I had the chance this past weekend to hang with my friends and fellow children’s book authors, Michelle Houts and Nancy Roe Pimm. We bunked together to share on expenses the night prior to the Cincinnati Book Festival. The evening was a writer’s pajama party dream.
After an evening filled with stories about our latest writing projects, joys and frustrations, we settled in for a decent night’s sleep. Dreams of children and families rushing up to our tables at the book festival, just waiting to purchase our books, filled our semi-conscious.
Until one of us kept tossing and turning over a difficult, and eminent decision. This turned into a great discussion, and then ultimately, giggles reminiscent of sleepovers from the past. Our sincere apologies to whomever was in the Westin Hotel room 933 last Friday night.
Ultimately, the conclusion was to make the decision, and then to let it go. Which prompted me to start singing the theme song from Frozen, with more giggles to follow.
The alarm went off way too early several hours later. After brewing some coffee and tea, we picked up right where we left off, chatting and giggling.
And, we agreed that, as Nancy offered, there is something to be said for wishing for something, then throwing it out into the universe. I shared that I was a firm believer in karma, and that for all the bad things that have happened in my life, so much good has come my way. Almost as if Claire, my late daughter, is hovering over my shoulder, sending her energy my way. This philosophy was about to play out in an encounter in the hotel lobby and on the way to the book festival at the Duke Energy Center.
Kate DiCamillo, the author of one of my favorite children’s books, Because of Winn-Dixie, Newbery Medal award winner twice over, and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Emerita, was going to be at the book festival.
The Kate DiCamillo was going to be literally kiddie-corner from me in the exhibit hall.
I secretly wished I could meet her. I hoped to see her speak. I also figured I had slim chance to none of either of these happening, simply because I was, well, there to sell my books. Not ogle over hers. Or her.
So, I threw the wish out into the universe.
We made our way down to the hotel lobby, checked our luggage for the day, and went to the area where volunteers from the festival were to escort us over to the convention center.
I saw several people gathered. Then I saw her.
Kate. The Kate.
She graciously greeted us all. “Hi, I’m Kate,” she said as she extended a hand. I almost forgot my name.
I shook her hand, and commented on how tiny she was, and how amazed that such great big works came from someone so small. I was mentally kicking myself for my blubbering. She laughed, and offered my words were a great compliment.
“Well, should we go?” the volunteer asked.
I assumed he meant just Kate and her marketing manager from Candlewick, her publisher.
“Yes, let’s all go,” Kate replied.
With that, we all walked to the convention center. Well, some walked. I floated.
We began conversations with one another. I was blessed to have a few moments alone with Kate.
She asked how I became a writer. I responded with a rapid-fire, elevator speech. I shared the story of our loss of Claire, establishing Claire’s Day, and literally being drawn into the world of children’s literature by my friends in the industry.
Kate had tears in her eyes as I spoke. So did I.
I seriously wanted to pinch myself, but at that stage I risked falling on my derriere if attempting to do so while walking and talking to Kate.
Before we headed into the center, Nancy, that brave, native New Yorker, suggested we get a picture.
As if it couldn’t get any better, Kate and her manager accepted my business card, and offered that they’d love to try and join us for Claire’s Day, someday.
I did get the chance to see Kate again much later, as I purchased several of her books to sign, one for my great-niece, and one for me.
She signed it, “To Julie, in memory of Claire.”
I thanked Kate, and said meeting and talking with her was a highlight of my day. She smiled, and said, “As it was for me.”
So, here’s throwing one more wish out into the universe.
Hopefully, we’ll see Kate at Claire’s Day.