I'm the One Wearing the Crown

I had so much fun in Chicago last week with Scholastic Book Fairs folks... so much fun that I had to come home and recover most of this week! First off, Robin Hoffman crowned me the Pomegranate Queen and here I am wearing my crown and standing with the fantastic sales consultants at Scholastic Book Fairs Midwest Regional Office. We made a grand morning of it, swapping stories and getting to know one another.

Then it was time for a tour of the warehouse, courtesy of Marvin Parrott, Operations Manager, and Jerry Zibton, Inventory Manager. Scholastic ships out 8000 book fairs from this location each school year and services four regional branches: Chicago, Madison, Bloomington, and Milwaukee.

Every two hours, 20 Fairs are packed and moved through the entire "flow" of operations in this warehouse -- unbelievable. Recognize these cases?

Here is Rosie, packer extraordinaire. She can pack five fairs in an hour -- whoa, Rosie! Rosie's got a picture book case here...

...while Carol packs a case of novels -- that's ALL-STARS that she's putting into the case right now.

Holly shows me where Deborah Wiles's novels are in this vast warehouse.

Right here. Scholastic Book Fairs has showcased every one of the Aurora County novels and has helped put my books into the hands of young readers across the country. RUBY LAVENDER was on 26 state book award lists, and so far LITTLE BIRD has been on 24 -- what a boon to have the Book Fairs participate in getting books to schools and readers.

After a lovely day in the offices and lunch at Tony Spavone's (we're talkin' Chicago, here: wisecracking, balding guys (not Marvin and Jerry at right) standing at the buffet, carving roast pork in the middle of a weekday -- it was all good), we traveled to Bolingbrook Country Club, where Scholastic had planned a luscious late-afternoon event for teachers. I wish I'd taken photos of the food! Some teachers brought young fans to see me, which I loved --

...and, after speaking to teachers and signing signing signing books, scintillating sales reps (and I do mean scintillating) and I enjoyed a great get-to-know-you dinner together (we shared love stories, among other things) before wending our respective ways home through spitting snow.

Thank you, teachers, for coming out on a cold Chicago evening to meet me -- it was my pleasure to spend time with you! Thank you to everyone in the Midwest Region for making this day memorable and for taking such good care of me. Thank you, Roy Schlegel, for being such a gracious host. Thank you Mark Dudy and Marianne Bost and Kristi Leahy for all the engineering -- even down to the baked goods. Thank you to the entire team!

Here's a last photo of me and my friend Robin Hoffman, Scholastic Book Fairs' National Community Relations Manager, who makes events like this happen all over the country. We like to eat together, as you can see from this blog entry (scroll to the bottom -- don't we look even younger and skinnier now? Smarter, too. Ha.).

We'll be together at IRA as well, when I get to say hello again to my SBFs friends from the Southern Region in Atlanta. Can't wait for May.

And now... time to pack. Tomorrow, Las Vegas. Las Vegas! I've traveled quite a bit, but have never been to Vegas. As many of you know, my love affair with Elvis runs deep and true -- in fact, he's a major character in HANG THE MOON, my 1966 novel (which is part of the Sixties Trilogy).

I've been to Tupelo, Elvis's birthplace, and to Graceland in Memphis, but I've yet to visit Viva Las Vegas. I'll bring my camera. I'll be working with teachers, students, and librarians on Saturday at UNLV (as well as Nancy Johnson and Cyndi Giorgis -- more on this later), but Sunday will be a play-day with a dear friend I haven't seen in years. I hope I hope I hope we find several Elvises. The more sequined, the better. Thankyouverymuch.

Catch you on the flip-flop.