Amanda Hartman and I are making our way to the Ritz Carlton on Canal Street, James and the baby in tow. My clothes feel sticky in the swampy New Orleans heat. It's been raining all day, and I try to avoid stepping in the puddles with my little work flats. We walk up to the main entrance, and getting out of a cab just at that moment are Mary Ehrenworth and Chris Lehman. I feel like we are in a gang. RWP is in the house.
We make our way through the Ritz together, entering one lavish space after the next. We travel up stairs and through passageways until we arrive at our gathering.
It's a virtual who's who of the literacy world. Our corner of the literacy world, that is. There's Ellin Keene, hobnobbing with a Heinemann VP. Over there is Richard Allington, talking to a senior editor. Amanda strikes up a conversation with Katie Wood Ray, who has recently come on board at Heinemann. Amanda tells a story about how, years ago, she would go to every workshop Katie gave, even if Amanda had already seen it. I think to myself that I still feel like that, the eager young teacher sitting in the front row, thrilled that someone is finally speaking my language.
So here I am, in this room with these authors I have idolized and tried to emulate for years. I feel like I don't really belong. After all, I no longer work full-time at the Reading and Writing Project. I only co-wrote one book with Heinemann. People don't know me. But yet, here I am.