What a wild couple of weeks! I hardly know where to begin. Eighteen months ago, I decided to join the Humboldt County Children’s Author Festival Committee. https://www.authorfest.org/. My limited knowledge of this group was based on my past experiences when I was teaching. Every two years, I got to enjoy a beautiful day with my class when a children’s writer would visit our school. Before the author’s visit, the teachers would read many of the author’s books so that the kids could become more familiar with his/her books.
The magical day would arrive, and I so enjoyed watching my students’ faces as they became fully engaged. The authors would share some of their books, how they became an author/illustrator, and convince many children that they too could follow their dreams and become whatever they wanted to be. As I watched my students’ receptive faces, I saw future writers and illustrators born that day.
There were two main reasons I joined this committee: (1) I want to support anything that promotes literacy and education. (2) While I was teaching (I taught thirty-one years in grades 2-6), I dreamed of becoming a children’s author.
One of the best things about retirement is it has given me the freedom to try new things. I took a writing class, found a writer’s critique group, and wrote a book about my life as a teacher to inspire the next generation of teachers. https://www.amazon.com/They-Call-Mom-Difference-Elementary/dp/1977200052
Now, I’m following my dream of becoming a children’s writer, and I’m working on my first middle-grade chapter book. While I’m hoping to publish my book eventually, I’m enjoying the whole learning process.
The week before the festival, we encountered a significant problem. In the past two years, California has experienced wildfires around this time of year. After another summer of mostly dry conditions, our power company decided to shut off power in advance of the expected windy weather. Our immediate area has not been part of the wildfires, but we are part of the same electrical grid. I would not even begin to compare our minor inconvenience to the loss of life and property that others have experienced, but it was a potentially significant problem for us.
Paying for the expense of getting the authors here and then putting them up in a fancy five-star hotel requires a lot of money, time, and effort. While the authors were visiting, we planned to escort them to over sixty schools in the county where they could share about their lives as writers/illustrators. We knew that many schools would cancel attendance for the day if they had no power. We were at the mercy of nature. The reality of the situation became even more evident when we held our last committee meeting during the first power outage in the dark.
Fortunately, the power shutdown didn’t last several days, and the author festival went on as scheduled. What a relief!
I served as the Travel Chairman for the committee. My primary role was to ensure that all of the twenty-five authors arrived and left safely. Since most authors were flying, I had to have drivers waiting at the airport to take them to the hotel. Since the authors were coming from all over the country, this was a challenge. To make things more complicated, not one of the incoming flights arrived at its scheduled time. Many planes arrived late, but one landed thirty minutes early. That was supposed to be the third flight in, but it came first. Because I didn’t want the drivers to have to wait at the airport all day, I continually sent them texts as I tracked the flights’ progress. After a long day, we thankfully got everyone to the hotel.
The next two days were spent driving the children’s authors to schools all over the county. I got the pleasure of escorting one author each day. The first day I went along with the author, Bob Barner. https://www.bobbarner.com/ He writes books for primary grade children, and I already owned some of his books from my days as a teacher. I was supposed to drive him to two schools that were about an hour away. Just after I had left the hotel with Bob, I got a call from another committee member who reported that power was out in some of the schools in the southern part of the county, including the two schools I was supposed to take him to. This power outage was unplanned and not part of a planned shutdown. The schools decided to close for the day, and suddenly we had to come up with a plan B. In the end, one of the schools found a way to invite their students back to school. We drove south for an hour and arrived at lunchtime. Thank goodness some students came back to school. Bob handled the whole situation like a pro and wasn’t the least bit thrown off. He played the ukulele during his presentation, and it wasn’t long before he had students singing along with him.
The following day, I got to go back to my former elementary school to escort the author, Natasha Wing. http://natashawing.com/ Part of the joy of her visit was that Natasha formerly worked at Pine Hill as an instructional aide some twenty-four years before. Natasha is best known for her “Night Before” series. She has thirty books in this series—primarily for early readers. She made four presentations and adjusted each one slightly depending on the age level. It was a privilege to watch her interact skillfully with kids from kindergarten-third grade.
On Friday night, we held a banquet for the authors at the historic Carson Mansion. https://www.ingomar.org/about/carson-mansion After a delicious dinner, the twenty-five authors each spoke for three minutes.
Saturday was an opportunity for the community to come and meet the authors. They held a book sale at the Humboldt County Library. Many people purchased the authors’ books, got an autograph, and had their picture taken with a favorite author.
Ten of the authors were flying out at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, so we took them out to a hotel next to the airport on Saturday night so they could catch an early shuttle. Others flew out later on Sunday, and I had to make sure they had a ride to the airport. Seven of the authors drove, and we picked up their expenses for that.
It’s been a week since the authors were here, and now we’re in the middle of another power shutdown. What turned out to be a very successful four days was surrounded on each end by the loss of power. We got lucky because the weather gods nearly sabotaged the whole thing.
Besides feeling grateful and relieved, I have a lot of pride. Our community and the dedicated people I worked with made this event a success. I am so happy for the children of Humboldt County.