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Mississippi Library Association Conference

MLA 09-7990I spent two very nice days this week at the Mississippi Library Association annual conference. Rick Bragg spoke on Thursday morning. He read from his latest book, The Most They Ever Had, a memior of the people in the milltown Bragg grew up in. I started reading it during the next break in the conference and finished it after I got home Thursday night. I really enjoyed it. He has such a way with words, managing to paint a complete picture through six or eight vignettes. One story of two women who met a seemingly impossible challenge (picking down and back on a very long row of cotton in one day) for two extra dollars was particularly good. I recommend this to people who are studying memoir or the use of detail to round out characters  or who just want a good read.

MLA 09-8001Nancy Opalko, children’s librarian at Oxford Public Library, introduced a panel discussion on greatstoriesCLUB, an American Library Association program aimed at putting books into the hands of underserved teens. Librarians can apply to launch a program (the deadline is Nov. 2) in their own community. Besides reading books with teens, some librarians expand the program to include visiting authors.

MLA 09-7994An author who has worked with several greatstoriesCLUB sites is Paul Griffin, a New Yorker who writes books for teenagers. He launched a “story jam” during his talk with a few lines about a librarian who received a letter containing a $100,000 donation and the promise of $900,000 more if the librarian agreed to meet the donor that night. The story was passed from person to person — with many zany twists — until a lbrarian wrapped it up in a most satisfying way. Griffin uses this exercise with teens in juvenile detention facilities to get them comfortable with storytelling as a bridge to writing. I am looking forward to reading Paul’s two books, Ten Mile River and Orange Houses.

MLA 09-7993Ken Waldman, who bills himself as the Alaskan Fiddling Poet, gave a talk on using poetry with kids. He incorporates music and movement into his very engaging presentation. In addition to his work as a traveling minstrel, he offers books, CDs, and cards. His talk prompted  an interesting discussion on the relative merits of rhyming in poetry. Waldman prefers to write without overt rhyme and encourages kids to write without thinking of rhyme as a constraint.

MLA 09-7986This was my first MS Library Association conference and I hope to return in future years. At lunch one day, I had a real treat. I had made plans to meet my friend Jackson S., a young reader who struck up a correspondence with me last year. He has found about a half dozen wolfsnails near his Hattiesburg-area home since he read Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. I was happy to get his (positive) reaction to Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. He and his mom took me to lunch and we had a fun time talking about reading, writing and publishing.

Mara Villa, youth services supervisor, CMRLS Pearl Public Library

Mara Villa, youth services supervisor, CMRLS Pearl Public Library


Judy Card, youth services coordinator, First Regional Library

Judy Card, youth services coordinator, First Regional Library


Lainie Castle, Public Programs Office, ALA

Lainie Castle, Public Programs Office, ALA

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