Event Recap- The Blue Bunny Books Middle Grade Discussion and Book Signing

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This past Saturday (June 4th, 2016) Elizabeth (dearest bookish bestie and blogger of books at BookYAbber) and I headed off to Dedham, MA on a very bright and somewhat warm afternoon to attend a middle-grade book panel/discussion/signing hosted by The Blue Bunny Books & Toys. The authors in attendance included the following talented ladies:

I was super excited to meet Claire Legrand. We had been recently chatting on Twitter (we both have a lot of love for the show The 100). I also recently finished reading the ARC of Some Kind of Happiness and really needed to have a signed finished copy for my ever growing book collection. I was also curious to experience what The Blue Bunny Books & Toys store was like on inside and out. I clearly have a bunny obsession and I have to say that The Blue Bunny Books & Toys did not disappoint. After having a quick lunch Elizabeth and I arrived at The Blue Bunny around 2:45pm. Just outside the store we were greeted with by a very large blue bunny, and of course we needed to get our picture taken with it.

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As we entered the store we were greeted by cheerful employees working the coffee bar right at the front of the store. They make delicious coffees and teas (I tried an ice White Chocolate Coconut coffee late and it was HEAVEN!). There are bookshelves lined up against the walls, and also a few in the middle of the room. Though the store is small, they have a good variety of everything from picture books to YA novels as well as some toys, art prints and stickers (I LOVE stickers). With coffee and tea in hand, we scoped out were the “panel” area was going to be and picked out seats, but just before the event started and the room started filling up we decided to move to the row of chairs behind us (this will be relevant later).

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Photo Credit/Source: Blue Bunny Books & Toys

The panel was scheduled for 3pm, but it seemed like a few people were late, and apparently so were Jen and MarcyKate due to traffic. Once everyone arrived the panel got started and the room really filled up. Each author took a turn speaking about what their new books. Claire shared with us that her book was really personal to her because she deals with depression and anxiety and those are also things her 11yr old main character is struggling with in the book. I think this is such an important topic to be bringing up in middle-grade books because there are lots of kids out there that have no outlet for dealing with and getting help for what they are feeling and going through. Hopefully, books like Claire’s will help to bring the very real afflictions young kids are dealing front and center and show to these young readers that they are not alone and that it is okay to ask for help.

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After each author talked about their books, they also read one page from their book (chosen by the audience) to give us a taste of their stories. This worked out really well because every page chosen was at a great point in the book and didn’t reveal any major spoilers. Once everyone had a chance to read, the discussion turned to writing and how each author writes and plans out their books. MarcyKate likes the freedom of writing chapters out of order. Jen, Claire, and Dana all like to use outlines and really plan out their stories. When questioned about if they prefer a deadline or not, pretty much everyone agreed that a deadline was best but that taking some time away from writing to think things through or to get inspiration was okay. Jen even confessed that sometimes she watches tv in order to relax and get back in the mood for writing (Dana pointed out that Jen had just given every writer in the room the perfect excuse to get away with watching tv).

The authors also spoke about how long the process of getting published can take, and how many times you have to revise, revise, REVISE! They spoke about how what they thought was going to be their “first” book actually didn’t turn out to be “the book”. It’s really funny how that worked out for all of them since they have all written multiple books but only now do all of them have deals in the works to get their original “brain child” published. Another question that was asked was about where they get their ideas/inspirations from. Jen, Dana, and Claire all seem to agree that using Pinterest to create boards for your character’s likes, dislikes, “what would you buy them for Christmas” etc… such a great writing tip. Claire also creates playlists for her books. Jen gets ideas while bathing and uses AquaNotes (a waterproof pad to use in the shower or while taking a bath). Claire and Dana also suggested using Beat Sheets to keep things going in a flow and chronological. MarcyKate said that sometimes she gets ideas while riding the T (our train system here in Massachusetts). They also enjoy using come kind of online writing space like WattPad, Scrivner, and Save The Cat-Beat Sheets.

I asked a question myself, about if they all wrote stories as children, or what other types of creative outlets did they participate in. Claire said that besides writing, she also played the trumpet and piano. She mentioned that during her teen years she kept a black velvet notebook with roses on it filled with gothy/emo poetry (as did I…lol). MarcyKate also is musically inclined and loves to sing, but has horrible stage fright. She was a strange child (my kind of kid) and wrote a story called “My Last Will and Testament” and another about story about a seal that gets skewered by a narwhal (but it’s more complex than that)…both which sound AWESOME. She mentioned that if a kid wrote something like that these days they might be sent to see the school shrink (I think these should totally be book-shaped stories MarcyKate!). Jen said she wrote for a little bit, but didn’t really pick it up again until an adult (if you don’t count the angsty teen poetry).

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Before the discussion came to an end, Claire did a giveaway an ARC copy of her gorgeous novel FOXHEART being released October 4th, 2016. She told everyone to look under their chairs (she placed a post-it under the lucky winner’s chair and it so happened that it was under Elizabeth’s seat (hence why I mentioned we changed out seats, because if we had not…Elizabeth would not have won the ARC…we had been talking about how it was our mission to win it, somehow, some way). YAY! I know Elizabeth is stoked to read it, and hopefully she will lend it to me once she is done. 🙂

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Once the discussion ended, we both purchased Some Kind of Happiness. I also purchased Ravenous by MarcyKate, which Elizabeth already owned. We got in line to get our lovelies signed and to officially meet Claire in person. It was so very nice to meet her, she is just the sweetest person…(must be that Texas charm of hers). Of course, we gushed about our love for The 100, how we can’t wait for it to return and how the return date feels like it’s so far away. We talked about the beautiful artwork in FOXHEART and about my love of foxes (and bunnies). I told her how much I enjoyed reading Some Kind of Happiness and even managed to squeeze in a little bit of Neil Gaiman into the conversation. (I so hope Claire gets to meet him one day…I think they would get along ). I hope that Claire comes back to Boston for her FOXHEART tour because I would love to see her again.

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It seems like every time we go to an event, Elizabeth and I seem to find cake. Cake magically appears and like moths to the flame…we must get our sweet treats. This time, we found little cupcakes with little flags (with all the different books featured on them). Elizabeth got a cupcake with Ravenous on it, and I got one with Some Kind of Happiness. They were delicious and the perfect way to end our bookish outing. Before heading out, I was able to speak a little with Margie (I believe she is the store manager) and she was kind enough to take a lovely picture of Elizabeth and I with our Some Kind of Happiness books in hand (is that a “Bunny pattern” on my shirt-dress you ask? Why yes it is. I wore it, especially for this trip. I thought it was quite appropriate). Elizabeth and I once again also managed to coordinate our attired without trying…it just happens…like MAGIC. 🙂

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Thank you Margie for taking this picture of us!

A big “Thank You” to Blue Bunny Books & Toys for hosting this wonderful event, and for the cupcakes…(I can’t wait to come back for another visit).

Thank you to all the authors for attending, for sharing all your wonderful stories and writing tips with us, it was truly inspiring and made me want to run home and start writing. A special thank you to Elizabeth for going with me and sharing yet another bookish adventure together. I can’t wait until our next one.

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Madames Scales, Pooka and Embers Are Proud To Present: The Marauders

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Welcome to The Marauders a new monthly feature hosted by three best friends: Scales aka Elizabeth from BookYABBER, Pooka aka Marci at The Plot Bunny and Embers aka Nicole from Nicole’s Novel Reads. We seek to share with you, our unique outings, bookish exploits,  and favorite haunts. Together we aspire to always live by our motto:  “Mischief Managed”.

Outing of the Month: Book Hunting & Afternoon Tea

About to leave for a fun filled day of books and tea. Photo Credit: Elizabeth
About to leave for a fun filled day of books and tea. Photo Credit: Elizabeth

1st stop: Park Street Books in Medfield, Massachusetts

Known as the largest children’s bookstore in New England with a minimal of 200,000 books on premises and even more in storage, Park Street Books was definitely a top spot on our list of interesting places we needed to visit ASAP.
Before we even entered the magical realm of books held within the walls of the two-story brick building, we did a little exploring outside to admire the quirky decorations surrounding the store. There was a large gleeful frog statue reading a book, a signpost guiding us in various directions to our favorite far off places such as Hogwarts, Narnia, Wonderland and the 100-acre wood, and by the entrance, a creepy yet lovable panda sitting up high blowing bubbles into the breeze welcomed us inside. As we entered the shop we were greeted by a bright and cheerful array of toys, books and curious little fishes looking out from their aquarium home. The first-floor area houses new books for children, YA readers, and also a variety of board games, stuffed animals, and other small toys. The walls were lined with bookcases that stretched from the floor to ceiling, and there were plenty of kids streaming in and out of the store. Our real exploration didn’t really begin though until we headed up the stairs and past the colorful “under the sea” themed mural. Here on the second floor,  we were beckoned by rooms and rooms filled with books (one even had a fireplace). Each room offered plenty of light, enticing “nooks and crannies” to read in and relaxing couches and cushy chairs just begging to be sat upon and lingered in. The shelves upon shelves of books held lightly used books, as well as some special editions, all priced for just a few bucks. There was even a room set apart that housed adult fiction, memoirs and other miscellaneous books .  The organization is a bit topsy turvy (which I loved) but if you aren’t in a rush and are willing to look around there are no limits to the treasures you might discover.

After peeking around and each finding a few special books to purchase, we headed back downstairs and explored the pottery studio attached to the store. Nicole, Elizabeth and I definitely agree that we will have come back again and paint some cute statues.

The Treasures We Found (all lightly used unless noted):

Nicole– 2 Canadian edition paperbacks of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets of which one was the Magic edition. She also got a UK edition paperback of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

ElizabethRise of the Rebels (Star Wars Rebels Chapter Book #1) by Michael Kogge, The Phantom Menace (Episode 1 novelization) by Terry Brooks and Yellow Submarine by The Beatles and Christopher Gardner.

MyselfThe Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (new), Spotty (Curious George) by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey, and a lightly used 1st American edition hardcover of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

We probably could have purchased many more books, but we had an afternoon tea reservation at Fancy That! to get to and we also tried really hard to have some self-control. Since their stock changes often and gets updated regularly we intend to return many more times in the near future. If you want to check them out and pay them a visit please follow this link for more information: http://www.parkstreetbooks.com

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2nd Stop: Afternoon Tea @ Fancy That Tea Salon

We booked our tea reservation weeks ago and we could hardly wait for the actual day to arrive.

Fancy That! is located on Main Street in Walpole on the border of the beautiful and scenic town of Medfield. Fancy That! is an afternoon tea salon hosted by the dynamic and adorable husband and wife team known as Brad and Sarah. The salon is beautifully decorated with gilded mirrors and pastel colors. It features antique furnishings, delicate teacups, fine tableware, glittering chandeliers and gorgeous linens. Soothing music can be heard playing, probably coming from a vintage victrola somewhere within the premises.

The shop consists of a large sunny main room with lace-curtained windows containing a retail area with various teacups, tea, and tea related items for sale, as well as some seating for tea service.

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Photo on Left Credit: Nicole
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Photo Credit: Elizabeth

Off this central room, there are two smaller private tea rooms – The Pink Room & The Yellow Room (this is where we were seated). Towards the back of the main entry, there is also a large tea room along with another smaller retail area with various house made cake loafs and delectable treats. Everywhere you look there is something to catch your attention and admiration. If you love the bygone eras of Downtown Abbey, Titanic or Jane Austen…you will LOVE this place.

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Tea Time! Photo Credit : Elizabeth

A cozy table perfectly dressed with the cutest mix matched tea cups, plates and silverware awaited us as we entered the Yellow room.  A sparkling pink chandelier bathed us in its rosy glow as we looked over the extensive and whimsical tea menu that had names like “Enchanted Forest”, “Love Affair”, “Royal Wedding”, and “Dragon Jasmine Pearl”.

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Bottom Right Photo Credit: Elizabeth

Once we placed out tea order (it was so HARD to choose) a pretty three tiered tea stand with charming mix matched chinaware filled with fanciful treats (ex: pistachio macaroon, scone with dried tart cherries, lemon poppyseed cake) and tempting sandwiches was delivered to our table by the charismatic “The Tea Guy” – Brad, who soon returned with three pink floral teapots each holding different brews of delicious tea concoctions. Both Sarah and Brad were delightful hosts and made sure we absolutely felt welcomed and taken cared off.

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We mentioned to Sarah we were curious about their “pink” hot chocolate and if we could purchase a pot to share, and she graciously brought over a pot once we were close to finishing up for us to share. It was yummy, sweet coconutty and very pink.

Upon finishing up our sandwiches and sweets, we got to take a look around the shop to look at all the lovely things they had for purchase. Since we were the last ones still there, we were able to take a peek inside the other private rooms and got a chance to chat with Brad about how Fancy That! started. Brad’s wife Sarah is a huge collector of teacups and other such items, because her collection grew so large they eventually started a vintage china rental service (which they still offer) and are on their 14th year of business. The full afternoon tea service did not commence until about 4 years ago. We are glad that this marvelous place exists, and we hope to return again soon and often. It was a fantastic way to top off our day of book hunting and to spend some quality time with dear friends.

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Sitting pretty in the Pink Room

What did you think of our feature? Would you like to see more in the future? Have you ever been to afternoon tea? Do you have a favorite bookstore? Is there a special place you would like to recommend for us to visit?

Leave us your comments below, and let’s chat. Remember to also hop over to Elizabeth’s blog and Nicole’s blog to check out their posts.

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