MANKATO — With an elbow propped casually on the podium and her brow turned up in slight suggestion, Meg Cabot — the witty and wry best-selling author of “Princess Diaries” — picked up a copy of Maud Hart Lovelace’s “Betsy and Joe” and cautioned thus:
“There aren’t any young children in the room are there?”
After a burst of laughter from the large crowd of mostly middle-age and pre-teen women, Cabot read one of the most beloved — and steamiest — scenes from one of Lovelace’s enduring Betsy-Tacy books.
Some in the crowd had spent the weekend in Mankato celebrating the Betsy-Tacy Convention and already knew the words by heart. They whispered in synch with Cabot, who read the scene in which Joe and Betsy share their first kiss in Willard’s Emporium, the same place they first met several years — and several books — earlier.
After the kiss, the scene continues with Betsy reflecting she’d enjoyed the moment more than anticipated. She’d never been interested in kissing “this boy or that boy, especially when it didn’t mean a thing.” But with Joe, who clearly was the right boy, “it did mean a thing.”
Here, Cabot paused for emphasis, looked up from the book and leveled with her audience.
“Truer words were never spoken,” she said. “Who can’t relate to that?”
Delivering the keynote address and culminating event of the Betsy-Tacy Convention, Cabot paid tribute to the books that had such an impact on her own voice as a writer. She chose to read the scene of Betsy’s first kiss because, even 100 years after it was written, it remains an example of Lovelace’s ability to connect with audiences across eras and generations. And it remains an example of what Cabot hopes to attain in her own writing.