When I meet with students, I try to convince them that being a writer is not easy. That I don’t sit down at my desk and words flow from me effortlessly. I also try to convince them that I’m not rich. I don’t have a butler. I don’t live in a mansion.
They don’t always seem convinced.
Mostly I tell them all this because I didn’t know it when I was a kid. I thought authors were magical fairy wizards who lived in castles made of jewels. Or, I guess, mostly I thought authors were either dead or millionaires.
I didn’t know writing was something anyone could do.
Want proof of what the writing life is really like? Here’s a (mostly true) video about how I came up with the idea for Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book). It involves a lot of coffee, terrible story ideas, and procrastinating.
A few years ago, I read a blog post by the amazing and lovely Heidi Schulz about the book launch party for her debut novel, Hook’s Revenge(if you haven’t read that book, I insist you run out and buy three copies immediately — it has humor, heart, and swashbuckling adventure), and how she had the party in her library. I feel like I usually read about book launch parties in bookstores, and I really liked the idea of having it in a the library.
Then Jen Malone had a party at her library for her book At Your Service. I remember reading about how she set up a scavenger hunt in the library, and worked with the librarians to make it a fun party for the kids, not just a book reading. “The other critical component here,” says the very wise Jen Malone, “was that the library stood to gain something here too, and I think that’s very important.”
“Hey,” I thought. “I want to do that.”
And so, now, I have! This past Saturday (March 5) I had the book release party for Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) at the South Portland Public Library. More than 100 people came to hear me read and to get a signed book, and then to play games and have snacks.
(click on any photos to make them bigger)
The library made this ENORMOUS Snappsy banner. My librarian got this photo of me halfway through deciding whether or not to hop up onto this tiny wall (I decided no).
Kids made chicken masks and alligator masks (these particular children are mine).
Toss a pancake bean bag or popcorn bean bag into Snappsy’s mouth! Win a prize! (This is a pajama-ed Ramona showing this off at home before we brought it in.)
Pudding, popcorn, pretzels, and punch waiting in the library’s kitchen.
The library raffled off this basket of fun.
Zuzu dancing in front of the photo booth before everyone arrived.
One thing I was so excited to do since we were at the LIBRARY was to pick out a selection of my favorite books, books that influenced me, and put them on display. I can’t quite explain how incredibly relaxing it was to go through the bookstacks and pick out books I love.
Here are all the Faves & Influencers on display. I’m happy to say that almost all of them got checked out. Yay, libraries!
Here I am! Reading my book in front of people!
Line for signing.
My mom reading some of the books from my Favorites Table to Ramona.
After, with my awesome librarian who willingly agreed to wear this alligator costume.
My librarians are silly (THANK GOODNESS).
So now I’ve had a book launch party at a bookstore, and one at a library. They were both super fun, and also, honestly, incredibly gratifying. I feel like I have so much support. The Books of Wonder party was amazing because so many people who had a direct hand in the making of Snappsy were there to celebrate, and also because of how many amazing and important members of the children’s literature community showed up to cheer us on. The library party was amazing because it was my own neighborhood, and the people I see every day at the grocery store, celebrating with me. Plus we could get messy with crayons and glue sticks.
In Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book), Snappsy throws a party. A party where everyone dances and laughs, eats and chats. Some kind of danceable music plays. So when we were planning the book launch parties, we thought: we should have a playlist of music that Snappsy might play!
I created a list of songs, mostly related to alligators, chickens, and food that starts with the letter P. Some of it is just danceable music that Snappsy digs.
Are you and your students/kids enjoying Snappsy? Want to throw your own Snappsy party? Get yourself some party hats, some pretzels and popcorn, and turn up the party music!
Click on this list to make it bigger, and see what all the songs are.
Snappsy the Alligator (Did Ask if You Wanted Valentines). Do you? Help yourself to this free printable of Snappsy Valentines. Maybe tape it to a small bag of pretzels or popcorn to make it truly Snappsy-approved!
Saturday was the Snappsy book launch at the AMAZING children’s book store Books of Wonder in New York City. It was an incredible day and the support and love was mind-blowing and overwhelming. Tim and I read the book and then sat down to sign…and sign….and sign. Thank you to everyone who came and waited in line!
I’m still processing the whole event. Did it really happen? Were all those people really there? Did we really sign books for three-and-a-half hours?
Click on any of these photos to make them bigger.
The Snappsy window outside of Books of Wonder.
We got there early to see Books of Wonder Tina and Books of Wonder Joel read Snappsy at storytime.
Snappsy cookies! Thank you Rich and Delicious for making them!
The spread of food that mostly started with the letter P.
It was the first time Tim and I have met! He made me laugh.
I finally got to meet my agent Danielle Smith after three years of working together!
We read Snappsy and then asked each other questions.
Tim taught me how to draw Snappsy (I somehow drew a penguin).
The crowd waiting to get their books signed.
Ramona took her (self-assigned) bookmark signing duties very seriously.
Team Snappsy! Erica Rand Silverman, Danielle Smith, me, Tim Miller, Joanna Cardenas, Lindsay Boggs.
As of February 2, you can buy my debut picture book, Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) wherever books are sold. Or check it out of libraries wherever libraries are librarying, even in other alternate dimensions. It’s true. Alternate dimension libraries ordered a lot of copies.
Hard to say anymore, because this week has been a whirlwind. I have been waiting for February 2, 2016 for so long, and then it was tomorrow and then it was today and now it’s two days ago. And it has all been amazing and great fun and boy oh boy you all are so nice! I know some people say the internet is mean, but not my internet. My internet is full of lovely readers who are happy to have another book to read, and it’s great. So thank you!
While I’m on the subject of thank yous, thank you to the team at Viking/Penguin Young Readers. A debut author, or any author, could not ask for a better team. It feels like they were like, “Hey, is it cool if we shoot Julie and Tim out of a cannon and throw confetti at them and then vacuum it up afterward while they eat cake?” I’d especially like to thank my editor Joanna Cardenas, who has made this process so dreamy what with the way she completely understands me and what I’m trying to write, her ability to send me an edit letter which is somehow a magical shining beacon that shows that the answers were hidden inside me all the time, and also her great love of books and cookies.
Danielle! My agent Danielle Smith! Oh my gosh. She took a chance on me (any agent takes a chance on a new client, I guess) but she also shot me out of a cannon (I’d like to clarify here that this is not a literal cannon, but a metaphor for some kind of publishing success cannon, and I wore a helmet, don’t worry). I am so grateful to have an agent who is supportive, kind, has big plans, and is my friend.
I need to thank Carter Higgins and Elizabeth Stevens Omlor. You know all that talk about the universe, and blah blah blah, and everyone says it so much that you don’t even register what they’re saying anymore (the universe brought you coffee? what?). But THANKS UNIVERSE for shoving me at Elizabeth and Carter. I’m still not entirely sure how it happened, but we were somehow gathered up and (oh wait, I know) shot towards each other out of cannons. Writers, if you’re just starting out, listen: find your people. You only need one or two, but if you can find a writer who is at the same stage of writing/querying you are, and who writes stories you love, and who loves your stories, grab on and don’t let go. That very small group of best friends is going to be by your side through it all, and you’ll talk about writing and everything, and you’ll have a place to say the things which you should not even think about saying out loud on the internet.
And finally my family, who has put up with me so much. I have been maintaining a general air of cheerful insufferability for years now (oh wait — maybe it’s just my personality? huh) and they have been fine with it, as long as I keep making dinner. Let me tell you this: apparently the way to remain a “cool” parent is to write a book. With my kids, at least. We live in Maine. The definition of cool might be different from other places. In New York City, parents have to learn to fly to be cool. Good thing I could be cool just by writing a book. (Really though, Henry is 12 now, and was talking about how uncool parents in general are, because that’s what 12-year-olds do, and then he admitted that I was a little cool because “you have some degree of internet fame.” Do you know how hard it is to get your 7th grader to admit you’re not the most embarrassing person on the planet? It’s harder than getting a picture book published! And that’s hard!) (He’d still prefer not to be seen in public with me, however.)
And my husband Dave, who has been my cheerleader and supporter in so many ways. You know authors don’t make a ton of money, right? I’ll admit it here: my path would have been very different (longer) if I didn’t have a situation where my partner had a job that allowed me to stay home with the kids and write. Everyone’s path is different, and there are many ways to make writing happen, but having a spouse with a job is a way that a lot of people are afraid to acknowledge. I know college me might be rolling her eyes and wondering if I still called myself a feminist (of course I do, 1992 Julie!). But I’ve searched around, and people don’t talk about it. You don’t make much money as a not-yet-published author. And I can tell you that it’s not like those throw-rug-sized lottery checks keep getting delivered to the house since my book came out two days ago (we did get a delivery of dry erase markers, but those aren’t really the same thing). I bet I’m not the only author who is supported financially by a spouse, a long-suffering spouse, a spouse who comes home to see the writer person bleary-eyed at the computer and so much dust on the floor that you can’t see the floor any more. THANK YOU, DAVE. Guys, my husband is like a superhero. He’s tall and handsome, he can cook without a recipe, he knows how to do electrical stuff and plumbing and small engine repair and large engine repair and he wears a cape. (Okay, the cape part is only true when Ramona announces “wear this cape!” and then he does it because he’s also an awesome dad.) It’s hard to be married to a superhero. You feel inadequate sometimes. He doesn’t hold it against me. Shout out to Dave and all the other partners who go to jobs where they get paychecks to support the writer people at home who are not doing the dishes. Or who are doing the dishes! Whatever we’re doing, it doesn’t bring in money (yet!) and you all are so very patient while we are waiting to get shot out of our cannons. Here! We made you cookies! Yes, instead of folding laundry. Yes, the rug needs vacuuming, we know. Leave the light off when you go into the bathroom, please. Cookie?*
It’s a really nice feeling right now to be able to say “yes, my book is out.” Many of you know how long it takes for a book to be published, but the people I only vaguely know that I run into at the grocery store don’t know. So they say, “Hey, is your book out?” and then you have to say, “It’s coming out in a year” which is totally normal but the person looks at you like, “wow, is she ever a liar.” So it’s nice to be able to say it’s really, truly, a book that you can buy and read.
You have been so patient reading all this! Here is a quick run down of Snappsy excitement extravaganza stuff that happened this week:
I was interviewed by Colby Sharp, where I talked about what the hardest and easiest things about being an author are, and what book I’d like to live in.
Tim and I were both on Matthew Winner’s Let’s Get Busy podcast. We had a really fun time chatting with Matthew, and I don’t know if this is obnoxious to say (like, “I love the sound of me!”) but I had a lot of fun listening to it too.
And now we’re getting reading to go to Books of Wonder on Saturday. Tim Miller and I will be there from 1-3 singing and dancing (metaphorically) and signing copies of Snappsy. If you’re in New York City, we’d love to see you there!
* Edited to add: I wrote all this and then went for a run and it struck me that this might make us sound like we’re rich people who live in a mansion and have a butler and something called a livery stable even though we don’t eat much meat. We’re not. We scrimp and save and buy discount bread and used clothes and never eat out or go to the movies or do any kind of recreational activity that isn’t free. We are lucky in that we do have health insurance and enough that it made sense for me to stay home with our many children and work on my writing. But I don’t want you to think, “Oh, I don’t need to buy her book because she’s a dilettante hobbyist with piles of money.” Oh heavens, no. Please buy my book. If you can’t (which I get! books are expensive!) you can ask your library to buy a copy, and then we all win.
I had the honor of reading Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) at the South Portland Public Library’s “Noon Year’s Eve” party (which was on New Year’s Eve, but at noon, because little kids, and — oh, you can figure it out). I have mostly been reading to classes over Skype, which means I’m shoving the book up against the computer and doing fun voices to tell the story.
So it was super fun to read the book live in front of a (big!) crowd, when I could act things out a bit more. And wear a boa (thanks to the librarians for providing me with a boa) (boa’s are very important to authors).
Doing my best to wow the crowd.
This photo is a delightful mystery to me. I have no memory of spinning, running, or reading into a wind machine, but one of those must have happened.
Life imitating art. Not on purpose.
If you missed it and you’re in Maine, come back to the South Portland Public Library on March 5, when we’re having a huge party to celebrate Snappsy, complete with crafts and food and books to buy and get signed.