The Marvelous Thing That Came From A Spring making more Best of 2016 lists

The Marvelous Thing That Came From A Spring made it on The Nerdy Book Club’s 2016 Best List for Non Fiction Picture books. You can see the impressive line up of other great non fiction HERE.

It also made Betsy Bird’s Fuse 8 list for best nonfiction of 2016 and can be seen HERE. It was great to see my illustrator friends Fiona Robinson, James Gulliver Hancock, and John Hendrix on the list, along with author Debbie Levy, who wrote the upcoming February release I illustrated entitled Soldier Song.

Washington D.C.

I spent the first weekend in November promoting The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring in the D.C. area.

Friday morning I visited Burnt Mills Elementary School and put on a presentation for the first grade students. The whole thing was set up through An Open Book Foundation, a nonprofit bringing authors to schools that have never had an author visit, and purchasing a book for each child. It was an honor to be included in their roster of authors, and I hope to work with them again on my next visit to D.C.
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The students at Burnt Mills were mesmerized by the process video in my presentation, where they got to see my apartment, how I work and live, and how I create the dioramas in the book. The takeaway for the presentation, as well as the book, was the importance of having an idea, and no matter how quirky, an idea can become a reality through hard work and careful planning. After I read the book, I drew some of the students’ ideas on new uses for the Slinky on a pad of paper.
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After the school visit, I had a joint book release at Hooray for Books with writer and teacher, Mary Quattlebaum. Mary taught me when I attended Vermont College of Fine Arts, so I was really happy to reconnect with her after not seeing her for over a year. Many of Mary’s students and friends attended the event to show their support so Mary dressed as a Cheetah for her new book Together Forever, and somehow, she coerced me into wrapping aluminum foil around my suspenders so I could go as a Slinky.
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The D.C. trip ended with a panel discussion on how to break into publishing children’s books held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

I also got to meet author Debbie Levy, who wrote Soldier Song, the book I illustrated coming out early next year.

Hopefully I will be back in the D.C. area next year to promote that book with her!
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Book Launch in Washington D.C.

Join me and Mary Quattlebaum in a joint book launch in the Washington D.C. area this November 4th at Hooray For Books! We will also both be serving on a panel discussion Sunday, November 6th at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library with many other talented children’s book authors. If you are in the Washington D.C. area, please come!

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Surviving a Tornado

Book launches stress me out.

Often, I wonder if anyone will show up, and worry that there’ll be a stack of books I sign to no one that fills up the dead stock in the bookstore. So I’ll invite 300 people on facebook. Since everyone I know is an author or has published something, about 40 will open their invitations, and the rest will pretend they didn’t see it (Hey, I’m guilty too!), and there will be about 20 declines, some of them leaving a trail of regret on my wall that makes me feel like the kid whose birthday falls on Christmas. So then I’ll rally my two friends with kids that didn’t get priced out of New York City and pray they bring a play date to the launch.

To complicate things, this year I decided to have two launches: one in New York and one in Jackson, Mississippi, where I grew up. To further complicate things, there was going to be an after party at the New York launch where my parents would meet my significant other. To make things ridiculously complicated, I somehow orchestrated two school visits for my trip to Jackson,then a book launch, followed by my 20-year high school reunion.

I think my brain just exploded because it was overloaded with things to stress out about.

My parents flew in for the weekend of my book launch in New York City and stayed with me. After a day of coaching from my mom (she teaches PreK), and stuffing an assembly line of grab bags containing Slinkys, bookmarks and Tootsie Roll pops, and two sleepless nights on the sofa, we were ready for the big day at Books of Wonder.
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So the day of the event, I woke up to a bunch of texts asking me if my launch had been cancelled. Then my dad showed me the front page of the New York Times. The heading screamed: “Terrorist Attack in Chelsea!” The bomb had gone off a few blocks away from Books of Wonder, and all traffic had been diverted away from the store.

At that point, I was doing the math: Scratch 20 people —NO ONE WAS GOING TO MY LAUNCH!

I checked my instagram, praying that the store was closed so I could just forget about it, but Books of Wonder had posted minutes earlier that they were looking forward to having my launch at 3:30.

It was still on?
IT WAS STILL ON!

(But how would we get there?)

My brother came to the rescue with his car and we packed it tight with goodies, models, and cookies. Then we boogied.

Upon arrival, the clerk informed me that the author before had three visitors, but we were welcome to the leftover refreshments from his event. At that point, I didn’t care. This launch would be a rehearsal for the launch in Jackson. I would put on a show for just my family if I had to.

But when the clock struck 3:30, a bunch of familiar faces filled the seats in front of me. Store traffic had also resumed, and the clerk was pulling out more chairs and ushering strangers with kids to sit.

Before I knew it, there were 40 people at my launch!

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I delivered my intro, played my video, gave my slideshow, and read my book to the audience. Then I picked up a pen and diagramed ideas for new uses for the Slinky from volunteers. After the applause, I signed books for old friends and even some new ones.

And the after party? It was a success! The significant other passed all my parents’ tests. And by the time I reached Jackson, stress caused no distress.

I landed to an impromptu family reunion, coupled with a surprise visit from my sister from Ecuador, a birthday party for my 90 year old grandmother, two school visits, 5 presentations, and a full-house book launch at Lemuria.

After signing close to 200 books, I ended my visit surrounded by old classmates I hadn’t seen in 20 years, half of them with my book, telling me they remember me drawing, and in a way, I hadn’t. Changed. One. Bit.

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As for me, I didn’t feel like the same person. I just walked straight through a tornado, facing every anxiety with shoulders back and a smile on my face. 🙂

School Visits!

There were two book launches for The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring: One at Books of Wonder in New York City and one at Lemuria in my hometown Jackson, Mississippi. I gave a presentation about my work, including a 5 minute video on my process. Then I read the book.
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After that, I talked about how other people have invented uses for the Slinky and took suggestions on new uses for the spring. Then I diagramed how these new inventions would work.
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After several drawings, I answered questions and signed books.
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For the school visits I did two presentations per school: one for prek and kindergarten, and one for first and second graders. (Notice something different? I never wear a hat in schools!)
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If you would like for me to give a presentation at your school, please contact me or my publisher

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