Last weekend, as part of my real job as a librarian, I attended the ALA (American Library Association) Annual Conference in New Orleans. It was really quite an exhausting and busy trip, with sessions and workshops most of both days, so I barely had time to take in any of the sights of the city.
However, my publisher Tin House Books did have a booth in the exhibitor's hall and they invited me to do a signing on Sunday morning from 11am to noon. The book is still at the printer, but they brought quite a few copies of the blad (which stands for "book layout and design" and is basically a heavily abbreviated [like, only 6 to 12 pages] version of a book - I am guessing that a blad is sort of the art book version of a prose ARC, which stands for advanced reading copy), a huge stack of those gorgeous promo postcards they made up (thanks to the Tin House intern Vanessa who tirelessly collates, bands and stickers these together!) and a bunch of their Fall catalogues with one of my drawings on the cover.
I was really not sure at all what to expect. I mean, I've worked a lot of years in bookstores and I have seen a lot of author events. Some have been heavily attended and generated some fantastic discussion. Others have been just the author and one or two friends or relatives who lived in the area, sitting uncomfortably in a field of empty folding chairs and trying not to feel embarrassed for each other. I was a bit terrified that the signing would end up being just me sitting there and talking to my wife and the people from Tin House, but I vowed to do the best job I could.
And man, it was CRAZY! I mean, not crazy like huge lines of people snaking down the long aisles of the exhibitor's hall, but crazy like there were actually people there waiting for me when I got there. It blew me away. It was such a wonderful experience and every single person I met was truly, genuinely nice as well as interested in the book.
So let's see, I got to meet Deborah Jayne, one of the people at Tin House who handles publicity and marketing. I've exchanged many emails with her, but she was incredibly cool in person. As soon as I sat down and got started, I got to talk to two really sharp librarians from Minnesota who had been waiting for a bit for me to arrive. I probably tormented them with too many questions about how bitterly cold I imagined it to be in Minnesota, but they were really good sports and we talked all about the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Zak Smith and his art, how I ended up using all those found pages and different media, and so on. I even had the chance to draw an extremely quick and rather rough portrait of Captain Ahab on notebook paper for one of them. It really started things out well.
In no real order, I also got to meet Amanda, another talented artist who has a site called Tumbling Elephants and who I believe has a day job at either Tin House or for Publisher's Group West (I'm embarrassed I can't recall).
I finally had the chance to meet Matt Dembicki, an artist and cartoonist whose name I feel like I've been seeing for years now. Matt is a regular at Columbus, Ohio's S.P.A.C.E. (Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) and he actually has copies of my the very first comics I ever made and xeroxed myself, Spudd 64, which was really cool to find out. Oddly enough, in spite of how many times we've been in the same room, this is the first time I've ever really met him. He must have bought those "Spudd 64" comics when my wife was at the table and I was wandering around at S.P.A.C.E. Anyway, Matt is a great guy and he just edited an absolutely fantastic anthology of comics called Trickster...
...which you can and really should pick up right away. It's a beautifully produced book, and the art and the stories in it are really quite astonishing.
Matt took a few photos of my drawing pictures and talking to people while apparently gesticulating wildly, so I am thieving a few from him...
(I am drawing a whale on the back of someone's postcard here. You can see the blad right in front of me, with the old book cover design. Also, a stack of the promo postcards, the Tin House Fall catalogue, and my trusty Hello Kitty inkpen case. I never go anywhere without that thing.)
I also got to meet a friend of Daryl L.L. Houston and still hope to meet the man himself some day. There was someone there from Publisher's Group West, a few reps from Bookforum magazine...I'm sure I am forgetting some people. But man! It was way more than I expected, and in just an hour. Maybe people really are getting interested in this book!
I want to thank Tin House, Deborah Jayne, intern Vanessa, and everyone else who put this all together and shipped it all out from Portland to New Orleans so I could hang out for a bit. And most importantly, I want to sincerely thank everyone who stopped by and talked to me about the book. You've really helped me get off to a great start, and it was wonderful beyond belief to talk to people face to face instead of just through email.