Thursday, June 22, 2006

Children's Lit Fan-Girl in NYC


As you requested, here is my short remembrance of Madeleine L'Engle's 70th birthday party. As I look over what I’ve written, it really doesn’t seem like much, but it will have to do.

The birthday party was hosted by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and took place in an entertainment room in some nice little hotel somewhere in New York City. I’m not being coy—I really don’t remember where the event took place. I attended the party with my 3 Central Children’s Room colleagues. For Madeleine L’Engle’s birthday, we of the origami bent (3/4 of us) made a series of paper boxes, each one smaller than the next, and placed a “lucky star” in the tiniest of the boxes.

Madeleine L'Engle sat in a chair in the center of the room, while we, her humble, loyal subjects, stood in line to wish her well. When the Central Children's Room librarians presented the origami box gift, Madeleine L’Engle looked at it with some puzzlement. I knew her eyesight wasn’t as clear as it used to be, and when she began to undo the top box (each box was made of 8 pieces of paper), I lunged forward and demonstrated how she could just lift the top of the box off. At the time, I was a real origami nut, and in that instant, all I could think of was, “Don’t wreck my creation-- It took at least 15 minutes to make!”

Madeleine L'Engle opened the rest of the boxes, and when she got to the tiniest of boxes, she held it in the palm of her hand for a moment. Then, she opened up her large locket, placed the tiny box within the locket, and set the rest of the paper boxes to the side.

That’s all I really remember. I had a polite conversation with Mr. Straus, ate some yummy canapé, and repeatedly beamed in the direction of Madeleine L'Engle. I’d met Madeleine L’Engle a couple of times before, and had received some notes from her (I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that when it comes to children’s book authors and illustrators, I’m such a fan-girl), but I treated each meeting as if it were the first time.

Scieszka & Smith

My boss took me to a publicity party for Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith for Squids Will Be Squids. Unlike the first time I met them, in which I was totally tongue-tied by Lane Smith’s off-beat good looks, I was able to chat and be mildly charming. I also drank quite a bit of red wine, and at one point in the evening, decided I would try one of the raw oysters featured at the canapé bar. My boss looked at me with pity in his eyes and said, “If you call in sick to work tomorrow, I will understand completely.”

I almost did call in sick to work. As I learned, red wine and raw shellfish turned me from Gleeful to Gastrically-Disturbed. Still, if I had to suffer at all, it was worth it for the rollicking good evening. Sciezska and Smith signed copies of Squids Will Be Squids for my friends, my favorite of which was Smith’s dedication of The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Tales to “stinky Andrew.”

One of the things I loved about working as a librarian in New York was losing count of how many times I had met particular authors or illustrators, and relaxing a bit on my reluctance to lend out books that had been signed by those authors and illustrators. In the end, the autograph wasn’t intrinsically important, but was simply a reminder of the conversation I had with the person who signed the book.


Nonny said...

It all sounds so fun and glamorous. I don't know how you could have given that up. I was hoping that your first story would have ended up with you guys doing tequila shooters at some dive around 4:00am. Or are you just leaving that part out?

galetea said...

That's SO cool! Jealous maximus.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Nonny, Back when I worked at Central Children's Room, there was one lead librarian, one senior librarian, one librarian, and one library-student. Now, all of the librarians are senior librarians, but at the time, when I was promoted to senior librarian, I had to take a hike and find my own children's room to run. I went out to Tatooine, which did indeed feel like the farthest edge from the bright center of the galaxy. I was miserable on Tatooine. No bright stars! (Well, there was one: Reg E. Gaines of "Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk". Reg E. Gaines would do poetry programs on Tatooine. Bless him.)

Anyway, that was how I was able to leave. I was miserable as a senior librarian on Tatooine, and the bright spots were my monthly meetings with other children's librarians. I really like working on a team, which is odd, because I don't think of myself as much of a team player.

Galetea: I've never met Jealous Maximus, but I hear he's got a new book deal in the works, AND he's cuter than Joaquin Phoenix!:)

Lone Star Ma said...

Wow...I'm so jealous. But I'm happy for you. What neat times!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Lone Star Ma: The good news is that, with the exception of a few authors like Rowling and... Rowling, authors and illustrators are pretty approachable. Even the shy ones are often pleased when you recognize them, or find out who they are and tell them you love their books.