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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? BLOG

Updated: July 26, 2016

This is part of the super-fantabulous Bonus Page for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, Debbie's first solo picture book, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2015.

If you're interested in finding out more, please visit the Simon & Schuster website, the WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Bonus Page or follow my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Facebook page

Entries in booktour (7)

Monday
May252015

WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour (Part 8): Final wrap-up, what I learned, what I'd do differently, things I learned to have with me at all times

For an index of all my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour recap posts, see http://debbieohi.com/2015booktour

I'm NOT bored at Carol Stream Elementary! Photo: Gabriela Auld.

First off, thank you SO MUCH to Simon & Schuster Children's for giving me the opportunity to go on this book tour! I know author book tours are a rare animal these days, so I'm well aware of how lucky I am. Thanks to my S&S publicist Kelsey Dickson for organizing my Where Are My Books? book tour, and for supporting me throughout the week. And thank you to the bookstores, libraries and schools who let me visit them as well as those of you who came out to support me. 

In the space of five days, I did 14 presentations at 10 schools and two libraries in three states. I also visited four bookstores during the week-long trip

Sketching at Irving Park Elementary. Photo: Kira Larson.

Now that I'm back home and have (nearly) finished unpacking, I've had a chance to go through my notes and photos and have been thinking about what I've learned, and what I'd do differently next time.

WHAT I LEARNED:

- Even though I've always considered myself a nervous public speaker, I discovered that I forgot about being nervous once I was out talking with students about things that excited me.

- Upon arriving at a school, I learned to always confirm what was expected of me. What I found: sometimes communication lines had gotten crossed and that what was in my written itinerary had changed by the time I arrived at a school. One session got turned into two back-to-back sessions. A 45 minute session got turned into an hour. Finding out I was also expected to sign books meant I needed to shorten my presentation if I had a firm "must leave school by xxxx time in order to get to next event."

At Learning Community Charter School. Photo: Charlotte Kreutz.

- Before a presentation, ask if there are any special needs students in the audience. This gave teachers/librarians a chance to let me know of potential unexpected interruptions like yelling or other noises, so I wouldn't be surprised. Thanks to my media escort, Genene Murphy, for this tip.

- Having a good media escort makes a huge difference.

- I learned that YES, it was possible to hand-wash my presentation outfit and dry it using the hotel room blowdryer in 40 minutes. My outfit was still a tad damp by the time I had to leave for my first school presentation, but it dried quickly:

- Until the Apple Watch makes it possible to force the display to stay on, it does not make a good watch for a public speaker. Why? Because it's impossible to casually glance down and check the time; I would have to raise my wrist to get the display to turn on, and I didn't want to do that in the middle of my talk. Early in the week, there was one school where I could NOT see a clock on the wall, and I lost track of where my media escort was in the crowded room (she was going to give me hand signals when I got to certain time marks). I ended up switching to my old-fashioned analog watch after that.

- I discovered how much I love talking with young readers.

Students told me how much they loved to draw or to write. Some told me they couldn't draw very well, but I could tell from the way they said it that they wanted me to contradict them. They shyly handed me their drawings of the little girl in I'M BORED or the talking potato or the flamingo. They told me what books they loved and what books they were reading. Some hugged me fiercely, even they were only tall enough to hug my knees. Some wouldn't let go. :-)

- Many of the school tech staff people thanked me for sending such detailed info about my laptop and tech needs, so I'm definitely going to do the same next time. What I did: take a photo of the connector/adaptor ends, my laptop and the connector outlet hole thingies in my laptop. This seemed to be much more effective than just sending the text info, though I also included that as well. And as a backup, I also took a USB stick with my slideshow presentation in many different formats (static images, Keynote, Powerpoint, PDF) AND I brought some tabloid-size printouts of key slides just in case all tech failed.

Click to see larger version- I learned that you can do advance check-in even if you have no printer handy! At least you can for certain airlines, and especially if they have their own app. 

- I learned that no matter how tight my schedule is or how many people are talking to me while I'm packing up, I alwaysALWAYS need to do a thorough scan of my presentation area, before leaving the school. I very nearly forgot my iPhone in one school and an important adaptor cord in another.

WHAT I'D DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME:

- To ask for more of a time cushion between events, if at all possible. This not only makes me more relaxed for the presentation but also gives me a chance to chat informally with the kids and adults, even for just a few minutes. This also gives me a bit more leeway in case there is heavy traffic between two venues.

- Bring copies of some of my other books. I regretted my last-minute decision not to take I'm Bored or Naked! with me, to save on carry-on space/weight. There were several times when the I was asked about either or both of them, and it would have been great to read an excerpt. If I was still opting for just carry-on, however, I'd need to sacrifice something else in my luggage.

- Not sure if I'd bring my portable projector for trips when I fly with carry-on only. I never ended up using it, because my tech always worked with the school projector. A big help: Jeff made sure I had every possible type of connector/adaptor, so I never needed to rely on the projector. The projector itself took a big chunk of space in my carry-on, so I might save it for local visits.

- Even if there is no time to go to a convenience store, buy some granola bars or other on-the-go snacks as early in the trip as possible. Because cross-border food is frowned upon (especially since I use a Nexus card), I didn't have anything with me when I arrived in the U.S. and didn't have time to shop for snacks once things got started the first full day. On days when there was no time for lunch or I didn't have dinner until 9 or 10 pm, it would have been good to have SOMETHING to nosh on in the car between visits. I smartened up after the first couple days and got into the habit of ordering extra fruit with room service and buying granola bars at the hotel shop before heading off to schools.

- I won't bother printing out multiple copies of my itinerary in case I lose one, because the itinerary is likely going to be revised several times while I'm on the road. Despite my electronic gadgets, I ended up relying solely on one paper copy that got progressively more wrinkled and scribbled upon over the week. I took photos every so often in case I lost the paper copy.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED TO HAVE WITH ME AT ALL TIMES (and within easy reach):

- A copy of my book.

- Sharpies, for signing books. I find I prefer Fine Point but like to keep an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie handy as well, in case I need to sign in a smaller space, or if I want to add details.

- My iPhone, for taking photos.

- My itinerary.

- Small bottle of hand sanitizer. Tissues. The combo came in handy when my hands got sticky/dirty for whatever reason.

At the last minute, I took a small, lightweight cloth bag with a shoulder strap...and this turned out to be invaluable. Yes, I sometimes had several bags hanging off me BUT it meant that I had easy access to my passport, iPhone and itinerary in airports when I was lugging stuff around in a hurry, plus it made taking a quick photo easy.

In case anyone's curious, my carry-on consisted of:

- A Land's End Lighthouse 27" Hybrid Upright Bag: I love the wheels that can spin 360 degrees so I can roll the bag without tipping it. I only had to check it once, when I was flying in a very small plane and it was a full flight. On the plane, I tucked it under the seat in front of me and put my backpack in the overhead bin.

- Backpack. Inside the backpack, I kept a small purse backpack (I put it in the larger backpack in airports so the latter wouldn't count as an extra item), electronics like my laptop and projector.

Before I went into schools, I put my presentation stuff into my rolling bag and left my larger backpack in the hotel room, just took my small purse backpack.

I did not check any luggage.

========================

And thus ends my Where Are My Books? Book Tour recap. Going through the photos has brought back some truly wonderful memories. THANK YOU, SIMON & SCHUSTER CHILDREN'S!

As I mentioned up top, you can find links to all my book tour recap posts at http://debbieohi.com/2015booktour

Sunday
May242015

WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour (Part 7, New Jersey): Learning Community Charter School, WORD Bookstore, and board gaming

For an index of all my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour recap posts, see http://debbieohi.com/2015booktour

With found object art that Learning Community Charter School students helped me create and name! Photo: Charlotte Kreutz.

The last school I visited during my Where Are My Books? Book Tour was Learning Community Charter School in Jersey City, NJ. The LCCS is an independent public charter school "dedicated to using an innovative integrated approach to achieve the intellectual, social and emotional development of all students."

Thanks to Charlotte Kreutz, who is the Special Projects Coordinator at the school, for making me feel so welcome:

I had great fun chatting with the school's first- and second-graders:

Photo: Charlotte Kreutz.

Also really enjoyed doing a drawing demo and making some found object art with the students. Love the names that they came up with for our two characters: "Uh" and "Uh-Huh." :-D

Photo: Charlotte Kreutz.

Had some fascinating conversations with some of the students as I signed books. LOVED how keen they all seemed to be about books and reading!

Because I had no more visits scheduled that afternoon, I had time to visit with my board gamer friends Geoff and Susan Engelstein:

Thanks to the Engelsteins for their hospitality, for dinner and for playing Finca with me! If you're interested in board games, I encourage you to follow Geoff on Twitter -- he's a game designer, co-hosts a podcast about board gaming and is also a contributor to The Dice Tower.

The next morning and on the last day of my book tour, I visited WORD Bookstore in Jersey City.

SO wonderful to meet WORD's children's book specialist, Arielle Milstein. I love her enthusiasm and energy! 

The store was packed with parents and their kids, and Arielle seemed to know ALL OF THEM. What a wonderful community! 

Storytime at WORD Bookstore (Jersey City, NJ). Photo: Marcie Colleen.

My board gamer friend Gil Hova dropped by to say hi; he lives in the neighborhood. Thanks also to my friend Marcie Colleen for coming to my Storytime! Marcie, for those of you who don't already know, did the wonderful Teacher's Guide for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? and my other book projects, but also has several children's books coming out from HarperCollins and Scholastic (yay!). She is incredibly supportive of other children's book authors/illustrators and is just as delightful in person as she is online.

Thank you, Marcie! And thanks for the photos, too. :-)

Drawing a WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? squirrel at WORD Bookstore (Jersey City). Photo: Marcie Colleen.

 And then it was time to head back HOME.

Next and final post coming soon: Final words, what I learned, what I'd do differently next time.

 

Saturday
May232015

WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour (Part 5, New Jersey): Lincoln Elementary, Hillside Elementary, Taylor Swift, book jewelry, cupcakes and Books, Bytes & Beyond

For an index of all my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour recap posts, see http://debbieohi.com/2015booktour

It was Stripes Day at Lincoln Elementary, in honor of the little girl in I'M BORED. Photo: Jackie Soroko.

I had been looking forward to the New Jersey leg of my book tour for many reasons, but one was because I had been so enjoying tweets by indie bookseller, Books, Bytes and Beyond. I love the sense of humor and excitement about children's/YA books that comes across in tweets like this one:

I was picked up at 7 am the next morning. Part of the reason: MANY students in the Jersey City area had pre-ordered my books. YAY! This meant, however, that I'd have to sign a LOT of pre-ordered books during my lunch hour. Which would be okay, except that I also wanted time to eat and chat with BB&B.

So instead, I opted to visit Books, Bytes & Beyond before my school visits that day began:

One of my book tour highlights was hanging out with Mary Brown and Trish Bernabeo of Books, Bytes and Beyond:

Not only are they incredibly passionate about getting children and teens excited about books, but they are lots of fun to hang out with. While I signed books, our conversations ranged from books (of course) to authors to Star Trek to food to the children's publishing industry. Mary is also Jordan Brown's mother, and I was delighted to discover that Jordan used to be in a band.

With Jackie Soroko and students at Lincoln Elementary (Wyckoff, NJ).

But back to signing. I find that while I can chat while I'm doodling in the books, I can't chat while I'm signing with text. You'd think I would have learned from last year's signing session with Michael Ian Black, when I started writing my I'm Bored-themed message in the front of Naked!

So our conversation tended to be sporadic. I'd sign a bunch of books, then give my tendons a break and chat, then go back to signing, etc. We still managed to get in a lot of fun conversation. :-)

Chatting with K-3 students at Lincoln Elementary. Photo: Trish Bernabeo.

The first school visit was Lincoln Elementary in Wyckoff, NJ; Trish accompanied me to both schools that day. Many thanks to media specialist Jackie Soroko, who ended up doing more setup for my visit than she expected when one of the other staff couldn't attend that day. And it was her birthday, too!

I discovered that Lincoln had declared that day "Stripes Day" in honor of the little girl in I'M BORED; even the principal was wearing stripes! Not only that, but Jackie showed me a table at the front where the students had their found object art on display, inspired by me.

I was so moved that I had fiercely tell myself dontcrydontcrydontcry and focused on the presentation.

Hillside was just as fun! As the students were coming into the gymnasium, I chatted with some of the younger students near the front. These were some of my favorite conversations on the book tour, when I had the chance to chat with smaller groups of young readers.

Sometimes they noticed my handmade book jewelry:

The earrings were made by library assistant Marj Engle via Etsy, and the NAKED!-themed necklace was a gift from my friend Diane Paine-Wheeler.

Talking with K-2 students at Hillside Elementary (Closter, NJ). Photo: Trish Bernabeo.

After my presentation at one of the schools (I can't recall which one), Trish and I passed a girl in the hallway who said that the reaction of the students was "like Taylor Swift came to visit our school!

With Principal Mary and students at Lincoln Elementary (Wyckoff, NJ)

I was flattered, of course, but I was even more impressed by the fact that these students loved books and reading so much that they were HONESTLY EXCITED about the creators of the books. Again...kudos to the teachers and librarians of these schools!

Drawing the girl from I'M BORED for Hillside students

Between the school visits, Trish took me back to Books, Bytes and Beyond and I did more signing plus had some lunch. And CUPCAKES! I love cupcakes. Or rather I love cake in general and I also love miniature food, so cupcakes are like a dream food for me. And darn, I forgot to take photos of the cupcakes.

Chatting with K-3 students at Lincoln Elementary (Wyckoff, NJ). Photo: Jackie Soroko.

After my presentation at Hillside Elementary ended, I hurried out to the car. Why the rush? Because I knew timing was going to be tight re: getting to Allentown Public Library on time; I had several locals tell me that they didn't think I would be able to make it. I told the driver not to break any laws but to please PLEASE do what he can to get me to the library as quickly as possible. 

To be continued (!)....

Wednesday
May202015

WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour (Part 4, North Carolina): Irving Park Elementary, New Garden Friends School, Scuppernong, why I love talking to K-4 readers

For an index of all my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour recap posts, see http://debbieohi.com/2015booktour

Melanie Mendenhall introduces me at Irving Park Elementary. Photo: Kira Larson.

The next morning in Greensboro, NC, my driver and I arrived at the school early. Which made me very happy; I FAR prefer being early than late or just barely on time...less stress, and it gives me a chance to get my bearings and breathe. I asked him to find somewhere peaceful to wait and he discovered this beautiful park:

We both stretched out legs, got some fresh air. So wonderful to start the day in such a beautiful setting, with the birds singing and sun-dappled shadows all around. 

Kira Larson, my contact at Scuppernong Books, came to greet me when we arrived at Irving Park Elementary. Kira had left Scuppernong since I had interviewed her for my blog, but was kind enough to accompany me anyway; thanks to Kira for taking photos during my school visits, too! I also enjoyed meeting Irving Park Elementary Media Specialist, Melanie Mendenhall:

Melanie Mendenhall and Kira Larson at Irving Park Elementary

While we were waiting for all the classes to arrive, I started doodling on the flipchart easel. One of the students came over to greet me and I decided to sketch her:

I had great fun doing two presentations at Irving Park Elementary, and the audience of young readers was super-enthusiastic. Yay for books and reading! I had fun chatting with some of the students in the front rows as the others were filing in for each presentation.

Also had a wonderful time with my presentations at New Garden Friends School:

Talking to students at New Garden Friends School (Greensboro, NC). Photo: Kira Larson.During my book tour, I talked to groups of many different sizes. I don't have as much in-person public speaking experience as some other authors/illustrators so was expecting to be super-nervous in front of the larger crowds. 

What I discovered, however: When I was talking about something that I cared about, I tended to forget about being nervous and focused on connecting with my young audience instead, to help them see why I was so excited and why they should be, too.

I especially love talking with the K-4 age group. They are so honest and upfront in their reactions and affections.

With Michele Larson at New Garden Friends School (Greensboro, NC). Photo: Kira Larson (Michele is Kira's Mom!).

Thanks to Michele Larson, Erin, Meg and the other faculty for making me feel so welcome. Check out the great welcome sign above! They also presented me with a very cool New Garden Friends backpack and a mug. I used the backpack to carry some of my gear to my Toronto book launch a week later.

After my presentations at New Garden Friends, I headed to Scuppernong Books, a lovely bookstore and cafe. The cafe serves organic coffee and espresso, wine and beer, and fresh sandwiches and sides all made in-house. Co-owner Brian Lampkin saw me taking a photo of the sign mentioning my name out front and came out to greet me:

Brian made me a sandwich and I had one of their specialty green teas while I waited for my session time. YUM. Thanks to the adults and children who came out to see me! I especially enjoyed meeting Caroline and her family:

Caroline and I had already been interacting via Twitter and other social media. Her children had made me this adorable card:

And it was also great to meet Ena Jones; Ena and I have the same literary agent: the awesome Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown. Ena's book, Clayton Stone, At Your Service debuts this fall from Holiday House!

My Music Express driver had strongly advised me to leave Scuppernong a bit earlier than planned in order to catch my flight from Piedmont to NYC; if there was heavy traffic, I might not make it. Happily, traffic was okay and I arrived at Piedmont International Airport with a bit of time to spare. 

Another driver was waiting for me when I landed at LaGuardia:

Ordinarily I would have chatted more with the driver, but I was pretty wiped; I nodded off a couple times in the car. It had been a fun day, but very busy. :-) I went to bed very soon after checking in.

Continued in Part 5...

Tuesday
May192015

WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour (Part 3, Illinois): Peterson Elementary, River Woods, Media Escorts, Questions From Students

For an index of all my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour recap posts, see http://debbieohi.com/2015booktour

With AnnSchimmoler at Peterson Elementary

At Peterson Elementary (Naperville, IL), I was delighted to see that Aaron Reynolds had visited the school in the past:

Aaron Reynolds signed poster at Peterson Elementary

In fact, Aaron's visited several of the schools I've been doing virtual visits with as well as some of the schools I visited on my book tour. Everyone raved about his fun and informative presentations. They were excited to hear that I'm illustrating a new picture book written by Aaron, SEA MONKEY AND BOB (coming out from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in Fall 2016).

I hope to meet Aaron in person someday!

Love the student art on the ceiling in the Peterson Elementary library!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a media escort with me: Genene Murphy, who works with Bill Young Escort Company. When Genene picked me up the first morning, I had assumed she was just a driver. As we started talking about the plans that day, however, I realized she was much more.

ME: "Waitasec. You mean you're going to be with me the whole day?"

GENENE: "Of course! I'm your media escort."

As soon as I realized that Genene was going to be watching over me while I was in Illinois, I could feel my whole body relax. And I wasn't wrong...she was FANTASTIC. She went with me into schools and helped to make sure everything was running smoothly. She asked so many questions that I wouldn't have known to ask, like whether I'd be expected to sign books and whether there were special needs children in the audience. The latter was good to know because then I would be prepared if there were certain kinds of interruptions.

Genene also kept an eye out of my well-being, helping make sure I didn't get too tired or hungry but also helping to keep me on schedule. Sometimes it was a challenge to do both, but Genene was SO great. I learned a great deal by asking questions as well as just observing her in schools.

She also took photos during my events as well as asking the school's permission about whether I could post them online. Here's one she took of me doing a found object drawing demo with students at Peterson Elementary:

I varied my presentation a bit from school to school, depending on the number of students, their ages, their reactions during the first part of my talk, and how much time I had.

Talking with K-2 students at River Woods Elementary (Naperville, IL)

I so appreciated the warm welcome that schools showed me during my book tour. Check out this wonderful welcome sign that greeted me when I arrived at River Woods Elementary in Naperville:

With Mary Giuliani at River Woods Elementary (Naperville, IL)

Another highlight of my trip: the questions that students asked during the Q&A. In some schools, students had questions prepared ahead of time. In others, they made them up on the spot and you never knew what they'd be asking.

Sampling:

Q: "May I have some water?" 

Q: "When do you get tired?"

Q: "Do squirrels attack people?"

My answer to the last one was (of course) NO, but then another little girl put up her hand and volunteered the fact that squirrels DID attack people, she saw it in the news. I quickly changed the topic. :-)

 Rearranging my carry-on at O'Hare before flying to Greensboro, NC

After River Woods, Genene drove me to O'Hare International Airport. It was hard saying good-bye Genene; I so badly wanted to take her with me the rest of the trip! But I don't think she would have fit in my carry-on, plus after me, she had another client to watch over. Genene was efficient, fun, easygoing and did a fantastic job at helping everything run smoothly, plus I felt well taken care of. If you're looking for an excellent media escort in the Naperville, IL area, I strongly recommend her services.

I had several hours at O'Hare before my flight, so had time to rearrange my carry-on (in case they forced me to check my bag) and also look around. I loved all the art on display in the airport, including these benches. Turns out that the benches were hand-painted by Chicago teenagers as part of a program called After School Matters, which employs teens and has them work with professional artists to create unique pieces of art while also learning valuable job skills. What a great program!

 

My flight to Greensboro, NC was delayed so I ended up not getting to bed until pretty late (late for me, anyway). Stayed up long enough to do some prep before my pickup the next morning, then crashed.

Continued in Part 4