Monday, August 1, 2011

Quotes and Inspiration from the Simmons Institute

I spent Saturday at the Simmons College Summer Institute. If you're not familiar, this is an incredible celebration of children's literature. Children's book authors and illustrators speak throughout the day, offering variations on the theme of the institute. This year, the theme was "The Body Electric."

In addition to having famous speakers, they also have two break-out sessions a day (called Professional Connections) with others in the field, such as book reviewers, scholars, and some (ahem) lesser-known authors. :-) So, I was asked to lead two break-out sessions. This was great fun and also very inspiring to see so many students who love children's literature as much as I do. And I was thrilled to see so many of them interested in writing! So, in case any of the attendees are reading this, THANKS for being such a great audience.

It was a day full of inspiration for me, really. So I thought I'd share some of the lines that stood out in particular:

From Byan Collier, a question:

"Think about the first time you stepped outside this morning. What color was the day?"

From David Small, some thoughts to ponder:

"A child whose mother doesn't love him always grows up with a hole in his heart."


"The body expresses what the mind doesn't allow yourself to utter."

From Sharon Draper, a gift:

"Celebrate the me that is yet to come."

And from Jack Gantos, a good reminder:

"I think about what I want to write, not what I want to sell."

One special surprise for me happened in the morning right before my first session. Just as I finally found the room I was to speak in, I heard a quiet male voice say, "Jo Knowles."

I turned, and there was my Communications Professor from my first year at Simmons, Bob White! Oh, how I loved that class. Talk about inspiration. The most important lesson I learned however, was a subtle one. I doubt I was even aware of it at the time, but I am sure it helped point me in the direction that eventually led me to where I am today. Bob showed me how effectively—how powerfully—one can communicate without speaking. He showed me that I didn't have to speak to be heard. I could write.

And so, when I saw him standing there, looking like the spitting image of the Dumbledore I imagined long before I watched the movies (and of course I know why that is now, Bob being so much like Dumbledore himself, providing inspiration and hope in his unique way), my heart pretty much melted.

I wish I'd had time to visit with him and tell him how much it meant to me to see him standing there, waiting to say hello. Because at the moment, it meant the world. It was the sort of small act of kindness that can make someone who often feels small herself, feel quite big.

Thank you, Bob.

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