Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Coming Home

Thanks for hanging around while I've been gulping sleep and getting used to the 3-hour time change. I've moved slowly this week. I've opened mail and read some of it. I've paid the bills. I've reconnected with family. I've eaten lots of spinach. Saturday I went to the SIBA conference -- the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.

I love SIBA (which used to be SEBA, and then Southern and Southeastern booksellers got together and merged and created SIBA). It's always a great show. Even the 2001 show, just after 9/11, although lower in attendance, understandably, was such a heartfelt show. Thank you, Wanda Jewell, for all you do for southern booksellers and storytellers. I had such a good time.

I was on a panel with some great spirits: Alan Gratz, Gail Giles, and Isabel Gomez-Bassols. Between us we'd written such very different books and I wondered how moderator Betty Jo Harris (from Windows, A Bookshop in Monroe, LA) was going to bring us together.

Betty Jo had done her homework -- she'd read all four books and could cogently talk about them. She took questions from the audience. This is what the audience looked like to most people.

This is what y'all looked like to me:

Kidding, kidding, I could see you just fine. I'm not sure how cogent *I* was, however. Still, I loved meeting booksellers, especially at the signing afterwards, loved hanging with Alan and getting to know him better... I'll never forget the absolute horror I felt when I began reading chapter one of SAMURAI SHORTSTOP and realized that a ritual suicide was about to take place -- be still my heart. I've now got a copy of Alan's new SOMETHING ROTTEN and can't wait to read it.

On the exhibit floor I also snagged a galley of fellow Harcourt author John C. Waugh's new book: ONE MAN GREAT ENOUGH: ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S ROAD TO CIVIL WAR. I've been hooked on Jack's scholarship and writing ever since I met him at SEBA in Ft. Lauderdale in 2002 and read his book about Sara and Richard Pryor, SURVIVING THE CONFEDERACY. Good book. Good writer.

Harcourt has many good books/good writers publishing this season. At ALA in D.C., Harcourt's Geoff Hughes gave me Patricia Hampl's new memoir, THE FLORIST'S DAUGHTER, which I'm eager to jump into. In children's/ya, we have such a rich crop this season! I just opened a box of books I picked out when I was at Harcourt's offices in San Diego last week: Linda Urban's A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT, Gennifer Choldenko's IF A TREE FALLS AT LUNCH PERIOD, K.L. Going's THE GARDEN OF EVE -- I am in such good company this season.

Also picked out for the 7-year-old (and me) the new Chet Gecko mystery by Bruce Hale, HISS ME DEADLY, and the picture books PSSST! by Adam Rex, WHAT WILL FAT CAT SIT ON? by Jan Thomas, and the surreal, gorgeous WHERE THE GIANT SLEEPS by Mem Fox and Vladimir Radunsky. And just as I was leaving the office last week, Morgan Gould gifted me with the EUDORA WELTY biography by Suzanne Marrs, which I have checked out of the library so many times... now I have my own copy, in honor of the dog, Eudora Welty, in THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS.

I'm going to go back and paste links and put labels on posts before I head for Minneapolis on Saturday. I'm curious to compare these different regional booksellers conferences. I've now been to PNBA and SIBA. What's UMBA going to be like (MBA now, Midwest Booksellers Association). I'm doing the Moveable Feast at MBA and I'm going to spend some time with good friend and mentor, Marion Dane Bauer, who has a new book out this season that I hope to snag at MBA: KILLING MISS KITTY AND OTHER SINS. Ha!
I love connecting with good friends on the road. Here's Elisabeth Grant-Gibson of Windows, A Bookshop in Monroe, Louisiana. She's promoting Windows at SIBA (and ALL-STARS -- love the hat), while she also drums up advertising support for the wonderful BOOK REPORT: A scintillating once-a-week, one-hour radio magazine about books, originating live from the KMLB studios in Monroe. Obviously, our photographer, Will Clarke (check out his website for more about THE BOOK REPORT and his books), thought the banner was more important than we were! He's right.

I've kept you long enough. I've been researching all summer and I'm about to plunge into writing a trilogy of novels I've just sold to Harcourt, and I want to tell you all about them. Who grew up in the Sixties? I did. I'm going to be writing all about it in what we're calling THE SIXTIES TRILOGY: THREE NOVELS OF THE 1960s FOR YOUNG READERS. I'll have questions for you and I'll chronicle my writing process here as I travel through the fall to schools and conferences, teaching writing workshops and talking about ALL-STARS, yes, and RUBY and LITTLE BIRD, and FREEDOM SUMMER, but mostly talking about our collective and individual stories and how we find them and tell them. See you on the road.