Workshopping in Wisconsin

Assistant professor Ethelene Whitmire and I at the Center for the Humanities

It’s been a long time since I posted on my blog. I won’t even try to post an update on everything I’ve done over the past few months, the details are enough to fill a novel. But I would like to talk about the past two days that I spent in Wisconsin.

On Thursday, I flew to The Badger State, where I had the pleasure of participating in a very special workshop experience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ethelene Whitmire, an associate professor at the School of Library and Information Studies, received a Mellon Foundation scholarship. The funds made it possible for her to invest in having her scholarly biography reimagined by industry professionals, with a goal of it reaching a broader audience. In this case, a picture book, hopefully!

On the evening before the workshop, the university hosted an author’s panel, “Creating Children’s Books about Real People.” Panelists included myself and authors Jan Pinborough (Miss Moore Thought Otherwise) Ann Bausum (Freedom Riders), Jacqueline Houtman (The Reinvention of Edison Thomas). The panel was moderated by K.T. Horning of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Topics discussed included how authors go about finding the heart of a story in research, as well as how to write children’s stories involving historical figures with controversial, um, side-lives, for lack of a better word. The discussion was informational, humorous, engaging.

The actual workshop took place the next morning on campus, at Center for the Humanities. Participants included myself and author Jan Pinborough, as well as K.T. Horning and other faculty members Allison Kaplan, Madge Klais, Rebekah Willett and Sara Guyer. For two hours, we tore through the manuscript, offering suggestions that addressed story arc, page turns, character development, voice, and so much more. It was a lively discussion, and I think we all learned about as much as we contributed.

After the workshop, I toured the CCBC library, where recent Charlotte Zolotow winners and honor books were on display. The best way to describe the CCBC library? Children’s book heaven!

I had a wonderful time. The only downer was on my flight home, when the airlines stranded me in Chicago. Oh, well, I got a hotel and a good night’s sleep. But I likely won’t fly United again.

Recent Charolette Zolotow winners are on display at the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.
Moderator and authors, Creating Children’s Books About Real People, from left: K.T. Horning, Jacqueline Houtman, Ann Bausum, me, Jan Pinborough.



Me with the big guy at the CCBC.
The CCBC’s Choices 2014 list, which includes(!) the book I illustrated, THE CART THAT CARRIED MARTIN.