I spent this past weekend in sunny San Francisco.
Yes, you read that right. Sunny. San Francisco.
But let’s back up a minute.The American Library Association’s Annual Conference is being held in San Francisco this year. No, I did not attend the conference (some day!), but I was there for related festivities.
The American Library Association gives out awards to books at the Midwinter Conference, and holds banquets at the Annual Conference to honor the winners and honorees. Most people are familiar with the Youth Media Awards; the Newbery, the Caldecott, and maybe even the newer Printz may ring a bell.
But there are other, quieter, but perhaps more important, awards, too. Ones that honor writers and illustrators of diverse backgrounds and topics such as the Batchelder, the Belpré, the Coretta Scott King. To read these books is an eye-opening experience; to attend one of the award banquets held in their honor is otherworldly.
I follow a lot of writers. On Twitter. And Tumblr. And Facebook. One such writer, Kwame Alexander, who wrote this year’s Newbery Award Winning and Coretta Scott King Honor novel in verse, The Crossover, held a contest for a ticket to either the Newbery/Caldecott Award Dinner or the Coretta Scott King Award Breakfast. Write a rule, he asked, that applies to both basketball and life.
It’s not the
of the dog in the fight
the size of the
in the dog.
was my winning entry.
What did I win? A ticket to the Coretta Scott King Award Breakfast in San Francisco as Kwame’s guest. The practical part of me wanted to pass the opportunity to a coworker or friend already scheduled to attend the ALA Conference. The budding author and #WeNeedDiverseBooks librarian in me said “LET’S DO THIS!” and a few airline credits and hotel points later, hell-oooo San Francisco!
This wasn’t my first time flying alone, but I’ve always had someone waiting for me on the end leg of my journey. Not this time. And I must say that for my first solo excursion for business/pleasure, it went as well as it could have:
- An early check in courtesy of the Mosser Hotel, located right in the thick of the San Fran action.
- Opting to hoof around to the different must-sees of San Fran in lieu of a tour bus or other means of transport – I wanted to get up close and personal with this awesome city on a perfect, sunny day (so un-San-Fran like! hence my forgetting to pack sunscreen and subsequent sunburn…).
- Six hours of unadulterated sight-seeing.
- A dinner meet up with coworkers (in town for ALA) at a local pizza/pasta joint.
- An early night filled with reading and the sounds of the city.
And that was just the first 13 hours!
The next morning, I woke bright and early for the 7am breakfast. Having read all the Coretta Scott King Honorees (sidenote: librarian level up!), I was so excited to hear (and maybe meet!) the authors of the amazing books I read. All of the books were so wonderful and spoke so confidently and realistically about the African American experience of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Given that so many high profile, racially charged events have happened in America in the past year (#BlackLivesMatter) I was so honored to have the chance, the privilege, of seeing these amazing writers accept awards that honored their culture, their history, their present, and their future.
If these authors and illustrators are great writers, they are even better speakers and humans. Every single honoree moved me in some way: some to laughter, some to reflection, some to tears both happy and sad. To see this group of people with a talent for storytelling I so identify with candidly share their triumphs, their joys, their struggles, their tears in their acceptance speeches completely blew me away.
It made me see more clearly. It made me feel more keenly. And although it gave new depth to my very real despair for the future of our world, it also gave me new hope.
These authors and illustrators; their work inspired me in and of itself. And their personalities and realities gave me new life as a librarian and a writer. More than ever before, I feel a real and raw responsibility to go forward and put these important works into the hands of young people, to pass along and create a hopeful narrative for our collective future.
As if the Coretta Scott King Award Breakfast wasn’t enough to restore my hope in humanity, walking down Market Street through the joy of the first Pride Parade since the SCOTUS ruling in favor of Marriage Equality was the rainbow sprinkles on a very, very sweet Sunday.
Today, despite landing in Chicago at 10pm and tossing and turning all last night despite my exhaustion (read: sunburn!), I am filled with energetic adoration for the authors I heard speak, even more for the ones I was able to meet, and am so very excited to see what these brilliant minds do next. Not to mention, I’m kind of ready to get my own voice out there, too!
In the words of Christopher Myers, “I sometimes feel like giving up on the world, but I refuse to give up on the world I have yet to create.”*
Let’s create a good one, guys.
*full and more accurate quote from Myers’ acceptance speech (as well as Jacqueline Woodson’s) will be printed in July/August 2015 edition of Horn Book Magazine, at which point I will update and credit.