I got ahead on my word count earlier in the week because I wanted to go to Waterloo/Cedar Falls yesterday to see the Painted Pages: Children’s Books Illustrated by Iowa Artists exhibit at Waterloo Center for the Arts (my good friend Jeni Reeves is one of the featured illustrators!) and then go to the Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls to see the Original Art 2010: New Works from the Society of Illustrators, New York exhibit and attend the reception. Every year hundreds of children’s book illustrators compete to be featured in this traveling exhibit (how cool that we can see it here in Iowa!)

But my husband was out of town earlier this week. He was supposed to come home on Wednesday night, but then it turned out he had to stay an extra day and wouldn’t be home until late last night. Six weeks ago that would’ve meant I couldn’t go to Waterloo/Cedar Falls because someone would’ve needed to be here to drive the teenager to all his after school stuff. But now the teenager is the proud owner of a driver’s license, so in theory, I could still go, right? I wasn’t entirely sure. The idea of him being here alone, driving himself who knows where, while both my husband and I were out of town scared me a little…(I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have “letting go” issues.) But in the end I decided it would be good for me to just let him do his thing…plus I really wanted to go! So I asked him if it was okay if I went (he looked at me like “why wouldn’t it be okay?”)…and I begged him to drive extra carefully (to which he replied, “yes, Mom…just because you’re out of town, I’m suddenly going to start driving recklessly…because that’s the way my teenage mind works”)…and yesterday morning I even reminded him one more time to PLEASE DRIVE CAREFULLY (to which he replied, “I’ll be fine, Mom”…and THEN, he spontaneously gave me a hug! Yes, he’s a good boy!). And after a 5:45 a.m. workout, followed by a dog walk, and writing 900 words on my murder mystery, off I went!

We started at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. I’d never been there before. What a cool place! I was kicking myself for never taking my kids there when they were little…until I found out the really cool stuff has only been there for three years.

As you can see, big kids can have fun there, too:

That’s me and Jeni above…and here’s the rest of our traveling party (Cheryl Kolar, who is a retired school media specialist and Sharron McElmeel, retired teacher, media specialist, author, and tireless promoter of children’s books and children’s book authors). They’re clearly the more dignified members of our group (and yes, we pretty much forced them to pose for a Kodak moment):

This next photo was much easier to get. What are the odds that one of the people working at the Waterloo Center for the Arts was a former student of Sharron’s the year she STUDENT TAUGHT? And what are the odds we’d even find that out?

After visiting with her for a while, we moved on to the Painted Pages exhibit.

This picture is for my friend susanwrites. While I’m lucky enough to know both Jeni and Susan in person, they only know each other online. Jeni illustrated Susan’s Enrique Esparza and the Battle of the Alamo…so I had Jeni pose by Susan’s favorite illustration:

And here are some more samples of Jeni’s work from the exhibit (is she amazingly talented or what?):

As you can see, there was also a hands on component to this exhibit. They had all the books there for people to read and lots of activities for the kids. Here’s Jeni with the story box from her Anasi and the Box of Stories: A West Aftrican Folktale:

It was really fun to play–I mean LOOK AROUND in here (though the Waterloo Center for the Arts SERIOUSLY needed to play something other than Swan Lake in there…or, at the very least, they needed to play a longer segment of it. I don’t think we were there any longer than most people would be…).

From there we went to dinner at Montage, which, if you’re ever in Cedar Falls is a FABULOUS restaurant (the cute young girl with us is Sharron’s granddaughter):

And then we headed over to the reception at the Hearst Center, where only the TV people were allowed to take pictures. But there was wine, cheese and crackers, a couple of desserts, a violin/electric guitar duo (who did NOT play the same music over and over) and original children’s book art. I spent a lot of time reading books that each piece came from (yes, they had all the books there, too) and talking books with complete strangers. There’s nothing like being surrounded by children’s book people for an evening.

If you love children’s books, it’s absolutely worth the trip! But the reception is over, so don’t go alone. Take some children’s book people with you. Children’s books are meant to be shared!

At one point in the evening Sharron asked if this exhibit inspired me to write more picture books. Yeah, it kind of did. For a little while anyway. But I am more of a novelist than a picture book writer.

BTW, when I arrived home at 10:00pm, the teenager was not only home safe and sound…he was baking a cake for his math club. And not just any cake…a devil’s food cake with caramel, butterfinger candy bars and whipped cream (recipe courtesy of my soul sista, Wendy).

Field Trip!

6 thoughts on “Field Trip!

  • November 12, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Sharron’s student

    It was a pleasure to meet you last week. I really enjoyed reading the account of your day in Waterloo-Cedar Falls. It sounds like you had a fabulous itinerary and enjoyed every bit of it. I am so glad you included the Phelps Youth Pavilion!

    Thank you for posting the pic of Mrs McElmeel and me. It was fun to discover our ‘shared history’ and hear where and what she is.

    Best Wishes,
    Carolyn Carpenter, Manager
    Phelps Youth Pavilion

    • November 12, 2010 at 10:07 pm

      Re: Sharron’s student

      I think it was just as fun for Sharron as it was for you! (Funny, she’s always been “Sharron” to me…never “Mrs. McElmeel!”)

      It was a great day…and I enjoyed meeting you, too!


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