>Back from Hattiesburg, off to Austin, where I’ll be seeing many of the same people it seems. Those Hattiesburgers really know how to keep a speaker happy, I must say. Eric Tribunella, prof. in the English department, picked me up, drove me around, held my hand and gave me permission to have seconds of the monster pecan cobbler they served for dessert one night. The unflappable Karen Rowell ran everything with a light touch, and Ellen Ruffin of the deGrummond Collection gave us a great backstage tour, although I was little alarmed when she told us proudly about the new fire-extinguishment program, which would suck all of the oxygen out of the archive wherein we were standing in eight seconds.
I won’t play favorites among my fellow speakers as they all probably now have more on me than I really should have allowed them. But I can give props to storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy because we didn’t get more than a hi-nice-to-meet-you before she took to the podium to tell a hilarious story about her sixth-grade self and a fire alarm. Carmen was there to accept the 2011 Coleen Salley Storytelling Award, and I must say Coleen’s spirit was everywhere those three days. When I recollected drinking bourbon with Coleen the last time I was at the Festival in 1998, somebody told me “you must have been off campus; do you know what we had to do just to get beer and wine in here?” While my imbibing this time was limited to good old Co’cola, I had a wonderful time. And did you know that the stately, sultry lawns of Southern Miss (no period, Eric informed me) house feral cats? We saw some hunting at dusk.
I got some articles out of it, too. deGrummond Medalist T.A. Barron (who told a tragicomic tale about how he met Madeleine L’Engle) is going to write about the necessity of making the Hero’s Journey an economical one (i.e., unpadded) and Ellen Ruffin is going to work with Our Martha on something to commemorate next year’s fiftieth anniversary of The Snowy Day. My Keats Lecture, about what Harry Potter did for/to children’s trade hardcover publishing in this country, will also show up sometime.
But now–laundry! Packing! Hope to see some of you at TLA.