Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cartoons and Panels and Fish, Oh My!

This picture doesn't have much to do with the rest of the Miami Book Fair, but it was an awesome sandwich.

One of my biggest fears about coming down to the Miami Book Fair was that I'd make no friends. Mark told me not to worry--I'm a relatively social person, I'd make friends, it would be fine. But I had visions of myself alone in my room crying over my dinner of Nutrigrain bars on a Friday night while all the other authors whooped it up without me.

If there's one thing that I've learned from this trip, it's this: If you're a cartoonist, you'll never walk alone. (Bear with me, it's early in the morning and I'm not working with a whole lot of sleep: my describy powers might be compromised.)

by Amy Ignatow, Cartoonist

1. Go to the hospitality suite. There you will find at least three other cartoonists at all times. This is because cartoonists cannot resist the lure of free food. "BAGELS FOR US!!!" We joyfully exclaim every morning, wide-eyed and gleeful over by the fact that we don't have to pay for our breakfasts.

2. Go to the cartoonist panels. Here you will not only see cartoonists at tables talking about their craft, but also cartoonists in the audience bobbing their heads up and down. Yes, it's true, we nod excitedly to ourselves, we do visualize the image at the same time that we're coming up with the text!

3. Go to the back of the shuttle bus taking authors to an event. The cartoonists will be easy to spot, as we'll all be dressed in jeans and no one will be seated properly (everyone twisted around to face each other instead of looking straight ahead).

Once you find your cartoonists, you'll always be in good company. Cartoonists are the best.

I wish I had taken more pictures of all the amazing people that I met, but my camera was running out of juice and did I bring the battery charger? Of course not. But here's what I got.

With some of the great readers at Kelsey Pharr Elementary School on Thursday.

The street fair part of the Miami Book Fair. Imagine blocks and blocks of this. It was amazing.

One of my favorite books for sale at Books & Books tent.

What does it look like to be a panelist? This was what I saw when I was on the Women Making Comics panel with Raina Telgemeier, Tracy White, and Amanda Connor (moderated by Kat Kan).

With Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, Alexis Fredrick-Frost, and Kat Kan after dinner on Thursday in South Beach.

Raina Telgemeier, Barry Deutsch, and Chris Schweizer signing their books after our panel on Saturday (with John Shableski just stone cold hanging out and being all awesome)

The Miami People Mover. There isn't much public transportation in Miami, but what they do have is pretty cool and free. I mostly took this picture because the dog was cute.

Evening view from the people mover.

Time to pack a bunch of little bottles of shampoo and conditioner into my rolly bag and head north to chilly Philly. I've had a great time and I've met fascinating and wonderful people, but there's a great husband, a warm cat, and a sorely neglected drafting table in Philadelphia waiting for me to come home.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What can I even say?


After an excellent flight down (the plane was only about a third full, leaving all of the gleeful passengers with a full row to themselves) and a mildly harrowing ride to the airport in a van that smelled like smoke and air-freshener, I arrived at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami.

I checked into the room, took a moment to marvel at the mountain of decorative pillows on the bed, and promptly ripped open my luggage to frantically search for the individually wrapped stick of cheese and the squashed Nutri-grain bar I'd bought at the Wawa back in Philly. Note to future self--when you get to a hotel at 10 at night and you have to be up early in the morning, you're not going to run around looking for a restaurant. Have something a little more substantial on hand than an individually wrapped stick of cheese and the squashed Nutri-grain bar.

No matter. I found the bed under Mt. Pillow, turned on the teevee, and promptly fell asleep.

In the morning I headed up to the hospitality suite. It's like author central, where tired, confused authors from all over the world come to eat bagels and be handed off to volunteers who take care of us for the day. Being an author is kind of like being a kid traveling alone in an airport--there are people whose jobs it is to make sure that you don't get lost/miss your flight/climb into a storage bin to take a nap. I was introduced to my handler for the day, Bill, who whisked me off to my first school.

As we walked into the school, the warm Miami temperatures started playing tricks with my mind. There aren't going to be any kids at this school, I thought, because it's summer. But I was happily wrong and I had a great time with the kids at Bowman Foster Ashe Elementary (and about half of them had already read The Popularity Papers!) After the program the principal of the school gave me my very own orange Bowman Foster Ashe school uniform polo shirt (should I ever want to matriculate).

Eliseo Hernandez, the school's principal, introduces me to the kids. As you might be able to tell from the photo, the heat here has begun to transform my hair into an exciting ball of frizz.

Bill and I had a little time to kill before heading off to our next school, so he drove me through some of the neighborhoods of Miami; Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Little Havana. I saw the hotel where Bill Clinton stays when he comes to Florida to play golf and the old building where Cuban immigrants used to come to be processed. I took photos of nothing because that's Mark's job and d'oh! Okay, I need remember to take more photographs. For now I'll just post a picture of the house from The Golden Girls.

I keep looking around for Betty White. So far, no luck, but I've only been here for a day.

Then we were off to Auburndale Elementary. Now I'm getting used to doing school events--it's a little like when I was a substitute teacher. I'm new, nobody knows me, the best I can hope for is to make a good impression.

But not at Auburndale. At Auburndale, they knew who I was.

Liliana Salazar, principal at Auburndale. "You have no idea what you're getting into," she told me as she walked me down the Popularity Papers-decorated hallway to the school library. "They all love the book. You have no idea." She was totally right.

The PTA had bought all of the kids copies of my book. I want to hug the PTA of Auburndale Elementary School.

This was the first time that I'd been at a school where all of the kids had read the book, which was astonishing because it was the first time that I didn't have to explain the premise of the book. They all came prepared with questions written on index cards. Oh, and AND THEY ALL OPTED TO WEAR DRESSES AND SUITS WITH LITTLE KID NECKTIES FOR THE OCCASION.

Look at these kids!!! I felt kind of like a schlub in my jeans.

After we finished the program there was a little luncheon and they gave me flowers. They are now sitting in an ice bucket full of water in my hotel room.

But one of the most amazing parts of the visit was the job that the staff and the kids did in decorating the school for my arrival--

Would you like to see some details?

Awesome. I love this so much it's REDONK. But wait...

AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! IT'S THE PHOTO OF TILDA THAT I TOOK THE JUST THE DAY BEFORE!!! Modern technology met Google and ingenuity and scissors and paste and COMPLETELY BLEW MY MIND!!!!!

Bill, my super awesome guide for the day, asked how I felt as we walked out of the school (with students still waving at me). I honestly had no idea how to feel. One of the most emotional days I ever had in my career was the day I was offered a book deal. One of the most exciting days I ever had in my career was the day I first saw my book in a bookstore. But this was the first time I'd ever been with a large group of kids in formalwear who had all read and loved the book. I feel a tremendous gratitude to the Miami Book Fair for bringing me down here, for the faculties at both schools for welcoming me and introducing my book to their students, and and and...

What can I even say? Last night when I got back to the hotel (after an excellent evening with Ruthie and Jeff, Mark's aunt and uncle) I called Mark to tell him about the day, and all that came out was, "LITTLE NECKTIES...DECORATIONS...FLOWERS...I MISS TILDA!"

Two more schools today! I will try to take more pictures.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heading to Miami!

I know I haven't posted in a while, but that's because this is primarily a tour blog and I haven't been anywhere. No, excepting two fun mini-excursions to bookstores in northern New Jersey (The Clinton Bookshop and Words in Maplewood) I've been bound to my studio, just writing and drawing and sharpening pencils and gluing stuff.

But it's time once again to pack up my bag and hit the road! The road to the airport. Today I head down to Florida to the Miami Book Fair, where I'll be doing some school visits and presenting on some panels.


1. I'm Going on a Business Trip. Okay, so I know it might not be a big deal to some people, but being put on an airplane and staying at a hotel that I didn't have to book is CRAZY AWESOME. I hope someone at the airport asks me, "Why are you going to Miami?" I will respond, "Oh, business," like it's something that I do all of the time, and then the person will say, "Business trip to Miami in November? Not bad!" and then we will throw back our heads and chuckle, even though it's not particularly funny, because that's what people who travel on business with little rolly suitcases do.

2. I Get to Hang Out With Authors! Hanging out with authors is pretty fun. With the exception of the friendly and talented Duncan Tonatiuh, I don't think I've met any of the other authors who are going to be at the fair, so I'm excited to meet new people and make new author friends.

3. Miami in November Sounds Nice. I am going to get a tan! I plan to accomplish this by standing outside for about twenty minutes.

4. I Need to Get Out of My Studio. Ever since we came back from our big trip, I've been working crazy hard on my next project. Although I'm really happy with what I've accomplished, I've pretty much been living in my pajamas and if I don't get out and socialize soon I'm going to become That Crazy Lady on the block that kids whisper about when they walk past the house. She never comes out! I hear she eats children! See her through the window, wearing her witch's robes? It's just a bathrobe, okay! Yeah, I need to get out.


1. Since meeting Mark, I've never traveled without him for longer than two days. It seems ridiculous to be nervous about this, because I used to be this really awesome World Traveler type.

1997, Israel. On top of Masada. The blond girl is my friend Shoshanah, who I am still friends with today. And not just Facebook friends, either.

1997, Israel

1998, Scotland. With my high school friends Kit and Sarah, who I am also still friends with today.

2000, Greece. This is with one of my best friends, Kim. I have no idea why we're standing like superheroes.

2000, Greece

2000, Greece. I am very good at picking up new languages.

2001, India.

2001, India. That terrifying scruffy man is my dad.

2004, Turkey. My brother took this picture, which is why it looks like a minaret is growing out of my head.

2004, Turkey. We look like we're hugging, but I'm actually trying to throw my brother off the edge of a cliff for making me look like a minaret-head.

So six days without my husband shouldn't be that bad. But I've become accustomed to him taking care of the things that I'm not so good at, like

2. I have no sense of direction. This, in and of itself, is not a terrible thing; the problem is that not only do I lack a sense of direction, I lack the sense to figure out where I need to go before I start moving. This has been pointed out to me a lot by many different people. I will be in an unfamiliar place and I will just take off in any direction. The bus stops, I get out, and I start walking with little to no idea as to where I'm headed. Despite all of the mocking I've endured ("Umm...Amy, where exactly are you going?") I can't seem to change this weird behavior.

3. What if the Other Authors are Mean to Me? Going to this fair feels like going to overnight summer camp for the first time. I don't know what to expect and I don't know anyone there. What if everyone there is already friends with each other, and they have private jokes with each other that I don't understand? What if I say, "Hey anyone want to grab a bite to eat?" and they all look at each other and say, "Umm, jeez, sorry, I already ate, yeah, maybe next time, bye!" and run away, leaving me to eat every meal alone in my hotel room? What if mid-grade novelists are the lowest rung on the Miami Book Fair social ladder? What if Salman Rushdie and Dave Eggers gang up on me?

4. I'VE NEVER BEEN ON A PANEL BEFORE. I am most anxious about this. First, I'm not entirely sure what I'm supposed to prepare. Second, when I get nervous I tend to get silly. I also get silly when I'm not nervous. I AM A SILLY PERSON AND SILLY PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE ON SERIOUS PANELS. Also, I've never even witnessed a panel I'm going to barf myself with fear.


1. Buy a little rolly suitcase.

2. Pack things into the little rolly suitcase that I have not yet bought.

3. Prepare slide shows for the panels. Of what, I don't really know.

4. Publish this blogpost...


Got a rolly suitcase.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Birthday gift!

For those of you who don't know, yesterday was my birthday! Some people are really nonchalant about their birthdays--if people mention it, great, if not, no big deal. Others dread the day, seeing it only as a depressing reminder of their mortality. Me, I run around for weeks in advance telling everyone that it's my birthday and then I get hyper-excited when anyone wishes me a happy birthday.

Me: I need to set up an appointment, my laptop won't close properly. Also, it's my birthday.

Apple Store Guy: Okay, when would be a good time for you to come in?

Me: Monday would be good. Today, however, is my birthday. How long do you think it will take to fix it?

Apple Store Guy: It doesn't sound like a huge problem, probably not long. Monday at 10?

Me: That works for me. Happy Birthday to me.

Apple Store Guy: Okay. And Happy Birthday!


It's a little obnoxious, but I genuinely love my birthday. I love birthday presents, too, even if they're super-creepy. Last night my friend Melody gave me this--

Yes, Melody the character in The Popularity Papers is named after Melody the friend who gives creepy gifts. They may look nothing alike, but I do believe there is a shared sense of humor.

I've got to stop playing with this creepy thing now, it's driving the cat insane. Insaner.

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...

Thursday, September 9, 2010


It's always nice to come home to find that the cat hasn't gruesomely murdered the housesitter. As I write this, Tilda the Much Maligned is on me like white on rice, and has been for the past twelve hours. She seems extremely happy to have us home, which will last right about until I wrestle her down and clip her claws. Then she'll just be extremely happy to have Mark home.

Here are some numbers for The Popularity Papers Goes Midwest Tour:

4,728 miles
14 states
11 hotels
9 visits with friends
10 book events
19 book stores visited
4 motel waffles consumed
2 couples married
3 friends gave birth
2 friends who live in Ohio named Jessica but who are more often than not called "Jessi"
2 baseball games
4 run-ins with the Wimpy Kid Ice Cream Truck
14,827 insects died horribly on Tali's windshield and front bumper
18 different bedrooms
7 new bruises on my legs from stumbling around 18 different bedrooms
6 times crossing the Mississippi
9 sing-alongs to The Proclaimers' one-hit wonder "500 Miles"

Bookstores that hosted events--

Books & Co. in Beavercreek, Ohio
Joseph-Beth in Cincinnati, Ohio
Cover to Cover Books in Columbus, Ohio
Kids Ink in Indianapolis, Indiana
Puddin'Head Books in St. Louis, Missouri
Bookworm in Omaha, Nebraska
Barnes & Noble in Rochester, Minnesota
Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Wonderland Books in Rockford, Illinois
Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, Pennsylvania

Friends and family that invited us to stay with them and raid their refrigerators--

My in-laws in Beavercreek, Ohio, the first stop on the tour, who brought all sorts of knitters and one of Mark's former teachers to the Books & Co. event

Heather, Jeremy, and little Elli, who entertained us mightily with her dancing skills in Lebanon, Ohio

Sonia, Michael, and Bear, who hosted us in Des Moines the week before their wedding in LA, because they had nothing better to do

Anna and Jeremy, who will, one day, witness my awesome bowling skills

John/Brother Stephen, who needs to find a way to catch this season of Project Runway because the new hour and a half format is EXCELLENT

Kathleen, Eric, Julia, and Ari, who are to blame for Mark's newfound addiction to Rock Band

and Jessi, Marc, and Ben, who actually gave up their bedroom so that we would be more comfortable (Jessi and Marc, Ben got to stay in his own crib)

Amazing, right? We saw the Great Plains, and the Rockies, and Mt. Rushmore, and Buffalo Bill's grave, and the gift store at Buffalo Bill's grave, we ate Indian food in Cheyenne, I didn't eat Spam in the Spam Museum, we took naughty photos of the Jolly Green Giant, and witnessed some dear friends get married. It was quite a journey, one that I'll never forget, mostly because we took a billion million pictures.

But it's not over, folks. Tomorrow night I'll be at the Lititz KidLit Festival (and I just found out that there's a chocolate factory in Lititz, uhmahgawduhmahgawd) and on Saturday I'll be at the Princeton Children's Book Festival. This tour may be over, but the touring continues.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 20: Pennsylvania and home

Inside the Commonwealth of Atticus Phanaticus.

So much cat to hug! So much mail to sort through! So much laundry to do! So many dead insects from Iowa and Nebraska and Wisconsin to scrape off the front bumper of the car. So many episodes of Project Runway to catch up on! And my goodness, the fridge is really clean.

Tomorrow after a good night of sleep and a good day of not driving I'll write a very thoughtful post on what this trip meant, a summary of the things that we did and saw, a thank you to all the wonderful booksellers who hosted events, the friends who let us into their homes, and the readers who showed support for The Popularity Papers. Until then, a few ridiculous pictures of Atticus from our trip home.

Did you know that Bedford, PA, has a building shaped like an enormous coffee pot? Atticus knows.

Atticus salutes our state capitol in Harrisburg with his nose-tongue.

From the inside of the capitol building.

I'd write more tonight, but this cat needs some good lovin'. And we need to go to Wawa to pick up dinner. It's really, really good to be home.

Flying Atticus

Not every shot is a winner.

Some of you may be wondering, How do you get Atticus to fly for those awesome pictures? Well, dear blog reader, we repeatedly hurl him in the air until we get a good shot (or until we're giggling too much to continue or until people give us weird looks). Here are the ones from our little photo session atop Mt. Washington.

In this shot, we completely miss the Pittsburgh skyline.

Timing is everything.

Sometimes I may throw him with a little too much enthusiasm.


Now he looks like he's jumping off a bridge.

And doing a martial arts move on Pittsburgh.


Atticus does his best impression of the Goodyear Blimp.

The winning shot.

Day 19: Pittsburgh


LAST STOP ON THE TOUR!!! My friend Bethany is sad because she's under the impression that I'll stop blogging once the tour ends and she'll have nothing silly to read when she's feeding baby Rhys at early o'clock in the morning. No worries, new mothers! The tour may be ending but the tour blog will continue--on Friday I'll be in Lititz, PA for a book event, and on Saturday I'll be at the Princeton Children's Book Festival. As long as Jason has the strength and fortitude to send me somewhere, the blog will continue, and that guy is looking very healthy.

We said goodbye to Jessi, Marc, and Ben and headed towards our home state of Pennsylvania. I know that Pennsylvania is a big state, and Pittburgh is just about as far from Philadelphia as one can get while still being technically in Pennsylvania, but it felt great to be kind-of back.

Pennsylvania welcomes us! In a blurry sort of way. Imagine that we saw the sign and then rubbed our eyes in disbelief, which is why it is blurry. Yup.

After a quick stop at the Mattress Factory (an art installation museum) we made our way to the top of Mt. Washington to get a good view of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has 446 bridges and I think we may have crossed two-thirds of them to find this scenic outlook. But it was worth it.

Atticus enjoys the view.

The book event was at the Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, a suburb of Pittsburgh. One of the great pleasures of being on this tour has been the chance to see all sorts of bookstores in different regions and to meet the staffs there, because book people are my people.

Every time I think of someone taking the time to make a promotional poster on behalf of my book, I feel all warm and gooey inside.

The kids were great and asked really detailed questions. I had never before considered what my favorite page in the book would be.

After the event we checked into our (blissfully wifi-ed) hotel room, freshened up, and headed to PNC Park for a ball game. For those of you who don't know, last night the Pittsburgh Pirates (who are considered to be a pretty terrible baseball team) were playing the Atlanta Braves (who were the best team in the division). If, last night, the Phillies beat the Florida Marlins, and the Pirates somehow managed to beat the Braves, the Phillies would take the lead in the division, so we showed our support for our Phillies by wearing Phillies gear and taking Atticus to the game.

Very odd, Transformer-like sculpture that we saw on the way to the stadium. Go Pittsburgh with your weird public art! Atticus is impressed by all the bridges.

Baseball! Most of the Pirates fans were pretty supportive of our Phillies love, but we got some dirty looks from the Braves fans in attendance.

This is the Pirates mascot. He (I assume it's a he) came over when he saw Atticus and bopped me on the head. I can honestly state that being loved up on by the Phanatic is rougher than being roughed up by the Pittsburgh Parrot. When his back was turned, Atticus stuck his nose-tongue at the Parrot's tush. Mark was terrified that the Parrot was going to kill me.

We live to tell the tale and watch a ball game.

Kudos to the Pirates for having a perogie race during the middle of the game.

And then, inspired by Atticus, the Pirates pulled ahead of the Braves, 5-0! Hooray! All we needed was three more outs and the Pirates would win!!!

And then came the rains.

And it rained and it rained and it rained.

And the grounds crew came out and covered the field.

But we waited it out, because we are Philly fans, and Philly fans wait out the rain. Also, we had walked to the ballpark and didn't want to get soaked on the way home. Finally the game resumed, the Pirates won! And then the Phillies won! And this nice Pirates fan gave Atticus a smooch.


One last big car trip, and then we're going to hug the cat until she remembers who we are.