Yesterday we attended the Betsy-Tacy Convention presentations at the Children’s Literature Research Collections at the University of Minnesota, a/k/a the Kerlan Collection. There was SRO in a room that was set up for about 150 people (best guess). Kathleen Baxter was the host of the soirée, enthusiastically welcoming everyone to this meaningful setting for the treats to follow.
As Amy Dolnick Rechner presented “Betsy’s Vampire Wedding: sucking the life out of biographical fiction,” the rapt Crowd sighed and gasped and exclaimed in a most satisfying way. Everyone in this room seemed to know the real names and personalities of the characters behind Maud Hart Lovelace’s ten-book series about Betsy Ray in Deep Valley, set in the early 1900s. Ms. Rechner, author of Between Deep Valley and the Great World, confided that “truth isn’t really shocking, it’s just messy.” Even though the Deep Valley books are based on real people, the book is not true to their lives and relationships. The books are fiction after all … and fictional stories have demands and constraints into which real life cannot, and should not, be squished.
Following this in-depth exposé, author Heather Vogel Frederick gave a laughter-invoking presentation as a fan come late to the Party. She first learned about the Betsy-Tacy books a few years ago while visiting Minnesota on her tour promoting her Mother-Daughter Book Club series. In each of the six books, the five girls and their mothers discuss a classic. Heather was pondering which classic book to feature in her fifth book, Home for the Holidays, when luck would have it that she ran into a number of (ahem!) persistent Betsy-Tacy fans. Heather grew up on the East Coast and she postulated that perhaps these were Midwestern favorites during her childhood. Her presentation was rollicking, comedic, and earned her a standing ovation from the Crowd.
The long, long autograph line was proof that these books endure.
And this is only the beginning of the Betsy-Tacy Convention. Registration is closed but there’s an event that’s free and open to the public on Saturday, July 21st, from 2 to 5 pm, at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato. Fiction authors will be featured on a panel: Perri Klass, Lorna Landvik, Claudia Mills, Mitali Perkins, and Charity Tahmaseb. Nonfiction authors will be on hand to sign their books as well: Theresa Jarosz Alberti, Carlienne Frisch, Amy Dolnick Rechner, Julie A. Schrader. Betsy-Tacy fans, one and all.
Have fun, everyone. Go light on the onion sandwiches.