This past weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to head down to Seattle and attend the American Library Association Mid-Winter Meetings & Exhibits in Seattle. My new publisher, Tundra Books, had all kinds of free goodies ready for the throngs of librarians and other book lovers in attendance, including a poster featuring an image from Great Job, Dad!
But before arriving in Seattle, I spent a day in Centralia, Washington to give a presentation at Edison Elementary. Amazingly, I was told that I was the first author to ever visit the school in their known history! The school now has a dedicated group of teachers who are committed to bringing authors and illustrators to the school to help boost the students’ interest in books and literacy (aren’t teachers fabulous?!). The students and teachers gave me an amazing welcome. And for perfect symmetry, it was my first time presenting stateside!
After the presentation, it was back to Seattle. I don’t think I’ll ever complain about Vancouver traffic again after the 4‑hour drive from Centralia to the Westin in downtown Seattle on a Friday afternoon (it was supposed to be a 1.5 hour drive). But the view that greeted me on the 21st floor of the hotel was magnificent.
Then it was off to my book signing at Booth 721 — Tundra Books! I was the first of four Tundra authors to sign at ALAMW19.
The signing session was very gratifying, since it was my first chance to introduce Great Job, Mom! and Great Job, Dad! to the world. The feedback was glowing, which was really exciting. The lineup was steady, and there were no books left by the end of the hour. What was also very heartwarming was the number of librarians who still had affection for Cozy Classics, who told me stories of enjoying the books or giving them to family and friends. It’s great to know that Cozy Classics are still being shared and loved in the world.
The next morning, I had the chance to explore the publisher exhibits. It’s both thrilling and a little daunting (when you’re trying to get your books noticed) to know that there are so many new books on offer each season! But it was an absolute joy to spend the day pouring through books.
Though I had a steady stream of visitors at my signing, the lineup paled in comparison to Ben Clanton’s. All of the books Ben had to give away were accounted for half an hour before his signing officially started! There were more than a few disappointed fans of the Narwhal and Jelly series (including me!) who left empty-handed. I suppose this must be what happens when you have a hit series with over a million books in print. Congratulations Ben! I say with no hint of sarcasm, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!
Up next was fellow Vancouverite Susin Nielson signing copies of her new picture book Princess Puffybottom… and Darryl. She told me a hilarious story about being grilled by a border guard when she drove to Seattle from Vancouver. The border guard seemed suspicious that Susin was actually an author. When the border guard asked what her new book was called, Susin said, “Princess Puffybottom… and Darryl.” The border guard seemed to think the title was so wacky that she couldn’t have made it up, and let Susin through!
Last but certainly not least was Governor-General’s Award nominee John Martz, who was signing copies of his book How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps, which was just released. What you also need to know about John is that he works at Tundra Books as the Art Director. He and his team did a fabulous job with the Great Job books, and I couldn’t be happier with the way they turned out.
Here are a few more highlights from ALAMW19:
The last night I was in Seattle, I had the chance to have dinner at a lovely restaurant called Sitka & Spruce with the Tundra team (Tara Walker, Publisher; John Martz, Art Director; Sylvia Chan, Manager — Marketing & Publicity; and Vikki VanSickle, Associate Director of Marketing & Publicity), as well as Ben and Susin.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t tell that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Tara Walker (pictured below with Ben Clanton), who took a chance on the Great Job books in early 2017 after I had parted ways with my agent (who saw an early iteration of the Great Job books and wasn’t excited by them). I had to call in a big favour with a kidlit friend just to even have a chance to query Tara, but I got Tara’s email and the rest, as they say, is history. If the Great Job books don’t take off, well, that’s on me. But if they do, their success will owe much to Tara’s belief in my work. So, thank you very much, Tara!
I have to say that I was heartened when I arrived back in Vancouver and showed my kids the haul of books I brought back for them. While my son was rummaging through the pile, he whispered to himself, “I love books.” I might be a flawed parent in many respects, but I know I’m doing one thing right — I’m raising a reader!
Finally, I have to tell you that I’m such a book nerd and convention fan that I keep all my lanyards and event badges.
With any luck, I’ll be attending many more ALAs in the future!