Friday, July 19, 2013

ALA Annual, Chicago, June 29-July 1.

I was lucky to attend the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago, IL June 29-July 1. It was my first ALA trip. Big thanks go to Penguin’s school and library marketing team for this opportunity to meet so many librarians and discuss All the Truth That’s In Me.

YALSA panel w/ DJ MacHale & Holly Sloan
My first event was an informal pizza lunch with the YALSA Teen Advisory Board which included a panel with DJ MacHale (author of thriller Sylo) and Holly Goldberg Sloan (author of Counting By 7s). The YALSA Teen Advisory Board is made up of avid, smart, passionate teen readers who give input on galleys for publishers and take part in YALSA Teen Feedback Sessions at ALA conferences. How cool is that? I would have LOVED to be part of something like this at their age.  

They peppered us with great questions.  Q: Do you use an outline when you write? DJ: Definitely.  Holly: No way.  Me: Sometimes? Q: When you write, do you actually think about the themes and symbolism in your story? DJ: No! Holly: No! Me: Uh … sometimes?
With Hannah @her WONDER SHOW signing

After the panel, I met up with my friend Hannah Barnaby, author of Wonder Show, at a new franchise restaurant called Freshii. I hope Freshii finds its way to Boston soon. Loved their healthy-organic-nerdy-type food. Yum! 

Holly Sloan enchants Blue Ribbon guests
That evening I attended a Penguin Blue Ribbon Author Dinner at Bristol Restaurant. Oliver Jeffers (illustrator of #1 NYT Bestseller The Day the Crayons Quit), Holly Sloan and I spoke to a great group of librarians. Oliver was witty and charming, of course, with an accent that slayed all us ladies. Holly was scintillating as ever, and then I got up. Never go last! To meet more people, Oliver, Holly and I switched seats twice throughout the evening. I apologize to anyone whose water I inadvertently drank.
Coffee Klatching w/ YALSA librarians

Next morning, I attended the YALSA Coffee Klatch – a speed-dating event for authors and librarians. Imagine a huge banquet hall filled with round tables, eight librarians at each one. Each author takes a number, sits at that table, talks up his or her book for four minutes, then goes to the next table when the bell rings and starts over.  I ended up at the wrong tables twice. Hearing about new books doesn’t get old for these superstar teen librarians. I’m grateful they’re the ones keeping the reading torch lit for teens nationwide.

Andrea Pinkney and Brian Pinkney 
After that I roamed the trade show floor. I couldn’t resist buying Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney for my boys – a beautiful and necessary book. I also bumped into several author friends including Sarah Aronson, Carol Brendler, Kelly Barson, Gwenda Bond, Nancy Werlin and her husband Jim McCoy, Tanya Lee Stone, and Jane Kurtz. 

At my signing. 
From 2-3 that afternoon I signed galleys of All the Truth for a long line of new faces, plus some dear friends.            
Tanya Stone, Sarah Aronson, Kelly Barson

That evening, I attended the Newberry Caldecott Wilder Banquet. Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen’s (This is Not My Hat) heartfelt speech made us all part of his family, sharing in his triumph. (He set many hearts in the room a-flutter.) Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan) was funny and poignant. She read from one of her earliest works: a bodice-ripper! Hilarious. Katherine Paterson’s speech on her (richly deserved!) Wilder Lifetime Achievement was a highlight of the evening.
At banquet w/editor Kendra Levin. 

The weekend couldn't end without me embarrassing myself. I met Nathaniel Parker, whom I adore as the voice of Butler in the Artemis Fowl audiobooks. I fangirl-spazzed, and asked him to "talk Butler" to me. (If you've heard it, you know how swoon-worthy it is.) Bless his fuzzy heart, he was a sport about meeting a lunatic like me. 

Thank you, ALA, Penguin, and all of you beautiful librarians for making my weekend in Chicago so much fun! 
Penguin Young Readers Group booth displays All the Truth beautifully. 


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Of Ankles, Sisters, and Bookmarks: A peek inside the sausage factory

I love giving away bookmarks at signings, school visits, and events. I insist on illustrated bookmarks, because beautiful illustrations are one of the chief delights of children’s books. There’s no other artist I’d rather collaborate with for something so personal than my sister, Sally Gardner.

Sally and I worked together on the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series of elementary-age books. We have a long history of being partners in crime. People often ask us what it's like to collaborate as sisters. Do we fight? Does one of us try to be in charge?

We thought we'd answer that question by giving you a little peek into our process, vis a vis bookmarks.

Meet Priscilla the Gargoyle, who sneaks a book by moonlight on a castle tower. This bookwormy gargoyle came about in 2009 after Sally and I put on our branding & marketing hats and brainstormed. This bookmark had to give an idea of who author Julie Berry was, and hint at the flavor of her books. I wanted to convey the magic of books for young people, wrapped up in a lightly historical setting with a touch of whimsy. In particular, I wanted a character in the illustration with whom readers could connect. Gargoyles lurk around castles, and castles evoke fairy tales, long ago adventures, and classic stories. Sally saw that (obviously!) Priscilla needed to read a book. Priscilla has been a perfect mascot and pal over the last four years.

This fall marks the release of my new YA title All the Truth That’s in Me. It’s geared towards teens, and will likely find an adult readership. Priscilla, for all her lovable bookishness, is a little young for this audience. She’s not going away – I’ll still use her with younger readers – but I needed a new bookmark, and a new character, to accompany the release of All the Truth.

We repeated the process we had gone through for Priscilla. I called Sally to brainstorm. Our conversation went something like this:

Julie: I need a new image that won’t be a complete departure from the Priscilla bookmark, but will work with All the Truth and any other YA titles I plan to write. We need a new character. I want it to be illustrated, not like the photo that’s on the cover of All the Truth.

Sally: If you were a brand, what words would describe your personality?

Julie: Okay. If I was a YA author brand, and not a badly-dressed housewife, I would be: Older, teen, romantic, poetic, mystery, intrigue, danger, anticipation, possibilities, optimism, beauty, movement, graceful, dynamic, transitional, sober, soulful, dreams, possible tragedy, love of the past, rootedness. Trees, I love the idea of trees. Forests. They’re archetypal. Ya know?

Sally: Okay. Um. How about this:

Julie: I like the tree! But the figure seems too young. That’s an eleven-year-old girl’s ankle; she’s   playing hide-and-go-seek. I want bigger feelings, more danger. Also, the lettering is too old-timey.

Sally: Okay. Um. How about this:

Julie: We’re getting closer! I like the typeface and the forest. It’s mysterious and bold. I also like having her on a journey into the woods – but can we show a greater sense of urgency? Also, I’m not sure if the girl is a zombie. Is that a cloak, or flesh rotting off her face? Her ankles and feet look weird, like she has cloven hooves. Please don’t take that the wrong way.

Sally: Okay. Um. Showing urgency in a cloaked figure with her back to us seems hard. I don’t have a lot to work with. Um.

At this point Sally decided that she needed to construct a model with a cloak, using a fan to create wind. Turns out it wasn’t helpful, but it is funny. Take a look:

Thus inspired by her artistic rigor, Sally went back to the drawing board. Literally.

Sally: Um. How’s this:

Julie: I love it. Romantic, urgent, mysterious, and not a zombie. Superb ankles! Yay, let’s print it!

So that’s the story of my new bookmark and new character. This adventure-bound girl isn’t from All the Truth or any other novel – like Priscilla, she’s not book-specific. She is a manifestation of all the danger, mystery, and romance that I want my brand to represent. This final bookmark will be available whenever I go to an author event. It’s been a little too much fun to develop it, and I hope you enjoy it as much as Sally and I do! As always, if you'd like a bookmark, mail me a S.A.S.E. (self-addressed stamped envelope) and I'll send you one. Address is PO Box 23, Stow, MA, 01775. 

Find more of Sally’s illustration online at