I actually woke up when the alarm buzzed Monday morning at 6:15. I haven’t gotten up that early in weeks. However, I had a great reason to rise early today: the first day of the Children’s Literature conference at Shenandoah University. I showered and left my hotel room only a few minutes after 7 am, which I thought was impressive.
I decided to grab a biscuit from McDonald’s before heading to the conference venue and I had plenty of time (registration didn’t start until 7:45). The line at McDonald’s was long, but moved quickly. I placed my order and waited as the car in front of me paid. I don’t know what possessed me, but when the Jeep pulled away from the first drive-thru window, I followed. Just as I passed the first window, where you’re supposed to pay, I realized that I hadn’t stopped there. What was I thinking? So, when I stopped at the second window, I apologized profusely and handed over my money. I think that the young man working the second window was perplexed when I confessed to passing the first window, but finally, I paid for and received my biscuit and iced tea. With a red face, I pulled out of the parking lot, promising myself that I’d stop somewhere else for breakfast tomorrow morning. Biscuit in hand, I found the building that houses the conference and found a good parking space. As I finished my breakfast, I had to laugh about the start of the day. But, as I discovered only a short while later, the day would only get more interesting.
I located a seat near the front and got comfortable since the conference didn’t begin for another hour. I had my Kindle, so I decided to enjoy some extra time reading. The auditorium filled slowly and some folks read books while others’ eyes were focused on their cell phones. Slides for each of the day’s featured authors flashed on a screen at the front of the auditorium and“All About The Books” played from a speaker.
Suddenly, the room went dark. Then the lights flickered back on for a moment, before darkness enveloped the auditorium again. This happened several times before we were plunged into a final darkness that was chased away only by the lights of cell phones, tablets, and computer screens. Folks cautiously made their way down the aisles to find seats, making me glad that I’d arrived early to stake out my spot. Thankfully, no one tripped or fell while trying to navigate the auditorium. It would have been easy to trip over all of the bags, purses, and books.
Apparently, power was out in the surrounding area and not just on the Shenandoah campus. Crews were working to restore power, but no one know how long that would take. The first author, Laurie Ann Thompson, rose to the challenge and her presentation not only inspired me as a teacher, but also inspired me as a teacher-writer. She talked about the process of getting her first two books to publication, a story of rejections and perseverance that encouraged me as I attempt to get my words onto a page. She talked about the need for voice in nonfiction, something that made me stop and think as I consider a nonfiction project. She shared about finding the voice that she needed for her books. Her message reminded me that nonfiction is not just a dry recitation of facts, but should contain something of the author’s voice.
I think that I listened to her presentation more as a writer than a teacher, though. I think that her words were exactly what I needed to hear as I question myself as a writer. Since I’m thinking about working on a nonfiction project, her words resonated with me. I can’t wait to get back to my hotel room and start writing!
The power remained off throughout Laurie’s presentation. We took a break around 10:00. Even though it was stuffy in the auditorium, I decided to stay in my seat and use the time to jot down my thoughts. As I looked around at the other attendees, I appreciated everyone’s good natured attitude. No one grumbled or seemed irritated, but simply seemed happy to listen to the presentation. Since teachers are flexible and do whatever necessary in situations like this, everyone just waited patiently for the restoration of power. When the power was restored at 10:35, everyone cheered and then turned their attention to the second speaker of the day, Matthew Holm. My kids love Babymouse, so I had to snap pictures of his presentation to share with them. I loved learning about the process of creating Babymouse and can’t wait to talk about that with the kids, too.