I find myself in need of something new

Day 16:  Something New

This is my newest book.  I bought it two days ago.

I went to a book signing for Kevin Henkes a couple of days ago and bought Owen from the bookstore sponsoring the event.  It's not Henkes's newest book, though.  That would be Penny and Her Song, his first easy reader, and the main reason for the signing.  But I bought that book a few days earlier.  I also took along a couple of his other books that I already had.

I really like Henkes's picture books.  They're tender, funny, and friendly.  He also writes chapter books, which I haven't read any of, but after listening to him at the signing, I think I will.

Henkes read a couple of his stories (including Penny and Her Song) and then talked about the process he goes through in writing and illustrating a picture book.  He then took questions from the audience, and I got called on!  I asked an intelligent question in a clear, calm voice, and was quite proud of myself.  Listening to Henkes gave me inspiration for my own somewhat faltered writing ambitions.

Afterwards, during the signing process, I hadn't planned on talking to him while he signed my books because I figured I'd said enough during the Q&A.  But I hadn't counted on him asking me questions.

Q:  Do you want the date and signature?
A:  Huh?
Q:  Do you want the date, too?
A:  Oh, just the signature is fine.
Q:  How're you doing today?
A:  Fine, thank you.
Q:  Are you a teacher?
A: ...!?... I ... No.
A:  [commence incoherent babbling about not being a teacher, sort of]

You see, it was that last pause that undid me.  I figured after I said "No" that it was his turn to talk.  He had several options.  He could have explained why he asked that question by saying something like, "Oh, well you look like one", or "Oh, the lady before you was a teacher, so I just wondered", or "Oh, the signing is taking place in an elementary school, so I thought it was a logical assumption."  Or he could have closed that line of inquiry by saying "I see" and left it at that.  But no, he said nothing.  And I became confused as I considered his question, and then there was this silence, and he still had two books left to sign, and so I started babbling, which, if you know me, is Nothing New.  I'm hoping that I did it sotto voce enough that, with the noise of other people in line, he didn't hear anything I said. 

By the time he finished signing my books, I had gathered my scattered wits and was able to give him my hearty thanks.  I left the signing feeling pretty good, though, because I had asked that intelligent question, and I'd got four books signed by a talented author and illustrator.


Adrien said...

So what was the Intelligent Question you asked?

Janeite42 said...

"Do you have total control over the design of your books?" But you have to put it in context. Many of the questions asked were Intelligent, and some were just Good. Some were Good the first time they were asked, but not so much the second time. For instance, two different elementary school kids asked, within a minute of each other, "What is your favorite book you've written?" In comparison, I think my question could be classed as Intelligent.

Shannon said...

When we went to the Rebecca Stead signing, there were lots of kids there, so before they did the Q&A she said, "Ok, here are some answers to things probably ask: my favorite food is PB&J, my favorite book I've written is BLAH, etc etc"
I don't know if teeny little kids would go for that though. They'd still probably ask.
Anyway, he probably doesn't know how to converse with people who aren't little kids or teachers, so don't take it too personally?

Jared and Megan said...

Kewl!! I would have liked to have been at that signing. One of my favorites is Chrysanthemum. When I was a little kid I really liked her dress full of pockets. Nowadays I get a kick out of how her parents try to approach everything intellectually but full of love, and like most parents, find themselves somewhat out of their depth.

So what was the answer to your question??

Janeite42 said...

Shannon: I don't take it personally. He was busy signing books. If I felt any awkwardness it was of my own making.

Megan: He does have total control! He decides the layout, the typeface, the paper, etc. He said if his editor said something like "We might try this here," then there's a discussion and a mutual agreement. I wanted to ask a follow-up question of how early in his career (his first book was published when he was 19) he got to exercise total control, but there were lots of people with questions.

But nobody commented on my (to me) brilliant joke! Not that it's required, but I would enjoy the notice.