Monday, November 25, 2013

Being There: The Adventures and Misadventures Middle Grade Book Tour

In mid-November, seven MG Luckies traveled from Richmond, Virginia to Jersey City, New Jersey in an old-fashioned book tour: Caroline Carlson (Magic Marks the Spot, HarperCollins), Melanie Crowder (Parched, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Elisabeth Dahl (Genie Wishes, Amulet), Kit Grindstaff (The Flame in the Mist, Delacorte), Kristen Kittscher (The Wig in the Window, HarperCollins), Jennifer Ann Mann (Sunny Sweet Is So Not Sorry, Bloomsbury), and A.B. Westrick (Brotherhood, Viking)

We could have stayed home and Skyped with the schools and libraries, and easily mailed out our author-signed bookplates to the bookstores. But no…we showed up. And by no means am I putting down technology that connects us to readers across the United States and beyond. These technologies offer us extraordinary opportunities to meet with children, teachers, librarians, and booksellers. What I am saying is that nothing beats being there when it comes to connecting with other humans. I’m even willing to take it one step further: Meaningful relationships require our actual physical presence.

So what do you get for the price of physical connection? Everything!

There were so many lovely interactions that the tour made possible, but one of my favorites was after our Ridley Middle School event. Because we wrapped up our event at dismissal time, we all--authors and students both--poured out of the building at once. Suddenly we weren't authors on an elevated stage anymore--we were just people like them, walking down the sidewalk to our cars and buses, energized by the bright, warm November day. As we walked, we chatted a little, here and there, until fanning out into the city again. I like thinking that in moments like these, students saw us as real people doing regular jobs--jobs that they too could have someday.” –Elisabeth Dahl

For me, the highlights are talking with kids who love to read, kids who love stories, and kids who think they might want to be writers some day. At bbgb bookstore in Richmond, one family drove an hour and fifteen minutes to see us, and when we did the Q&A time, one of the kids (upper-elementary age) asked us what inspired us to become writers or to write the stories that we'd written. I loved that -- it was a reminder that kids as young as elementary school are already looking for inspiration!” –Anne Westrick

My favorite moment of the tour was sitting down with a group of kids at Cockeysville Library near Baltimore, Maryland and helping them develop their own characters for stories. Sitting elbow to elbow, writing together, laughing at some of the silliness we came up with sure beats long solitary days in front of the computer wrestling with self-doubt. It's always fun to share The Wig in the Window with kids, but helping them ignite their own imaginations right there in person? That's the best of all." –Kristen Kittscher

I love doing school visits and bookstore events, and creating what I hope are fun and memorable experiences for the kids. On our Luckies tour, having seven authors present ramped up the energy and fun factor exponentially. To me, the two high spots in that regard were our Cockeysville Public Library tween/teen writing workshop and our Ridley Middle School visit. You could feel the excitement in the air; the kids' enthusiasm to participate and ask questions was palpable. Those events will stay with me a long time - and I hope with the kids, too. And the thought that we might have fueled even one student's inspiration is icing on the cake - or actually, that is the cake!” –Kit Grindstaff

After addressing a huge crowd of Sixth Graders in a school outside of Philadelphia, they lined up with slips of papers in their hand in front of us (their pre-orders). The first little girl on my line walked up to me and said in the quietest voice ever, “I bought your book.” It took everything in me not to sob like a freak! She could have no idea how long I’d waited to hear that or just how stinkin’ happy I was that she’d bought my book.” –Jennifer Ann Mann

And here we are…being there.

Jennifer Ann Mann
October 1, 2013 Bloomsbury Publishing
May 1, 2014 Bloomsbury Publishing


  1. "...nothing beats being there when it comes to connecting with other humans." So true!! I was thrilled to get a chance to meet you all and hear about all your wonderful books! That was a blast.

    1. Thanks Joanne! We feel exactly the same way.