Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fall Conference NCETA

I am one of those people who attend conferences and actually go to the sessions. When I first began teaching, the school had an anonymous donor who made funds available for staff development. I began back then attending the annual convention of the the National Council of Teachers of English. I traveled with Karen Parker, who taught seventh and eighth grade English, and sometimes with Jan Lansdell and Judith Thompson, to such wonderful cities as Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Richmond, and New Orleans. Karen and I used the "divide and conquer" method, identifying sessions of interest, then splitting up and getting extra handouts when we could. We managed to work in excursions to areas of local interest too: the art museum in Richmond to see some of the Faberge creations for Czar Nicholas and his family, the Washington mall, Arlington National Cemetery, literary walking tours to see where Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and others lived and wrote, a traveling Monet exhibit. One night, when we called home, her husband said, "Karen, most people go to conferences, sign in, then go play golf."

I've continued to attend the national conference when I can, meeting authors I admire (Isabel Allende, Azar Nafisi, Ron Koertge, the late Paul Zindel, Paula Danziger, and Robert Cormier, to name just a few.) Going year after year, I've also discovered teachers who consistently present the best sessions: Carol Jago, Linda Rief, Jeffrey Wilhelm--now I know how winners feel at the Oscars: I hate to name anyone for fear of leaving out someone else.

Soon after I moved to North Carolina, I was encouraged to join the North Carolina Teachers of English (NCETA) and then to run for a board position. For the past ten years, I've served as director then VP, and last year president of the organization. I have been so proud to be a part of this group. Our sessions are on par with those I've attended at the national gathering, and the list of winners of our Ragan-Rubin award, given to a North Carolina writer each year, reads like a literary who's who--Reynolds Price, Lee Smith, Clyde Edgerton, Kaye Gibbons, and many more.

This year, as the immediate past president, I coordinated our recognition of Ron Rash(see my previous blog). At our conference this weekend, he addressed our Friday luncheon, sharing stories of his own interest in reading and writing and reading from his novels. (Follow this link for the story he shared about his grandfather's influence on his love for reading and writing: http://www.rusoffagency.com/authors/rash_r/ron_rash_onwriting.htm.) While he was in Winston-Salem, he got a call letting him know he's made the extended NY Times best seller list (the top 35). I was not surprised. I believe Serena will be the novel that gets him the notice he deserves.

We were also glad that, despite a hip injury while out of the country, Kathryn Stripling Byer was able to join us for the inaugural award to the student poet laureate. I've said it before, but I must repeat that North Carolina's accomplished writers are the most giving, nurturing people I have met. Invariably, the state authors I meet credit others who mentored them and encouraged them. As a teacher, I have seen these same writers share their time and expertise with teachers and with students. Sitting at the table with Ron and Kay felt like "old home week"--down-to-earth people talking about what is most important to them.

Having survived the last week in preparation for three sessions on very little sleep, I'm ready to nap, then to debrief. Next week, though, I want to write lots of thank you notes and then I want to follow with the teachers I met at sessions who expressed their own interest in reading groups and writing groups. Who knows--some of the future Ragan-Rubin winners may have been in our midst.
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1 comment:

Amber said...

You are such a literary nerd. (And you know me well enough to know that is one of my highest compliments!)