So yeah…I was going to blog about my trip to Chicago while I was there. But that didn’t happen. I ended up spending my evenings reading, chatting with the family etc. You know how it is. I told several people to watch this space because I would definitely post pictures from inside a publisher’s office. And I will still post those…but first I’ll tell about the trip as a whole. It was FABULOUS!
I was treated very well the whole time I was there…I had door-to-door service everywhere I went. I ate very well (Mexican, French, Italian, Vietnamese, and Indian!). Any pretty much anything my little heart desired just magically appeared whenever I needed it…including drinks, pens (because I never seemed to have one when I needed one), and a treadmill and yoga mat in my first hotel room…yes, the hotel ROOM, not just the hotel…and I used them, too!
Thursday was spent with the folks at Albert Whitman. First I got a tour of the place…then I signed some books:
I signed them in the conference room, which is not where they made the decision to do the Buddy Files (they’ve moved offices since then), but they have talked about the series in there!
Then we went for lunch with people from Booklist…downtown Chicago (at a great little French restaurant!), which was very nice. I’m getting better at talking to people I don’t know (thank you, Toastmasters!)…that, or maybe it’s just easier talking to other book people.
That afternoon was Albert Whitman’s fall preview. They had local librarians come in and they showed off their fall list (which looks wonderful, btw…and I’m not just saying that because there are three Iowans on their fall list!) and then I talked a little bit about the connection between my Buddy Files books and my own therapy dog work. This was not a presentation I’d prepared ahead of time…I just talked (again, thank you Toastmasters!). Sometimes it’s easier to just talk than it is to “give a speech.” I go to a lot of book talks…I like to see what’s being published and hear what librarians are excited about. That’s what this was like…it was a book talk, only it was given by the marketing and sales people at publisher’s office rather than librarians. It was so cool to be there for that!
Friday was school visit day. I visited two schools in suburban Chicago. Considering the official pub. date for the first three Buddy Files books is March 1, I would not have expected the kids to have read the books…but they HAD! They were great…really enthusiastic, well prepared. I couldn’t have asked for better schools.
I could have done a better job at the first school, though. I learned two things there: 1) don’t read during a school visit. It kind of slows things down. And it probably isn’t necessary…even if the kids HAVEN’T read the books. My presentation covers what you need to know about the books pretty well. And 2) I still need that darn microphone! I didn’t have one for my first presentation at that school. The good news is I apparently was heard at the back of the room (once again, thank you Toastmasters!), but I felt terribly self-conscious not having it so I know I was not at my best. Things went MUCH better for the second presentation (when I DID have a microphone…) and MUCH better at the second school.
It’s so great to go into a school and see this kind of enthusiasm for my books!
Also, coincidentally, at the second school there was a group of girls who had read my Sliding Into Home in a Mother-Daughter book group. They were older kids, so they weren’t in my session, but they wanted to meet me. So they made refreshments and came down after my presentations to talk, get their books signed etc. They were great…I love talking to book clubs. The kids always have really perceptive questions/comments.
Saturday was the infamous “Anderson’s Author breakfast.” It was held in this huge ballroom (I should have taken pictures)…there was a nice breakfast buffet (it’s always about the food with me…I can tell you everything I ate the whole time I was gone, but I can’t remember to make sure I have a pen with me at all times!)…and I heard speeches by Pam Allyn, Henry Cole, Jordan Sonnenblick (I’m a huge fan of his!), Patricia McKissack, Francoise Mouly, and Richard Peck. In between the presentations it was like “speed dating.” There were two authors at each table (well, there were two authors at MY table) and we talked a little about ourselves and our books, then we moved tables and did it again with a new set of teachers/librarians. The only problem was whenever the other author and I got up to switch tables, people at the next table LEFT! We didn’t take it personally, though…this was a five-hour event and there were no breaks scheduled. None. Zero. Zilch. So if people wanted to go to the bookstore…or even just get up and go to the bathroom, well, if I was a teacher or librarian, I’d do it during the speed dating part of the morning rather than during Richard Peck’s speech, too! But I still managed to talk to a fair number of people…and I handed out my bookmarks and brochures. Every time I spoke to a librarian or a 1st-3rd grade teacher I heard the same thing: “we really need books at this level.” So that makes me feel very positive about what I’m going.
On the way to the airport yesterday, the marketing person at Albert Whitman asked me what was the best part of the trip. I had to laugh because the first thing that popped into my head was “going to your office!” A better author would’ve said something like, “I really appreciated all the opportunities you gave me to make connections and talk to people.” And I did appreciate that. That’s why I was there. But I also appreciated the opportunity to see the office and talk face-to-face with the people who are doing everything they can to help make my series a success. For a lot of authors, the publishing world is this mysterious thing we can hardly wrap our brains around. It’s also a business. A lot of us know that, but probably don’t fully understand that. But behind the business (and the magical curtain) are real people…and it’s nice to spend time with the people I’m working with and get to know them as real people.
Signing 500 books was pretty cool, too…and wow, I really liked that treadmill in the room!
What was the worst part of the trip? I’m not sure there was one…unless it was being away from my husband and teenager. And dog. Don’t forget the dog!!! But it’s worth going away when I can return to a teenager who still hugs his mom (without being asked to), a husband who just spontaneously decided to reorganize cabinets that really needed reorganizing, and an eager dog who waits by the door with his tail wagging.