Just when I thought the school year couldn’t get any better, it did. Jeff and I drove to the U.P. of Michigan so I could speak at the Marquette-Alger Young Authors Conference.
Wow. This is the largest young author event I have seen. Over the course of 4 days, about 3,000 students from surrounding school districts were brought to Northern Michigan University. Students rotated from my talk to speakers including a musician, an Arctic explorer, and an expert on a local trout restoration program. Some students were given outdoor nature and journaling time, too.
The audiences were enthusiastic, thanks to the local educators. My programs were introduced by creative chants, memorized poetry readings, and even a full performance of Splish, Splash, Animal Baths, complete with orchestra and animal costumes/dance. (Thank you, Ms. Asplund and Ishpeming Strings!)
Of course what makes this event special was that each student had written a book. I was there to celebrate them! Teachers who choose to attend bring their entire class. Every student in the class writes a book. This is folded into the curriculum.
Students learn by doing. They had so many insightful questions about writing and nonfiction. You could tell they were really digging into the writing process. The conference is a yearlong goal and makes their writing come alive.
Just look at what students are doing in a classroom I visited. (They won me in a raffle. But after meeting the teacher and kids, I felt like I was the one who won.) They made bags for all the writing they did in class that year. I love the message on their wall.
The young author conference was cohesive and so well run. I wish I had photos of the huge, overstuffed notebook of instructions that is passed on from committee to committee, year after year. That helps make it work. Committee members carry over so that not all the conference coordinators are new each year. The event features a banquet/gathering of local literacy educators and reading supporters—basically the dynamic, creative folks of the community. I could have talked to them all night!
Lisa Gravedoni and the rest of the committee made my visit a joy. They sure know hospitality. Thanks to them, kind of fell in love with the people and landscape of Marquette. The beautiful lake. The beautiful trees. The outdoorsy, positive attitudes of the people up there. They make the best of snow by skiing, snowshoeing, dogsledding—doing just about everything you can imagine. It’s a climate not without its hardships, yet the people seem to embrace life, even hug the stuffing out of it.
If it weren’t for my tropic-loving, southern blood, I’d move on up there for life. I liked it that much. They have a yummy thai restaurant and a cozy local bookstore, Snowbound Books. The bookstore name gives me pause. But I understand that being snowbound does give you time to do crafts . . .
On the drive home from the U.P., way down in the L.P., a huge black bear crossed the highway in front of us. Was that a sign? Should we return to the U.P.? I’m thinking . . .