Looking Back #16: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Ferry Building

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

*  *  *

 

That’s me sitting on the “third bench down the pier” at the Ferry Building, a reference you’ll recognize if you’ve read Book Scavenger.

I was driving by myself down the freeway in a rental car on my way to the Ferry Building Book Passage for my second bookstore event when the car made a loud noise and jolted, like I’d hit something in the road. I couldn’t see anything in the rear view mirror and for a fleeting moment I hoped everything would be fine and I could keep driving, but it became very clear the car was not fine and I needed to pull over immediately.

I’d blown a tire, and I didn’t have enough time to wait for a tow truck and the rental company to sort everything out. I was freaking out big time. A pick-up truck behind me on the freeway noticed my car troubles and followed me off to the shoulder. A man and woman got out and asked if I was okay. They probably expected me to be stressed out about my car, but instead I babbled about my first book being published and how I was going to a bookstore event and was worried I’d be late and all these people had gone out of their way to be there and I didn’t want to let them down . . .

They were surprised to learn I wrote children’s books and it cracks me up to remember how my stressed out brain defaulted to pitch mode, “It’s a middle grade mystery set in San Francisco . . .” I even gave them a bookmark!

The couple waited until they knew my husband was on his way to pick me up, before continuing on their journey. I like to imagine that they kept the bookmark and occasionally one of them comes across it and say, “Hey, remember that time we stopped and helped that lady on the side of 280?” Thank you, good people, wherever you are.

 

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

Looking Back #7: A Story Behind the Story

Looking Back #8: Battle of the Books

Looking Back #9: Detective Day

Looking Back #10: Hicklebee’s

Looking Back #11: All School Read

Looking Back #12: Launching the Game

Looking Back #13: Book Scavenger Launch Parties

Looking Back #14: Book Scavenger Walking Tour

Looking Back #15: Book Scavenger Birthday Party

 

 

 

Looking Back #15: Book Scavenger birthday party!

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

*  *  *

A bookseller at the Book Passage Ferry Building reached out to me last year to ask if I could send signed bookplates for copies of Book Scavenger that were being given out as party favors for a scavenger hunt themed 10th birthday. The scavenger hunt clues led the party goers to locations around the Ferry Building. The last place they had to go was Book Passage where they would find copies of Book Scavenger signed to each person, shelved under the last initial of the birthday girl’s name.

After the party, I was sent one of the scavenger hunt booklets and it looks like so much fun! There are directions for the attendees to follow from the ferry with activities like this: “Go to a pier whose number is 8 x 2 +3 – 5 = ____ . Walk to the end of the pier. Do you see any poems? (If not, look harder, they’re there.) Write the poem you like best here.” I haven’t seen the poems that clue is referring to, so I may need to go check that out the next time I’m in San Francisco! I might even follow the whole scavenger hunt, because it looks like it was a lot of fun.

 

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

Looking Back #7: A Story Behind the Story

Looking Back #8: Battle of the Books

Looking Back #9: Detective Day

Looking Back #10: Hicklebee’s

Looking Back #11: All School Read

Looking Back #12: Launching the Game

Looking Back #13: Book Scavenger Launch Parties

Looking Back #14: Book Scavenger Walking Tour

Looking Back #14: Book Scavenger Walking Tour

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

*  *  *

My Colorado writing group flew out to San Francisco to help celebrate Book Scavenger when it was published, and while they were there we planned to do a walking tour of some of the sites featured in the book. These three women were instrumental in encouraging me to keep going with later drafts of Book Scavenger and helping me shape it into its final form, so it was very special being able to take them to these places.

 

This is the neighborhood I imagine Emily and James live in, Russian Hill, in buildings similar to these.

What their view might be like walking to school.

When I started writing Book Scavenger, I lived in that blue building hiding behind the tree. The top window was mine and I looked out across the street to see . . .

. . . the Russian Hill Bookstore, which is where I imagined Hollister’s store to be.

Pier 39

“Through a breezeway came the buzz of tourists, the carousel cranking out its song. At the end of the pier, a cluster of people looked down at the sea lions sunning themselves on floating platforms in the harbor, braying like a bunch of rowdy men arguing at the horse races.”

A dog we saw at Pier 39 that has nothing to do with Book Scavenger, but look at those tiny shoes!

The view from Lombard St. You can see the line of cars that Barry and Clyde would get stuck in.

Lombard view from the bottom.

“Their family took a bus down their hill to a neighborhood called North Beach. Emily wasn’t sure why because there wasn’t a speck of sand in sight. They got off the bus near Washington Square, a flat stretch of grass that sat in front of an old church.”

“They walked under sculptures of open books dangling from wires like birds in flight.”

The famous City Lights bookstore.

They had a copy of my book!

I wonder if that sticker is still there?

Me and my writing group standing outside Dashiell Hammett’s old residence.

If you’ve read Book Scavenger, you know what was found in this tree!

The Robert Louis Stevenson monument at Portsmouth Square.

Hope you enjoyed the walking tour!

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

Looking Back #7: A Story Behind the Story

Looking Back #8: Battle of the Books

Looking Back #9: Detective Day!

Looking Back #10: Hicklebee’s!

Looking Back #11: All School Read!

Looking Back #12: Launching the Game!

Looking Back #13: Book Scavenger Launch Parties!

Looking Back #13: Bay Area Launch Parties

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

*  *  *

When Book Scavenger was published I organized two launch events in the San Francisco Bay Area that were so meaningful to me. The first was at the Linden Tree Bookstore.

Probably my favorite picture of the whole event. My son didn’t understand why all these people were staring at his mama.

I worked at Linden Tree when I was in graduate school. Prior to working there, I kept my love of children’s books kind of secret because as a then young twenty-something I thought I was too old to enjoy them, which seems ridiculous to me now. While working at Linden Tree, I met booksellers who were passionate and knowledgable and smart about children’s books, and it made me want to own my passion too.

 

I started that job a little cocky that I knew what’s what in children’s books, but man, the rest of the staff there really knew their stuff. I learned so much while and discovered new-to-me authors like Sharon Creech and Cornelia Funke, whose books I devoured. When you read The Unbreakable Code, you’ll meet a character named Miss Linden, and now you know why I picked that name.

See that bag I’m holding? My ultra talented friend Lynne (in the middle) surprised me with that–she makes the coolest embroidery creations, including scarab bookmarks that I gave out as prizes.

The second launch party was at the Book Passage store in the Ferry Building, a location that’s prominent in Book Scavenger. (I have a funny story about what happened to me on the way to this event, which I’ll share in another post.)

I actually wrote a scene in an earlier draft of Book Scavenger set inside the Ferry Building Book Passage store where Emily and James run into Mr. Quisling.

Book Passage is also significant for me because their children’s writing conference was the very first children’s-specific writing conference I attended. I went to two back-to-back somewhere around 2001. It was a fairly small conference as I remember it–maybe 100 attendees at most? Daniel Handler in the early Lemony Snicket days and Lois Lowry were the speakers one year–can you imagine? How could I not leave a conference like that feeling inspired and fired up about the path I was on?

So the locations were meaningful, but what really made the events so special for me were the people. I was wowed by the friends and family who turned out for my book. Family and friends flew and drove long distances to be there, people who I haven’t seen since high school, parents of elementary school friends, my Colorado writing group flew out to attend both–and there were strangers there too! I wanted to run up and hug them and say, “I don’t know you, and you’re here!” Kids who I’d met earlier in the week at school visits came back for more Book Scavenger fun. The whole weekend felt miraculous, and I was, and am, so deeply grateful.

 

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

Looking Back #7: A Story Behind the Story

Looking Back #8: Battle of the Books

Looking Back #9: Detective Day!

Looking Back #10: Hicklebee’s!

Looking Back #11: All School Read!

Looking Back #12: Launching the Game!

Looking Back #12: Launching the game!

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

*  *  *

 

When I knew Book Scavenger was going to be published, I wanted there to be something at BookScavenger.com for the readers who wondered if the game was real, so I set about getting a website made. Truly, I was hoping the game could be real, but I wasn’t sure how to go about doing that, and I didn’t know if others would think it was ridiculous or if anyone would want to join in.

 

I had a crazy idea for launching the website and pitched it to my publisher: What if I gave away an advance copy of Book Scavenger to someone in each state for them to hide and post on the website? My publisher said sure, let’s try it. Hooray! So I held my contest, sent off my books to the winners, and hoped people would hide them, that others would find them, and the book hunting cycle would continue and grow. And they did, and it has! Little by little, reader by reader, people are playing the game.

 

 

It’s been so much fun to see books hidden in different cities–I especially love when people include photos because it gives me a window into different places I’ve never been. Like Marblehead, MA! There were a series of books hidden there a while back and from the photos it looks like such a charming place.

 

 

Also fun is seeing the puzzles and clues and creativity of readers across the United States. Teachers, librarians, and booksellers have used the website as part of some wonderful book-centered activities and events for young readers.

 

Last year I started assigning tracking numbers and we have given out almost 1500 since then. The best part of the game, for me, is when I meet or hear from young readers who are really enthusiastic about it. It takes me back to my younger self, because I know that would have been me.

 

 

I have aspirations to do more with the website (like figuring out how to allow the site to log books hidden in other countries! And making it easier for a Book Scavenger community to form and connect!) Hopefully I’ll be able to achieve some of those website goals in the coming year.

 

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

Looking Back #7: A Story Behind the Story

Looking Back #8: Battle of the Books

Looking Back #9: Detective Day!

Looking Back #10: Hicklebee’s!

Looking Back #11: All School Read!

 

 

 

Looking Back #11: All School Read

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

*  *  *

Earlier this year a Denver-area school selected Book Scavenger as their all school read. This school has an annual One Book program, and it was so cool to be a part of it.

Check out how decked out the school was!

That’s Morse Code running down the sides of the hallways. And notice the San Francisco street signs hanging from the ceiling?

There were giant banners of San Francisco locations featured in the book. They even set up this scene where poor Mr. Griswold had his run-in with Barry and Clyde.

The banners had interesting San Francisco facts on them. I learned a lot!

I walked by this poster a few times thinking it was for a real concert. But look again!

At the beginning of their One Book week, the principal announced that the manuscript for my second book was missing and a local detective believed it was hidden somewhere in their school building. Students had to seek out a series of puzzles and solve them correctly in order to find the manuscript. Once they did, they were entered in a drawing to receive an advance copy of The Unbreakable Code.

I talked about writing Book Scavenger and read a chapter from The Unbreakable Code. I even told them the title for Book Scavenger #3, which I’m working on right now (although that will probably change).

There were so many favorite things about this school visit, but this might top them all: a giant wall filled with signatures of all the kids who participated in the one book program.

That’s only a portion of the wall. What a great school of readers!

 

It was an absolute delight and honor to have Book Scavenger be their One Book, One School selection.

 

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

Looking Back #7: A Story Behind the Story

Looking Back #8: Battle of the Books

Looking Back #9: Detective Day!

Looking Back #10: Hicklebee’s!

Looking Back #10: Hicklebee’s

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

*  *  *

In 2015, I visited Hicklebee’s when Book Scavenger was published and signed their stock at a desk they have up front for authors. My son was with me, and for the most part stayed happily occupied with new Piggie & Gerald books, but I remember him getting briefly upset because he wanted to sign books too. I was thrilled when the booksellers invited me to sign their wall. I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area where Hicklebee’s is a staple, and so I’ve been familiar with their wall of fame for quite some time. I was such a newly minted author, my imposter syndrome flared big time signing my name among these children’s publishing luminaries, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to put my name next to one of my all-time favorite writers, Lois Lowry. (I botched my own name a bit, but hey, it’s there!)

 

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

Looking Back #7: A Story Behind the Story

Looking Back #8: Battle of the Books

Looking Back #9: Detective Day!

Looking Back #9: Detective Day!

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

* * *

In early 2016 I was invited to visit Ms. Walterhouse’s classroom where she had planned a “Detective Day” themed around Book Scavenger after she read the book with her class. It was a day filled with critical thinking and problem-solving exercises presented in a really fun way.

When students arrived to class, they found caution tape across their classroom door and Ms. Walterhouse waiting outside the classroom, dressed secret service style.  In order to be granted access to the room and their agent badge, students pressed their finger to a screen which would either “approve” or “deny” their entry.

 

Inside the classroom was dark. Black lights lit up yarn that had been strung around the room to look like a laser beam security system. The students worked in groups by lantern to solve a series of puzzles and ciphers that were leveled to match the levels in Book Scavenger. Once they successfully completed a mission, they were given a brag tag.

 

It was during this point in their activities that I arrived, only the students didn’t know I was coming. I circulated the room as a special guest there to observe and it was great fun for me to ask students what they were working on and hear them describe my own book to me. My favorite part of the morning was when the bell rang for recess and the students loudly groaned (groaned!) because they didn’t want to stop working on their puzzles and ciphers!

When they returned from recess Ms. Walterhouse announced who I was and the reaction of the students was priceless. They had written me letters asking me to come, but had been told I couldn’t since I lived in another state, so they were really quite surprised. (Ms. Walterhouse had also removed their book jackets so they hadn’t seen my photo beforehand either.) We had a great conversation, they sang a llama song for me, I signed their books. It was a day I will always remember.

It was incredible gift being able to witness firsthand students’ enthusiasm for a book–and one I wrote!–and to see how my story could be adapted into critical thinking and problem-solving exercises that captivated students so much they didn’t want to break for recess.

If you are an educator interested in planning a similar day for your students, Ms. Walterhouse has created a Book Scavenger activity bundle that includes the following: Comprehension questions, short essays, vocabulary, ciphers and puzzle activities, brag tags, and Detective Day name tags. Click here for more info!

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

Looking Back #7: A Story Behind the Story

Looking Back #8: Battle of the Books

Looking Back #8: Battle of the Books

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

* * *

A fun reading activity that many schools and libraries are doing these days are Battle of the Books competitions. Typically these work by having an assortment of books selected to “face of” in multiple rounds as kids vote for their favorite to advance until one winner remains. This is an activity I would have loved to have participated in when I was a kid, and I’m always thrilled to hear when Book Scavenger is one of the contenders. For this classroom’s Battle of the Books, Book Scavenger was even the winner!

 

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

Looking Back #7: A Story Behind the Story

Looking Back #7: A story behind the story

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

* * *

In Book Scavenger, Emily recalls once finding Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach hidden through the book-hunting game. I chose that book for her to find because it’s a title I think Emily would really like, but there’s a more personal reason as well.

I dedicated many years to writing Book Scavenger and hit a lot of walls and moments of doubt along the way. Sometime around 2006/2007 I was struggling with pulling together the novel the way I imagined it in my mind and, as often happens (for me at least) when something is hard, I wondered if all my effort would even be worth it. Would anyone want to read a book like this if I could actually execute it the way I wanted to? Then I picked up Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach. She did exactly what I was trying to do–a story that balances both character development and plot, a mystery that incorporates true historical facts, memorable characters, humor, a well-written page turner . . . I was so excited about her story and inspired by her writing it reignited my passion for Book Scavenger. I dove back into my work determined to figure out how to tell my story, regardless of what the ultimate outcome would be for it publication-wise.

When my agent submitted Book Scavenger to publishers, she sent me the list of editors who were receiving it. The name Christy Ottaviano rang a bell, but I wasn’t immediately sure why. I looked her up and you know what’s coming, don’t you? She was the editor for Shakespeare’s Secret (and all of Elise’s wonderful novels).

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

All materials © 2017 Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. Author Website by Websy Daisy.