June 29th, 2008


The Groves of Virginia Academe

Friday was our Hollins University gig as guest speakers for their Masters/MFA program in Children's Literature.

We got in Thursday night, only a little later than we were scheduled to arrive, for a wonder, but late enough in absolute terms to feel that our welcoming committee of two was performing well above and beyond the call of any possible duty. Not only did they help us collect and carry our luggage (only one suitcase for the two of us--we're lean, mean, packing machines), but drove us to the guest house and got us settled in with snacks and apple juice in the fridge. If you're reading this, Jamie and Ricky, thanks so much.

Barbee (accent on the last syllable, please) is a lovely little house built in 1926 (it said so on the sign) to house visiting faculty. Our apartment didn't have a kitchen, but the room was a princely size and there was a kitchen downstairs, so it hardly mattered. We made tea there in the morning and again in the afternoon when I got a little work done on Chapter 19 before a huge and noisy thunderstorm, er, distracted me. I have this really strong startle reflex, see, and although I know thunderstorms can't hurt you, my lizard brain insists that anything that noisy can't be good, no, not at all. Which makes it hard to concentrate. But I digress.

Dinner before the lecture was in Roanoke.

I'm going to have to go back to Roanoke. There's a farmer's market downtown on Saturdays that's been running continually since 1840 (don't quote me on that--my memory for numbers (except for room numbers in whatever hotel we're currently staying in) is fluid). We didn't get to go, but it sounds divine. The restaurant we had dinner in certainly was. The Metro. Sushi happy hour between 6 & 7 plus American cuisine which seems to mean, these days, that the chef takes local ingredients and does interesting things with them. Ellen partook of the sushi, and said it was great. I had some extremely good crab cakes. I love crab cakes, even the stodgy, bready ones that had a crab leg passed over them on the way out of the kitchen. These were full of lumps of actual, recognizable crab meat, and were light and delicious. There was asparagus, too, and garlic mashed potatoes. Apparently, the place is a dance club after the dinner hour. For a town that dines early (the place was very busy at 6) this makes all kinds of sense.

Then we lectured. The library at Hollins is lovely. Hollins is lovely--all red brick and white columns and galleries and Jeffersonian roofed walks between the buildings and green, green quadrangles dotted with millstones and big old trees. There are meandering streams with gardens planted around them and little wooden bridges over them and flowering shrubs and a general feeling of beauty and order and quiet good proportion. The library, although new and modern, fits into the landscape beautifully. The room we spoke in was nicely proportioned, paneled in a golden wood, and comfortably furnished. The sound system worked well.

The talk was fun. We nattered on about fantasy and writing and how we moved back and forth between writing for children and for adults. It's easy to talk to an audience that nods and smiles and laughs at all the right places, which this one did. The questions were good, too. It was mostly Hollins grad students, but there were a few people who came in to hear us. I'm afraid I was a little out of it, and too overwhelmed with signing books and postcards to be able to remember exactly who was there, but I was glad to see them.

After going back to Barbee and talking some more with a few committed souls, we went up to our room and fell over.

I loved it. I love talking to enthusiastic, intelligent, well-read people who are spending all their time thinking and talking about the things I like to think and talk about. I love sharing my experience and hearing theirs. I love teaching. Just not full time, because I love writing (and traveling) too. Maybe Hollins will ask us back some other summer, for a longer stint.