Friday, January 20, 2012

Children's Literature Symposium in Chapel Hill

Recently, a group of writers, teachers, librarians and storytellers gathered to listen to ten children’s literature experts and writers. Here are some highlights:

Storyteller Brian Sturm opened the afternoon with a story demonstrating how our “brains are hardwired to understand stories—the best vehicle to communicate truth.” He then advised writers to:

    Brian Sturm
  • Give readers and/or listeners enough description so they can see events.
  •  Remember that jeopardy works because readers want to fight alongside the protagonist.
  • Create idiosyncratic characters that are both familiar and novel.
  • Capture the heart with the familiar; hook the mind with what is new.
Susie Wilde, a professional book reviewer, shared her evaluation of eleven picture books. Her “bad book pile,” (mostly written by celebrities or authors of adult books) included:
Her “good book pile” included:
  • Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer. “Unlike DeLuise's self-serving Goldilocks, this has a fresh approach when re-imagining familiar characters.”
  • Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan. “Features a wholly original, memorable character bound to be loved by child readers because it is spot on in a child’s perspective.
  • Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson. Good African American history stories.
  • Tia Isa wants a Car by Meg Medina.  “There is satisfaction when the resolution rewards the reader.”
  • Good night, Good Night Construction Site by Sherry Rinker. Very good rhythm and rhyme.
  • Milo and the Magic Stones by Marcus Pfister.  “This book offers two endings so a child can choose between greed and selfishness to solve a problem.”
Karin Michel, head of youth services at the Chapel Hill library, stated that series are huge and that classics are still being read. She includes out-of-print books in her collection. “Libraries help extend the life of books that are worth reading.”

Sarah Carr, the children’s books manager at Flyleaf Books hand sells many books to her customers and their parents.  She noted the popularity of books in Spanish and picture books with lots of description. “Bookstores, as well as libraries, are also places to build a community of readers.”
Susie Wilde, Karin Michel, Sarah Carr
Novelist Stephen Messer admitted, “When I was young, I thought the coolest thing would be to be the author of one of the books I was reading.” He wrote his debut novel, Windblowne in longhand, which was helpful because every day he added a little more and couldn’t delete anything. When he is writing, he surrounds himself with things that remind him of the book. Oak trees outside his window, a dragon kite, and a poster of a powerful wind--all brought him into Windblowne’s fantasy setting.

Allan Wolf, Jackie Ogburn, Jane Baskerville Muphy, Stephen Messer, Barbara Younger
Jacqueline Ogburn, an award-winning picture book author advised, “Write to evoke pictures, not to describe them. Concentrate on dialogue, action, and character. Writing a picture book has much in common with writing a screenplay,” she said. “Turning a page in a picture book is the equivalent of a new scene.” Click here to listen to her book, The Bake Shop Ghost, read by Daniel Pinkwater.  

Performance poet Allan Wolf treated the group to two poetry performances, which is the art form that brought him into writing for children. “We write because we have something to say,” he said. “Part of exploration of what you don’t know leads to finding it out- don’t worry about that. Your questions will take you down an avenue that no one else has gone on.“


Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Oh, so much wisdom here. Thank you Carol for sharing. It must have been a powerful experience to be there.

Carol Baldwin said...

IT was pretty cool, Joyce. ALways good to learn more about our field- particularly from so many different perspectives.

Barbara Younger said...

Carol, It was fun to see you again!

Bonnie J. Doerr said...

I couldn't attend the symposium and had no idea I'd be treated to a summary that included sight and sound. Wow. Thanks, Carol. You never fail to deliver.

Carol Baldwin said...

THanks, for commenting Barbara and Bonnie. Bonnie, you know I can't get to stuff like this without wanting to write about it! And Barbara, it was good to see you too!

CL said...

Thanks for sharing! Sounds like it was a wonderful event.

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