This month's tour was incredible. I met the most amazing kids. And the most amazing librarians. And the most amazing booksellers. And the most amazing teachers, parents, writers . . . . I'm not exaggerating. These people were thoughtful, kind, and unbelieveably generous. (And had they not been so incredible, I surely would have collapsed, because book tours are weirdly tiring.) A few photos and highlights:
Breathtaking book display at University Bookstore in Seattle. This is where I got to meet Nancy Pearl, who interviewed me for her Booklust show. Other Seattle highlights: talking with kids at Bush School and Denny Middle School; an amazing lunch with local independent booksellers from Third Place Books, Secret Garden Bookstore, Elliot Bay Books, Queen Anne Ave Books, Liberty Bay Books, and University Bookstore; a memorable night at B&N; and lunch with some of the editors at Amazon (say what you will about corporate policy, this is a truly wonderful group of individual humans).
Here's a bouquet of flowers given to me by students at Willard Middle School in Berkeley (And look at the t-shirts they made for the visit! Can you believe it??). Did I mention that they GREW these flowers themselves? (I love California.) Other SF-area highlights: A visit with the joyful, soulful, and whip-smart girls at Girls' Middle School, where I was hosted by the awesome Walter Mayes, a.k.a. Walter the Giant Storyteller, and a truly great, warm and fun-filled visit with Books, Inc., where I FINALLY got to meet the intensely terrific Jennifer Laughran, a.k.a. Literaticat. (Lots of aliases on the West Coast . . .)
When I visited 57th Street Books in Chicago, there was a Tootsie Pop and a category laid out on every chair. . . also, cookies! This was a wonderful snowy night with bookseller extraordinaire Angela Sherrill, members of the local SCBWI chapter, and an assortment of kids and readers. It was here I met the extraordinary and stupendous James Kennedy, whose writing makes me laugh and laugh (scroll down in his blog for a story about a pretty darn insightful question he asked me -- plus a picture of us!). After the event, I got to have dinner with local bookfolks, one of whom was author Blue Balliett, with whom I instantly fell in love. (At the restaurant, all the servers wore t-shirts that said "Obama Eats Here" on the back). Other Chicago-area highlights included visits to the University of Chicago Lab School, Glenview's Glen Grove School, and the Latin School of Chicago, as well as a terrific evening at Anderson's Bookshop, where the staff and crowd were equally amazing. I was reminded once again that independent-bookstore communities are absolutely vital. I mean it. (That said, I also have to wave at Elaine H. at the B&N in Skokie, where I had my last Chicago event. Elaine is the GM at the store, and she talked to me about growing up in Chicago. Her lead children's bookseller is also pretty special. I remember his passion for books, but not his name.)
Cincinnati!! My visit to Joseph-Beth Booksellers was a memorable evening because it started with a blackout. As in - no lights. Did this stop us? No! We went right ahead with the event, and people actually showed up, driving up to the dark store through snowy streets with no functional traffic lights. I read with one of the booksellers holding a flashlight for me. It felt like an adventure, with lots of talking and laughing in the dark, and when the lights came on an hour or so later, I was almost disappointed. But when they DID come on, I could see these amazing "Try not to land in the broccoli" stickers the staff had made up for my visit, along with all kinds of other special things, such as my broccoli bouquet (above, you see the store mascot, Bob, in attack mode . . .). Other really nice Cincinnati things: meeting booksellers from the Blue Marble and Blue Manatee bookstores, and my visits with the excellent, smart, insightful kids at Nagel Middle School and Summit Country Day School.
Last stop: Boston. This was the only schedule-snafu in the whole trip -- it snowed a lot during my last night in Cincinnati, and my flight to Boston the next morning was delayed. I missed an interview with a literary Bostonian named Smoki Bacon, about whom I'd heard great things. Plus, Smoki and I were going to have lunch together, and I was going to have a chicken-salad sandwich (I'd been asked to place my order two weeks in advance, so this sandwich was really on my mind). I hope to meet Smoki and have that sandwich another time (but not, you know, the same sandwich). Happily, I made it to Boston in time to get to Sprague Elementary School in Wellesley, a beautiful school full of lovely kids, and then to the Wellesley Free Library, for an event sponsored by Wellesley Booksmith and organized by the phenomenal Alison Morris. Alison arranged for me to spend my last morning of the tour at the Tenacre Country Day School, where outstanding librarian Esther Frazee led me to a gorgeous seat by the library fireplace (!). After our discussion (lot of intense talk about writing), the kids presented me with gifts, including a bag lunch for the train ride home. The paper-wrapped sandwich was marked "Jimmy's," and the kids explained that it was just cheese, lettuce and tomato, because Jimmy hadn't let them have any meat (these are book references - sorry!). It was the loveliest possible send-off.
I caught the last Acela out of Boston (the rest were canceled because of a storm), unwrapped my sandwich (which, to my delight, turned out to be a delicious mozzarella-prosciutto-and-basil-on-baguette), and sped through a dreamlike, snowy Connecticut, back to my slushy, beloved New York.