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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Author publicity events coming up!

First, I wanted to let those of you who are writers and aspiring writers know that you can take part in Rachael Harrie's Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign.  It runs now through October 31, 2011.
In this campaign you can connect with other writers and aspiring writers and work to build each other's online platforms.  This includes increasing your blog and other social media followings and participating in cool challenges and connecting with other people in the same boat.  This is the third one Rachael's hosted and the first one I'll be participating in.  (I would have done it before but I hadn't heard of it yet).  She's only letting people sign up through Aug. 31, so if you're even slightly interested, act now!

Second, Darcy Pattison is hosting Random Acts of Publicity Week, Sept. 6-9, 2011.  The point of this is to help promote your favorite book or author.  To participate, you can do easy but valuable things such as write a review of the book for Amazon (or, ahem, in my case, review the Apple or Android app).  Become a follower of their blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Post a review on your own blog or social media account.  And nominate them to win awesome prizes, like a book marketing consultation.

I am very excited about both of these events.  I would love it if someone would nominate me for some of those marketing consultations.  Just sayin'.  I'll return the favor!  After all, in this business, it pays to help each other out.  You never know which connection will get you closer to publication.  Agreed?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

SCBWI Conference Wrap up AND contest you shouldn't miss

Ok, my mind is beginning to get hazy on what happened in LA.  Two days after I returned, I took a road trip with my husband and young children to Milwaukee and Chicago.  It's been a busy month.  But I promised you more stories, so more stories I shall share, disjointed as they may seem at this point.

First, I'll begin with a super happy photo of my first time behind the author table.  This picture was taken by the insanely talented Angela Matteson.  She's a children's illustrator and I really like her style.  So much that I'm currently trying to think of a story to match to her style so I can ask her to illustrate another book for me for MeeGenius.  (don't worry Sean, I still want to do a PJ Girl sequel with you.  Still working out just the right idea though.  It'll get here.)  Don't hold your breath, Angela.  As Sean will attest, it can take me awhile to formulate and write a new idea.  But when I get it, oh boy, I'll be crossing my fingers that you'll want to work with me.

Notice the lighting in the photo.  Very bright, right?  I told you those lights were shining in my eyes.  One very nice, and tall, gentleman stayed to chat with me for awhile and kindly positioned himself in such a way that the lights didn't blind me for awhile.  My enduring gratitude to you, sir, whoever you are.

Ok, on to other things.  The party for instance.  SCBWI has a tradition of wild costume parties on Saturday night of the conference.  This year's theme, in honor of their 40th Anniversary, was the 40 Winks Pajama Party.  Well, I didn't have to take more than 10 seconds to figure out what I would be wearing.  (Hello, my picture book is titled PAJAMA GIRL!)  I am extraordinarily lucky to have met two wonderful friends at the conference last year who were on board with group costumes so we were the three Pajama Girls.  Thank you so much to Lisa Lamm Aikins and Jody Lamb for not only dressing up with me, but for the awesome fun we had together at the conference.  You ladies are amazing.

Also, thanks to Sean, the coolest illustrator rockin' a viking helmet, for designing the super cute shirts.  Someone even asked me about the shirt because they'd heard of Pajama Girl.  (swoon)  There's buzz, people!  It might be a small mosquito buzz, but it still counts.

So on to the party.  I had been trying, unsuccessfully, that day to meet up with the fabulous author, Christy Raedeke.  Loyal blog readers will know that I interviewed her here last year.  I loved her book, The Prophecy of Days.  I'm really behind in my reading this summer but I'm very excited to read the second book, The Serpents Coil.  I was really looking forward to meeting her in person but it didn't seem like it was going to work out.  So while Jody and I were hanging around near the lobby doors trying to find her, we did run into Ray Veen again.  I'm pretty sure Ray thought Christy was a figment of my imagination but he humored me.  Good sport, that Ray Veen.  Anyway, while we were waiting, we seized the opportunity to chat with Jon Scieszka.  I got a pic. with him the following day that I will insert here for your viewing pleasure.

Yes, Jon is a riot.
Giving up on ever finding Christy, me, Jody and Ray headed toward the food line and mingled like the sociable and cool people we are.  Interestingly enough, we had a conversation with someone (sorry, I told you I was hazy at this point) about how hard it was to find people.  With 1300+ attendees, you'd meet someone cool in a session and say, "Catch ya later" only to never even catch a glimpse of them again.  However, I kept running into Ray and Chris Friden.  Jody and I had met Chris the night before at the member book sale while I was still trying to find my Pajama Girl table.  We'd ran into him periodically throughout the day and would you believe I ran into him again at the pajama party?  Of course you would...because it's true.  Shortly after running into Chris, we found Lisa and the trio of Pajama Girls was complete.  Next, we hit the dance floor because I'm a dancin' queen, and Chris was cuttin' it up out there too.  Once the party had to officially stop we all said our goodbyes and Jody and I headed to the lobby to try our luck at kidlit celeb spotting.  But who did we find?  Go ahead.  Guess.  Yes, it was Chris again!  So we had some drinks and laughed, hysterically, as we told our own crazy stories into the night.  Really, it was some hard core belly laughs.  Tears were involved.  It was good times.  Everyone needs to laugh like that much more often than they do.  Go find someone and share some laughs right now.  The blog will still be here when you get back.  So thank you to Jody and Chris for making me laugh so hard.  I needed it.  That was definitely a high point of the conference for me.

So, the next day, I was knocked out.  Jody and I went down for breakfast.  I was a zombie so I went back to bed for awhile.  Didn't emerge until the Golden Kite luncheon but I felt much better.  Jody went home that night, sad sad.  And as I sat around the lobby, alone, hoping to find someone awesome to talk to, I ran into Ray Veen again.  He too was preparing to head home so we hung out for a bit before I sent him off with a pep talk for conquering LAX and getting safely back home to MI.  (which he did successfully).

Next day was intensives.  Ran into Chris again.  (is there any surprise?)  (actually, a funny aside, every time I type Chris, I accidentally type Christ and have to make sure I take the 'T' off.  Now that I think of it, Chris did wear white a lot...)  Anyway, intensives...I got to work on my query letter with Tina Wexler.  She seems like an awesome person to work with.  She's definitely on my list of agents of query now.  Afternoon was revising your novel with editor Julie Strauss Gabel of Dutton Children's.  I don't think she's interested in anything I write but it was still valuable to hear her perspective.

Afterwards, I hung out in the lobby to see if anyone cool was left and who did I finally get the chance to see?  Why, my BFF Jay Asher!  We'd smiled at each other a few times during the conference but never got a chance to talk so I marched myself over and changed that.  We probably chatted for about 40 minutes.  At one point during our wonderful reunion a guy I recognized but couldn't place came over.  He said a few things to Jay and then turned to me saying, "Have we met?"  I said no so he held out his hand and said, "I'm Arthur."  I said, "Hi, I'm Sarah" but what I was thinking was along the lines of "Holy shit, he's Arthur Levine!"  Arthur Levine is a big deal in children's publishing.  I played it as cool as I could considering I had no idea what to say to the man.  But he didn't hang with us very long.  Whew!  It was a relief to just chill with Jay.  I'm super suave when in the presence of a New York Times bestseller who has sold movie rights for not just that bestselling book, but for the next book that hasn't even come out yet.  Smooth like melted butter.  You betcha.  I'm sure Jay would agree.  At any rate, he knows who I am and he gave me a hug.  Two of them if you really want to know.  No picture this year though because things were too hectic.

So there you have it.  LA 2011 in a nutshell.  I guess this post was a slightly obese nutshell.  Sorry.  But, if you read the title of this post, there's a little more.


Loyal blog readers will also know that I interviewed author, Michael Lawrence here last year.  You'll also recall that I have an overwhelming amount of respect and admiration for the guy.  At this point, I would dare say we're friends.  Anyway, we have embarked on a joint venture to help promote his amazing trilogy, The Aldous Lexicon.  They are available as ebooks now (the print version is out of print which makes me very sad.  Truly, I LOVE those books).  In an effort to keep them in the public eye we've created a Facebook and Twitter page for them under Naia Underwood (she's a character in the trilogy).  Naia is hosting a contest.  Send her a tweet @NaiaUnderwood or respond to her FB status to answer the question, "What would you do if you came face to face with an alternate version of yourself?"  (it happened to her).  Doing either of those things will enter you in a random drawing for a $12 Amazon gift certificate.  Who doesn't want free money for books?  Seriously!  That's all you have to do, but we're already planning future contests and other fun stuff so it would be worth your while to follow her or 'like' her, as the case may be.  This contest is open until Labor Day, Sept. 5, 2011.  Please get entered and spread the word.  You've got nothing to lose!  Ok, that's my plug for Naia.  She's close to my heart so I really hope you'll consider checking out her page.  Off soapbox.

Still dreaming of the Fonz....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More magical moments in LA

You'd think the Henry Winkler moment was enough for one trip wouldn't you?  But no.  There was more!
First, I should mention that previous to the Henry Winkler "HW" moment, the Michigan SCBWI members were going to have lunch together.  However, we couldn't find our entire group so it ended up being just me, Jody, Ray, and Laura.  I give you my 100% personal seal of approval that these people are awesome.  Read their blogs, buy their books, wish you'd had lunch with them too.  They'll be part of the story again later.
Ok, so let's go back to autograph time during the HW moment.  Jody and I were so flustered after having met Henry that we walked right out of the room even though we had books for Norton Juster to sign as well.  Isn't that silly?  Luckily, we remembered and headed over to Norton, who only had a short line because he hadn't spoken at the conference yet.  I handed him my copy of The Dot and the Line, which I'd learned about from a mathematics graduate student at Oxford University years ago.  (that's another series of moments to explore at a later date) So I asked Norton if he was really good at math or what.  He chuckled and explained that he's not good at math but this was meant as a revenge story.  The dot represents a woman, the squiggle represents a disreputable guy Norton didn't like, and the line represents Norton.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you'll just have to read the book.  It's a lot of fun.)  So Norton wrote the book to get back at the squiggle guy.  The moral of the story being, sometimes revenge does pay.
So I had that little moment with Norton Juster but it was fun.
After that, it was time to head over to the SCBWI PAL (published and listed) member book sale, of which I was taking part!  I had dropped off my 300 Pajama Girl postcards that morning and had no idea how the event would be set up.  Last year, it was like a book sale table where you could buy the books and mingle with the authors if they were around.  This year, every author had their own table so it was like your very own author event.  I was thrilled!
Now, I know, I look far from thrilled in this picture.  Why is that?  A number of things.  I was tired, I was hungry and there were amazingly bright lights shining straight into my face.  None of those things made it a particularly comfortable experience but trust me, it was still thrilling.  My first author event! And, as you can see, people actually stopped by to talk to me and take a postcard, which is more than I could have hoped for.  I mostly expected to sit there by myself, feeling sheepish until the event was over but I probably talked to a good 30 people.  When you're a little ebook surrounded by ink and paper, 30 people is a big deal.  So that was definitely a great moment.

Ok, now we can move on to Saturday's first moment.  Imagine, if you will, another author signing event.  This time, David Small and Sarah Stewart are among the signers and I want my copy of The Library signed because it's a beautiful book and every book lover should own it.  David was first.  He signed the book and I told him how I was a librarian and that the very first library I ever worked at had a framed poster of the cover of this book and I thought it was so beautiful.  He seemed politely impressed and passed the book over to his wife, Sarah Stewart, to sign.  Here's where things get good.

Me:  I was just telling David that I'm a librarian and the first library I worked at had a beautiful poster of this up behind their check out desk.
Sarah: (looking up at me from beneath her big brimmed gardening hat) Oh, you're going to make me cry.  It's just such an honor to be married to him.
Me:  (frankly, I don't know if I said anything cuz I'm thinking, "Oh my God, I made Sarah Stewart cry!)
Ok, so I'm a little hazy on the details here but she asked where I was from and said her son had been testing cars in my city and we talked about said city for awhile.  Then she asked if I'd like a postcard of her garden.  Um, yes please.  I'll take whatever you're willing to give me, Sarah Stewart.  So she hands me a postcard of this beautiful, huge, maze garden she has.  Reminded me of something you'd find in Europe.  I took it and exclaimed about how she must spend all her time there...blah blah blah.  And she turns the card over, which has a few bullet points of things for writers.  1. Learn Latin.
    Me:  Ooh!  I took Latin in college.  My professor was a genius, seriously, the most intelligent person I've ever met.
Sarah:  Yes, my Latin professor was a genius too.
Me:  In fact, I took Latin with my husband, while we were dating.  When he finally proposed, he got in touch with our Latin professor and asked him how to say a traditional Roman proposal and he proposed...
Sarah & I together: In Latin!
    At this point, Sarah stood up, tears in her eyes and wrapped me in a huge hug.
    Sarah:  Your husband must be a very special man.
    Me:  Yes, he is.  (starting to cry myself)  He even got 120 floating candles to help with the proposal.

So there we stood, crying and embracing each other.  We said some sort of farewell and I turned back to the line to find Jody standing there.

Jody: (paraphrased) What the heck is going on here?
Me: (still teary) I made Sarah Stewart cry!  She made me cry!  We just had the most beautiful moment!
Jody: (paraphrased) What the hell is up with you and these incredible author moments!  You suck!
Me:  (paraphrased) I know!  I'll meet you in the hall.

So I went to the hall to compose myself.  Ran into Chris (who shall appear again later) and we chit chatted about what went down in day two of autographing until Jody came out and then we headed off for, drumroll, The 40 Winks Pajama Party.  Which is where this selection of moments will say goodbye for now.  We'll pick up again next week with the Pajama Party because I'm going out of town again.  If you get lonely in the meantime, by all means stare at my Henry Winkler picture some more.  It helps me through the day, let me tell you. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A collection of amazing moments

I am home from the SCBWI 40th Anniversary Annual Conference.  It was very different than last year but still an incredible experience.  To try and tell the story this year, I'm going to focus on my most memorable moments from this trip.  Pictures will be forthcoming.  Try to keep your pants on...please.

So, moment #1 came pretty early in the game.  Henry Winkler, aka. the Fonz from Happy Days, was a special guest.  You may not know that he and Lin Oliver, co-founder of SCBWI, write a middle grade series together,  Hank Zipzer.  Henry gave a very emotional and exciting talk about how he and Lin write together and how we should write with passion to please ourselves first.  Let editors reign in the material if they see fit.  That evening, Henry and Lin were signing their books.  Folks, let me tell you, you don't have the opportunity to meet Henry Winkler and walk away from it.  So, my friend Jody and I planned our moment making strategies and got in line to see Henry.  Jody tells it more amusing than I do so I'm stealing her beginning.  Jody was in front of me.  She read Henry's latest book, "I've Never Met an Idiot on the River" and learned that Henry LOVES to fish and he LOVES Montana.  That was going to be her approach and she expected Henry to be delighted that she'd read the book.  Here's what happened:
Jody:  When are you going to Montana?
Henry:  Next week.

End of conversation.  Henry slid the book over for Lin to sign.  Lin, being one of the sweetest women alive asked Jody if she was from Montana...which, she is not.  Things got awkward from there and Jody left the table feeling disappointed and
irritated with the whole experience. 

Now, it was my turn.

I handed my book to Henry, who didn't really look at me and I started with the brilliant little speech I'd come up with while waiting in line.  My moment went a little something like this:

Me:  First, I wanted to tell you that when I was a little girl I was convinced I would marry Fonzie when I grew up.
Henry:  (a teeny tiny chuckle)
Me:  Also, I wanted you to know I absolutely loved your work as Barry Zuckercorn on Arrested Development.
Henry: (glancing up)  Thank you.
Lin jumped in at this point as we discussed a little about the brilliance of Arrested Development, I was so sad when it went off the air, yadda yadda yadda.  I wasn't done with my speech so I pressed on.
Me:  AND I'm a librarian....
Henry: (looking up, I've caught his attention now)
Me: And I love to recommend these books to kids, especially when people have reluctant reader boys, I like to give them these books because they're so great.
Henry:  (reaches out and clasps my hand warmly)  Thank you, Sarah.
Me:  (internally)  HENRY WINKLER IS HOLDING MY HAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Me:  (externally)  Can I take a picture with you?
Henry:  Of course.
So I throw my bags on the floor and run around that table like nobody's business.  I put my arm around Henry's shoulders and, yes, YES, he reaches up and clasps my hand again.  There is photographic evidence.  (I'll add the rest of the photo later, but this part bears close examination anyway, don't you think.)

  I could have gone home happy right then and there.  But you need more moments from me than that.  And there are several.  But we'll take some time to absorb the awesomeness of my Henry Winkler moment.  There will be more posts coming, all in good time.