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 . . .
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Today I’m taking you back to a magical winter day in February 2015, four months before Book Scavenger was published. I was in NYC for the SCBWI winter conference, which was fantastic, but really my ulterior motive in attending was getting a chance to meet my editor in person.
The Henry Holt offices are in the historic Flatiron building, which is a funky wedge shaped skyscraper filled with narrow hallways and angled rooms and zigzagging staircases. When I stepped out of the elevator on my editor’s floor, I was totally confused about where to go. There was a man pushing a dolly stacked with boxes, and I asked if he knew where I could find Christy Ottaviano. A huge smile split his face and he said, “Ahh, Christy!” and pointed me in the right direction.
Christy greeted me like an old friend, and gave me a tour. We walked down hallways lined with overstuffed bookcases of so many great books published by Henry Holt and other Macmillan imprints. I spotted a book by my friend Claudia Mills and pulled it off the shelf and Christy said, “Oh, Claudia Mills! We love her!”
Everyone I met was so nice–Christy’s assistant Jessica, the production editor for Book Scavenger Christine, my marketing director Kathryn, my publicist Nicole, and various editors whose names I recognized and had to mentally remind myself to play it cool. I wanted to wander into everyone’s office and ask them about what they were working on and what was hanging on their walls or sitting on their cubicle shelves, but I restrained myself because they were there to work, after all, not entertain me and my curiosity.
Christy’s office was papered with envelopes decorated by the many illustrators she’s worked with over the years. I was so excited to see a stack of ARCs for Kimberly Willis Holt’s Dear Hank Williams on the floor and Christy said, “Here, take one!” (Kimberly Willis Holt and Elise Broach are two of the reasons why I wanted to work with Christy. If you’re not familiar with their books, definitely check them out. I recommend starting with When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and Shakespeare’s Secret.)
I met with Christy, Kathryn, and Nicole to talk about their promotional plans and my 50 state ARC giveaway idea to launch the Book Scavenger website. The entire meeting a loop was going through my head along the lines of “OMG I’m in a marketing meeting about a book I wrote!” It still didn’t feel real that I was going to be a published author, even though at that point my work was largely finished and the advance copies were even available. I went out to lunch with Christy and a similar “OMG I’m eating lunch with my editor” looped through my head at first, but that quickly went away as I became absorbed in our conversation about books and our families and careers.
After lunch I had time to kill and a proofreading pass of pages for Book Scavenger had come in, so I sat in a cubicle and worked (OMG I’m proofreading my book in the Flatiron building!) I left around 5, blissed out about the day I’d had and crossed the street to take pictures of fake snowmen I spotted from the window of the Flatiron building. I took one photo and then my phone died. No problem, it was time to catch a cab back to my hotel anyway. Only it was a problem because I couldn’t for the life of me hail a cab.
I’ve lived in San Francisco and even NYC for a few weeks one summer, so I’m not inexperienced in the art of hailing a cab, but it was a Thursday evening rush hour in freezing cold weather in unfamiliar terrain. I also stupidly wore fingerless mittens–I live in Colorado so I don’t know what I was thinking, other than they must have seemed appropriate when I got dressed in my warm hotel room and went directly into the warm cab waiting outside the hotel.
After waving my hand in the air over and over on that bitter, bitingly cold February evening I was cursing those cute fingerless gloves and starting to despair. I had planned on cabbing it so I hadn’t researched subways, and without my cell phone I couldn’t look up where to go. I didn’t even know which direction to walk in to get back to my hotel. I went back to the Flatiron Building and asked the person at the security desk if they could call me a cab, but they said they weren’t allowed to. I considered having them call Christy, but I assumed she’d already left for home and I was a bit embarrassed since so much time had passed since I’d said goodbye. (If you’re reading this, Christy, I hope you’re laughing like I am now!)
I finally went into a Lego store to warm up and ask for subway directions. Fortunately the sales staff was very helpful, and two people debated over the best route before offering me their agreed solution. I thanked them and headed off. I was about a block away from reaching the subway station when a cab literally pulled up to the curb next me and let out his passengers. It was the most miraculous thing because I was walking head down against the wind, hands in my pockets, and hadn’t flagged him down or anything. I was able to enjoy a warm cab ride back to my hotel after all and relished in my magical day visiting my publisher.
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