Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back from Seattle and San Francisco

Hi! I'm finally back and recovered from my wonderful trip to Elliot Bay Books in Lovely Seattle, and Book Passage in Vibrant San Francisco. There is SOO MUCH I want to share about so many different things that I'm going to have to spread it out over a few days or you'll feel like you're reading a book.

Simon and Schuster's Free Press sent me on a last minute jaunt to these two lovely cities on the Pacific and I'm sure glad they did. It was my first experience really being on a book tour in the way that most authors do it. I mean, yes, I did do a tour in Colorado but it was my own setup and my Mom helped pay for everything, and I also visited friends (Wendy & Don Francisco, and Cait Reed and Richard Gee).

This time it was the way I've read about, with a driver picking me up - no, not just a driver, a MEDIA ESCORT! In Seattle it was a wonderful woman named Susan who picked me up and drove me around the city to meet with booksellers at bookstores and sign the books they had in stock (this is called a "drive by signing"). Susan had arranged these meetings ahead of time, and she said that every bookstore she called responded with, "Wesley the OWL! YES! We can't keep that on the shelves! We LOVE that book!" She said this was an unusual response, so I was greatly heartened. After all, I'm a first time author and had no idea how well the book would be received!

Helpful people in my life had said things like, "Why would anybody want to read about an OWL for heaven's sake?" So I was nervous. Well, apparently a LOT of people want to read about the life, heart, soul, mind, and spirit of a magnificent, playful, passionate, opinionated barn owl! I feel like the world is full of kindred spirits now.

Seattle is the most gorgeous city! The intensity of the green and the gold and pink and other colors surprised me. The colors are so deeply saturated that the trees seem to vibrate color. The ground is covered with ferns and rich velvet grass. Puget Sound is amazing. The foliage and big trees pressed in and overhead and I felt like I was in a deep jungle, not a city!

As soon as we landed, I realized I didn't have any footwear that was at all waterproof, so I stopped in at an airport store and bought some Croc boots, with the plastic base (no holes of course) and a sheepskin-like boot. They were perfect. Light, yet waterproof, yet not bulky for packing. I have never seen Croc boots in California.

One fun thing about travelling is that in each city you find very different items for sale that you've never seen in your own city. I'd be in big trouble if I had serious spending money!

After all, I had just come from hot, dry, BROWN Southern California and sported a sunburn from doing an event outside at Wild Birds Unlimited in Huntington Beach, and the next day having an interview w/ the Orange County Register outside at Bolsa Chica Wetlands Reserve. People in S. Calif are so sick of the heat and lack of moisture that they are getting grumpy. And now we have the irritating Santa Ana winds kicking up heat and dust and static electricity from the desert and pushing the Ocean winds away, making it hotter than ever. When is fall going to come? It's October, right?

So Seattle was as refreshing as diving into a deep, snow fed pool in a High Sierra creek. Mmmmmm.

It was about 40 some degrees. I run about 30 degrees too hot, meaning that 40 degrees is perfect for me. Yes, I'm the person you see walking around in shorts and a tank top in the snow while everyone else is wearing parkas and scarves.

Because of the cold and rain, apparently, and the last minute-ness of the trip, there wasn't very much turnout at Elliot Bay Books BUT the people who came were hard core fans of barn owls and so we sat in a group and just had the most wonderful discussion!

The hotel was awesome and I would like to LIVE there.

Then it was on to San Francisco. San Francisco was vibrant with tourists and good cheer and people shopping and buying tons and tons of non-essentials, taking rides on the trolley, eating in the restaurants. Financial crisis? What financial crisis? In the west, we just don't see the down in the mouth, panicked attitude that is being reported on CNN. People are very cheerful.

On the plane people were comparing notes - but cheerfully! "I lost 97,000 dollars so far, how about you?" "Oh, I think about 60,000, BUT..." And here is the BUT:

BUT: The dollar is getting stronger, so the money I have left can buy more than the money I had last week, houses are WAAAAAAY cheaper so even if I did lose X amount of money, I can also buy a house MUCH more easily and will have a place to live. And the word was:

Don't PANIC! The people who are selling are just panicking and they're going to regret it! The people who are smart are the ones who are buying! Buy LOW, sell HIGH. So hold on and ride it out and your money will be ok if you just don't panic and sell! Just hold on and ride!

This is what people were saying. And then they were going on with their lives, standing in line to buy books, handbags, sundries, art, and were having fun trips to fun cities and were crowding onto planes to go visit their grandchildren or their relatives in Japan or whatever.

It was great to get out and talk w/ people. The streets were full in San Francisco (not in Seattle because of the weather - the first big cold snap of the season, and rain. I loved it but I guess people who lived there chose to stay in that day).

My media escort in San Francisco was a guy named Brian who used to be an editor at the Chronicle. He had a lot of interesting stories about life at the Chronicle, and he knew the city very well. We ate at a lovely Irish pub and listened to traditional Irish music, which always stirs my heart and brings me a sense of peace. After the event that night I wanted (BADLY) to go see the historic Plow and Stars, where Cait Reed and many other top Irish musicians have played. It's the real deal. But I was waaaay tooo tired. There was just no way, even though I was only a few miles from it. ARG!

I took a nap in the afternoon and no sooner had I fallen asleep than I heard military jets screaming overhead. Overhead? More like up the streets and between the buildings! I thought, "now we've done it. We've managed to work this financial crisis into a war with someone. Sheesh." I didn't panic, though. I called downstairs and they said, "Oh no, that's just the Blue Angels. They do this every year during Columbus Day weekend right over the city, between the buildings, up the streets...etc. Isn't it exciting?" Yes it was very exciting. I fell back to sleep and slept through the entire thing.

When I got up and met my driver outside there was a marching band playing. "Do you always arrange for authors to get a marching band to welcome them when they wake up from their nap?" I asked him. haha.

This hotel was amazing, too. Each room was designed specially by an interior designer/artist, and on each floor was an alcove in the wall with a quote from a famous author written in it. Downstairs was a library with books from all the authors who had stayed there before. It was the Hotel Rex on Sutton street. Staff members (the guy at the desk, the concierge, etc.) were actually reading my book! I was impressed by that, needless to say. That is definitely "going the extra mile for the customer"!

The event in San Francisco at Book Passage was well attended and most everyone there had not only already bought the book, but had read it. One woman had read it 4 times through and had her questions pre-prepared! So I skipped the reading and just talked about what I had learned and experienced with Wesley. The people from Hungry Owl were there. They have a webcam in an owl box and they provide owl box plans for people all over the country. They have barn owl boxes all over the city and we compared stories, so the talk became more of a round table discussion toward the end.

They had seen the same phenomenon of a barn owl choking on a rat skull that I talked about in the book. This was a wild barn owl but they had a webcam on her and they started getting emails that she hadn't moved in several hours. So one of their climbers went up and found the mother dead. They took the babies and rehabbed them for the wild. The necropsy on the mother revealed a rat skull embedded in her esophagus. Even though they have a separate tube for breathing, the owl stresses out and drools and tries and tries to get at the skull and aspirates the drool and finally dies of stress.

I contended that barn owls don't hunt rats, which is what brought this story up. She must have hunted a rat to have one in her esophagus! They posited that perhaps because the female is so much bigger, she is able to hunt rats. I have never seen such a thing and no one else I know has seen this. Barn owls hunt mice and voles, with occasional small birds in the mix. Rats? I don't know how they could kill one. Maybe they will eat a dead rat, but they don't usually eat carrion.

It's a mystery all right!

So much to say but I have to spread it out so more tomorrow! I apologize for how long it's taken for me to get my blogging together but I will really really try to blog every day from now on!

I simply must write more about the goings on at Book Passage because there were some fascinating discussions. Oh well, I'll write it now:

I met a tiny little girl, barely 4 years old, who had a stuffed owl collection from Steiff. She told me she calls herself Miss Bee, and considers herself to be most like the burrowing owl. She wants to become a vet and work with owls. I told her about Jane Goodall, who knew from the time she was in the crib that she wanted to live in a jungle in Africa and work with apes and that's exactly what she ended up doing. She still carries the stuffed chimpanzee that she had in the crib! This little girl's parents were so supportive and took her seriously, as they should. She could read already, of course. I wasn't surprised. If you're slanted that way, you will learn to read early! My sis and I learned to read when we were 2 years old, because we were already passionate about books from watching our parents read and from them reading to us constantly. It really made me feel good to see a child so young who was already so passionate and interested in learning. They are, you know. All one has to do is take them seriously and encourage them and pay attention! Don't set them up in front of the TV for your own convenience, in other words.

And then after everyone left, Hannah at Book Passage gave me a very thoughtful gift of personally embossed stationery, AND Mary (I think it was Mary) gave me a cardboard standup drawing of Wesley signing his name in a book. It was such an accurate portrayal of Wesley's look and attitude that I could hardly believe it! This woman has TALENT!

The Book Passage people were just so amazing. They are even excited about the Baby Wesley the Owl stuffed animal that will be available before Christmas. It's designed by Wendy Francisco and based on Wesley at the age he was on the cover of the book - the cutest age for a barn owl, I think.

Whew! When I got back, everyone said I was glowing. Well no wonder!

1 comment:

Tif Otter said...

D'oh! I'm bummed I didn't hear about your book 'til after you left Seattle. I blogged about it on my duck's website today. MrFlapper dot com. All the best, Tiff