I am one of those CLNErs. That is, starting in 1999 (relatively recent compared to those who were involved many, many years before me) I began attending the annual summer institute of Children’s Literature New England. I hadn’t intended to make it an annual thing, but like many others, once I started I couldn’t stop.
These institutes were extraordinary. There were required readings, some quite dense, lectures, small group discussions, poetry, singing, talks of a caliber quite remarkable. And those who gave the lectures and talks! Katherine Paterson, Susan Cooper, Tim Wynne-Jones, Virginia Euwer Wolff, Diana Wynne Jones, Brian Selznick, M. T. Anderson, Alan Garner, Elizabeth Partridge, Neil Gaiman, Jill Paton Walsh, and so many more. The directors were and are Gregory Maguire (yes, that Gregory Maguire) and Barbara Harrison. The other attendees were incredible too: writers, editors, librarians, educators, booksellers, and every sort of person who was besotted with children’s literature. In 2005 I was honored to be a speaker and in 2006 to be a discussion leader. Sadly, that was the final institute.
Now there are bi-yearly colloquy. The first was “The Opening Page” in May 2007 and the next, “Secrets Told and Untold” will be this coming May 6-9 at the Essex in Vermont. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend as it is the same weekend as my nephew’s college graduation. Believe me, otherwise I would definitely be there. Yes, as Pam Munoz Ryan joked in 2007, there is a bit of a cult quality to CLNE (e,g, I can’t hear “Wild Mountain Thyme” without choking up), but it is a good sort of cult —one of devotees to children’s literature, who love to read, talk, and think about it in a myriad of ways. I will miss profoundly my CLNE friends this coming May and will be thinking about all the special experiences I will have to miss this time.
But you don’t have to. I highly recommend this quite remarkable weekend. I mean, check out the speakers: Ashley Bryan, Nikki Grimes, K. T. Horning, Joanna Rudge Long, Elizabeth Partridge, Peter Sis, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and Tim Wynne-Jones. But those are just the speakers — so many other luminaries are bound to be there as well, just as participants. Again, if it weren’t for my nephew whom I adore, I would absolutely be there.