Last week, I flew to Orlando for a couple of publishing events. It would be my first time to exclusively promote my upcoming novel, What Light, which I was very excited about. Coincidentally, some very special people happened to be visiting Orlando at the same time. My cousin Cindy's daughter was competing in a volleyball tournament. They live in California, several hours south of where I live, so we met up on the other side of the country. Another cousin, Michelle, lives in Florida a few hours from Orlando, so even more of the family was able to get together.
A couple years ago, I posted about a YA writing retreat I attended. I wasn't able to attend their retreat last year, but this year they held it in Orlando. Though I couldn't hang out with them as much as last time, I did meet up with the authors for dinner. Kristin Harmel brought make-up bags for everyone, featuring our latest book release. But I've been using mine to carry Sharpies for autographing.
Visiting Orlando so soon after they were hit by horribly violent acts, there was a somberness that--rightfully--crept into conversations. Those attacks weighed on me heavily leading up to my visit, so I went to the makeshift memorials at these sites. Among the flowers, photos, crosses, and candles where Christina Grimmie last sang, a fan taped a handwritten note to a window about the inspiration in Christina's voice, as well as the life she lived.
I drove a couple librarians to the site of the Pulse tragedy. People were crying and praying, in groups and alone. The air was so hot and humid, and the terror of what happened in that small building behind the fence was crushing.
At the ABC Children's Institute, part of the American Booksellers Association, Penguin held a dinner for several independent booksellers from around the country. To celebrate the upcoming releases of The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz and What Light, the menu was styled as if we were dining at Jay & Adam's Evergreen Tavern.
Most of my Orlando events were later in the week at the American Library Association conference. One event was a pizza party attended by many authors and a whole lot of teens. Each author sat at a table-o-teens for several minutes to discuss their latest books, and then moved to the next table-o-teens where the pitch was repeated. During that time, the teens dines and the authors attempted. This is what I'd been able to eat after a few rounds.
My first official signing of What Light was thrilling! I'd been brainstorming and working on this book for over a decade...and now people get to read it! The signing line, which wrapped beyond where I could see it, gave me goosebumps.
Later, when Greg Neri tried to steal my man-purse (I mean, Sharpie container), my wrist held strong!
There were several restrooms marked for men and women around the convention, but this was the first event where I've seen a couple opened as gender-neutral. I was curious as to how people would react. Truly, it was kind of beautiful to see people notice the sign, shrug (if they offered a reaction at all), and head on in to take care of their natural business. After the nearby Pulse tragedy, it felt like an especially huge deal. After having lunch with my author friend Amber Hart and gonna-be author friend Tori Kelley, we wanted to get a pic at the entrance to this ALA awesomeness.
It's always flattering when people fanboy and fangirl while getting an autograph. Myself, I did plenty of fanboying at ALA. I mean...it's Anne M. Martin! Not only is she the author behind The Baby-Sitters Club series, but she's bringing one of my favorite series back-to-life. While I read about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle growing up, today's kids will get to read those same books, but also new ones about her niece, Missy Piggle-Wiggle.
I finally got to meet a friend of some of my author friends, Amy Lukaviks, who writes creepy and scary books. That--be prepared!--is a bucket-list genre for me, too.
I also got to meet a man whose commentaries I always enjoy, Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book. If you don't read Roger, you should!
PIP (People In Publishing) always laugh at me for assuming other PIP won't know who I am. But, whatever! It makes it that much more exciting for me when people do know who I am. Simply asking for a selfie for this blog post, I had a couple of those exciting moments when I met Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)...
...and Kwame Alexander.
Actually, I already knew Kwame knew who I was, but only because of a freak-out fanboy moment I had earlier on Twitter.
Dude. I mean, just...dude!
I took part in another table-hopping pitch fest, but this time with librarians and many more authors. Check out all these story-scribblers!
For my final event before heading to the airport, I had a book signing at a table next to Grace Lin, which allowed me to get another great book signed for my son.
The advance reading copies I came home with, though the authors weren't in Orlando to sign them, were How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, The Best Man by Richard Peck, and One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards.
Books I had signed and personalized to me were Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson, Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, Poppy Mayberry, the Monday by Jennie Brown, The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz, The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles, Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid, The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics, The Homecoming by Stacie Ramey, and The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat.
Books I had signed for my son were Whoosh! by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate, Ling & Ting: Together in All Weather by Grace Lin, Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure by Ann M. Martin and Annie Parnell, and Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton written and illustrated by Don Tate.