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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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For links to all of my #ImSadBookTour posts, see I'M SAD Book Tour 2018

I'M SAD Book Tour 2018 (DAY 2 - Launch Day in Richmond, VA):
Book Tour Organization, bbgb bookstore, Ridge Elementary, Bettie Weaver 

(Last updated June 18, 2018)

Chatting with young readers at Bettie Weaver Elementary. Photo: Lara Ivey.

In my previous post, I talked about leaving Toronto, visiting Richmond Public Library and finding faces in the wall at my hotel. In THIS post, I talk about I'M SAD launch day (!), working with bbgb books to visit schools in Virginia, and a wee bit of a travel crisis (but how it turned out all right in the end).

With Nancy Essid at Ridge Elementary. Photo: Jenn Warren.

Some people ask how I know which schools to contact for my book tours, how that's organized. 

I'm not sure about other author tours and other publishers but Simon & Schuster Children's works with the bookstores. My S&S contact was Senior Publicist, Audrey Gibbons; I mention her further down on this page (Audrey is my hero).

Apologies in advance if I have any of this wrong (to those in the know: feel free to correct me!) but as far as I know in my case, here's what happens:

S&S decides what author/illustrators to send out for a book tour for a particular book. I'm not exactly sure what goes into this decision, but I am grateful whenever I am invited. 

S&S decide on the geographical area. I asked Senior Publicist Audrey Gibbons about how this is decided and she tried to explain, but I confess I was unable to fully grasp the mysterious and subtle behind-the-scenes alchemy. Some of you have asked if I could come visit your area next time. My advice: find the bookseller most actively involved with local schools, and let them know.

Talking to several hundred K-2 students at Ridge Elementary in Henrico, VA.

S&S reaches out to booksellers. The impression I get is that booksellers either get a list of S&S authors or illustrators who will be visiting the area in the coming year and are given the opportunity to say "yes, we'd like to host that person" or they are specifically approached, and dates are negotiated.

The booksellers reach out to schools in the community. After talking to various booksellers along my tour, I believe this decision depends on individual bookseller relationships with the schools.

On this day in the Richmond, VA area, I was grateful to bbgb tales for kids bookstore for their help in my school visits. Jenn Warren of bbgb was my escort; she was wonderful. Here's a photo of Jenn with Ridge Elementary librarian, Nancy Essid (Nancy's on the left, Jenn's on the right):

I loved the cultural diversity in Ridge Elementary's student population! See the Welcome sign in different languages near the top of this post. And check out the welcome sign in the library window!

After lunch, Jenn took me to Bettie Weaver Elementary. I had already been in touch with librarian Lara Ivey as well as some of the students on Flipgrid, where they posted video comments about my picture book, Sam & Eva.

This Bettie Weaver mural was made from BOTTLE CAPS!!! Photo: Jenn Warren.The first thing I noticed about Bettie Weaver Elementary: so much great art everywhere! Kudos to their art teacher, Courtney Day.

With Lara Ivey outside Bettie Weaver. Love all the original art! Photo: Jenn Warren.

Students created a real-life Wishtree, inspired by Katherine Applegate's book!

And LOOK, Bettie Weaver even did broken crayon art, after seeing mine online:

Photo: Jenn Warren.

What a welcome! I had such fun chatting with about 300 of Bettie Weaver's K-2 students about I'M SAD.

Lara Ivey introduces me to Bettie Weaver students. Photo: Jenn Warren.

And what a joy to finally meet Lara Ivey in person:

With librarian Lara Ivey. Photo: Jenn Warren.One of the parents had made I'M SAD cupcakes, and they were DELICIOUS:

Later in the day, I also attended the Book Fair in the school, organized by bbgb and Bettie Weaver. Such a great event!

Photo: Lara Ivey.

I was also excited to sign my very first copy of Colby Sharp's The Creativity Project (I had never been asked before):



After the Book Fair, a Music Express car came to pick me up and took me to the Richmond, VA airport. And here's where things unravelled a tiny bit. Remember I said that while I *love* talking to young readers, I wasn't as keen on the travel bits? This is one example of why.

When I first received a draft of my itinerary, the original plan was for me to take a connecting flight from Richmond, VA through Washington to Philadelphia. The connection seemed pretty short to me (50 min) because if the first flight was delayed, there was a good chance I'd miss the second. I was stressed about this because if I missed the second flight, there were NO other flights to Philly and I had three school presentations the next day starting at 9:30 am.

Happily, my publicist (Audrey Gibbons at S&S) listened, could tell I was stressed, changed plans so that instead of flying through Washington, I'd stay at a hotel near the Washington airport and then get picked up at 4:30 a.m. to head to Philly. Yes, 4:30 am is a tad early, but at least that way I'd know for sure that I would get to the first school on time.

What happened: when I tried checking in at the Richmond, VA airport I was told:

- My flight to Washington was delayed until 10:30 pm and even that might end up being cancelled.

- There were no rental cars available (I don't drive but even if I did, this would not have been an option).


Whenever I go on a book tour, there's always an Emergency Travel Assistance number at the top of every page in my itinerary, just in case. It was time! I called the number.

They had no idea who I was. 

I gave every different version of my name I could think of ("Ohi? Ridpath? Ridpath Ohi? Maybe hyphenated?"). I gave my publisher name, my publicist contact name, the reference number at the top of every itinerary page.

They referred me to another department with another phone number. I called that number. The new department also had no idea who I was. They gave me SIX more numbers to try. (An aside: it turns out that the travel agent who had been working with S&S was out of the office that day and for some reason, my name and reference number were not in their records.)

Audrey called me back while I was on hold or talking with some of these numbers (I had left a rather panicked message on her cell answering service), and we talked about possible solutions. She tried getting the car service to pick me up at the airport and take me to Washington, but all the cars were booked....a situation that had never happened to her before.

I think I was freaking out a bit (mainly at the idea of not being able to get to the first school the next day and disappointing students/teachers who had been prepping for my visit) because at one point Audrey paused and said,

"Are you going to be all right?"

Her tone and these words helped calm me down. Why? Because it told me that she cared about me as a person, not just as an author. I have noticed this genuine caring with ALL my interactions with those at Simon & Schuster Children's.

Anyway, I ended up taking an Uber. The driver admitted when he picked me up that if had known that he'd have to drive over 2 hours to the destination, he probably woudn't have accepted the request. But he was honorable and didn't want to bow out after having committed (yay). He asked if I could talk to him during the ride, though, because he was sleepy. I also offered to share part of my dinner (thanks to Lara Ivey for the sandwich and snacks) since he hadn't eaten dinner, either, to help keep him awake.

And YAY, we made it to the hotel intact. :-) Poor driver had to turn around and drive back to Richmond! I gave him a nice tip (thanks, S&S!) and wished him a safe trip.

As I got ready for the next day's visits and then for bed, I discovered that not only was my first connecting flight 2 hours delayed, but the second flight I was originally scheduled to take to Philly had ALSO been delayed a couple of hours. SO glad I had expressed concern about the connecting flight, and that my publicist had listened.

Grateful to Audrey for her help, to the Uber driver for being willing to drive 4+ hours, and I was also grateful for a BED. Knowing I had an early morning pickup the next day, I tried not to think about the travel stress but instead thought about how much I enjoyed that day's visits. 

The cute felted bluebird shown below (a gift from Lara Ivey! Bettie Weaver's mascot is a bluebird), made by Jennifer Askue-Collins, made me smile as I carefully repacked it. It was going to be my good luck charm on my book tour but even more importantly, it reminded me that even if travelstuff sometimes went awry, being able to talk with young readers made it all worthwhile. How better to spend launch day of I'M SAD?

Thanks to Lara Ivey for the gift of this adorable felted bluebird (Bettie Weaver's mascot is a bluebird).

In case you missed the previous post: Day 1

Next up: Day 3 - Holy Trinity School, Snyder-Girotti Elementary, St. Mark's School and B&N Fairless Hills In Pennsylvania! And a Surprise Encounter...

For links to all of my #ImSadBookTour posts, see I'M SAD Book Tour 2018