Sunday, August 18, 2013

to nyc, with love ♥

"I've studied all the pictures in magazines and books. I've memorized the subway map, too. It's one block north to Macy's and two to Brothers Brooks. Manhattan! I've prepared for you." 
- Thoroughly Modern Millie

Once upon a time two weeks ago, I gave Biscuit a good-bye snuggle, tugged on my cowboy boots, grabbed my suitcase, and shuffled out the door toward Nashville. 

From Nashvegas, I flew to New York City for a quick trip to meet my agent (!!!) and my editor (!!!) and some of the lovely folks at Scholastic! 


It sounds like a dream as I’m writing about it now, and it felt like a dream while I was experiencing it. Which is fitting. Because sometimes dreams really do come true. I still can't believe I really visited NYC. 

Sadly, I only took four pictures. FOUR. 

I have absolutely no issues about looking all touristy and taking pictures of everything. In particular, I really wanted a picture with Suzie and Mallory (my agent and editor). And ... nada. I know this sounds bananas, but I was such a flurry of nerves and excitement that I barely even pulled out my phone. 

I shared the sadness over the pictureless-ness with my nephew (age 9) while we downed two tall glasses of milk and a whole plate of chocolate chip cookies. And Andy, who is very wise in addition to being the coolest kid I know, helped me come up with a plan. Yes, I am an idiot, and I forgot to take pictures of one of the best days of my life. But! All was not lost. 

Because I could use his vast Lego collection to illustrate my New York adventures. 

It’s pretty much exactly the same as having pictures. As you will see. Here goes! 

My plane made a perfect movie entrance into NYC. 

I saw the silver-gray water, the Statue of Liberty, and the Manhattan skyline rippling across the horizon. As the plane swooped lower, I saw the sun flicker across a thousand windows, and I felt like The Big Apple was giving me a big, flirty wink. 

I’d already turned off my music by then, so my only soundtrack for my first glimpse of New York City was a roaring engine and my pounding heart. And that is exactly as it should have been.

I skipped walked into my hotel room and stopped in my tracks. Just stood there. And stared. This was my view.

I could have stared out the window for hours. But I had too many fun things planned to stare for too long. :) 

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting my agent, Suzie Townsend, and my editor, Mallory Kass. If we roll with the metaphor of this whole experience being a Cinderella moment (and I really can't imagine it getting any better than it has), then those two would be the fairy godmothers. But! In books and movies, fairy godmothers tend to be old and glittery and wear blue snuggies. Suzie and Mallory are gorgeous, brilliant and ridiculously talented. They’ve helped me find the heart of my story (and find a home for my story) which would be more than enough. But during the whole process, they’ve also helped me pick up just a smidge of newfound confidence, which is nothing short of magical. Whenever I chat with them, I always feel like I’m talking to friends. That’s a wonderful feeling.  

(I’m in the middle, obviously.) 

I'm so grateful for both of them. Despite how crazy-busy they both are, they took some time to show me around, and I had the best time. 

We grabbed coffee and walked to Washington Park, which is gorgeous. (I actually do have a picture for this!) (We’re just ... not in it.) 

And then we meandered down several twisty-turny streets, stopping for bookstores and cupcakes. Here we are adventuring in the West Village! 

And here we are in a cab! The cupcakes are taking their toll apparently, considering the way I’m slumped down in the seat ... 

Here’s our cab driver, Ron Burgundy: 

We ate delicious NYC pizza. Note the Spiderman photobomb: 

* I totally flubbed and spelled the restaurant wrong. I hope that doesn't detract from the otherwise lifelike rendering of my experience. 

My favorite thing about the restaurant (besides the four cheese deliciousness I devoured) was the noise. It wasn’t typical restaurant chatter: conversation and plates clinking and loud music, etc. I mean, it definitely had all of those things. But more than that, the whole place hummed with energy that was intoxicating. 

By the time I got back to my hotel room that night, I was over the moon. Also, I pretty much felt like I had walked to the moon. All day, I’d stared up at buildings starry-eyed like, “This is so beautiful, let’s walk EVERYWHERE!!!” ... 

... and that night, I remembered what it actually felt like to walk everywhere. It was a good kind of tired though. I stared at the city lights until I couldn't keep my eyes open. I felt like I was sleeping in the stars. 

The next day was a day I’d been dreaming about, anticipating, and freaking out over for months. Mallory and I met for breakfast (I carb-load when I’m nervous, just FYI), and then we walked together to Scholastic. 

Oh, Scholastic. 

I can confirm that Scholastic is everything wonderful, charming, classy, and FUN that you could possibly imagine. We even entered through the bookstore. How perfect is that?! I felt like Charlie Bucket walking into Wonka Tower. It’s a moment I will never, ever forget. 

Blog Bonus Feature: By the time I got to Scholastic, I was sweating buckets. This was partially due to 1.) the fact that I wore black on 98% of my body. In August. Like so: 

... and 2.) the fact that I was so darn nervous. I was thrilled, excited, and grateful, but also (understandably, I think) a bit intimidated. 

So I asked Mallory if maybe I could stick my head in a freezer for five minutes before I met anybody, in effort to de-sweat. 

The freezer wasn’t an option, but Mallory told me to chill for a bit by the pensieve. 

Yes, they have a pensieve! 


I told my mom that I came [----] that close to sneaking a selfie with the pensieve, but I was afraid someone would meander by and think me a freak. And my mom was like, “... I’m sure someone would have taken your picture with the pensieve.” ... I guess that would have also been an option. 

And then I got to meet more of the wonderful people who are making my book ... a book. 

Here’s the thing: I already loved Scholastic. I’ve loved them since I was little, and saved all my allowance money for Babysitters Club books, book fairs, and book orders. I always knew if I ever visited NYC, I wanted to take a picture of the Scholastic building. To have a book published by Scholastic is a dream so big I’ll never be able to wrap my heart around it. I couldn’t wait to thank them in person. 

But I barely squeezed out any words at all, because within about .02 seconds of entering the room ... I was overwhelmed with so much kindness and enthusiasm that I was pretty much on the verge of tears the entire time. They are the superstars, but they made me feel so welcome, and so much cooler than I will ever feel again. 

Allow me to illustrate how lovely these folks are:

Like I said, I had an opportunity to say hello and share a bit about my book. Usually, when I’m talking to a group of people, I try to find a few smiling faces to look at. In this group, I saw nothing but smiling faces. They were warm and enthusiastic and they’re book-people, of course, which makes them kindred spirits by default. 

Lots of the people I met had already read A Snicker of Magic *gulp*, and took the time to tell me how much they enjoyed it. That was surreal. I was overwhelmed in a wonderful way. I met lots of the talented people who work in sales, and one such fantastical individual told me that the book was like a dessert you never, ever forget. As a connoisseur of all things dessert, I understand the weight of that compliment! My new Scholastic friend Nikki bequeathed me this swankified necklace: 

Which is now on my parents' mantel, I kid you not. I picked it up to get a picture of it and my dad frowned and said, "Where are you taking my ice cream?" 

I also met some of the marketing and publicity wizards. They are brilliant, creative, and kind. Over cupcakes and coffee, I had a chance to chat with Sheila Marie and Tracy, who are positively fabulous. They had such warm personalities that my nervousness nearly fizzled just chatting with them. (Also, they gave me cupcakes, and I think chocolate also helps me chill out.) (At least that’s what I tell myself ... ) 

The light sabers belong to Bess and Whitney, marketing Jedi. I can’t wait to show you what they’re doing with A Snicker of Magic. My heart is still doing back flips over their work. They were so kind, and so talented. And Bess is a southern girl too, so I didn’t have to calibrate my twang around her at all. (Note: I didn’t feel like I had to do this with anybody, but it’s a proven fact: the longer I talk, the thicker my accent becomes.) 

I met some of the editorial team. 

I thought I might get to meet some of the editors there. And I’m nerdy enough to know some of the books they’ve worked on, as well as the books they’ve written. And so, geekshow that I am, I tried to script (in my mind) what I wanted to say to them. I knew I would only have a few minutes so I wanted to be professional about it. Be cool about it.

My endeavor was not met with success. 

For example, I met David Levithan. (!!!) 

And I had planned to tell him 1.) how excited I was to meet him and 2.) that I’d just read his novel, Every Day, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It's one of those strange and beautiful books that never quite gets out of your system. But when he said hello, this was my very professional response: 

*blink blink blink* *big stupid grin* *whispers* “Cats.” 

Actually, I wasn’t quite that bad. But close.

I met authors Sara B. Larson and Lucy Christopher. Lucy read from her spring novel, The Killing Woods, and Sara read from her spring novel, Defy. Sara and Lucy were lovely and the scenes they read were mesmerizing. I can’t wait to read the books. I hope you read them too, so we can chat about them. 

When it was my turn to talk about A Snicker of Magic I was, as the great poet Jennifer Lawrence once said, “shaking like a chihuahua.”

But I was so, so happy. I thanked them for the heart and time they’ve invested in the story, even though “thank you” seems like such a puny word to express how I really feel. I talked about the inspiration behind my novel, which I’ll share with you as we get closer to Snicker's due date (Hints: The Avett Brothers, the Beatles, my grandparents). And then I read a scene from the book. That was very intimidating ... and kind of exciting, too. :)

I’d been so nervous about that, but I think it went okay. I always get worked up about talking to people, and it usually spins out fine in the end. (Are you ever this way? Still have a bit of stage fright that kicks in from time to time?) The Scholastics are so sweet that I could have flubbed the whole thing, and they still would have made me feel amazing. It’s hard to even put into words what the day meant to me. What they mean to me. I’m grateful for every single second of it.

About thirty minutes after I talked about my book, I was back in the car, en route to the airport, wiping a mess of happy tears and snot off my face. From the plane window, I watched Manhattan disappear behind the clouds. My phone battery was kaput. So all I had was my frenzied (though slightly steadier) heartbeat and a perfect summer sunset singing me back toward the mountains. 

And back toward sweet Biscuit, who was super excited to hear all about my big adventure.  

That sweet little story has taken me places I never expected. In the words of my beloved Avett Brothers, "My hands they shake, my head it spins." And spins and spins. I'm so grateful. 


I know this is getting lengthy, but can I share one more thing with you? I almost didn’t share this post. 

When it comes to writing, I (still) have lots of days when I feel pressed and crushed by doubt, rejection and fear. Fear, especially. Anxiety has been a default setting for me since I was a kid. I have to be very intentional about not letting fears (mostly irrational) keep me from experiencing some great things. On a slightly smaller scale, there are all kinds of fears that creep up once you start to pursue publication. And I think rejection - not just the publishing kind, but the kind that happens personally when you’re brave enough to wear your heart on your sleeve - roars at you sometimes. Every time you take a step in the right direction, every time you stand up in front of a crowd, every time you try - some sneaky old rejection-memory slams against you. 

Back when I was writing and querying, on days when rejection (the professional and personal kind) had me the most heavy-hearted, I always seemed to run across posts about writers zooming off to NYC to meet their agents and editors. Most of the time, I could read those posts with a happy-hopeful heart. But some days I read all the wrong things out of a post like that. Like this. 

Like, of course it happened for her. But it will never, ever happen for someone as [fill in the blank] as me. I know you’re made of tougher stuff than I am, but just in case you’re having a dumpy day: 

Don’t even think about reading this post that way. Read it like it’s your standing ovation, because that is very much what I want it to be. Whatever your passion happens to be - writing, theater, teaching, dancing, visual art, music, burrito making - whatever - you are so brave for pursuing it. 

We both know that I am NOT a big deal. I’m not even a little deal. The book I’ve written isn’t the next big thang. But NYC seemed too sweet not to share. And I thought it might encourage you to know that the road leading up to that sweet experience was a bumpy one. Somehow the pressed-and-crushed days make the good days even sweeter though. Don’t you think? 

As a chronic Piglet, there's something I should know by now, but often forget: fear and doubt aren’t an always indicator you should stop. Very often, they’re an indicator that you’re getting so, so close. As Mr. Thoreau would say, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!” 

And when the dream comes true (and it will), enjoy every glittering second. 

(And don't forget to take pictures. ; ) 

Blog Bonus: OUTTAKES!!

Here’s Suzie, toasting a monster: 

Here’s Mallory, commandeering a sea vessel: 

And here I am battling the Emperor for his ... leg of mutton? “The appetite ..." growled the evil emperor, "is strong with this one.” 

And, of course, this post wouldn't have happened without my nephew, Andy, who is 100% awesome: 

Did you take any fun trips this summer? I would love to hear what's new with you! 


  1. Natalie, this is so awesome! Your Lego stylings are brilliant- they made me smile and feel like I was there, too. :) I am so stinking excited for your book.


    1. I'm happy to know the Legos sufficed! :) I didn't realize until I undertook that particular project that they are VERY tiny and my hands are, apparently, very shaky. It was like playing Jenga. Just when I had it all set up - dominoes! :) I can't wait for you to see the book!! :)

  2. Ah, I love it! The Legos were totally the right way to go. Tell your nephew I think he has the awesomest ideas! (Nephews usually do.) :D

    And just fyi, I always get nervous before speaking even in a group of people I know! But I bet you did amazing.

    Also! Thanks for this reminder:
    fear and doubt aren’t an always indicator you should stop. Very often, they’re an indicator that you’re getting so, so close.
    I'm planning a big life-changing thing right now and fear and doubt sure like to show up a lot. So thanks for encouraging me through another day!

    SO excited for you, Natalie! Will look forward to more awesome Lego-inspired posts in the future. ;)

    1. I'm so happy to hear that you're pursuing a big life changing thing! So glad you're going for it no matter what :) The Lego Photoshoot turned out to be more labor intensive than I first imagined ... but I might have to break them out again in the future. Because it did turn out pretty fun. :)

  3. Love this glimpse into your time at Scholastic! I'm completely caught up in your excitement and I hope you'll continue to take us behind the scenes. And thank you for your encouraging post script words. I truly am so happy for you and didn't have even a glimmer of comparison, which made all that you said mean that much more. I think I am getting close and it helps to hear from others who have walked a similar path.

    1. *hugs* I'm happy to hear the p.s. part encouraged you. Even happier to know that you're running after what you love. I'm cheering for you!! :)

  4. *fist bump* I like to think of it as an exercise in abstract photography. (Would you be surprised to know that I held up all the she-legos and said, "Which one do you think looks more like me?")

  5. I love this! Thanks for making my day :) I just found out today that my band is breaking :/ I was all teary eyed and upset until I read this. Now I'm smiling! Thank you for the encouragement and the reminder that I can still pursue my dreams. You're the best :)

    1. Hugs to you, Kelly! That stinks about your band :( That moment when everything crumbles is so discouraging and scary. But I bet the next band will be even better. And eventually you'll look back and be so grateful the break happened so you could be in the PERFECT place. I know it doesn't seem that way now, but it's all leading somewhere good. I love that you're chasing after what you love, no matter the setbacks and speed bumps along the way. That's pretty darn fabulous. :)

  6. So, SO, awesome! This was better than real photos, plus you don't have to worry about whether or not you looked great. :) it sounds like you had a great time. Scholastic! It truly is the Mothership for books for young people, in't it. Thank you, Natalie, and thanks for turning your blessings into reminders for us. It really is easy to be envious when you work hard for something and your time still hasn't come! You give us hope (as always!) Can't wait for Snicker! Can I preorder? --Wanda

    1. Thanks for this sweet comment, Wanda! It's so, so tough to throw your heart in the ring so long and feel like no change is happening. And it's inevitable that you run across the story of someone who dreamed an idea on Sunday, wrote it in three days, and had 20 publishers dueling with pool noodles in the front yard for a chance to publish it. But, in reality, for most writers, it seems to take a long time. And involve lots of heartbreak. All of my favorite writers have battled rejection and self-doubt hardcore. So you are NOT alone when you face that stuff! I'm so happy you aren't losing heart. And so happy you're running after what you love. *hugs* :)

      You're so sweet to ask about pre-ordering! I'm pretty sure it's up for pre-order on Amazon! I haven't linked it yet, but I think it works. There's a good chance you'll be the first person to pre-order, which makes me do a little happy dance!! :) I hope you enjoy it!

  7. Your lego-likeness is pretty spot on. It seems at some point Mallory (or Suzie?) became angry.

    1. Oh gosh! I saw that and I thought ... did I unknowingly change the faces? ... Or are the Legos COMING ALIVE?!?! :) I wonder if there's a face on the front and back of the Lego head? Like Professor Quirrel? I hope Clara gets into Legos. Have you seen what they're like now? So insanely cool. The Lego-people are my favorite part. Lego-Yoda is so adorable I just hold it and squeal at it.

  8. It's so amazing to learn how far you've journeyed since the Brio days :) I'm very happy and excited for you! Can't wait until your book comes out. This post totally made my day and I love the photos. Thanks for the last part of your post especially - I needed to hear that! Keep being the awesome girl that you are!!

    1. Aw, thanks for this sweet comment! I always get extra-smiley when somebody mentions Brio! :) I'm happy to know this post encouraged you, too. Whatever it is you're pursuing, hang in there!!! (And if you get a chance to read SNICKER, I hope you enjoy it! :)

  9. I love this! Your NYC trip sounds amazing - I'm so glad you decided to post about it. And the Lego assists are a touch of genius.

  10. This was such a beautiful and adorable post. You are a huge inspiration and I cannot wait to read A Snicker of Magic.

    P.S. I want to go to NYC so bad. Every Day is a great book. And my sister would be so jealous of your nephew's Lego collection. I am too.

  11. Hi Natalie,
    I'm the girl that talked about my hiding place in the pecan tree in Texas. (Grace) :)

    When I was reading you post about NYC, I got so excited! And after reading what you said about pursuing my dreams and ambitions, I was inspired to share MY story with YOU.

    Please forgive if I start getting way long-winded. :)

    Last November I entered in the VFW Voice of Democracy speech competion. I won first at post, then advanced to district where I also placed first, and then I advanced to the state top-ten. All ten of the top-ten contestants were invited to Austin in February for a four day trip, and banquet at the end. While we were there we got to go on special tours of the Capitol building, meet all kinds of neat people. (including Senetor Dan Patrick..yay!) One of whom was a man named Hasan Mack. He is an attorney on the Ltn. Governor's advisory staff, and was super, super cool. One of the girls asked him how any of us could get a job at the capitol, and after he gave of a list of resources, he gave each of us his card and said that if any of us wanted to intern, or had any intrest at all, to just give his office a call, and he would plug us in where he could.
    Anyway during my time in Austin I kept thinking about that capitol trip, and how excited I had been about law, and government, and really everything about it! Every time I looked at the capitol building I kept praying; "Lord, please please PLEASE let me do this! I don't know what, but I want to so SOMETHING in Government Law."
    Well, six months have passed since that trip and while I don't feel that same huge urge, I still feel that that is where I want to be.
    I know that any kind of government work is pretty swampy, and being a Christian in that environment is really hard, which is why I still don't really know what I am going to do. But, when I read your NYC post, I got so excited again! I still don't know exactly what it is God has planned for my life, but the whole government-law-capitol-thing, seems to be a seed that God has planted in my heart....I think....I hope...I don't know. :P

    Anyway, short-story-long, reading your story made me want to share mine.
    Thanks for putting such great stuff out there!
    I can't WAIT to read your new book!

    I DID take pictures in Austin. :)

  12. One of my favorite posts of yours, ever. The lego re-enactments might have a fairly large role in that, but also because I am so excited for you and this adventure the Lord has you on! I can't wait to read A Snicker of Magic and celebrate with you!

  13. You are killing me with this post in the BEST way. I have butterflies for you. And the legos were just a giant cherry on top. And you met Suzie! If it weren't for your devotionals in Brio and Beyond I would have never found you... so I owe a little something special to Suzie!!


  14. I love this like a thousand times! So proud of you! :)