Princeton Teen Book Bash (trip report)
Tips for authors at a multi-author event, such as the Princeton Teen Book Bash:
1) If the event is held south of you, do NOT get on a highway marked "north". (In my defense, the route from where I live on Long Island to the Princeton Public Library does involve one brief stretch of northbound highway. However, I did learn on Saturday that it is important to select the correct brief stretch of northbound highway.)
2) If you decide to decorate a 6-foot table with strings of fake vines because they tie thematically to your book (in which central Massachusetts is overtaken by a massive vegetative growth that happens to be the essence of fairy tales), two strings of vines are sufficient. Otherwise, people will need machetes to reach your table.
Bonus note: If you leave the excess vines at home and decide to store them in a seldom-used playpen, this will confuse the cat.
4) Bring tape. Or safety pins. Or both. (Wind is no friend of your marketing materials...) In a pinch, steal another author's tape. If she spots you, offer candy.
5) Bring a lot of candy. A LOT of candy. (My husband bought four giant bags for me to bring. Way overkill, I thought. I came home with three Hershey's Kisses and two miniature Mr. Goodbars. Free candy + five hours = empty candy bowl. No, I didn't eat it all myself, but I did see Maureen Johnson's Free Monkey sneak a few Smarties.)
6) Wireless mics are cool. So cool that it's worth it to use the mic, even though you know that that means they're recording your voice for a podcast and that your voice when recorded sounds like Minnie Mouse when she was four years old. (I can't begin to tell you how many telemarketers call and ask me, "Can I talk to your mommy?" I never know how to respond. I start to say, "I'm sorry, but she's not here right now," but then I think it's not safe to admit to a stranger over the phone that my mommy isn't home, so I just sputter inarticulately for a while until they either figure it out or go away.)
Anyway, on with the trip report... This past Saturday, I was a guest author at the Princeton Teen Book Bash at the Princeton Public Library in New Jersey. In addition to learning the above useful tips for future events, I had an awesome time. Here's a recap of my day:
Woke early. Really early. Sat up in bed and told myself that I had five minutes until the snooze ran out and the alarm blared. Two minutes later, the alarm blared. Kicked husband. Apologized. Tried to explain why I should have had three more minutes, since two plus three equals five and I was supposed to have five. Husband didn't see what this had to do with my kicking him.
Fast forward a bit... On the drive to Princeton, I listened to the audio book of Circle of Magic: Sandry's Book by Tamora Pierce, recorded by Bruce Coville's company Full Cast Audio. I'd never listened to an audio book before. I didn't think I'd have the patience for audio books, since I'm normally a speed-reader, i.e. I kind of skip over any paragraph longer than a couple sentences (attention span of a goldfish). But it was really excellent. The author narrates, and different actors do all the different voices. Highly recommended.
Anyway, I arrived at Princeton on time, despite a slight north/south issue (see tip #1 above). The librarians and an army of volunteers (all uniformed in matching "Book Bash" T-shirts) were setting up. The organizer of the event, Allison Santos, recognized me, which surprised me, though in retrospect it shouldn't have since she had my author photo and I have... well, the nicest way to phrase it is that I have "memorable" hair. She and her team did an AMAZING job organizing the event. They thought of every detail, even going so far as to arrange for perfect weather (70 and sunny with a light breeze -- see tip #4 for what to do about light breezes). Seriously, they were fantastic.
I popped over into Princeton to say hello to the campus. (I'm an alum so this was a bit of a homecoming for me.) I made a special point to walk in and out of the main gate. (This is me being a rebel. It's a Princeton superstition that if you walk out the front gate before you graduate, you won't graduate. So while at Princeton, most of us wouldn't even walk in the gate for fear that we might stumble and fall backwards out the gate and then be carried away from Princeton by winged monkeys never to return.)
Then I returned to set up my booth and prepare for my reading. My stepbrother (a current Princeton student) came to cheer me on, which was super-nice of him, especially considering it was House Parties weekend at Princeton. (House Parties weekend involves a semi-formal dance, a formal dance, a massive barbecue called "lawn parties," and not a whole lot of sleep.) It was very cool to have him in the audience for my reading.
When it was my turn to read, I did my rendition of chapter ten of INTO THE WILD. I love doing these things. So much fun. The readings were recorded for podcast, so you'll be able to hear it soon (I think) on the Princeton Library website. I'll post the link once I know it's up. I can't promise that I won't sound like Minnie Mouse, though.
For the next four hours, I talked to people. And ate candy. And talked to more people. And ate more candy. Got to chat with some authors that I'd met before but had never seen outside of a bar in New York, such as Daniel Ehrenhaft, Maureen Johnson, Melissa Kantor, E. Lockhart, and Leslie Margolis. (Dan pointed out that I've actually seen him in two bars in New York, which I don't think really disproves my theory that YA authors spend a lot of time in New York bars.) Also, I met several other authors for the first time, including Eireann Corrigan, Robin Friedman, Thu-Huong Ha, Jennifer Anne Kogler, Bob Krech, Wendy Mass, Megan McCafferty, Patricia McCormick, Ned Vizzini, T.K. Welsh, and Marie Lamba (whose family all wore matching T-shirts with her book cover on them -- so cute!). Plus Liza, an editor from Penguin who was standing in for Emily Franklin.
Also got to watch a girl pick up one of my galleys, read the book description, and then turn to her parents and say, "Ooh, this looks so cool! I want this book!" And later a woman came by and said, "I just pre-ordered two copies!" And... I know this is going to sound dorky, especially to any jaded professionals reading this, but it was all so very cool that I nearly cried.