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POTUS and Prose!

Me and B and two of the bookselling pros of 'Prose!

Me and (fellow author) Fred Bowen and another fab bookseller.

This was my "no WAY!!!" moment.

Obamas chat and pose with bookstore owners.

Obamas get expert book advice from one of the best, Mary Alice Garber.

The presidential kidlit stack!

Obama visits the adult section upstairs (clearly an afterthought... kidlit comes first!)

Since you asked, here's a recap of my #smallbusinesssaturday with POTUS at Politics and Prose, aka my local indie bookstore.

1) Just to set the record straight, I was not there to do an event for my own books. I was at my local indie bookstore as a volunteer bookseller in response to a call Sherman Alexie put out to encourage authors to give back on Small Business Saturday in this way. This was called Indies First! Or #indiesfirst. Many of my fellow author pals did the same, in DC and in communities across the country. I brought my secret weapon, aka my daughter B, because for every book I've read, she's probably read ten. In the fantasy section she has me particularly beat.

2) I SO TOTALLY called that the Obama family would visit the store that day (I actually called it days earlier via a tweet). Not sure what I win for this, but I am absurdly proud of this prediction. Kind of like the time I bet on a horse race without wagering any actual money and #6 did in fact win. I could not understand why my dad would not pay up.

3) Before you ask for more prognosticating on my part, please note that I am not psychic. I simply reasoned that he has visited local bookstores every year on this day (Kramerbooks and One More Page) but never P & P. Plus, P & P hosted a big FLOTUS booksigning this year, so I figured that put the bookstore and its awesomeness on their personal map.

4) Here's when I knew. My shift was basically over and my friend and fellow author Fred Bowen, who had the shift after me, had just arrived when I noticed the German Shepard in the store. Attached to a guy wearing a jacket that said Secret Service. I asked an actual bookseller what was going on and she confirmed, saying simply "I think we're about to get a visit."

5) B and I were both completely thrilled. Only problem: we both had to pee, and the bathrooms were briefly closed, presumably to minimize areas that needed to be watched by the Secret Service. Luckily, the staff gave us access to the staff-only bathroom, while thrilled B almost as much as shaking (clean!) hands with the leader of the free world afterward.

6) Right, the president! He and Malia and Sasha came in through the back door and did a brief meet and greet and photo opp. with the store owners, since the whole point was to show how cool it is to shop local (and #givebooks). He then walked through the kids' section, shaking hands (handshake #1!) and saying hi to every kid he saw. He regularly called out to the gathering crowd, "C'mon people, keep on shopping!" He and his daughters were then guided to the independent and teen book section because it was presumed that he was there to shop for the girls. Turned out: he wasn't. There were younger kids on the list, hence the move (with actual professional booksellers in tow) to the picture book section. On the way, though, a book for each Obama girl joined the pile. I did hear the president say that he was trying to get his younger daughter to read outside of a certain series (he did not name it but his description made it understood to us booksellers, professional and volunteer alike). Big sis confirmed with a laugh that indeed little sis was mildly obsessed. No books from this series were added to the pile. The whole exchange was incredibly and almost surreally normal. I don't know how you can be under the microscope like that 24-7 and still toss off a classic good natured father-daughter ribbing without it looking in the least bit phony.

7) The Secret Service love a good name tag. I was wearing one, courtesy of P & P, for the day, so Secret Service guys addressed me as 'Erica' as in "We need to keep this area clear, Erica. Can you help us with that?" Uh, sure... after I take another blurry picture of the First Family. Luckily, my pal Evy, who is an actual photographer, was meeting me for lunch after my shift. Any photo I am posting that looks at all good is probably hers.

8) After a walk around the upper floor, a visit to the register (how the cashier suppressed the impulse to ask him to show ID, I'll never know) and a congratulatory send-off upstairs (in the footage on USA Today's website, you can hear a woman crooning "We looooove you!"), POTUS, the FDOTUS, and their entourage all trooped back through the kids' section. The store layout makes it all but impossible to do otherwise, unless you want to exit through the front and the backtrack to the parking area via the CVS parking lot, tripping over the air hoses the gas station on the corner makes available there. This is when I got handshake #2 (!!), and heard a woman in a fur coat loudly make sure the president knew that her friend got great health insurance via the government website (?!).

9) The president ended up with a nice kidlit stack which included several bookseller recommendations (yet another reason the world should be nice to indie booksellers!). Adam Rex, Judith Viorst, Kate Dicamillo, and Aaron Becker (who seems particularly bowled over by this... Adam, who has essentially hung out with POTUS this week already via his forthcoming feature film, seems psyched but more sanguine) made the cut. I did not get to handsell the President any books whatsoever, but I did successfully handsell several terrific titles earlier in the day, including THIS IS THE ROPE, by Jacqueline Woodson, PETER NIMBLE, by Jonathan Auxier, COUNTING BY 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan (which I just finished and loved and which prompted one of my own purchases: her earlier book, I'LL BE THERE) and WE'RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT (the picture book classic, which still sells itself pretty handily). I did not suggest my own books to folks who did not specifically ask for them but was happy to see several of them (CHICKEN BUTT! ACES WILD! KING OF THE ZOO! DOTTY!) get adopted during the day. Fred Bowen was actually asked point-blank for 'the Bowen books' section by a kid he assumed his wife had put up to the task (she didn't). Not sure who found this cooler: the kid meeting his fave author, or the author meeting his unsuspecting fan. Yet another fabulous #indiesfirst moment!

10) We finished the book-selling day with Presidential Grilled Cheese sandwiches. And Hanukkah last night included (surprise!) new books! Honestly, the ulterior motive of the #indiesfirst plan might just be to get a lot of authors into bookstores. Because everyone knows that despite our groaning, buckling bookshelves, we just... can't... stop buying books! Just like the leader of the free world!



King of the Zoo:

Successfully tuckering out tigers since 2013! @scholastic @politics_prose @kidsandprose #picturebookmonth


Not AGAIN! The children, too?! The King of the Zoo is...

ME, that's WHO!!! Getting zoo-ey with it to launch KING OF THE ZOO at Politics & Prose with Jackie Urbanovic:


This one goes out to my PTA peeps!

When I do author visits, my goal is to connect with everyone in the room.  By this, I mean that I want to connect with the kids and their teachers. 

Today I received a lovely note that I want to share because it was so cool to learn that I connected with someone else as well.  Thanks so much to Vered Kogan, the mom and school volunteer who wrote.  Thanks also to all the parents who help out at school assemblies, and hopefully take some messages away, deservedly, for themselves:

Hi Erica,

I am a mom at [school]. We briefly met after your presentation (I walked out with you and [school contacts]). 

I would like to thank you for taking the time to visit our school and speak with the children. My daughter thought that your talk was “great” and I did as well- you have really inspired me to (finally) sit down (as you suggested) and write/edit my idea for a children’s book. My biggest takeaways from your presentation are: be silly, write down your ideas so you won’t lose them, CELEBRATE throughout the process, “edit, edit, edit", add humor, and your “secret sauce”- real emotions.
I wish you continued success with your writing and inspiring. I believe that the ripple effect from your talks and books will reach wide and carry on for many years. I can certainly say that you have changed the way I think about writing and my own ability to JUST DO IT!
Vered Kogan


#Thanksgivingukkah #Thanksgivanukkah?

Tastes great either way: Ace's sweet potato latkes! Enjoy!