A Keene Time in New Hampshire

Eric and I had the good fortune to go to the Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival last weekend. A little rain didn’t interfere with the amazing lineup of speakers!

Dr. David White is the enthusiatic organizer and MC of the event.

First up was author-illustrator Kathy Mallat.
Kathy had the daunting task of stepping inas a conference speaker at the last minute, and she really rose to the occasion! Her artwork and stories are sweet and right on target for the youngest audiences. I was particularly interested in how she starts with lots of words, then pares them down to the essence of what needs to be said in the book, and what can be “said” in the pictures. I know what that’s like, and it’s not easy! My own upcoming book has 50 words in it, but it started with plenty more!

Kathy and some of her charming books!

Michael Dooling is a writer and illustrator who really likes to get into his characters!

He works in oil paint, and even painted in front of us all. He owns a collection of costumes that he uses for reference in his highly accurate but accesible work.

Natalie Kinsey-Warnock: bagpiper, quilt enthusiast, writer!

Natalie not only plays a mean set of bagpipes (which happens to be one of my favorite instruments), but literally holds down the farm in Northern Vermont. She rescues animals who need homes, farms the land that her family has been on for 200 years, and somehow manages to write books from this rural perspective. Her grandmother and other family members have hand-quilted a bevy of gorgeous quilts based on her books, which really sews up the whole experiece, sew to speak. OK, I’ll back off on puns now!

Richard Peck and an unseen but enraptured audience.

Richard Peck is surprisingly funny (in a sarcastic way), and poignant, too. He grabbed the audience right from the start and wouldn’t let go. His strong opinions on writers, writing, teachers, and teaching hit home with the audience of largely teachers and librarians. The fact that he wrapped his ideas in stories positively pulled the audience in, and earned him a standing ovation.

Michael Dooling and Chris Soentpiet sign their books away.

It was really eye-opening for me to hear Chris Soentpiet and Michael Dooling talk. Both of them are highly realistic painters, though they approach it differently. They both use copious reference to achieve exactly what they are portraying, so that means they are both very good at staging scenes in real life, and interpreting these scenes in illustrations. This is SO different from how I work!

The Great Wall of Owls

Keene State’s mascot is the owl, and David White has been collecting a “parliament” of owls for the college’s 100th anniversary next year. Above, you can see a bunch of the owls on the owl wall. I did an owl this year, too, and I got to see it up on the wall:

Mine is called “The Great Horned Owl”…it’s the opera-singing one above my head.

Here’s Donna Berger with hers- an owl teacher with flying students!

But wait! That’s not all there is in the Keene children’s art gallery!
There’s a fabulous collection of original works from all kinds of artists, from all kinds of books and eras, too.

The amazing Victoria Chess wall!

My favorite piece in the collection, by Wallace Tripp. Love him!
When I was a teenager, I wrote him a future-illustrator fan letter, and he kindly wrote back to me.

These pictures are deliberately small- get thee to Keene State College to see the real art, it’s a trip worth making if you love children’s book art!

As owl donors, we were able to stay after the festival for an amazing dinner party.

Donna took this picture of RISD folk: Eric , me, Alissa Imre Geis, Anna Alter, and Grace Lin.

And the party continued at an authentically reproduced thatched Irish cottage! Peat was burning, leprechauns were leaping- it was very fun for Eric and us to have a little flashback to Ireland, and especially Inishmore.

Why do I look drunk when I don’t drink at all??


Elaine Magliaro, shown standing above taking pictures, posted a great festival update here, too.

Thanks David and Keene State College for such a memorable day!

9 comments on “A Keene Time in New Hampshire

  • on Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 10:36 pm, Paula said:

    How fun!
    I love bagpipes too. I think you’re right about us being separated at birth…

  • on Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 11:36 pm, Sandra Alonzo said:

    Nice post AGAIN, Liz. And yes, Richard Peck is a hoot!

  • on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 7:26 am, Elaine Magliaro said:


    You got some excellent photos at the festival! I enjoyed meeting and having dinner with you and your husband. Next year’s festival at Keene looks like it’s going to be great!

  • on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 8:46 am, sharon holm said:

    thanks for always sharing! I hope to atten next year, as I emialed and asked to be put on the list.He offered up for me to attend this year, but had already made another committment.Hope to see all of you there! Did he make the 100 owls yet?

  • on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 8:51 am, Max Haynes said:

    I miss going to those kinds of events! Such gentle energy abounds.
    This looks like a really great one.

  • on Sunday, November 4, 2007 at 4:37 pm, Lesley Breen Withrow said:

    I didn’t get to go there this year, but I feel like I got to a by reading your post. Really great! I love your owl art too. Congrats on getting one up on the Keene State wall. What an honor.

  • on Sunday, November 4, 2007 at 6:33 pm, Barbara Lanza said:

    Liz, thanks so much for taking me there right along with you. At least that’s the way it feels. It’s so nice to put faces to the names and here about their presentations. Such a nice community or authors and artists.

  • on Monday, November 5, 2007 at 12:34 pm, Liz Jones said:

    Heyyyy!!!! We’re owl-y neighbors!
    Mine is immediately to the right of yours in that picture!!
    Thanks so much for posting about the Festival– I really wanted to go, but traveling is just not in the cards for us right now. Sounds like a wonderful event!

  • on Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 8:08 am, GingerPixels said:

    HOW WONDERFUL LIZ! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. The event looks like it was such a huge success. Our plans changed at the last minute and we had to be across the state in Windham to pick up our newly adopted dog. The transport from Tennessee arrived the same day and the laws of physics still prevent us from being in two places at once.

    I was thrilled to see so many owls on the wall and loved seeing your owl. I recognized it right away. And there was mine alongside at the bottom. Wow what a great collection!

    Thanks again LIZ !!!

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