We had a party!
A big book party!
After weeks of planning and a day of near misses (including a rushed attempt to close on our old house, a torrential downpour while I loaded the car, and a frightening hydroplane in rush-hour Easley traffic) we threw Woodwalker a big old party!
The event was at M.Judson Booksellers, a fantastic bookstore/café located in the old historic courthouse in downtown Greenville. We set up several big posters, a slideshow of artwork, and the signpost my dad made from chapter two of Woodwalker.
Things started off with some unscheduled time—I sat and signed books while folks took a look around the bookstore, colored pictures, and ate cupcakes made by the wizardly hands of the Chocolate Moose staff.
We also had a raffle going on—folks could donate a dollar for a ticket to win a prize package of book paraphernalia, including a tote bag and poster printed with Mae’s mantra, “One crisis at a time,” a copy of the book that I had sketched in, and a handful of bookmarks and stickers. All the money went into a box to donate to Friends of the Smokies, a nonprofit organization that supports Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is where I work as a park ranger, and which served as the inspiration for the main setting in Woodwalker
After some free-range time, we gathered together. I said a few special thank you’s and then launched into a short reading and discussion on Woodwalker’s protagonist, Mae. I’m used to standing up in front of crowds of people and talking—it accounts for roughly a third of my job, after all. But I’m usually expounding on the virtues of some natural or historic treasure, so talking about my own work was weird. I think I chose the wrong passage to read—I’ve heard it pays to pick an action-oriented scene, and if I could do it over again, I’d have chosen Mae’s encounter with the bear over her dialogue bit with Arlen. I also read too fast—my friend recorded me reading, and as soon as I saw the video I curled up on myself, twitching, like a dying cockroach. Listening to oneself speak is AWFUL. But necessary. Speaking too fast has always been an issue for me in my ranger programs. Time to work on dialing it back again.
Fortunately we moved on to Q&A, during which people asked some great questions, including a question about whether the plants and animals in the book are all real (answer: yes), so I got to put on my ranger hat (not really, I can’t wear it out of uniform) and talk a little bit about the book's fireflies and plants that are all native to the Smokies. Someone else asked about my motivation behind making my protagonist a heroine, to which I talked about my desire for “girl Aragorn where it doesn’t matter that she’s a girl” and about the heroines I might want my own daughters to read about as they grow up. And then several people were curious about a sequel, to which the answer is YES! In January (probably).
We closed things out with the raffle drawing. I had my four-year-old Lucy pull a ticket out of the jar. She picked my dad’s ticket! He said to pick another one. So I gave the jar to my two-year-old Amelia. She pulled out a fistful and then picked her favorite one. The tote bag, poster, and illustrated book went to a long-time family friend, Jackie.
Some of the coolest moments of the nights were the ones I didn’t expect. My high school art teacher and chemistry teacher showed up—and my chemistry teacher brought with her a picture book I’d written for a Mole Day project in her class! It’s been twelve years since I was in her class, and she’s kept it all this time! My art teacher also nudged me about another picture book I had illustrated for my senior project in her class. I felt so fortunate not just to have had so many fantastic teachers in my life, but to have ones who have followed and supported my work.
I had old friends from high school show up, some of whom drove several hours to be there. My college roommate, my financial adviser, my in-laws, and many honorary aunts and uncles… so many people turned up to celebrate. I met new friends from local library systems, friends-of-friends, and people who just happened to wander in during the event. I loved seeing everybody hanging out, coloring pictures, and talking about books. I especially loved the moment when the event coordinator, Mary, sidled up to me to inform me she’d sold out of books. My sweet friend Susannah had bought her very last copy.
Thanks to everyone who came out and made this event so special. Thanks for supporting me and Woodwalker every step of the way. Thanks for your kind words about the book itself and your interest in the futures of Mae, Mona, and the other protagonists! See you guys again in January 2017 for round two!
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator