Tuesday, January 21, 2014

seattle to philly and back again.

So if I tell you where I am this week, you'll think my life is exciting. And my life is exciting, but it's rarely exciting because I get to visit cool places.

For example. There's a dormer on my parents' roof that I affectionately call The Gnome Home. Last week, I checked their mail and thought - wouldn't it be wonderful if a gnome really did live in The Gnome Home, and he got tiny letters in the mail?!

Thoughts like those, which usually happen on walks with my dog, delight me to no end. They make my days pretty darn fun and exciting. Also, they probably explain why I don't have tons of friends. 

But next week, I get to meet some wonderful people and visit cool cities. I could not be more excited. (I'll try not to talk about gnomes.)

(But I'm not exactly the queen of small talk, so I make no promises.)

For the first half of the week, I'll be in Seattle, hanging out with my Scholastic friends at Winter Institute.

I have a few fun things planned (including drinking at least a zillion pints of Tully's Coffee), but Wednesday night is when I get to party with booksellers. I can't wait. I've been looking forward to this for months now. Since shy is my neutral-place, I sometimes get a little trembly when I'm around more than, say, three people at a time. ;) But parties full of booklovers are different, I've learned. It's a thrill to meet other people who love stories, and who are so passionate about connecting readers with books. And I love to hear about how people found their way into working with books - whether they're booksellers or librarians or editors or writers or teachers. I never, ever get tired of those conversations. I'm honored I get to attend.

After we party like it's 1999, I'm flying to Philly to attend ALA! 

I get to spend time with my editor, Mallory, whom I adore. We'll probably go to the flagship Anthropologie and get coffee take in a few important, historical sights. And then, on Saturday, we'll both be at the Scholastic Brunch. This brunch celebrates librarians and readers and all the magic they bring into the world.

At the brunch, I'll be doing readers theater with a bunch of crazy-talented authors, trying not to squeal in their faces:

When I first saw this picture, I thought of the Sesame Street song, "Which one of these is not like the other one..." That would be the girl in the top right corner, for sure.

Just hearing these authors read would be a dream. I can't believe I get to do readers theater with them. I'm excited and grateful and very nervous. And, as always, I'm wondering what the hayseed I'm even doing there. I'm confident now that this feeling will never go away. I'm grateful it won't.

Fact: A few of my closest friends are teachers, and they flipped when they found out I'd meet Rodman Philbrick at NCTE. He's written tons of incredible books, of course. My friend Hannah reads Freak the Mighty with her students every year. Homer P. Figg is a timeless hero. Zane and the Hurricane is his new one. I snagged a galley of that one and it's beautiful. My teacher-friends told me that, when I met him, I had to tell him how much their students loved his books.

The only problem with that scenario is, as I've said a time or ten, that I'm a bit shy. And I wasn't so sure I'd say much of anything to anybody. Not because I don't want to, but because I over think everything, and I tend to wear insecurity like a scratchy old sweater. Fear is a weird comfort zone, isn't it?

As it turns out, I didn't have to muster up the courage to talk to Rodman Philbrick. He introduced himself to me. As if I didn't know who he was. He came over to where I was sitting at a dinner, leaned down to shake my hand, and told me that he'd heard wonderful things about my novel (!!!). And then, in a moment that I will never, ever forget, he said, "Welcome to the family."


My heart was all twisted up inside me at that point. I tried to tell him that his books are beautiful. And that my friend reads Freak the Mighty with her students every year, and they adore it. But I think what actually came out of my mouth was something like, "I love books. My friends are freaks." But he rolled with it.

I'll never forget that he went out of his way to be so kind to me.

Speaking of books and freaks: I love both of those things so much. I love to talk about stories, and reading, and readers. I love meeting people brave enough to be their nerdy, wonderful, geektastical selves. I'm pretty sure I get to hang out with lots of people like that next week. And I'm pretty sure - positive, in fact - that they don't mind that I'm that way, too.

Here's to a week of big adventures, coast to coast.


  1. Have a FANTASTIC trip. I cannot wait to hear all about your adventures when you return!

  2. Have a great trip, Natalie! :)

  3. "Speaking of books and freaks: I love both of those things so much." Preach, sister, PREACH! How awesome that you get to do what you love, and meet others that feel the same :D

  4. I too am incredibly shy and not comfortable with a large group of people I don't really know, but when the subject is books and when you know that that is what those people really care about, it does make all the difference. That's why I hope to someday work in a library or book shop so I can talk about books all day and not be afraid of the random strangers, cause they're readers. :)

  5. Natalie, your comments today about books at ALA brought me to tears! So much so, that I had to write about it in my blog to my daughters. Thank you for what you do. I can't wait to read your book! http://hipmombrarian.com/2014/01/25/why-books-make-the-best-birthday-gifts/