Monday, September 24, 2007

Sleep Deprived in Seattle

Sunday morning breakfast at Pike Place Market: Fish throwers, fresh doughnuts, piano player on the corner, cut flowers and tourists at every turn, cheese making, incense burning, and wind-up toy heaven.

Here's my breakfast partner, Logan, my grandson, that 12-year-old boy I've been on a book search for. Haven't seen Logan... in six years. There's a story here I'll tell one day, but not today. Today is for celebrating!

I am struck by Logan's uncanny resemblance to my son, Jason, and I am grateful to Logan's mother, Shawna, for making this morning possible for us. It felt so good to be in one another's company!

I'm also struck by how Logan reads labels on the back of his Pom, talks vegetables (because we are ordering grilled cheese sandwiches from Beechers and no salad because we are going to eat in the car), and oh, how voraciously he reads. He has already read the Captain Hook book I bought at Hicklebees. "Now you can read it!" he says. Okay! I will.
It feels good to be in Seattle, a place I have worked in before but have never visited. I remember when this space needle was constructed for the World's Fair in 1961 and how much I wanted to go see it. My father, the Air Force pilot, got to go to Seattle that year and reported back on how tall the needle was -- 605 feet. Was it the tallest structure in the world at that point? Or the U.S.?

I am missing home today, and Jim, my new husband. Jim's dad was in the Navy and Jim lived near water most of his growing-up life -- here's some water for Jim, right behind Pike Place Market. Is this the Port of Seattle? The shipyard? A bridge being built? Please advise, those of you who know.

I know what THIS is: GIG! No matter where we are, when Jim hears outdoor music, he says, "Gig!" and rushes to find it. Jim gigs for a living -- he's a piano player, a great jazz man. And when I see this piano player, I think of Jim, gigging all over Atlanta, in restaurants, at corporate events, in nursing homes, at weddings, both solo and with his band. Jim looks great in a tux. Jim looks great in the garden. Jim looks great.... nevermind.

We are having too much Sunday morning fun.

After a call to Driver Jan to ask her to meet us at Third Place Books, we careen (good driving, Shawna) to Third Place together, our lunches on our laps (Logan reads a Pendragon book through the traffic) and puff ourselves through the front door to hang out and read from ALL-STARS, sign books, peruse the children's department with Logan -- can't wait for this.

I've got a dedicated group waiting for me at Third Place Books, including Kirby Larson, who pops in for a hug - thanks so much, Kirby. Other authors know how much it means to see a familiar face and what comfort a hug from a friend can be.

Here are Cheryl (left), events planner at Third Place, and Judy, children's buyer and manager. They make me feel immediately at home -- Judy even made cupcakes for the event. Good cupcakes. I love Third Place: "the deliberate and intentional creation of a community of book lovers." Yes, it is.

I read from all three novels. I tell the story of how I came to write these stories about Mississippi, about how much I wanted to be a writer and how long it took for me to write something that an editor would reply to with, "I really like this; are you willing to work on it?" Well, yes, I am.

I choose a mish-mash with ALL-STARS: first chapter, abridged, and the rules for "How to Hit the Ball." Should I just stick with ALL-STARS and briefly mention RUBY and LITTLE BIRD? I'm still trying to figure it out. Would love some feedback from those of you with opinions, especially those of you who have heard me read already on this tour. What works best for the audience? What do you come to hear?
Here is Judy, hand-selling Logan a new book. He settles on THE SEEMS: The Glitch in Sleep by John Hulme and Michael Wexler. I love watching Judy work; love watching Logan deciding. Judy also sells me books for my 7-year-old and toddler grandgirls in Maryland: The SPIDERWICK Field Guide, WHERE'S SPOT in board book, BARNYARD DANCE in oversized board book, and FAIRY DUST AND THE QUEST FOR THE EGG (Remember, I picked up FAIRY HAVEN at Hicklebees, on Valerie's recommendation; here is the first book in this series). Cheryl says, "Would you like to have it autographed? Gail Carson Levine is here later this week..." Oh, yes, please! "For Olivia," I say.

"We've got to go," says Driver Jan. "My plane leaves at five!" I protest. "No, your plane leaves at four!" says Jan. Oh. Sob! Just as I'm getting started, I have to leave. I promise to return -- to see Logan and Shawna and Seattle and Third Place. Logan and Shawna will come to Atlanta next spring, for Jim's and my family wedding ceremony and to celebrate Hannah's college graduation. Hugs all around, and cheerful goodbyes, but as soon as I'm in the car with Jan, I'm overwhelmed and burst into tears. It has been such an emotional morning. A good morning filled with stories. And I love Third Place Books.

Jan gets me to the airport in good time -- she has kept me on task, and she has done it with great humor and peacefulness (an essential for a good media escort, especially as she's driving through traffic and her author is sobbing). All's well, though, all's well...
As I settle into the short ride on the little Horizon Air prop that's hopping me from Seattle to Portland, I gaze out the window and gape in wonder. I turn to my seatmate. "May I be obnoxious and get my camera from under the seat? There's a mountain out there."

I am in love with the Pacific Northwest.

And with Portland! I arrive at suppertime. My escort you will meet tomorrow. On my itinerary, under "media escort" for Portland, Harcourt has written: "Dependable Cousin Marcia."

Marcia drops me at Bread and Ink, where I have supper with some of my best beloveds: I am "in country." Here are writer friends Eric Kimmel, moi, Ellen Howard, Susan Fletcher, Eric's wife Doris, and David Gifaldi. We all teach or have taught in the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children Program. But tonight we are not teachers. We are friends. And we have us a little love fest, yes we do.

Lovefest today: Children's Place Books at 10am, stock signing at Powell's at 1pm. Then I hop a plane for Orange County, California. Out into the day I go, grateful and a bit (honestly, a lot) disheveled. When you see me, just pretend I have everything on right-side out.