NYC: A story of snow, signing, sparkles, & soup dumplings

This weekend’s Books of Wonder signing in Manhattan was one of those author-moments I’ll tuck away and keep for pretty much ever. It was just that special, in part because we made a family weekend of the event, driving down to New York Saturday afternoon. We actually stayed here…

…in a tiny bed & breakfast that a delightful artist runs out of her three-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side. The place was beautifully decorated, cost about a third of what a hotel room would have run on this busy weekend and gave us a view of city life that you don’t get staying at a midtown high rise. Plus, it was only a block from the train, so right after we unloaded the car, we hopped on the subway and headed downtown to see the lights.

We walked to Rockefeller Center in the snow-sleet-rain-slush mix to see the Christmas tree.

It’s a little blurry because I was shivering.

So we hustled a few blocks over to Joe’s Shanghai for some of these soup dumplings that I learned about from Alvina Ling on Twitter.

These are the crab soup dumplings. To eat them, you plop one in a big spoon and sort of nibble a bite out of the top to let the soup inside cool a little bit. Then you can slurp it out and eat the noodle and the rest of the filling. They were delicious and warmed us right up.

Sunday was a day of strolling along Fifth Avenue, checking out the window displays until we made it down to Books of Wonder on 18th Street, where I was signing THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. along with seven other debut authors and their awesome books.

2009 Debut Author Event

MICHELLE ZINK Prophecy of the Sisters
JON SKOVRON Struts and Frets
MEGAN CREWE Give Up the Ghost
SHANI PETROFF Daddy’s Little Angle: Bedeviled #1
KATE MESSNER The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z
NEESHA MEMINGER Shine Coconut Moon
DEVA FAGAN Fortune’s Folly

My family actually ran into Deva Fagan, the author of FORTUNE’S FOLLY, at City Bakery right before the event, so we walked over to the bookstore together and were greeted at the door with this big, beautiful display.

Here’s Peter Glassman, the man behind the incredible Books of Wonder. He introduced our panel to the audience, and everyone gave a short reading before the Q and A session.

Here’s part of the audience for the panel – and check out the cool children’s book art on the walls!

Here I am with Anna Dalziel, publicist for Bloomsbury/Walker, who wore her autumn leaves shirt just for the occasion. (Thanks, Anna, for coming out to the event on your day off!)

Here’s Anna with Rebecca Stead, whose 2009 novel WHEN YOU REACH ME is one of my all-time favorites.

It was so great to see all the authors who came out for the event (wishing I’d taken more photos!) like Laurie Calkhoven and Heidi R. Kling. I also had a chance to chat with Barry Lyga, whose YA novels I’ve admired for a long time. I’ve said it before, and I thought it a million times this weekend… The people I’ve met through my books are truly one of the best gifts of writing.

Thanks so much to everyone who came out on a busy Sunday for our Books of Wonder event…and know that if you missed it but want a book signed by any of the authors, you can call Books of Wonder (212-989-3270) to order one, and they’ll happily send it your way.

I have to mention two last things.

1. The Book

Books of Wonder has a big, beautiful book of author/illustrator autographs from its events over the years, and we all got to add our notes of thanks. It was pretty cool to be signing a book with Suzanne Collins and Ann Martin just a page or two away…

and 2. The Other Book

The one that my E had signed by Deva at the event. She read it all through dinner.

Thanks, Deva! And thanks to Sarah, Neesha, Michelle, Jon, Megan, Shani, Peter and all the other Books of Wonder people, and everyone who came out for our event. It was an afternoon to remember, for sure.

Dog Ate My Homework (The bookstore…not the excuse!)

I’ve had a bunch of book signings lately, and this weekend’s was special for a few reasons.  First of all, because it was at the fantastic Dog Ate My Homework Bookstore in Glens Falls, a fun, bright store with friendly owners (and a dog named Macy for a mascot!).  Second, because it was a two-author event with my writer friend Eric Luper, whose YA novel BUG BOY set in 1934 Saratoga is one of the best historical novels I’ve ever read.  Here’s a picture of us with bookstore owners Kim & Mike Smith.

From left to right: Mike, me, Eric, Kim

Eric & I read from our books, answered questions, & were then treated to a Dog Ate My Homework tradition – dog-bone thank you gifts from Macy (chocolate chip cookie style!)

This giant, dog-bone shaped cookie was so delicious that by the time we enjoyed dinner out with Eric’s family and drove home, the only thing left was the "Tha…"   But I’ll finish that word… THANKS, Mike & Kim and everyone at Dog Ate My Homework for a great, great afternoon!

A bit of advice for new authors

Helpful tip #1:

It’s probably not a good idea to try out trail running for the first time, on unfamiliar trails, an hour and a half before you need to leave for a book signing.

Even if your son, who just started running cross country and claims to know the trails, really wants you to go with him.

Because if you have fall allergies, there will inevitably be lots of ragweed.  And your asthma will kick in and you will be the wheeziest runner the trails have ever seen.

And then you will probably trip on an invisible root and go flying through the air and land on your stomach with the kind of loud, guttural "Ooomph!" sound that is usually reserved for people falling in cartoons.  And then your legs will look like someone attacked you with sandpaper and you will have to wear the longer skirt to the book signing.

If you ever get there, that is. 

Because when you turn around to run home, you will take the wrong trail, not once, but three times, before you find the right one. You won’t have time to eat lunch, and you will just barely have time to shower really, really fast before you put on the skirt that covers your scraped up legs and get to Lake Placid.  (The good news is that you will be just a minute or two late, but the people at the Bookstore Plus are so, so nice that they will have your table all ready and offer you cold drinks and cookies anyway.)

Helpful tip #2:

If you are ever invited to sign at Bookstore Plus on a glorious Labor Day Weekend, you’ll want to say yes.

I had the best time at this afternoon’s event, despite my burning knees.  Lake Placid was bubbling over with visitors, and they set up a lovely little table outside under the awning for me, right on Main Street.  I spent the afternoon handing out bookmarks, visiting with readers, and signing lots of books, including one for Arabella…

She’s 15 months old, and her mom let me take her photo since she’s officially the youngest person I know of who owns a signed copy of GIANNA Z.  Her grandmother bought it to save for when Arabella is older, a tradition that I absolutely love.

Helpful tip #3:

If you are in Lake Placid signing books or doing anything, really, you should probably have dinner here afterwards.

Tail O’ The Pup BBQ is sort of a legend in the Adirondacks, thanks to their picnic tables, live bands, and killer chicken and ribs.  (Which you will appreciate more than ever…because you didn’t have lunch on account of that trail run, remember?)

Anyway…thanks to the great, great, book-loving people at Bookstore Plus for a fantastic afternoon – and to everyone who dropped by to say hello!

Thank you, Flying Pig Books!

I am officially spoiled. 

Saturday’s presentation & signing at Flying Pig Books in Shelburne, Vermont was absolutely fantastic –  thanks to book-loving store owners Elizabeth & Josie and a whole loft full of enthusiastic kids, parents & grandparents.  Thanks to my husband and kids, too, who came along to help me carry props, set up extra chairs, and serve hardtack!

Flying Pig holds its author events in a big, beautiful room they call The Loft.  It’s a lovely, lovely place for book-talk, with a cathedral ceiling and tons of natural light. 

The kids liked hearing about the “experimental archaeology” parts of my research on 18th century life.  Early blog readers will remember the saga of the powder horns on my roof

I spotted a few familiar faces in the audience.

Author Tanya Lee Stone brought her kids and another kid she borrowed from a neighbor, I think. 

My daughter and I have already planned a return visit to the Flying Pig Loft for June 7th, when Tanya will be there to give a presentation on her new book Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote, which comes out later this month.  I’m impatient for this one!

I’m also looking forward to Tanya’s nonfiction workshop at the New England SCBWI Conference later this week.  She’s giving a two-part session with Charlesbridge editor Yolanda LeRoy.  Talk about a terrific team!

Here’s the downstairs-bookstore part of Flying Pig.  This store has a HUGE focus on kids’ books.  It took me almost an hour to drag E out of this section.

But here’s the very best thing about Flying Pig Books…

            Left to right:  Josie Leavitt, me, Elizabeth Bluemle

Owners Josie Leavitt and Elizabeth Bluemle love books & authors, and like so many folks who run indies, they know their stuff.  They pointed both of my kids to perfect books right away.  E went home with Clementine’s Letter, the new Clementine book from Sara Pennypacker and illustrator Marla Frazee and a signed copy of My Father the  Dog, an outlandishly funny picture book written by the Flying Pig’s own Elizabeth Bluemle and illustrated by Randy Cecil.  J picked up James Paterson’s new Maximum Ride book, The Final Warning.

Thanks, so much, Elizabeth, Josie, and Shelburne readers for a fantastic morning in the loft!

Signing, Skating, & Champlain

Three highlights of my February vacation week!

I signed books and met some fantastic readers at Barnes and Noble in South Burlington, Vermont yesterday afternoon.  Thanks to everyone who came out to pick up copies of Spitfire and say hello.  I was especially happy to meet Marje VanOlsen from the South Burlington Community Library in person. We’ve been emailing for a few weeks, and I’ll be presenting a summer program at her library in July. 

Earlier in the vacation week, my family enjoyed the last weekend of Winterlude in Ottawa.  It’s a fantastic winter festival with outdoor entertainment, ice sculptures, and best of all — skating!

As soon as Ottawa’s Rideau Canal freezes, it turns into the world’s longest skating rink — literally.  Those world record folks at Guinness made it official this year. 

We had a beautiful day and enjoyed the full 7.8 km.  Of course, we did make a few stops along the way — most notably to indulge in a Beaver Tail or two.

If  you’re ever in Ottawa, this decadent delicacy is a must-have.  A beaver tail pastry is a very thin strip of fried dough shaped like, well, the flat tail of a beaver.  It’s dusted with cinnamon and sugar or drizzled with maple syrup (my favorite). 

I even managed to get some work done in between skating and scarfing down pastries.  I’ve been asked to do a couple presentations this spring, talking about my upcoming book Champlain & the Silent One, which comes out next fall.  That means going back to the places where I did some of my research to gather photographs and other resources for my school visits.

Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of Civilization is featuring Samuel de Champlain in an exhibit about people who shaped Canada’s history.

This was especially fun to see…

It’s a navigational tool called an astrolabe, and historians believe it might have belonged to Champlain himself.  According to documents, Champlain lost his astrolabe near a place called Green Lake when he was traveling up the Ottawa River in 1613.  In 1867, a boy named Edward Lee was helping his father clear trees in that area and came upon the instrument pictured above, right where Champlain supposedly dropped it 254 years earlier.

And here’s a quiz for particularly astute blog readers.  Look at this statue of Champlain with his astrolabe at Ottawa’s Nepean point.

There’s something wrong.  Do you know what it is?