I am back from three weeks of travel. Two weeks were “Vacation”, spent in Spain, touring with my niece and her high school Spanish class. The third week included two author events for Truck Stuck, one in New York City and the other in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I’m doing my best to get national exposure for this book, if not international exposure.
The event in New York City was at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, CMOM, arranged by the publicity department of Charlesbridge. I was the featured author at a Circle Time, a regular part of the schedule at the Playworks exhibit for the youngest children (birth to 4 years old.) Although I was really pleased to be scheduled to read at CMOM, there were some unusual circumstances and communications. My event was scheduled somewhat at the last minute and therefore the bookstore did not have my book in stock. Also, I was told by my publicist at Charlesbridge that she had received an email suggesting that the number of children attending would be too large to accommodate interactive games and activities. It was suggested that I merely read my two truck books (Peter’s Trucks and Truck stuck) and speak to the group. Therefore I did not bring my suitcase full of trucks.
I only brought the big blue truck, the shoebox viaduct (which is falling apart from heavy use), and as a last minute addition, 3 trucks that I bought at a souvenir store on Broadway. Also my backpack. But when I arrived at the Children’s Museum I was told that of course this should be very interactive and it was too bad I had not brought all my trucks.
I chatted with the staff of CMOM and we decided to let the children help me unpack the backpack as a way of making my presentation more interactive.
Exploring the contents of my backpack.
The reading went fine, although I am learning that the contents of my backpack has more meaning for older children. I found these very young children a little reticent—they did not respond to my questions about what was happening on the pages of the books. Everyone sat quietly in his or her care-giver’s lap, and several children were drifting off into naps. There were other children who chose to continue to play at the various exhibits and not join circle time, so the noise level was a bit challenging.
Next time—and I hope there will be a next time, because this is a very fun location—I will know to bring my suitcase full of trucks. But the most important thing I learned is that I should be sure and speak with the contact person at each event and not leave all the communication up to my publicist at Charlesbridge. As I look back on the different events I have had so far I see that the more I took charge of communications, the better prepared I was. Charlesbridge has been great about setting up dates for these events, but it is important for me to follow up and make personal contact as well, before the event.
Three days later I was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with my husband and two boys (Lou, age 29, and Pete, age 26), visiting Chuck’s parents and his sisters’ family for Passover. Hilde, my mother-in-law, had arranged for me to do a reading at the Sioux Falls Barnes & Noble at their regularly scheduled Friday night story hour. Although Hilde had arranged for the date and time, I had taken the initiative to talk to the Community Relations Manager myself, as well as asking Taylor Rogers, at Charlesbridge to send publicity materials and press releases while I was in Spain.
In my phone call with Shelie, the B&N CRM, we decided that I would be in charge of the whole story hour and read Truck Stuck, bring my trucks, have the “balloon” parade, lemonade, and coloring sheets—the whole nine yards. Shelie could not be there that evening, but had left clear instructions for Scott, who oversaw the event, and everything was in order—Shelie had provided crayons, coloring sheets from the materials Charlesbridge provided, and neon blue and pink plastic plates for the “balloon” parade. The café at B&N had been alerted to serve lemonade at the end of the parade.
Barnes & Noble was well-prepared.
I was pretty nervous about this event even though I knew I was really well-prepared. My husband’s entire family was coming, plus friends of my mother-in-law. My husband, my boys—none of my family has ever been to one of these events. At first it seemed as if the family and adults were the main audience, but soon the benches filled with kids ranging in age from about 2 to 9 or 10, mostly younger, a good mix of boys and girls. As I began to share the contents of my backpack, there were lots of questions. “Do you write with a special pen?” Yes I do, I use a fountain pen. “How do you get the colors in your journal?” I pulled out my box of paints. “My mother has paints like those.” They were impressed when I pulled out Bel Canto, the little toy horse that I carry with me when I’m traveling. She is a toy from when I was about 9, making her almost 50 years old. (link to the little horse blog) One little girl raised her hand. “I have two horses,” she said.
I started to read Truck Stuck. The kids were very responsive as I asked them what was going on with the lemonade stand. As I began to read the text one boy asked “What’s an exterminator?” (one of the trucks mentioned in the book.) I explained that if you have bugs in your house the exterminator will make them go away. The little girl with the two (toy) horses raised her hand again. “My grandmother has lots of bugs in her house.” What can you say to that? I suggested that she call the exterminator to get rid of them. I love that girl. I wondered if her grandmother was in the audience.
My sister-in-law joked that I was a Goth children's author in this outfit.
These kids were great, enjoying the story, the pictures, and all the trucks. The balloon parade got off to a slow start, but then everyone joined in, even my family. I suggested we sing (to the tune of “The wheels on the bus”)—“The wheels on the truck are stuck, stuck, stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck. The wheels on the truck are stuck, stuck, stuck, Under the viaduct.” We made up several verses and marched through the stacks of children’s books, then returned to the benches to enjoy lemonade, color and play with the trucks. The trucks were the hit of the evening. I signed books and we got a photo taken of the entire Wolf family. I’m not sure we’ve ever been able to get everyone in one photo before.
All in all, it was a great event. I had fun and my family got to see me in action, and the kids were really responsive and engaged in the activities. I must be learning something.