This past weekend, I attended the North Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association tradeshow, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Penguin hosted a meet-the-authors breakfast, which allowed me to...y'know...meet some authors! Cameron Tuttle, Loren Long, and T.A. Barron all spoke at the breakfast and had such different, but very inspiring, personal stories to tell. (Of course, I gave a presentation, as well. But I've heard my story a million times, so it's not that inspiring to me anymore.) You've gotta check out Loren's picture book, Drummer Boy. Not only was it inspired by my favorite Christmas song (and his!), but it's absolutely beautiful.
And then I crashed (just for a minute) a lunch hosted by HarperCollins so I could do a little fanboy dance and get this picture with Maureen Johnson.
Next, I took an expensive cab ride into Philadelphia...to wrap my mouth around my first-ever Philly cheesesteak. Wow!
Since I was already in Philly, I decided to check out some historical stuff. And what's my favorite American era? It's that whole Spirit of '76 thing. And what city rocks the Spirit of '76 the hardest? Philadelphia! They've got the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall, and Ben Franklin pretty much everywhere you look. They even have a new museum dedicated to the Constitution. One room has lifesize bronze statues of the signers, and you can walk amongst them, which is just eerie. When I had another tourist take my photo, I realized that I ridiculously had my hand on the back of one of the statues, as if we were posing together. (That's Ben Franklin in front, doing that classic pull-my-finger routine he invented.)
To make Penguin happy (and also because I love doing this), I walked to a bunch of bookstores in the area and signed their copies of Thirteen Reasons Why. And as I was walking by Independence Hall, the road was blocked off and a small crowd was gathering. I looked across the street, and guess who was leaving a meeting there...
Johnny McC walked across the street and shook hands with the people standing all around me. I guess I just...I don't know...didn't feel like it. But I did stick a camera in his face!
Then, the part I'd been looking forward to most of all because that's just how I am. I took a guided ghost tour! Our costumed guide led us around the city with a candle-burning lantern. In the photo below, our guide is standing in front of America's very first library, with a statue of Benjamin Franklin above her. According to our guide, Mr. Franklin's ghost has been seen many times walking through the halls with an armful of of books. But sometimes, when his arms aren't so full, his spirit has a habit of pinching ladies on the buttocks. Renaissance man, indeed!
The next morning, I went to the NAIBA tradeshow floor in search of freebies. I must've said D'oh! half a dozen times after realizing I recently paid full price for books I could've gotten for nothin'! These events are always nice for connecting with other YA authors in attendance. After chatting about the industry and creativity, someone usually says, "Hey! We should exchange books and autograph them!" So two of the latest additions to my signed-book collection are Same Difference, by Siobhan Vivian, and The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies, by Lizabeth Zindel.
My final big thrill of the trip (okay, it was actually followed by a second Philly cheesesteak) was touring Independence Hall. The room below is where the Declaration was signed and the Constitution came together. The weight of history in that room gave me the chills and, not to get all sentimental, it made me even more determined to do my part from now till November (and after) to help make this a more perfect union. By the way, more perfect union has got to be the most creative use of three words in any government document. Anyone who says America is already perfect...fine. But even the founders thought we should try to make it even more perfect. (Who knew those men in tights could be so sarcastic!) And that chair at the back of the room, that's the only piece of original furniture in there. Some guy named George Washington sat in it.