Verla Kay's book


is an award-winning book!

Child Magazine named it a Children's Best Book

in their December/January 2001 issue. (Go to page 6 on their website.)

Verla Kay's fabulous trip to

New York

February 25 - March 1, 2002

for the celebration of the

Child Magazine Children's Best Books.

Diary of our Trip...

Monday, February 25th

It's Monday night, and Terry and I are in our hotel in New York city. (By the way, Terry is my husband, for anyone who might have wondered. LOL!) The flight to New York was smooth and easy. No delays, no problems. Long lines in San Francisco to get into the gate, but other than that, we just sat around and played cards and waited, then sat on the plane, read, looked out the window, played more cards and waited to arrive.

We saw ground zero from the air as we came in. Unreal. It was just this big empty-looking white patch in the middle of the skyscrapers and surrounding buildings. The Empire State building looks very strange lit up with red, white, and blue lights at night.

Tuesday, February 26th

Spent most of the day today in the New York public library. What a library! We never did find the part of it that had books to check out. LOL! Spent the whole day in the research rooms, getting fabulous information for my schoolhouse book. I now know exactly what year my story is taking place in, and what city. I have detailed info on how the schoolroom was set up and what transpired in it. I'm thrilled!

And now, I'm off to hit the chat room for a couple of minutes before we go out to dinner. (We're meeting a wonderful author friend who lives in New York.)

I'm in chat... and no one is there. WAH! Where IS everyone? How come the room is empty? It's NEVER empty during chat time. Darn it, I have to leave in a few minutes... OH! Oops... Chat doesn't start for THREE HOURS YET! LOL! I forgot I'm on NEW YORK time. DUH....

Wednesday, February 27th

Today is the "BUSY" day for us. We're meeting my editor, Susan, from Putnam, and my agent, Ginger, and I do the booksigning/reading at Barnes & Nobel tonight. EXCITING day!

Terry just looked outside and there are snowflakes coming down. Yikes! (Nothing is sticking at this point,though, and I'm glad of that.) We're very happy we have our new dressy coats. (We bought them on the way to San Francisco. We figured we'd need them in New York... and we were right!)

We left the hotel late in the morning and went across the street to the subway. What an adventure THAT was. Took us quite a while and several times asking different people questions before we figured out how to buy a ticket! LOL! We got all-day passes (good move) then found the #6 tracks. Our next dilemma was to figure out which way to GO on the track. Terry (SMART guy) asked a worker near the tracks which train would take us the direction we needed to go and we discovered we were on the wrong side. Back up the stairs, over to the other side, down those stairs, and we were in the right place. (LOTS of stairs around here!) The subway was fun to ride, once we were able to sit down. It's fast and relatively painless (once you figure out how to get on and off in the right places.)

We got to the agency offices right on time. Interesting to see them. Didn't look at all like I'd expected. (But then, not much in New York DOES!) I took photos of Ginger in her office and her assistant, Kelly, in hers, too. Fun!

Verla and her agent, Ginger

Ginger's wonderful assistant, Kelly

We left there and caught a cab for Putnam. When we arrived, we were suitably impressed by the HUGE operation! Unbelievable. I had no idea there were so MANY departments and people working on my little books. My head is still spinning from all the people Susan introduced us to that work on different aspects of my books.

The children's division of Penguin-Putnam fills two full FLOORS of a HUGE building. Dial, Dutton, Putnam, Viking, etc. are all nooks and crannies and offices making a complete maze of each floor. It was amazing to me.

Susan has a very nice office along one side of the building with a view of the Hudson River. She can even see the statue of liberty from her windows. NICE. (Yes, we got a photo.)

Also took photos of her personal slush piles, and the general slush piles, too. It was very fun.

Susan's window view and her personal "slushpile"

Susan's agent/requested manuscripts/personal attention "slushpile"

Next Susan took us into a conference room and we got to see all the original art from Homespun Sarah.

Viewing the original art of Homespun Sarah...

Verla, Susan, Ginger

The art was TERRIFIC to see! So interesting to see the "real thing." It was the first time my agent had seen any of it, too, so it was especially fun for all of us. I got a photo of it spread all the way around a HUGE conference table with the three of us standing over it. (Poor Terry didn't get in any photos... he was taking them all.)

It was so incredibly impressive to see the "real" thing!

Susan sent out for Chinese lunch and we had a nice meal in the conference room (after the art was put away, of course!) Ginger left shortly after lunch, and Terry, Susan and I spent the next hour or so going around both floors meeting zillions of Putnam people. It was such fun! (Of course, I don't remember the names hardly any of them... but it was great fun to meet them all.)

Sara (who reads it) with January's slushpile

Susan, standing beside queries box (left side) and "slush rejections" box (right side)

(Notice how SMALL the query pile is compared to the general slushpile with Sara up above!)

One of the gals had "just" sent me an email as we walked into her office. That was funny. She was setting stuff up for IRA (International Reading Association) conference. She showed us a preview copy of the full two page ad they will be putting in the program. Wow! They had photos of all the authors they are featuring, along with their times to speak (I'm speaking at 10 in the morning on Tuesday) and their "signing" times. (I sign on Wednesday.) My photo was right there with Patricia Polacco and Paula Danziger's photos (along with lots of other important authors.) I was awed and felt a little overwhelmed.... (But no, I was NOT speechless! Har har.)

We left the Putnam offices around four and headed back to our hotel with Susan. Took the subway back. She sure knew how to get around a lot easier than we did. LOL!

I changed clothes into my nice long brown dress, we grabbed our coats and my flyers, signing stuff, etc., then headed back out. Took a cab to a seafood restaurant, where Susan had made reservations for us. Great meal! We all ate everything. I had salmon (one of my favorite meals) and Terry and Susan had crab cakes. After dinner we walked ten blocks in FREEZING wind. Even with my heavy new full-length coat I nearly froze to death. I was VERY glad to arrive at the bookstore.

They treated us SO good... there were 7 authors/illustrators in attendance. Nice little signing tables were around in a semi-circle for all the authors, on either side of the "stage" area with a bottle of cold water and a glass, a felt tip pen and a regular pen (for signing) for each of us, along with a nice little stand-up sign with our name on it at each place. They had a chair up on the stage for us to sit on while reading our books, and a microphone set up.

They had me do my reading first, and I talked briefly about the creation of my book, then read it to the kids (and adults.) There was a very nice crowd. Standing room only. Many of them even listened when I was talking, which was nice.

A large refreshment table was on one side of the area, with really cute cookies representing each book. Mine were sailboats, and Terry took a picture of Susan and I with the cookies.

Verla & Susan with Tattered Sails cookies

Terry took several photos of the event, and a couple of me with some of the CWers that showed up (two of them.) The little girl, Sara, that was going to come, apparently didn't make it. That was a disappointment to me.

Susan was with me, and Chris from marketing was also there, along with Gunta, the designer. It felt GOOD to be so well-supported by my publisher.

Gunta & Verla

I handed out a few of my flyers to people who attended the event, left some with the store at the end of the evening, gave the rest to Chris and Susan to take back to Putnam. I forgot to keep any for myself. LOL! Now I'm OUT and don't have any for tomorrow. Oh, well....

There weren't any "lines" in front of me for the signing, but about ten or maybe fifteen people bought my book and had me sign it, so I was VERY pleased.

It was really fun to get to meet Gail (aka thelonewriter from #Kidlit) Johnson and Debra (aka Debbie) Turner (from the CW list.)

Verla & Gail

Debbie & Verla

Several of the judges from the Child Magazine came up to me during the evening and said how much they LOVED my book. I had been wondering if it was really the artwork that caused the book to be picked as a winner, but the comments they made let me know they loved my writing at least as much as the art, so that was a very good feeling, too. One of them said, "I am just awed by how MUCH you tell in so FEW words!" (Can you tell this whole day was a major boost to my ego?)

After things wound down, Terry and I took the subway back to the hotel, where I went to chat for a while. Then we just "crashed." Tomorrow we are meeting my editor, Amy, from Millbrook. I've never met her, yet, so this should be fun!

Thursday, February 28th

We puttered around the hotel room until noon, then headed out for the Millbrook New York offices where we were meeting my new editor, Amy. Used the subway again, (got all day passes again -- again a good move for us) and thanks to Terry's wonderful sense of direction, we were able to go right to the correct lines and jump right on. Got off and walked the few blocks to the Millbrook offices with no problem. We didn't know if we were eating with Amy or not, so decided to wait until after our meeting to eat lunch. Bad move. We'd only had McDonald's Mcmuffins for breakfast and dinner was a long time coming. We found the offices a lot easier than we'd expected, and got there over a half hour early, so we sat in the waiting room and enjoyed looking at Millbrook's new catalogs until Amy arrived.

She didn't look at ALL like I'd expected. No "teeny-bopper" editor, here. (I used to think all editors were super skinny, extremely young, and fashion plate models. It's so nice to find out they are real people - just like us!) Amy was WONDERFUL. We hit it off immediately. (Yes, Terry took a photo of her and I together.)

Verla & Amy

We talked for two full hours. GREAT meeting. She seemed impressed (in her words) by how far I've come in such a short time. We talked about how lucky I've been and how much I appreciate my luck (and how hard I've been working to "make" my luck happen.) We talked a lot about how wonderful Putnam has been to me, too, and about the incredibly terrific illustrators they've used for all of my books.

We talked a lot about my upcoming picture book biography, Rough, Tough Charley, and about other books I might do for Millbrook in the future. We talked about some of my book ideas. We had an absolutely wonderful day.

When Terry and I left the offices, we had several hours to "kill" until it was time to get ready to go to Broadway for The Lion King production, so we hopped back on the subway and took it downtown towards the World Trade Center area. After walking for many blocks, we found ourselves right on the edge of the operation. There wasn't anything to really see, except for the memorials on the sides of the sidewalks, which made us very sad. We could see a few working lights through the barriers, and they had a huge platform built where they were herding people in and out like cattle for a three minute "view" of the actual site. It seemed too much like a "tourist thing" and we refused to let the terrorists have the satisfaction of that, so we elected to not do the platform viewing.

Instead, we looked at the posters lining the sidewalks, and the surrounding buildings, many of which were burnt and still had plywood over broken windows. The thing we felt we needed/wanted to see, was what wasn't there... the empty air where the buildings had once stood. (We had also looked at the many flyers up on the boards in Grand Central Station earlier in the day.) We saw the emptiness, felt the ache that still filled the air, paid our moment of respectful homage to those who died so cruely and needlessly there, and came away saddened, but glad we'd taken the time to stop by the site.

View from window of one of the Putnam offices.

Arrow points to where the World Trade Center used to be...

At this point, we headed back to the hotel via the subway. We decided to eat dinner at our hotel, and had the BEST steaks we've had since the early 80's when we were in Rio de Janiero, Brazil!

After dinner, I changed into my velvet patchwork dress and we took a taxi to the theater. The Lion Kind production was wonderful. I certainly understand why people are so excited about it. The "special effects" of the stage and costumes were unbelievable. It was almost three hours long, but seemed more like an hour, it went so fast and was so wonderful. Afterwards, we decided to not fight the crowds trying to get taxis, and walked the ten or so blocks back to the hotel. It was cold, crisp, and a lovely, romantic walk for both of us. A perfect ending to a wonderful day.

Friday, March 1st

The hotel told us we needed to catch the 5:30 AM shuttle to get to the airport by 7:00 AM. So... we got up at 4:30, got ready, checked out, and caught the shuttle to the airport. We arrived and were standing in front of the not-yet-open ticket counter by 5:45 AM. When it opened at six, we got our bags checked and our boarding passes for both legs of our journey home (we had to change planes in Denver) and headed for the gate.

Took a LONG time to get through the gate. Very long lines with many people. Once we got on the other side, we headed for the snack stand for something to eat. Then we sat down and waited. And waited. Our plane didn't take off until 9:00 AM. We landed in Denver at 11:25 AM (Denver time... it was 1:25 PM New York time) and we had about a half hour (by the time we got off the plane) to get to the other gate and get on our second leg of the flight to San Francisco.

By the time we got to our gate, they were already loading our flight. But since we had tickets for seats 5 D & F and they were still loading rows 10 through 23, we weren't worried. Finally it was our turn to board, and when we got on, we found a lady and her little daughter sitting in seats 5 E & F and the lady across the aisle was yelling at us to get out of seat D because it was her son's seat. I left Terry sitting in seat D and worked my way up to where the flight attendant was to find out what the heck was going on. Turns out they'd had mechanical problems with another plane and diverted all their passengers over to our plane, with duplicate seat assignments. RIGHT. Seems to me that the people with THAT flight number should be the ones to get their assigned seats! The flight attendant told me they were going to just have "open seating" and to take anything that wasn't already taken. I turned around, there were two seats together right beside me in the front of the plane in the second row. So I got into them, turned around and called back to Terry, telling him to get our carry-on out of the overhead and move up with me. He did, and we got to sit together the entire flight. YAY. I'm still miffed at the airline for not allowing the people who actually HAD that flight to get on first though....

Needless to say, it was somewhat of a "zoo" getting everything done. When everyone was finally seated, there were five people who had booked the flight originally, who didn't have seats. Seems there was a second airline, from another company, that had sent some people over that THEY had bumped earlier in the morning, too. They were asked to please get up and leave to make room for the people that belonged on the flight, and NONE of them moved. They made the flight attendants go look up the records, and call them by NAME to get off the plane. Then they had to dig through all the baggage that had been stowed underneath and find their bags and get them off the flight before we could take off. (Do you get the DELAYED FLIGHT picture here?)

An hour later, we were still sitting on the ground, waiting to be de-iced so we could take off. Eventually the plane took off -- just about the time it was supposed to have been landing in San Francisco!

Got to San Francisco, all our luggage arrived without any problem (hooray!) and we caught the shuttle over to the hotel where our car had been parked. We had planned an early start for the day so we could get out of San Francisco before the Friday afternoon rush hour weekend traffic hit. The delays put us right into the middle of it, of course, and we've now been on the road for well over 4 hours (it normally takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours to drive home from the airport,) and we're still a half hour from home. Sigh.... And we haven't had anything to eat but snack foods all day since our "airport" breakfast.

Needless to say, today has NOT been a fun day. I'll be SO glad to get home! We're so hungry, Twerplet (our beloved bird) better not be in a biting mood, or he might end up on the MENU tonight. LOL!


Friday, March 1st

We're SO happy to be home, but we're also so pleased we took this trip. It was well worth the cost and we look forward to doing it again some day soon!


 The End... (for now)

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