On Sunday, the Associates of the BPL hosted their annual Literary Lights for Children event honoring four outstanding authors in the field of Children’s Literature. This year, the honorees were Gary Schmidt, Kevin Hawkes, Christopher Paolini, and Mitali Perkins. The Bates Reading Room, upstairs at the BPL was transformed into a resplendent dining room, not unlike the great room at Hogwarts at Christmas, complete with dragons, and white table clothes, and mysteriously replenished delicacies. Gregory McGuire was the warm and welcoming master-of-ceremonies, and the authors were all those things you would expect from such talented writers and artists; witty, thoughtful, and inspiring, a delight to children and adults alike. Gary Schmidt took us by the hand, and walked us through his writing day, his very sensible Yorkies scrambling around his feet. Mitali Perkins reminded us that the readers job is just as important as the writer’s in creating story. Christopher Paolini showed us that what we are most passionate about usually makes the best stories (and, hey, writing is better than digging holes in the backyard anyhow). And Kevin Hawkes explained how and why the landscapes of his childhood are still his favorite places to visit for inspiration. (He also wowed us by sketching on the spot; a wizard-like face, with a bit of glare and a chicken for a hat.)
I don’t think these authors would mind me saying, however, that the real stars of the afternoon were the four presenters; the four Boston area school children chosen to present the authors with their awards. I was humbled, in awe, of these middle schoolers who stood up before nearly 400 people to talk about their favorite authors and their work. More than one wanted to become writers themselves, and all were passionate readers who talked about the value of story in their own real time, real life worlds. It was a magical afternoon and a reminder of why we writers spend our time and lives stumbling around in the world of story in first place; for the lantern raised over the top of the hill, for the fellow traveler well met, for the connection.
Bright lights indeed.