Sunday, September 12, 2010

Princeton Children's Book Festival

Children's book authors are totally weird and I am proud to be one.

I'm not one to put much stock into astrological signs (can everyone born in late August and most of September be doggedly loyal and hyper-organized? How is that possible?) but I do believe that I possess many qualities that gel with the stereotype of a Virgo--I like to be organized and prepared and on time.

So wait, you say, Amy, you're a Virgo? Did we miss your birthday? Actually no, it's WEDNESDAY. MY BIRTHDAY IS WEDNESDAY. This has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but I think it's important for the whole entire world to know. MY BIRTHDAY IS ON SEPTEMBER 15th, WHICH IS WEDNESDAY.

So...preparedness! I was, in some ways, prepared for the festival. Before we went on tour I'd received a letter that made some things very clear--

Each author or illustrator will be assigned one 6' foot table under our tents. Tents will be arranged by color and your location is included in this package. This space is entirely your own for the afternoon, so please feel free to personalize the area with anything you would like to use for display purposes.

When I was in the first grade, Mrs. Bronstien gave me my first homework assignment. I don't know what the assignment was (probably something involving calculus or maybe coloring something in) but I do remember her saying, "Anyone who wants to do this can, but you don't have to" and that pretty much ruined me for homework for life. If you tell me that I don't have to do something, then I'm going to think that it doesn't need doing. Despite all Virgoian instincts, if given the option to be lazy, I'm probably going to take it.

Six feet of table space is a whole lot of space. This became terrifyingly clear to me the moment that I arrived at my big yellow table. All around me, authors and illustrators were constructing elaborately decorated displays to promote their books and setting out dishes of individually-wrapped pieces of chocolate to lure in readers, and I was afloat in a sea of yellow tablecloth. This was bad.

A girl approached my table. "Hi," she said, "I'm Taryn, and I'm your volunteer for the day. Do you need any help with anything?"

"YES!!!" I roared, whipping out my sketchbook and starting to draw. "I'm going to draw and ink this in. You are going to erase my pencil marks and color in the drawings. Cool?"

Taryn's eyes widened. All of the other volunteers were sort of wandering around or getting cups of water for their authors. "Yes!" She squeaked, and I threw an eraser to her. Sure, I hadn't prepared with decorations, but I had my art supplies and I was prepared to decorate. I churned out drawings of Julie, Lydia, a monster alien with a book, another monster alien with a book, and two vases of flowers. Taryn erased like she'd been born with a Staedtler Mars White Plastic in her hand and then ran off to find tape and more Sharpies. In an hour we had quite possibly the most beautiful table in the entire festival.

Taryn and me and our mind-bogglingly beautiful table.

I tell myself that I'm going to be better prepared next time--we'll see. But our solution worked pretty well, and a lot of kids stopped by the booth to have me sign their new copies of The Popularity Papers, so our excessive use of Princeton Library tape was not for nothing.

A blue-tongued reader checks out her freshly-signed copy of The Popularity Papers.

And so ends this streak of book events that I've been on. My next event (that I know of) is on September 24th in Lee, Massachusetts, where I won't forget to bring my camera (like I did on Friday when I went to Lititz--I love you, Aaron's Books! Also, the town of Lititz smells like chocolate. I like Lititz) and I'll be at the Ocean County Library in Tom's River, NJ, for Bookfest on the 25th.

Until then, I've got some actual authorin' to do. It will be really nice to just sit at my drafting table to draw--it's been a while. Unless we're counting the decorations at the Princeton Children's Book Festival...

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