Monday, March 14, 2016

Albert's ABSOLUTELY Amazing Launch Party

It took me almost 12 years to complete my most recent picture book, Albert's Almost Amazing Adventure. Planning the launch party for that same book seemed like it took twice that amount of time and at least ten times the effort.

I'm not much of one for party planning. I never have been. My idea of planning a party usually goes something like this:

1. I should have a party.

And that's really about it. I invite people to the party and hope for the best.

Do I have any napkins? No. You have a sleeve, right?
A fork? What's wrong with your fingers?
A cool, refreshing beverage? The sink is over there.
Something to eat? I think there are some dried up raisins in the cupboard over there. Help yourself.

This worked adequately well while I was in college and expectations were generally low. As an adult, however, it seems that people expect more when you invite them to a party. That's why I'm so lucky that my wife, Kerri is a wonderful party planner who considers things like "what other people might want".

When Islandport Press (who published the book) suggested that I host a launch party, I thought, "Okay. I think there's a half a bag of BBQ-flavored chips in the cupboard and I can probably dig out an old packet of Kool Aid."

I found out rather quickly that they had other ideas of what a launch party might entail. A launch party is, essentially,  a way to gather a large group of people together in the hope that they will buy many copies of your new book. I was advised, by every single person I spoke with, that lushing people up with stale BBQ chips and watered down grape Kool Aid was not going to cut it.

The publisher and my wife immediately swooped into action to save me from myself.

First, the publisher sent a bunch of goofy, book-themed props that we could use to make a photo booth.
Welcome to my party. Please stick your head in a shark's mouth.

A wide variety of ghastly props for use in the photo-booth.

Then Islandport Press changed the game by whispering to me that they provide "a budget" to help pay for launch parties.

My "Free Jet-Packs for Everybody While We Party On A Cruise Ship To Hawaii" party theme idea was quickly squashed.

"Perhaps we should discuss what we meant by 'a budget'," the publisher said.

With a somewhat altered view of what may be possible, I set out to make the most wonderful party I could imagine. And my wife and kids and the people at Islandport set out to make sure that it actually WAS wonderful.

I sought help from author friends who had hosted many successful launch parties. By stealing their brilliant ideas, I was able to save myself from many hours of unpleasant thinking and planning.

I made activity sheets and bought some crayons and pencils because, as my pal, Julie Falatko explained, "Nothing says 'party" like an activity sheet."
I bought tickets so I could raffle off an original piece of art. These would prove to be a problem later.

I hand-carved a bunch of rubber stamps featuring events from the book.
I made postcards where people could collect the stamps.

I bought 11 billion pipe cleaners so people could make their very own Albert glasses.
And Islandport Press sent me a bunch of really cool bookmarks to hand out.

My first act in planning the party was to send up a Steve Signal™. I got in touch with my good friends (and musicians extraordinaire) Steve Blunt,  Joe Pierog, and Noelle Boc to see if THE BAND could play at the party. Sadly, Noelle could not make it, but the rest of THE BAND would be there. 

I contacted the PTA at the local elementary school and asked if they would like to handle book sales at the party. I offered to donate all the profits to the school's PTA. They very kindly agreed to help out and Heidi Morgan, the president of the PTA was terrific.

I contacted the wonderful folks at The Whipple Free Library in New Boston and asked about using the Community Room to host the party. They agreed, as long as I brought back that overdue book I had out.

I also contacted... Miss Sam. Miss Sam is currently the readiness teacher at the local elementary school. She's also a wonderful human being. I roped her into having her entire class perform a dramatic interpretation of my book.

Things were rolling.

As the day of the party drew ever nearer, Kerri kept giving me helpful suggestions of things I might want to do.

Buy some food for the party.
Buy more food for the party, you cheapskate.
No, you can't feed a bunch of kids leftover rabbit food from the shed.
What is wrong with you? A single serving packet of Goldfish crackers? I'm going shopping.

Thankfully, Kerri did a masterful job of thwarting my every avoidance and we wound up with a lovely, well thought out spread.

Tori and I spent a lot of time decorating cookies that Kerri baked.

Lots of cookies.
Tori will be thrilled that I am sharing this picture of her. I love you, honey!



 The day of the party arrived and, armed with cookies, food, snacks, photo-booth accessories, activity sheets, and some wonderful helpers, we partied hard.

We spent most the early afternoon setting up the room and hoping that somebody would come.

Amazing A/V Spectaular? Check.

Amazing Art Raffle? Check.

Amazing Photo Booth? Check.

Amazing Arts and Crafts? Check.

Amazing mom, ready to paint some faces? Check.

We needn't have worried about people coming. They came. And came, and came, and came. It was awesome!

My Amazing high school helpers, Lexi, Molly, and Kayley helped with crowd control.

Tori acted as the door bouncer. She was handing out raffle tickets at the door. She found out fast that she needed to explain that the tickets were free, otherwise people turned and tried to flee.

Lexi sported some high fashion Albert Glasses.

My mom and Molly painted a LOT of faces.

Because there were a LOT of people there.

A LOT of people.
We started out with Miss Sam's Readiness class performing a dramatic interpretation of my book. That's Miss Sam, sneaking up behind me.

The kids...




I can't even express how flattered and thrilled I was with the incredible job that Miss Sam and her class did in performing the book.  They were a very tough act to follow, but I gave a brief presentation on how I created the book after their stellar performance.

"Hey. Guy! Get off the stage! Bring the kids back!"

There was a brief time after my presentation where I signed a lot of books and talked with a lot of friends who showed up at the party.
Chris looks good in anything, but REALLY rocks those Albert glasses!

I met a lot of new friends signing books.

And got to see some old friends, too.

Hugs all around!

My friend, the very talented author/illustrator Lisa showed up with her son, Jack.

My high school pal Elizabeth came!

Jen and Laura, two of the greatest librarians in the world showed up to party. Librarians know how to party, y'all.

Another illustrator friend! Paul came all the way from Massachusetts!

After a whirlwind meet and greet, it was back on stage for the big music show.

I cajoled Tori into joining us for 1 song. She may, eventually, forgive me some day.
There was dancing.
There was a Toddler Mosh Pit.

The view from the stage.

Another view from the stage. Look at all the friends who came!

 After the music, there was a little more time for chatting and signing books and then... it was over.

I cannot thank you all enough. To the friends and family who helped to make this such an amazing time, I humbly and sincerely thank you. To everyone who came to enjoy the day with us, I thank you. I wish I could have spent more time visiting with everyone.

We'll have to do this again. I still have a half a single-serving package of Goldfish crackers left over.

Who's in?