Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Booking Across America: The Truth About Book Tours

A week ago, Deb Friedman—the official queen of cool, former director of women’s marketing at Burton Snowboards, and co-founder of the hip and all-new JustRightResumes—swung through Seattle for my going away party…and to geocache for the first time.

Now that I’m about to begin China Tour 2008 (my upcoming move to Shanghai), it’s long overdue to summarize my favorite parts of

that Deb conceived and managed.

The truth about touring to launch a book is this: it can be long and grueling with multiple events and interviews every day. It takes a ton of people to spearhead—awesome publishers and publicists (go, Rachel Wasdyke--no other publisher better steal her away from Little, Brown--and Media Masters).

For Girl Overboard, we wanted to do something different, something innovative. Something that would make a difference to teens.

So instead of a joe-standard, trot-the-author-around-bookstores book tour, my publisher worked with Burton Snowboards and YouthVenture on a new concept. Put an Olympic Gold Medalist on the road with me as the ultimate Girl Overboard prop. Add a heavy dose of community service that’s so important to me and underscores my book. And voila! An all-new kind of tour with the objective of getting teens psyched to change the world.

Top Moments of Book Touring 2008!

1. Becoming friends with so many exceptional people, especially my book tour partner and Olympic Gold medalist, Hannah Teter, her amazing mom, Pat Teter, and Deb (the marketing wonderwoman who architected the entire tour and challenge grant!).

2. Being in Hannah’s presence and watching her compete at the X-Games in Aspen, CO. More than eating healthily (we found every single organic health food store in all the cities we toured), Hannah lives healthily: donating her time and earnings to causes she believes in. Being with her for weeks was good for my soul.

3. Working with Burton Snowboards and YouthVenture on the Go Overboard Challenge Grant—and inspiring teens to take action. We gave away 12 grants, each $1000 to teens who had amazing ideas to rock the world.

4. Visiting countless high schools and libraries around the country and meeting thousands of students, especially the ones in inner city schools in Chicago, Denver, and the Bay Area. I was so stoked to meet this generation’s changemakers. Look at them! These are the girls who are already leading the change our world needs.

5. Seeing the Go Overboard Challenge Grant included on both the Burton Snowboards & YouthVenture websites! Not bad that the Challenge Grant generated more site traffic for YouthVenture than any other grant before! And then having my publisher (Little, Brown Books) support our grant with a gorgeous “chap book” that was distributed to thousands of people. (Thank you, Lisa nee Laginestra --again, hands off her, you other publishers, you!)

6. Garnering well over 2 million media impressions—meaning that word about the Girl Overboard grant was spread far and wide through all of our TV, radio, web, blog, and print interviews.

7. Meeting amazing librarians and booksellers who are passionate about books, including the extraordinary Sharon Levin and Walter Mayes and Robin Willard who know everything there is to know about YA lit. (Sharon even cooked me a yummy dinner! And her daughter makes a mean guacamole!)

8. Watching my kids recruit 10 other children to host the Peace, Love & Pancakes fundraising dinner. They raised over $10,000 to fund Hannah’s charity work in Kenya. Now, THAT was the ultimate way to end a fantastic tour.

9 and 10. And most of all, connecting to readers and learning that my books made a difference to them.

Thank you to everyone for making the Go Overboard Challenge Grant and the Girl Overboard Book Tour happen. Now, go change the world. Start by reading a good book.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Racing Thru Omaha

After My Summer That Never Was last year where I spent too much time with my computer and not enough with my kids, I promised myself that *this* summer I'd take a short break from writing. However, I hadn't counted on us moving in a few weeks to China (which has eaten up more time than I thought it would with all the stupid little details entailed with changing continents). Nor had I realized that my kids would qualify for the Junior Olympics in track & field. Which meant we just spent an entire week in Omaha, NE.

Tsk, tsk to any of you who are groaning: Omaha! What's in Omaha?!

Newsflash: I loved Omaha! Loved it!

In what other city could you get a flat tire (I hate Hertz rent-a-deathtrap), and the entire fleet of valets at the first hotel you ka-thunk-ka-thunk your way to runs out and changes the tire for you? It was like having my own Indy 500 pit crew. And then the front desk crew felt sorry for us that we had to wait and plied us with soft drinks. Let me repeat: we weren't even staying at that hotel! (Embassy Suites, downtown Omaha: the staff rocks.)
Still, talk about culture shock. Not since I lived in Australia way back in the early '90s has my sheer presence been able to stop conversations at restaurants. Repeatedly.

So there we'd be, my kids and I would walk in to any establishment in Omaha...and forks would literally be arrested midair as diners swiveled for a good look at us. But then we'd get big, welcoming smiles, and people would return to their meals. I figure, these stares will be nothing compared to China when locals will look upon me as though I'm an idiot for not being able to speak the language.

(FYI: for a great source of restaurant recommendations, check out Chowhound where foodies hash it out.)

My favorite Omaha moments:
  • cheering on my daughter as she got her PR (personal record) in race walking

  • watching my son take the podium to get his medal

  • bringing together my mom and her little sister who haven't spent any real alone time in years. Look how cute they are, giggling together. They stayed up until midnight every night this week just gabbing.

  • hanging with my own little sister at the botanical garden

  • geocaching in gorgeous parks with the fam. (Here's my hubby.)

  • And did I mention how cute my mom was with her sister? To sisters!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mashing It Up!

Riddle: Fill a ballroom of gearheads and teen gurus, and what do you get?

Oh, hush! "Snooze-fest!" is so not the right answer. What you get is this:a hopping conference about reaching today's totally wired generation with technology. Anastasia Goodstein, the award-winning blogger of Ypulse...

invited me to speak at the pre-conference, neither as a gearhead or a guru (thankfully!), but as an author for teens. It was so fun to be alongside the very talented Melissa Walker (Violet on the Runway and readergirlz pick for August)...

and NY Times bestselling Lisa McMann (Wake). Here's Lisa doing the "Justina Chen Headley" author photo pose. Which is actually the Katie Couric author photo pose. Anyhow, Lisa looks waaay cuter than either me and Katie.

One of the best parts of Ypulse was meeting my Tracy Grand, CEO of JacketFlap, a social networking site for the publishing world. And then, of course, there was David Levithan (author extraordinaire, executive editor, man of many talents). It was as if my camera was embarrassed by my fangirl moment around him and blushed on my behalf.

I've decided that Cindy Eagan, the editor of the Gossip Girl series among others, needs to move next door to me so we can hang out all the time. And it's only because I like her so much that I've posted our picture...because does or does not my face look ginormous here? I'm sorry, but it does. And I cannot believe my sister who delicately blamed my still-blushing camera from above for creating an optical illusion.

And then there were the Girls Inc dream team: Allison Keilly and Claire Mysko (who wrote You're Amazing!):

And the girl who could have been the case study for Claire's book, Ashley Qualls, the teen creator of Whatever Life, who very generously outfitted me with a pink piggy bank, slinky, and water bottle. What I really wanted was her dress.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A New Kind of Beauty Contest: you be the judge!

My mom is one of the most beautiful women I know. And since I was a little girl, she's always told me that part of our job on earth is to help practicing her bandaging skills in case of a community emergency. With her philosophy in mind, I tie all my books to community service...whether it's a college scholarship or a challenge grant to fund youth-led ideas.

My next novel, NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL, is being published in Feb '09. Which means it's time for me to start working on a cool little community service project. So I'm considering a YouTube contest: iMbeautiful, challenging teens to tell me in 90 seconds or less what they think is Truly Beautiful. For every video that gets uploaded, I'll donate $10 (up to $3,000 total) to this wonderful non-profit group that provides surgeries to kids with cleft lips in third world countries. Thoughts?
My very good friend and amazing graphic designer, Kim Edberg, has started concepting some logos for this program. I love Kim's design work because it's always so layered with meaning. (North of Beautiful is about a mapmaker's daughter. See the compass, which is also on the book cover?) Which logo direction do you prefer? Why?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Faeries and Cougars and Potties...Oh, My!

Ever wonder where stories come from? You read a book and think: how on earth did the author imagine this one? Well, I got to see one of my favorite fantasy authors and magi of words (and my readergirlz co-founder) in her natural habitat: the Methow Valley. Meet Dia Calhoun...

and her infamous cougar stick...

a necessary precaution considering she's seen two cougars prowling her sprawling paradise of apple, pear, and Rainier cherry orchards. Not to worry! The threat of wild creatures doesn't inhibit Dia's creativity. Case in point: here is one of Dia's most ardent fans reading FIREGOLD, published many moons ago. (FIREGOLD was inspired here at Dia's farm. Just read a passage, and you will swear you get a whiff of apples off the page.)

Very generously, Dia took out time from her precious writing day to tour me and the kiddos around the farm...including the Apple Faery's gate. And the Haunted Outhouse. Which really did creak and moan almost on cue...

That made the second special outhouse my kids and I "encountered" in the last two days. The first was on a geocache, appropriately named Faery Loo:
Don't worry. We closed the door tight to keep out trolls just as the faeries asked. But the door to our writerly imaginations has been sprung wide open after this visit to Dia's Writing Wonderland!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Long Goodbye

Six weeks and counting before I leave the U.S. to call China my home for a year. Oh, I know. A year is going to flash by...even if I'm struggling with my daily 1/2 hour language tapes. My neurons are old. What can I say?

So as a goodbye present, my sister--the best sister on the planet, I might add--offered to help me with NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL, which is about a mapmaker's daughter. Look at what she made... mini matchbook thank you cards!

But you know what's really hard about moving? It's saying goodbye to my family and friends, especially the exceptional women and some of my best friends: my StrataGem consulting group.
For seven years, a bunch of us worked completely pro bono helping non-profit groups solve business problems. These women said YES to helping foster kids to kids with cancer to children who were dying. The projects we took on were HUGE in scope and demanding in hours...well beyond what volunteers normally take on for free. But these women...these women...were tireless and committed and smart. And they own a huge part of my heart.
So let me give my personal shout-out to some of the fab women in StrataGem who are pictured here:
Nicole (cute, buff, blonde) is a former television producer and current Mamazon (my role model for motherhood). She does everything beautifully. Lauren in the purple is an environmental consultant--and was green before green wasn't simply a color. I admit: she's one of the wittiest person I know, and my best lines no doubt come straight from her mouth. And at the end is Julie, an anchorwoman, and the embodiment of generosity and graciousness.

If home is where the heart is, my friends will be with me in China. I know it because they have always been there for me and for the people who have needed their talents the most.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Geeking out with Nancy Pearl

Way back in October, Nancy Pearl--as in Librarian with her own shushing Action Figure--invited me on her show, BookLust. After a devastating fashion faux pas (word to the televised: never, never, never wear the same color as the chair on a set lest you be a floating head), I managed to pull myself together enough to tell Nancy about my latest obsession: geocaching!

Think of geocaching as electronic treasure hunting, the ultimate in geekdom. You use a GPS device to find exact longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates (I warned you this was geeky). And hidden away in very sneaky places, geocachers have socked cool stashes of little treasures. For those wondering how I learned of geocaching, let me just say this: research for my forthcoming novel, NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL. Need I say more?

So today, the readergirlz divas and my kids went geocaching with Nancy.

Even after bushwhacking through brambles and spiderwebs, we were skunked by two of the caches. (Did I mention that I get hopelessly lost...and yet I love geocaching?)
Luckily, right when we were giving up hope, Dia spotted the teeny, tiny microcache wedged underneath a bench. Don't let Dia's Renaissance beauty fool you; the woman wields a cougar stick and isn't afraid to use it.
And here is Nancy, claiming her cache. Notice the glee with which she is signing her name on the log sheet! Now all she needs is to update her action figure with a GPS device, and BookLuster (her new geocaching nickname) is all set to geek out.