Tales from the summer–episode #1

Lots happened this summer — book signings, conferences, trips, trade shows, get-togethers with the Class of 2k9. I’ll recap bits and pieces over the next few weeks. But let me start with a real highlight: The Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder dinner at the American Library Assocation Conference in Chicago. This is the big, fancy dinner when the ALA presents these awards as well as the Honor awards (the runners-up). If you remember, the winners are chosen at the ALA conference in January and then jet to make an appearance on the Today Show. But they receive the awards at this dinner, give a speech and generally get oohed and aahed over. I think of it as the Oscars of kids publishing.

And I got to go! I was at the conference to sign/sell Watersmeet and my publisher invited me to the dinner. (I even bought a new dress! Check it out in the photo below; pay close attention to the shoes. I LOVE them and swear that if I EVER win the Newbery — one can and should dream — I will wear these shoes to receive it. Even if I’m 80.)

It’s quite a scene — a real who’s who in publishing/libraries. Lots of networking, glad-handing, conversation. I was very, very flattered because my publisher, Margery Cuyler at Marshall Cavendish, has been in the business for a long time and knows lots and lots of people. She introduced me to some big names, speaking very highly of my book. (The retired head of educational programming at New York public libraries was at our table. To a writer, it’s like meeting Brad Pitt. Trust me.) I felt like Cinderella with a fairy godmother. She’s in the photo with me below. (I love her outfit; it has leaves and greenery all over it and makes me think of the Green Man in Watersmeet. He’s one of my favorite characters, but some of my readers haven’t liked him as much. Hmmmm.)

Of course, most of you know that Neil Gaiman won the Newbery this year for The Graveyard Book. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s very, very cool. His main character, Bod, is so attractive, and the concept — a living child being raised in a graveyard by ghosts — is humorous and touching and unique. Check it out.

And Neil is a very nice guy! Yeah, I met him. (Eeek!) The authors stand in a receiving line after the dinner, late into the evening, and chat with anyone who goes through it. They were exceedingly gracious. Someone took a picture of me, Neil (notice the first name basis?) and my 2k9 BFFs; if I can track it down, I’ll post it. I  also met Jacqueline Woodson (Newbery Honor for After Tupac and D Foster), who has never written a book that has not won an award as far as I can tell; traded stories with the Caldecott winner, Beth Krommes (The House in the Night) who grew up in PA and now lives in NH, opposite of what I’ve done; and raved over Marla Frazee’s shoes (Caldecott Honor for A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever). As seems to be true for all kid authors, these folks were approachable and seemed truly interested in meeting other authors, even newbies like me. I really felt like Cinderella at the ball, but thank goodness, I still have both of my shoes!

Margery Cuyler and I at the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Dinner

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~ by ellenjensenabbott on August 24, 2009.

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