Category: Travel

Thoughts from a Book Tour

I’ve been traveling quite a bit, off and on, over the last month or so. I visited several cities, a few amazing bookstores, and numerous schools. The people I meet often wonder what a book tour is like. Some people assume it’s glamorous, and on occasion it does kind of feel that way. Some people assume it’s exhausting, and it can be. Some people figure it’s probably not all it’s cracked up to be, and that’s true, too. It’s all of those things, and I love it. But here is the important thing to remember: I am very, very lucky to be given the opportunity.

There are a lot of authors whose publishers don’t support them or their work in that way. Marketing budgets are limited, choices are made, and it is not always fair. I’ve been on both sides of those decisions. I’ve toured for some of my books, and I’ve had little to no publisher support for others, so I feel very fortunate and grateful when I’m given the opportunity to get out there and meet fans and readers. I try very hard not to take that for granted, because who knows when I’ll have that opportunity again. I try very hard to remember the times I didn’t travel anywhere, and I think about the writers I admire who should probably be out there on the road instead of me. When I visit bookstores on tour, I make a point to mention the books I love by other writers to the booksellers and readers. If I have room in my luggage, I buy books by other writers from those bookstores. I talk to kids about other writers and other books, because in the end, it’s all about turning young readers into life-long readers. It’s about making better humans, and books are perfect tools for that. If my being in a school, a library, or a bookstore can help build that excitement in young readers, then I’m honored to be given that chance, and I will always do my best.

P.S. A book tour wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication of an amazing publicist. They work tirelessly behind the scenes (and after-hours) to make sure book tours are as successful as they can possibly be. I’ve been so lucky to work with Lauren Felsenstein Bonifacius and Emma Brockway. Now I work with Monica Palenzuela, and if you ever get the chance to make candles with her, don’t pass it up.

Finally, a post about my book tour!

Hey, everyone! I just thought I would poke my head up from writing and post something I’ve been meaning to put up on the blog for a while.

Back in September and October I spent about three and a half weeks on the road, touring for The Lost Kingdom and Cave of Wonders: Infinity Ring Book 5, and I’ve been getting a lot of requests from people for a report. So, I’m here to report that it was spectacular and awesome and a heck of a lot of fun. I traveled quite literally from coast to coast, dipping my toes in both the Atlantic and Pacific (while suffering geographic whiplash to such a degree I actually got the two confused – “which ocean is this?” – for a few moments).

The tour kicked off in Washington D.C. for the National Book Festival. I’d never been before, and the sheer size and scope of the event was a little overwhelming. I got to attend a cocktail reception held in the Library of Congress, a place I’d never been before, and the book nerd in me got pretty excited. Plus, it was fancy:

Reception at the Library of Congress.

And I got to see Thomas Jefferson’s library:

Thomas Jefferson's library

And the main reading room:

The main reading room at the Library of Congress

There may be video of the talk I gave somewhere online. I’m not sure, but here’s a picture of me speaking. Based on my gesture in this image, it’s clearly all about ME.

Speaking at the National Book Festival

Just kidding. Really, it’s not, and I learned that following my talk. During the Q&A, a woman named Lisa approached the microphone and wanted to tell a story. It turned out that she was a writer, but had struggled with a lack of confidence in pursuing that dream. She found Icefall as her father was battling cancer, and Solveig inspired her to find her voice and tell her stories. After her father passed away, as a promise to him and to herself, Lisa buried him with a copy of Icefall.

I was speechless at the end of this story. I felt tears coming to my eyes. I had no idea what to say or do. Really, I just wanted to give Lisa a hug. This is not the kind of effect I think about when I’m writing a story and putting it out there. I have no idea how or if a story might touch someone’s life when I’m writing it, and I take absolutely no credit if it does. That’s the beauty of this job. We come together, reader and writer, and we share an experience with a story, and most of the time I don’t know what that experience has been for the reader. But every once in a while, a moment of beauty transpires in which I see that connection, and I get to feel some of it. I’m so humbled and grateful to Lisa for stepping up to the microphone to share it.

I wanted to talk more with her, but the schedule was so tight, they whisked me away on a golf cart before I could find her in the crowd. We went to my signing, where I met lots of wonderful fans and readers.

Signing at the National Book Festival

I also had the chance to hang out in the green room with friends old and new.

Kathryn Erskine, Jon Scieszka, Lisa McMann, and me

I also spent a day signing stock with Mark Teague, Kathryn Erskine, and Tamora Pierce, and they were great company.

Kathryn Laskie, Mark Teague, me, and Tamora Pierce

From Washington D.C., I traveled to Philadelphia for a few days of school visits and bookstore events. I’d never been there before, and I had a couple of missions I’d set for myself. The first was to visit the historic home and gardens of John Bartram, father of Billy (William) Bartram, the main character in The Lost Kingdom. The second thing I wanted to do was eat an actual Philly cheesesteak. The latter I accomplished right away, at which time I learned you can order your cheesesteak with provolone, American, or “whiz”. I did not order the whiz, but in retrospect, I wish I had.

In Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Krisy from the Doylestown Bookshop took me to the inexplicable and utterly fantastic Mercer Museum, or as I like to call it, the Temple of the Triumphant Hoarder. I love places that make me feel as though I have stepped directly into someone’s psyche (Salt Lake City folks can experience this with our own Gilgal Gardens), and that’s what this place was. I mean, check this out. He built it out of poured concrete, with no architectural plans. It was all just in his head.

The Mercer Museum, or as I like to call it, Temple of the Triumphant Hoarder.

Inside this temple, he housed his collection of crap. Well, at the time it was crap. Just ordinary, everyday stuff that other people looked at and wondered just what was wrong with this Mercer guy for collecting it. But nowadays, all that crap has historical significance and we can call this hoarder’s mother lode a museum. I highly urge you to go check it out if you’re in the area.

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It was also in Pennsylvania that I had the most exciting school visit I’ve ever had. I was in the multi-purpose room, and I’d set up my laptop with the projector. The kids were filing in, and it was go-time, but just then the principal came on the loudspeaker and announced that we needed to evacuate the building for a gas leak, and this was not a drill. So we all filed out of the building into a cloud of sulfurous gas, across the soccer field, to the school’s evacuation site, which was a Church of the Nazarene. Once there, I decided it might help distract the kids if I still gave my presentation, so I offered. The staff took me up on it, so there in the church, without my slides or even a microphone, I gave a talk to what was now the entire school, rather than just the upper grades. I have to say, it went really well, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have another school visit experience that can top it.

From Philly, I went to Boston, another city I’d never visited. I loved it. The history buff in me was seriously geeking out. I stayed in the hotel where they invented the Boston Cream Pie and Parker House rolls…

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…across the street from the King’s Chapel

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…just down the road from the Granary Burying Ground and Boston Common.

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This is Chloe, a 6 month old Bernese Mountain Dog. I met her while walking through Boston Common, and she and I became instant friends.

One afternoon, I met fellow writer and foodie friend Ammi-Joan Paquette for lunch in Harvard Square, where I ate my first lobster roll (but not my last!), and afterward I walked across the Harvard campus to the Peabody Museum. Jaime Richardson of sophistimom had told me about the glass flowers, and I had to see them for myself. They amazed me in a way that left me doubting what I was seeing.

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These are made ENTIRELY OF GLASS.

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For realz. ALL OF IT IS GLASS.

Boston concluded the east coast leg of my tour. From there, I went to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and then to Nashville, but I think I’ll cover those in another post. Hopefully soon.

Okay, back to work on the book! I’m currently writing the second installment in my Quantum League series. The first book comes out this month on the 28th. I’ll be doing an event that evening with The King’s English in Salt Lake City, so please come. In the meantime, there’s a giveaway of the book running over at goodreads. Hop on over to enter!

 

The Quantum League cover reveal!

Over the weekend, the lovely Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 kindly hosted the cover reveal for my next middle grade project, The Quantum League. It’s a magical crime saga that I’ve talked about a bit before. I’m really excited for it, and I’m happy to now put the cover up here:

quantum_league

What do you think? I think it is made entirely of awesome, and it incorporates a lot of the book into it. My thanks and appreciation to the talented artist, Jason Chan. To see more of his work, check out his site.

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So, Disneyworld. If you’re planning to go at some point, might I suggest timing your visit with a tropical storm? I was in Florida teaching at a regional SCBWI workshop. The workshop was great. I taught the fantasy class with agent Joe Monti, and it turns out he and I share considerable brain real estate – similar tastes in fiction, similar approaches to writing and books. And we both have a deep and abiding love for Ursula K. Le Guin, something that pretty much guarantees my friendship.

While I was there, I took advantage of the fact that the conference was held inside Disneyworld, and made my way over to the Magic Kingdom. The day’s rain had already started, but I never once considered bailing (pun not intended, although there was a lot of rain). I just bought an over-priced poncho and went for it, and let me tell you, tropical storms do wonders for clearing crowds. The funny thing is, I didn’t actually know it was a tropical storm until the day was almost over, and people were texting me, “Hey, are you okay? There’s a tropical storm going on.” The place was a ghost town. I don’t think I waited longer than 15 minutes for any ride, and I didn’t need fast passes. I mean, look at this:

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“Um, where is everybody? Is there something I don’t know…?”

The storm cleared out by the end of the day, and the crowds piled in, but by then I’d already done everything, and eaten myself silly. I was soaked, and it was awesome.

Then, last week, I taught at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop. I love that conference, and I always will. Steve, my agent, was there on the faculty, and so was Martine Leavitt. It was like a little reunion, and it meant a lot to me. I taught the advanced novel workshop, and my class was amazing. So much talent and creativity. I was honored to look at each of their work, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing their books in stores soon.

In just a few short months, Cave of Wonders and The Lost Kingdom will hit the shelves. My book tour is shaping up, so check back here for details to see if I’m coming to your neck of the woods.

The Edgar! Also, butterflies, a space shuttle, and a really big snake.

photo credit: Rocco Staino, SLJ

As some of you may have heard, last week Icefall won the Edgar Award in the Juvenile Fiction category! I am honestly still a bit stunned. The nomination alone took me completely by surprise, to say nothing of actually winning. But I’m so thrilled and honored, and I’d like to say thank you to the Mystery Writers of America.

I flew to New York City last week for the big banquet, which is a very fancy black-tie event. I actually went out and bought a suit for it, since I didn’t own one. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. The day before the banquet, I participated in a great panel with some of the other Edgar nominees, including Sheela Chari, Maureen Johnson, Todd Strasser, and Tom Angleberger. The topic of the panel was how we write for modern readers, and there were lots of witty and insightful things said by my fellow panelists. And Tom made us all laugh.

Prior to the banquet, we went to a reception for the nominees, and I have to say this part of the night was something I’d been anticipating for months, because Neil Gaiman was a nominee in the short fiction category. I was looking forward to the opportunity to meet him, shake his hand, and say thank you. As I was writing Icefall, I struggled with how to incorporate all the Norse mythology in an organic way. I wanted it to feel integral to the story, an essential part of the whole. And so I studied American Gods, because nobody does myth better than Gaiman. And I’m grateful that I was able to tell him all of that in person.

After the reception, the banquet began. It opened with a personal, videotaped message from John Cusack (who is currently staring as the man himself, Edgar Allan Poe, in the new movie The Raven) which, as a fan of his, I thought was super cool. Then, for the next hour or so, I tried not to think about the award. I just did my best to stay calm, eat my dinner, socialize, and for the most part I succeeded. But as soon as the presenter for my category took the stage, a tidal wave of nerves and heart palpitations crashed over me. And when they called my name, I got up and gave my acceptance speech in a daze. I’m still not exactly sure what I said. I know I quoted Richard Peck (“We write by the light of every book we’ve ever read.”) as a reference to the very bright light Gaiman had shined on me.

In fact, after the banquet I was able to give Neil a copy of Icefall, and that’s something I’ll remember for a long, long time.

During dinner, I was sitting next to School Library Journal’s own Rocco Staino, and he captured a photo and a video of me right after the announcement. He also wrote up a nice article on the event.

Congratulations to all the other nominees. I’m glad I was able to spend time with them, and if you’re looking for good mysteries to read or suggest to kids, I highly recommend every one of their books. (And for a bit more on each of them, try this article from the Christian Science Monitor.)

I also have to take a moment to once again thank my agent, Stephen Fraser, and my editor, Lisa Sandell, as well as Candace Greene and Lauren Felsenstein and all the other wonderful folks at Scholastic who have been so supportive of my career.

And just for fun, some more photos of NYC:

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

The top of the GE Building at Rockefeller Center

A bag-piping busker outside Grand Central Station

The Hayden Planetarium, where my wonderful editor took me to see a show – amazing!

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After the Edgars, I flew to Washington DC for the Malice Domestic conference, where Icefall was nominated for the Agatha Award. My fellow Edgar nominee Shawn Thomas Odyssey and his wife were on the same flight, a flight which had the amazingly good fortune of being on the runway right as the Space Shuttle Enterprise came cruising in on the back of a 747.

Taken by the nice guy next to me, who had the window seat.

The conference itself was a lot of fun. Such a nice group of people. Every person I talked to made me feel welcome, and though I didn’t win the award, I had a great time. Congratulations to the winner, Chris Grabenstein, and all the other nominees.

While in DC, I managed to catch a metro train to the Smithsonian for a couple of hours before my flight out, where they had a couple of new exhibits. The first was of the recently discovered “Titanoboa,” also known as the HOLY-CRAP-IS-THAT-A-SNAKE-boa. Seriously, this 50 foot, 25oo pound monster could strangle just about anything. One of the fact sheets on the creature posed the question, “What did Titanoboa eat?”

The answer?

“Whatever it wanted.”

That's an alligator tail sticking out of its mouth.

The other exhibit I caught was a butterfly atrium, which was one of the most serene and beautiful things I’ve experienced in a long time. They say that watching fish lowers your blood pressure. Well, I think watching butterflies has the same effect.

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And finally, a few more reviews of Icefall from around the web:

Lytherus

sayTaina

Book’em Benj-O

The Book Snitch

Story Snoops

Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Travels, Part 2

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…

Portland

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.

Houston

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.

Denver/Boulder

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.

Chicago

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.

Readers' Theater with (L to R) David Levithan, Sarah Weeks, and Coe Booth

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.

 

 

 

Travels, part 1

I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling recently to promote Icefall. The first trip was to the Baltimore Book Festival in Maryland. Having lived in Maryland for several years, it felt a bit like going home. I stayed near the Inner Harbor, a place I really liked as a kid, especially the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.

The view of the Inner Harbor from my hotel room.

Before my event at the book festival, I went to do some sightseeing. I was particularly interested in exploring the U.S. Sloop-of-War Constellation as research for the novel I’m currently writing. Below are some pictures I took of the ship.

The Captain's cabin.

The next picture is of the Captain’s toilet and bathtub (he even had a view). You really can’t see it, but the bathtub is about the size of a large sink. And this was the only toilet on the ship. The rest of the crew had to use a special place at the bow, or the head, of the ship. Which is where the expression, “hit the head” comes from.

Good aim was apparently a prerequisite for any captain.

Okay, enough bathroom trivia. How about some cannons…

The gun deck.

The Wardroom, or officers' quarters.

An officer's cabin.

While the Captain and his officers stayed in relative comfort, the crew did not. When occupied by sleeping crewmen, their section of the ship was said to become an oven. A really dark and smelly oven.

More comfortable than you might think. Like a hammock in your backyard, only without the sun, the breeze, or any sense of privacy.

The Sick Bay was eye-opening. It had several cases of surgical implements on display, which suggested all kinds of painful things just by their appearance, but were almost exclusively focused on dealing with battle trauma. And back then, the way you dealt with battle trauma was usually amputation. While amputation has become a last resort today, back then it was a first line of defense against infection and death. Amputation saved a lot of lives.

Up on the top deck, they gave us a cannon-firing demonstration, which was pretty cool.

It was loud.

So there I was on this faithfully restored ship, a noble vessel which had been used to combat slavery and had seen many battles, and then over the side I heard this swashbuckling, pirate-y music, and I looked down to see another little ship “sailing” by…

We had a real cannon. They had water guns. We had history, and they had Disneyland. I started chuckling, and so did several people beside me on the Constellation, so I know I wasn’t the only one to appreciate the juxtaposition.

Just to orient you, the windows sticking out from the side are where you'll find the earlier bathtub and toilet.

After I was done exploring the ship, I had enough time to visit the National Aquarium. One of the coolest things I saw there was an exhibit of jellyfish. I can’t think of a more relaxing activity than watching jellyfish undulating in the water. Seriously. I could have stood in front of the glass for hours, man.

The Aquarium also had a 4-D theater.

“There’s a 4th dimension?” I said to myself.  I had never experienced a 4th dimension before, I so bought a ticket to a showing of “Planet Earth: Pole to Pole.” While the theater didn’t let me transcend my limited 3-dimensional awareness, it did blow icy wind and snow in my face during the arctic scenes, fill the air with bubbles for the underwater scenes, jab me in the back when a Great White Shark took out a seal, and shoot water mist in my face as though from an elephant’s trunk. Which is to say, it ended up being pretty fun.

After that I went to the book festival for my event, a steampunk panel with Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, and Eden Unger Bowditch. Kelly and Gavin have recently co-edited an amazing anthology of steampunk short stories, appropriately titled Steampunk!, and Eden has written The Atomic Weight of Secrets. The panel was a lot of fun, and Emma from The Children’s Bookstore did a wonderful job moderating it. I was especially excited to meet Kelly, whose work I have long admired (really, check out her stuff).

Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, & Eden Unger Bowditch listening to me blather. Also, the goggles were because, you know, steampunk.

After the panel I had a lovely dinner with Emma (my publicist for the event), Emma (from the bookstore), Eden, and a really nice bookstore volunteer helping out with the event.

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My next trip was to Denver, Colorado for the annual trade-show of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association.  But before that I paid a school visit to the Hill Campus of Arts and Sciences.  The students were awesome, especially a young man named Isaiah. He had a reading wager going at the time, and I hope he won the bet and earned his free copy of Icefall. After I finished my presentation, I noticed a display for perhaps the greatest science project I’ve ever seen:

My kind of science!

Let’s look a little closer at exactly how this worked…

Step 2.5) Do not laugh.

What were the results?  Funny you should ask…

Clearly, blue Poprocks are the best.

My sponsors for the school visit were the lovely ladies of The Bookies bookstore. After the school visit, they fed me lunch and gave me a little unintended and entertaining tour of Denver before depositing me safely back at the hotel for my event. I participated in the “Author Tea,” along with several other writers, including Utah’s own Ann Cannon and Randall Wright. During the course of the tea, I got to move around to several tables and meet some passionate and wonderful booksellers. After that, the fabulous Roz set up a dinner with folks from The Bookies, The Tattered Cover, and the Boulder Book Store.  Great food and great company.

And that was Denver. More travel coming soon…

Autumn at Sundance

Just some photos from a trip to see the fall leaves at Sundance.  We rode the “scenic lift,” which in the wintertime is a “ski lift.”  At one point the lift passed over a couple of moose, which was pretty cool.  I love autumn, and here in Utah it’s always over much too quickly…

 

 

 

 

 

2011 SCBWI Annual Summer Conference

Earlier this month I went to the annual summer conference of the SCBWI, and I had a wonderful time. It’s always great to catch up with old friends, some of whom I only see once a year at the conference. Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser pulled out all the stops this year in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the SCBWI. The weekend was packed with talks and presentations by such luminaries as Richard Peck, Gary Paulsen, Judy Blume, Norton Juster, David Small, and many, many others. In years past, I’ve always left the conference on a bit of overload, but this year, with the compressed 3-day schedule, it was like mainlining Wisdom and Inspiration. Some of my favorite nuggets below, though perhaps not exact quotes (I’m not the best note-taker).

From Libba Bray:

Sometimes you have to write something wrong to get it right.

Stories need time and patience to find out who they are.

From Laurie Halse Anderson:

You have more control over how you spend your time and energy than you want to admit. You can spend time on things that may make you happy, but also may not make you a writer.

Don’t be a writer. Be writing.

And quoting T.S. Eliot:

Do I dare disturb the universe?

From Richard Peck:

Write not what you know, but what you can find out. Write from observation, not experience.

Unless you find yourself on the page early in life, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places.

There was so much more, but like I said, I’m not the best at getting it all down. Judy Blume was very funny. David Small was poignant. Norton Juster, very clever. And Gary Paulsen could be a professional storyteller. Wait, I think he is.

Publishers Weekly has a write-up on the event here.

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A few early reviews of Icefall have popped up, and you can check them out if you want by following the links below:

Kate Coursey

Hopping Fun Creations

Rogue Librarian

The Freebie Fairy

And I think I mentioned this, but just as reminder, Icefall is available for pre-order: Indiebound|B&N|Amazon

My BEA Report, or, How I Met Hercules

Last week, I had a whirlwind few days in New York City at BookExpo America.  I hadn’t ever been to BEA before, and it was a really great experience.

I took an afternoon flight out of Salt Lake City on Tuesday, and got into NYC close to midnight.  My publicist, Lauren, had arranged for a car to pick me up, which was really nice of her.  My driver was a pretty cool guy. The company he works for does a lot of driving for Scholastic, and he actually once drove J. K Rowling. (I wondered if she had by chance had an owl with her, and if her presence in the back seat had bestowed on his car the ability to fly.)

We’d just barely left the airport when I received a call from Lauren.  There had been a problem with my hotel reservation, but she’d sorted it out and booked me into a different, nicer place.  Now, this is what’s amazing about my publicist.  She was up at midnight, double and triple-checking my hotel reservation, fixing my reservation, making sure I was okay and generally taking care of anything that needed taking care of.  I’ve enjoyed working with her and getting to know her better, and she’s great at what she does.  So thanks, Lauren.

I pretty much crashed right away that night, and Wednesday morning my editor, Lisa Sandell, took me out for breakfast.  It was really nice to see her again, and afterward we went to the Javits Center and did some walking around the BEA floor.  Many publishers were handing out tote bags emblazoned with the covers of their forthcoming titles.  In an act of sheer optimism, I took each and every bag that was offered with the expectation that I would fill them up with buzzed and coveted ARCs.  But for most of the time, there weren’t any ARCs to be had.  And I was just a dude walking around with a bunch of empty bags.  People actually commented (“So, you like bags?”) and I just had to say, “Um.  Yeah.”

One half of the Scholastic booth, borrowed from Scholastic's BEA Flickr stream

But I did pick up quite a few ARCs from the Scholastic booth, most of them both coveted and buzzed.  And I got to meet several fabulous and enthusiastic Scholastic sales reps, including Roz (who I’d met in California last year), Nikki and her husband, Bryan (who I believe are currently experiencing the joys and little messes of a new puppy), and Sue.

That afternoon, Lisa took the stage for the Middle Grade Editor’s Buzz Forum (Publishers Weekly did a write-up on the event here, and despite what it says, from where I was sitting, and judging by all the people who didn’t have chairs, it was standing-room-only.)

Lisa is the third person from the left. And there's a glimpse of the cover of Icefall, too.

Lisa did a wonderful job, if I might brag about her for a moment.  She was articulate, and eloquent, and funny, and putting aside the fact that she was talking about my book, I was proud to say, “She’s my editor.”  (Thanks to my friend, Joanna Volpe, for the photo.)

Then I had a signing, and the turn-out was great.  We actually went over-time, and they had to close the line and turn people away, which I felt a little bad about.  But it was exciting to meet so many book-lovers and fans.

After the signing I went for an early dinner with Lisa and David Levithan.  Over the course of our conversation, I was able to determine that David does, in fact, sleep.  Given his astounding productivity, it was an open question prior to meeting him. Though, I still don’t know how much he sleeps.  But we had a really nice time, and I only put my foot in my mouth once during the meal.  Figuratively, not literally.

Following dinner, I went back to my hotel room and crashed pretty early.  BEA is draining.

The next morning, Thursday, I returned to the Javits Center for my author panel with Lisa McMann (The Unwanteds) and N.D. Wilson (The Dragon’s Tooth).  Ron Hogan, SF reviewer for Shelf Awareness, did a really great job moderating.  He asked some good questions, and my fellow panelists had interesting and thought-provoking answers.  The experience was a lot of fun.

Lisa McMann, me, N.D. Wilson, and Ron Hogan; Photo credit: Shelf Awareness

That same day I had a one of those crazy, out-of-the-blue moments that you never see coming.  I was at the Scholastic booth talking with Lauren about a bunch of cool books coming out, when I looked up and saw Kevin Sorbo walking by.  Yes, Hercules, himself.

Mr. Sorbo was at BEA promoting a new inspirational memoir he’s written about his life and his experience with a severe illness.

Now, I was a fan of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.  It was something of a guilty pleasure, and considering that it was one of the most popular shows in the world at the time, I think it was a lot of people’s guilty pleasure.

So when I saw Kevin Sorbo, I took the opportunity to talk with him.  When he asked what I’d written, I pointed at Icefall and said, “It’s a Viking novel.”

He looked at me and said, “I’m 100% Norwegian.”

“My book takes place in ancient Norway,” I said.

“What age is it written for?” he asked.

“Ages 8 to 12,” I said.

“My 9-year-old is an avid reader,” he said.

At which point, Lauren came over with a book and asked if Mr. Sorbo would like me to sign it for his son.  Which he did.  So I did.

Another surreal publishing moment, that was.  Back when I was watching Hercules on TV, I never would have imagined that one day I’d be signing a book for Kevin Sorbo’s son.  I have to say, these surreal moments are sure a lot of fun.

Later that afternoon, I got to have lunch with Lisa and my agent, Stephen Fraser.  Steve is always such a gentleman – he brought a flower for Lisa –  and we had a very nice time.  We talked about some future projects, some challenges I’d like to take on next, book-wise.  I feel so supported and encouraged with these two in my corner.

After lunch, Lisa and I went to the recording studio to meet with Paul Gagne and Cheryl Smith, who are working on the audiobook for Icefall.  I’d hoped to also get a chance to meet the actress reading the book, but she’d had a schedule change and had already finished and gone back home.  But I was able to sit down and record some bonus material for the audiobook that included a reading from the Poetic Edda.  The funny thing is, even though I’d used all kinds of Nordic names and words while writing Icefall, I had no idea how to actually pronounce any of them.  But thanks to help from Professor Sandra Straubhaar, and a last minute phone call with Jessica Day George, I was able to muddle through.

Following the recording, I went for one last delicious dinner with Lisa.  We went to Ed’s Chowder House, and part-way through the meal Lisa’s husband, Liel, was able to join us.  Good company and good food, and it was sad to say goodbye at the end.  They’ve both become great friends.

I got into a cab.  It was late, and I was tired, and I had planned on calling it a night, but during the cab ride I realized that the Kidlit Drink Night was at a place just a few blocks from my hotel.  So I decided to stop in, and I’m glad I did because it gave me the chance to catch up with my friend, Kate Milford.

After that, I really did call it a night.  Got up early the next morning and went to the airport, only to discover that my plane was delayed.  But James Dashner and I were on the same flight, so we chatted for a bit prior to boarding (his BEA report is here, if you’re interested).  I took my seat, which as it turned out was about as close to First Class as a passenger can get without actually being in First Class.  In fact, if I stretched out my legs, which I was blessedly able to do, my feet were in first class.  So while the rest of me was cramped and uncomfortable, my feet rode in luxury.

And now I’m home, and the school year just ended today, and I’m ready to dig in and write a book.

Thanks to all the great folks at Scholastic who took such good care of me, and helped make my first BEA such a great experience.

BEA – Before

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be going to BEA this year.  Next week, actually.  I’ll be doing some speaking, and also some signing at the Scholastic booth.  I fly in on Tuesday, and on Wednesday my editor, Lisa Sandell, will be talking about my forthcoming novel, Icefall, on the Middle Grade Editors Buzz Panel.  Then on Thursday, I’ll be speaking about Icefall on an author panel.

I’m so excited and grateful for the attention being given to this book.  And I’m also a bit surprised.  As I was writing it, I honestly didn’t know if it was a book anyone would want to publish.  I just knew it was a story that wanted to be told, so I did my best to tell it.  It’s thrilling to me that it’s getting the kind of exposure it is.

While I’m in NYC, I’ll be going into the studio to listen to a recording session with Jenna Lamia, the actress reading the Icefall audiobook, and then I’ll be recording some “bonus content” of my own (more on that later).  I’m also really hoping I can hit the Kidlit Drink Night on Thursday.  We’ll see.  I expect it to be a busy few days, and I look forward to telling you all about the trip when I get back.

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A few interviews with me have appeared in the last couple of weeks.

Utah State University had a nice article in their alumni newsletter here.

And the Deseret News interviewed me and Heather Dixon for an article they ran on the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop, which you can read here.  Most of the workshop classes are full now, but there are a few spots still open, and there’s always the afternoon sessions, too, if you want to register.

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Lastly, a couple more reviews of The Clockwork Three:

BSC Kids

Miss Print