So, this is how it goes. My publishers say they want to take me to Seattle for the Mid winter meeting of the American Library Association and I say thanks, but I am bust trying to meet your deadline and don’t really want to go away. They insist. I say, no thanks. They impress on me that it might be important for US sales and I say OK then. ( By this time I had realised that a) the Snow Leopard Trust are based in Seattle and b) Robin Hobb is just 20 minutes down the freeway)
Then I worry about it for a few months.
Then we fly there.
I am not a fan of cities, or flying.
I made some notes during my time there, so in between pictures, will just write the notes.
The flight went north, through England, Scotland, through the cloud and up until the clouds below seemed like land through which dark islands rose. All the way the twilight hung on the tail and we headed into light, and cloud cleared to reveal a world of crackle glazed ice as far as the eye could see. It was almost like flying in the arms of the great north wind to the castle that lay east of the sun and west of the moon.
The earth is beautiful.
Between looking out of the window, snoozing and doodling I read Boudica by Manda Scott, so lost in the story that landing came as a bit of a shock.
In Seattle it was raining and dark.
In Seattle you use an umbrella only if you are not a local, but most shops sell them.
When we woke in the morning it was to blue sky. The day ahead for me was all school visits then book signing at the American Library Association Mid Winter Meeting ( ALA).
There were some of my friends at the ALA: Meg Rosoff, Kij Johnson, Robin Hobb.
Also at the convention centre, wonderful glass forms by Chihuly.
Saturday was a day of signing at the ALA and wandering around in a daze and heading out to the Secret Garden Bookshop to sign some stock for them. Hard to imagine what it must be like being in competition with Amazon when it comes to selling books, in the city where Amazon is based so 50 % of your customers work there.
Beautiful shop, wonderful people, great floor! Amazing books.
Tweeting at the ALA was like whispering into an ocean of tweets where everyone was basically saying, ‘hey, come along, we have so and so signing at the #alamw2013’ and no one was reading what was being tweeted. Crazy times.
On Sunday I had the great good fortune to be signing with Robin Hobb on the Harper Collins stand. Her new book is out in April but they were giving away signed proof copies.
Then I met up with my good friend Mary, above, who livened me up after a very tiring day as we all went out for supper at The Steelhead Diner. Here I discovered that Americans have a way of cooking brusselsprouts that makes then taste divine!
On Sunday there was signing at the ALA followed by more signing and then tea in a beautiful house not far away with about 50 librarians. Here Suzi Eszterhas and I did short talks about our books and our work. I had made notes, more like a list. This was something that had been mulling over in my mind for some time, while I was walking in Pembrokeshire, on the beach, in the plane, at supper the previous night. What to say, in 15 minutes, to try and sum up my books?
Suzi’s talk was wonderful, beautifully illustrated with wonderful photos. But more on Suzi later. She needs her own blog post.
The house had several rooms that were a cross between a museum and walking around a lavishly furnished and beautiful home. I couldn’t help myself in the bedroom but do some nifty product placement.
On Monday morning we visited the Snow Leopard Trust’s leaopards in The Woodland Park and this was probably the highlight of my trip, and the only reason I said I would go. Amazing. Lost for words. Will blog this separately, but I met leopards and the slave to the leopards, Matthias Fletcher who took the four photos below, and the marvelous Sara Minetti who gave me the gift of a story that I hope so very much to be able to do justice to and took us on a lovely adventure in her very clean car. She is tempting me back to Seattle with talk of close encounters with bears! There may even be cherries and berries for bears.
Part of the adventure was to visit the offices of the Snow Leopard Trust where I was given a small leopard of my own and also two catnip mice for the kittens, to thank them for all their hard work.
Opposite the snow leopard’s office was the most beautiful all American car.
An afternoon at Matt’s in the Market, followed by a tour of the market, watching the singing fish mongers juggling with fish. They had noticed there were an awful lot of librarians in town.
Just about to walk home when I spotted a bag. I lingered a moment, looking longingly towards the leather. A moment was all it took. There was Kenny, at my side, talking sweet words about stitching and enforcing and rivets and straps. And so it came very quickly to pass that I realised that the perfect thing to take home from Seattle was two wonderful bags from Stickman Leather. They are just divine, and Kenny made parting with the money a pleasure.
So, then there was the signing of books and talk from myself and Robin Hobb at the wonderful University Bookstore in Seattle at the invitation of Duane from the store. I asked Robin if I could go first ( so that I could relax and enjoy her part of the evening, so hope I was a good warm up act for her) and then realsied that in all the time I have been doing events I had never ever done one in a bookstore. Hmm…
Good to see wonderful facebook friends there and to meet for the first time in real space!
How much can be packed into 5 days? Even more. Tuesday was a school visit to Fall City Elementary and then home, 9 hours of a plane 6 hours in a car. Tired. Head spinning. Books, libraries, sidewalks and jay walking, steamy streets and diners, traffic lights hanging from taught wires, tall towers and parking lots, fire hydrants, cop cars, monorail, light rail, cabs and car horns, freeways, panhandlers, coffee shops and mail boxes, rocking chairs on porches and neighbourhoods and down town, trams, trolley busses, malls and yellowcabs, friendly people, beautiful people, stories and children and wild things and wolves and best of all, oh best of all, and what still makes me stop in my tracks in wonder, two grizzly bear brothers, sleeping then waking from dreams to drink and stretch and curl back to sleep. And the size of them and the beauty of them.
So, home, with memories. Thank you Frances Lincoln, especially Janetta, for insisting that I go, not taking no for an answer, being a very patient editor. I had the time of my life and am dreaming of returning. I have places to go, people to see, friends to get to know better. And I need to hang around the docks.
We flew, first through the dark, then moonlight on clouds, then day dawned. We flew, and I read and dozed and then we were over Ireland and it was clear. Then below I saw Ramsey Island, St Davids, the Cleedau stretching across the land and out to sea and then we landed.
Home, hours later, and there on my desk waiting for me, the irritated marks of small kittens who decided that I had been away for too long and so they were going to paint my desk.