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.