Thursday, September 27, 2007

Follow the Yellow Book Road to the Land of Harcourt

I was going to title this post "I am worried about my cleavage," but that just wouldn't be appropriate, would it? I was on television Wednesday morning and... well... I write books for children, I'm representing children's books, I wore red so I wouldn't look like a cadaver. I didn't think about my cleavage. This is what it has come to, on the road. It's all about the cleavage.

I *would* like to point out that I left only one thing behind yesterday, but it was recovered. I want to say that right off the bat. I didn't leave it at the teevee station. I didn't leave it at Yellow Book Road. I left it at... but wait, I'm gettin' ahead of myself, left me back up.

No, I can't back up. I can hardly make a sentence this morning. I've been on the road for most of the month of September and today I'm going home. No bookstores, no libraries, no schools, no nuthin' but a five-hour plane ride in first class. First Class. I was upgraded last night; Delta Airlines must have been alerted: "She has worked so hard! Let's give her a comfy ride home."

Yesterday morning at this time I was getting ready for publicist Tricia Van Dockum to pick me up at my San Diego hotel and drive me to the Fox News station for an interview about ALL-STARS. "I haven't read the book," said morning show host Mark Bailey in the green room as I tried not to check my cleavage, "I just got it yesterday, but here's what I'm thinking from reading the pitch letter. I got to thinking of Ken Burns' PBS documentary about baseball. It was full of women talking about how much baseball had meant to them as kids -- Doris Kearns Goodwin was one -- and I'm wondering if women approach baseball not only as a game, but also on some sort of emotional level..."

And men don't?

I'm quickly trying to decide if this is sexist or not; I wonder if my cleavage is prompting his question, but I decide Mark is sincere and wants to find purchase for this book so we can talk about it to an adult audience, and I agree that that's one way to pitch the interview -- the social fabric of baseball culture.

When we're in the studio a little later (no, that's not me with Mark at the news desk) and I'm asked that question, I say that baseball is the American game, and that girls wanted to play, too (and I'm thinking of Karen Blumenthal's wonderful book LET ME PLAY, The Story of Title IX: The Law the Changed the Future of Girls in America -- I know I was influenced by this book when I wrote ALL-STARS).

I say that yes, there was an emotional element to baseball when I was a kid -- I wanted to play! In THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS, Ruby Lavender just wants to play baseball. So did an old man who chose not to play, and another old man who wasn't allowed to play.

I also say that I was in love Sandy Koufax. I think I called him gorgeous. There are all kinds of emotions in baseball.
Tricia hands me off to Kia Neri at breakfast. At Yellow Book Road we encounter another sea of students -- 4th graders, all. And I run smack into my team! Here they are, lurking in the aisles, and then gathered together for a photo. This is the children's marketing/publicity team at Harcourt that put together this amazing tour and took me on the road, that shepherds each season of Harcourt books for children. I am indebted to them in ways I well know, and in ways I can't imagine. Barb Fisch says, "We saw you on television!"

How was my cleavage? Let it go, Deb.

During a Q&A after my presentation, a student asks me how I make the finished story into a book and get it into the store. I refer him to the people in the baseball shirts and tell him that it takes a village to make a book, and that these folks -- along with readers -- are the real stars. I mean it most sincerely.

I meet readers and sign books and stock while owner Mary Hayward sells me Marla Frazee's WALK ON for my toddler grandgirl and TOYS GO OUT by Emily Jenkins and Paul Zelinsky for the 7-year-old.
I say goodbye to Mary and Bud and Yellow Book Road and dash to Harcourt's downtown offices with Kia -- we are expected for lunch. After a quick hello to publisher Dan Farley -- is it live or is it Memorex? --
we take ourselves to Dakota, where I get to meet Steve Hamilton and Roseleigh Navarre, the IT folks who set up this blogging tour with me. I am ever-so-grateful -- look at the memories I've been able to capture, thanks to Steve and Roseleigh... I would never have figured this out on my own.

And here we are, the whole gang, telling tour stories and laughing ourselves through lunch -- "I come from a family with a lot of fabulous people," to misquote Comfort Snowberger. Here are some of them. It is so, so good to see them again. Thank you, thank you, thank you, every one of you, for... everything.

I almost leave my camera on the bread plate but remember it. I do leave my shawl under the table, and we have to go back and grab it before the Warwick's signing after lunch. But we do, we get to Warwicks in La Jolla, we sign stock (okay, I sign it), and I meet Janet and Adrian, pictured below.

What a fantastic store. Janet and Barbara (not pictured) worked at The White Rabbit, a beloved children's book store in La Jolla that everyone still misses keenly. I'm so glad they've brought their expertise to 111-year-old Warwicks -- I could have listened to the book conversation for hours.

Purchased at Warwicks: A CD by Pink Martini called "Hang on Little Tomato" -- this was my impulse buy at the register. Also, BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson for the toddler, AIRBORN by Kenneth Oppal and THE ALCHEMYST (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott for the 12-year-old, TALENTED CLEMENTINE by Sara Pennypacker for the 7-year-old, and LEAVES by David Ezra Stein, for me because I am enchanted by it -- you must check it out.

Another handoff and I'm with my agent, Steven Malk, whom I haven't seen in five years, but with whom I've worked since 1999. I've had more reunions on this west-coast tour, and it has been a good thing. A drive to look at the water and a low-key dinner with the shortstop and his team (Hey, Lindsey!) is the perfect way to end the day and this tour.

Now I gaze around this hotel room -- I must pack yet again. But this time I pack for home. I'm taking back much more than I brought with me, of course, as always happens when people travel. I have some books for the plane, a rad soap, a box of zinnia cards (Thank you, Kathy S.), a tin of terrific chocolates with Sandy Koufax's image on the front (Thanks, Jandy), a sunflower from a fan (Hmm.... logistics....), coffee beans and some CDs Cousin Marcia sneaked into my bag (Patty Griffin), and more memories than I can pack into a suitcase.

I won't wrap up here. I still have SIBA, a regional booksellers conference, to attend in Atlanta this weekend. I'll have dinner tonight with my family and with Walter Mayes, as he's working in Atlanta today as I fly home. So I'll see you on the other side of the country. I loved the left coast. I love home. I love stories... I can't make much more sense than that!