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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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Quick Navigation: Back to Debbie's Books - I'M...Books series - I'M SAD Bonus Page

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

I'M SAD Book Tour 2018: Working With Michael Ian Black, Advice For Authors/Illustrators Doing Their First Book Tour, Final Thoughts.

(Last updated: June 28, 2018)

Despite some of the glitches I mentioned in some of my previous I'M SAD Book Tour posts, this was my favorite book trip ever. Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster Children's as well as all the bookstores and schools who helped Michael and me celebrate the launch of our new picture book, I'M SAD. Special thanks to S&S publicist, Audrey Gibbons, for all her help and my book tour partner, Michael Ian Black. More about working with Michael below.

At Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, MA. Photo: Janice Byrd.

Q. What were the highlights of the book tour?

Too many to mention specifically, which is why I wrote so many highlight posts that included meeting teachers and librarians who work incredibly hard behind-the-scenes, bookstores and booksellers who do amazing community and school outreach programs, meeting Jeff Kinney & seeing his bookstore (especially the yet-to-be-launched upstairs), checking out the art and writing by students related to my/our books, signing school rocks and library walls, the generosity of kidlit friends, seeing friends at bookstore events, welcome signs, visiting The New York Times and more.

My biggest highlight: I *loved* talking with young readers.

I especially love talking to the picture book age crowd because kids this age are so honest and open. If they're bored, they let you know it. But if you manage to connect with them, say something that has an impact, they also let you know it. A tweet from Bethany Callahan (@MsCallahan121 on Twitter):

So many heartmelt moments. Just a few:

- After presentations at some schools, younger kids would sometimes break away from the lines filing out of the gymnasium and make a run for me. They'd hurl themselves and wrap their little arms tightly around my legs in a hug. I was so torn because I'd want to hug them back but I wasn't sure if that was allowed. Heartmelt.

Lara Ivey introduces me at Bettie Weaver Elementary in Midlothian, VA. Photo: Jenn Warren, bbgb books.

- After my presentation at one school, I had a bunch of students run up to me and tell me they had never, ever seen a real-life illustrator before. One of the boys grabbed both of my arms (poor teacher was telling him no, always ask before initiating physical contact) and begged me, "Please, please, PLEASE come back tomorrow? I want to show my comic!" (I gave the teacher my email address but haven't yet heard back).

- Seeing Michael reading I'M BORED aloud at a kid-sized table at a school library, surrounded by young students hanging on his every word. Speaking of Michael....

At WORD in Jersey City. Photo: Gil Hova.

 Q. What was it like working with Michael Ian Black on the book tour (and in general)?

At Traphagen Elementary in Waldwick, NJ. Photo: Trish Bernabeo.I have loved Michael Ian Black's writing ever since I illustrated I'M BORED. I feel a real connection with his picture book stories: they're funny and quirky but have heart, can be appreciated by both grown-ups and kids (but never make fun of kids). I'm also a fan of his books for grown-ups, You're Not Doing It Right and Navel Gazing. I'm excited about his upcoming book, A Better Man, which will be an open to letter to his teenage son that calls for "rethinking masculinity" and how to love and be loved (and if you haven't already, do read his op-ed piece about boys and masculinity in The New York Times). And if you listen to podcasts, I encourage you to check out his How To Be Amazing podcast (he is such a good interviewer).

During a Q&A at one of the evening bookstore events, I publicly confessed that when our editor first approached me about illustrating I'm Bored, I wasn't familiar with any of Michael's shows or movies (I had never told anyone this before). Michael was on stage with me and his reaction to my confession was hilarious: he looked shocked and then without a word, STOMPED across the stage, down the stairs, into the back room, and SLAMMED the door behind him. The audience was in hysterics, and I couldn't stop laughing. (Note: Since I'm Bored, I've become a true fan of not just Michael but his other work as well -- see this unofficial and totally unauthorized Michael Ian Black info page I've created for others who discovered Michael through kidlit but want to know more about his other work).

At Books Of Wonder in NYC. Photo: Audrey Gibbons, Simon & Schuster Children's.

Michael made me laugh SO much. He is sweet and funny and really "gets" kids. Not surprisingly, he is very good at improvising, and this greatly enhanced the drama/acting portion of our presentation (inspired by an idea given to me by my teacher friend, Allison Durno) where Michael called for volunteers and went through an improvisation exercise about emotions. Sometimes I laughed so hard that my stomach hurt. Kids are amazing, and so is Michael.

Some of you may have wondered how the "doing a book tour with a celebrity" thing went. It really wasn't an issue. Kids didn't care about Michael's celebrity status; they were just interested in him as an author and someone who cared about what they thought, who connected with them.

In public places outside of bookstores, it only came up a couple of times. Once was at the airport in New Jersey, when someone came up and shook Michael's hand, said he was a fan of his work. After Michael boarded the plane (I was in a later boarding group because I don't travel as often), I could hear the buzz around me, people talking about Michael's tv shows and movies.

Then there was a restaurant where Audrey and I had lunch before meeting Michael at R.J. Julia. We had assumed Michael was having lunch elsewhere since he had arrived earlier but then our waiter came up to us and excitedly said, "Do you know who's in the next room? Michael Ian Black!" It turned out he had ended up having lunch at the same restaurant! He came to join us, and that's when Audrey took this photo:

Michael was also an excellent travel companion. We had a Skypecall before the tour to discuss plans, and it came out that both of us are introverts. Knowing this (and knowing that the other person also knew this) helped us both relax a bit, I think. Neither of us felt the need to constantly fill quiet spaces with chatter, and we also understood that we needed some solitude to recharge. We had some good conversations, and I feel even luckier to be working with him.

Selfie I took during one car ride, to send Jeff (MIB and Jeff met a few years ago).

Michael has been supportive of me and my work since day one, when Justin Chanda (our editor at S&S) told him about me, and Michael gave the go-ahead for me (an unknown newbie with NO picture book illustration experience) to do the art for I'M BORED, my very first picture book project. I was deeply touched by what he said about me on Late Night With Seth Meyers shortly after our book tour ended:

You can also hear how supportive he is of my work during our FB Live Event at The New York Times:

The photo below, by the way, is now my iPad wallpaper because it makes me happy every time I see it, for so many reasons (you can read about our visit to The New York Times here):

He hardly takes anything with him when he travels; I've never seen someone pack so light.

Michael, as I mentioned in one of my early blog posts, is also more zen about travel stress than I am and is also nice to EVERY SINGLE PERSON we encountered....including waitstaff at restaurants, hotel staff, drivers, etc. I felt like a curmudgeon in comparison (I tend to get over-stressed when things are going wrong, especially if I haven't had enough sleep) and vowed to myself than I need to be better from now on.

Michael inspires me to be a better person.

In sum: Doing a book tour with Michael Ian Black was a joy. I adore Michael and his work, and look forward to working with him again. 

Q. You travelled with just carry-on. Were you happy with your packing choices? What would you do differently next time?

Yes, I was happy with my packing choices this year. I took one pair of shoes instead of two --- I usually wear boots and take flats. I was also happy with the two outfits I took on my 8-day trip (one of which was a reversible dress); my sisters-in-law and nieces helped me pick them out a month before in Stratford, ON. The only piece of clothing I did NOT use was a light raincoat, but that was because we were very lucky with the weather throughout the trip.

And I was definitely happy with the art supplies I threw in at the last minute. They saved me at The New York Times FB Live event!

With Laurent Linn (my art director at Simon & Schuster Kids), Justin Chanda (editor) and Michael.

Q. Any tips for authors and illustrators doing book tours for the first time?

Take a portable battery charger for your cell, for times when you are without access to a power outlet for many hours at a time. I took an Anker 13000 mAh.

Check and doublecheck and triplecheck dates/times. Then check again once you're on the road, ideally directly with your contacts at schools and booksellers.

If you can, get a media escort. I am grateful to Simon & Schuster for providing me/us with one most days of the book tour. Sometimes the bookseller assists instead -- Trish Bernabeo of Books, Bytes & Beyond was fantastic, for example. 

Get a smartphone with a good camera and learn how to use the camera. I have an iPhone 7 Plus and love the built-in camera. The photo of me and Michael above (the one Audrey Gibbons took, at the restaurant) was taken with my iPhone. I use an Otterbox case for my iPhone just in case I accidentally drop my cell during the trip (or someone else does).

Expect things to go wrong and try to plan ahead for when they do. Avoid connecting flights whenever possible. If you do agree to a connecting flight, be wary of tight connection times (travel agents always seem to assume optimum conditions and on-time flights).

In case anything goes wrong on the trip, have at least TWO emergency contacts. My emergency contact number that was on my written itinerary didn't work when I needed it most (they had never heard of me) but least I had my publicist's cell.

Don't post photos that show children's faces unless you have permission. Try to get permission (a good media escort will do this without being asked) while you are still at the school, to make it easier for everyone.

If you have concerns about the itinerary, let your publicist know. I'm grateful that Audrey Gibbons listened to me when I said I was worried about one of the connecting flights. Turned out that everything I thought might go wrong DID go wrong, and more. Fortunately, Audrey and I had worked together to find a solution beforehand.

Check over your itinerary closely to make sure you have time to eat. Sounds stupid, I know, but it's necessary. Sometimes it just won't happen because of circumstanes out of your control. Keep healthy snacks that are easy/quick to eat with you at all times.

If you're flying a lot during the tour, take carry-on only. If you take checked luggage and it goes astray, it will likely NEVER CATCH UP TO YOU. Make sure what you wear is made from a material that you can wash in your hotel room sink and blow-dry. :-)

No matter how chaotic or hurried everything is when you're packing up to leave a school, take the time to check you have all your belongings, including power cords. Have a checklist that you go through every single time. Ask your media escort or teacher/librarian contact or bookseller contact to help check. Write your name and cell number on your power cord and anything else that might get left behind.

When you end up leaving behind your power cord in another city despite all the precautions above, try very very hard NOT to dwell on what went wrong and focus on solutions and enjoying the rest of your trip. Have a supportive husband and sister whom you can text or phone for practical and emotional support, who reassure you that everyone makes mistakes but that they still love you and everything will be okay. :-)

Be prepared for the tech NOT to work. Have a backup plan.

Be grateful to the booksellers who helped arrange the school visits, who helped promote your visit and arrange for pre-orders, who carry your books and tell others about your books.

Be grateful to the teachers and librarians, who introduce your books to their students and help get them excited about your visit.

Be grateful to your publisher. Book tours are a rare animal these days. 

Q. Would you do this again?

Yes.

A resounding YES.

MY HEARTFELT THANKS TO:

Simon & Schuster Children's, our publicist Audrey Gibbons, Michael Ian Black, bbgb bookstore, B&N Fairless Hills, Wellesley Books, An Unlikely Story, Books, Bytes & Beyond, Word Bookstore, RJ Julia, Bank St/Savoy, Powerhouse Arena, Books Of Wonder, The New York Times, Ridge Elementary, Bettie Weaver, Holy Trinity, Snyder-Girotte Elementary, St. Mark's, MacArthur Elementary, Codman Academy, Traphagen Elementary, Memorial, T. Baldwin Demarest, and anyone who came out to any of my/our events!

I am especially grateful to Justin Chanda (editor) and Laurent Linn (art director) for all their help working on both I'M BORED and I'M SAD. Can't wait until I'M WORRIED launches next year!

You can see links to all my I'M SAD Book Tour Posts here:

I'M SAD Book Tour, Day 1 (Richmond, VA): Leaving Toronto, Richmond Public Library, faces in the wall.

I'M SAD Book Tour, Day 2 (Launch day in Richmond, VA): bbgb Bookstore, Ridge Elementary, Bettie Weaver, travel crisis.

I'M SAD Book Tour, Day 3 (Philadelphia, PA): B&N Fairless Hills, Holy Trinity, Snyder-Girotti Elementary, St. Mark's, a Surprise Encounter.

I'M SAD Book Tour, Day 4 (Boston, MA): Kate Messner Generosity, Wellesley Books, MacArthur Elementary, Heartmelt Moments at Codman Academy.

I'M SAD Book Tour, Day 4 (evening): An Unlikely Story (and Michael joins me on tour starting this evening!).

I'M SAD Book Tour, Day 5 (Jersey City, NJ): Books, Bytes & Beyond, Traphagen Elementary, Memorial, T. Baldwin Demarest, WORD Bookstore.

I'M SAD Book Tour, Days 6 & 7 (Madison, CT / RI / Brooklyn, NY): Bank St. Books/Savoy, RJ Julia, PowerHouse Books.

I'M SAD Book Tour, Day 8 (New York, NY): Simon & Schuster, New York Times, Books Of Wonder.

I'M SAD Book Tour, Day 9: Highlights, what it was like working with Michael, advice for authors and illustrators going on their first book tour, final thoughts. (You're reading it now)

At bbgb's book fair at Bettie Weaver Elementary in Midlothian, VA. Photo: Jenn Warren.