I recently attended the Anderson Center's 11th Annual Celebration of Minnesota Children's Authors and Illustrators in Red Wing, Minnesota. The Anderson Center is nestled on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. It's a wonderful place that sponsors arts programming, exhibitions, residencies, and more. This annual celebration is sponsored by the center, along with the Red Wing Public Library, the Red Balloon Bookstore, and the U of M's fabulous Kerlan Collection of children's books and manuscripts.
The day featured speakers, signings, a Civil War reenactment, balloon animals, and many other fun activities. I heard talks by Michael Hall (My Heart is Like a Zoo), Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss (Alphabeasties), Mike Wohnoutka (Davey's Blue-eyed Frog), and met Joyce Sidman, John Coy, Lauren Stringer, and others.
At the celebration, I met up with Debra Frasier, author and illustrator of A Fabulous Fair Alphabet, a children's picture book that debuted at the Minnesota State Fair to great acclaim. She had a fun activity for people of all ages: to assemble their names out of the colorful letters she'd photographed at the fair and used in her book. Debra's activity tent was very organized, with large laminated letters carefully sorted into bins. There were also these 4-foot long foam noodle things, a bizarre invention that I've seen used as musical instruments, as play swords, or for pool exercise. Debra was using them as oversized letter holders. A narrow slit along their length was to be the gripper for the laminated letters.
I turned down the offer of help. What could be so difficult about putting my name letters in order into a slot on a foam noodle?
Plenty, it turns out.
This was long after I'd dried off from the day's earlier incident: I'd been minding my own business talking to someone at another booth, when a young girl on stilts wobbled by behind me. She bumped into me, teetered, and grabbed onto the edge of the canvas booth roofing for balance. The roof had been holding a nice big batch of cold rainwater since the night before and suddenly, all of that water went down my back! At least I kept the booth's display material from getting wet.
Debra's fair alphabet booth activities seemed a bit less high-risk, so I headed over there. I chose colorful letters for my name and using the noodle like a paper clip, stuck them in the lengthwise slit. But the letters kept falling out. Finally one of the kind helpers approached me again and gently suggested that most people turned the noodle so the slit would face upward. I turned the noodle over and started over.
Finally, success! Here's the colorful result:
But there was STILL something wrong—that I didn't notice until that evening at home, when I looked at the photo. See if you can spot it.