward to a screening of the film, “The Library of the Early Mind.” I posted the trailer when anticipating ALA.

The movie was outstanding. It was a documentary about picture books and picture book creators and how much they affect kids. There were lots of great quotes I wished I could write down (but it was dark!). Afterward, they had a panel of people in the film:

Pictured are Roger Sutton from The Horn Book Magazine, the director of the movie, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), Grace Lin, and Jack Gantos. I liked what Jack Gantos said when asked what he thought of seeing himself in the film. His answer was what you’d expect from a writer: He said he wished he could edit it.

Afterward was a reception. With the small crowd, I was able to tell the director how excellent I thought the movie was. He said to Like it on Facebook, and I’d be able to get updates as to when the DVD comes out and when they post some additional interview footage from the authors they interviewed.

And I saw Grace Lin, and she remembered me! From our reading The Wizard of Oz together last year. I asked if I could get a picture with her again, and she said we can make it a yearly tradition. 🙂

And finally, I met Travis Jonker, of 100 Scope Notes, and got to talk with him. As it happens, he’s already been a year on the ALSC Committee which I am just beginning to serve on, Children and Technology. So he answered some questions I had about the committee and I enjoyed meeting him.

Then, to top off an exciting day, I took the shuttle back to the Mariott, a couple blocks from my hotel. As I was walking down the sidewalk, talking with Sharon from Unshelved, we saw several Librarian/Publishing types coming out of a restaurant.

Lo and behold, one was Maureen Johnson! I asked her if she was Maureen, and she said Yes, and I asked if I could get my picture with her. Here it is:

When I got back to my room, I was telling my roommates about the encounter and how nice all the authors we’d met are. We were discussing if the authors mind being accosted like that. I tweeted: “I bet @maureenjohnson was surprised when she was accosted on the street. But that’s what happens when celebrity authors come to a city full of librarians.”

Imagine my delight when she tweeted right back, “I liked it!” 🙂

Maureen Johnson is my favorite person to follow on Twitter. I don’t know how she manages to be so funny in only 140 characters, but she does. And she tweeted to me! (Not to mention she writes excellent books! Here are my reviews of Suite Scarlett and her stories in Let It Snow! and Zombies vs. Unicorns.)

The next day was a big one, finishing off with the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet! I’ll blog more about ALA Annual Conference 2011 tomorrow.