Dr. Seuss’s Visit to Salt Lake City

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In July of 1949, Ted Geisel was invited to lecture at a ten-day writers conference at the University of Utah. What company he was in? Vladimir Nabokov and Wallace Stegner. Ted prepared as never before for the visit to Utah by making extensive lecture notes and researching for weeks because he felt that children’s books needed nonsense, excitement, and fantasy and that his voice could help new writers pave the way. He gave lectures and six workshops. He told his audiences, “Why write about the clouds above fairyland when you have better clouds of Utah!”

The writers stayed in a sorority house and played in the pool in the afternoons. He laughed and cavorted with his new literary chums.

After his first lecture, he met Salt Lake City teacher Libby Childs, who asked what they could do to make Ted’s stay happier. He wanted to go to the Great Salt Lake to swim. “I need to know what it feels like”, he told Mrs. Childs. When her three-year-old son, Brad, recited all of “Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose” for him, Ted replied, “I don’t write for kids that young, how does he do it?”

The lasting effects of his Utah visit left Ted exhilarated and wanting to write a textbook on children’s book writing.

Did you know that Dr. Seuss had visited Utah in 1949? Wouldn’t it be a treat to find someone with personal or family stories about this bright and important time in Dr. Seuss’s life?

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One Response to Dr. Seuss’s Visit to Salt Lake City

  1. Caroline M. Smith says:

    Dr. Seuss’s biography says about this engagement in Salt Lake City: “He gave lectures and led six workshops. To fend off his habitual stage fright, Ted slipped into the lecture hall one night and filled forty feet of blackboard space with faint skteches to illustrate his points. When he arrived the next day the board was bare and a janitor proudly told him, ‘Some kids really messed up the blackboard last night and so I cleaned it for you.’ As Ted feared, he quickly ran out of space in his exuberance, and found himself “drawing in air.” But he endeared himself by his charm and patience, and gave his students practical advice.” From Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel by Judith and Neil Morgan. Excerpted here by Caroline M. Smith, author of The Cat Behind the Hat.

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