Dear steadfast reader,
In my last letter, I left us in Glasgow, Scotland, with snow flurries out the window and a suitcase full of books.
Sam and I rose early Sunday morning and headed down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. We were met by the publicist Samantha and Thomas Quinn of The Big Issue and his wife. As we sipped on our coffee and tea, Thomas interviewed me and Sam about The Snow Child and our lives in Alaska. The Big Issue is a fascinating, quality publication with a special aim — to help the homeless.
After the breakfast interview, Samantha, Sam and I set out on the streets of Glasgow to visit Waterstones bookstores on Sauchiehall Street and Argyll Street so I could sign copies of my book.
Glasgow is a city of contrasts — ornate stone buildings beside modern squares of concrete, an icy wind through the streets and the warm welcome of the locals. For the first time on the trip, Sam and I had an hour to explore and visit shops. I found a locally woven cashmere scarf for myself, as well as some gifts for the neighbors who were taking care of things for us back home.
But our lunch would give us a true picture of this city. Gillian, who works for my UK publisher in Glasgow, invited Sam, Samantha and me to her flat for lunch. We were greeted by her two cats and the fragrance of homemade leek soup. Gillian’s partner, Graham, and several friends soon came through the door after a morning tennis match.
We spent the next hour enjoying warm soup, delicious cheeses, homemade scones, clotted cream, bramble jam, and easy conversation. We talked about Scotland and Alaska — they found our town on Google Maps and even got a street view of the bookstore where I work. I discovered from the 12- and 9-year-old girls that they must wear uniforms to school, and they made no attempt to hide their envy that my own daughters don’t, and can even wear “trainers” to school.
After lunch, we went for a stroll around the neighborhood. We hiked up a wooded hill, along a creek, and took in the views of Kelvingrove Park.
On the return trip, we stopped by Gillian and Graham’s favorite neighborhood pub for a “wee dram” of whiskey. Since they all taste the same to me — a bit like paint thinner — I opted for a glass of sparkling water. But Sam and everyone else enjoyed the warming effect of their drinks.
And then we had to say goodbye to these welcoming people, and to Scotland. But not before Sam could buy two bottles of fine Scotch whiskey to bring home to Alaska.
We caught our flight back to London with just enough time for me and Sam to dash to a nearby Thai restaurant for dinner. We had to be back to our hotel room by 9 p.m. for a telephone interview that proved well worth the rush.
Gavin Pugh and Simon Savidge co-host a delightful podcast about books called The Readers. They interviewed me in tandem, asking insightful questions about my book, my relationship to fairy tales, and my characters. It was one of the most enjoyable interviews of my journey.
That night, Sam and I spent our last sleep in the UK. But the adventure wasn’t over just yet.
We rose early the next morning, packed our suitcases full of whiskey and books (this had been a good trip for both of us!) Then, arms loaded with luggage, we caught a taxi to the BBC Western House where we met once more with Samantha. At 10 a.m., I enjoyed a last, fond memory of Scotland, as I was interviewed by the wonderful BBC Scotland The Book Cafe.
Then we darted around the corner to the studio for BBC’s Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.
It was my last interview of my whirlwind UK adventure. And perhaps my most prestigious. Women such as Diane Keaton, Kirsten Dunst, and Joan Collins have been on the show. And I would later learn that the other guest being interviewed for today’s show beside me was the folk singer Joan Baez.
But somehow I didn’t feel nervous — Jane Garvey is clearly a skilled interviewer. She had read my book, and has some great questions about the story and my life in Alaska.
My last interview wrapped up, we met outside the BBC building with Samantha. I was sad to say goodbye to her. We hugged, and I told her she should come with me back to Alaska. We could hang out, and I would never be late for an appointment.
The taxi to the airport was waiting, however, so we waved to Samantha out the window and said goodbye to the UK.
After Sam and I found our seats on the British Airways flight, I cracked open The Great Escape by UK novelist Fiona Gibson. Within the first page, I was chuckling out loud. This would certainly make the long trip home go faster.
Dear well-traveled reader,
In my last letter, I left us on a British Airways flight north, with hot tea and milk and little biscuits. Glasgow, Scotland, was our destination.
It was a short trip from London, but night had fallen by the time we landed at 7 p.m. Samantha the publicist, as always, had us precisely on schedule — we jumped in a car to the hotel, dropped our luggage in the rooms, and headed to dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. The menu was diverse and delicious, with creamy and spicy sauces, warm naan, lamb, seafood. But once again I was distracted from the meal by the wonderful conversation.
We joined Jack and Gillian, the Scotland regional managers for my UK publisher Headline, and Chris and Sue, owner and book buyer of the independent bookstore Atkinson-Pryce. As we passed the dishes of curry around the table, we talked about everything from digital books to bear sightings, Alaska’s long winters to Scotland’s upcoming referendum for secession. Within no time, we were sharing a meal with friends. We ended the evening with mango and pistachio ice cream.
The next morning, Gillian picked us up at the hotel in her car. We headed to local bookstores so I could sign copies of The Snow Child. At one Waterstones, I was welcomed by an enthusiastic staff who had created a display for the book. One of the booksellers even brought in an illustrated book from her own childhood that included the snow maiden fairy tale.
Quickly, though, it was time to move on. Sam, Samantha, Gillian and I all piled in the car and headed southeast out of Glasgow. As we wended our way through sheep-dotted fields, wind mills, rocky hillsides, and the sudden snow flurry, Gillian told us about the area in her beautiful Scottish accent.
With a population of about 2,000, Biggar is even smaller than my hometown of Palmer, Alaska, but it is clearly a hub of arts, music, and literature. There are museums, art galleries, the Biggar Ukulele Ensemble, and, of course, Atkinson-Pryce bookshop.
But before visiting the bookstore, we attended a literary luncheon at a nearby hotel. The event was organized by Chris and Sue, and many of their favorite customers had purchased tickets to attend.
One of the most delightful surprises of the entire trip came as we entered the banquet room. Biggar landscape painter Amy Marshall was displaying a charcoal piece she had done specifically in honor of The Snow Child — a little girl and a fox peeking through the woods at a little cabin. And throughout the room, Amy’s other winter paintings lent a perfect atmosphere.
My belief that this is an artistic town was confirmed when I met Fiona Gibson, the delightful author of books including The Great Escape, and Suzanne Rigg, another talented local author who had recently published a fascinating nonfiction history book called Men of Spirit and Enterprise.
We visited and ate our meals of roasted vegetable tarts, salmon, beef, fresh peas, and tender potatoes. (Despite warnings from American friends, I found the food in England and Scotland to be dangerously good. I think I may have to go on a diet now that I’m back home.)
After the meal, Fiona and I took our place in the center of the room and we began a conversation about The Snow Child. I could have talked with her for hours about writing and fiction. Then came the questions from the audience, and they were both touching and insightful. As we all visited, a snowstorm swept through the streets of Biggar.
After lunch, the sun came out and we walked through the brisk air down the street to the bookshop itself. The window display took my breath away — snowflakes and branches and magic. Inside, beside a glowing fireplace, I signed copies of The Snow Child. Then I went shopping. I purchased both Fiona and Suzanne’s books,as well as a retelling of the snow maiden fairy tale I hadn’t seen before. Sam found a 1904 edition of The New Testament in Braid Scots, and Chris and Sue gave him a copy of the comical Wee Animal ABC Scots alphabet children’s book, and me books by Kathleen Jamie and Linda Cracknell. Our suitcase would be a lot heavier on the way home.
But Samantha had her eye on the clock, and it was time to head to the next event. This one was in the nearby town of Moffat at the “posh” and beautiful Moffat House Hotel. Built in the 1750s, the hotel has sandstone pillars and an elegant ambiance. Moffat Book Events had organized an intimate but full house of readers and writers. I joined Liz Roberts at the front of the room where we had a conversation about my novel, my life in Alaska, even earthquakes. Later in the evening, I had a chance to visit with everyone and sign books.
All too soon, Samantha was making quiet motions that it was time to go. We had a long drive back to the hotel in Glasgow, and an early morning interview the next day.
In my next letter, I’ll tell you about our final two days in the UK.
Dear continuing reader,
So where did I leave us? Oh yes, on the narrow streets of London, a bit jet-lagged and head spinning with all the excitement. Let’s pick up there.
On Friday morning, a car picked up me and Sam at the hotel, and we returned to the Headline publishing offices to sign more books. Once again, I was struck by the teamwork and enthusiasm of the place. I realized that while I was at home in Alaska, all these people had been working hard to help The Snow Child into the world.
The two of us then set out in a car with the publicist Samantha and Ian, who also works for Headline publishing. As we rode through London, Sam and I asked about this sight or that. Our local friends kept us entertained the entire way. They didn’t always know the answers to our questions, but to keep things lively, they would quickly point out where someone was once hung or note the barbed wire fencing around the palace.
Our final destination — the lovely bookstore Dulwich Books. The owner had delicious homemade eccles cakes and tea. I signed books and visited with the staff and customers. It reminded me so much of Fireside Books, I felt entirely at home. But alas, I couldn’t stay long.
But the next stop was just as delightful: Foyles bookstore on Charing Cross Road. This is a huge, impressive bookstore, with multiple floors. Without my guide, Lisa, I never would have found my way from the medical section, with its skeletons and stethoscopes, to the poetry shelves. I was like a kid in a candy store, and they had to drag me away from all the books.
The four of us — Samantha, Ian, Sam and I — then headed to have lunch with David and Pavla of Goldsboro Books along with my editor Mary-Anne and Brid of Headline publishing. I’m pretty sure the meal was delicious, but I can’t recall the details because I was enthralled with asking questions of David — which software works best for bookstore inventory, how do you tell a forged autograph, which first editions are most prized.
One of the pinnacles of our adventure came next, though. As we all walked to Goldsboro Books, Sam and I craning our necks to take in the beautiful old buildings and red double-decker buses, we learned that the bookshop is located on Diagon Alley. Yes, that Diagon Alley. I may be 39, but I’m just as avid of a Harry Potter fan as the next little wizard. We started snapping photos. And then we were told that the window in Goldsboro Books itself was used in one of my favorite films, Miss Potter, where Beatrix Potter goes to first see her little books in a shop window.
I admit it. I signed the stock as quickly as I could, because I wanted a chance to look around the shop, which specializes in signed first editions, and mostly novels. I was giddy with excitement, and tried to remember the weight limits on luggage as I made my pile at the counter.
One of the sadder moments of the trip came next. In the Tube, the underground transportation in London, I had to bid goodbye to Mary-Anne Harrington, my lovely editor. I had so enjoyed her quiet humor and kindness, and was dismayed to know I wouldn’t see her again on the trip.
No time for sniffles, though — we had a plane to catch. But to give you a sense of just how manic this adventure was, in the London airport as we prepared to go through security, Samantha handed me her phone. It was a research interview with a BBC radio show.
So in my next letter, we’re off to Glasgow, Scotland!
My husband Sam and I just returned from a whirlwind tour of the UK, and I hardly know where to begin my letter. So I suppose I’ll begin at the beginning, just to give you a sense of how incredible, fast-paced, and touching our experience was.
But this day was not over. I signed more than 300 copies of the book in their office, then we were whisked to a dinner with UK press members, including people from We Love This Book, The Sunday Express, Woman and Home, Hearst,and The Bookseller. I don’t know that I’ve ever enjoyed such wonderful, bookish dinner conversation.
In the late hours of the night, Sam and I returned to our hotel so we could stare at the ceiling for a few hours, because of course back home it was the middle of the day.
Morning came quickly, and for breakfast I joined Samantha and Sandy Mahal of the Reading Agency, a UK charity designed to promote reading. Then we headed to the BBC Television Centre for an interview with the insightful Tim Masters (his next gig was the Oscars.)
But the day was still young — I jumped on a train with my editor Mary-Anne and Barbara from Headline, and we went to have lunch with Sue, the fiction buyer from the book retailer WHSmiths. As I enjoyed a steak pie and mash, the four of us talked about everything from school programs for children to the novels we love to read.
A train ride back into London, and I arrived at the hotel just in time for two telephone interviews — BBC Dumfries and the Irish Examiner.
Sam and I then quickly changed for dinner and jumped in an Addison Lee taxi to be swept off to the Albannach Restaurant near Trafalgar Square. Kim from Headline had organized a delightful and impressive dinner with staff from Waterstones, one of the largest book retailers in the UK. Waterstones had chosen The Snow Child for their prestigious Wasterstones 11, as well as named it their book of the month for February. With news that The Snow Child has landed on the bestseller list, the dinner was a celebration for all of us. There was a traditional Scottish dinner, glasses of champagne and even tiny silver sparklers to light up the night. As I visited with everyone, again and again I had the sense that if they were our neighbors, we would be dear friends. It was a magical evening.
Our journey, though, was only half done. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the rest.
Dear winter reader,
This is a gift for you, dear reader, that I have been saving for some time.
Those of you who have read The Snow Child might recall a scene in which Mabel
spends the morning picking bouquets of wildflowers. It’s June, and the Alaska forest is adorned in the fragile petals of arctic rose, starflowers and bluebells.
Last June, I went for a walk with my camera through the sunshine and green, and I photographed the flowers I describe in the book. Then I put them away for another day.
Looking outside at the gray sky and snow drifts, listening to the wind blow over the top of our house, I’ve decided it’s time to give them to you. So here they are.
When I met with my book club this past weekend, I was presented with one of the most precious gifts I have ever been given — a Snow Child snow globe.
My friend Rindi used the U.S. cover for inspiration, and she sculpted figurines of the girl and fox and birch trees out of clay. She used glitter for the snow, and a mixture of water, glycerine, and rubbing alcohol.
What makes it particularly enchanting is that the snow globe is made out of a glass Mason jar. Those of you who have read the story might recall that Esther often arrives with an armload of goodies — jams and spicy vegetables — all in Mason jars.
When you tip the jar and stir up the snow, it is like peering into a miniature world. It’s truly magical.
Dear festive reader,
Wow! What an incredible evening.
With the help of Fireside Books and the wonderful people at the historic Colony Inn here in Palmer, Alaska, we celebrated the publication of The Snow Child on Wednesday. It was an event we had been planning for weeks. I grew up here, so I expected to see a few close family friends and some of my favorite customers from the bookstore. I thought I’d visit with people, sign a few books, have a glass or two of wine.
My expectations were blown out of the water. Around 200 people showed up, including old friends, neighbors, former teachers, artists and writers, people who had read my articles in the Frontiersman newspaper over the years,and people I had never met before.
A close family friend brought a beautiful handcrafted Snow Child doll she had made for me. Another neighbor and good friend gave me several amazing art images of Snegurochka.
And in the midst of signing books and hugging dear friends, I was surprised to find the mayor of the City of
Palmer standing beside me with a microphone. She proceeded to read a proclamation, declaring it Eowyn Ivey Day. To be honest, I was incredibly embarrassed, and would have insisted the honor was too much. But then she presented me with a box tied with a ribbon. Inside I found a golden key to the city — any embarrassment fell away. I love the key! Later, when the crowd had died down and we were putting away the empty book boxes (we sold out), we all joked that perhaps we now had complete access to the library, the government offices, and the bars in town.
I don’t know what was most amazing about that night — the fact that The Snow Child broke the Fireside Books sales record, previously held by Harry Potter. The mayor presenting me with a key to the city. The lovely gifts from friends.
In the end, though, I think what will always stay with me is the overwhelming love and support of my hometown.
Dear kind readers,
Today is the day The Snow Child is officially released here in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It’s not yet 11 a.m., and I’m already overwhelmed by the kindness and support for the book.
Tonight, I will gather with friends, relatives, neighbors, and readers at a book release party here in Palmer, Alaska, in conjunction with Fireside Books. The event will be at the Colony Inn, one of the most historic buildings in the area. A fireplace, good food, glasses of wine, people I have known my entire life, and a snowy outdoor scene — it seems like the perfect way to celebrate The Snow Child.
Wherever you are today, I hope you also have a day full of kindness and celebration.
Dear returning reader,
I have so much to tell you, I hardly know how to start this letter.
I want to tell you how wonderful the staff and readers are at Tattered Cover in downtown Denver, where I participated in my first official author reading and book signing. I want to tell you how heart-warming it is to be surrounded by talented authors, kind book lovers, a beautiful bookstore. I even had my uncle at my side as I signed copies of The Snow Child! It is a day I will never forget.
But I also want to tell you how much I’ve appreciated your emails, messages and tweets telling me where you have spotted The Snow Child. Here are just a few places where there have been “Snow Child sightings.”
- Buffalo, New York
- The Costco Connection magazine that goes out to Costco members and featured an interview with me and a review of The Snow Child this month.
- New Mexico
- Barnes & Noble in Baltimore, Maryland
- Kodiak, Alaska
- Olympia, Washington
- Laramie, Wyoming
- Powell’s Bookstore in Oregon
- Pittsburg, Kansas
- South Hadley, Massachusetts at the Odyssey Bookshop
- Lansing, Michigan
- Reno, Nevada
- Oprah Magazine, February issue, Page 111 (I had to see it to believe it.)
- Northwest Book Lovers blog
- Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City
- Rome, Italy
- Flagstaff, Arizona Barnes & Noble
- Boyd Farm in Palmer, Alaska
It’s simply amazing!
But in the end, I want to tell you about my trip back home to Alaska last night. Flying out of Denver and across the United States, I suddenly felt incredibly homesick. I missed my family, my house, my dog, my normal life. But it was something more, something I couldn’t quite identify. I stared out the window, over the endless checkerboard of cities and farmland.
It wasn’t until the airplane crested the Chugach Mountains here in Alaska that I was able to understand a little more of my homesickness.
As I watched out the window, it seemed as if the snowy peaks would scrape the bottom of the airplane, and once we cleared them, Anchorage appeared as a small clump of lights surrounded by swaths of dark wilderness. The plane began to descend and circle out over Cook Inlet, where massive sheets of ice floated on the salt water. The captain reported that it was 2 below zero with a slight wind.
I can’t count how many times I have watched that view come into focus. But it didn’t stop me from taking in a quiet gasp.
This place is exhilarating. And I had missed it.
Dear first readers,
Monday morning, after running some errands in town, I drove by Fireside Books. The shop was closed and the lights off, but something caught my eye — in the front window, dozens of copies of my novel The Snow Child.
I thought I might be imagining it, so I drove around the block and slowed down as I went by again. It was true! The books had arrived!
The official release date here in the United States is Feb. 1, but the publisher began shipping in the past week or two and so the books are arriving a few days ahead of schedule.
In the past week, I’ve gotten reports from people across the country who have spotted The Snow Child. My grandmother’s dear friend in Florida reported her copy had arrived. Good friends in Washington State tweeted they were beginning to read the book. And a bookseller friend in Chicago shared a photo of The Snow Child on display at the Barnes & Noble he manages.
Yesterday at Fireside Books, I signed copies for customers as they came in the door, and other copies that will soon be shipped off to Montana, New York, and Kodiak, Alaska.
The release date for the UK edition has been moved up to Feb. 1, so soon it will be appearing there as well.
So now I’d love to hear from you. Have you had a Snow Child sighting? Did you spy it in your neighborhood bookstore? Did a copy arrive in your mailbox?