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NAKED! Book Tour (Part 2): Finally meeting Michael Ian Black in person, NAKED! at Barnes & Noble, talking with young readers

Part 1 (prep) – Part 2 (NYC, meeting Michael Ian Black, B&N) – Part 3 (S&S) – Part 4 (Boston, Porter Square Books) – Part 5 (Northshire Books Saratoga, Division St. Elementary)

Jeff and I had breakfast on Wednesday morning in the hotel restaurant. If I wasn’t so distracted about the upcoming event B&N that day, I’m sure I would have appreciated the restaurant decor much more. VERY shiny:

Restaurant at Dream Hotel New YorkWe checked out and then waited in the hotel lobby until we were told that our ride (a Music Express van) had arrived. And then as the driver was loading our luggage, MICHAEL IAN BLACK GOT IN THE CAR. After giving him a big hug, I immediately forced Jeff to take this photo on my iPhone:

Then I noticed Michael’s cool socks, and asked if I could take a photo of those. Without hesitation, Michael said “sure.”

I can’t remember what we chatted about during the ride to B&N, but I’m sure I was babbling. To Michael’s credit, he didn’t freak out or roll his eyes or run screaming from the van. Instead he was such a sweetie, nodding and occasionally inserting a comment when I paused in my babble to take a breath, and eventually I calmed down and we started having a normal conversation. 

And then we were at B&N! 

Katy Hershberger (our Simon & Schuster Children’s publicist) was waiting for us, and we were introduced to Jennifer Stark, the Community Relations Manager. While Jeff took my laptop and projector to test the setup, Michael and I began signing books.

The students coming to see us had a chance to pre-order books from B&N, and we could sign/personalize each one ahead of time (the little post-it notes you see above have the names of the children) so that they didn’t have to wait in line.

If I was going to do a book tour on my own in the future, I would definitely try to arrange this if there was a large group. It’s not so much an issue for smaller groups plus I would have loved to chat with each child, but for bigger numbers it’s much more efficient for everyone, plus ensures that each child who wants a signed book will get one.

Jennifer (the B&N Community Relations Manager) was smart. She didn’t put ALL the books in front of us at once but one small pile a time, so that we didn’t feel overwhelmed. Each time we finished signing a batch, more appeared. When the pre-ordered books had all been signed, we signed stock.

Then the kids started arriving. I think there were several classes from different schools at each presentation. Or maybe each presentation was for a specific school? I’ll have to check with Katy.

One of the classes was late, though, and the waiting children were getting restless. I forgot that I was supposed to be nervous and got up on stage, started drawing a bizarre creature with the help of the kids:

As soon as I started interacting with the children and drawing, my nervousness dropped away and I began having fun. Their enthusiasm was infectious. Wings or arms, I asked. WINGS! they yelled.

I soon realized, of course, that I needed to ask for a show of hands instead of just having them yell things out — the latter got way too loud and chaotic. Finally the last class arrived, and Michael did a reading of NAKED! while I controlled the pace of the slides showing the illustrations. The kids LOOOOOVED both the title and story, YAY! And I so enjoyed watching Michael read the story aloud.

Then some of them starting calling out “Read I’M BORED!”

Michael and I hadn’t planned that, but I happened to have my copy of the book with me (which I asked Michael to sign) so he read aloud from that (see above). Again, I was thrilled to see him read this story out loud for the first time. He had such a great rapport with the audience; you can tell he has kids of his own. 🙂

Another personal highlight: seeing some of the kids MOUTH THE WORDS along with Michael as he read I’M BORED. They had it memorized! Awwwww…

After the readings, Michael talked about how he wrote the book and I talked about how I illustrated it. With Michael’s help, I had put together a slidehow with some fun photos and sketches. Here’s an example of one of the slides I created, for when Michael was talking about waiting to hear whether his editor (Justin Chanda) at Simon & Schuster Children’s liked his revisions or not:

And here’s a photo of Michael asking his cat for advice during one particularly challenging revision period:

Photo: Ruthie Black

Not surprisingly, a bunch of the questions in the Q&A focused on Michael’s cat. 🙂 Michael took each question seriously, and I loved how he answered the kids. I was also touched by how he’d direct some of the questions my way (not the cat questions, though), to make sure the children got to hear the perspective of the book’s illustrator.

Before I go on, I’d like to reiterate how NICE Michael was. Those who expect that Michael is always like his public comedy routine persona may be disappointed but I found Michael to be an incredibly sweet, low-key, self-effacing and generous individual. And you can never quite tell what he’s going to say next. 🙂

Photo: Ruthie Black

As Marcie Collen pointed out in her article on, Michael Ian Black knows how to connect with young readers. “Bottom line,” says Marcie, “Black didn’t just take his established comedy set and smack it down in a 32 page format and call it a day.  No. He uses his talents to create some really fun, silly and engaging books that are suited to a kid’s sensibilities.” Also see my Nerdy Book Club guest post about so-called “celebrity books.” And speaking of Marcie, it was so great to see her at the B&N event!

Plus Michael’s a wonderful writer. Not just of picture books, but nonfiction as well. His YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT is a deeply personal memoir, and (at the risk of sounding clichéd) made me both laugh out loud as well as weep. The voice is wonderful, and I can’t wait for Michael to write YA. I told him this but then quickly backtracked because I don’t want him to write YA instead of picture books. 🙂

But I digress. 

I asked Michael to pose with I’M BORED. I was supposed to be looking bored as well, but I couldn’t stop smiling!

Between presentations to school children, Michael and I did more book signing but also had a chance to chat with Katy Hershberger, Barry Goldblatt (Michael’s literary agent, see above) and Jeff. Or I should clarify: I didn’t need to chat with Jeff, but it was so great that Jeff had a chance to meet Michael as well as Katy and Barry.

Thanks again to Jeff for being our tech support for the slideshow segment! For those curious, I used a Keynote presentation on my MacBook Air with an Epson PowerLite 1761W. For future presentations, I’m considering also taking my travel Wacom Intuos Artpad so I can show kids how I draw on my computer, and they can watch via the projector on a screen. Or maybe I do what my friend Kevin Sylvester does and draw on my iPad. I must do some experimenting, I think.

So pleased that Ginger Knowlton dropped by! Ginger’s my agent from Curtis Brown, and she’s amazing

Anyway, our B&N presentations went really well. My terror level dropped hugely after the first few minutes, when I realized everything was going to be okay. Michael and I were having fun, and the kids could tell. Our second presentation went even better than the first because we had a better idea of what the other was going to say/do.

I know I’ve said it before, but I have to say again that it was MUCH more fun that I had expected. And I so enjoyed finally meeting Michael.

This post is already way too long, so I’d better stop. Next post, I’ll talk about the Simon & Schuster Children’s meet and greet and my trip to Boston.