My original plan was to write just one blog about my awesome visit to the Midwest but as I was writing and writing and writing I found there was just too much to pack into a single blog. Unfortunately for you I was a little lax in getting many photographs for this section of the story (well, except for my attempts at capturing springtime in KC, which I will slap on to the end of this blog).
And so, here we commence with Part Two! Got your popcorn? Your comfy chair? A beverage of some sort? All right then. Let’s get started…
One of the great things about going out and visiting schools and libraries (besides reading and speaking with the kids, of course) is meeting teachers and librarians like Kari Bulgrin and Kelly Miller, who are so passionate about getting kids to read. It really charges me up to go back and write more books. It gives me hope that there are people out in the world who really care.
Another such person is Crystal Faris, Librarian Extraordinaire for the Kansas City Library. Not only is Crystal out there on the front lines trying to get good books into kids’ hands, she also has a very high tolerance for fart jokes. Crystal spent the entire day driving me around from school to school to school to library (to a tasty barbecue restaurant as a grand finale), listening to me read about “noxious boomers” and “thundering buttquakes.” All the while smiling and laughing as we went.
Crystal picked me up at 8:00 am from my very lovely hotel (thanks for the recommendation, Mrs. Miller):
Don’t let the scaffolding fool you. This is a beautiful place to stay if you’re ever in Kansas City. I was lucky enough to get a really good rate (maybe due to the construction) and so even though they are doing some renovations, I wasn’t bothered in the least.
We then proceeded to drive (well, Crystal drove and I just blabbed on about stuff) about forty five minutes outside KC to the town of Bonner Springs. When we arrived at Bonner Springs High School I was ushered into the auditorium where I was told by the librarian Debbie that there might be twenty students or two hundred students, depending out who showed up. Well, by the time my scheduled talk began, the entire auditorium was packed. I couldn’t believe it.
It was a really fun time. The students were laughing out loud during the reading and had a ton of great questions to follow. The time just flew by and I was so glad we had made the trip out to Bonner Springs for this visit. Crystal said she loved listening to the kids comments as they left the auditorium. She heard one boy say, “I thought that was going to be boring but it was really fun.”
After Bonner Springs, Crystal drove us back to Kansas City and gave me the grand tour of the downtown Kansas City Library. I really wish I had taken pictures of it because it has to be one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever been in. It used to be an old bank building and old bank buildings are generally gorgeous. At least, in my experience. Well, my experience really only extends to The Hockey Hall of Fame and now the Kansas City Library. But take my word for it. If ever you find yourself in Kansas City, take a trip to the library. And make sure you go downstairs to see their little screening room which is a converted bank vault. Super cool!!!
After a visit to the library we made stops at two inner city schools. East and Central. The librarians there - Carolyn and Michelle respectively - each have organized a book club (with the help of Mary, another incredible youth services librarian for Kansas City) set up for their kids. These students give up their lunch time to come to these book clubs, which is awesome. I read to each group of kids and we had some great discussions about the writing process and movies and screenwriting. Once again I have to apologize for not having my camera at the ready. I used to be so good at taking snapshots but ever since I bought my fancy new camera I generally take it out to try and shoot “artistic” photos. Sometimes I do miss my little point-and-shoot camera.
Anyway, I did manage to get one shot of the students at East High School. This is the “straight” shot. We did one where we were all holding our noses (to block out Coop’s zesty odor) but I did not get that one on film.
Following these two school readings, Crystal took me by THE READING REPTILE bookshop where I met Pete Cowdin, one of the owners. Pete was instrumental in helping organize my school visits. He has a reputation for being a bit of a curmudgeon but I found him quite nice. He’s also written a very cool children’s book called FORTUNE COOKIES under the pen name Albert Bitterman. The store is warm and inviting. Decorated with beautiful and colorful paper mache sculptures done by Pete’s wife, Debbie.
Crystal and I grabbed a quick bite and then she dropped me off for a little down time at my hotel. I’ll spare you the details of my email writing, hockey score checking, and teeth brushing. Suffice it to say, I had about an hour to recover my voice before heading off to the Kansas City Library, Plaza Branch:
With evening library visits you’re never sure who (or if anyone) is going to show up. I was happy just to chat with Crystal and April Roy (the Children’s Services Librarian). We made plans to go out for barbecue after the reading as we waited to see if anyone would arrive.
Luckily for me, two families came by with their teenage boys (a mom with her son and daughter, a super-cool grandma with her grandson who was visiting from Massachusetts, and a very sweet gentleman who hung out just outside our circle). And so we spent an hour hanging out, reading and talking books and writing. It was a really nice time and I enjoyed the more intimate setting. It was a perfect cap to my day.
Following the reading I had the pleasure of devouring some amazing barbecue in the company of some of Kansas City’s funniest and sweet librarians.
I could have spent the entire evening eating and drinking and talking with them but I had to get up at forty-thirty the next morning to catch my plane home.
There are a ton of details and people I’m sure I’ve left out (and certainly not on purpose) but I think you get the gist of how special this trip was. At least, I hope you do. If I’ve left things out or forgotten names here and there it is entirely the fault of my sieve-like brain and I do apologize for that. There wasn’t a person I met on this journey who wasn’t incredibly gracious and kind to me. (Well, okay, there was this one lady on one of my flights who was fairly rude and entitled, but other than that, I have only wonderful memories of the people I met in Nebraska and Missouri).
And now, for all your patience and persistence in reading about my adventures, I give you my photo essay on springtime (and other random stuff) in Kansas City: