Wednesday, April 12, 2017

2017 Warrensburg Children's Literature Festival, Day 3

March 21, 2017

Image result for margi preusEarly in the morning, we headed to see Margi Preus. Preus is a 2011 Newbery Honor winner for her book Heart of a Samurai (see my review).

Preus wanted to be a movie star when she grew up. So when a starring role came up in her elementary school's musical, she tried desperately to get it. Unfortunately, she didn't get the part. But she had a realization that if she wrote her own play and scripts, she could star as the main lead. This pushed her into the writing world early in life. So she said that disappointment led her into writing.

What got her into writing books was rereading the books she loved as a child. This included the book Harriet the Spy.

She gave the advice of reading everything because you just don't know what ideas will inspire you to write. This was true about writing Heart of a Samurai. She was more interested in the friendship between Manjiro and Captain Whitfield than about Japan. But this led her to do more research and write the actual book.

Some of her writing tips were to 1) Challenge yourself to write; 2) Finish what you start; 3) Don't horde ideas because they may be plugging up other ideas from coming out; 4) Keep digging/revising; 5) Keep your eye on the prize; and 6) Just go for it!

Image result for gennifer choldenkoNext we hurried across campus to see Gennifer Choldenko again. This time she was presenting to a large group of kids.

She based most of her presentation on Chasing Secrets. After talking about the plague coming into 1900s San Francisco, Choldenko did a role play with the kids on making up a fake, deadly disease. The kids got to decide the sounds you make when you have the disease, the weird treatments you do, and the cost for those treatments. The kids were absolutely enthralled and entertained by this part of her presentation.

She then talked about her Al Capone series and the facts behind writing those books.

Image result for janice harringtonAfter an early lunch, we headed to our next presenter, Janice Harrington. Harrington is a librarian, storyteller, and poet. She has mainly written picture books but recently came out with a new middle-grade book called Catching a Story Fish.

Catching a Story Fish is about a young girl who is part of a fishing family. She hates to fish, except with her grandfather. This time to fish with her grandfather is precious to her. He tells her about the story fish that is inside everyone and how when you catch it, your life's story opens up. But when her grandfather has a stroke, he loses the sweetness and humor he once had. So the girl is on a mission to help her grandfather remember who he really is through stories.

Harrington had some advice for kids on becoming a writer. She said to 1) Read; 2) Believe in yourself; 3) Write all the time; and 4) Be determined. She did two very entertaining and interactive stories with the kids. This included a story about her sister using her homework to make a rain hat; fireman's helmet, bucket, boat, and a life-jacket. Then she shared a story about an old couple and their farm animals working together to pull up a stubborn sweet potato. Awesome presentation!

Image result for angela cervantesOur final author for the day was Angela Cervantes. She is pretty new to the children's literature world with only two middle-grade books published: Gabby, Lost and Found and Allie, First at Last. But, she was a fabulous and polished presenter.

Animals have been an important part of Cervantes' life. Living in Topeka, Kansas, Cervantes grew up living behind a Mexican restaurant. The dumpsters of that restaurant attracted many stray animals in the area. Her mother would take these animals in, clean them up, feed them properly, and then call friends or family about adopting these animals.  

Besides loving animals, she loved to read. She labeled herself a "flashlight girl". This means she would stay up late into the night reading her favorite books--like Beverly Cleary's Ramona books and C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia--under her blankets by flashlight. Her love of reading led her at an early age to become a writer.

At the University of Kansas, she got her degree in writing and mainly wrote content for websites. During a research trip to Guatemala City, a grey and white cat followed her around the city. This inspired Cervantes to write a story about a Kansas girl who wanted to save the animals at her local shelter. This is the premise behind Gabby, Lost and Found.

Once we were done with Cervantes presentation, it was time to head home.

What a fabulous festival full of great authors and presenters! Make sure to check out any author events in your area. They can be a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.

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