Last week I was in Los Angeles. The first day I was there for a conference. The other three days I managed to fit in eight readings, not only in three wonderful schools but also in a fabulous indy. book store. I'm only writing about it now because while I was away there was a death in the family. My mother in law, a dedicated reader and lover of books, died at the age of 86. She'd once worked as a school librarian and teacher, so she knew the value of books, and the importance of the school library - the heart of any school - as both a door into the future and a safe haven and refuge. You don't always need a psychiatrist. Sometimes you just need a library.
One of the school librarians that I met was S. Jones Rogan, who wrote 'The Daring Adventures of Penhaligon Brush.' By co-incidence, we share a publisher! Random House. I also visited Once Upon a Story Book store in Long Beach, where Cyndie Kalina welcomes book loving families with a space full of books and cuddly toys. There's nothing nicer than snuggling up with a teddy bear (or some other stuffed creature) and getting lost (or finding yourself) in a book.
At all the presentations, I gave my usual plug: "Please pass on family stories. Ask lots of questions and write down family histories. Everyone's family is interesting," I said, over and over again.
Some children told me about their grandparents and other relatives, or even their own experiences. "Write it all down," I said.
One little girl told me that she had a famous relative and that the family had stories about him. "What was his name?" I asked.
"Stonewall Jackson," she replied. The teachers, and I, all gaped in amazement.
If you've never heard of Stonewall Jackson, all I can say is - Google!
My last day in California was the one at Long Beach. Joanne Renaud, cover artist for the U.S. edition of 'Honey Cake,' drove me there and brought along a couple of her friends. We had a wonderful lunch, bought a lot of books from Once Upon a Story Book store, walked around Long Beach while I took photos of houses and palm trees, and then Joanne and I gave our presentations in the book store.
Many thanks to my friends Brenda and Abe for letting me stay at their house - and to Diogie and Red Dog for being so friendly. Thanks to Sally, Venus and Amy for being wonderful school librarians, and Cyndie for welcoming me into her book store. And to Joanne, Katherine and Berkeley (pronounced 'Barclay') for sharing a great day. Also many thanks to all the dedicated writers, teachers and book lovers at the Jewish Children's Literature Conference.
There were only sixteen passengers on the flight back to Vancouver, so the flight attendants told us to spread out. I'm not sure if that was so the plane wouldn't tip! I'm not sure I want to know.
So now I'm back in the land of evergreens and frost. A different kind of beauty.
But don't forget, everyone. It's all material.