BooksNJ 2017, A Celebration of Books and the Readers Who Love Them
This past June 11th, the Bergen County Cooperative Library System (BCCLS) hosted its biennial book festival at the grounds of the Paramus Public Library. The temperature was a sizzling 93 degrees, crisp white tents contrasted beautifully against the green lawn, and fellow book lovers were all around. This made for a hot but very good day.
After checking in with the BCCLS volunteer folks and being treated to A/C and cookies, I set up my books and freebies in Authors' Alley. Then I hurried to the "Foundations for Young Readers" tent for the first panel discussion of the day. Our topic was "Purely Picture Books," moderated by Claire Santoro, librarian at The Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood. Our panel included authors Andria Rosenbaum and Carol Roth, author-illustrator Mike Malbrough, and myself. I enjoyed sharing my experiences as a book maker and listening to others' artist-journeys. The takeaways for me was twofold. First, writing and/or illustrating a picture book and making it to publication does not happen easily or overnight. The creative process involves dreaming, writing, drawing, and LOTS of revising to make a story come alive in words and pictures. Making a book is a labor of love. Also, getting a story out of your brain and turning it from something nebulous into something concrete on paper renders it accessible to others. A book gives readers a glimpse into someone else's life, mind, and imagination, and being able to share and connect with another human being like that is wondrous.
After the discussion, I speedwalked over to the gazebo and was just in time for the BCCLS award ceremony! I had been commissioned to create and frame four illustrations for the book festival-- two pieces were BCCLS achievement awards honoring authors Robin Cook and Chris Grabenstein; and the other two pieces were "thank you" gifts to the book festival sponsors Berkeley College and NJ State Library. I had a lot of fun making this art and meeting the amazing award recipients.
Finally back at my heretofore neglected spot in Authors' Alley, I enjoyed chatting with the author-illustrators around my table. Another highlight of my afternoon was being seated next to author-illustrator Andrew Glass. He is an incredible painter and very kindly gave my son one of his many beautiful picture books. My favorite illustrations were his mindblowing ocean scenes in MOBY DICK: CHASING THE GREAT WHITE WHALE, written by Eric A. Kimmel. Having spent most of my childhood summers in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I also was excited to read his book that reminded me of Kitty Hawk, FLYING CARS. The book is a history of dreamers/inventors who imagined hybrid vehicles and tells of their many failures as well as successes. This reminds me that anyone trying to create anything "new" walks a similar road. Again, it's a labor of love.
Thanks to the huge efforts of Arlene Sahraie, Library Services Director (now retired); Donna Perkosky, Public Relations and Adult Programming Coordinator; and the many dedicated BCCLS professionals who helped to organize this event.