This has been my longest trip away from home for at least a decade. And considering that I’m about to head off to Savannah in about 20 hours for the writer’s retreat, this will mean that I’ve spent more of this month away from home than at it.
I miss my teapot.
So through the beauty of the internet and uncensored blog posts, you get to hear all about it. Uncut, and with glowing technicolor photographs.
Monday - Leave the house with Lover and Thing 1 and 2 in tow. Drive six hours to Pittsburgh without anyone barfing, peeing in the car, running fellow SUVs off the road, or busting an artery. Through the miracle of tupperware, I manage to eat three meals consisting entirely of blondies and sweet tea.
So, I don’t miss home yet.
Tuesday - Three hour trip from Pittsburgh to Middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania where Thing 1 and Thing 2 assault my mother-in-law. Duffy, my mother-in-law’s little poodle (I keep wanting to type that as poddle, which is a far more interesting word anyway), provides constant entertainment in the form of playing fetch with toys larger than him, eating Thing 1’s toys when she doesn’t pick them up, and humping his favorite stuffed animal. I decide that Duffy would be very useful around our house, as a cautionary tale, if nothing else. He has given real teeth to my threat of “pick up your toys or something bad will happen to them.”
Wednesday - Day spent frolicking and milling in the middle of nowhere. As my blondie tupperware is now distressingly empty, I make chicken and rice soup. Turns out, chicken and rice soup made in Pennsylvania tastes the same as chicken and rice soup made in Virginia. So, I don’t miss home yet.
Thursday - With Lover, drive back to Pittsburgh to fly to New York. (I know, okay? I know). In New York, it is raining, because it is always raining when I come to New York. Attempt to check into Sheraton. Find out that we are in the incorrect Sheraton -- our Sheraton is across the road. Receptionist gives me a look like I am crazy, when they are really the crazy ones for naming one hotel Sheraton New York and the hotel 0.1 miles away Sheraton Manhattan. Note to self: take no lessons from Sheraton on branding.
We then head to Delmonico’s (inventor of Baked Alaska and Eggs Benedict)(I know, these things were invented? I used to think they had been merely handed down along with the Commandments. Two tablets for the Commandments and one extra with recipes for Baked Alaska, Eggs Benedict, and Cookie Dough on it) and had World’s Best Steak with friends who kept us from dying painful tourist deaths in NYC the first time we came. Friends order creamed spinach, which sounds like a vegetable police report but actually turns out to be amazing. Plus, it is only ten hours until BEA, which is what I’ve been waiting for my ENTIRE LIFE.
So, I still don’t miss home yet.
BEA, day one. Friday - The first official event of BEA requires me to meet my Scholastic publicist and several other Scholastic authors at 7:15. In the morning. After staying up late eating creamed spinach. It is physically painful to be awake that early, it’s raining, and I am filled with the awareness that I am going to a convention that will probably not have preservative-free food for me to eat. However, I am sharing a cab with Jane Yolen and so I feel no pain. I manage to avoid fangirling all over her and I’m hopeful that the experience has left her thinking that I’m Nearly Normal.
The first event of the day is the Children’s Book Author’s Breakfast (where breakfast = a basket of bagels and a bunch of plates looking forlorn.) I was told it would be an intimate event (where intimate = five hundred people). I am greeted by a ton of Scholastic types who are all exceptionally bouncy for eight o’clock in the morning. David Levithan, my editor, materializes next to me, also looking very chipper. I deeply suspect that they are all coffee drinkers, as that’s the only kind of caffeine being served at the breakfast. I feel a deep kinship with Jane, a fellow tea-drinker. We are marginalized people, tea-drinkers.
He introduces me to Maureen Johnson, who is the first person I’ve seen who looks like she might be feeling the early morning as much as I am. Sadly, I don’t think this is because she is a tea-drinker. I think she actually had the plague.
Still, I’m in no danger of falling asleep, because it turns out the guest speaker is Julie Andrews. In case you’re wondering, she still looks like Mary Poppins. Also, her voice is beautiful enough that she could read the phone book and I would listen eagerly. In fact, she may have. I only remember a deep sense of well-being and an appreciation for well-articulated words that end with ‘t’. After Julie Andrew, Peter Yarrow appears. As in Peter, Paul & Mary Peter Yarrow. Singing Puff the Magic Dragon. At 9 a.m. I lean over to Editor MixTape and ask him to confirm that I did actually wake up this morning. He confirms that yes, I am really awake.
It was a lot for a girl to take in before tea.
Post-breakfast, I am turned loose to frolic in BEA, which turns out to be difficult, because there are 10,000 other people attempting to frolic as well, and there are elbows and jaws and librarians everywhere. There are also many guys dressed like FBI agents sitting at tables in booths talking about discounts and buzz and other secret things, like where to find tea. I don’t think I have ever seen that many neck-ties under one roof before.
I frolic slowly through the booths to Flux’s booth, where I find my Flux publicist, Marissa, wearing an alien mask (this is a long story involving abduction). Behind her, there are giant posters of BALLAD and LAMENT’s covers and a stack of BALLAD galleys. Normally, these three things would be enough to send me into well-meaning hysterics, but since I’ve already braved Jane Yolen, Maureen Johnson, Julie Andrews, Peter, Paul, & Mary, and alien masks before 10 a.m., I am content to merely point and make goldfish faces in the direction of the posters.
Marissa: “There is a knee high stack of SHIVER galleys downstairs in the Scholastic booth. They’re in a big circle. It looks like a machine gun nest.”
Me: “I have to go.”
So I peel down to the Scholastic booth, finding more friendly Scholastic people and a giant light box of SHIVER’s cover in the Scholastic Audio section. But no galleys. Not one. I am feeling rather put upon until they tell me that the machine gun nest of galleys disappeared by 9:20 (while I was still listening to Julie Andrews read the phone book).
That’s a lot of galleys. I’m thinking of quoting Sally Fields.
But instead, I get to meet Susan Walker of the Midwest Booksellers Association and we chatted about my upcoming visit to the MBA conference this fall, and then I got to go have lunch with Liz, the Borders buyer. This was excellent for two reasons. Firstly, I got to pump her for information on Scott Westerfield’s new steampunk novel, and I also got to eat preservative-free food. Twofer! Oh, and we also talked about SHIVER. And mused about the $8 milkshakes on the menu. What makes a milkshake worth $8? We never found out, as they were out of them.
Then back to the hotel to shower to practice giving my talk for my meeting later. For the record, a hotel shower is the best place to practice speaking, for three big reasons.
1 - No audience, guaranteed.
2 - Unlimited hot water.
3 - Nice boomy, echoey sound to your voice. James Earl Jones must love speaking in the shower.
The meeting went off without a hitch -- I got to meet my Swedish publishers (!) and countless South Americans, all sporting beautiful accents. I also found out that SHIVER is now sold in 17 territories. That’s . . . so surreal.
Afterward, Lover and I head to the Strand and buy books, because of course books are so easy to carry and to transport back home, and then eat dinner at my favorite place in NYC, Spring Street Natural Restaurant. They have these spring rolls that are to die for, and homemade ketchup that I could (and did) eat by itself.
So, I’m still not missing home.
BEA, day two, Saturday - Yay, sleeping in! Yay tea! Then off to the Borders booth to film a video interview. If that sounds nerve-wracking, it was. They did my make-up, turning me into a girl for the occasion, and then we chatted about SHIVER. It was like any other conversation about SHIVER, except in this case all of my sentences were being filmed so that an audience of thousands could later view them and re-view them and pick them apart and wonder if I was having a bad hair day or if I always looked like that and . . .
But it went fine. I think. Only viewing and reviewing will tell.
And then to the most surreal bit of the entire weekend: the signings. First Marissa ushered me to the signing for Flux, which was in the general autographing area. (Where general autographing area = area that looks like airport check-in lines, times 30) I was sort of afraid no one would want any copies of BALLAD and I would be left making polite small talk with the line attendants and staring at Kathy Lee Gifford a few lines away. But instead, as soon as I got there, I could see down the empty aisle to the chain at the end, where there was already a line of people waiting to stampede down the aisle. For me. So I signed BALLADs until we ran out (90 or so of them), getting to meet a few bloggers that I knew and to hear from some people who’d read LAMENT and loved it (squee).
Then my SHIVER signing was right afterwards, but at the Scholastic booth. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect because it was at the booth instead of the autographing area, and plus I knew a bunch of people had already picked up ARCs yesterday. Well, so I get there, and ScholasticAlan (his name just looks better as a compound word) points to a line of about 100 people and says “That’s for you.” Then he riots them and they are all excited and clapping and I consider passing out. But I figure it would be bad form, so I instead walk somewhat unsteadily to my table and proceed to sign 300 SHIVER galleys in about 35 minutes, until they run out as well. I even sign ones for Megan Crewe and Cassandra Clare. There is gushing and emphatic noises and I smile so much my face falls off. Editor MixTape sits next to me for part of it (fielding random autograph requests), as does Andrea Brown, head poobah of my fantastic literary agency, ABLA.
And then it is done. I have met everyone who has ever read a book and signed galleys for half of them, and I have spoken to crowds and shaken hands with Important People and I Have Survived.
I stammer out a bunch of hopefully coherent thanks to Scholastic and Flux for making the entire thing plausible and possible and complete and take off with my husband to a brief dinner and then the hotel room, where I make it about three feet inside the door and fall asleep for two hours. I wake with a craving for cookies and so we prowl New York at 10 p.m. with my rabid desire for carbs overcoming my odious blisters and my husband’s yawning. We find brownies. They are substandard insofar as chocolate and carbs go and I am left dreaming of what wonders I could conjure in my kitchen, given enough cocoa and butter.
Now, I am missing home.
Sunday - Hotel swap! A day to frolic on our own means that we visit the Intrepid (which I mistakenly called the Enterprise at one point, which would be an enormously different kind of tour), then FAO Schwartz, where I'm tempted to buy a stuffed wolf to bring to my SHIVER signings just to be able to say I deducted a stuffed wolf on my taxes, then Central Park, and finally, back to our new hotel room at the Hudson. The Hudson prides itself on a “cruise ship feel” (where cruise ship feel = submarine feel), which involves dark gray paint on all walls, lights only over the door numbers, and hotel rooms with the size and charm of a college dorm room. Don’t get me wrong, I can rough it with the best, but I’m not used to doing it at that price a night.
I am still missing home.
Monday - Back to the airport, back to Pittsburgh, and then back to the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, where the kids still recognize us. No internet access. I am grimly aware that every day that I don’t take care of my e-mails, they will breed at the rate of 60-90 e-mails for every 24 hours.
Tuesday - A day spent critting contest pages, searching for non-preservative-laden food in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, and evading the water guns of Things 1 & 2. Still no internet. If I am quiet, I can hear the rapid, panting breaths of the thousands of unread e-mails now living in my inbox.
Definitely missing home.
Wednesday. A twelve hour drive home to the land of blondies, my teapot, hi-speed internet, my dogs, my cat, and my washing machine. I have about 20 hours to wash all my clothing, repack my stuff, save my Secret Novel onto my laptop, and take off for Savannah.
I’m so making blondies for that trip.