Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Road Trip to NN

I’m back from Newport News, where I attended the Children’s Literature Association Conference at CNU and visited with my former college roommate and her daughter.

I spent all day yesterday resting up. The older I get, the harder it is to drive 200 miles in a day. But it was a good drive. I don’t do the interstate when I can help it, so my only heavy traffic part was going around (or is that over?) Richmond on 895. Before long I was on Route 5, the most scenic way to get from Richmond to Williamsburg. Driving Route 5 is like traveling back in time.

Route 5 is an old road that passes the entrances to a multitude of the James River plantations. Driving through the overhanging trees on some stretches, I could imagine traveling by horseback or by carriage. While I couldn’t see much of the estates from my car, I could imagine them. Someday, I tell myself, I’ll stop at one or two. Maybe Berkeley where a Harrison ancestor of mine lived. Maybe Evelynton, which is supposed to be haunted.

The ChLA was the first big literary conference I’ve attended where the majority of participants were educators, not writers. Hearing academic papers gave me a different perspective, one that I needed. These folks were the readers, not the writers, so the focus was different from what I’m used to. I tried to select offering about pioneer literature and folktales.

Laura Ingalls Wilder (who, by the way, didn’t get her semi-autobigraphical novels published until she was 63, so I’ve got some time yet to make my literary mark) was the topic of much discussion. While I always thought of her books as autobiography, even though I knew they were always shelved in the fiction section, I’m now aware that she left lots of her life out and selectively—with help and encouragement from her daughter Rose—carefully structured the plots. Thus, her books are considered historical fiction. Also, I’m no longer impressed with “Pa” Ingalls who dragged his family all over the place (including a homestead on land confiscated by the government from the Indians–uh, Native Americans) and exposed them to a multitude of dangers. Apparently the safety and well-being of his family was secondary to his own agenda.

One presentation at ChLA was on the Gothic elements of the Little House® books. There’s some downright scary stuff in Ingalls Wilder’s work! Another presentation—not about Ingalls Wilder—concerned the incestual tensions in some Victorian children’s novels. (Did the young readers really notice the subtext?) At a SCWBI worskhop a few months ago, I learned that contemporary YA and middle-grade books were getting edgier. Now I know that some of the older books were pretty edgy themselves.

On the panel I was on (“Virginia Authors: Writing Books for children About Virginia History"), I sat between Candice Ransom, author of more than a hundred books for young readers, and Karen Adams, who—like panel leader Amanda Cockrell, teach in the Hollins University graduate program in children’s literature.

Anyhow, I was in good company—both at Polly’s and at the conference-and I had a good time.



Blogger CountryDew said...

Sounds like a wonderful time. I haven't read the Little House books in a long time, but I do recall they weren't as sweet as the TV show.

12:55 PM  
Blogger House on the Glade Hill said...

I am a big Little House fan. I always felt that the danger involved in their lives at least led to the excitement of the books. Not for me though...

8:25 PM  

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