Interview with Kelly Light: Anatomy of a Book Tour

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Kelly Light at Books of Wonder, NYC

By Diana Zipeto

From attending conferences and connecting online, I have met and been inspired by illustrators and authors at all different stages of reaching their publishing goals. In 2012, I met author/illustrator Kelly Light at the NESCBWI Spring Conference when I took her Character Design workshop. I then connected with her online and tuned into her blog, which was a great source for inspiration and motivation. All along her path to publication, Kelly has been an open and encouraging online presence, sharing her ups and downs and insights about the publishing process.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Kelly about her fall book tour to promote her picture book Louise Loves Art.

Diana Zipeto : Is this your first book tour? How did the tour dates and locations get set up? (See her full tour schedule here)

Kelly Light: This is my first book as an author, so, yes! It is my first book tour. The Tour was put together by the publisher, Harper Collins, which Balzer and Bray is an imprint of. I arranged for the Princeton Book Festival and that was added to the mix.

From what I understand now, certain schools across the nation have great reputations for hosting authors. I was sent to some great schools in great cities, on top of the excitement of visiting really great independent bookstores.  I had the chance to talk about books and look at books and share my book from coast to coast and back again.

zzzzzzzzz…… oh! I’m awake! Next Question!

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DZ: How has the tour been? What were some of the highlights?

KL: The tour has been an epic adventure. Starting with The Decatur Book festival and winding up yesterday. That was something like 27 days. It was all unexpected. I had no idea what to imagine.

It is exciting to share my book with readers. To stand in front of a room full of 500 kids and talk to them about Art and following their passions. It is also a hoot to hear one kid walk up to you just to tell you you are weird. I can not even count the times that I was told by kids “I love to draw.”

One of my favorite moments, however was with a kid who does NOT like to draw:

Tales From the Book Tour:
” Stone Cold Charlie”
The most amazing part of this tour is talking to the kids after my school presentation. Some run right up to me and tell me all about the art they make and what they love to draw. Others tell me as I sign their books that they draw unicorns and kitty cats and ponies and monsters.

One boy stood in line looking pretty annoyed. It was obvious his Mom pre-ordered a book that he was not into.

I asked him his name.
“Charlie” he said with no emotion whatsoever.
“Do you like to draw, Charlie?”
“No.”
“Do you like cartoons?”
“No.”
Hmmm … I am losing this kid. His face is stone cold. I draw the cat in his book and he could really care less.
“What is it that you love to do, Charlie? What is the thing you love the most?”
“Rocks. I am a geologist.”
“Really! That is cool!”
Then Charlie chatted a million miles a minute about geodes and crystals and his collection and the colors of rocks. He chatted so much he stayed while I signed a few more books. On and on he went about what he loves most.
And he smiled as he said goodbye.

That was a great moment.


DZ: What’s been the most challenging thing about being on the tour?

KL: I had a clue it would not be easy. It wasn’t. It’s grueling to move to a new city every day and sleep in a new bed every night. There is no down time until about 9 PM. That’s when I ate dinner. Tried to sleep for a few hours and then up and to an airport early or to a school @  8 AM. Me, well, I am particular about doing my hair and makeup and sometimes I had to choose between that and sleep. Under normal conditions… in regular life…I am not a morning person.  I had no choice on tour. Wake up and get peppy!! The kids deserve that!

DZ: What new knowledge, connections, impressions are you leaving the tour with? Any things you’d avoid next time?

KL: I  know that I have limits to what I can do so that I am at my best. I can’t sustain this pace for this long and be at my best. I need some fresh air and some time off. A full day off  here or there would have done a lot to restore me before the next city.  I got a few hours with a pal in San Francisco and that was heaven.

I had no idea if I would be good at this before I left. I had only done a few trial school visits.  I had never done an in store book signing. I had no idea where to sign or how to sign my book.

The very first day, I sat and thought, “This is not usual. Many people never get sent on a nation wide book tour. This is huge. You have to meet this moment head on.”

I opened up the book to the title page and knew exactly what I wanted to write using black and red sharpies. Once I started that, at least, my job, my performance fell into place.

I now know, I am good with the kids! It was my favorite part of the tour. I loved talking to them and listening to them. A few times, I met kids who love art so much they came from home after school was out just to see me again at the bookstore so they could tell just how much they love art!!

DZ: What’s next for you after the tour (besides some crazy well deserved sleep)?

KL: I am off to work on the next Louise book! She has a lot of masterpieces to create and fellow artists to meet. I am speaking in October at the Minnesota SCBWI and then in November at NCTE and also in April at Houston SCBWI.  I hope to fill in some days with local NY, NJ and MA bookstores and schools!

Thanks for joining us on Writers’ Rumpus, Kelly!

You can keep up with Kelly’s events and books here and read more about her recent tour here.

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