Sunday, October 7, 2007

It's a Warm Day in Lake Wobegon

I haven't seen a lake (or the river). Haven't spied any Norwegian bachelor farmers or devout Lutheran ministers, but I have heard talk about Garrison Keillor, Minneapolis's favorite son. At the MBA cocktail party last night, Patricia Hampl told me that Keillor worked through ten years of relative anonymity with what would become "A Prairie Home Companion." Hampl described her own career as long and quiet. She's being very modest. I am anxious to read her new book, THE FLORIST'S DAUGHTER.
National Accounts Manager Ellen Sugg is taking good care of Harcourt books (and me) at the Midwest Booksellers show. Here she is with Paul Von Drasek, Executive Director of Sales at Harcourt.

And this is Heather Strand from Buffalo Books in Buffalo, Minnesota. This picture was in my email inbox this morning along with a message from Paul's Blackberry: "Heather Strand stopped by hoping to see you. Your biggest fan and is a teacher reading your book to her class. I told her about your blog." Sorry I missed you, Heather; thanks so much for reading ALL-STARS to your students and for all the work you do at Buffalo Books.

Paul works in NYC but grew up in the Minneapolis area, so this is a coming home for him. For me, too. I have never been to Minneapolis, but being with friends is a coming home. It's always good to see Paul, and there will more good soon, as I meet up with friend Marion Dane Bauer. I get to see more than the city when Marion picks me up -- I even get to see DIRT. We drive past a construction site with mounds of black dirt -- I see what those Norwegian bachelor farmers fell in love with now. This is the blackest soil I've ever seen -- wish I had a picture to show you. I've gotten used to the red clay soil of Georgia (well, I haven't gotten used to it, but I'm beginning to accept it).

Marion and I grab a precious hour or two together on a beautiful fall day (these were the leaves we walked through on our walk) before we're back at the convention center for Marion to sign BABY BEAR DISCOVERS THE WORLD, a beautiful new 64-page picture book published by Adventure Press with amazing photographs by Stan Tekiela.

Then Marion and I excuse ourselves from the cocktail party so we can attend the orchestra! What a treat on the road. What a treat anytime. I'm thrilled that Marion has two tickets to the Minnesota Orchestra's season preview concert and I'm touched and delighted she would invite me to come with her. I was so tired by the time I got here -- remember, the morning started with a power outage at 5am while I was in the shower at home in Atlanta, then hours of flight delays getting to Minneapolis, yadda yadda, but I have to say, when I sank into my seat in Orchestra Hall and the lights came up... I was totally blown over.

Copland, Grieg, Brahms, Bach, Mozart Rimsky-Korsakov, and more -- it was a feast for the senses. The theatre was packed -- 2000 strong. And my soul was fed. I remember the very day I discovered classical music. I was sitting in my fourth-grade classroom in Camp Springs, Maryland when a new music teacher, Miss Farrell, wheeled her music cart into the room, put a record on the record player, and played "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg from his "Peer Gynt Suite." Be still my heart. Eugene Ormandy was the conductor. For Christmas that year I asked for a record by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Ormandy was the conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra before he made his way to Philadelphia. Now, Osmo Vanska conducts -- just like this. The orchestra publicity folks call it "Osmosis." Boy, is it. He was amazing, his orchestra is amazing, and what a way to end a night in Minneapolis. This morning I meet Paul for breakfast ("Minnesota's a great place," he says. I want to hear more.) and then attend The Moveable Feast of Authors at noon, then scoot myself to the airport in order to fly to Chicago (backwards on the map), then to Madison, Wisconsin, where I'll be in schools on Monday and Tuesday. I'm hoping for more fall beauty. I've missed it in Atlanta. We have a fall, but not that luscious, gorgeous, beauteous fall we had in Maryland in the years I lived there. When I think Wisconsin, I think cheese and Land O' Lakes. That's as much as my before-coffee mind will let me think. I know there's more. Can't wait to see it.