A Midwestern Girl at Heart

I thoroughly enjoyed my week of events in the Midwest. I presented the 8th annual lecture on Multicultural Children's Literature at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, hosted by the Murphy Library. Next I headed for Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing to sit on a couple of panels as well as offer a solo talk entitled "It's Just Fiction: Ten Tips on Reading and Writing about Race, Culture, and Power."

In both communities, everyone was so ... nice. I know that can be a bland adjective, but believe me, after living in or near big cities my whole life, I delighted in the courtesies extended to me in these smaller college towns. If it wasn't for the W-word, I'd consider making my home in one of North America's so-called "flyover states." But I dumped my shovels in Boston before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, and I never want to see them again. Besides, I can always visit, right?

Three Great Days in Wisconsin

Welcome bouquet in my hotel room? Nice start!

4th and 5th graders getting settled before my presentation.
Received this book of stories and poems prepared by the students.
Great teachers are the key to successful author visits.

Time for my lectures at the Murphy Library. Good signage, right?
Fielding good questions is more than half the fun.
On my lunch break, I drove up to Grandad Bluff Park to enjoy the view.
The University of Wisconsin—La Crosse from the Bluff.
Patrick Anderson of the LaCrosse Tribune attended and reported about the event.
It takes a village to host an author. Here's the planning team of librarians and School of Education leaders at The Waterfront Restaurant (highly recommended for dinner). Thank you, friends!

The route to the airport in St. Paul took me through this town.  Remember who lived here?
Yep, it's the Little House in the Big Woods.
Lake Pepin.

Three Great Days in Michigan

Confession: I love conference swag. This gift bag was waiting in my room at Calvin College's Prince Conference Center and Hotel, where Festival speakers were housed, fed, and basically cosseted.
The Festival kicked off with a plenary by Gene Luen Yang, "Is Art Selfish?" Other keynote speakers included James McBride, Miroslav Volf, and Anne Lamott.
Children's and YA authors abounded at the Festival, and as usual we enjoyed laughing, eating, and drinking. (From L to R: Swati Avasthi | CHASING SHADOWS, Pam Muñoz Ryan | THE DREAMER, and Deborah Heiligman | INTENTIONS.)
Enjoyed hearing Deb Heiligman talk about faith and science as presented in her award-winning book, CHARLES AND EMMA. "The Darwins' relationship is a microcosm of how people can talk about different views with deep love," she said.
Two-time Newbery honoree Gary Schmidt, who is on the faculty at Calvin, moderated a panel on writing young adult fiction. (from L to R: Gary Schmidt, Swati Avasthi, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and me.)
I participated in another discussion, "Power of the Word: Writing Towards Justice." (From L to R: Moderator Sarina Moore, Uwem Akpan | SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM, Ashley Lucas | RAZOR WIRE WOMEN, and me.)
Last but not least, the Festival was full of young talents, including Briana Meade, who writes brilliantly about young motherhood and faith. Briana spent part of her childhood living in a Karenni village, and her parents played a big part in inspiring and informing my novel Bamboo People.