National Book Awards Experience
Wow. What a ride.
I spent a couple of days in New York from November 12-16th as a National Book Award finalist. Pretty amazing and crazy. Simon Pulse, my publisher put me up in a beautiful hotel, Le Parker Meridian.
First night, after a day of travel and a long taxi ride, I made it to the Books of Wonder Children’s bookstore and met the other finalists. I was a little nervous, but everyone put me right at ease. It was also the first time meeting my agent, editor and other folks from both agencies. We read, answered questions and signed tons of books.
The next day was kind of my favorite. We went to the Brooklyn Public library for a teen press conference. 100 or so middle and high schoolers listened to us read and then asked questions. Their questions were incredibly thoughtful and even challenging. I loved one 11 year old who asked us why it takes so long for books to come out, especially in a series. They had been given our books by the foundation and we signed all of them after the Q&A. I had to sneak out to use the restroom, and I was stopped by girls taking my picture and asking to sign more copies. A teacher apologized, but I was like, this is awesome. These are the people that matter. This is who I’m writing for.
At night was the medal ceremony and reading of all the NBA finalists. Harold Augenbraum, the director of the NB foundation, knighted me with the medal and I received a plaque with a beautiful write up of OUT OF REACH by one of the judges. I’ll be putting what that said in the book section of this website. I’ve read it at least 20 times by now.
The pics were all taken on iPhones in dark lighting, so sorry they’re not better, but we tried!
Here’s Eliot Schrefer, author of Endangered and Patty McCormick, author of Never Fall Down.
I met Junot Diaz and his lovely partner. He truly is the rock star of American literature. He called me “Darling,” kissed me on both cheeks and we clinked medals.
I had a fan girl moment with Louise Erdrich. If you haven’t read Love Medicine, you must stop right now and go get it. She is so beautiful and graceful in person, like a Grace Kelly. At the reading, I got to sit next to her. I couldn’t stop thinking, yes, this is me, this is my life right now. I’m sitting next to Louise Erdrich, as if this is a completely normal thing to do. After I read, she whispered that it was powerful and she’s stocking the book in her store.
On Wednesday, I attended a breakfast at the Simon and Schuster offices. When I walked into the room, Goblin Secrets (also published by S&S) and Out of Reach covered the central table and all these people who work in children’s books were mingling. The president of the company introduced our editors who said some pretty wonderful things about Will (the other finalist) and me. I also learned that my book is going to join the wall of books and their covers in that room. It was the room of award winners and nominees. So great.
I have to say here that Will Alexander is so wonderful. He’s very gracious, funny, kind and wrote the NBA winner. It was so great to meet him and his wife. His agent is pretty stellar to. I was secretly happy he won, well if I wasn’t going to , because he’s also a debut and it’s a fantasy novel! Fantasy novels are rare winners of literary awards. So go Will!
We signed tons of books and I was able to meet the cover artist and all the people who worked on Out of Reach. I kept thinking that I should be getting them to sign something because they were the ones who really made the book come together. I saw Annette’s office (my editor) and it was just as I pictured: books everywhere, a desk with papers piled with scribbles and notes.
I also did an interview in their studio, which will hopefully be up soon on the website. (Note: my butt sat in the same chair that Stephen King’s did. So that’s pretty cool. I feel a special affinity towards him. His first novel Carrie shares my name and was published the year I was born.)
After S&S, I went to my agent’s offices: Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. They had a cake for me and were so happy for Out of Reach’s recognition. What an amazing view the office has. I loved seeing where Kerry makes it happen.
Here’s Kerry Sparks, me and Annette Pollert.
The night of the awards flew by. Some of the highlights were meeting David Levithan. I’d like to think I’m the one cracking him up here, but sadly no. I’m the one making the face.
Having Gary Schmidt find me before the awards began to tell me how much he loved my book and how I should be “wicked proud” especially of the ending. I love his writing. Go and get Okay for Now. Beautiful.
I loved getting to know all of the S&S peeps at my table. The food was amazing. Look at this spread for the salad.
Louise Erdrich won! Whoo hoo! Afterwards I was able to congratulate her and told her, well, maybe next time. Her response: It takes three times! I’d better get writing.
I met John Corey Whaley who wrote Where Things Come Back, the Michael Printz winner last year. He seems like an easy going, fun guy and was very kind to me. He also hosted the reading the night before and was great.
Getting a photo with Molly Ringwald, that was my husband’s doing because I wasn’t going to approach her. But it’s like, Molly! I grew up watching her.
And here is said husband. My biggest fan!
All in all not bad for the first month of publishing my first novel. Ha!
How to top this?
Write another good story. One at a time.