Frankfurt Book Fair–Day Two

Guten Morgen!

Wie geht es Ihnen? (How are you?)
Brauche ich einen Regenschirm? (Do I need an umbrella?)
Nein! Es ig sonnig. (No! It’s sunny.)

Aren’t phrase books fun? They give you a false sense of security. Then you meet an actual person and they smile and speak to you in rapid-fire German and you swallow hard and make strange hand motions that look as if you have said, “Now, I strangle the bunny.” Sigh.

Yesterday was a long, busy day but loads of fun. I had managed to catch my second wind Thursday night and so stayed up waaaay too late–about 1:30 am. When my wake-up call came at 7:30 Friday morning. It was like a bomb had gone off. I hugged the hotel pillow and went, “Noooooooo.” I whimpered a few times for good measure and then trundled off to take my shower. It only took me about ten minutes to figure out how to get hot water, because I’m a super genius, and then I stood under the spray and said, “I’m counting on you, water. Don’t let me down. It’s wakey-wakey time.” The water answered, “Who’s the idiot who didn’t go to bed on time. Stop bothering me and get on with washing your hair.” So I did. I open one bottle and go, hmmm, this is very rich shampoo I bought. No. It’s not shampoo. It’s conditioner. I open the other bottle and go, hmmm, part two. For it is conditioner also. I have no shampoo. I am going to have the softest, most manageable FILTHY HAIR in Germany. I begin to laugh. I wash my hair with soap which I know means I will look like a punk chicken for the rest of the day, but what can you do?

It’s a photo shoot day, so naturally I am sporting a zit on my cheek the size of a football field. I’m not kidding–you could see this thing from space. A zit? Seriously? If I’m going to be visited by the youth fairy can I put in for my former metabolism? I put on a distracting amount of lipstick, which I know I will just eat off but, again, what can you do?

I’m introduced to a Turkish writer named Osman. Osman speaks Turkish and German and I speak neither so Maike translates for us and we do a lot of smiling and nodding and throwing out various words in English and German. Also, I do the stupid thing with my hands like somehow my fingers are the key to understanding. “That’s it! By god, I’ll just act out everything I want to say like charades! That’s the ticket!” No doubt Osman wonders about who the strange American woman who puts her hand to her ear in a “sounds like” gesture before acting out the words “sleep” and “eat” and if all people from New York do this.

Note to self: study German phrase book tonight.

At the fair, I meet with six different journalists. Their questions are incredibly thought-provoking and incisive. If there is one thing I’ve been struck by here it is how seriously journalists take childrens’ and teens’ literature. I do feel that much of the media in America tends to marginalize YA lit, largely because they haven’t read it and don’t know the amazing books that are out there, but also because I think we as a society don’t tend to value our teens. We want put them in a box labeled with a One Size Fits All stereotype–“All teens are X or Y”–and wait for them to become adults. (I have many theories about this, because I like to make up useless theories in my spare time on the bus, but one is that teens speak the truth and have a built-in bullshit radar and this makes them frightening to adults who can’t understand them and so want to discredit them in some way. But that’s just one theory and off-topic.) Anyway, it was very exciting to talk to other people who are excited about books, especially teen books.

While I’m sitting at the dtv booth, a trio of readers comes up to talk to me. They are adorable and we take pictures and talk. Sadly, they will not be able to attend today’s reading, but I can’t tell you how at home it made me feel to meet some teens and say hello. Thank you, ladies.

I go to the photo session with Phillip. Oh, how I wish I had taken a photo of Phillip for you, my friends. What a dish. I think he was probably about 25 and about twelve kinds of cute and I so wished I could have had you all be flies on the wall for that one. Now, I HATE to have my formal picture taken. I feel like a complete dork, like I should be wearing a turtleneck and staring into the distance, an expression of existential crisis upon my face. Yeah, not good at that. Poor Phillip at one point has to implore me nicely, “Could we take a few serious ones, please? For my boss?” So he poses me in front of various interesting pieces of industrial architecture and I try to pretend I’m David Bowie during his Berlin years. Mostly it looks like I’m smelling something bad in the distance.

We go to an awards ceremony for children’s literature. I have a headset so that I can hear the simultaneous English translation which is fun, especially when the guy who’s translating gets bored and starts to read the information on the books in a sort of Monty Pythonesque announcer’s voice. I am the only person around me giggling because no one else needs a headset. I try not to giggle too much. The coolest, absolutely coolest part, though, is that a group of teens gets up to present the six different books in the teen category. They do dramatic interp of the books and it is AMAZING. Even cooler? One of the books is LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green and another is NICK AND NORAH by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I got chills (they’re multiplyin’…). I suddenly feel connected in so many ways and it makes me a little teary because I’m corny like that. John and R&D don’t win (Meg Rosoff does) but it’s the experience that is so fantastic.

After the ceremony, we go to dinner and I meet the English YA writer, Kevin Brooks. I had read Martin Pig ages ago, so it was exciting to get to meet Kevin, who is an absolute sweetheart of a guy. We talk Westerns and blues and music and about how much we love our jobs and that we are the luckiest idiots ever to live because we are lucky enough to do this–work with you guys who keep us honest and remind us to be true to ourselves. Thank you for that, by the way.

I fall into bed at 1:30 again and this morning, I wanted to have a deep and abiding relationship with my pillow. But now I must hie to the book fair for another day.


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