Friday, September 21, 2007

Okay, Now I'm Ready... Je suis Prete

... or, "Voila!" as Finesse Schotz says in THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS. A little nap, a big bath, and all's well. My ankles still look like they should be wearing medical pantyhose, but other than that, I'm ready to go again.

Yesterday was a time! I was running late, as I never remember to build in extra time to pack to leave a hotel. I rushed to check out of my downtown San Francisco hotel, I dashed through the open front doors, ran for the curb, and I leaped into... the wrong black car. "Hey!" yelled Carol Starling, my driver, "I'm down here!" Oh. THAT black car.

It's hard to keep up with what car, what city, what wallet. I left my cell phone on the bed in my Jackson, Mississippi hotel and didn't discover it was missing until I was through with breakfast downstairs. My phone had gone to the laundry. I was lucky; it hadn't yet been washed, and I recovered it. I left my WRITER'S NOTEBOOK at Hicklebees yesterday. I called Brett this morning and before I could even ask, he said, "We've got your notebook. I put it with the books you bought and we'll send it to your home address."
The books I bought at Hicklebees (remember I am asking independent booksellers to hand-sell me titles for my grandkids: a 12-year-old boy, a 7-year-old girl, and an almost toddler): FAIRY HAVEN AND THE QUEST FOR THE WAND by Gail Carson Levine and David Christiana; the first IVY & BEAN book by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall; THE ALPHABET ROOM by Sara Pinto; THE FISH IN ROOM 11 by Heather Dyer; and CAPTAIN HOOK: THE ADVENTURES OF A NOTORIOUS YOUTH by J.V. Hart (with a terrific cover by Bret Helquist). I can't wait to open this box when I arrive home -- it's so interesting, the different tastes of booksellers, and the different picks they make when I tell them what I'm looking for. I'm loving this expedition.

I'm loving the book tour expedition as well. Two schools yesterday: Discovery Charter School in San Jose and Green Valley Elementary in Danville.

Lots of construction at Green Valley. 4th- and 5th-graders and I come together in a portable classroom with a serviceable microphone and we have a great time -- most of them know LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, some of them know the next book-club pick, EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS, and I talk about both of those book as well as ALL-STARS. I talk about the three Deborah Wiles' "Rules for Writing Well" -- 1. keep a notebook. 2. take your notebook to your writing place and BIC -- put your butt in the chair and write, write, write SOMETHING. STAY THERE until you have that sloppy copy of something, and 3. revise, revise, revise.

At THE STORYTELLER, I am charmed! Linda Higham and her staff are so enthusiastic, as are the teachers and students from Aurora School (Aurora School!) and Lafayette Elementary School... I just go on and on.

And on. Oh, I am having a high old time, and everyone is coming right along with me.

Linda has to crinkle a bag in the background to get my attention... and still I read on. Haha!

"We have TWELVE MINUTES to get all these books signed!" says Linda when it's over. She barks instructions, and kids hop-to, and guess what? We get it done. Excellent staff handle this book sale, excellent Linda, excellent teachers and students!

Readers, readers, readers!!!

Here's the staff at The Storyteller, along with driver Carol and moi. Linda Higham is in the red, on the left.
Carol and I dash across the street for a sandwich we can take in the car and hightail it to San Jose.

At Discovery Charter School, students are waiting for us in the classroom. Valerie Lewis, owner of Hicklebees Bookstore in San Jose, is reading from LITTLE BIRD as I walk in the door.

I talk about RUBY and LITTLE BIRD, and Valerie tells me I have 12 minutes to finish... I think she says "until 12-'til, and so I go on in my lackadaisical fashion until I have only 2 minutes left to talk about ALL-STARS. But the good news is that, once I begin, a teacher at Discovery begins to heckle me. "*I* was in love with Sandy Koufax!" she says. "He was going to marry me!"

"Sorry!" I say. "I had first dibs!" And back and forth we go as students laugh and we come to the conclusion that, since Sandy didn't marry either one of us, neither of us is right. Sigh.
At Hicklebees, right after school, we have the most cozy crowd of the book tour so far. We also have lots of pre-sold books to sign. Such devoted readers, and even more important, such devoted Hicklebees fans. Folks just wander in and out of Hicklebees for their book fix, and Valerie greets each one of them personally. In the early '80s, when Hicklebees relocated across and up the street in San Jose, Valerie invited customers to come help them move... and they did. Customers boxed up books, heaved them into the big red firetruck parked out front, and then hauled them out of the truck and into the new storefront.

I can hardly describe Hicklebees to you -- you'll have to go and see for yourself, see all the one-of-a-kind art on the walls -- collage and memorabilia figure prominently, the clocks are amazing, and the bathroom walls and doors are decorated by all the writers and illustrators who have visited... including me.

In 2005, EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS was the Hicklebees Book of the Year -- such a high honor, book of the year! Here's a fuzzy photo of a Snowberger's handerchief and the Book-of-the-Year seal!

After an appetizer supper at a next-door restaurant with Valerie and driver Carol, it's goodbyes all around as Carol takes me to the San Jose airport for my flight to Seattle. Thanks, Carol, for everything. Especially the hot dog. Thanks, Valerie, for the conversation, and for working so hard with your staff to set up a fabulous signing time. Below: Carol, Valerie, me.

And thanks to Hicklebees and Storyteller for such a wonderful day.

Today at PNBA -- Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association -- in Seattle, where I signed books for a half-hour, I met Harcourt rep John Huber.

John gifted me with the following Harcourt new books/galleys: THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX by Maggie O'Farrell; A SLAVE NO MORE by David W. Blight; THE WHISTLING SEASON (new in paperback) by Ivan Doig, and THE KONKANS by Tony D'Souza. Can't wait to dive into these. I'm gathering a library on this tour! Thanks to John and rep George Carroll, for befriending me at PNBA, where I met-up with friend and fellow author Deborah Hopkinson, who was also signing, and who will be my driver tonight -- when we go to dinner at Chauni Haslet's, and tomorrow when we go Chauni's store, ALL FOR KIDS in Seattle, and to Bellingham, Washington, to Village Books. I hope we can drive up along the coast for that hour-plus trip. I'm going to catch a nap right now, before tonight's do.