How could I say no? It was an honour to be asked, back in February 2019, if I would “consider speaking at the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books in Toronto” as the 33rd annual Helen E. Stubbs memorial lecturer in the fall of 2020.
“This lecture series,” Martha Scott wrote, “is held in the memory of Helen E. Stubbs (1907-1987), who began her career as a children's Librarian in Toronto Public Library’s Boys and Girls Division, and became the Acting Head of Boys and Girls Services before her retirement. Through a generous bequest made by Ms. Stubbs, we are able to finance special purchases for the collection, and host an annual lecture. It was Helen's wish that the topic of the lectures focus on some aspect of children’s literature, and be given by people “of outstanding ability, interest and originality.” Past speakers include Susan Cooper, Lois Lowry, Michael Rosen, Kenneth Oppel, Deborah Ellis and Jan Thornhill.”
I immediately said Yes -- once I'd picked myself up off the floor.
Martha’s letter that day went on to detail the honorarium and expenses that would be paid for: travel to Toronto, accommodation, per diem costs. And then covid struck. The lecture was postponed. A year later, hosting the lecture virtually still seemed the best option.
Much as I enjoy meeting children’s book enthusiasts in person, I’m not entirely sorry that the lecture will be conducted online. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve enjoyed a number of events, including launches for The Lady with the Books and The Girl Who Loved Giraffes, that were attended by people far from where they would have been held in person. Zoom, Crowdcast, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and other platforms have opened up all kinds of workshops, meetings, classes, conferences, and the like to a global audience.
I hope you will join us on November 11 when I’ll be exploring connections between my reading as a child and my writing as an adult, between the world as I knew it then and the world as I know it now. You can tune in at 7pm ET that day, but why not register now so you’ll get an email reminder!
A recording of the event is available until November 18.