In Mississippi

I rented a standard-sized SUV on Sunday. Into it went the work of a lifetime. The first thing I ever wrote, and the last thing I finished writing. The correspondence between me and editors, teachers, librarians, students, publishers and readers. Drafts and more drafts. Certificates and awards and programs and essays and partial stories and teaching materials, too.

We stuffed the car with boxes, bags, bins, and one laundry basket (thanks, Hannah, you can have it back now) full of papers. Then Hannah and I drove from Atlanta to Hattiesburg, to the University of Southern Mississippi, to bring all these papers, in all these boxes, where they will now be catalogued and archived at the Lena Y. de Grummond Children's Literature Collection.

I am so humbled to be in such good company. Yesterday we toured the stacks and visited with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Tana Hoban, Kathi Appelt, Kimberly Willis Holt (your work is on current display, Kathi and Kimberley, and it looks fabulous), Bruce Coville, H.A. Rey (how many times I read CURIOUS GEORGE to my children), and of course, my dear friend Coleen Salley. There are so many treasures in this fabulous collection, and I am grateful to Ellen Ruffin at de Grummond for inviting me to be part of this august group.

After delivering our boxes yesterday , Hannah and I spent the day researching at the McCain Library, which is in the same building as the de Grummond Collection. The last time I was here, curator Diane Ross brought me stories about young people who were part of the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964. One of those stories has stayed with me for almost two years, so I was back at McCain yesterday to learn more.

Diane had a cart ready for me, and I spent several happy hours yesterday with primary sources, reading letters, a diary, and pouring through one young girl's experience in Mississippi in 1964. One day I would love to tell her story.

It interests me to think that one day my letters and manuscripts and more will be archived like this, and boxed, like this, and ready for a researcher who comes along one day, wanting to know the rest of the story. I've already told Ellen to expect me as soon as all those papers are ready for viewing. I want to come visit my stuff. ha!

We're off this morning to visit a man about a banjo, in that little Mississippi town where I grew up summers. Then it's on to kinfolks, and dinner with folks at Lemuria tonight, in Jackson, Mississippi.

Thanks, Ellen, Katie, and Danielle at de Grummond, and Diane and Cindy at McCain, and everyone at USM's Special Collections. It's always a treat to see you again. I love our continuing collaboration.