Thursday, February 6, 2014

once upon a trip to seattle.

"There's no falling back to sleep once you waken from the dream. 
Now I'm restless, and I'm ready to begin.
- The Avett Brothers

A few weeks ago, I got to visit Seattle with my Scholastic friends to hang out with the swanky booksellers attending Winter Institute.

Let me tell you a few things I know to be true of booksellers:

1.) They're a party.* As I've said before, I'm convinced nobody knows how to party like a bookseller knows how to party. (Though I've been told by librarians that they can throw down too, just wait and see.) But I have also come to realize that this is because, wherever book-people are, the party is there. Drinks and ice cream are not required to have a good time with these fine folks. They're fun and kind and charming regardless of where you get to meet them. I think story-people - whether they're readers, librarians, teachers, booksellers, bloggers, or writers & publishing peeps - have a wonderful, whimsical outlook on the world anyway. When you get to spend time around other people who love books the way you do ... it's a party situation.

*I almost typed that they are "the" party, but I didn't want you to confuse them with the great and iconic band, The Party, who rose to fame via the Mickey Mouse Club when I was in middle school. Please tell me somebody else remembers The Party?! ... Hark! I found them. Thank goodness for YouTube. CLICK HERE and be dazzled. 

2.) They're an inspirational bunch. I mean, my word, these are people who have made it their job to connect readers with stories they love. No surprise here, but I get a bit emotional when I get to chat with booksellers, librarians and teachers who work with young readers. I will always ardently adore books, but I've never connected with stories the way I did when I was younger. I hid my heart in books back then. And I'm so grateful the adults in my life gave me those books, stories that helped me find enough courage to bloom a little bit - both as a reader and as a person.

3.) They are courageous. Indie bookstores are often regarded as little engines that could/can/maybe/might. But there is no fog of gloom & doom surrounding booksellers, even though it's darn hard in this economy for people to buy books locally. There's a pioneering-spirit that unites booksellers, which makes for a wonderfully charged (in a good way) atmosphere.

4.) They're readers. This is a given, I know. But it's still worth celebrating. Booksellers don't see algorithms, they see readers. It's exciting to connect with a person who wants to matchmake you with a book you'll love. While I was at the party, I got so many great book recommendations from booksellers, and I never felt like it was because they were in sales mode. It's just because they love books.

So all that to say, I loved hanging out with the book-people I met. I'm so grateful I got to be there, and grateful for the time they took to chat with me about my book. It's not like they had to talk to me. They had so many important, professional things to do that weekend, but I felt like I was with a bunch of fun friends the whole time I was there. Here are a few pictures from my Seattle adventure:

I'm the dork that always takes a picture from the airplane window. I love the window seat, and this is how Chattanooga waved goodbye to me ...

... with a silver river-banner weaving through the city. And a sunrise, somewhere above the clouds.

Everything is possible. 
Everything is new. 

That's how sunrise makes me feel.

When I made it to Seattle, I found this in the hotel:

And had a mini-meltdown on the elevator. I can't believe it says AUTHOR. GAH!! I'm so grateful!!! It's absurd how long I stared at that name tag.

That night, I got to tag along to a reading by Lucy Christopher and Sara B. Larson at University Bookstore. I'd met Sara and Lucy before. They are both so kind and fun. And they're incredible writers. (They're also absurdly pretty.) Please excuse my giddy grin. I can't seem to calibrate my excitement at these things.

We had dinner at a funky little Southern-inspired place downtown. My favorite thing we ate, I kid you not, was Brussels Sprouts. I don't know if this is because my body was tired of 24/7 coffee at that point,  or if it was because Brussels Sprouts are just delightful and I've been missing out. Thoughts?

The next day, I got to meet Kathleen Ortiz. I know I've blogged about our brunch adventure already, but she's amazing so I'm posting our picture again:

She's a little bit too awesome.

After that, I got MORE COFFEE and hid out in my hotel room for a bit, working on my chat for that night's party.

It was such a beautiful view! Sparkly cities are so inspiring. Seattle, I adore you.

That afternoon, I tagged along with Lucy, Sara and some Scholastic friends while they signed stock at area bookstores. While adventuring, we visited a troll under a bridge. As one does.

We made a hero's approach, racing at The Freemont Troll head on....

... only to discover that our bravado was unnecessary. The troll is a misunderstood monster. His garbaldy-grunts and thunderous bellows might terrify the villagers on the bridge. But if you visit him in his lair, you'll find blackbirds resting on his shoulders, and love written on his hand:

While hanging out with the troll, I snagged a photo with Sheila Marie, another one of the Scholastic wizards I've come to know in the past few months. She's so fun and funny and cool, and she has this magical ability to make everybody around her feel like they're cool, too. I'm lucky because I get to chat with her pretty often. I'm so grateful for all she does. (Would have been awesome if the Troll'd made bunny ears over one of our heads, yes?)

After we visited the Troll, we went to a few more bookstores and then headed back to the hotel. Seattle was as stunning as ever.

I texted my mom the following selfie to show her the dress I wore. I followed it immediately with a text that read, "WOW. I AM SHORT." I suppose this should not come as a shock anymore. I don't mind being short, by the way. Not at all. But sometimes I become keenly aware of my miniature-ness. Figure shown actual size:

I met up with Lucy and Sara again, and we joined our Scholastic peeps for a delicious dinner. We went to an Italian restaurant with painted ceilings and sparkly wine and gnocchi that tasted like delicious little clouds.

And then it was time to party!

Just walking through the doors was such a thrill. I felt like I was dreaming.

That night is the first time I met author and illustrator Jon Muth. He is so kind, interesting, and talented. Jon has written and illustrated many incredible books. My favorite souvenir from Seattle is a copy of his soon-to-be-released new book, Hi, Koo!

I've been reading it in the mornings before I start writing. It's the kind of book that works magic inside you while you read it. Suddenly you come to the last page, and look up, and every sense is awake. You're keenly aware of the wondrous details all around you, all the time. It's a treasure.

Party people were treated to an ice cream buffet! (Pic from Scholastic's Twitter feed.)

We also had gourmet popcorn. I formed a mild to moderate addiction to the S'Mores flavor. Tiny paper scoops, which looked like tiny paper boats, were positioned elegantly beside the popcorn jars. Once the party was over, I basically used my paper boat like a shovel for the S'Mores-Corn. Elegance, be darned.

I tried to sneak out with this giant poster board of my book, but I was unsuccessful.

Beside the book, you'll notice a magnetic poetry board. Scholastic made the coolest sheets of magnetic poetry to send out with some of the ARCs. We had many brave word-collectors in our midst that night, who left their poetry behind on the board.

My favorite: "Fierce hope is magical." 

I feel like some wily poet was about to do some serious word-smithing with"sausage" and "smear" ... alas. We will never know.

These are just a few of the wonderful Scholastic people I got to spend time with on this trip:

I still can't believe I got to go. I still can't believe I even belong in a picture like that, but I'm grateful to be there. My Winter Institute experience is a magical memory I'll never forget.

Early the next morning, I began my adventure to Philadelphia. It's the first time I've ever seen the sun rise and set from an airplane. (I'll write more about that later.) As you might imagine, Seattle said good-bye in grand fashion:

Everything is possible. 
Everything is new. 

Here's to dreams-come-true, wide awake. :) Thanks for adventuring with me! :)


  1. It looks like you had a great time! :) That troll is so awesome. And even though I know I would never want to live in a big city (rural areas are more my style :), I have to admit that sparkly cities with tall buildings and bright windows do look pretty magical.

  2. Thank you SO much for the recap, Natalie! I loved reading it...and when you share these moments I get SO excited because I'm so happy for you!!! :)

  3. I hope one day I will get to have these adventures!
    I'm so happy for you.
    Also, I love brussels sprouts

  4. Thanks so much for sharing! I LOVE the pics of your fun trip, especially the troll. I can't wait to read more about your adventures. How did Biscuit do while you were gone? Wanda