This post has been a long time coming, but I do still want to talk about some of the trips I took last fall. One of the things I’ve loved most about my writing career has been the opportunity to travel, to meet new people and have wonderful experiences I wouldn’t otherwise get to have. So without further ado…
I went for the trade-show of the Pacific Northwest Independent Booksellers Association, and was reminded of what amazing people booksellers are. Seriously, for anyone who likes books, it doesn’t get much better than spending time with people who are passionate about getting them into the hands of readers. As part of my events there, I also got to spend time with Allen Say, whose new Drawing from Memory is absolutely wonderful. Allen, by the way, has the smooth and resonant kind of voice that you can listen to all day. He can be saying anything, really. Kind of like when Oprah asked Anthony Hopkins to read the phone book. While in Portland, I also got to spend time with two friends, Danielle Jones and Kimball Fisher, and it was nice to catch up. Danielle took me to Burgerville, a locally sourced, sustainable, and environmentally conscious restaurant chain, and I think it was the first fast-food I’ve eaten without feeling guilty.
The Tweens Read Book Festival was fantastic. The people in charge did an amazing job organizing, and I think it was a great success for its first year. Plus, I got to hear Richard Peck speak, and that is something for which I will go well out of my way. I’ve heard him speak a couple of times before, and the man blows the roof off every time. I carry around several quotes of his in my head. I think my favorite is, “We write by the light of every book we’ve ever read.” But coming in behind that is a new favorite: “Unless you find yourself early in the pages of a book, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places.” Brilliant. Here’s a video with some pictures of the event.
I’d already been to Denver earlier in the year, but I went back for several school visits over the course of a few days. The whole trip was put together by Boulder Country Day School’s librarian Melinda Elzinga, and she made my first out-of-state school visits an absolute delight. Everything was well-planned and organized, there were no panic moments, and it all came off without a hitch. Well, except for the part where I tripped over my laptop’s power cord and ripped the power-port right out, leaving me without a laptop for my presentations (fortunately, that happened near the end of my trip). I went to several different schools, including Dawson, the Montessori School of Denver, Friends’ School (which wasn’t a Quaker school as I had assumed) and finally a book fair signing for Graland.
They did something really cool at Melinda’s school, where they teach Latin to the upper grades. They had taken several of the Latin phrases from The Clockwork Three and taped them up in the hallways for the students to translate.
Their Latin teacher had also picked up on the fact that I used Medieval Latin in the book instead of classical Latin. That was actually a conscious choice on my part, one of those little details we writers use and wonder if anyone will even notice. But someone did, and that was gratifying. Thanks again to my brother, Josh, a real-life Renaissance Man, for providing the translations.
The only sightseeing I had time for outside the school visits was a tour of the Celestial Seasonings factory in Boulder. That was a lot of fun, in a Willy Wonka kind of way. I mean, they have a Peppermint Room there, and when you walk into it you get hit with this wall of peppermint that you feel in your nose and makes your eyes water. If you’re ever in Boulder, I recommend the tour. I also stopped back by The Bookies and said hello. Love that store.
I went to NCTE for the first time in November. It has a similar vibe to ALA in that it’s an enormous group of people who are all passionate about books and literacy. I was there for five very busy days. The first couple of days I did school visits, and here I would just like to take a moment to say how much I love doing school visits. To begin with, since schools are where I work, I feel right at home in them. And something else my job has done is inoculate me against any fear of a group of kids, even a large group of kids. I actually enjoy the energy of a big assembly with two or three hundred students. I really don’t get nervous at all, and I thank my job as a school psychologist for that. The other great thing about school visits are all the wonderful things students do to make you feel welcome. Like banners and posters…
…and even violin performances!
I hope to keep doing lots more school visits in the future (if you’re interested, feel free to contact me with the link in the sidebar).
At NCTE I was on a panel talking about revision and peer critique. I gave a big shout-out to my own intrepid critique group, and how they help me every week. (Hm. I just realized that I haven’t talked much about them on the blog before. Have to remedy that.) Also on the panel were Kate Messner, Eric Luper, and Linda Urban, moderated by Denise Johnson.
I really appreciated what everyone on the panel had to say, since revision does not come naturally to me. As I said in my remarks, left to my own devices I am far more likely to go chasing after something new and shiny than I am to return to polish something a bit old and tarnished.
Another NCTE event I did was the Scholastic Literary Brunch with Sarah Weeks, Coe Booth, Jeff Hirsch, and Jen Nielsen.
I love this kind of thing because it allows you to hear an author’s words in their own voice, the way they heard them when they wrote them. It adds so much to the experience of their work when I hold their voice in my head as I read. Case in point, once you hear Coe Booth read from one of her novels, you won’t ever read it the same way again. Oh, and also, David Levithan does an absolutely hilarious impression of an attorney.
While in Chicago, I did a signing event at Anderson’s Bookstore with Trent Reedy, Kenneth Oppel, and Gordon Korman. We had a lot of fun, and afterward went out to a cajun restaurant where they seated us right next to the jazz band. It can be hard to carry on a conversation with a trumpet in your ear, but we gave it our best. I had the turtle soup, since I’d written about it in The Clockwork Three without having ever tasted it, and I figured I needed to at least once. I liked it, enough that I’ll order it again if I ever have the chance.
At the recommendation of my driver, I also stopped by with a few friends for some blues one night at Buddy Guy’s Legends. That was a blast.
One last thing before I move on from Chicago. I have to take a moment and talk about the hotel where we stayed, which was the fanciest hotel I’ve ever been in. To illustrate, when I first walked into the bathroom, I noticed a remote control on the counter by the sinks. I’d never seen a remote control in a bathroom, and I had to wonder what it controlled. So I just kind of held it up, hit the “on” button, and looked around. That’s when I noticed the TV come on in the mirror. Yes, a TV came on inside the mirror! I had that thing on the whole time I was getting ready in the morning because, well, if you have a TV in your mirror, how can you not use it?
Also, the room had an Eames Classic, AKA the chair I’d admired for years while watching Frasier.
I took a nap in it.
New York City
The trip to NYC was for Infinity Ring, which I already wrote about briefly after they announced the series. Aside from the stuff I talked about in that post, we got to see a demo of the 3D computer game (awesome!) that will be an integral part of the series, did some promotional photo and video shoots, and spent time with Scholastic’s sales reps. Also, one night David took us all to see Tiger Beat, the YA band fronted by Libba Bray, which was hilarious and a blast.
And I think that about catches me up. I don’t have too much going on for a little while. I’ll be in Boise in April, speaking at the SCBWI conference, and the week after that I think I’ll be back in NYC for the Edgar Awards Banquet. I’ll be sure to let you know how those trips go.