My fifth-grade self would be so very proud...

This past Saturday, I returned from a week-long writer's conference in Chautauqua, New York. The weather was a bit chilly. My hotel room didn't have a TV or air-conditioning. Blisters grew upon my poor little feet.

But the conference was amazing. Inspirational, really. And a whole lot of fun.

Here's a view of Chautauqua Lake at sunrise. Pretty, no?

Ah, but the highlight of my week was getting the chance to meet Jerry Spinelli, children's writer extraordinaire and winner of the Newbery Award. Back when I was in the fifth grade, my teacher Mrs. Kent read Maniac Magee to my entire class and I savored every minute of it. I loved every word.

Even so, I was somewhat surprised when tears sprang into my eyes as Mr. Spinelli autographed my copy of Maniac Magee. I mean, it's just a book, right? And he's just a regular guy, right? But there was something magical in the moment when Jerry took the book---his book really---from my hands and scribbled his signature onto the title page. You see, he wasn't only signing the book for me---he was signing it for a certain fifth-grade girl who could hardly wait for reading time to start in her class.

I was so happy.

(Jerry with his wife Eileen, who is also a children's writer.)