This week we had the immense privilege of hosting a stop on Dav Pilkey’s hilarious “Howl with Laughter” tour. And I’ll tell you that over the course of the three events, there was plenty of howling to be heard … punctuated with screaming, shrieking, wailing, and even hyperventilating. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. But, of course, that’s the magic of Dav Pilkey. His signature blend of exuberant silliness; a goofy, unintimidating cartoon style; and unabashedly juvenile humor speaks to kids in their own language and slyly builds avid readers where reluctant ones sat before.
Because he’s a great sport, and we wanted to get him in front of as many kids as possible, Dav Pilkey allowed us to pack his day with three back-to-back events for almost 4,500 Austin readers. Honestly, it was a huge thrill to see so many emerging readers, many of whom who have probably heard the word ‘reluctant’ thrown around, completely and utterly losing their minds over books. Continue reading
Bill Palizollo of Northeast Publishers Reps has a different style and presence than any other sales rep I’ve worked with. Bill, a book industry veteran of 41 years, owned a bookstore for eight years,, from 1977 to 1985, and then turned to a life of commission repping. He is a book person to the core though his gruff, Friar-Tuck-waiting-for-his-first-cup-of-coffee demeanor lacks all the literary affect in which the rest of us are immersed. His frankness, honesty, humor, sneaky moral compass, and uniquely acerbic professionalism make Bill a rep I both respect and enjoy spending time with. I decided to put a few children’s book-related questions to him for our edification.
Kenny: If you were going to write a children’s book under a pen name, what would your pen name be and what book would you write?
Our local elementary schools all have Guest Reader programs, in which parents and grandparents can sign up to visit their child’s classroom to do a read aloud for the class. This is such a popular program that customers tell me the sign up for guest reader slots is mobbed on Back-to-School nights, and one school even reserves each child’s birthday as a “guaranteed” sign up day for their family, to prevent carpool line skirmishes between disappointed parents. (I realize as I write this what rarefied air we breathe in this neighborhood, where parents fight over the chance to be active in their children’s days, and can afford the time to do so.)
I’ve always wished we could afford to give away books for Halloween. I suppose it’s possible for booksellers to give away extra ARCs past their pub dates, but in neighborhoods that receive hundreds of trick-or-treaters, that’s not really feasible, and besides, we want kids to take their time choosing a book. Running door to door doesn’t really foster mindful pondering. However, one of our customers has found a beautiful way to share the magic of words and imagination on Halloween night.
It’s funny what can happen when you throw around industry jargon assuming everyone is familiar with only to find that they are not, in fact, familiar. I’ve written here before about trying to phase out my usage of the terms “middle grade” and “young adult” in store signage and handselling. These phrases tend to be heard as “middle school” and “young adult” (as opposed to 12 years old and up) by anyone not in the book business. And what’s the point of holding on to a phrase that doesn’t communicate what we intend it to? Continue reading
Last Saturday, thousands of readers from all over Texas celebrated the 10th annual Texas Teen Book Festival at St. Edwards University in Austin. As I wrote last week, the months leading up to the event are filled with planning meetings, emails, and spreadsheets, as BookPeople, the Texas Book Festival, and our dedicated team of librarian volunteers put everything in place. Once the day arrives, though, there’s nothing left to do but let it all happen and enjoy the show. We did have a few uncertain moments when we decided to enact our rain plan for the first time, but the show must go on, and it was great!
We kicked off the morning with an exclusive roundtable discussion for our We Need Diverse Books Essay™ Contest winners, all of whom wrote thoughtful essays about “The hero I want to see…” These lucky young writers got to sit down with authors Julissa Arce, David Levithan, Tochi Onyebuchi, and Cynthia Leitich Smith along with Brenda Conway from Random House to ask questions and share thoughts about writing and publishing and the power of representation. One of my personal favorite moments of the day came when Julissa Arce realized that a number of the winners were from her old high school in San Antonio. They couldn’t have been more delighted. Continue reading
Most bookstore’s have little traditions built around recurring elements in our world. One of our traditions at DDG is the Rainbow Fairy Theme Guess. First of all, for the uninitiated, here is a little background information.
Little is known about how Rainbow Fairies come into the world, whether they are hatched or not, but we do know that when they come into their maturity many Rainbow Fairies join a thematically related group. Past themes have been Dance, Color, Earth, Sports, Baby Farm Animals, Jewels, and so forth. Each fairy represents an element of her theme. For example, the Party Fairies include Jasmine the Presents Fairy, and Polly the Party Fun Fairy. Or again the Candyland Fairies, whose members include Monica the Marshmallow Fairy and Gabby the Bubblegum Fairy.
Some themes are rich enough to have two related incarnations. For example, the Candyland Fairies came after the Sweets Fairies, or again the Baby Farm Animal Fairies were followed by the Baby Farm Animal Rescue Fairies. It should be noted that there are occasionally special Rainbow Fairies who stand alone, such as Kate the Royal Wedding Fairy, but by and large themed groups of Fairies, in sets of either four or seven, are revealed twice a year on the Scholastic frontlist. This brings us to the DDG Rainbow Fairy Theme Guess.
We are a year-round children’s store here in Central Indiana, with sales seasons punctuated by holidays but driven mostly by the school calendar of our young readers. Our local community disappears for Spring Break and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but otherwise, our sales are spread pretty evenly over the entire year — unlike some of my colleagues in beach and lake communities, who are now slowing down after a busy summer. Here, we march steadily through the months of the year, celebrating birthdays and lost teeth and first days of school and travel soccer and new siblings… all with wrapped gifts of books and toys and “little somethings” for siblings purchased by doting grandparents and busy, over-scheduled parents en route to parties at the local trampoline center or gymnastics studio.
My hat goes off to editors. Their work is amazing; a great editor understands an author’s vision and works to help him or her realize that vision by asking the right questions at the right time and making suggestions that spark a creative response. Great editors have enough distance from a project to consider it, if not objectively, then with a particular kind of outside perspective that can be enormously helpful. They are not only the stand-ins for future readers, noting where a passage is muddy or out of place and likely to confound an audience, but they attend to both minute details—suspect grammar, awkward word choice—as well as overarching concerns of theme, structure, arc, etc. They navigate tricky waters, rowing away from what might be personal preference to shape a manuscript in a certain direction, and toward professional support of an author’s intention. Editors are also a project’s most resilient cheerleader. And they do all of this with very little external acknowledgment; the public rarely knows whose skilled and thoughtful analysis has guided a manuscript to its best form.
As I write this, we are about 34 hours away from the 10th annual Texas Teen Book Festival. Planned in partnership between BookPeople, the Texas Book Festival, and several amazing librarians who do this in their free time, TTBF has grown from an experiment launched in a high school theater to an event that takes over St. Edwards University campus with 35+ authors and 4,000 readers every year.
At this point, the truck has been packed with books, giveaways, banners, props, and all kinds of miscellany. Final emails have been sent out to authors, publishers, and moderators; announcements are getting a final polish; and signage has been printed.
Festivals are whirlwinds of energy and activity. Every year is different, so there’s always a new wrinkle to adapt to and learn from. But here are a few things I’ve learned over the last decade in the trenches as TTBF Programming Director.