Been on the road. This time my publisher popped for the plane ticket, which was cool. In the rest of my life I'm a public school teacher. This means I spend my days with people who get seriously excited when the PTA drops off left over doughnuts in the teacher's lounge. Sometimes there's a fight over who gets the one with sprinkles while everyone else get stuck with plain glazed. Occasionally there's name calling. So flying to Chicago on someone else's dime is not something I do every day.
The rest of it though, was pretty much me. When you're not Sarah Palin on her Going Rogue tour or the Twilight gang or say, Michael Chabon promoting his new book on fathers, that's generally the norm. (Let me insert here that I don't even know if Michael Chabon tours. But I started his new book while waiting for the CRM at a Barnes and Noble, and the first page was so funny that I snorted Starbucks out my nose and had to tidy up real quick so I could sign stock and look like a normal person. I think I will be sending a copy to my editor, whose wife just bore him the absolutely cutest baby I've ever seen. In the picture he sent me, wife looks amazing. Baby is fabulously chubby and adorable. My editor looks like he's about to collapse. This might be from the middle of the night birth or it might be from my contract negotiations. I have no idea if sending him a book about fatherhood will perk him up, but it couldn't hurt.)
But I digress. The road has been great. I assume that at some point in the future, I might become blasè about the whole thing. This time, though, I traversed the Windy City in my rented Chevy Impala, occasionally squinting at my Mapquest directions under the dome light. My publicist - darling boy that he is -- had recently observed that the budget would not pay for car service (or rental cars, it seemed). We both tap danced around the mutual knowledge that there are authors whose budgets do. I'm just not one of them. These are the humbling moments in the debut author journey. The ones that remind you to hang onto that day job and to laugh at your department chair's jokes because it is entirely possible that you will be grading Antigone tests and attending mandatory inservices about how to create exciting foldables for a very long time to come and that in any case, no one really wants to hear you bitch about how you didn't get car service while they're heating up their Lean Cuisines in the teacher's lounge.
But I made it to all my destinations. I whistled a jaunty tune, signed at a very nice Borders, saw family and friends, (Chicago is not only the setting for Dreaming Anastasia, but also my home town), got to talk with a wonderful librarian about folklore and fairy tales at an educator's round table event at 57th Street Books, and had a really good lunch with the above-mentioned publicist who is one of my favorite people ever if only because he puts up with me. My cousin, with whom I was staying, placed copies of Dreaming Anastasia strategically around the house so I could sign them.
I also spent a delightful four hours at a book fair at St. Mary's in Riverside. (Riverside happens to be near Brookfield Zoo, where -- when I was eight and my brother was four - a monkey grabbed up a handful of poop and flung it through the bars of his cage, managing miraculously to smack my brother right between the eyes. If you've ever had a fantasy of your sibling being clobbered by monkey poop -- and which of us has not? -- let me say this was one of the highlights of my life up to that point. Possibly ever.) I visited with amazing junior high kids and periodically pointed people to the bathroom since the trouble with being someone's mom is that even if you're the visiting talent sitting behind your little card table waiting to talk to people, you still look like a mom and people ask you where the john is. Got to meet Chicago resident and illustrator Larry Day, who was signing books at his own card table. Larry Day is famous. He's won awards. Nonetheless he was sitting at a card table in the Parish Center chatting with me during the dinner lull, having arrived in his own vehicle as well. This is the author/illustrator reality unless you are JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer or I guess now, Sarah Palin. On the other hand I won't have Naomi Wolf dissecting my every move or the impact of my writing on the feminist agenda on Larry King any time soon, so I guess it's a trade-off. (Actually, Naomi, if you read this -- Dreaming Anastasia has some amazing strong female characters. Even the witch is strong. So feel free to use this however you like. Personally I see us on Oprah discussing empowered females in YA literature. I'd even pick you up at the airport in my Impala.)
Here's hoping I get to be on the road some more. I'll let you know how it goes.