October 24-27, 2009:

This was my New Jersey, New York City trip, and it began with a train trip from Springfield to Penna Station. Daughter Heidi drove me to the station and away I went. Since business class was a whopping $16 (I think) more, that was a no-brainer. But–and here’s the interesting thing–whereas the trains from St Andrews down to London give you free wifi all the way, American trains have not yet figured out how to do that. Not free and no wifi. Or at least East Coast Amtrack hasn’t figured out how to do it. I don’t know if any other trains in the US can. Chew on that factoid for a while.

But I had plenty other stuff I could do on the 3 1/2 hour train ride, including signing bookplates, finishing the Ian Rankin novel I was reading, a couple of crosswords, work on a speech.

I got into New York City after dinner, and in the teeth of a horrible downpour with lightning, I taxied to my cousin Pam Berlin’s apartment where I was staying. She is a theatrical director, her husband Billy Carden an actor turned theater director who runs a small theater as well. And they are both acting/directing teachers. Lovely, smart, funny, fascinating individuals. Since their daughter is off in college, I got to camp out in her bedroom. However, just getting from the taxi into their apartment house, I was soaked through. I certainly hoped the rest of the trip had better weather.

And so it did. Because in the pearly, sun-shining next morning, a car was sent to take me to New Jerey (Whippany) to a Jewish Center to give a talk on my Holocaust novels. A small day-long conference made even smaller by the fact that the other two author-speakers were both home sick. So there were several Survivors and me. I think I acquitted myself well, sold quite a few books for the small bookstore that supplied the books.

The conference director was herself going to another conference in New York City afterwards, so she drove me back. She dropped me off near a synagogue just a half block from my cousin’s apartment because a friend (one of Adam’s ex-bandmates) and his klezmer fusion band were playing there. Because of enormous traffic on the GWBridge, I missed the first half of the gig, but the second half was amazingly good. We danced in the aisles.

And then I had dinner with editor-friend Ellen Datlow and we did a lot of girl talk instead of business talk which was a lot of fun.

Monday I was up early, and off to spend breakfast time with my agent Elizabeth, which is always a treat. And then I walked down (about fifteen minutes) to the Scholastic offices where I brainstormed on HOW DO DINOSAURS branded books with the head of that division Debra and the editor Jeff. Then Debra and the marketing team took me to lunch and we talked some more.

From there I walked (about twenty-five minutes) through Greenwich Village towards the Penguin Putnam offices. Along the way I bought two pair of earrings and tried to find the apartment house on Thompson Street where David and I had first met, back in 1960, but alas things have changed so much on the street, I couldn’t be sure.

At Penguin Putnam I got to meet Jessica, my editor at Roc/Ace who worked on EXCEPT THE QUEEN. She had the cover to give me (gorgeous) and we talked a bit about marketing strategies for the book, and then went to tea. There we talked about next books. I had some suggestions, and several interested her, so that means Proposal Writing Time when I got back home.

From there, I went to see the Philomel crew in Michael Green’s office. We spent time talking about where to go now that my dear editor Pat Gauch has retired. The three books Patty and I had been working on have already been parceled out with Patti’s help, so we were really talking about possible new books.

And after that, I went off to meet with Dutton editor Steve Meltzer. We talked about LOST BOY, my picture book biography of J. M. Barrie coming out in the spring, about BUG which Adam and I will be getting to him in the next week, and then about some new ideas. Two (one I suggested, one he suggested) seem the most viable. MORE proposals when I get home.

As I told my agent in an email: I’d like to sell some of the things I have already fully written! But the picture book market is–in the words of every editor I have talked to–“sluggish” at the moment. Sigh.

After that, I went back to the apartment and had an early-to-bed-I-am-exhausted night.

In the morning (Tuesday, for those lost in my ramblings) I got packed, had a leisurely breakfast chat with Pam about family, about creativity, about the possibility of our working together on something. And then, dragging suitcase and computer bag, I went off into the teeth of another rainstorm. But not right away for the train. I had another group of editor/marketing folks to see.

This group was in the FlatIron Building: the good folks at First/Second Books who are doing my two graphic novels: FOILED and eventually CURSES FOILED AGAIN. Excitingly, they had a bound copy–my first–of FOILED which is officially out in the spring. I had a small meeting with Mark Siegel the editor-in-chief. And then the delightful Mike Cavallero who illustrated the book and the marketing director Gina and I went to lunch, me dragging my suitcase etc. And at lunch we discussed pretty thoroughly marketing strategies which meant that when I got home, I had a bunch of things to send Gina.

Then a taxi to the train station, the train to Springfield where Heidi picked me up. The car to home. Collapse!

As yo can see, I try to pack into a couple of New York days as much as possible. For me, face time with editors and marketing people is invaluable. But exhausting.

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