Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Book Festival (Part Three--About Gratitude)

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."  That quote by Melody Beattie is one of my top ten favorites.

The Rochester Children's Book Festival feels like "home" to me because I have been there a number of times at my assigned table striving to get readers more interested in poetry and the ten-year-old inside me that writes poetry.

I feel very grateful to all those that contributed to this marvelous event, especially Sibby Falk, Kathy Biasi, MJ, Christine Horton, Natisha LaPierre and many Dedicated Volunteers, and many more unsung heroes of The Day. We were all showered on that Saturday  with sunshine, energetic readers, and happy adults. Those six hours at the festival were action packed with many memorable moments. For me, as indicated in "Part One", I meeting my personal writing hero, Steven Kellogg, who I first me in 1978 while he visited a school in the area. But my love for his books and my two daughters love for them didn't end there. When such talented writers and illustrators create a large body of work (like Steven), it is such a blessing! I am grateful to him and others like him who are both prolific and immensely creative. Our RACWI group is bursting proudly with many members that fit that description.

I am also thankful for the girl (about ten-years-old) who pointed to the two books on my table Waiting to See the Principal and Other Poems and Picture Poetry on Parade! And then she said, "I have this one and this one, and the one that's not on the table!" (The one not on the table--Bathroom Vacation--is out of print.) After that she ran off, leaving me with a moment to treasure.

Vivain Vande Velde is a member who I treasure because I first met her at my first children's book festival in 1999 sponsored by the Democrat and Chronicle on the grounds of the Memorial Art Gallery. I was happily selling my first book Bathroom Vacation under a large tent and encouraging the book lovers to read at least one poem along the way. If they did, 50% of the time they chose to purchase the book. This didn't go unnoticed by Vivian who was stationed nearby. After greetings were exchanged, she asked me if I would like to attend the Rochester Children's Book Festival which she was in charge of. Of course, I was over-joyed at that possibility, and I have been a member ever since. Besides being the person to ask any question about publishing, she is creative, prolific, funny, and charming. And she always shares a flood of photos from the festival--organized and labeled like a storyboard. Thank you, Vivian. You're quite an asset to the RACWI organization!

I also need to thank the Purple Balloon Lady, Debra Ross, and her helpers for making the day extra special for all our visitors. And, if you're not getting her weekly KOA newsletter, you're missing out on how much fun the Rochester area can be. And as RACWI' s special promoter, you're missing out on promoting what you do as an author or illustrator. In addition to her newsletter, promoting, writing, and being a wonderful mom, she is an excellent critic and editor. I certainly value what she has to say about poetry and writing in general. She can even make dreams come true such as reading your poetry on the radio! So you can sign up right here...

I have one more quote for you. It's from Albert Einstein, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

I would consider it a small miracle if you signed up to be one of my "followers." Why would you want to do something like that? This blog isn't just about poetry. I am a former teacher, but I haven't lost my class forever. I love to perform poetry. I will come to any class for free in the Monroe County area, and I'll leave them laughing. After nine years of not teaching daily, I miss the kids and the ambience of the classroom. So the more people that know how eager I am to spread poetry, the more I will be sharing the joy of poetry. Poetry for kids is win-win.

At night I periodically share whatever I have learned during the present 24 hours right here. The more followers that I have, the more likely I will write at night before or even during the Charlie Rose Show.

It’s important for you to read this blog now and then because I need to write and find out what I know. That might sound a bit self-centered. But I am sure Anne Lamott agrees with me. She says, "We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little."

According to Bonnie Friedman, "Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."

If I stumble across any golden writing nuggets, I’ll share them here first with you!

We are better than sheep lice.

Joe Sottile

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Book Festival (Part Two) Bookworm Place

When I walked into One Busy Bookworm Place, it was just that--busy, busy busy at various round tables. I thought perhaps I had already missed the bus, but it the back of the room there was rectangular table put together in the shape of an "L". And I was escorted to that area. I declined using a microphone, and I plugged in my "poetry performance" voice. About 12-15 kids were soon tearing one piece of paper into four smaller sheets to write a mini-version of "Truths and Lies." Kids always take the tearing of the paper very very seriously. I have to warn them not to worry about how rectangular the slabs of paper look. But there is a part of me that enjoys how serious they look about the easiest part of their creation.

We then wrote about what we "want" and what we "love." The kids did it willingly, wondering what I would ask next. They now had two good poetry lines expressing their feeling and both started with "I". I told that they had just written a piece of "non-fiction"--that is, "non-false" writing. And poets and writers do that all the time, but the real fun is writing "fiction"--lies. I reassured the group that fiction writers do that all the time. So, consequently, it was okay for them to do that today. All of a sudden fireworks were going off in their eyes and they started writing as fast as they could. It was fun to lie about something that they really didn't want or love. Then they placed their one sentence slabs of paper in any order that they liked to complete their poems. Now they were two-thirds through with the poetry workshop. The best part was saved for last.

I said something like this, "The best part of writing a poem is sharing it with others. Who wants to be the first one to read your poem. Remember you're SAFE! Nobody knows for sure what lines are true or false--unless you tell them. " I immediately was rewarded with some brave souls willing to share their slant on the world, and I had five minutes left to let as many as possible share. How did I know for sure how much time I had left? A volunteer walked by with a sign saying "You have 5 more minutes...and then the Earth will split open and you will fall into molten lava." Okay, I am kidding about the last part of  the sign. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. What follows are my young poets sharing their poems, and I was rather proud of them for being brave poets. They were execellent at sharing their poems. And it was fun working with them. On this sunny day they were sharing their own inner light.

Don't these kids look confident and proud? They did a wonderful job writing and performing their poetry. All I can say or scream is "BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO!"

And thank you to Natisha LaPierre for being there to help.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

About the Book Festival (Part One)

I enjoyed the book festival very much. What in particular? It was a gorgeous, sunny day and all seemed right with the world. With the sun shining brightly it felt like Spring, not Fall. I couldn't wait to get my books set up on my half of my table, and circulate among the authors and illustrators before the crowd came scampering in.

Of course, I couldn't wait to see Steven Kellogg. When I did see him coming up the stairs, I had to hold myself back from charging up to him and introducing myself. I decided to be "mature" regardless of my propeller hat. I waited until he settled in at his table with a hot coffee cup at arm's reach and then I raced over to his table

Steven was busy the rest of the morning and afternoon signing books and adding charming graphics before actually signing each book. He was too busy for me to tell exactly how much his books meant to me as an elementary teacher and later as a parent of two girls. We loved his books, especially his illustrations. Besides being totally enchanted by The Island of the Skog, Can I Keep Him? was another big hit with me. The kids and I really liked the repetition in the story and the amazing illustrations. Years ago, when I tutored children at the RIT's Learning Development Center, I used a number of Steven's books.
When I left to do a writing workshop in the One Busy Bookworm Place, I also left my buddy, Chet Fery, behind to man the counter. He did an excellent job of spreading the word about "Silly" Sottile, and he sold a good number of books in my absence. Chet is outstanding at making friends and networking with others. I didn't worry about the "store" at all while I was gone making new friends on the first floor at MCC. It's wonderful to have friends like Chet that you can count on! I am a very blessed person. This shall be continued tomorrow.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Steven Kellogg Comes to Town! (Part One) Steven!

If you don't already know, Steven Kellogg is my all-time favorite children's author. He has illustrated/published over 90 books. I first met him when he was a young author at the first school that I taught at in 1978. As the years rolled by, I bought a number of his books and shared them with my class and two daughters. It all started with The Island of the Skog for us. And I was smart enough as an elementary teacher to read picture books to my students, no matter what grade I was teaching that year—from grades 2-6.

Steven Kellogg defined a “magic book” as when the text combines with the illustrations in a way that was totally balanced, woven together like a magical carpet which sweeps the reader away on an imaginative journey. His books did that for my students, children, and many others.

So it was great fun seeing him at the 2009 Rochester Children’s Book Festival meeting people and signing books. He actually drew, as per usual, a mini-picture on every book he signed and smiled cheerfully at each person he met. I can only imagine what kind of cramps he had in his writing hand after that. He signed books for six straight hours with one major "break." He did a show for 30 minutes where he drew poster board illustrations of his latest book for an adoring audience!

Did we get a chance to talk? I briefly talked to him before he started signing books, when the crowd hadn’t yet formed. I happily asked a passerby to take the photo which is posted with this blog.

His face has "weathered" the years, but he looks like a Greek god to me. Just add the robe. What do you think?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Island of the Skog and More!

As many of you know, the 2009 Children’s Book Festival is this Saturday at Monroe Community College. The RACWI group is trying to get the word out that "This wonderful family event gives children the opportunity to meet many award winning top children’s authors and illustrators.The festival has activities suitable for children of all ages including author and illustrator presentations, picture book readings, workshops, arts and crafts, the Read to Me dogs from Lollypop Farm, Star Wars costumers plus hundreds of books to browse in The Mall."

As I was Internet surfing during the final World Series game, I read about the events on KOA newsletter, a superb newsletter about the upcoming events for kid produced by Debra Ross, and I screamed with joy, "OMG!" I can't believe that I will have the pleasure of seeing Steven Kellogg! He was the first children's book author that I ever met! He came to my school, which is now Hope Hall in Gates, and illustrated on poster paper ISLAND OF THE SKOG for the audience, as he told the story from memory.

He wore a powder blue jacket and he seemed to have enjoyed himself. Of course he was young then, just like me. And I promised myself that someday I would be reading to kids too from beyond my classroom.

I befriended Steven. That is to say, I talked to him and wrote him. He wrote me a very long letter in handwriting about getting published. (Computers were not popular yet.) I have the letter in the archives. He also visited my school another time too, before it was closed in 1980.

I will be standing tall next to him for a photo opportunity on Saturday. I can’t wait to see him again and an amazing crowd (4,000+ strong!) of children’s book lovers. It's not back to the future, but it is back seeing a fantastic author and man, Steven Kellogg. Of course, that's him in the above photo and below. We all had more hair back then.

He wore a powder blue jacket and he seemed to have enjoyed himself. We were young then. And I promised myself that someday I would be reading to kids too from beyond my classroom.

I befriended Steven. That is to say, I talked to him and wrote him. He wrote me a very long letter in handwriting about getting published. (Computers were not popular yet.) I have the letter in the archives. He also visited my school another time too, before it was closed in 1980.

I will be standing tall next to him for a photo opportunity on Saturday. I can’t wait to see him again and an amazing crowd (4,000+ strong!) of children’s book lovers!!!

It feels terrific to have come full circle from teacher in awe of authors to being one at one of the best festivals in the country! I am very happy and thankful for that. I am grateful to many people for all of this.

That topic would make a good blog...