Next Stop: Alcatraz

Next Stop: Alcatraz

[2/4/07 I am writing this from SFO where my computer keeps teasing me with a "Free Airport Wifi" connection that never materializes.]

[2/5/07 Now I am trying to publish this from YVR where I am being tortured by an intermittent "Hotspot temporarily unavailable" message. Damn you, Telus!]

Yesterday the girls and I went to a local school's authors and illustrators fair. It was well attended and wonderfully inspiring. The girls went gaga over the amazing selection of books to browse. Several authors and illustrators had salons. And the savvy organizers had pizza and popsicles for sale, right next to the playground (ooh, happy Mali).

And, oh my, the authors! I always want to jump on their shoulders and suck out their brains, or at least peek in their ears for clues as to how in the world they do what they do. But I didn't bring Mali's stroller and didn't want to put her down and lose her in the crowd, so, next time.

We got to chat with Milly Lee, author of the wonderful book Earthquake! It was inspired by her mother, who was eight years old when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck. Milly said that her mom wasn't scared during the earthquake, because, "She had never stepped foot outside of China before so it was all part of the adventure." Understandable; we Californians sometimes enjoy the roller-coaster thrills of our larger non-destructive earthquakes.

We also got to go to a presentation by Gennifer Choldenko, author of the Newberry Honor book Al Capone Does My Shirts. I didn't get to stay for much of her talk as Miss Mali started throwing a twoful tantrum, which was too bad as I missed any discussion of the book's autism themes. But I did appreciate Ms. Choldenko's great sense of humor in relating how her goal after having "about fifty-two" manuscript rejections was no longer to get a book accepted but rather to get a longer rejection letter--that way she knew she was making some headway. When she got a full one-page rejection, and then a two-pager after that, she knew she was getting somewhere.

Ms. Choldenko was very diligent in her research for Al Capone. She even signed up to be a docent on Alcatraz so as to experience the island's daily and seasonal rhythms. Iz was entranced by her description of life on Alcatraz and I think we'll be going there very soon, possibly on the night tour she so heartily recommeded.

Later on we lined up so that Iz could get her now-very-cherished copy of Al Capone signed. Ms. Choldenko was very generous with her time, chatting pleasantly with with everyone who came to meet her. I am especially grateful for her patience, as when our turn arrived Iz came right at her with all filters down: "...and my mom finally got me this shirt with words on it and I'm so excited because it's what I've always wanted and look, it says 'Yes, I'm perfect, now stop staring,' and don't you think that's funny and it's even sparkly too and this is my little sister Mali and she's not autistic but our brother is and Mali took apart our globe but that's okay because it was so old that it had the USSR on it [eyeroll] and then she took the top part and started walking around with the Northern Hemisphere on her head!"

And Iz got a huge belly laugh out of Ms. Choldenko with that one. "You're quite a girl, Isobel," she remarked. Iz was deep into Al Capone when I left for Vancouver. I can't wait to get home and find out what she thought of the book. I'll bet she's itching to send Ms. Choldenko some compliments of her own.

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