Sunday, September 27, 2009

Celebrate Children's Book Day

Today my environment was sunny and rainy at the same time.

The sun part: I was a first-time participant in a vibrant, longstanding book festival at Sunnyside, the historic home and grounds of Washington Irving, in Tarrytown, NY.

The rain part: rain.

At times today, Celebrate Children's Book Day felt well-attended, but I'm told that when the weather is clear, this event is beyond crowded.

Among the personal highlights:
  • Unlike some sacrificial souls, I did not have to wear a sweltering Clifford costume.
  • I saw some writer friends.
  • I made some new writer friends.
  • For the first time in my career, someone buying a book (Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman) asked if the copy was a first edition. I was weirdly pleased to check and find that it was a second edition. (The customer was not as pleased, but bought it anyway, and I refrained from assuring her that a first edition will not be worth any more in the future.)
  • I had the honor of meeting and sitting next to Jules Feiffer, man of many distinctions including cartoonist and screenwriter, and author of The Great Comic Book Heroes (first edition 1965 and probably worth a ton). We didn't exactly pose but here we are:

Bonus: His wonderful daughter and fellow author Kate was there, too.

Note: I did not write most of those books that appear to be in front of me. It's just the angle of the photo.

And a highlight not only of the event but of the entire research portion of my career:

A person I plan to write a book on is Australian and running toward his 80th birthday. He's not well known in America but appears to be in Australia, having risen to the top of two disciplines there (one of which is politics, but that's not the discipline I'm going to write about). To test the level of awareness, I tend to ask Australians I meet if they know of this person.

I happened to chat with an Australian at the event, but for some reason, I did not ask her my "Australia question." A short time later, a charming older Australian couple stopped by. In my experience, it is unusual to meet even one Australian at such an event, and any more than that is especially curious.

So I got back to business and asked this couple (who turned out to be the parents of the first woman) if they knew the name.

They just so happen to be very good friends with him.

Out of all the crikillions of people in Australia, they just so happen to go back a long way (seems at least half a century) with my future subject.

Given my subject's high rank in politics, I wasn't fully confident I'd be able to reach him directly when the time comes. Now I have an e-mail scribbled on the back of a promotional postcard that means I probably will. I shudder to think of all the steps I would've taken without this.

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