Saturday, May 19, 2007

Toronto trip and IRA wrap-up

I've been writing this post in between cupcake-making chores. We baked approximately 144 cupcakes, and then tonight had friends over to help decorate them. Our first 48 pictured here, guarded by Chowder:

So, as promised, my Toronto and IRA wrap-up. IRA was great--a bit quiet, as attendance was approximately half as last year's convention, but it was still an active, busy conference. Little, Brown hosted five authors: Marc Brown, Alice Hoffman, J. Patrick Lewis, Tony Abbott, and Peter Brown. I enjoyed the little of Toronto I was able to see--it was my first time there, and I'd like to go back to visit!

This may be a little more detailed than you'd like to read but here goes--everything you ever wanted to know about my trip. This is what my schedule was like:


Evening: Arrive in Toronto. Call my colleagues and go to a cute French Bistro on King Street for dinner. We sit in a heated back courtyard, which is lovely. There's a large party that takes over half of the area--an 18th or 21st birthday party of a girl who arrives wearing a dress and a tiara. Her whole family is there. There's a long "adult" table, a kids' table, and a table with her friends. Towards the end of the night the mother stands up and gives a speech, ending with, "If any of you have funny stories or memories about XXX, now's the time to tell them," at which point my colleague Lisa and I look at each other and then look around and realize that we are now the only two people in the back area who don't belong to the party. I'm tempted to stand up and give a toast.


8:30 am: I meet poet J. Patrick Lewis for the first time. Victoria joins us for breakfast. I order an egg white lobster omelet. Pat is wonderful, funny, warm, comfortable. We'd talked on the phone and emailed, but had never met in person, and I'm glad we had the opportunity to sit down over a meal and get to know one another.

10:00-2:00 pm: Off to the convention center for booth duty. I stack up a pile of Atherton galleys by Patrick Carman. Mark from Just One More Book stops by to introduce himself, and then Mo Willems stops by with his editor to say hi. It turns out the two of them were supposed to meet for an interview, so all three of them quickly disappear together. The Atherton pile also disappears in less than three hours. The booth traffic is light by steady. I enjoy talking about the books to the teachers who come by. I see a few publishing colleagues and chat.
2:30: I grab lunch and then walk the floor for an hour or so, saying hi to authors and editors I know, looking at some of the new books out. I get a copy of the Love, Stargirl galley. Jerry Spinelli had asked a while ago if he could use my name for a character in it. Ah, there I am on the back cover copy. "hot-tempered Alvina"--I like it!

5:00: Back to the hotel to work out before dinner. The hotel gym is very nice, and the treadmills have a tv built in.

6:45: Meet Tony Abbott in the Lobby of our hotel. We grab a cab to our restaurant. Right before we get in the cab, it starts sprinkling. During the 15-minute cab ride, it starts pouring rain. I say, "Wouldn't it be nice if it stopped raining by the time we reached the restaurant?" Tony laughs. We arrive at Chiado, a Portuguese restaurant. Tony steps out first. "It stopped raining!"

Dinner was divine. Wine, cheese, a fresh fig salad, the cod special, dessert and coffee, superb service, great conversation, the whole shebang.


9:30 am: Check work email

10:30: Meet Tony at his session with Laurie Halse Anderson. He talks about how he hates being asked, "So, what's the book about?" because it's such a loaded question, and so difficult to answer. The book is about what the book is about. He talks about the life a book takes after it's published.

12:30: Tony's signing of Firegirl at the booth. Despite the light attendance, there is a steady stream of people. At one point, I notice a large group of Asian kids walk by, see the sign that says, "Now signing: Tony Abbott" and do a double take. They put down their stuff and chatter amongst themselves. I notice that there are two adults mixed into the group. I wonder what their story is--there are rarely children at these conferences. The whole group of them go and buy books and stand in line, and soon Tony is surrounded by the excited group, all holding out their books to be signed, taking pictures. It turns out that they're from Korea, where Tony's Secret of Droon series is a huge hit, and where Firegirl is also to be translated. They had been waiting for his signing at the Scholastic booth when they happened upon our signing.

1:30: J. Patrick Lewis's signing of Tulip at the Bat and Wing Nuts at the booth. Also a nice, steady stream of people. Pat has the best autograph ever--looping big letters in a brown Sharpie. "I see you're not a doctor, " one woman in line commented. Pat laughed. "Actually, I am, " he says, "PhD." She's embarrassed. "Hello Dr. Lewis," she greets him when she reaches the front of the line.

2:30: Peter Brown arrives at the booth. I get a smoothie to go and we walk the show together. It's Peter's first time at a conference, and he's a bit overwhelmed at how big it is and how many books are published. "How does any one book ever get noticed?" He wonders out loud.

We come across Linda Sue Park signing books and I get a copy of Project Mulberry signed and say hi. She says she likes that the show isn't too busy.

4:00: Peter and I meet Mark from Just One More Book (hear my previous podcast interview with him here) for a joint interview about the author-editor relationship. You can hear Peter and my interview here.

4:30: Back to the hotel to check work email, rest, and work out before dinner.

7:00: Dinner at a fabulous Greek seafood restaurant, Mediterra with Peter Brown, coworkers Victoria and Nora, and three kidslit experts. My scallops were so delicious ("Like buttah," Victoria says), as was the dessert called "death by chocolate." Conversation ranged from favorite teachers, to scrotum, to politics.

10:oo pm: Peter and I meet up with one of his friends who lives in Toronto for drinks. Peter's friend is Middle Grade novelist Adrienne Kress, whose first novel, Alex and the Ironic Gentleman will be out this Fall. Coincidentally (more coincidences!), my company participated in the auction for this book. I wasn't the bidding editor, but I was one of the editorial readers, and I loved the book. We don't win the auction, though. A few months later, Peter mentions to me that he met a children's book author and told me the title of her book. "Why does that sound familiar...oh, I read that!" In person, she is chatty and friendly and energetic, and it was fun talking kids' books with the both of them. I also get some recommendations from Adrienne for places to go/see in Toronto.


8:45: Check work email, send my assistant Connie a last-minute description for a novel I'm bringing to our acquisitions meeting next week.

9:15: Meet Peter for breakfast

11:00: Peter Brown's book signing of Chowder and Flight of the Dodo. We get there a little early and Victoria shoos us out of the booth. We do a quick lap around the floor and by the time we get back, a short line has formed. Peter sits down and starts signing. He starts drawing little Chowders (in Chowder) and little Kiwis (in Flight of the Dodo) and the line gets longer. Victoria comes over. "Is he drawing a new book?!" she hisses. "I'll hurry things along" I say. He stops drawing Chowders and Kiwis. The line is still long. Victoria, Nora, and Lisa all give us looks to hurry up. But I like the line--and besides, there have hardly been any lines at the conference. Peter chats it up and gets invited twice to do a school visit in Guam. But we do eventually speed things up. He sells out of books, and we even sell the display copy of Flight of the Dodo. And we had been worried that a Wednesday signing wouldn't be well-attended!

12:30: We have some time to kill before Peter's session with Elise Primavera, and so we do a lap around the session rooms and see that Janet Wong is speaking now, and go in for a bit. She's hilarious. Makes people do yoga, tell stories. We run into Yolanda LeRoy there. We sneak out a bit early to get a snack before Peter's session. Peter suddenly realizes that he doesn't have a copy of any of his books with him, and I realize that we've sold out of books. "Lisa has a copy of Chowder, at least" I say. She had Peter sign a copy to her pug, Frodo. "And we might have the display F&G of The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder..." we go down to check, and yes, both Chowders. But no Flight of the Dodo to be had. "Someone will probably be at your session who bought it today, we can borrow it from them."

We cart a box of Chowder plush (as pictured before guarding the cupcakes) up to the session room. Worried by the Wednesday afternoon session time, we wanted to give people incentive to show up. Elise Primavera and editor Ari from Hyperion are already in the room setting up. A total of ten people show up for the session, a bit pitiful, but we all make the most of it. Elise talks about her new Fred & Anthony series, and Peter talks about how he became a picture book author and illustrator, and the inspiration behind Flight of the Dodo and Chowder. After the talk I see Peter into a cab to the airport. The exhibition hall is now closed.

3:30: Met fellow editor and blogger Stacy Whitman for coffee. It was our first time meeting (well, after a quick hello on Monday) and it was great to learn more about her and her career. We had both interned at the Horn Book.

6:00: I take a trip to Queen St. West to go shopping in the freezing rain before meeting a friend (and former intern who now works for Penguin Canada) in the same neighborhood for dinner. I buy a dress and a bag. We get Korean food--all-you-can-eat BBQ. Delicious. I hadn't had Korean food in a while.

Back in the hotel room I use a hair dryer to dry my jeans and shoes so I can pack them away.

(I rescued a few Chowders to keep me company)


8:30 am: Meet Yolanda for breakfast. The weather is brisk but beautiful, blue sky and fluffy clouds are out after the storm. We take the subway up to the Museum stop to check out a breakfast place called Over Easy Adrienne had recommended. It was perfect. Then we walk around the University of Toronto until I have to leave to catch my flight to Boston.

And that, my friends, is everything you needed to know about my trip to Toronto. Anna and Grace picked me up at the airport in Boston. The cupcakes are all decorated and safely in the car to keep cool. The big party is tomorrow! Aside from making cupcakes, we've been making paper flowers and stuffing goody bags and planning. Over 100 people have RSVPed that they're coming--it should be a fantastic time.

And then Grace flies out to San Antonio on Sunday morning and I return to New York.

Sorry for the terribly long post! More later. It's time for bed.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I've been MIA

Sorry. Busy busy busy. Got back from SF and Seattle, had to pack and move my office, tried to catch up on work (hopeless goal), and then was off to Toronto for the IRA convention (International Reading Association), and am now in Boston--Somerville, to be exact--in Grace's lovely apartment, to celebrate Grace's birthday (we had a lovely birthday dinner last night), and attend her fabulous book party on Saturday. Tomorrow! We're making 100 cupcakes today.

I'll have an IRA wrap-up soon, either here or on the Blue Rose Girls site. Stay tuned...