An evening with Jane Yolen (Guest post from Emily Banner)

November 2, 2005

It’s always been a major perk of working with Inkberry that I get to meet and spend time with the fabulous authors we lure to town. October was no exception. A mere two days after having a delightful dinner with Phillip Lopate and his family, I got to escort Jane Yolen and her husband through her afternoon talk and evening reading on the 17th.

Co-presented with Words Are Wonderful, as part of our series of “Writing and Community Renewal” events funded by the NEA, Jane’s talk and reading took place in the auditorium of the Williamstown Elementary School. In the afternoon, Jane spoke to a group of teachers and librarians about the role of landscape in creative writing, sharing examples from her own work and others’ of descriptive passages in which landscapes came alive on the page, and advising the audience on how young writers might create that same sense in their stories. In the evening, she read to an audience of children and parents from several of her books, starting with works for the littlest kids and working her way up to material for young adults. Though the crowd was a bit squirmier than what one ordinarily sees at an Inkberry event (also noticeably shorter), they were clearly entranced, as evidenced by the stampede to the book table when Jane was finished and the books went on sale. Witnessing that stampede, in fact, may have been my favorite moment of the day; it’s not often I get to see a crowd of kids who are so excited about books that they just HAVE to get them RIGHT NOW!

Between the two events, I got to have dinner with Jane and David, her husband. Conversation flowed from the history of Inkberry (and whether Jane might teach with us one day!), and Jane and David’s travels, to folklore, the Bible, oral traditions, midrash, and the many ways we tell stories. Have I mentioned that I love the wining-and-dining-brilliant-authors part of my job?

I have high hopes that we might get Jane to teach a master class at Inkberry at some point in the future. But meanwhile, you can learn far more about her and her 200+ books at her website, www.janeyolen.com.

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