National Book Awards fun & festivities

So here’s the story…..

The trip started out with a few minor glitches.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic We woke up to some snow.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic And poor BH was exhausted because he had food poisoning on Sunday night.

But we People of the Tundra are made tough – neither snow nor bacteria kept us down. We made it to the Big Apple, got a decent night’s sleep, and leapt into the fun.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The first event was held in the Langston Hughes Auditorium of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The was meaningful for a couple of different reasons: a Langston Hughes poem was a huge influence on me when I was a kid and Christopher Moore, the research coordinator and curator of the Center, who kicked off the event, was one of the experts who read the early draft of CHAINS for historical accuracy.

We had a terrific audience of New York teens who had read the books of the finalists in the Young People’s Literature category. We each read from our book, then took questions, under the skillful guidance of Jon Scieszka, the Ambassador of Children’s Literature. School Library Journal has a nice article about the event.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The best part was signing books and talking to the teens after the event, even if it was a little crowded.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Daughter #1, aka Stephanie, aka Bookavore, joined us, as did my friend and fellow author Phil Bildner.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Mr. Ambassador, me, CHAINS editor Kevin Lewis, and Stef.

Tuesday night was the medal presentation. Yes, I cried. Writing is a lonely task. I’m usually fighting the demons of self-doubt and negativity when I’m writing, and am often convinced that my writing stinks. When the medal was placed around my neck, those demons were silenced. At least for a little while.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Happy, happy, happy author with medal around neck and attractive husband on arm after Tuesday night’s reading.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Wednesday was a blur. After breakfast we walked down to the Simon & Schuster offices where I posed in front of the display of CHAINS and THE UNDERNEATH, written by my S&S sister and fellow NBA-finalist Kathi Appelt.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Did I mention that they gave us medals? And that wearing a medal around one’s neck is one of the coolest things EVER??

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Everyone from S&S came in to say hello. This gave Kathi and I and our editors a chance to say thank you to all the people who helped make our books so special. And, of course, there were coffee and bagels. And medals.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I was able to shower love and admiration and gratitude on Lizzy Bromley, the genius book designer who is responsible for the amazing look and feel of CHAINS.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Kevin, me, and Jessica Sonkin, the designer for my next picture book (that’s the cover we’re holding) THE HAIR OF ZOE FLEFFENBACHER GOES TO SCHOOL. (It will be out in June, 2009.)

After a long lunch, it was time to do the Cinderella transformation. I was something of a wreck because my natural habitat is a house in country and I’m usually dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic But for the National Book Awards, jeans and sweatshirt are not enough. And honestly? BH and I really had fun dressing up and pretending we were sophisticated for a couple of hours. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am really glad I bought the dress. Kevin and BH were right and I’m glad they didn’t let me wear my sneakers.

The event was held at Cipriani’s, a gorgeous banquet space that used to be a bank, located on Wall Street. Maybe the subtext was that literature and the humanities will prevail even as the false gods of hedge fund management crumble into dust.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Being there with my editor and my husband was an honor and a delight. Don’t they both clean up good?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The special honoree of the night was Maxine Hong Kingston, who is now my new role model for the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up.

We had a very fancy and yummy dinner and then the Event started. The chair of the Young People’s Literature committee was Daniel Handler, who gave the best speech of the entire evening. I sure hope it turns up on YouTube or BookTV because everyone who cares about children’s literature, and everyone who thinks that children’s literature is less worthy of attention than adult literature should listen to it.

When the Big Moment came, it was Judy Blundell’s book, WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED that got the nod, not CHAINS. Yes, I was disappointed… for about five minutes. What snapped me out of it was the thought that I needed to find the judges and thank them for this incredible honor before they disappeared into the night. Trust me, I am more than blessed to have CHAINS identified as a National Book Award Finalist. I have no complaints, no regrets. My only problem is a sore jaw from grinning like a fool 24/7 for the last four days.

Some of the judges left before I could track them down, but I was able to catch up with a couple of them.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Here you see (from the left) Theo Black (husband of judge Holly), Angela Johnson, Kevin, Holly Black, me, Carolyn Mackler, and fellow finalist E. Lockhart, author of THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS.

So it was crazy/wonderful/bewildering/glorious and more fun than I can begin to describe.

Any questions?

Oh – and right now? I’m in San Antonio for the NCTE/ALAN conference. Huzzah!

19 Replies to “National Book Awards fun & festivities”

  1. Laurie, you look gorgeous in your dress, you man is adorable, and it looks like an amazing time! There could only be one winner, but wow, what great company you were in! Everyone honored there should be so proud! I LOVED CHAINS and gold medal or not, I will recommend it to everyone. CONGRATS!!!! Have fun in TX!

  2. Laurie, you look amazing in those pictures and that dress is perfect. I do wish that you had won because that would be awesome but being a finalist is also awesome and you still have some time 🙂 My creative writing prof was very excited because the English department had already booked the person who won for poetry to come and do a reading next semester. Perfect timing. Especially since we’re a small school and I don’t think that we would have the money to get a NBA winner to come.

  3. WOW

    I wish Chains would have won but at least you looked killer in the dress. I so wish I could be in San Antonio this year. Meeting you last year in NYC was fabulous. Some student took my Twisted book that you signed for me last year and I wanted to replace it in San Antonio but it just didn’t work out this year. Have a great time for me and enjoy all of the authors and the atmosphere of NCTE.

  4. Congratulations again on the nomination, the medal, and the whole event! What a wonderful and well-deserved thing to happen to you.

    The dress is gorgeous (LOVE the colour), and I am very jealous of the snow! I’m glad it didn’t ruin your trip though.

    🙂 Sarah

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