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>> Saturday, January 14, 2006

Wendi and I just got back from our first promotional road trip for Samurai Shortstop! It was strange to be in such gratuitous self-promotion mode, but we're bound and determined to do everything we can to make Samurai a success. Here's a rundown:

Wednesday We arrive in Knoxville, eat at Mellow Mushroom pizza, and then I go with Dad to see the UT basketball Vols destroy the Georgia Bulldogs. This has nothing to do with Samurai Shortstop promotion, but it was a lot of fun.

Thursday A long day of shameless self-promotion begins with a visit to Hardin Valley Elementary School librarian Ed Sullivan. Sir Ed is himself a children's book author: his non-fiction title The Ultimate Weapon: The Race to Develop the Atomic Bomb is due from Holiday House in April. He's also one of the most well-connected kid lit people I know - he's published more than two hundred articles and reviews in the field, and serves on several boards, like those of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) and the YA Library Services Association. Oh, and did I mention he's the chair of the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award committee? I kissed the ring and gave him an advance reader copy.

Next up, Webb School of Knoxville, where I both went to school and later taught eighth grade. I started with my senior year English teacher, Mary Jo Potts, who has been super supportive of me and my writing ever since, well, my senior year of high school. She's a fantastic, astute reader, and if she likes the book, many many people will hear her raves. Next up, I handed off a copy of the ARC and my new press kit to the faculty advisor for the school paper, the Spartan Spirit. (I was editor of this fine gazette for two years in high school.) I hope they'll give me a write up and possibly review the book.

On to see Tena Litherland, Webb's librarian extraordinaire. She's passionate about children's books, and regaled me with her recent (and successful!) attempts to bring Lois Lowry and Jacqueline Woodson to Knoxville. Thankfully there was still room on next year's school calendar for little old me, and I was penciled in for a school visit in February 2007.

After the library, I paid a call on two old friends, Ben White and Amanda Lee, both of whom teach seventh grade English at Webb and have graciously agreed to write up a teacher's guide for Samurai. In exchange, they get two of the ARCs, and my undying gratitude. I even got to do a bit of "author improv" in front of Ben's class, where he peppered me with questions about what it's like to be an author. To the question of, "What does an author carry in his backpack?" I was very happy to be able to pull out my idea book and explain how I've kept one since I was in college. (I'm now on idea book five.)

That afternoon, we paid a call on Carpe Librum, Knoxville's newest independent bookstore. The owners are old friends of ours from the now defunct Knoxville branch of Davis-Kidd Booksellers. We planned Samurai Shortstop's coming out party - a signing and launch party has been set for Saturday, May 27, 2006. Mark your calendars now!

Thursday night, we journeyed out to Maryville, Tennessee to visit my new niece, Claire, and then came home and absolutely crashed.

Friday Today it was off to Lexington, Kentucky, to pay a call on the massive and beautiful Joseph-Beth Booksellers there. This remains one of my favorite bookstores, and bears the distinction of being the bookstore where I first stumbled upon the photo that first inspired Samurai Shortstop! (I was reading a guide to Japan in their travel section when I saw a picture of a man in a kimono throwing out the first pitch at a baseball tournament in 1910. One thing led to another, and, well, it's in the book . . .) At J-B, we met with Rachel Ray, the great kids manager there, as well as old friend Angie Shuck, who is now the marketing manager there. We talked about ways to promote the book in Lexington, as well as the possibility of me attending the Bluegrass Book Festival later this year.

On Saturday morning we headed home, but throughout all our travels, Wendi and I worked through our marketing plan. The plan has been in motion for months now, but we're in the implementation phase, and things are getting woolly. Good, but woolly. It's do or die time!

Next week, we're off to Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi to meet with booksellers and distributors. What kind of tangible results these visits will have will be hard to quantify, but we're treating this pre-publication junket as a sort of "goodwill tour," in the hopes that booksellers and buyers will remember me and help to hand sell the book. When I have a chance to catch my breath next week, I'll blog our progress . . .


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