Ages ago, Cynthia Leitich Smith invited me to do a guest post about my experience at ALA in June.
I said yes – who wouldn’t? – but then I didn’t do it.
I kept putting it off.
(While she remained exceedingly kind and patient...)
Finally I started it, but it felt incomplete. Like it needed context. Like posting about the events of that weekend would be akin to reading just the 2nd book in a trilogy, without a lot of sense or connection.
So, here’s my attempt at the context, calendar-style.
And the actual details on that gala weekend in June?
They’re at Cynsations today – as promised.
September, 2009: My second book, All the World, went out into the world in a way that felt both brighter and scarier than anything I was used to. By the time it was released, it had been given starred reviews in Kirkus, Horn Book and School Library Journal, and I was feeling dizzy. Despite my desire to hide underneath my bed ‘til things blew over, I celebrated the launch at BookPeople in Austin, Texas, with zillions of generous and reassuring folk. I signed a lot of books and did not faint.
October, 2009: I shared All the World at the Texas Book Festival. A class of 2nd graders sang an original song about the book by way of introduction. I had a stool there, so if I had fainted, nobody’d be the wiser.
November, 2009: I had so many gratitudes piling up that it would’ve taken the better part of Thanksgiving dinner to list them all. All the World was a New York Times, Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2009, a Scholastic Book Club pick, and it appeared to be headed for Cheerios boxes. Plus, my friends who get pedicures had seen a blurb in People magazine. It was almost too much. My family and I went backpacking in Big Bend National Park and skipped the feast.
December, 2009: People started whispering predictions about the American Library Association Awards. Y’know, Newbery, Caldecott and the like. I put my fingers in my ears and sang, “La, la, la…”
January, 2010: I was in Big Sky, Montana, with my sister, wallowing in our first weekend away together since we’d had our babies a decade earlier. We skied hard, giggled and generally slept well, but on Monday the 18th, crazy-early Mountain Time, I woke to the news that All the World had been awarded a Caldecott Honor. I received so many emails in such a flurry that I thought my computer had a virus. I hugged my sister, took a hot tub, drank a bunch of coffee, called Marla, and cried.
February, 2010: And then All the World landed on the NYT’s Bestseller List. Sheesh.
March, 2010: In a most stunning counterbalance to what was turning into one of the best years of my life, my husband was diagnosed with cancer three days after we arrived home from Spring Break. I was suddenly dizzy again, but in a hard, new way.
April, 2010: My husband spent the month recovering from surgery, and shoring himself up for chemotherapy and radiation. I read and signed All the World at the Texas Library Association Conference, the Corpus Christi Book Festival, and a bunch of elementary schools. Together we went to some 27-trillion doctor’s appointments.
May, 2010: At my husband’s insistence, I followed through on plans for a retreat with my agent and agent-mates in Chicago. It was kind of all about books, and kind of just about life. It was perfect. The day I got home, Kirk had his first of 39 radiation treatments. The morning after, he started chemo.
June, 2010: After eight endless weeks of medicine designed to heal-him-if-it-didn’t-kill-him, we marked Kirk’s final treatment with kiss. I left an hour later for the American Library Association Conference in Washington, D.C. As I sat on the plane I wondered if I was dreaming a very long and very vivid dream, but when I got to D.C., everything felt really real. (See my post at Cynthia’s!)
July, 2010: I finished up the very last itty bitty edits on my next book, and illustrations were begun for the book after that.
August, 2010: It is a new year. Our girls have gone back to school and Kirk is getting well. All the World has a shiny silver sticker on its cover now. And I no longer want to hide underneath my bed, because if I did I’d miss way too much.
Which I guess is why I felt compelled to add this context. A weekend like the kind of weekend I got to have at ALA could be understandably mistaken for a fairy tale. But really, all of our lives are bigger than one dreamy weekend. And our books aren’t created in bubbles – they’re created inside of those lives. In the end, we take the lumps with the luck, making them both all the better.
With hope and peace and love and trust,
- The Calendar Year of a Caldecott Book