It’s all about the book, the conference. I know for a fact we take it for granted. Every year, Square Books, Jr., along with a group of teachers, parents, and librarians select two authors for the Young Authors Fair, and each child in two respective age ranges is given a copy of the author’s book. By the time the conference rolls around the kids can actually meet the authors, ask questions, give feedback, and share the book with others. This year the 20th annual Oxford Conference for the Book Young Authors Fair brought authors Jewell Parker Rhodes and Mary Amato to Oxford and Square Books, Jr.
Jewell Parker Rhodes has been to Oxford before, and we had to have her back, because we wanted lots of kids to read Ninth Ward, not only because New Orleans is geographically close to us, but because we all experienced Hurricane Katrina in parts. Most importantly, however, we want readers to connect with Lanesha, resident child of a setting we know exists or used to exist. We want to celebrate Lanesha’s story and herald the innocence of children despite great loss and suffering. Mary Amato was graciously sent to Oxford by Egmont USA, possibly one of my favorite publishing houses. It isn’t an easy task to find a novel for the whole of ninth grade, boys and girls. While not overtly about a girl or about a boy, Guitar Notes is about the interchanges of youth, the crush and the crushed. Amato’s characters, like the different gauges of stringed instruments, experience “thrum” or an exchanged vibration or energy on the same wavelength or something. Dig it? Thrum is what the Oxford Conference for the Book is all about. The kids in Oxford get it, and we are grateful to Mary and Jewell for coming all this way to share their books with us. And ultimately there is the connection between the authors and readers and booksellers and librarians and teachers, and well, it is a domino effect… a shared literary experience in a town that’s just crazy about books and experiences. JM