Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Interview with Ellen Ruffin

Hi all! Several of us Southern Breezers are interviewing speakers who will be presenting at our upcoming WIK Conference in Birmingham in October. I'm thrilled to be the lucky duck who gets to interview the always charming Ellen Ruffin.

Ellen is the curator of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi where the papers and original artwork of H.A. and Margaret Rey, Ezra Jack Keats, Kate Greenway, and many, many other children's writers and illustrators are archived. For more information about the collection click here.

And to find out the story of how such an incredible collection ended up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, click here (scroll down to page 4) and here for a story of how Dr. Lena De Grummond contacted the Reys.

Suffice it to say, that we Southern Breezers are within hours (some of us minutes) of one of the most incredible children's literature archives in the world, and I'd like to personally recommend that each and every one of you attends the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival which takes place every year in the spring. You will hear presentations given by world class children's writers and illustrators--and you can tour the de Grummond Collection. So watch for registration for the spring of 2013 festival.

But back to WIK and my guest today . . .

Hi Ellen! Why don't you tell me what you're planning to talk about at the Southern Breeze conference in Birmingham . . .

I'm going to talk about two things. First, I'm going to discuss the many awards that are available for works of children's literature. Everyone has heard of the Newbery, the Caldecott and the Printz, but there are so many awards out there that offer different types of recognition for different types of books. And that is so exciting! For example, there is an award called the Phoenix Award and it's given to a book that's at least ten years old, but for whatever reason, this book is having a resurgence in popularity and appeal. Additionally, the Ezra Jack Keats Award which is given to a new author and a new illustrator is now awarded at the Children's Book Festival here in Hattiesburg.

Next, I'm going to talk about our children's literature archive and it's significance, especially for scholars  who are interested in examining the process of children's authors and illustrators. We have an enormous historical collection of very early fairy tales as well as archives from more recent authors and illustrators. We also have a book collection of over 155,000 books which compliments our archived collection which represents over 1300 authors and illustrators.

How has the way that you archive things changed with the digital age?

With the digital age, so many authors and artists don't have physical papers that they can hand me--sometimes we're given representations of early drafts and illustrations on a jump drive--but we archive everything. These records are kept safe and secure. We actually print everything out as well as keeping digital files. Since technology is constantly changing, we feel like that's the safest way to keep things--don't we all remember floppy discs and  the Wordstar word processing program?

But we are losing some of the footprints of the entire process--especially with illustrators who work digitally--because often they hit the delete button to erase older sketches or earlier drafts. That's another reason why an archive like ours is so important. You can go through our papers and go on a journey through the artistic process, and with rise of the digital age, this ability could be lost without a historical archive like the one we have here at Southern.

And then, Ellen and I talked for another hour about our favorite children's books! She's a treasure in the world of children's literature, and I can't wait to hear her presentation in Birmingham. Counting down the days . . .

See you there,

Meet more of the wik12 faculty by following their blog tour!

Aug. 15                Sharon Pegram at Writers and Wannabes
Aug. 16                Sarah Campbell at Alison Hertz’s blog, On My Mind
Aug. 17                F.T. Bradley at Laura Golden’s blog
Aug. 20               Chuck Galey at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
Aug. 21                Jo Kittinger at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales
Aug. 22               Irene Latham at Robyn Hood Black’s blog, Read, Write, Howl
Aug. 23               Vicky Alvear Shecter at S.R. Johannes’ blog
Aug. 24               Doraine Bennett at Cathy Hall’s blog
Aug. 27               Virginia Butler at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales
Aug. 28               Jodi Wheeler-Toppen at Diane Sherrouse’s blog, The Reading Road
Aug. 29               Ellen Ruffin at Sarah Frances Hardy’s blog, Picture This
Aug. 30               Donna Jo Napoli at Writers and Wannabes


  1. I was lucky enough to meet Ellen a few years ago at the festival, and I can't wait to hear her present in October! Thanks, Sarah Frances and Ellen, for the sneak peek. I can see how an extra hour of talking could lead to two, or three... Treasure is the right word!

  2. Thanks for this, SF! You know i am a huge fan of Fay B. Kaigler conference, and I was SO IMPRESSED one year when we toured the archives. Inspiring!

  3. Oh, my. You had me at "fairy tales."

    I see a trip to Hattiesburg in my future! Thanks for a wonderful interview.


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