Last week, I had a unique opportunity to visit the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee. But let me start at the beginning. Several weeks ago, my mom told me she’d read an article about how the Governor’s Mansion now had a library devoted to Florida authors. “You should be in there!” she said. So I did a little online research and found a website about the Governor’s Mansion. I emailed the curator, Carol Beck, and we bounced a few messages back and forth. Seems that they only had my Hiker’s Guide to the Sunshine State, since University Press of Florida has been generous with donations to the library. So I told Carol I’d do a little digging and see what I could come up with.
A business trip came up that would take me up to the Calhoun County 60th Annual Chamber of Commerce Dinner, so I scrambled to talk to a couple of publishers to see if I could get my Florida books donated. I had a bunch on hand, and managed to get a few more to fill out my entire Florida collection – 11 books in all, plus the one they had on hand.
At the mansion, Carol escorted us back to the library. It takes up a rather large space that used to be a porch overlooking the gardens. I’d pre-signed the books I brought, but had a chance to sign Hiker’s Guide to the Sunshine State at the Governor’s desk in the library. What fun! I think they need a guestbook for visiting authors, but I did end up with a surprise string of mini-school-visits for the next hour.
I spoke to three different fourth grade classes who were touring the Governor’s Mansion while on field trips. Carol Beck introduced me to them as a “real live Florida author!” which I thought was pretty funny. Better live than not! They were very diverse groups from schools in Tallahassee, Manatee County, and Miami-Dade, and it was three rapid fire impromptu sessions of Q&A with the general introduction: “Here’s a real live Florida author! She’s written LOTS of books about Florida, including these childrens’ books. What would you like to ask her?”
I wish I’d had a recorder going. The questions were excellent, sometimes funny, and generally very well thought-out. A few that stick in my mind:
Q. Why do you write?
A. Because I love to learn new things, and communicate what I learn with other people.
Q. When did you start writing?
A. In second grade, when I wrote and illustrated little stories that my elementary school librarian bound and put in the school library. One of them was called “The Case of the Missing Straw.” (for the record, at Marshall Hill Elementary in West Milford, NJ)
Of course, I had to grin ear from ear when I was asked “Have you won any awards for your books?” I piled up the award-winning books to illustrate and said “for these ones,” and got a roomful of applause. Plus one sweet child piped up, “you must be the BEST author in all of Florida!” and made my day. Week. Year.
It was fun bantering with the kids and reminded me that I have several unfinished children’s books in various states of completion that I need to get back to writing. Governor Charlie Crist was busy at work so I didn’t get to meet him. I have two more books coming out this year, so perhaps next time!