I have to confess I didn’t know much about Philadelphia before heading there. In fact, it was the city on the tour I was least familiar with. All I really knew about it came from the movies, especially from one of my favourite (and one of the most awesome) films of all time: Rocky. But Rocky wasn’t the reason I was in the city – I was here for the Public Library Association’s annual conference!
I flew in on Wednesday, a very pleasant 5-hour flight (I think I’m actually getting used to being up in the air, I never thought I’d say that)!! I barely had time to duck in and out of the hotel, though, because I had my first event lined up for that evening! I was doing a reading and a signing in a beautiful bookshop called Children’s Book World, along with fellow writers Gregg Olsen (author of literally dozens of books, including the brand new Envy, which looks amazing) and Siobhan Vivian (author of The List, amongst other things, which again looks like a fantastic book). Unfortunately, having been up since five, having endured another time zone shift, and having a very short-tempered Turkish driver who kept yelling “You be late! You be late!” (even though there turned out to be plenty of time), I ran out of the hotel and totally forgot that I was supposed to be giving Gregg a ride in my car!!! (Sorry again, Gregg, I can’t apologise enough!!!) I only realised when I got to the shop and asked whether he had arrived yet, whoops!
Anyway, Gregg was an absolutely lovely guy, and very forgiving, and together with the equally wonderful Siobhan we had a fantastic evening. It was a very laid back event, with authors, staff and audience sitting on the floor basically just chatting about books and writing and reading. I love events like that!! I really, really enjoyed chatting to everyone, and luckily I also managed to remember to give Gregg a lift back to the hotel! We popped to the bar for a quick drink afterwards, which was lovely! I want to say a huge thanks to Heather and everyone else at Children’s Book World for such a lovely event! I just wish I had some photos!
To make up for the lack of event photos, here’s one from my hotel window. What a view!!!!!
Thursday was the day of the conference, and what a day it was!!! I got to the enormous convention centre (seriously, it was vast, the escalators were bigger than the ones in the London Underground) at half seven in the morning, and met up with the Macmillan staff. I was soooooo looking forward to meeting them, because although I have been published by Macmillan for two and a half years now I haven’t met the lovely people there, or even spoken to them on the phone (apart from my wonderful publicist Lizzy). It was AMAZING to finally get to know the awesome people who publish my books and who have done such a great job promoting them! They are so cool! A big hi to everyone from Macmillan I met at the PLA conference, especially Wes, Emily, Michelle, Lucy, and Noa!
I was doing a panel event at the conference, along with Gregg, Siobhan and the delightful Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay and Where She Went. We were all scheduled to give a short presentation, then answer some questions. I went first, and it was so much fun. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love librarians. They are the most awesome people, so dedicated to books and so enthusiastic about reading and storytelling. So it was a real pleasure to be able to speak to an audience of over 200 of them! It was brilliant hearing all the other authors talk about their books too, we all had something different to say. Afterwards, we all asked the librarians a question, and I asked them if they had any advice for any of my UK librarian friends who are facing the fight of their lives to keep the libraries open. Thank you so much to everyone who answered, and to those of you who emailed me afterwards, your advice and support is so appreciated! It really was a fantastic event, and I was so honoured to be a part of it. Thanks everyone for coming!!
After the presentation I went to my signing booth where I spent a very happy few hours signing books and chatting to librarians. It was such a lovely morning and I met so many cool people! Here is me with one of them!
Another great thing about the day was that I finally got to meet my editor, Wes. He is the guy who brought Furnace to the States (so please everyone say a huge thank you to him)!! And he is a thoroughly amazing, interesting, funny and generous man. He took me out for lunch at an Irish bar, and we chatted for ages about the books, about how amazing the ride has been so far and about how excited we are for the future. It really was so good to finally be able to chat to him face to face (in fact, we realised that we had never actually spoken, just emailed, which is a little strange!) and we got on really well. I am so grateful to Wes for signing the Escape From Furnace series, and for working so hard on them, and it was lovely to be able to tell him this in person.
Wes and I headed back to the convention centre afterwards for another signing, this time at the booth of the distributors Baker and Taylor. I sold out of books (well, they were free!), which was great, and spent another couple of hours chatting away to all the librarians. Thanks to everyone at Baker and Taylor for hosting me, what a lovely bunch you are! I had an hour in the hotel to freshen up, then it was straight out to dinner with the Macmillan staff and some of the librarians we’d met that day. Librarians, publishers and dinner, how could it get any better?! We dined on spectacular food and talked about everything under the sun (although mainly books and writing and the fight that libraries are facing against ignorant, short-sighted, selfish, pathetic governments). Thanks so much to everyone who came, it was an amazing night!!! I know people were taking photos so I’ll post them if I can find them!!
I slept like a log that night, and woke the next morning bright and early for an event at Ridley High School! It was super fun, and great to meet another bunch of enthusiastic readers and book lovers. There were so many questions at the end, and everyone seemed to enjoy it! Thanks to everyone, especially the librarian Amy for letting me visit, I had a great time! Amy wrote an article about it here! And she also posted me some Ridley Raiders goodies, including a T-shirt, because I am now an honorary Raider, so cool!!
I had the afternoon free to explore the city, and although Philly is an incredible place with a huge amount of culture and history, there was really only one thing I wanted to do – visit the Rocky steps!!! The steps from the movie actually lead up to the Art Museum, but I didn’t want to see art (even though there was a Van Gogh exhibition on), I wanted to stand in the shoes of the greatest hero ever! It was quite funny, actually, as there were hundreds of people there, but maybe ten of them were in the queue for the museum, the rest were running up the steps and posing by the huge Rocky statue in the museum gardens. I didn’t technically run up the steps, I walked then kind of jumped awkwardly up the last two, but I still felt like a champion! Here are a couple of photos!
I had a good wander around afterwards, and ate quite a few Philly cheese steaks (OMG, so delicious)!!! Although I was only there for a couple of days, Philly really was an awesome place and I had a fantastic time! From Philly there was only one stop left on the tour, NEW YORK!!!!!