Saturday, February 23, 2008

Authors and Artists

This weekend I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Nevada Read Week Conference at the North Valleys High School again this year. And again, it was superbly done! I was able to attend sessions given by several popular authors, oral/musical storytellers (fitting since I am taking an oral storytelling class this semester), two science labs, and even an art class! The star of the conference, and the reason I went, was Judy Schachner (pronounced Shatner, like William). She is the great picture book author/illustrator of the Skippyjon Jones books.
I didn't get a great picture of her (it was dark during her keynote speech so I decided not to post that picture of her, but you can visit her website-link above- with a slightly younger photo of her), but I would like to say that she was an exceptionally hilarious speaker. Mostly, that is attributed to her ADD, which she informed us, was diagnosed by a 3rd grader. She thinks on several different levels, all at the same time, and is constantly flittering and fluctuating between several ideas in any given moment. Even though she is a highly nervous person, she leads a very interesting and fulfilling life with her husband, two (now grown) daughters, and many cats. Since I am such a great lover of the feline species, I especially enjoyed the slides Judy shared with us of all of her various cats (most of them Siamese like Skippyjon). The story behind her first Skippyjon Jones books is that her new Siamese kitten (who had ridiculously large ears for his tiny head which made him look like a Chihuahua- and he really did too!) was bounding all over her basement chasing this gigantic bumblebee and making such a ruckus that Judy went screeching from the room only to come find him much later having eaten the bee, and COMPLETELY covered with welts all over his little body. Judy told us that since he had such a little head and loved to sit under the the furnace all the time, his tiny brain dried up and fell out of his ear one day. His favorite occupation was to eat various things around the house, including furniture, bedclothes, and his most favorite- garbage bags. His veterinarian thought he had a tumor once when she brought him in because his little belly was as hard and round as a rock. But it turned out, it was just filled with the various things he found around the house, including (but not limited to) a plastic beaded necklace and water noodles. Then she sadly informed us that at the age of 9, Skippyjon suddenly died of cancer last November. She is convinced it was because of his love of garbage bags.

I was able to attend her workshop on publishing picture books, and she shared with us her seed boxes- hat boxes filled with antiques and little treasures she's collected over the years, and her rough story journals. They were filled with magazine cutouts, stickers, sketches and drawings of all sorts of inspirations to her. They were each a separate work of art, beautifully crowded with pictures of cats and interesting people and family. Immediately after that session ended, I asked her to sign my copy of Skippyjon Jones (I sat in the front row for that purpose, and because I can't see without my glasses). I snuck this shot of her signing- I'm sure that was extremely annoying, but she'll probably never see me again. Sorry Judy! Big moment for me! I also received an autographed copy of one of her newer books, Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse.

And the finished product:

Well, that's all for tonight- I do have lots more photos and stories to tell. But I should be doing homework right now...

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