My New York Trip - January 2009

     Only a crazy person like me would head north in January, right? Well, wowsie was it worth it! 8 days and 7 nights of unbelievable!! I’ll start with the first leg of my journey in New York. My next post will cover the Kindling Words Retreat.
     Author/Illustrator Katie Davis was kind enough to let me stay with her wonderful family in their 100 year-old farm house an hour north of down-town while I visited New York to pound the pavement for two days (something I’ve heard people rarely do anymore).
     To kick things off, when I landed at JFK (and passed miles of gorgeous graveyards on the way through Queens - who knew?), I headed straight to my agent’s office for our very first face to face. Courtney Miller-Callihan used to be my former agent’s (Faith Hamlin) assistant - we started working together about a year ago when Faith’s schedule grew overwhelming with the success of Fancy Nancy and other projects. Courtney started taking on clients of her own, me included - and I have to say I LOVE MY AGENT! She takes GREAT care of me and we get along fantastically well (knew we would). I was awestruck by the space at Sanford J. Greenburger - books were everywhere! True decorating chic. In fact, book decor became the theme for the next few days.
     I had a few hours to kill after our meeting so walked around New York like a complete tourist gawking at everything. But it was COLD, so I popped into an Italian bakery to get the first chai latte of the trip (also a recurring theme). Katie soon caught up and together we headed to my first KidLit Drink night arranged by librarian Betsy Bird (you may know her as Fuse #8). Writers, Illustrators, Agents, and Editors showed up to Gstaad and since the ALA awards were announced during my flight up (1st year I’ve missed the live broadcast - dang!) we were all buzzing about this year’s selections. We had a blast and Katie and I were even able to enjoy a beer on the train ride home - what a highly evolved city. :)
     Tuesday morning I took the one-hour train ride from Katie’s house into the city (a surprisingly relaxing ritual) to meet my agent again, this time for lunch. We talked about books, and my career, and what the future holds, and I left completely fired up.
     From there I headed to see Reka Simonson at Henry Holt Book for Young Readers. Holt is in a flat-iron building - very beautiful on the outside, and very tight on the inside. Again, books were everywhere.
     This was my first meeting like this ever, so I had no idea what to expect, but it went really well. I showed Reka my portfolio and some book dummies, talked about books Holt has produced including two of my favorites - Los Gatos Black on Halloween and The Glass Slipper. It was a nice meeting and Courtney will send her some of my work to consider. I enjoyed a great view of the Empire State Building when I stopped for another chai before my next meeting. Did you see the pic on my facebook page? Can you see the tree forts in the trees? *sigh*
     My second meeting was with my new publisher, Sterling Publishing! I’ve hinted at this but here’s the big announce: (drum roll please) I have a contract with Sterling to illustrate "The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia" written by my bud, Susan Rosson Spain!! This will be one of the 50 books Sterling plans to create in this series (6 are already out). Happily, I’ve learned that several friends have been signed on for the books in other states - so we’ll be publishing house, and now series sisters! Yeah!
     I met my new Art Directors and got a quick peek into the Sterling offices (big, swanky and beautiful!). Can’t wait to dive in!
     It may not sound like a big day, but it was. And just right. Not too many meetings, not too much walking (although still a lot). It was a good way to plan this trip.
     Back home to Katie’s we ate dinner and got nutsy over American Idol! And then . . . a blizzard struck that night. When I awoke the world was completely white - gorgeous. Jerry (Katie's hubbie) said he hoped I’d get to see snow in the city, but apparently the concentration of things in town tends to make it warmer - which meant I got rain, rain, rain, and more rain. Ugh. I bought an umbrella from a street vendor, but it was too late by then. I was soaked to the bone. Oh well - it wasn’t as if I was alone!
     My first meeting was with Martha Mihalick (wearing adorable wellies to deal with the ugly weather) at Greenwillow. I have to say, the offices at Harper Collins are probably most like what I picture in my head when I think of what a publishing company should look like. Illustration posters were everywhere, people happily milled about, the halls meandered around nice-sized offices. It had a very warm, happy feeling.
     Martha and I met at an SCBWI Southern Breeze conference a few months back so our meeting was very comfortable and laid back - I felt like I was visiting a friend. Again, I showed her my portfolio and we discussed my career and Greenwillow (one of my dream houses).
     Of course, when it was over, I had to brave the rain again. I hit yet another coffee shop, got yet another chai, and laid my wet clothes over the chairs to dry. I had two hours to kill this time, so did some writing. I actually made some progress which surprised me. I don't tend to frequent coffee houses to just hang out and write - but now I'm sold. Coffee houses rock.
     My clothes were still damp, but I was meeting writer Mikki Knudsen for lunch! (She has a new novel coming out in April which I can't wait to read!) We had a nice leisurely time over edamame which I loved after I figured out how you're supposed to eat them...
     And then I was off to yet another appointment. This time I headed to Simon & Schuster to see Art Director, Laurent Linn. I met him at that same regional conference and we completely hit it off, so I was excited to visit my new friend.
     Walking into S&S is . . . intimidating. There are TWO guard desks in the large marble lobby! (And no, I didn't slip on that pretty marble, not me - I'm much too dignified to do something silly like that...) But up to the children’s division was another world. Color was everywhere, illustration posters too. It was personalized and cumfy. I immediately ran into Mark McVeigh - yet another editor I met at a conference - of course he's now Publisher of Aladdin. I can’t imagine he remembered me, but he greeted me warmly. Then I got a big hug from Laurent and we were off to his office which he had decorated to the hilt. It was very groovy and expressive. Again with the portfolio, but this time Laurent gave me some pointers - a bona fide portfolio review. I soaked it all in and we talked about some other project ideas. His enthusiasm is so wonderful, and he's so talented, I’d love to work with him someday.
     From there I headed back to the train - how can you complain about anything when you get to walk through Grand Central Station every day?

Even the ceiling is covered with constellations!! It truly is fabulous.

     That night I treated Katie's family to a thank-you dinner along with Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner Hope Anita Smith. How great to be able to help her celebrate the amazing honor only two days after she won it! And boy did she deserve it - dang is she talented! And on the way back through town from Vermont I got to hang with yet another guest in Katie's happy home, awesome storyteller Dianne de Las Casas. We all signed Katie's guestbook joining the multitude of famous talents who have enjoyed her hospitality. Katie has got to have the biggest heart of anybody I know!

     Truly, how can you not love New York? On my departure, I took the train into Grand Central then caught a bus to JFK. Even on a big stinky bus with taxis madly honking at each other, this was the view. Ahhhhhhhhh.
     Yeah, I could live in New York in a heartbeat!!
     But wait! My trip wasn't over. From New York I headed to the Kindling Words Retreat in Vermont which I'll post about tomorrow....

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