Vancouver! Seattle!

March 9th, 2011

Rather than post a play-by-play of my trip to Vancouver and Seattle, I’m just going to touch on the highlights. There was so much to take in over our 13 days in the Pacific Northwest, almost all of it wonderful. The two cities were beautiful, full of friendly people and good cheer, and of course we ate well the entire time.

I visited four schools in total–two in BC and two in Seattle. As usual, I was blown out of the water by how welcoming the staff and students were in every single case. As well, the booksellers (of Kidsbooks, in BC, and University Bookstore, in Seattle) were wonderful to work with. Scholastic Canada’s rep, Susan, who works with all of British Columbia, the Yukon, and Northwest Territories, was an amazing tour guide and so much fun to hang out with! We felt very well taken care of.

In Vancouver, I was lucky enough to give a presentation and booksigning at the amazing independent kids bookstore, Kidsbooks. It was an event that people had to buy tickets for, so I wasn’t sure what to expect–but the event sold out, and 120 people came to see me!! So many wonderful kids and their parents. And such a beautiful store! I gave a short talk, did some drawing, and then signed and signed and signed. I was also surprised to see the French-Canadian edition of Smile that Scholastic Canada put out: Souris! And delighted that quite a few people wanted to own the book in both English and French. What a perfect evening. Thanks a million to Phyllis Simon and her brilliant staff for hosting me.

I also did a group signing at Lucky’s Comics, a small, charming Vancouver comic shop, the kind that carries the books of every single indie cartoonist I’ve ever loved. The store was packed from wall to wall with kids and local cartoonists, hanging out and having a good time. Thanks to Lucky’s excellent store owner Gabe for throwing us such a nice party!

The main reason I was in Vancouver was to attend the Serendipity Roundtable, an annual event focusing on children’s literature, with a different theme each year. This year’s theme was graphic novels! I was lucky enough to be one of the special guests, along with friends and fellow cartoonists Gene Yang, Matt Holm, Jason Shiga, and Aaron Renier. We each got to give a presentation, and then sit on a panel together. The whole conference was intimate, fun, and went by far too quickly. I was grateful to my personal helper Rob Bittman, the staff and organizers of Serendipity, Denise Anderson of Scholastic Canada who played the part of liaison between me and the conference folks, and mostly to Kay Weisman, for inviting me in the first place and making Dave and I feel right at home in Vancouver. Thank you, everyone! I had a blast!

We got to spend a little bit of free time in Vancouver, and even though it was cold and snowy, we made the most of it. There was a dinner with Nina Matsumoto, Dave’s collaborator on Zuko’s Story, and sight-seeing with our Flight pal Tony Cliff.

From Vancouver, we took a bus down to Seattle. It’s an easy trip, and scenic! We got our tourism out of the way in the first day and a half; our friends Mike and Mandy Sartour drove us around and took us to the EMP/Sci-fi museum, out for delicious pizza, on an underground bus, to the Haunted Hospital, to the Fantagraphics store, and over to Ballard for Thai food and outrageously good gelato with Dalton Webb. Later in the week I was also able to meet up with some of my friends from high school, Bryan and Jenny, for a fun dinner. It’s so nice to visit a town that’s already full of friends!

After a few days of school visits, it was time for the Emerald City Comicon! Dave and I were in Artist Alley, next to our friends Gregg Shigiel, Chris Giarrusso, and Jacob Chabot, and right around the corner from Jen and Mike Maihack. That was nice! The show is well-run and friendly, and although things were a little quiet for us on Friday, it picked up on Saturday and especially Sunday, when Dave, Chris and I did a live reading of our comics for a full audience of kids and families! These readings are great because we invite kids onstage to help us do the voices, so there’s lots of interactive fun. After the panel, we were swamped all day, meeting loads of great kids and parents! Convention weekends also mean lots of dinners and parties. Special shout-out to Bill Barnes, for throwing a lovely house party that gave us a chance to relax and spend some time with cartoonists away from con floors and hotel bars, and felt like a nice pause from the fast pace of the trip.

It was hard to leave the west coast after such a terrific couple of weeks, but we’ve got a lot of work to do here at home, and all good things must come to an end. We’ve got our great memories though, and lots of pictures!!