Lets start last Thursday. I placed my book order for this week’s school visits. They were supposed to be shipped on Friday to arrive Saturday morning so I could spend the weekend signing them. Unfortunately there was a mix-up and the books did not ship. I couldn’t have them shipped on Monday because I had to leave the house early on Tuesday. Luckily, Schiffer Publishing is not too much of a side trip and I have often picked up books from them on the way to events.
So here is the story of my travels this week. I had agreed to be one of the judges for the Maryland Library Association’s “Excellence in Marketing Award.” The judging took place in Annapolis and we agreed to meet Tuesday from 1 to 3. I knew that if I left promptly at 3 o’clock I would get to Schiffer before they closed. I read through the entries, scored them and was finished by 2:50. I arrived about 20 minutes before closing. I picked up my 12 boxes of books and loaded them into my car. I ended up talking to one of the nice folks at Schiffer and she told me they had just been talking to an Amazon rep about untitled. She asked me to do something and I’ll mention it at the end of this post.
I had booked a hotel on Long Island that I had stayed at last fall when I attended NerdCampLI. When I made the booking I thought I would be able to have a nice dinner at The Cuban, a restaurant I had found in November. Instead I had to stay in my room and sign two day’s worth of books so I did something I never do and ordered room service.
The next morning I headed over to Center Street Elementary. All three assemblies were in the morning in the gym, everything went well, the kids were great and everyone had a good time. I was pleased that even the principal stayed for my show. I really appreciate it when the whole school gets involved.
I was done by 1 o’clock and hit the road to New Jersey. I drove through Manhattan so I could make a quick stop (plus, I like driving through Manhattan every once in a while). I was scheduled to meet the two girls who had inspired me to write If You Give the Puffin a Muffin. They were third graders when I met them originally, now they are in middle school and they are both in the same girl scout troop.
Since I had time I stopped in Red Bank, NJ to grab a bite to eat. Before eating I went into a couple of cool antiques stores and also into Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash where I bought an action figure since I’m really still just a big kid. I stopped in The Dublin House, a place I’ve been to a few times. I brought a box of books in with me and signed half of the Friday author visit books while enjoying a Guinness and some popcorn shrimp (small finger food is good when signing books).
I drove the rest of the way to Farmingdale, NJ and gave Emily Horvath and Ashley Nietupski signed copies of the book that was dedicated to them. I also gave them each a hand-painted and framed puffin picture. My friend Adrianne (one of the scout leaders) had arranged for a local reporter to cover the meeting and Josephine Schneider, the librarian from Howell who had arranged my original visit where I met the girls was also able to attend.
I then jumped in my car and drove to Philadelphia. I stayed at a hotel south of the airport about a half-hour drive to Wilmington, where Thursday’s school visit was. I had a quick meal in the bar and went to my room to sign the last books for Friday.
The morning drive to Heritage Elementary was short, I had two presentations in the morning and one in the afternoon. This visit was arranged in the spring of 2018 but the librarian who set it up has been on leave all year. Happily, the substitute librarian, Ms McDermott, had done a fantastic job of preparing the kids for my author visit.
I did 2 assemblies in the morning and one in the afternoon. I include a drawing demonstration in each of my programs. During the presentation with the 4th and 5th graders I asked if they would like me to draw either a monster of the Puffin. Some of the students started shouting that they wanted a Monster Puffin so I obliged.
Heritage Elementary is only an hour and a half drive from home. Too bad I was heading north. I had to drive to North Jersey for Friday’s school visit. I had a stop to make along the way. I had ordered a bunch of new posters from NextDayFlyers.com. Their printing price was great but shipping 2000 posters was very expensive. The poster is a version of the one I personalize and frame for each school I visit. I hand these out at events and book festivals. I found out the printing facility was in Saddle Brook, NJ and I knew I’d be back and forth through the area so I drove there on the way to my hotel.
When I book a school visit, depending on where I’m going I often use Priceline or Hotels.com to fine a reasonable hotel nearby. When I first started I would find the cheapest place I could but after too many nights not being able to sleep because of traffic noise or the room smelling like an ashtray I learned to get 3 star or above (if there is a special offer). Franklin, New Jersey is a little remote so I thought I’d have to have a bit of a drive in the morning but I found a place called Mountain Creek that had a nice room. It was a little higher than I usually pay but it was just 20 minutes up the road. It was not until I arrived that I realized I had been there before. Not to the hotel but to the ski resort that it is a part of. It used to be Vernon Valley/Great Gorge ski resort and it was the only place I’ve ever skied. Memories came flooding back. It was not only a ski resort, in the summer it was Action Park, the deadliest amusement park ever. My friends and I had gone there a number times to risk our lives on the rope swings, water slides and speed boats. I’ll write a future blog post about those adventures.
So I got up the next morning, found a nice place for breakfast and drove to Franklin Borough School. Sandy Bargiel, the librarian, had been wanting to bring me to her school for a couple of years. We had met at the NJASL Conventions and she’s bought my books for her grandson since before he was born. (He’s now 3.) I did three presentations, Kindergarten through 2nd, 3rd through 5th and also 6th through 8th grades. I like when I get to present to the older students. Although most of my books are picture books, it’s fun talking about the process of writing and illustrating and I also get to talk about animation, making toys and the other stuff I’ve done.
So after all that back and forth I had one more side trip. I had to drive to the Tarrytown, New York train station to meet James. He was coming home for spring break and I figured I could just pick him up and drive him most of the way home. Once I got home I added up the milage and, according to Google maps it was just 2 miles shy of one thousand miles over 4 days. This week I’m home, catching up on work and getting ready for next week’s trip. Next week I’ll be driving to Syracuse, NY for two authors visits with a stop back in central New Jersey for a third author visit on the way back.
So, last thing. The Amazon rep said we can boost attention for untitled if we get about 20 or so people to pre-order the book. If you’d like to help an author out, please got to this link and pre-order a copy. You’ll get it in late May. If you do this, let me know and I’ll send you a signed book plate and some other stuff, like one of the posters I just had printed. Thanks!