This is always one of my favorite times of the year. There’s daylight saving time, spring, and Frank Hodge’s annual three-day children’s book extravaganza. Formerly known as Let The Reading Begin, the Got Books? Let’s Read conference is unlike any other that I know of. Each year, Frank brings in a couple dozen children’s book writers and illustrators from around the country and reserves a big chunk of the Desmond hotel in Albany. Hundreds of people show up. There are lectures, meet-the-author sessions, and terrific food. (In the picture above, I’m trying to help myself to some of author/illustrator Sylvie Wickstrom’s mashed potatoes. Sylvie, naturally, is appalled.)
One of the great things about attending as an author is that I get to catch up with – and get inspired by – so many of the great people working in the field. (At left, Tracey Campbell Pearson gives a drawing lesson.) By the time I get home on Saturday, my brain is overflowing with ideas for new books and a general feeling of panic over the talent of the competition out there.
Every year, Frank has a theme for the big dinner on Friday night, and this time it was color. Each table was decorated with candles and glowsticks, and the walls were lit from below with colored bulbs. The overhead lights were low, and the whole room glowed.
After dinner, our servers (who were also outfitted with colored glowsticks) delivered mysterious packages to each table, and instructed us not to open them until given the signal from Frank. At the appointed time, as he introduced the evening’s speaker, Denise Fleming, we opened our boxes to find battery-powered light globes. These were funny little spheres on the end of a stick that came alive with hypnotic, spinning colored lights at the press of a button. On Frank’s command, everyone simultaneously raised their globes and the room filled with color. What a great night. Thanks, Frank!