Writing the Past: Yesterday Was Once Today



November 14-16, 2014
A Symposium at Vermont College of Fine Arts
Montpelier, Vermont

What a glorious time we had!

In the myriad ways the past is presented to young readers, including history, fiction, biography, memoir, poetry and historical fantasy, many questions are raised. In recreating yesterday as today, how does the writer avoid the slippery wisdom of hindsight? For audiences with short personal histories, programmed to look forward, what is the point of looking back? How trapped are readers, young and old, in their own times? Can a novel be more authentic than an historian’s account of the same period? What are the demands of writing, illustrating and reading about our own past or a time before our own? At Writing the Past, we explored these questions. Presentations by authors and illustrators shared a variety of perspectives and experiences. We celebrated the life of John Rowe Townsend, author, scholar, lecturer and former Adjunct Board member of CLNE. Poetry, singing, shared meals and book discussions added to the liveliness of the weekend.


M. T. Anderson is the author of picture books and fiction for children and young adults. He is the winner of the National Book Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; Volume One: The Pox Party. Among his titles is the National Book Award finalist, Feed. He is a former faculty member of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His website is mt-anderson.com.

Ashley Bryan, artist and writer, has created more than fifty books for children. His works include Beautiful Blackbird, Sing to the Sun, and Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life’s Song. A professor emeritus at Dartmouth College, he has received the Coretta Scott King Award, the Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. His most recent book is Ashley Bryan’s Puppets: Making Something from Everything.  His website is ashleybryancenter.org.

Susan Cooper is the author of books for children and young adults, screenplays for television, and works of nonfiction. She won the 1976 Newbery Medal for The Grey King, the fourth novel in the Dark is Rising sequence. In 2012, she was honored by the Association for Library Service to Children with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for the body of her work. Her most recent book is the novel Ghost Hawk. Her website is www.thelostland.com.

Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver writer, reviewer, and former librarian. She received the 2013 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence. She is a CLNE board member and was CLNE/Examined Life’s 2012 Greek Study Fellow and Writer in Residence. She teaches writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her books include The Several Lives of Orphan Jack, The Baby Project, and Outside In. Her website is www.sarahellis.ca.

Shane Evans is the illustrator of many books for young readers, including Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom, which won the 2012 Coretta Scott King Medal for Illustration, and Nobody Gonna Turn Me Round, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper’s Daughter, illustrated by Evans, won a 2000 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award and The Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. His website is shaneevans.com.

Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, and Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book. In 2012 Jack won the Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction for Dead End in Norvelt. His latest book is The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza. His website is jackgantos.com/.

Amanda West Lewis is the author of September 17: A Novel, which has been nominated for the 2014 IODE Violet Downey Award, the 2014 Red Cedar Award and listed in the Canadian Children’s Centre 100 Best Books for Spring, 2014. Lewis has spent her career working in the arts and arts education and is the Artistic Director and Founder of The Ottawa Children’s Theatre. Her website is amandawestlewis.com.

Gregory Maguire is a Founding Co-director Emeritus of CLNE and an award-winning novelist of books for children and adults.  He was a professor and co-director of The Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College from 1979-1986. He is an honorary board member of The Examined Life. His works include Seven Spiders Spinning, The Dream Stealer, Wicked, and Out of Oz. His most recent book is Egg & Spoon.  His website is gregorymaguire.com.

Daryl Mark is a CLNE board member and the former Coordinator of Children’s Services for the Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is co-director of StoryStream Cambridge, a collaborative committed to highlighting storytelling for adults and children. She is a participant in 1,000 Mugs, a project supporting primary school education for Zulu children in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Elizabeth Partridge, faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, is the award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction books for children and teens as well as photography books for adults. Her books include This Land Was Made For You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie; Marching for Freedom and Dogtag Summer. Her latest book is Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. Her website is elizabethpartridge.com.

Katherine Paterson is the author of more than thirty books including Bridge to Terabithia, Lyddie and Master Puppeteer. She has twice won both the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award. She has been honored with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. From 2010-2011, she was chosen by the Library of Congress to serve as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.  Her newest title is Stories of My Life Her website is terebithia.com.

Neal Porter is the Editorial Director of the Neal Porter Books imprint of Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan Publishers. He has held marketing, editorial, and executive positions in several publishing companies. He has edited many award-winning children’s books and was the editor of Monsieur Marcel: Actor Without Words. The website for Neal Porter Books is Roaring Brook Press.

Leda Schubertis the author of picture books, early readers and nonfiction for children.  Her works include The Princess of Borscht, Ballet of the Elephants and Feeding the Sheep. In 2013, Monsieur Marceau: Actor Without Words won the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. She is a former children’s librarian and worked for a number of years as a school and public library consultant for the Vermont Department of Education. She is a former faculty member of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her website is ledaschubert.com.

Barbara Scotto is Co-director of CLNE and CLNE/Examined Life Liaison. She is an adjunct professor at Framingham State University. An active participant in USBBY and the American Library Association, she is currently serving on the 2015 Notable Children’s Recordings Selection Committee.

Brian O. Selznick is the author and illustrator of many books for children including The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which won the 2008 Caldecott Medal.  It was also named one of the New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year and was a finalist for the National Book Award. He will present the 2015 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. His most recent book is Wonderstruck.  His website is theinventionofhugocabret.com

Robin Smith teaches second grade at The Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She writes reviews and articles for The Horn Book Magazine, Book Links, and Booklist.

Suzanne Fisher Staples, a former UPI news correspondent in India and Pakistan, is the author of Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, a 1990 Newbery Honor winner, Haveli, Shiva’s Fire and other novels for young adults.  She is the program director of The Gathering, a weekend conference held at Keystone College in Pennsylvania.  Suzanne is a CLNE board member and was the CLNE/Examined Life’s 2014 Greek Study Fellow and Writer in Residence. Her website is suzannefisherstaples.com.

Deborah Taylor is the Coordinator of School and Student Services for the Enoch Pratt Free Library. She is an active participant in the American Library Association, reviews books for several publications, and is the Chair of the 2015 Sibert Informational Book Award Selection Committee.

Martha Walke is Co-director and Registrar of CLNE. She is a retired teacher and school librarian, is actively involved in the American Library Association and currently serves on the Coretta Scott King Book Award Jury. Martha is also an avid sheepdog handler.