Tuesday, December 01, 2009

If I don't blog about it, did it really happen? Or: My National Book Awards post. FINALLY.

The National Book Awards, before any more time passes! I just may not have time to do justice to the experience, but hopefully photos can help fill in the gaps.

First off, I want to say that I was astonished to be a finalist, and I never expected to win. I mean, I was up against books with Important Subject Matter! Of course, I would not have objected to winning, and there's always that moment before they announce the winner that you feel anything might happen . . . Also, the morning of the awards, I got up really early and went downstairs to breakfast alone in the hotel cafe so I could watch Sherman Alexie's and Judy Blundell's acceptance speeches on my iphone and concoct one of my own, just in case. That was the only time I felt attached to winning, when I actually wrote down my acceptance speech. I didn't have time to practice it, though, so I can't lie -- there was the tiniest feeling of relief at not winning so I wouldn't have to go up there! Of course, though, if I had to choose winning or not, I'd choose winning. Don't get me wrong. However, I remain thrilled with my medal and silver sticker and am so grateful for the extra attention all this has gotten for Lips Touch. Thank you again to the judges for the recognition (and for the most beautiful, amazing blurb for my book EVER) and to the wonderful Scholastic team for everything, especially to Arthur, for, among other things, dyeing his goatee pink (!), and to Jim, of course, for making the book extra-awesome with his gorgeous artwork. (And there's a micro version of my speech!)

Things kicked off on Monday night with a reading at Books of Wonder, the marvelous children's bookstore. All of my co-finalists except David Small were there. That's Rita Williams Garcia (Jumped), Phillip Hoose (Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice), me, and Deborah Heiligman (Charles & Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith):

It's nice, in the Young Person's category of the NBAs, there are extra events so we get to know each other a little. I don't think the "grownup" finalists do this -- and that kind of exemplifies what it's like writing for young readers. There really is a community -- a community of the kinds of people I want to be friends with. It rocks.

Clementine was on hand for the signing, as usual.
She's getting to know the writing life well. She is in my lap right now, in fact, helping me blog. Right now:
That is, when she allows me the use of my fingers:
This is an early a.m. photo, by the way. Hence the high glamour. I got up at 5 today to write. You know what? The "marimba" alarm on my iphone is the most pleasant alarm ever. It's kind of like this: "Tra-la-la, how about getting up now, just if you feel like it, no pressure, but I bet you'll feel good about yourself if you do. And by the way, you're pretty." Nice way to start the day. Thanks, iphone!

Anyway, aside from the Books of Wonder reading, there was the Youth Press Conference held at the New York City Public Library--yes, the one with the lions. What a gorgeous building. Man. The Youth Press Conference is an event where students from a number of local schools come to hear the 5 finalists read, then ask questions (they've read the books) and get their books signed. Jim filmed my reading, and you can watch it at youtube, and if you're wondering about the jiggling of the camera, doesn't it look exactly like a baby bounce? That's because it IS. Jim was holding Clementine at the time! John Scieszka (aka the Ambassador of Children's Literature and author of The Stinky Cheese Man) was the MC; we'd met him last spring in Seattle but it was super-cool to meet him again under these circumstances. He said such nice things about our book! Here he is:
Here's the audience, taken from the podium:
Future finalists who read and sign at this event, take heed: these students have the coolest bunch of names EVER. I will eternally kick myself for not keeping a list of names the entire time I was signing, for use in future stories. Seriously, each name was cooler than the last. Well, hopefully I will get to do school visits in NYC some time and have another crack at the amazing names those kids have.

Tuesday was one big long day, with the Medal Ceremony and full Finalists' Reading (all 20) at the New School in the evening. Jim and my mom and Clementine and I broke up the day with some shopping in the stalls at Bryant Park. It was a gorgeous day, blue sky, the ice skating rink with the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in view. Of course we cut it too close and had to hustle back to our hotel to get ready for the evening:
It was fun getting dressed up, which is something we don't do very often. Writer's wardrobe? In my own world, it looks much more like that pic above of Clementine helping me blog!

Here I am getting my medal:
(Not that you can tell from the photo, but when he put the medal around my neck--it's heavy--it slipped straight down my [maternally enhanced] cleavage. Oops!)

Now would be a good time to print the gorgeous gorgeous blurb from my plaque, written by the judges (primarily by Nancy Werlin), who I didn't meet until the next night:

With three fantastical, richly layered tales about the terrible and wonderful power of yearning, master storyteller Laini Taylor steals the reader's breath as deftly as the most skilled lover. Lips Touch pulses with vivid imagery yet remains economical in its world-building, its unpredictable plot-spinning, and its compassionate characterization. Taylor draws from multiple literary and historical sources to spin a wholly original and unforgettable reading enchantment that is nothing short of a tour de force.

Wow!!! ***LOVE***

Now, I had a medal to share around. With Jim:
Arthur Levine, fabulous publisher and editor, who made this all possible:
And Jane Putch, my agent, who brought pink champagne:
And here, a "clink" moment with Rita Williams Garcia:
So, from there, it was on to the anxious portion of the evening. The reading. The cool New School Auditorium:
Much more intimidating than the earlier reading, because obviously kids make the best audience (and after kids, librarians), plus here we were in the midst of the whole "literary" world with the grownup writers. What would they think of my kissing book?! I don't know what they thought, but some of them said some nice things afterward, and anyway, here's my reading, from "Goblin Fruit" (if you watch it at youtube, the art won't be cut off):
Thank you, Jim, for recording that and putting it up on youtube. Mwah!

The finalists were all seated in reading order in the first row, and I was 13th, which was excellent, since I hadn't had time to prepare a passage. (It's amazing how having a baby fills in all the nooks and crannies of the day, leaving very few little pockets for doing things like, say, writing acceptance speeches and practicing readings!) So I discreetly read over some passages in my head and made little Xs to edit out parts and make it shorter, all while sandwiched between the impressive personages of Daniyal Mueenuddin (fiction) and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon (poetry). What names, no?

That, plus a drink afterward with agent Jane and Sheila Marie, the most awesome publicist EVER . . .
. . . and then we were back to the hotel to see how my mom and Clementine were doing. (Thank you again, so much, mom, for being there! The event would have been very different with Clementine in tow. Possible, I suppose, as MC Josh Ferris had his baby along, the same age as Clementine.)

Wednesday's only scheduled event was the award ceremony in the evening, so we went down to Soho to visit the Scholastic offices and have lunch with Arthur, with a little shopping squeezed in around the edges. When we parted from Arthur, who was late to get to a business meeting (or so I thought), I heard him tell Jim he was nervous, and I thought: Arthur, nervous? I wonder what's up. Later, of course, I found out what was up! The "business meeting" was really a salon!
Oh my god. That was so, so awesome.

Another night of dressing up, this time really dressing up. Of course we were running late, which meant that the driver was waiting for us for a half hour and we didn't pause to take photos before leaving, expecting we'd do it at the event, but . . . we never really did. *Smacks forehead* So we don't have a good picture of ourselves all gussied up, dagnabbit. Here is the best one of my ensemble:
(Necklace, by the way, from Anthropologie, as was the fab glass bubbles one I wore the night before. The other two here are from a street artist in Soho):
And Jim, looking very handsome and suity :-)
Oh wait, here's a "paparazzi" picture:

Cipriani's on Wall Street was pretty spectacular:
And the tables were set with books. Now when I see other tables, I think, "They're missing something. Oh yeah, they're missing books!"

It was all fabulous and cocktaily (Cipriani's is famous for their Bellinis, which are deLISHous), and it was great to see all the Scholastic folk all dressed up. The art team:And publicity team:
. . . Seeing a few familiar faces, like the Readergirlz, Lorie Ann Grover and Dia Calhoun . . .
. . . and finally meeting the judges!
That's Coe Booth, Gene Luen Yang, and Nancy Werlin; not pictured are Carolyn Coman, and Kathi Appelt. There were all sooo lovely, and made me feel like such a WRITER. It was great. One of the best parts of the whole thing was talking to the judges. One of the other finalists told me later that as soon as she met them, she knew from the sad look in Nancy Werlin's eyes that she hadn't won. I didn't try to decipher anything; thinking back on it after, I can kind of see that. But at the time I wasn't trying to guess. Like I said, I never thought I'd win. I just wanted to enjoy everything and not have expectations. Still, I did steal away for a tiny moment to look over my speech in a bathroom stall. Just in case.

Speaking of speeches, I don't really have the energy to go into the speeches of the night. They weren't that memorable. Gore Vidal rambled, Dave Eggers wrung his hands adorably, and Flannery O'Connor was selected as the best of the National Book Award winners of all time, a choice I totally approve without having read any of the other finalists.

Phillip Hoose won in our category for his book Claudette Colman: Twice Toward History, and Claudette Colman was there with him to accept the award. Big huge kudos to them!
We didn't stay out late, and it was nice to get back to the hotel and cuddle Clementine. So, that was that.

I did a middle school visit right when we got home, and I told the students that the glamour moments for a writer are few and far between (though I'm guessing Neil Gaiman's life, for example, has a lot more opportunities for dressing up than mine does!), so it's a huge treat to get picked up at the airport in a stretch limo and to, you know, put on nylons and new shoes and go to a fancy place. Now, it's back down to Earth, to the business of figuring out a working schedule and progressing the novel-in-progress! Jim and I have a new strategy for getting work done, and it involves me getting up at 5 am. I hope it works! It WILL work. We'll make it work.

Whew. Long post. Thank you, National Book Foundation, for this magnificent opportunity to live a writer's dream. It was awesome!


Valerie Geary said...

What fun and such excitement!! Thank you for sharing this with us!! And your dress for the big evening was quite lovely! :) Congrats again!

Jackee said...

Am I really the first to comment? Wahoo!

Thanks for the taking the time to let us know how it went. How very magical. And how very deserving you and Jim are. Big congrats (again)!

Cuppa Jolie said...

Thanks for the post, Laini! And for taking us all for the ride. Another part of the glamour is getting to celebrate and be thrilled for the success of friends.

You all looked lovely!!!

Catherine Denton said...

I love how honest and vulnerable you are - sharing about writing speeches in bathroom stalls and not being completely prepared with your book reading. You're so easy to identify with. That's one of the many reasons why I love your blog.

I'm happy for you and Jim with this amazing award. You deserve it!

Lorie Ann Grover said...

It was so marvelous, Laini! You were lovely, and we were so proud of you!

Brava, once again, to you and Jim. xox

Blackbird Fly said...

It's always lovely to hear about the perks of being a writer--makes setting it as a goal worthwhile ;)

Glad you had fun!


Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for sharing so many wonderful experiences with us! I love reading your blog!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Oh, Lainy, what a beautiful, heartfelt post! I loved all the delicious details and got choked up, too! I ADORE SCHOLASTIC!!! (Did I ever tell you I'm with Lisa Sandell there who bought three novels from me last year? My first comes out this July! Um, just in case you don't remember me . . . we met at SCBWI LA when Rachel Griffiths and Arthur Levine were there. I remember Rachel talking about your newly acquired Lips Touch at the luncheon table. SO happy for you! And my copy is on order for Christmas! HUGE Congrats on Clementine, too - she's adorable!)

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Oops! Laini - not Lainy. Sorry!

Vijaya said...

You're absolutely radiant! What an amazing year for you and Jim! Loved all the pictures and commentary.

Megsie said...

Congratulations once again, even though you didn't win, you still won--don't you think? It was so great hearing all about it! So happy for you!

Suzanne Young said...

I know this was so not the point... but Laini, you looked SUPER HOT!!!

Lisa Schroeder said...

Yay - awesome post! Thank you for doing that for us!! Know it was a lot of work, but we LOVED IT!!

I'll never forget tweeting that night with people who were all pulling for you and Jim. So exciting - I can't imagine being there! :)

tone almhjell said...

Oh, wonderful blurb! Wonderful trip! And you both looked absolutely amazing all dressed up. But even more amazing: 5 am to write! I could never... ;)

Tinker said...

How cool they used the books for the centerpieces - it all sounds like so much fun - well, except for that one moment you mentioned - but except for the cold metal medal down the cleavage - eep! what an amazing time you must have had. So glad you and your writing were honored with a nomination, Laini - as well as the Arthur Levine pink goatee award -- now there's a one of a kind honor!
I can't wait to read this latest book of yours, and see all of Jim's illustrations. Congratulations again!

Katie Anderson said...

Okay, this might just be the coolest blog post EVER!!!!!! Thanks for sharing so many fascinating details.

Elena said...

That sounds amazing! What an experience. Thank you for sharing it with us!

Dia Calhoun said...

Hi Laini,
It was so great to see you in all your silver and pink splendor at the National Book Awards. Yay for Lips Touch!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

so exciting. clementine is a trooper.

lkmadigan said...

Suzanne's right: you look HOT.

And Lisa's right: it was sooo exciting for those of us live tweeting the night of the awards.

And Clementine just looks so happy all the time - she loves the writing life!!!

I'm glad you dragged some time out of the nooks and crannies of your days to write up this great post.



P.S. Marimba is my ring tone. :)

persnickety_jen said...

Wow. What a surreal - and exciting - experience. Even though you didn't win, I'm glad you enjoyed every moment! That's how it should be. (And you looked fantastic, too. What a great dress!)

Thanks for posting the links to the YouTube clips - it's always fantastic to hear authors read their own work aloud...

mel said...

What an amazing experience...thanks heaps for sharing it..

Book centerpieces? Oh, Bliss!!!

Life is Good(ell) said...

I've been waiting for this post! Thank you for sharing all of those wonderful details and photographs with us. You looked gorgeous, and that blurb is spot-on. I can't believe Clementine is going to have all of these memories in her baby book- lucky girl to have you as a mama. She's going to be really proud of you as she grows up.

Heather said...

Laini, I think it so wonderful that you have such a terrific support team around you. Jim is just the husband extraordinaire and being able to have you Mom along meant that you could truly "be" in the moments. Having a baby around can make that more challenging, even one as adorable as Clementine!

I'm so happy for you and proud of both of you. The book is marvelous (I'm not quite done yet as I am savouring it) and I couldn't think of a more deserving couple for such a fabulous adventure!

P.S. Ooh-la-la on the second (blue?) dress - soooo pretty! And Jim, you don't even have to TRY to be handsome!

Shveta Thakrar said...

This all sounds so wonderful, like a fairy tale. Congratulations, you finalist, you!

And I can't wait to see the pink tree. :P

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Stephanie Perkins said...


And your medal ;)

Congratulations again, a hundred million times! I'm so happy for you and Jim (and the amazing Arthur).


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