TLA 2019 Retrospective

Hi Y’all!
Last week was the Texas Library Association annual conference in Austin, TX. I was invited to sit on a panel and do a book signing.
First was lunch with Kate O’Sullivan, my editor at HMH. She’s far more lovely, friendly, and engaging in person than in email. And I already really loved her. And now I have more of an inkling of how cool she is, too.

(It’s a lot)

Then was my panel:

Children’s Authors Tackle Big Emotions in Picture Books
Location: Room 17 AB, Level 4
Learning about big emotions and how to deal with them is one of the most challenging tasks of childhood. Authors delve into the minds of children with humor, grace, and uncanny accuracy. They speak to the importance of picture books helping children deal with their emotions.

Authors: Galia Bernstein, David Goodner, Jorge & Megan Lacera, Todd Parr, and Jonathan Stutzman

That was a lot of fun. Todd Parr looked completely different than I’d imagined him, because I used to know a guy named Tom Parr, and every time I read Todd Parr’s name, I think of Tom even though they’re totally different people.

Once again, I’m sorry I was late to the panel. Fortunately, it was only a few minutes.

My signing was fun, too. I’m going to be sad if I ever get to the point where signing my books for fans isn’t fun. Librarians are particularly awesome fans. I got to sign GINNY GOBLIN IS NOT ALLOWED TO OPEN THIS BOX, and Disney*Hyperion also brought some of the ARCs for KONDO AND KEZUMI VISIT GIANT ISLAND., which comes out in September. That was totally cool.

A few of you guys asked me if I’d do school visits. I didn’t have enough time to give really good answers. So the new thing I learned from this experience is that when I do professional events I need to make sure I’ve got business cards with me, and I probably need to update my business cards.

To answer that question: Yes, I love school visits. I have a day job, so I don’t have unlimited time, but my boss is pretty flexible so unless I get a lot more popular, I can probably accommodate anyone in the D/FW metroplex. Further away might be a little trickier.

For the rest of this school year, I’ll still do them for free or really cheap because I’m just learning. If I have to travel far, I’ll have to ask for gas money and a hotel room/food if necessary.

Starting in the fall, I’m probably going to have to start charging, but I’m still thinking about how much.

Then I left, except it’s actually impossible to leave Austin at 5 PM, so it was almost 7 before I got out of the city. I’ve faced worse traffic, but only in Houston.

Tucson Festival of Books Retrospective

This past weekend, I was invited to my first big book festival: the Tucson Festival of Books.

TL;DR: it was amazing.

I flew in on Thursday. (That was not amazing, but that’s just flying in modern America.) The TFOB had a driver to meet me at the airport and take me to my hotel. She’d emailed me beforehand to trade descriptions and phone numbers so there’d be no trouble finding each other. This set the tone for how well TFOB takes care of visiting authors.

Friday, I visited the Borton Magnet School to read GINNY GOBLIN IS NOT ALLOWED TO OPEN THIS BOX. That was lots of fun, and they bought me pizza. I also got to sign autographs for some of the kids, which is one of my favorite things. I think school visits in general are one of my favorite perks of being a picture book author.

Saturday was my busy day at the festival. I read GINNY GOBLIN on the Story Blanket, then I had a class on how to find an agent, and then a panel on “decisions in children’s books beyond right and wrong.” TFOB’s amazing organization made it work like a well-oiled machine. They provide every author with a volunteer guide who knows how to find their way around the giant festival. There are two (possibly more) author lounges where you can grab a snack and sit and chat with other authors. Brilliantly, your name tent has your schedule listed on the back so you know which event you’re doing, how long it’s supposed to last, and where you’re supposed to go next.

The only event I’ve done that was this organized was the DFW Writers Conference, and I know the organizers of that. They’re hyper-dedicated to producing the best event possible. High praise, TFOB.

The reading went great. I’ve probably read GINNY GOBLIN aloud to around 500 kids by now, so I’m almost ready to admit it’s pretty good. But just let me tell you, nothing will hit a newbie author with a cold l dose of perspective like being scheduled to read right after Pete the Cat.

I was blown away by the class on finding an agent. The room was packed, and everyone was interested and receptive. TFOB clearly inspires writers as well as readers.

Then I got to be on a panel with James Howe (of Bunnicula fame… and lots of other fame) and Mikela Prevost (whose new book, Let’s Have a Dog Party, could be about me if I were a dog). Our moderator was Desiree Cueto. She was awesome, and neither far more successful author realized my ruse and pulled my mask off like Fred at the end of a Scooby-Doo episode.

I was pleasantly surprised that people showed up for my autograph at the autograph tent. I need to up my autograph game, though. I watched some of the other authors and they do neat stuff I may copy. In particular, I’d like to figure out something really cheap that I could keep at the table with me to autograph for anyone who would like an autograph but can’t afford a book. If you come out to see me, I want to do something nice for you, because I appreciate you. Writers, even more than some other professionals, don’t get to see the results of their labors. We don’t get to take bows or make curtain calls. We don’t get to smooze at gallery openings. Most of us don’t even get a lot of reviews. So someone taking the time to come see me is really special.

Next up is the Texas Library Association conference in April. I’m pretty excited about that, too.