Readers, I owe you an apology – it’s now two and a half weeks since I got home from the US, and I’ve been too tired and jet-lagged to post about my trip or to thank the various people who were so lovely and helpful along the way. The image above is of me reading from Den of Wolves at the Jolie Tea Company in Salem – it was taken by fellow author Kylie Quillinan who acted as my right hand woman at both that event and the signing in Columbus. The Jolie Tea Company was a lovely venue and the staff really went out of their way to accommodate us, including providing samples of a special tea blend to take home: Blackthorn Brew, made from herbs Blackthorn uses for her brews in the books. A big thank you to the manager, Amy, and her staff, and to the reader who put me in touch with her. I really enjoy smallish gatherings like this, when I get an opportunity to have a good talk with everyone. So I plan to do more of them if and when I can.
I loved Salem, which was the last stop on my trip – what beautiful old buildings, and the autumn foliage was gorgeous. First place I visited (surprise, surprise) was Salem Common, which gave me the opportunity to meet some local dogs – the common is a great exercise area. Salem is clearly a town of dog-lovers – I found three or four shops selling dog paraphernalia just in the fairly small shopping precinct near my hotel. The town is also rich in history, much of it quite grim. The most jarring experience for me was visiting the old graveyard which contains a memorial to the citizens put to death for witchcraft, and being unable to pay my respects properly because the place was swarming with raucous young tourists taking selfies.
The conference in Salem was wonderful. I learned heaps and made some great new writer friends, and the sessions I was leading were well received. It was a very well-paced program, with the option to attend workshops or go off walking or sit in the library writing. A great way to end my trip.
And since I’m working through my travels backwards, here is some fantastic street art from New York City. There was a whole company of these animal statues along Broadway when I was there, all as quirky and gorgeous as these two pandas. I wasn’t in NYC long – just for meetings with my publisher and agent – but I managed a visit to Central Park, which is always a good place for restoring calm and balance. At this stage I have no news to share about a new series, sorry, but I will post when I have something definite to tell you.
My weekend in Atlanta for CONjuration was great fun. CONjuration is a convention based on themes of Harry Potter and magic, and has a very hands-on (and full) program with activities for kids as well as adults. Although this was only the second time it had run, there was a large and enthusiastic attendance. One or two of my panels may have taken me a little out of my comfort zone (Anglo-Saxon influences on Tolkien, for instance) but challenge is good. The program included a book launch for Den of Wolves, and local bookseller Eagle Eye Books had plenty of copies of my books at their stand, so I was able to sign for people all weekend. I was very impressed by a couple of readers who had carried in boxes with their entire JM collections for signing! I also met a couple of the old faithfuls from the Facebook page and the earlier online forum that it replaced.
One of the special things at CONjuration was meeting Ellen Gonzalez who crafts magical coats and gowns using recycled materials. Ellen made a special coat for me, with various features I requested such as unmatched silver buttons and a particular colour scheme. The image below does not clearly show the long pointy hood or the way the skirt flares out when you spin around, but does give you an idea of how remarkable Ellen’s creations are. I plan to wear this in my next author photo.
And, of course, my first stop was Columbus, Ohio, for the World Fantasy Convention, a much bigger event. I won’t attempt a full Con report here, only say that my reading went OK, and the panel on YA retellings, with Jane Yolen and others, was a stand-out. We could have gone on talking for another hour quite easily. The meet-up I arranged for my readers, in the same hotel but outside the umbrella of WFC, was attended by a wonderful collection of people, full of enthusiasm and great questions. A huge thank you to everyone who helped me on the day, Kylie in particular, and also to Jennifer and Pauly who took me for a very welcome cup of tea afterwards – I had three events on the same day, so I needed that breather badly. We had 54 people at the event. You’ll find some photos from this meet-up on the Facebook page, posted by readers.
Highlights of Columbus – well, I didn’t have time to do much outside the convention, but I had been told to try Jenni’s ice cream, so I walked to the North Markets and had a double-flavour cup: wildberry and lavender. It is indeed very flavoursome. Wandering around the markets was fun. What else did I buy? A hand-knitted coat for one of my dogs.
Comments or questions? I would love to hear from you on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/juliet.marillier