Friday, May 29, 2015

BEA 2015

I attended my first BEA this week--which stands for Book Expo America. It's the annual convention for publishers, book retailers and librarians.

I signed copies of My Grandma's a Ninja, and posters for Beep, Beep, Go to Sleep (the books aren't printed yet). 

That's Beth, Grandma Ninja editor.

There were multiple authors signing simultaneously and continuously throughout the day, and BEA ran a tight ship--every author had a line, partitioned from the next author's. It looked like security check-in at JFK.

I'm under no illusion that people were there to see me vs. just wanting some free swag. So what? I'm still a rock star. 

Both books were on display at the publisher booths. Fun to see Beep, Beep on a shelf for the first time.

My personal haul:

A signed poster for the forthcoming Waiting by Kevin Henkes. I have no library wall to hang it on, but I actually was just there to meet Kevin Henkes. (Jen just saw the poster on the dining table and said, "Oh, I love Kevin Henkes.")

An advance copy of The League of Unexceptional Children, by Gitty Daneshvari. It's a Little, Brown book and it comes highly recommended by Allison, my Beep, Beep editor.

Finally, an advance copy of Last in a Long Line of Rebels, a debut novel by Lisa Lewis Tyre. I nabbed this one directly from the hands of the publisher!

All out this fall--along with Beep, Beep! Okay. We have a little bit of reading to do, and a lot of writing.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Insert mild expletive here

A manuscript sale I was expecting fell through. The editor had it for almost a year, and I'd made probably eight revisions. I didn't think it was a done deal, but I thought it was 90% likely. Honestly? 95%. Must've got shot down in the editorial meeting.

Insert slightly less mild and slightly louder expletive here.

I guess the only good news is that now we can pitch it elsewhere. It would feel kind of satisfying to sell it to another publisher, and be like...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Yes, of course I knew Letterman. I gave him his start.

I was an intern at "Late Night With David Letterman" during my senior year at NYU in 1984. A few memories:

First of all, it was cool. My other options for an internship were NBC Sports, or an ABC music-video show called "Hot Tracks." I made the right call.

The offices were on the 14th floor of 30 Rock. Dave's office overlooked Sixth Avenue. I could flash my pass and waltz past security and the lines of tourists waiting for tours. I could go to the NBC commissary. I could walk around the halls and act like I belonged there.

The show taped every afternoon at 4:30. The interns were allowed to watch from the make-up room or occasionally from elsewhere in the studio (the hallway, backstage, the green room, the control room).

I got to attend an on-location shoot on the streets of New York, where I was responsible for getting signed release forms from any passers-by who appeared on-camera. I rode to the location in a limo with Larry Bud Mellman.

There were about 30 people on staff, including about 10 writers, several of whom were only a few years older than me. At the time they seemed like they'd been there forever, like they were on a planet I could never hope to be on. Most of them had gone to Harvard and had written for the Harvard Lampoon.

(I would've been a horrible writer for Letterman, for the record. My humor back then was too raunchy, and I was too undisciplined to adapt to a writing style other than my own. I'd be great at it now, except for the fact that I'm about thirty years too far removed from current popular culture. So there's that.)

I was backstage with one of the researchers (Darcy) when Bob Dylan was on the show. It was a major coup for the show because he was the biggest star they'd ever booked. He didn't come to the rehearsal, then refused to talk to Dave when Dave came over to him after his first song. He walked past us backstage after his musical number and Darcy said, "Great show, Bob." Bob didn't reply--just kept walking.

I was alone one time in the small research office, and Paul Shaffer poked his head in. As he turned to leave, Steve Martin stopped him to say hello--he was appearing on the show that evening. They both sat down and had a leisurely conversation. I didn't say anything more than "Hey, how's it goin'?" But for the record, I hung out with Steve Martin and Paul Shaffer for ten minutes just shooting the sh#t.

Rodney Dangerfield's son Brian was a fellow intern, as was financier Ivan Boesky's son Bill. I think all the interns dreamed of being hired by the show after graduation--as writers, naturally. Only one intern got a job at NBC--as a page.

I was in three on-air skits--never a speaking part, just a background "extra." In one skit I played a "Blue Angel" who came flying in with my squadron with arms out like wings. We flew behind Dave at his desk, then off stage. It lasted maybe fifteen seconds. In another I stood in a line of people waiting to see Dave. That skit was re-aired in an anniversary special four years later, when I was living in Iowa, and several people said, "Hey, I saw somebody who looked like you on TV last night!"

Check it out for yourself at the 12-minute mark in the video below. Coincidentally, it was the same show that Steve Martin was on. My big day.

I remember walking Dave's dog "Bob" around Rock Center a few times. The first time I thought, "I'm so cool. I'm walking David Letterman's dog." The last time I thought, "You know, I'm not going to tell anyone that my glamorous TV industry job consists of picking up dog crap."

I met Dave several times, but I only had a single one-on-one conversation with him. We got on an elevator together, and I didn't have anything to say, so I said, "How's Bob?"

He said, "Old Bob's just fine."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

News from the soiree

Each spring Prospect Agency holds an event for New York book editors to meet its roster of authors and illustrators.

They call the event a "soiree," which makes it sound as if we're going to be nibbling cavier and sipping champagne. In reality there's pizza and soda, which works out better for me anyway.

The first couple of times I went I felt kind of pressured to try to impress the editors, as if I were going to sell a manuscript to an editor at a party. I don't know; I'm competitive.

Finally I learned to just chill and enjoy talking to nice people and stop worrying about what's in it for me. That could be a good prescription for life, I think.

Here are a few upcoming new books from editors I spoke with at the soiree:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The little hamburger

I went to Five Guys Hamburgers for lunch today and when I saw "Little Hamburger" on the menu, I thought of the Grover skit from "Sesame Street" that Samuel and I used to play over and over. I knew he would laugh if he saw the menu. So I took a picture.

And it worked; he laughed.

(P.S. Ask me to do the Grover voice.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


I'm not sure I'm ever going to run a faster mile than that for the rest of my life. I just felt like running fast today. Blast from the past.

It's not that my legs won't go faster. I didn't push as hard as I could've. I let up a bit in the final quarter mile. It hurt too much. Who needs that pain in the lungs? And it hurts when you stop. The knees. Walking up the subway stairs the next day. It still hurts two days later.

And for what purpose?

I don't know.

Summer's coming. The weather's nicer. I can go light. It's such a nice feeling when you just wear shorts and a tank top, light shoes, no hat, no gloves. Sunshine. Fastness. The feeling of speed. Tap, tap, tap on the pavement with your running shoes. Like flying. Like being alive.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

"Dad, look: PopTarts is trying to be hip."

"They tried to make a meme! 'Ain't nobody got time for that.' Oh, my God, that's so sad. Dad, check this out, you gotta see this. Hashtag 'fully baked.' Hashtag 'why wait.' Ha-ha! Oh, my God. Dad, you gotta take a picture."

Monday, May 4, 2015

The closest we'll ever come

Jen: "That's a pretty car."

Todd: "Because it's a Panamera. Let's get it."

Jen: "It has nice lines."

Todd: "You notice that it looks like a 911 from the front but the back end looks kind of like an XKE?"

Jen: "Uh-huh. Let's get it."

Sunday, May 3, 2015

7 minutes is the new 6

I'm not complaining.

I can't run a 6-minute mile any more. It's been, what, three years now? It's too much effort. Life is too short.

But I ran a 6:44 mile last week--just one, mind you--and thought, "Man, I'm like a @#$% gazelle."

This afternoon I ran three miles at 6:55 pace and I felt like I had just won the Olympics.

The secret is to forget you were ever young. Pretend you're 80 and God has given you a 52-year-old's body for the afternoon. Then take an Ibuprofen, stretch a little bit, and take 'er out for a spin. You feel like you're flying.

Hey, it is what it is.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

I hate puppet shows

I didn't realize until I got there that I was going to be part of a puppet show.

Puppet shows are like foreign movies: seldom good, often horrid.

These guys were good. Silly and energizing, not gooey and moralizing. Good voices, good action, good musical sound effects. Relief.

And I wasn't really part of the show, it turns out. They introduced me and I read my book. I was like Maya Angelou on Sesame Street.

So there you go. I signed some books, talked with some kids, and fell in love with at least four toddlers.

All good.