This past Saturday was the glorious culmination of the work and appreciation of many people — Naomi Shihab Nye’s Arbuthnot lecture at Western Washington University. The 2018 Arbuthnot Committee, of which I am a member, began operating way back in early 2016, looking far and wide for the best person possible to deliver this distinguished lecture. Our decision made we had to keep it under wraps until Midwinter 2017 when it was announced to a gratifyingly enthusiastic response. The next task for the committee was to select the institution where the lecture would take place. We considered a rich collection of these, ending up being wowed by an ambitious proposal by Thom Barthelmess, Nancy Johnson, and Sylvia Tag of Western Washington University and the Whatcom County Library System of Bellingham, Washington. This was announced at the 2017 Midwinter conference and now, over a year later of their efforts, I can serve witness that they pulled it off brilliantly.
After a very, very, VERY long journey across the continent I arrived mid-afternoon on Friday with time to take a lovely walk before a dinner hosted by Harper Collins. Held at Ciao Thyme, we were treated to a heavenly array of courses (my favorite being the rhubarb gallette that ended the meal).
There were events on Friday and then, on Saturday, a Celebration of Poetry Luncheon in Western Washington University’s glorious Reading Room. There was a remarkable one act play performed by BAAY, poems read by children of all ages, and more poems presented around the room.
(Thom was unable to be there in person, but was there in everyone’s thoughts:)
Nancy, Naomi, and Sylvia
Then there was the big night — the lecture itself, “REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED – Our Lives of Reading & Writing.” It was as wonderful as we knew it would be. I look forward to all having a chance to read it in a forthcoming issue of Children and Libraries.
The Arbuthnot Committee (missing Wendy Lukehart and Tim Capehart), myself, chair Betsy Bird, and Sharon McKellar with Naomi.
Over 500 registered for the lecture!
To conclude, here’s what I posted yesterday morning on Facebook:
Mulling over an extraordinary two days in Bellingham for Naomi Shihab Nye’s Arbuthnot lecture. Every element was perfection (even the light rain as it lent atmosphere). I am in awe, Sylvia Tag, Nancy Johnson, Thom Barthelmess for this memorable time. From the glorious luncheon with incredible young people reading and performing to the spaces to the refreshments to the care you took for all of us to the thought to the flowers to the welcome and so much more, I am eternally grateful. I am also in awe of the tireless ALSC folks: Aimee Strittmatter, Cee Jones, and the one and only Nina Lindsay. Patty Rosati, Suzanne Murphy Giatzis, and Virginia Duncan of Harper Collins—- thank you, thank you. My fellow Arbuthnot committee members Betsy Ramsey Bird, Sharon McKellar, Wendy Lukehart, and Tim Capehart — we did [sic] good. And then there is the woman of the moment: Naomi Shihab Nye, you were glorious. Refreshments? I am sated by your beautiful words of last night.