Saturday, September 22, 2007

Symphonies and Forces of Nature

I am sleeping with my media escort. Here she is, second from right, Deborah Hopkinson. She's standing in Chauni Haslet's outstanding kitchen in Issaquah, Washington, where I was invited for dinner last night.

And look at the company we kept! We were elementary school librarians, teachers, a bookseller and 2 children's book writers.
Chauni owns ALL FOR KIDS, a Seattle institution. Hmmm... that doesn't sound right. A Seattle TREASURE. That's better. It's a symphony true. In THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS, House Jackson, Crackerjack pitcher, obedient son, and keeper of his own council, is searching for the symphony true, thanks to an old man's bequest -- he has left House a note and a copy of Walt Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS and House is trying to puzzle out this particular passage:

After the dazzle of day of day is done,
Only the dark, dark night shows to my eyes the stars;
After the clangor of organ majestic, or chorus, or perfect band
Silent, athwart my soul, moves the symphony true.

Last night felt like a symphony true, like what it's all about, as booksellers, librarians, teachers, writers, sharing their dedication to stories for young readers.

We told our stories, too. Thoughts on retirement, debates about the art/business of teaching, large schools, small schools, collaboration with teachers (or lack thereof), bookstore events, how stories come together, how important friendship is, and what a luscious meal we're enjoying... Bill barbecued (outside, in the dark, in the drizzle, and still he created a masterpiece), Chauni made potatoes (fantastic), and everyone brought fabulous pot luck -- I won't even go into the desserts. I've gained ten pounds on book tour, and I've enjoyed every ounce.
Here's Monica (right) and Carol. Carol told Chauni, "If you ever have Deborah Wiles at All For Kids, I want to come to dinner with you." So Chauni organized a dinner and just... made it happen. She is a force of nature. Monica brought her copy of ALL-STARS and showed me the pages she had tagged -- oh, what bliss for a writer, to be allowed a peek into what a reader saw in her story -- I was so touched I nearly cried... in fact, I was close to tears the whole evening, listening to stories about teaching and books, watching friend Deborah Hopkinson talk about her writing, taking in the atmosphere that's created when folks come together passionately for a common cause -- story.

Chauni's at the head of the table, in the coral. You'll see a better photo of her later, after I visit All For Kids, which is where I'm headed right this moment. After a visiting time with the staff and readers, Deborah Hopkinson (who does not snore), will take me to Bellingham, where I'll sign at Village Books at 4pm, then have dinner with Nancy Johnson and friends. Nancy is a force at Western Washington University, where she... well, I'll save this for later, too. Just know that I'm hanging out with forces of nature today. And yesterday I was part of a symphony.

Deborah H. has already found me a Verizon store -- I left my phone charger somewhere, probably in San Francisco. I couldn't find my comb this morning, but I've just located that. I need another memory card for my camera because I don't know how to erase photos from the disk. I'll figure it out. I'll figure it all out. I'm hitting my stride. A restful afternoon yesterday and a lovely dinner last night have set me back on the road with a sense of wonder and anticipation -- what happens next?