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Many of you know that I travel around the country doing storytelling and writing activities with kids in the schools and conducting teacher workshops at conferences and in-service sessions. One of the great perks of my job is getting to know some of the authors whose work I have loved. They are to me what movie and television stars are to more normal sorts.
Lois Lowry and I met at a conference in Toronto several years ago where our hosts for the evening had foolishly or perhaps kindly placed the two of us at one end of the table. We liked each other immediately and started telling anecdotes about our lives and, rudely, we ignored most of the others at the table. Since then we've become fast friends and often meet for lunch. Fortunately, Boston where she lives is only 90 miles from Westfield where I live. She's got a wry wit, as you'd know from reading her books, and I even like her dog. Knowing Lois is one of the great rewards of my life.
Betsy Byars is friendly and outgoing. She tells funny stories about herself, especially about getting the Newbery Award and not being able to tell anyone but her husband about it. (At that time, the award was kept secret for several months). When she called her husband, however, he was busy and preoccupied and, unaware of its importance, said, "That's nice dear. I'll be late home for supper." She was so frustrated that she went out and told everybody she knew.
Richard Peck talked to me about teaching on cruise ships that travel the world. He does so every few years. He loves to travel and once a teacher, always a teacher. He gets characters and settings for his books on those cruises.
When Lois is in a city far from home, she often takes the local newspaper and goes through the ads, finding a job she could qualify for, an apartment or house she could afford on that salary, even choosing a pet and a car. She draws circles around her choices. One night she was alone in a restaurant doing just that when Richard Peck asked if he could join her. She was delighted and quickly put her newspaper away but not soon enough. He asked her what she was doing and she shamefully admitted her pastime. He enjoyed her discomfort for a while before showing her his newspaper where he'd done the same thing. Amazing that two such different people should build imaginary characters for relaxation and amusement. Writers! Aren't they great?
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In Times Past
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