Confession of a Book Nerd

Tuesday is for Teachers

Nashville Public Library

I confess that I love all things books – authors, illustrators, children’s books, young adult books, fiction, non-fiction. I want to know the “backstory” of the author’s work – what motivated their writing, their writing process, how they develop characters. I read the author’s acknowledgements, prefaces, and end-notes.

I love the smell of a new book, just cracked open by me, but I also love the smell of an old musty book with yellowed pages. I love bookstores, libraries, bookstores online. I love to teach literature to kids – all ages, and I love to talk about books with other readers.

I have piles of books in my office, on the shelves, in baskets, under the desk, crammed in closets, in every room of the house. I have a large collection of children’s books that grew every year I taught. I learned to use children’s picture books to teach reading strategies, history, and character.

This weekend in Nashville provided an opportunity for book nerds to gather for a big dose of book juice! The Southern Book Festival was 24 years old this year, and except for a year or two in Memphis, it is always held in downtown Nashville between the Capitol and the Nashville Public Library. Booths of publishers, authors, organizations for readers and writers, and book sellers line the Legislative Plaza between statues dedicated to soldiers and the steps to the War Memorial Building.

I’ve been attending for many years and never know what I’ll learn or who will inspire me. The year Nashville native, Patricia McKissack, introduced her picture book about Nashville was a highlight. She signed my book, Goin’ Someplace Special, and I met other wonderful authors and illustrators of children’s books that year. I used her book nearly every year I taught 8th graders. What can you do with a picture book and cynical 8th graders? Lots – I’ll have to write another post to give you the details.

This year I met the author of the picture book, Perfect Timing. It is  about a slave who became a jockey during the Reconstruction. Patsi Trollinger is available for author visits to schools where she shares a number of connections in history as well as explaining the writing process.  She lives in Lexington, KY; check out her website by clicking on her name.

You can find more authors of children’s books and illustrators who live in Kentucky and Tennessee at their website. They are available for school visits. The national organization, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, have a data base on their website if you are looking for specific authors or illustrators. Check out their website.

Sharon Creech, author of Walk Two Moons, and Judith Viorst, author of Alexander’s Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, both spoke this year and signed copies of their books. Listening to their stories about writing or their visits to school groups provides me with details to share with children when I read them one of these books. One year I heard Kate DiCamillo speak, right after her best seller, Because of Winn Dixie, pushed her into the elite group of award-winning authors of chapter books.  When she described her writing process, she helped my yearnings to write a children’s book.  She worked in a book warehouse that required little creative thinking – that way she could write in her head all day. I realized that I spent my days using a major portion of my creative thinking trying to stay one step ahead of my language arts students. The rest of the time I was creating activities that would motivate readers and writers.

Patricia McKissack’s book

Meeting authors, listening to their stories always inspires me and opens up doors to explore. I found writers’ groups in Nashville that I didn’t know about, and I discovered new books to add to my reading list.  The most amazing thing about this book festival is that it is FREE! I spent all day Saturday downtown, shuffling from building to building, grabbing a taco for lunch, and gathering brochures from booths.

My blessings journal listed the joys I counted for books and authors. Are you counting your joys these days? And not just how many days until Thanksgiving or how many days until Friday! Look for the joy of a student who finds a book that takes them to another place or gives them an “a-ha moment”.

JoyMartell

Author Signing

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