Saturday, November 13, 2010

Going Public

On Tuesday, October 12, my latest hardcover, Secondhand Charm, hit the shelves, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books. So began a whirlwind of activity which I will try to document below. But it didn't actually begin there. Earlier this season, the first two books in my new Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series hit the shelves, and my sister Sally and I celebrated with a large launch party at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble. Here's a picture of just the relatives who were there.

And here are Sally and me, signing books together for the first time. Aren't our mom's gladiolus pretty, there in the window? It was wonderful to see so many family and friends, and the Pittsford B&N hosted us delightfully.

On October 2, Sally and I visited Books of Wonder, the magnificent children's bookstore in Manhattan famous for its Oz obsession, its rare art, and its cupcakes, as well as its wonderful titles. We sat on a panel with Jon Scieszka, Michael Buckley, and Nick Bruel and talked about humor and creating silly books. Here we are signing and talking.

Not sure why these pictures insist on being itty-bitty. I mooched them from Sally's friend Alan. Moving on. Next came the launch parties for Secondhand Charm. Part one, hosted by The Friends of the Maynard Public Library, took place Tuesday, October 12. Tragically, my husband and I forgot to take pictures. If anyone else took any, please send them along and I'll update this post. We had a great turnout, and fantastic octopus-shaped decorations, along with other creepy crawly fun stuff in a culinary tribute to the cuisine at Splurch Academy. We repeated the fun two nights later at The Wellesley Booksmith, that pearl among indie bookstores, where again we had a fantastic turnout. Here I am, signing books afterwards.

During that same week I visited Greenhalge Elementary School in Lowell, MA; Fowler Middle School in Maynard, MA; and The Paper Store in Sudbury, MA. The following Monday I (barely) caught a plane for Salt Lake City, where I stayed with dear friends and visited four schools, two bookstores, and a library for author visits & signings. I didn't do as good of a job taking pictures in Salt Lake, so I'm mooching off friends' blogs. I visited the Orem Library, The Waterford School in Sandy, Beacon Heights Elementary School, Settlement Canyon Elementary School in Tooele, and Northlake Elementary School, also in Tooele. I also had my first television appearance on Park City TV, and if I can put my hands on the DVD I brought back with me, I'll post the clip on YouTube. Utah was breathtakingly beautiful, and it seems I got in and out right before winter snow began to strike. I had the chance to catch up with many old friends while I was there. The Orem Library treated me to a goody bag that included a dragon pin. Fun! One of the high points of the trip was meeting my author pen pal, Jessica Day George. We'd corresponded and talked on the phone for ages, and she was just as fun in person, and then some. We did evening signings together at The King's English in Salt Lake City and The Purple Cow in Tooele. Pictorial proof below.

Jessica is an obsessive knitter, and while we took questions she worked on a sleeve for her son's Ron Weasley Halloween costume. Envy! I wish I were that cool of a mom, and that good of a knitter. My kids had to fish from last year's box this year, or make their own costumes.

The pictures above were taken at the art gallery next door to The King's English by my dear friend and superblogger, Stacey Ratliff (pictured with Jessica and me at our signing at The King's English, below).

Isa Ventura of The Purple Cow treated us like royalty and fed me my very own purple cow at a spiffy little bistro in Tooele. Fun town! The Purple Cow and me, we're bonded for life. But the fun didn't stop in Utah. I returned home for a breathless week tried to dig out from under all the mess. While there I paid a visit to the Peabody Barnes & Noble, as well as another visit to the Fowler Middle School. On the Thursday before Halloween, we had a wonderful event at the Belmont Public Library with a full crowd of young readers and their parents. Here's a picture of three adorable reader gals.

Then, on Halloween afternoon, I got in my car and drove to my homeland of Western New York for a solid week of events there. On Monday I visited DeSales School in Lockport, NY, followed by a signing at Monkey See, Monkey Do bookstore in Clarence. I saw many dear friends, and made some new ones, including an inspiring family with an ambitious goal to visit and chronicle all 37 library branches in the Erie County Library System. Their blog is a terrific piece of advocacy for the role libraries play in keeping communities vibrant. Here I am with Anna and MaryGrace in a picture I'm borrowing from their blog.

On Tuesday, November 2, I visited my old alma mater, Clifford H. Wise Middle School, in the morning, and another alma mater, Oak Orchard Elementary School, in the afternoon. In the evening I signed books at Lee-Whedon Library in Medina. I had a lovely lunch with the fifth-grade teachers at Oak Orchard. I saw many dear and familiar faces in Medina, who haven't changed a bit and still look fabulous. The Book Shoppe of Medina and the Lee-Whedon library hosted me in style.

On Wednesday I visited St. Joseph's Catholic School in Batavia, as well as John Kennedy Elementary School. In the afternoon I visited Present Tense Books in Batavia, another indie store that I adore, and not only because it's owned by my cousin, Erica Caldwell. While I was there, I lost my voice! I suppose the back-to-back events, travel, and lack of sleep were a bit more than I could handle. Erica's peach of a husband, Darrick, trotted right out and got me steamed milk from the local coffee shop, which wetted my whistle just right.

So it was cough drops and bottled water at the ready, and whispering into microphones for the next two days of school events, but miraculously I was able to croak out enough. I visited The Norman Howard School in Rochester, NY on Thursday the 4th, where they treated me to a tour, a signing, authentic WNY cider, and donuts! Ian, Sam, and Zoe were the best tour guides an author could hope for. What a great school. From there I trotted over to School 12 for three back-to-back sessions with 4th and 5th graders. I drove straight back to my mom's that night and collapsed, mute as a sponge, and let my mother and sister dote on my like only the gals in my family can. Next morning I was up and off to Geneva Middle School (as well as two elementary schools) for five straight presentations. My good friend, Jonathan Porschet, is the librarian in Geneva, and he fed me his personal hummus, a kindness I shall not forget. (I'm noticing a disturbing trend of reporting what people fed me everywhere I went ... does it show that I really like to eat? And be waited on? It's plain to me as I look at these pictures that I like to eat. Oof.)

My week in New York ended with a bang at the Rochester Children's Book Festival, organized by the extraordinary Sibby Falk and Katherine Blasi. There were over 40 children's book authors there, and my only regret is that I didn't have more opportunities to hobnob with them all. The night before, they got together for dinner, but I skipped re: dead vocal chords, and the night of the event, they also supped from a common table, but after seven days away from my family, I was anxious to get back. What an outstanding turnout they had! It was enough to revive my faith in families encouraging their children to be readers. I was lucky that I got to sit next to Kate Messner, also from Medina, NY, the entire day. Kate was best friends with my older sister in junior high, and our paths crossed again a few years ago at an SCBWI conference. Now we both publish with Bloomsbury/Walker, among other houses. Her Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. was an E.B. White Read Aloud award winner, and I'm already hearing good buzz about her upcoming Sugar and Ice. We promoted each other's books as easily as we could talk up our own, and that was tons of fun.

I dressed in a prison suit as Cody Mack, the hero of the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys, which was pretty weird, but Kate brought an actual beaver along, so I don't feel very self-conscious about my sartorial oddities. Here's a short video of the festival. These photos, BTW, above and below, were mooched from Kate's blog.

I got to see many wonderful author friends there, including Peggy Thomas, Elizabeth Bluemle, and Michelle Knudsen. Next year, if I'm lucky enough to come back, I'll make sure to eat more food with more authors. That's my new resolve. But my resolve du jour is to do less eating altogether ... ugh.

Now I'm back home, and the V.I.P. treatment has dwindled a notch, but there's no place I'd rather be. I visited the Russell Street School in Littleton and Merriam Elementary School in Acton, both yesterday, and there will be more events to come, though not with same machine-gun rapidity of the last few weeks. I'm happy not to live out of a suitcase. I keep thinking back, though, on how lucky I am that books give me an excuse to visit nearly all the places where I have dear ones, and reconnect with them in ways that otherwise might not be possible. I couldn't name you all by name on this blog, but if I got to see you this fall, I'm the lucky one. Please keep in touch.

And for all you bookstores who hosted me, and for hundreds of others who keep books alive in towns large and small, this one's for you. Here's today's humor column in the Metrowest Daily News. It's my small, inadequate way of saying thanks.