May 24, 2012

Donna + Texas = FUN!

Just returned from an awesome trip to Allen, TX.  (North of Dallas.)

I ate these for the first time in my life . . .

Can you guess what they are?  Scroll down to find out.
An innovative middle school librarian, Kay Hawkins, invited me some time ago.  She promised me a couple great school visits, good food and . . . bowling!  (How could I say no?)

Here's Kay Hawkins in front of her Read it Forward bulletin board.  Read about the innovative, fun program she used to get kids reading in her school.

Kay and her friend/fellow librarian, Jane Jergensen took me to Splitsville, a bowling/eating adventure.  

I had so much fun talking with Kay, Kim (middle school teacher), Jane, her husband, Scott, her daughter Courtney and her boyfriend Fred that I often forgot to take my turn bowling.  When I finally bowled a strike, I got so excited I threw my arms in the air.  My bracelet went flying, and I nearly impaled my host!  (I later found out that Jane has bowled a 289.  Yup.  She was that good.)

Here are my two favorite Texas school librarians . . .

Jane Jergensen and Kay Hawkins.
Stepping into Kerr Elementary, I felt very welcomed because this was on the TV screen over the front desk. . .

Jane Jergensen, who was voted top teacher in the district last year – the only time a librarian ever won this honor -- went above and beyond.  She created bookmarks for me to sign that she would copy and give to each sixth grade students.  And she created these clever posters . . .

"I'll take children's authors for $500.  Who is Donna Gephart?"

 Here’s the wonderful group of sixth graders I spoke with.

 And here they are, getting their silly on . . .

Next time I totally have to give them giant sunglasses or something to help them get their silly on!

Jane Jergensen gave me really fun parting gifts, one of which was a stuffed Zhu Zhu pet hamster, which just happened to have a bowling pin insignia on its back.  What are the chances?!  Kay Hawkins gave me a T-shirt that the incoming middle schoolers will receive and a cool bag made from recycled plastic.  

Here's a photo of the swag . . .

 Then it was off to Curtis Middle School, where I spoke to eight bazillion eighth graders in the cafeteria.

Actually, it was 500 of the most courteous 8th graders I've ever spoken to!
After my talk, a few kids came up to chat.  One of them told me he wants to be a writer, too.  He asked great questions about layering and showing how a character changes over the course of a novel.  And he told me he's working on writing projects with his dad.  He said, "My dad is awesome.  I love him so much." 

James, I happen to think you're pretty awesome!

I got to spend time with some book club members, eat the most delicious beer cheese soup ever and meet wonderful teachers and staff. 

Then it was off to speak to more than 500 7th graders in the gym at the end of the day.  Did I mention there were more than 500 7th graders?  In the gym?  At the end of the day?  I was too busy moving from one end of the gym to the other to take a photo, but take my word for it -- it was fun!

That evening found me at A Real Bookstore -- a tremendous independent bookstore in Fairview, TX -- giving a talk and signing books.  The staff (Hi, Melinda!) were so incredibly gracious and helpful.  I visited the bookstore several times during my stay and bought a book each time.  How could I resist?

I had the best time in Texas.  Everyone was so friendly.  The food was great.  I couldn’t have been treated better during my school visits and bookstore visit.

A big Texas-sized thank you not only to Kay Hawkins and Jane Jergensen, but to their families as well and the fantabulous staff at A Real Bookstore!

So, what was the interesting fried food I ate for the first time in my life?  

Fried pickles!  Yum.


Dan R. said...

Donna, I'm glad you had a chance to know how courteous many of the Texas kids really are. It's definitely a "Yes, Ma'am," "No, Ma'am" part of America. And why wouldn't they be facinated with your writings? You and your books are wonderful.

Wild About Words said...

Thanks, Dan,

I was thoroughly impressed by the kindness and courtesy I experienced, especially by the students.

What a great visit!