So, yesterday was the big conference. You know, the Texas Christian Schools Association conference here in Austin. What, did you think I was talking about some other conference?

The children’s authors and illustrators panel was in the afternoon, but I took the whole day off and spent the morning at UT doing research for Pasta. About an hour into my work, there was a fire drill, and let me tell you — you will never see a slower moving bunch of evacuees than in a university library at 8:55 on a summer Friday morning. But I survived that, and the withering look I received from the guy at the help desk when I asked him to direct me to the bound volumes of the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, and came away with 75 pages of material.

The format of the panel was very different from the last one. For one thing, there was a larger group of us — besides me, the panelists were:

Instead of a discussion, the panel was conducted presidential-primary-style, with a series of questions asked by a moderator and answered by the panelists one by one, with a time limit, from one end of the row to the other. This might not have been all that significant for me, except that I innocently sat on the left end, which meant that I was up first to answer each question.

It was good practice for thinking on my feet, or at least in my seat. Still, there wasn’t a single answer I gave that I didn’t reconsider and come up with a better alternative to while the other panelists were still answering but after my chance to chime in had passed. I did, however, sport my Signal Green T-shirt, and since nobody came up to me after the panel and asked, “What’s Day-Glo?”, I consider my day’s mission accomplished.

Plus, any day when there’s such good hanging-out to be done with other author/illustrator types is a good one in my book. Besides those of us on the panel, audience members included Dianna Aston (An Egg Is Quiet), Brian Anderson (The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton), and Kathi Appelt and Joy Fisher Hein (Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers). So, many thanks to the TCSA, the UT library, and even to that incredulous guy at the help desk for making my day.