I just returned from the 2015 National Council of English Teacher Annual Conference in Minneapolis.
I got in on Thursday, met up with my friends Trisha and Steve Shaskan, and headed over to Red Balloon Bookshop to see Jenni Holm (Sunny Side Up) and Craig Thompson (Space Dumplins) talk about their new books!
LeUyen Pham showed up to watch it all too! Naturally, I had to get the new Princess in Black book for her to sign.
Afterwards, Craig invited us all to go out to dinner! Just another casual night…
On Friday morning, I was up bright and early. I actually travelled to Minneapolis a day earlier than I needed to for one reason only: Alison Bechdel was the Friday general session speaker!!! You may know her from her long standing comic Dykes to Watch Out For, or her more recent graphic-novel-turned-musical triumph, Fun Home. I know her best from Fun Home, which has been a source of inspiration for my own impending LGBT YA graphic novel, Flamer (which will be finished…some day). It was a privilege to hear her speak, and a milestone to have a radical LGBT author on the stage at NCTE.
“I write to figure out stuff that’s bothering me.” -Alison Bechdel
The sad part of all of this is that I missed Alison’s book signing. But. There was good reason, dear readers. Because. Mr. Schu and Colby Sharp were moderating a Newberry panel immediately after the general session, featuring Rebecca Stead, Thanhha Lai, Laura Amy Schlitz, Katherine Applegate (gaaah!), and Kate DiCamillo. Kate. Di. Camillo. One of my favorite authors ever. I honestly did not know this panel was happening until the day before, and honestly, I screamed out loud in my hotel room when I saw it on the schedule.
It was a humbling experience being in this room with so much talent. I really appreciated Katherine Applegate sharing how she was a late bloomer reader, which I can really relate with.
After the panel, Mr Schu was kind enough to introduce me to Kate. We probably spoke for all of 90 seconds, but it was so wonderful. I handed her a signed copy of Big Family, which Mr Schu had apparently already sent to her. “Your book made me cry,” she said. “You know what family is.” I could NOT. DEAL. I somehow was able to mutter the phrase, “your books mean so much to me.” She gave me a hug and said “Maybe you should go now before we both start crying.” And I did. Sorry to report that I have no photo, but that hug meant everything.
Later, someone posted a pic on Twitter of Kate READING MY BOOK aloud at her signing table. I still can’t deal…
Afterward, I had a lovely lunch with fellow Henry Holt author, Margarita Engle. I just finished reading her new book, Enchanted Air, a beautiful autobiography in verse about her split life as a Cuban-American teenager. I recently had an opportunity to go to Cuba, so we had a LOT to talk about!
On Saturday, I had a signing at the Macmillan booth for Little Elliot Big Family and Little Elliot, Big City. Then I had another signing at Harper Collins for my upcoming title, Worm Loves Worm, available January 5th with Balzer + Bray. The most exciting part was finally meeting debut author J.J. Austrian, who created this lovely story of love and acceptance. It was an honor to illustrate this book!
It was thrilling to see the line for the giveaway, and heartwarming to hear from so many educators who are making a concerted effort to have inclusive classrooms.
My last event was a panel called Why Picture Books Matter, moderated by the one and only Mr. Schu, and featuring Molly Idle, Lauren Castillo, Elisha Cooper, Tom Lichtenheld, and me. We started out with some drawing games, followed by a talk about how books and art played a role in our childhoods, and then each of us spoke a bit about our books.
I had the pleasure of revealing the cover for Little Elliot, Big Fun, which comes out October 4, 2016!
I just finished this third book in the Little Elliot series. While I’m bursting with excitement to share this story with you, we’ll have to wait another year. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Little Elliot, Big Family, just out last month, and Worm Loves Worm out January 5th! Speaking of Big Family, I was honored to learn that it made the 2016 Charlotte Huck Recommended books list, alongside some of my favorite books of late. Check out the full award list here! My heartfelt thanks goes out to NCTE for this acknowledgement and for such a wonderful event. Huge thanks also to John Schu and Colby Sharp for inviting me to attend!
I’ll leave you with this sketch I made while eating lunch across from Jack Gantos. Disclaimer: the waitress randomly seated me with this view, so I *technically* wasn’t stalking…