meeting a writer.
Girls on the run has just finished. I look at my phone’s clock and know that were are going to have to race home, drop all of our backpacks, put together a little snack , jump back in the car, and zoom back to school.
I foresee in all of this craziness, with my mom superpowers, that we may end up being the ones that hold up the bus and make us all late for an event that each of my girls and all other bus riders have been looking forward to for weeks. Adrenaline starts to speed through my body at this thought. I into my head pops a video I saw this morning about lateness making you fat and I suddenly feel the extra pounds as we all pick up the pace and tumble into the van.
Driving like a maniac, I’m shouting instructions over the happy din of voices. Everyone is so excited for the coming evening that I don’t think they hear me. As we pull into the driveway I reiterate the main point of what I had been intensely communicating, “Pee and get back in the van.” I think they heard that. They laugh.
We rush back over to the school and I’m certain I’ve just packed on a couple of pounds in our efforts to keep the bus on schedule. I’ve barely stopped the car and the kids are already sprinting toward the bus.
At the library our fellow bus riders/Karen Hesse fans file out of the blue and white little school bus in gleeful confusion, “Is this it? Are we here?”
I instantly spot Karen Hesse when we walk in the library. She is talking to the star struck librarian as they go over plans for the evening. The librarian can hardly believe that Karen Hesse, Newberry Award winner, is standing in her library. I love seeing how thrilled she is about this moment.
The girls and I sip water from the water fountain nearby and as we do I try to tell Miriam in ninja like fashion, that just feet from them is Karen Hesse. “What?!” She whispers loudly back. I quietly mumble, “Karen Hesse is right over there.” And with big eyes and a movement of my hair I gesture in Karen Hesse’s direction. Emma in her regular voice, which seems really loud at this moment, says, “Mom, what are you saying? I can’t hear you!”
Instead of answering, I lead them to the book sales table and Karen walks into the room where she will be talking.
A few minutes later we file in the room, the librarian introduces Karen Hesse without any fanfare and I can immediately see that this suits Karen. Her sweet approachability is instantly obvious as she tells the group that we will have a question and answer time.
Simultaneously, children’s hands shoot into the air. Each question, Karen acknowledges, is an excellent and thoughtful one. I love the way she consciously and descriptively answers each inquiry.
We get to hear about how her first book was rejected but loved for its characters and the work that went into making a story around them that could be published, how four of her books came about: from conception to publication, and how inspiration comes to her and the hard work that follows. She is funny and light and most of all sincerely present with each person.
As soon as she is done answering questions we hurriedly get in line to buy some of her books so that we can talk with her and have her autograph inside each of her pieces of work. I know that I don’t want the girls to forget this evening. I am especially wondering what Grace is thinking as she listened to someone who has done her dream.
I talk with Grace about what she would like to ask Karen Hesse and she determines she would like to know what she can do, at her age, to prepare to be a writer. She’s extremely nervous. Grace wants the answer but she keeps telling me that she doesn’t want to say the question. I can see by her face that she is perplexed and torn about what she will do.
After what seems like an hour, and probably an eternity to Grace in her nervous state, we approach the table where Karen Hesse is sitting. The kids quietly talk with her. Miriam tells her how much she loves Letters to Rifka and that when she finished it she immediately wanted to read it again. Emma says that her favorite book is Letters to Rifka and they talk about the 5 Karen Hesse books that she has devoured in the last 2 weeks. Knowing that Grace will wish she had asked if we leave the table, I say, “Grace has a question.” I’m hoping that this will give Grace the courage to summon her question. Instead, seeing her turmoil and the long line in back of us, I ask the question for her. And gratefully, Karen Hesse answers Gracie’s question as if she had asked it.
Karen looks only at Grace and the line and all of the sound in the room seem to melt away as she says:
First, write every single day. Write about everything. What happened at school. Dinner, what you ate and what it tasted like. Every day.
Second, write with all of your senses. Use all five senses to describe what happened. That will get you ready.
Minutes later we all float in a happy, overexcited, cacophonous group out to the bus. We climb the dark stairs; our arms full of Karen Hesse books. We fall into our seats amazed at the fascinating and exhilarating evening we have just experienced.
Thank you, Karen Hesse.
and Mrs. Cauble for creating such an incredible trip!
What do the people in your family want to be when they grow up?
*images below provided by Mrs. Cauble who remembered her camera and didn’t have her iphone battery die just when it mattered most…thank you, Mrs. Cauble!