How My Camp Read-a-Lot Keynote Worked Magic on Me

Hi, educator friends. I know I’m largely absent this summer, but I wanted to stop by and share just a quick bit about my day yesterday. I was the keynote and workshop presenter at a Camp Read-a-Lot conference in Granite Falls, MN. I spoke at a similar event a year or two ago, and they are wonderful, enthusiastic conferences. When I committed to this one, back in March, I was a little concerned about scheduling something after Maddie would be arriving home from Scotland for the month and less than two weeks before Annabelle’s wedding. But I said yes.

Then our house took much longer to sell than we anticipated. And then my mom passed away. And July became a nightmare month. I was nervous about delivering a keynote (my typical talks are extremely practical and how-to), which I needed to create from scratch. The move, the wedding, trying to connect frequently with my dad, having work done on our townhome, a Zerorez van hitting my parked car, one thing after another…my emotions are apparently on razor’s edge. Apparently.

While running through the timing of the keynote talk, I realized I was tearing up and choking up at numerous points. Poems that were a little poignant or stories about what books have meant to me…they were touching, but really shouldn’t have been tear-jerking. Oh, dear.

Rebecca Hudson and Pam Dille were the fabulous event organizers who helped me stay sorted, printed all my handouts (even additional kinds of things that I would typically be responsible for), and had everything all set up wonderfully for me. After they introduced me, I had to confess to the 50 or so attendees that, in direct opposition to Rebecca and Pam–models of organization and efficiency–I was a hot mess. I explained a little about some of the big things going on in my life right now. To my relief, the attendees (librarians, teachers, volunteers–all book-related educators of one kind or another) were very supportive and understanding. I continued on with my keynote, which I felt went really well! I counted down the 10 most important/surprising things I’ve learned as a reader and writer of children’s books. My throat tightened up a few times, but I just took a deep breath and continued on. I’m happy to say that no tears were shed! And even the few times I had to pause to get myself together, I felt only a wave of good thoughts and support and empathy coming from the room. No impatience. No annoyance.

I felt like I shared interesting things they didn’t already know, and I also, in the course of creating and delivering the talk, strengthened my own love and appreciation of book and story and what it does for us. Even better, throughout the day, a number of teachers approached me to share their own stories–tales of loss or stress or pending weddings. We shared connections of books and of life.

This was one of the most enriching speaking days of my career. In my keynote, one of my ten things was about the ability of books to open the doors to important and sometimes intimate and unexpected conversations. And in a roundabout way, that was totally true for me yesterday. I wouldn’t have been there without my books. And what I shared led to several really wonderful conversations. Books and book lovers continue to be a source of magic for me. Thank you again to Rebecca and Pam and all the attendees yesterday!

(And to Maddie, for making the road trip with me. And to the very kind security guard who offered to trudge the luggage rack I had borrowed back to the hotel for me:>)

6 Responses

  1. You are a model of persistence and perseverance! I’m not surprised that your talk went well and that you made meaningful book and life connections. Wishing you less stress and joy with both your daughters.

  2. Wish I could have heard that speech. Inspiring just to think of it. Do take care of yourself. We’re all more fragile after losses and trials.

  3. Fantastic, Laura. As presenters, we are taught to never let our personal issues show. But sometimes we must, and this was one of those times. Rather than making you appear unprofessional, it connected you to your audience in a deeper way than if you were “just a book lady.” I appreciate your courage and willingness to be vulnerable.

  4. Wonderful post, Laura. Books do bring people together in lots of unexpected, wonderful ways!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this story! I too would love to hear your speech!

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