30 Years of IMAGINATION

*cue the theramin, followed by the pounding of hoofbeats*

Good golly, sci-fi and fantasy are my favorite genres as a reader, which is the main reason I wanted to attend the Children’s Literature Conference at NIU this year, seeing as their theme was all about science fiction and fantasy.

Thursday evening the speaker was Tamora Pierce. The theme of her speech was being a pirate–a literary pirate. She spoke about how as a child her favorite tv show was about Robin Hood, and she would wrest control of the tv away from her sisters so she could watch it. Her interest piqued, she looked up Robin Hood in the encyclopedia, then followed the “see also” references to learn about Richard the II and Medieval Europe.

When she began writing books, she unconsciously used this childhood research to construct her fantasy worlds. From there, she began researching more, using stacks of foreign language dictionaries to cobble together new languages for her worlds, and photocopying, cutting out, and rearranging maps of the middle east to create new geographies.

Despite having a cold, Tamora was very eloquent and spoke at length with each person who came to get a book signed by her.

Before she spoke, the winners of the Monarch and Caudill awards were announced in an extremely anti-climactic way. The authors had been called the day before (I think), so there was no giddy phone chat or anything. Just…”Here’s the winners. Whoo.” They didn’t really talk about the new Bluestem award, either, which I thought was disappointing. I wish that they’d’ve let Melanie Koss and Andrew Medlar announce the winners; the booktalks they did the following day were incredibly charming and engaging, and I’m sure they could have added some pomp and circumstance to the announcing of the awards. I mean, I know it isn’t the Oscars or anything, but a little fanfare, please?

The speakers on Friday were Jill Thompson, Nnedi Orokafor, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal, along with Andrew Medlar and Melanie Koss booktalking award winners and some “best of”  books from late ’09 / early ’10.

Jill Thompson did some of the art for IRead’s Scare Up a Good Book reading theme, so I was fairly familiar with her work. As she spoke, for a while she casually painted a watercolor picture for an upcoming book WHILE TALKING, which blew my mind–straight up watercolors, no inking, and she was doing a fine job. I was very impressed.

Nnedi told an excellent story about stopping to use the restroom during a family trip, and their only option being a hole in the ground that led to hell, being guarded over a woman with a big knife chopping up lots of meat. The meat was covered in flies, and every time the knife came down the flies went up, and ohmigod people if that’s not a great, disturbing image than I don’t know what it.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal was very darling, per usual, and of course showed a short five minute film about making things that made me a little weepy.

The booktalks by Melanie and Andrew were very well done. There was some acting, some throwing of beads, some hula-hooping. I’ll add a bib of the books they talked about soon (if only one were posted online already).

I have some pictures and  video that I need to upload…will update when I get around to that.

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