Saturday, November 8, 2008

Summer is Over/Over the Summer

Sallie Wolf, Chris Rettstatt, Jenny Meyerhoff, and Ruth Spiro at Printer's Row

I did do several events in the Chicago area this summer. One fun one was reading Truck Stuck at the Family Fun Tent in Millennium Park one perfect summer day. I wore my bright chartreuse slacks and yellow tie-dyed silk tee shirt. I guess I looked like a bee among the flowers. I read to a nice group of pre-schoolers and their parents. The kids enjoyed the story and the trucks. But I learned through the SCBWI-Illinois list serve of some great ideas that other authors tried. One idea that I can do next year is to walk around the tent 15 minutes before the scheduled reading, introducing myself, my book, and letting people know about the reading. I can hand out my postcards as a reminder. There was a whole group of mostly boys very busy building with Legos and blocks who might well have enjoyed a chance to play with my trucks and listen to my story if they had been aware of the event.

Another fun event was the Printer’s Row Book Fair in June. I was invited to be on a panel of first-time authors of children’s books. Even though Truck Stuck is my second book, I feel like a first-time author. All of these promotional efforts are new to me. The market has changed since 1992, when Peter’s Trucks was published. The technology has changed. I had no website, no blog, and no cheap printing sources in 1992. So I fit very well into that panel. Thank you to Esther Hershenhorn for inviting me to be on the panel she moderated. And thanks also to my fellow SCBWI-Illinois authors—Jenny Meyerhoff, Chris Rettstatt, and Ruth Spiro. Here is how Esther described each of our paths to publication:

Jenny's first book is an early chapter book, a new format for many, to be followed by a YA; Ruth has suffered all sorts of publishing nightmares to realize her Dutton pb [picture book] this August; Sallie's career underscores her belief in herself and her stories; Chris' YA fantasy came to be through some non-traditional means and he's writing with a partner, with a pen name, and with all sorts of media tie-ins.

Doesn’t that make you want to check out everyone’s websites? Esther Hershenhorn, Jenny Meyerhoff, Chris Rettstatt, Ruth Spiro, Sallie Wolf

We discussed our paths to publishing—the ups and downs of getting a story idea from manuscript into printed form. We also shared our dreams that kept us motivated through the thin of the thick and thin of being an author. What surprises were there?

For me, my dream of writing involves a cozy room, a steaming cup of coffee or tea, leisurely scratching away on a pad of paper with a fountain pen in quiet solitude. I never expected to be visiting bookstores for readings, writing promotional material, or keeping a blog on the internet. My original dream of being an author was of a private, serene, slow-paced life. The reality—that there are deadlines, many appointments and dates that take me outside and into the public came as a shock. It is not unpleasant—I have a lot of fun reading my book in public and talking with parents, teachers, and my young audience. But it is not how I pictured the writing life when, in eighth grade, I decided I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books.

Printer’s Row was just an example of what I never pictured when I decided to be a writer. But I had a great time, I met some wonderful people, and I will be going to an Educator’s Tea at the Barnes and Noble in Deer Park because of a contact I made there.

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