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Books By the Banks Festival in Cincinnati

I spent last weekend in Cincinnati for a mixture of work and pleasure. I signed books and talked with readers at Books by the Banks, a festival organized by librarians and others interested in promoting literacy in the Cincinnati area.Family Examining Growing Patterns

boy examines pinecone

I woke up with a very scratchy throat on Saturday and proceeded to lose my voice over the course of the day. I had help from my table mate, author Julie K. Rubini, who greeted all-comers to our table, and from my Aunt Mary, who explained the Fibonacci sequence and helped kids and adults use the Private Eye magnifying loupes to examine a pinecone and a nautilus shell.

A girl examines a pine cone with private eye

I have many relatives living in Cincinnati and several came to see me at Books by the Banks.

john crosby and chrissy ayersHere I am with my Dad’s brother John and my cousin, Chrissy.

terry paul ann and sarah

Here I am with my mother’s cousin Paul, my mother’s brother, Terry, and my great Aunt Ann.

karen and sarahHere I am with my cousin, Karen, who teaches kindergartners. She used to teach older students and was delighted with the math content of Growing Patterns.

margaret ryanHere I am with Margaret Ryan, one of my mother’s high school classmates.

Earlier on Friday, I read Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature to several groups of third graders at Pleasant Ridge Montessori.

reading Growing Patterns

After we read the book, we made our own growing pattern, starting with 5 and 5.

making our own growing patternOn Friday evening, the Books by the Banks organizers hosted a very nice reception for authors at The Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati.
Sharon Draper and Sarah at BBTB

Here I am pictured with Sharon Draper, author of many books for young readers, including the most recent Out of My Mind. She and I crossed paths earlier this year at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival in Hattiesburg, MS.

reading room at the mercantile library
I enjoyed being in this reading room. The wooden tables reminded me of the library at Corpus Christi College in Oxford, where I studied politics and philosophy.

Growing Patterns at Church, School, and a Writers’ Conference

I have been going more than usual and now I need to take a breath and tell you all about it. (Quickly, too, because I am heading back out on the road tomorrow.) I’ll catch up chronologically.

Sarah reading Growing Patterns at Wells Church

I presented Growing Patterns at a Wells Church fellowship supper. It was wonderful to be among such good friends and to share Fibonacci numbers with our neighborhood kids.

students examine Fibonacci items

A bonus for me (and I hope for the audience) was that I read from my newest manuscript. Reading it out as a work-in-progress really helps me. I need to hear how it’s working (or not). Mostly I feel like it is, which is really satisfying.

Chattahoochee Valley Writers’ Conference

I presented two workshops at the Chattahoochee Valley Writers’ Conference: “Photos+Stories=Winning Nonfiction” and “Earn $$ Before You are Published.” I had 90 minutes with each group of writers, which was very nice. I was able to use about a third of the time to hear from them about their projects and share some advice.

The Columbus Public Library was a very nice venue and the technology worked flawlessly (except one glitch of mine, which was fixed by one of the participants in my workshop. Thank you, David Johnson. I hope he publishes his project.)

tech help

work on curriculum ideas

Two participants brainstorm about ideas to take into schools

The night before my presentations I enjoyed a reading and talk by Jessica Handler, the author of Invisible Sisters. I loved the excerpts she read to us and I found what she had to say about writing memoir very interesting.

at Carson McCullers' House

Jessica Handler and Sarah Campbell at Carson McCullers' House

McWillie Elementary School Visit

mcwillie open doors students

Students at McWillie

Chastain Middle School Visit by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jewell Parker Rhodes reads from Ninth Ward at Chastain

Deborah Wiles at Lemuria

When I began writing for children, I searched for others who were writing for children in Mississippi. Early on, I found Deborah Wiles‘ books, but I couldn’t find her.

Deborah Wiles On the internet I found out that she lived in Maryland. When she came to Lemuria bookstore in Jackson to sign, I made sure I went. I had to work up the courage to admit that I was trying to be a writer for children, too. She was kind and encouraging. Most folks in this business are, but there was something about her “you can do it,” that I believed. Deborah  (who now lives in Atlanta) came back to Lemuria this week to sign Countdown, her genre-busting new book. It is a documentary novel, chock full of black and white photographs, advertisements and other visuals from 1962.

Emily GrossenbacherDeborah read from the book’s opening and then a tiny snippet from much further in. I could have listened much longer. I think she should record the audio book version. I feel so lucky to live in a town with a fabulous independent bookstore that has a very cool performance space for readings. Here is a picture of Emily Grossenbacher, the manager of Lemuria’s children’s store. You can read her post about Countdown here.

Square Books Jr. and Oxford Public Library

Kids using Private Eyes to examine snails and a shell
Two of the young visitors at Square Books Jr. use Private Eye jewelers loupes to examine snails and other things from my basket. This is Sallie and Julia, the daughters of fellow writer/illustrator Sarah Frances, who hails from Oxford. This is a great bookstore for settling in and browsing a terrific collection.
Signing Desk at Square Books Jr.Here is the desk Jill set up for me to sign on. She made me sit there to read, too. You can see her pictures of that section of the event on Square Books Jr.’s Facebook page. And, here is Jill.
Jill with me at Square Books Jr.

Before the bookstore, I went to the Oxford Public Library for a presentation for young readers. The kids had fantastic questions — about everything from snails to photography. I think Nancy Opalko, the children’s librarian, for the invitation. I also got to see Judy Card, the youth services coordinator for the First Regional Library, of which the Oxford branch is a part. I first met Nancy and Judy at the Mississippi Library Association conference last fall and wrote about it here.

Oxford Public Library Kids GatherSarah speaking at Oxford Public Library
oxford public library

Trip to Oxford

Growing Patterns coverI am taking Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature to Oxford, Miss., Wednesday for appearances at the Oxford Public Library and Square Books Jr. Please come see me if you are in the vicinity. The presentation at the library will be more about Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and the reading/signing at the bookstore will focus on Growing Patterns.

On Thursday, I will be on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Creature Comforts Radio Show at 9 a.m. Libby Hartfield, director of the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, invited me on to talk about wolfsnails. We’ll have some time to discuss Growing Patterns, too, and topics close to my heart like photography, getting kids interested in nature, helping kids learn to take pictures, etc. I hope you’ll tune in and call in some questions.

Sumrall Elementary Mississippi Day Celebration

I participated in a Mississippi Day Celebration at Sumrall Elementary School today.
Audience Sumrall Elementary School
Sarah Campbell reading WolfsnailA morning rainstorm forced the teachers to move the planned outdoor activities into the gymnatorium. That’s where I performed, too, in front of a very large audience — first, of kindergartners through second graders, and second, of third and fourth graders. The whole school (a very impressive 3-year-old facility) was decorated to celebrate Mississippi. As I did some set up in an adjoining classroom, I heard parts of an inspirational speech by a high school football coach. He had followed several beauty queens. I was feeling like I had some tough acts to follow — until I saw the guy who was up after me.

Elvis at Mississippi Day Celebration
I appreciate the invitation from Kristi Williamson and the enthusiastic reception from the students and faculty at Sumrall Elementary School.

“Fireside” with Northwestern Students

The final event during my recent Chicago trip was a joint effort with author Cheryl Bardoe. She and I learned of each other’s work when Cheryl’s husband, Matthew, reviewed Growing Patterns in draft form. Upon further acquaintance, Cheryl and I discovered we both write nonfiction books for children on science and math topics and we both graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism (she’s younger than I am by enough years that our paths did not cross in Evanston).  When I was invited to present an informal talk, or a fireside, for current NU students at the Communications Residential College, I invited Cheryl to join me. I was an active member of the Humanities Residential College during my years at NU and helped form the Residential College Board. It was a lot of fun to be back in a residential college setting.

Before the fireside, I joined the students in the dining hall. Though I had taken some meals in that very place as an undergraduate, I noticed several changes for the better: an elimination of trays (for environmental reasons) and a stir fry bar, where I ordered a mixture of vegetables on a bed of brown rice.

Sarah Campbell and Cheryl Bardoe at NU's CRC

Communications Residential College students gather around to see the snail

Many of the CRC students are journalism majors, but a few come from other disciplines, including biology. Cheryl, the author of Gregory Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas and Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, chronicled her path from journalism school graduate to public relations work with nonprofits to museum marketing to museum curatorial/education to children’s book author. She is now working on an MFA in writing with a concentration in writing for children.

Growing Patterns and Wolfsnail

Growing Patterns and Wolfsnail on display at NU's CRC

Though Growing Patterns is the new book (and therefore the focus of much of my current marketing), the star of this particular event was clearly Wolfsnail. College students are just as taken with the idea of a predatory snail as kindergartners. In fact, when the students learned over dinner that I had brought a live wolfsnail, the word spread on the internet and swelled attendance. We had gathered in a nice circle to talk, but when I started reading Wolfsnail, the students to my right and left scrambled into position up front. Unfortunately, the snail stayed inside its shell. At least, the slugs provided some entertainment.

I thank Roger Boye, the CRC master, for the invitation; Nancy Anderson, from Residential Life, for helping arrange accommodation in a guest suite; Julie Kliegman, the CRC academic chair, for arranging the fireside; and Ariana Bacle, a social chair, for taking the photos in this post.

Evanston Library, King Lab Elementary

Upon arriving in Evanston, Ill., on the train, I walked straight to the Evanston Public Library. This was one of my favorite places as a child and where I got my first library card. I headed there immediately because I was carrying a stack of Growing Patterns books for my event later in the evening. Because Growing Patterns has gone into a second printing, copies are scarce in the warehouse so I hand carried some from the IRA annual conference. When I showed the librarian at the desk my wolfsnail, she invited Maria over to see what I had. Maria quickly named the prey snails after the other members of her family: Tarik and Esther. She and her Dad were considering how to say, “snail,” in Dutch and Arabic, which are Maria’s other languages. What a lucky little girl.

I forgot to ask someone to take photographs during my presentation at the library. I have only this one of me with David Orr, who was a buddy of my Dad’s when they were graduate students. A dozen or so friends from my early years in Evanston — including my godparents, neighbors, contemporaries of mine, and a few in the younger generation — came out to hear me give my talk on Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. At one point, I showed a slide of what I looked like “back in the day” when I lived in Evanston and at another I showed a picture of me sprawled on the ground taking photographs. Many friends were sure the second was a photograph of my mom, who has spent her fair share of time in awkward positions to get a good picture.

Janice Bojda

I am grateful to Janice Bojda, the library’s children’s librarian, for her help in setting up this event and for help selling books. There were signs all around that the economic downturn is squeezing resources for libraries and schools. My godparents told me of cutbacks at two local branches of the library and, even, a possible shutdown. Several newspapers had stories about teacher layoffs. In this environment, it was gratifying to meet teachers, librarians, and citizens, who have strong ties to libraries and who believe in raising the resources to keep schools strong, too. The next morning, I visited one of Evanston’s fine elementary schools, Martin Luther King Jr. Laboratory School. I appreciate the help of Shari Joffe, a King Lab mom, who arranged my visit and took photographs for me. We shared a nice lunch afterward, during which we talked about our work (she’s an editor of children’s books — mostly nonfiction).

King Lab first graders in library


Reading Growing Patterns


Close up look at a wolfsnail


More students get a close look at wolfsnail

International Reading Association Conference 2010

Here are a few pictures from the first day:

Julie at McCormick Place

Showing Growing Patterns

Caption Matching Exercise

Andy Boyles, Sarah Campbell, Julie Owen

Chicago Trip

Today I travel to Chicago for a half dozen fun events. First up, a workshop and signings at the International Reading Association Annual Convention. My editor, Andy Boyles, and my friend, Julie, a school librarian, will help me present a workshop titled “Seeing is Believing: Photography in Nonfiction,” which we designed to share strategies for using photography to teach reading and writing. My blog followers will recognize some of the activities we’ve done to prepare for this workshop. I will sign copies of Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature on Monday from 2 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. and on Tuesday from 11 a.m. until noon. In addition, we’ll share a meal with the good folks at the Highlights Foundation, including Kent Brown. I am looking forward to meeting Mary Alice Moore, our new lead editor at Boyds Mills Press.

On Wednesday, I’ll go a little further north to Evanston, my old stomping grounds from age 0-7 and college days at Northwestern. There, I’m doing a family event at the Evanston Public Library at 7 p.m. Wednesday, a school visit at Martin Luther King Jr. Laboratory Magnet School, a talk at Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships, a dinner with Residential College Board members and faculty advisers, and a fireside at the Communications Residential College.

I’ll also spend some time with friends who have known me since I was born, my godparents and the circle of friends that surrounded my parents when they were young parents. And, I’m having a dinner/slumber party with my college roommate, who lives in the greater Chicago area. I will do my best to report from the road, but I expect to be wildly busy. You may have to make do with pictures until I return.