Event Report: Kathi Appelt and Cynthia Leitich Smith at BookPeople

It was a terrific honor to join Kathi Appelt in celebrating the release of my Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and the success of her latest novel, The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008), on Saturday at BookPeople in Austin!

The event drew more than 100 guests from all over central Texas and as far away as San Antonio and Houston!

For those who couldn’t make it, here’s a virtual peek.

First, Meghan, the BookKids buyer, welcomed everyone.

Then, I gave my own welcome:

Thank you all for joining us this holiday weekend.

Thanks to the BookKids staff for your hospitality.

Thanks to Anne Bustard for the yummy cookies.

Thanks to Kathi for the honor of celebrating with her today.

During the hour-long program, Kathi and I introduced one another and offered very brief readings from our latest books, followed by Q&As with each other, followed by a few short excerpts from fan mail, and then we opened it up to questions from the rest of the group.

Here’s my introduction of Kathi (shown holding up art by a young reader):

It’s lovely to have an opportunity to introduce Kathi Appelt, or—since this is a home crowd, jam-packed with friends—perhaps I should just say “rejoice” in Kathi’s amazing-ness instead.

I’ve spent some time thinking back this week, and I believe that the first time I saw Kathi was at an Austin SCBWI conference some 12 or 13 years ago.

Kathi had just burst onto the children’s picture book scene with early multiple sales that immediately put her on the map of as “name” author of quality writing for the youngest readers.

There are so many wonderful and critically acclaimed titles that we could talk about, but I’ll just mention a few of my favorites—The Alley Cat’s Meow (cats!), The Bubba and Beau series, and Miss Ladybird’s Wildflowers, illustrated by fellow Texan and dear friend, Joy Fisher Hein.

But, as successful as Kathi was on that front, she didn’t limit herself to picture books.

She encouraged other writers with Just People & Paper/Pen/Poem as well as Poems from Home Room: A Writers Place to Start.

She celebrated the courage of librarians in Down Cut Shin Creek: The Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

She spoke to teenagers in Kissing Tennessee and Other Stories from the Stardust Dance.

And she shared with us the girl she was in My Father’s Summers: A Daughter’s Memoir.

These early books were cheered and awarded by the American Booksellers Association, International Reading Association, Bank Street College, and many, many others.

Today, we’re here to celebrate her debut novel, The Underneath, a finalist for the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor Book.

I mean, wow.

Let me say that again: Today, we’re here to celebrate her debut novel, The Underneath, a finalist for the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor Book.

Kathi and The Underneath are—hands-down—the story of the year, the one that has taken youth literature in the Lone Star State to the next level.

It’s an ambitious novel of the highest caliber, drawing deep from its Texas roots. It’s the rare book that will live on as a classic. And most importantly, it includes cats.

I know Kathi as a teacher and mentor, a writer and reader, a sister and friend. She’s the glittery-est of starry stars and one of Texas’s own. Please welcome Kathi Appelt.

I don’t have a tape of Kathi’s reading, but you can see another one below, when she appeared at the National Book Award Finalist’s Reading.

After the readings, we offered a question-and-answer session with each other. For a peek into our conversation (and more), see:

Author Interviews: Kathi Appelt and Cynthia Leitich Smith Interview Each Other from BookKids at BookPeople in Austin.

Peek from Kathi: “…no matter who we are, or what our circumstances, we can choose love over fear.”

Peek from Cynthia : “My inner teen is thriving and a reminder that to be an adolescent is to be a (literal) shape shifter, to feel like the ‘other,’ to struggle with monsters outside and in. These readers deserve the best stories that we can give them–ones that speak to this time in their lives and ones that honor their growing sophistication.”

During the event, we also showed the book trailers for Eternal and The Underneath. Above, Greg works on the tech aspect with BookKids’s own Madeline Smoot while author Debbie Gonzales smiles on.

Eternal Trailer

Here’s the trailer for Eternal.

Here’s the trailer for The Underneath.

One of my personal highlights of the event was seeing these gorgeous fingernails, painted to coordinate with various aspects of my series. The Mantle of Dracul dragon is my favorite. Brittany, the YA reader attached to these nails, was an absolutely delight. My extra thanks to her and all the other young readers who turned out. It was awesome to see y’all there!

The crowd begins to gather. (For privacy reasons, photo IDs below will be limited to folks who I can make out clearly and are “public figures” in the Austin youth lit scene).

Here, author Erin Edwards chats with author Jo Whittemore‘s husband, Roger, up front. Farther back, illustrator Christy Stallop chats with author Chris Barton. Farther still at the refreshments table, Madeline and Emily visit with author Carmen Oliver (I think). Author Shana Burg is coming into view from the right.

YA author Ruth Pennebaker (black blouse, black-and-white skirt) greets author Betty X. Davis (reddish jacket).

Meghan (white shirt) and author-VCFA student Anne Bustard (lime green) at one of the refreshment tables, Madeline and Emily in the background.

Because the event was scheduled for 1 p.m. (after lunch), we went with light refreshments–coffee, water, fruit punch, fruit trays, and the world’s best sugar cookies, designed by Anne to coordinate with the featured books!

Here we have the cats of The Underneath…

and the bats and angels of Eternal.

Author-illustrator Don Tate.

The still-growing crowd.

Kerry, Michelle, Nichole, and Loriene. Note: Kerry is formerly of Austin Public Library, Michelle is currently of Austin Public Library, Nichole is a rogue quasi-librarian, and Loriene is a professor at The University of Texas and former president of the American Library Association.

After the presentation, folks started lining up to have their books signed.

Authors Donna Bowman Bratton, P.J. Hoover, and Shana Burg.

Writers’ League of Texas director Cyndi Hughes, author-VCFA student Anne Bustard, and librarian Jeanette Larson.

Austin SCBWI RA Tim Crow with authors Julie Lake and Brian Yansky.

Jennifer Ziegler, YA author.

BookKids’s Emily and Meghan with Sean Petrie, who’s newly admitted to VCFA.

YA author-VCFA student Varian Johnson models shopping at your local bookstore and chatting with YA author Margo Rabb.

Cynsational Notes

Thank you again to Meghan, Madeline, Emily, Mandy, and Topher of BookPeople’s BookKids department for your hospitality! Thanks also to the one-hundred-plus book fans–kids, teens, parents, writers, readers, and librarians–who helped make it an unforgettable event! Thank you to Candlewick Press and Atheneum! And biggest thanks to Kathi. What a thrill to share a stage with you!

Signed stock of The Underneath, Eternal, and its companion book, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), is still available from BookPeople! Stop by or call (512) 472-5050 ext. 202 for more information! Note: you can request that the store ship your copy to you (for a fee).

Attention Authors: It’s terrific fun to do a joint event! You may pull in a wider range of folks and make new connections with readers. The event may be livelier as you’re featuring two voices, two books, and your own interactions. It’s also a great way to support your local bookstore!

Attention Bloggers/Social Networkers: you are welcome to use any of the above featured photos for your own posts about the event.

Planning Notes: For an event like this, my budget was about $20 for fruit punch, and my time allocation was about 20 hours for promotion, about 10 hours for planning. Again, the rest of the refreshments were provided by the store and Anne. In the past, I have done snail mailings; however, this time, I spread the word by email, eVite, Austin SCBWI, MySpace, and Facebook. We probably lost about 25-30 otherwise for-sure attendees due to the holiday weekend, but it was the date that worked for the authors and bookstore. Big picture, there’s nothing that I would’ve changed. The Appelt-Smith event was a huge success! Thanks again!