I adjusted my Pirates hat and disembarked at Utica Avenue. After the stifling cabin of a plane and the drawling heat of the subway, I found the light rain pleasant. A bell sounded and hundreds of black teenagers from the Boys and Girls school filled the street ahead of me. A girl slipped past with a copy of The Book Thief tucked under one arm. A boy raised his voice to tell his friends to wait up. I moved through the commotion, smiling, and found my wife waiting up by Malcolm X Boulevard.
We spent the weekend in a beautiful, basement apartment on Bainbridge Street. The owner had made the home industrial and chic. Exposed brick walls and sliding barn doors and a out-of-the-future fireplace. Our comfortable base of operations as we introduced ourselves to the big city. We would laugh later and wonder if the home was too chic, as the door to our room was paneled with glass and offered no privacy at all. We just had to ask Katie’s brother, Victor, and his girlfriend, Patience, to not walk into the kitchen whenever we needed to change. But hey, it did look cool at least (with an added benefit that our basement rooms doubled as a fallout shelter).
After settling in, Katie and I found our way to Greenwich Village to meet up with her cousin. Gottino, a local wine bar, was the perfect spot to kick up our feet and breathe in.
The main purpose behind our visit was to meet my agent and editor. We slept in late and got up in time to catch the train into Manhattan. The Random House tower sits between 55th and 56th street. There’s something breathtaking about the entryway. A glass case plays host to recent, breakout titles from various imprints. A bigger display to the right and left shows off books published since its foundation in 1927. It’s quite humbling.
My editor, Emily Easton, awaited us on the 9th floor. Penguin Random House’s various children divisions line that floor and the one below. Emily kindly took us on a tour of everything. Some general observations from my time there:
- Editors are real people, but I still think of them as rock stars. Emily was incredibly easygoing and kind to us. Our brief meeting with Phoebe Yeh (the editor who worked with Walter Dean Myers) was equally positive and kind. It helped so much to put faces and voices to the people I’ve mostly known through emails and book editing.
- Books. Everywhere. Piles of books. I don’t know how they get anything done?
- Art. Everywhere. It was really cool to see the little, intricate pieces that form the covers we fall in love with or the characters we envision. Really cool stuff.
- It’s massive. There are so many moving parts to publishing a book. I knew that in some vague sense, but really had no idea just how many people are doing X number of things for my book. Again, it’s humbling to see.
Our lunch went very well. The book continues to move in really positive directions. Both the team and myself have such high hopes for it’s success and we’re all looking forward to the next steps as we develop what could be a really smashing series. I’m thrilled.
So how do you top meeting your editor for the first time?
You don’t, not really, but we tried. A quick, rain-slung walk through Times Square rewarded us with a Daniel Fox sighting. Considering the species is endangered, we felt particularly blessed to spot one just outside of the Walgreens (EDITED: A helpful reader pointed out this serious mistake. It was not, in fact, a CVS).
After returning home and changing, we forged ahead to dinner and the theatre. Becco gets a full recommendation from me. Fancy eating and delicious food, and like most of the restaurants in that section of the city, famous for getting you in your seats before a show begins. The show in question was Wicked. And what a performance. I was surprised by how funny the show is, but also by how flawlessly it’s performed. I don’t know much about voices or choreography, but there’s a legitimacy behind Broadway’s claims of having the best musical performances in the world. My favorite moment came during the “Defying Gravity” song. Seeing Elphaba in the air, her cloak stretching out behind her, the lights ethereal and ghostly… All of it was just so stunning.
But Saturday refused to be outdone by Friday. We started with Bagel Pub, devouring what was easily the best bagels I’ve ever had in my life. From there a walk through Central Park that included a celebratory dog festival and a hilarious street performance. We made it to Yankee Stadium just in time to get some dogs and enjoy the game.
The final stop of our tour was dinner with my agent, Kristin Nelson. We were particularly looking forward to it, in part because Kristin has been so instrumental in the start of my career as a writer, but also because Red Farm’s menu looked amazing. It didn’t disappoint. Katz’s Pastrami Egg Rolls? Lobster Long Noodles? Bacon and Shrimp Fried Rice?
Please and thank you.
As expected, the night with Kristin was just a blast. We talked a little bit about upcoming projects, but mostly had fun celebrating how well the debut has gone and getting to know each other. Can’t wait to rinse and repeat, but next time in Denver?!
In conclusion, it was a great weekend in a great city. I feel like we managed to scratch .001% of the surface that is New York. As with Chicago and San Francisco, it’s a city I plan on returning to many times, with the understanding that years and years from now, I’ll still feel like I’m just getting to know all the little nooks and crannies. Let that worthy exploration continue. Until next time!