I had the time of my life. I spent 11 days in New York —three days in New York City, 8 days in northwestern New York at the Highlights Foundation’s writers workshops at Chautauqua.The city leg of my visit was all about networking. I met with a few children’s book editors and designers, and I reached out to many authors and illustrators. At Chautauqua, buckled down and worked. Worked my butt off, too.
Upon my return, I wanted to write a full recap of my experience, but that wasn’t possible. I had work to do. So here’s a recap in photos:
My first full day in the city was busy. I had appointments with my editors at Lee & Low Books and Scholastic. And I had lunch with Sean Qualls, an illustrator whose artwork I just adore. Below, I get a first-time look at artwork created by R. Gregory Christie for our book IT JES’ HAPPENED: WHEN BILL TRAYLOR STARTED TO DRAW. I love how the art turned out, Greg really captured the spirit of outsider artist Bill Traylor.
Between appointments, I walked the streets in the SoHo district, and got all caught up in the fashion scene. New Yorkers are all about high-styling.The constant barrage of fashion billboards left me feeling old, like I needed a pair of skinny jeans. I tried on a few, but due to my my pot-belly and over-age, I quickly exited the clothing stores.
After lunch, I headed over to Scholastic where I met with Andrea Pinkney, vice-publisher at Scholastic. Andrea was warm and inviting and she gave me an assignment. I won’t say what it was, but I will say I have my work cut out for me.
That evening, I attended a special Scholastic previewing of the New Harry Potter movie. Andrea could not attend, so she gave me her ticket. It was so exciting to see the movie with enthusiastic Scholastic employees who cheered and clapped throughout.
The next day, I ventured out to south Manhattan where I met with my editor at Penguin, Steve Meltzer. Steve made me feel like the most important person in New York City, and I appreciated his hospitality.
Upon leaving Penguin I shopped a bit more in SoHo, bought my wife and son some gifts, and then I took a cab to the Natural History Museum, where I had my photo taken with dinosaur bones for author friend Greg Leitich Smith. He is doing a series entitled Authors and Illustrators and dinosaurs, in prep for his upcoming book, The Chronal Engine (Clarion, March 19, 2012).
After a walk through Central Park, I met with a few authors and illustrators at Books of Wonder, and I also got to meet the much talked about Peter Glassman. Thanks Phil Bildner, Melanie Hope Greenberg, Jerry Craft, for making my time in NY that much more memorable. Jerry drove in from Brooklyn, and we chatted trade in the mix of crazy New York traffic.
The next morning I flew into Buffalo, where I was escorted via limo to the Chautauqua institution, to begin my week with Highlights. My week with Highlights was filled with many magical moments, too many to cover in a blog. The most exciting moment was when Julie Ham, with Charlesbridge Publishing, presented me with an advanced reader copy of my and Anna Celenza’s upcoming Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite. Another highlight was meeting with my mentor for the week, the infamous Joy Cowley, who reviewed my work, saying, “This is the best manuscript I read this week . . . you have an amazing command of language . . . you also have very good editorial skills so that my job is almost superfluous.”
Another exciting moment was when an art director at a major trade publisher snatched up one of my dummy books, saying she wanted to acquire it on the spot. Of course an acquisition isn’t an acquisition until it’s an acquisition — especially when an acquisition editor isn’t present — so I’m not getting my hopes high quite yet.
I must give special thanks to Charlesbridge Publishing. They made the whole experience possible for me, by offering a full-ride scholarship to Highlights.
More photos below: