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