The collective of young adult and middle grade authors is growing by leaps and bounds in Arizona, and the cool thing is, we all like each other. Last year we had a party for ourselves and it was a blast. This year we said to each other, "Hey, let's invite some more people who love books as much as we do." So we set a date (Dec 10) and a location (my house), and the eight authors who could attend got busy inviting as many of the teachers, librarians, and booksellers we could think of. And then we asked them to invite a coworker or two.
Word got out. I remember saying, "The more the merrier!" Some teachers and librarians from over a hundred miles away were planning to come. We were amazed and excited. We were about to have our own mini ALA + NCTE + BEA convention right in my house!
In early December, I started mentally adding up the potential number of people who might show up to such an event (free food and wine!) and for about 24 hours, I panicked. What if everyone we invited actually showed up? And then I remembered that lots of people plan to stop in at an open house, but when the time actually comes, things happen, or they realize I live in the boonies, and they can't make it after all. So I panicked again. What if nobody showed up? I figured at least my fellow authors would come, so we could hang out and feel like losers all together.
But my author buddies convinced me that people would come. So I started thinking, hey, if we're having our own little convention, we need to give stuff away. We need SWAG! I sent out a message to my awesome team at Simon & Schuster (Simon Pulse and Aladdin), asking if they had any arcs or finished books floating around to contribute. They said "Sure!" and got busy, reaching out to other S&S imprints as well. The other authors contacted their publishers too. In addition, we all donated books of our own to the cause -- Arizona has had some tough times and no funding for books in libraries and schools lately. We wanted to help, and we wanted to get more new books into our local schools and libraries.
The week of the party, I left on a three-day trip, and when I returned, my husband took me by the hand and said "Come with me." He showed me the entryway of our home. There were nearly twenty boxes stacked high from some amazingly awesome and generous publishers.
"Oh, my," I said. And then I looked at him. "This is going to be the Best. Party. Ever."
He nodded. We set up on the ping pong table. There were hundreds of books, posters, bookmarks, reading guides, socks, thumb drives...and more and more books. It was overflowing and glorious.
We stashed the empty boxes in the bathtub to get them out of the way.
On Saturday the 10th, the authors all arrived early with homemade appetizers and sweet snacks for our 5-8pm open house.
James Owen drew a welcome sign.
Darth headed out to the driveway to greet the book lovers.
Finally, the magic hour of 5pm arrived.
No one came. The clock ticked and echoed in the canyon. The food sat, eager, then concerned.
And then...a car containing two people pulled up. The people got out and came inside.
As any author knows, two people at a signing is worse than a no-show. It's painful and awkward and everybody involved feels weird and bad. Two people attending an event at which eight authors are present...well. It hurts to think about it.
Luckily, this car was followed by carload after carload, a maze of headlights in the darkest corner of the valley, streaming through the neighborhood. Hooray! We built it. They came.
As people arrived, my teenagers greeted them with applause -- they thought it would be great for the guests' self-esteem. After all, who doesn't like a grand entrance?
Over the next three hours, one hundred fifty Arizona librarians, middle and high school teachers, booksellers, and authors came together, met new people who shared their love for children's books, made some connections. They left with full stomachs, books in the crooks of their arms (yes, they all went for the books first, then the food), and grateful hearts for the generosity of publishers 2000 miles away. Before the night was over, the books were gone.
We want to profusely thank the following publishers who gave us books, arcs, and swag of all kinds: Simon & Schuster Childrens' Publishing, Random House, Scholastic, Walker, Fiewel & Friends, and Bloomsbury.
Truly and sincerely,
Amy Dominy (OyMG)
Bill Konigsberg (Out of the Pocket)
Tom Leveen (Party, Zero)
Lisa McMann (Wake trilogy, The Unwanteds)
James A Owen (Drawing Out the Dragons, Here There Be Dragons)
Aprilynne Pike (Wings series)
Janette Rallison aka CJ Hill (My Fair Godmother series, Slayers)
Janni Lee Simner (Bones of a Faerie, Faerie Winter)