Yesterday I came back to NYC from New Orleans in the early hours of the morning pleased to see my dog and a slightly cooler and less humid town. I had been incredibly disturbed at what I experienced and saw in 2006 so it was fantastic seeing tons of tourists, streetcars (weren’t there six years ago), and a city more like the one I remember from visits before Katrina.
I spent my first day with friends brunching at Dooky Chase, a fantastic place I’d been to many years ago and was so heartened to see revived after the storm; taking the St. Charles Street streetcar through the Garden District to the end and back; having drinks at Napoleon House; and visiting the Voodoo Museum, a place I first went to years back because of the connection to African spiritual beliefs and practices I knew of from my time in Sierra Leone.
The following day Sarah Ketchersid, the editor for Africa is my Home, and I went to the Amistad Research Center to look at the original Amistad materials. Since the book is going to be interactive — Ology-like with flaps and envelopes and such — we wanted to see if we might use some of the materials in the book. The staff was incredibly helpful — thank you so much, Chris and Andrew — and seeing and handling the materials again (as I’d first done in 2006), this time with Sarah who has been equally immersed in the story for a couple of years now, was moving beyond belief. We read Sarah Margru’s letters as well as those from other Amistad captives, their supporters, and even John Quincy Adams. One side note — editors read differently than you and I. That is, I read fast and scan and so I would take a look at a letter with its faded-difficult-to-make-out copperplate-script and figure there was nothing for us in it. But then Sarah would keep looking and suddenly point out a reference to the “children” or “the girls.” Editors know how to hone in and read in a way we don’t!
The convention itself was grand — seeing friends and their books, learning about forthcoming ones, connecting with new folks, eating (and eating and eating and eating…) terrific meals, and enjoying the touristy parts of NOLA. I don’t wish to make anyone reading this too terribly jealous, but some especially memorable experiences were:
- Dinner with mentor Katherine Paterson and extraordinary paper cutting artist Pamela Dalton in honor of their new book, Brother Sun, Sister Moon. (Check out this video to see Pamela’s process.)
- Dinner with my SLJ’s Battle of the Books peeps, Hyperion’s Stephanie Lurie and Joann Hill, and Bartimaeus — I mean — this year’s winner‘s creator, the one and only, Jonathan Stroud! (The dancing flames on the tablecloth was a particularly, er, apt touch.)
- Celebrating with Rita Williams-Garcia and her editor Rosemary Brosman — holding Rita’s purse as she danced up to the dais to receive her Newbery Honor, pigging out together at an amazing restaurant, and wiping away tears as Rita honored so many in her Coretta Scott King medal speech.