Everyone else has posted so eloquently about the ALA Convention - words and pictures from Pam, Liz, and Kelly, not to mention Laurie Halse Anderson, give a pretty good idea of the color, the sounds and crazybusy action going on all over in various meetings and the massive convention exhibit hall. I'll write a bit about the authors I met, the CSK jury and my breakfast speech when I've digested it more, but for now, I wanted to blog about the sneak peek I took into the World of Words known as the home of Jama & Len* Rattigan.
Being in someone's home tells you a lot about them - and Jama's blog home tells most people that she's unfailingly kind and generous, that she values beauty, that she plays with pasta on behalf of other people, and that she's somewhat obsessed with teddy bears. Spending time with Jama reveals that she also loves chocolates and Hawaii, reveres Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and is always, always, always joking. She has a very dry sense of humor and says outrageous things with a straight face.
What many people in the blogosphere don't remember: Jama is a writer in her own right. No matter that she's constantly cheering on the rest of us, she's a picture book author who rarely, if ever, toots her own horn. Okay, let's just say NEVER toots her own horn.
She talked a little about her book, The Woman in the Moon, when it came out, and Dumpling Soup got some excellent reviews, but Jama's blog persona is almost entirely devoted to talking about other people's books.
I tried to trick her into telling me what she was working on, any number of times. She gracefully (cagily?) changed the subject. Understandable, really, when you think of how many of us grew up with the idea that it was unbecoming of a lady to talk about her accomplishments. But seriously -- she got a signing at Barnes & Noble for Truman's Aunt Farm. We all know how hard it is to get any of the big chains to pay any kind of attention to authors, much less picture book authors -- so be impressed. Plus: A book about an AUNT farm. How cute is that?
Jama loves words. Phrases grace her house on every surface. Plates, utensils, doorways, walls, floors. There are chalkboards and signs all over; even the bath towels have something to say. Much to our amusement, the telephone booth in the den actually works. With a pocketful of quarters, one can make a call anywhere. Communication, lyrics, the alphabet, typography -- if it's word oriented, it's somewhere on display at Jama's place. We got a kick out of leaving her mysterious messages in various places... some of which are still worrying her. (snicker)
And the books! We all have our TBR stacks, but Jama's are stacked by month of release date, by whether or not they're food oriented, by whether or not she's already read them -- there are notes and bookmarks and a whole lot of things going on that I was afraid to touch. If you sat down for a week, you couldn't read through the stacks of things she has waiting for her attention. This reminds me of how diligent and organized she is - wow.
Jama also loves her collections. I mean, okay: yes. You knew about the bears, since they often intrude on her blog posts. (Honestly, they have sort of tried to take over the house. They're still looking for her car keys.) There are hundreds of bears on display... perfectly dusted, vacuumed and maintained (although she swears the trick is just to keep the lights low and everything looks cleaner than it is. Yeah, right). The cases of bears not on display would probably boggle the mind --! You know how collections go. People see you have two cute teddy bears and think, "Ooh, an easy gift possibility!" Hundreds of bears later, Jama is probably a little bear'd out. But her ant collection is fairly mesmerizing as well. There are mixing bowl ants. Ant napkin rings. Ant figurines on the table... and actually, flying ants outside, that bite. (Fortunately, we didn't meet any of those less hospitable ants.) Jama also has several really gorgeous quilts, one of which doubled as a tablecloth. Along with the ants, and the teddy bears in the room, her dining room took on the feel of a perfectly amiable indoor picnic.
This is just a tiny snippet of Jamaland, and a tiny peek at the hospitality of an author and blogger we all know and love -- I'm thrilled that I got a chance to sneak around Jama's house and invite you along. Next time we'll have more time to bake and gossip and sit around and hang with the bears.
*I think we kind of freaked out poor Len; being married to Jama he must be used to ...um, unusual (READ: completely weird) people, but the combination of Jama and me together would have made a lesser man take to drink within the first hour. He claims he had to "work," the next day and that's the only reason he left the state before sunrise. Riiiight. A very sudden pressing engagement, that. The jury is out on whether or not we actually believe him.
(The whole thing from Jama's POV.)