Books

photo of Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs signing books at The Briar Patch in Bangor, ME

Book signings, reviews, and teas, oh my! Plus a note on teachers.

It has been a busy couple of months around here. Thérèse Makes a Tapestry officially launched on March 8th, and I’ve been thrilled with the response. From positive reviews to feature articles, and even a t.v. interview, people have been receptive and excited. The biggest treat has been the events with family, friends, and new readers.

In Bangor, ME The Briar Patch hosted a launch party and book signing, complete with a collaborative weaving project thanks to the generosity of One Lupine Fiber Arts. It was so well attended that the bookshop sold out of copies of Thérèse! (Never fear, they’re back in stock!)

photo of young girl weaving at book launch for "Thérèse Makes a Tapestry"

Photo courtesy of The Briar Patch

The finished weaving. I love the colors and textures!

The finished weaving. Love the colors and textures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of book signing for "Thérèse Makes a Tapestry" in Princeton, MA

A good natured crowd in Princeton, MA! (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

 

In my hometown of Princeton, MA the Cultural Council and Princeton Public Library sponsored yet another launch party and book signing. I felt stunned by the turnout of family, friends, those friends who have become family over so many years, and teachers.

A special note on teachers. I’ve been fortunate to have some wonderful teachers over the years, the kind that every child and young adult deserve to have. The kind that taught and pushed and guided and applauded and listened, and most of all believed. The kind that made you want to be and become your best self. The kind that not only witnessed some of your darkest moments, but that buoyed you up rather than giving up. I felt overwhelmed to see those same teachers come out and support me years, even decades, after I’d left their classrooms.

Poet Susan Roney-O'Brien with Alexandra Hinrichs (

Poet Susan Roney-O’Brien with Alexandra Hinrichs (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

One of those teachers had organized the book signing that day. When I was in fifth grade, my soon-to-be sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Susan Roney-O’Brien, took me under her word-feathered wing. She and a fellow local poet, the late (and oh so great) Juli Nunlist, ran a series of workshops for young writers out of Juli’s red barn studio. Together they nurtured my writing. They taught me lessons in storytelling and friendship I’ll never forget. Mrs. O helped me publish a chapbook of poetry in eighth grade, and put together a reading and book signing then, too. She said yes to any project I brought forth to her over the years, and has always been ready to listen, read, and talk. It is in large part thanks to Mrs. O’s guidance and mentorship over the years that I am an author today. Her poetry is remarkable. Read her new book, Legacy of the Last World, and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Photo of Alexandra Hinrichs making the finishing touches before guests arrived

Finishing touches before the guests arrived! (photo courtesy of Literacy Volunteers of Bangor)

This past weekend I designed a table for the 2016 Annual Literacy Tea held by the Literacy Volunteers of Bangor. What a fun event! Every table is themed around a children’s book, and I thoroughly enjoyed designing a table for Thérèse Makes a Tapestry, not to mention seeing the enormous creativity among all the other tables. Over 300 people attended the tea, including volunteers and students. Lest there be any doubt, children’s books and tea parties are meant for each other. The fact that this one could help raise money (nearly $20,000!) for an organization that does such important work made it that much more fabulous.

In other news, I wrote all winter and have a couple of picture book manuscripts to show for it. Fingers crossed for next steps.

Listening to Mark Scott Ricketts read his book "Adventures in Vacationland."

Listening to Mark Scott Ricketts read his book “Adventures in Vacationland.” You should have seen all the table designs. They were outstanding! (photo courtesy of Literacy Volunteers of Bangor)

photo of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry themed table

A peek at my Thérèse Makes a Tapestry-themed table

 

The Getty Trip: Woven Gold

Happy New Year! It’s 2016, the year of Thérèse! The official publication date is March 8th of this year, woohoo! But right now I’m here to actually share some of my experience from the end of 2015 when the first small wave of publication occurred. Thérèse Makes A Tapestry became available for purchase from the J. Paul Getty Museum — on site and online — in mid-December. I was fortunate to be able to travel to Los Angeles for this initial “soft launch” as well as the opening of Woven Gold, the exhibit to which Thérèse is tied.

Image of the Getty Museum from the bottom of the main steps

The Getty Museum (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

Photo of Bruce Dean and Julie Southwell, an uncle and his niece, at the Getty Museum

Bruce Dean and Julie Southwell (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

Most of my trip was spent at the Getty Center, and honestly I would go back and do the same thing all over again. What an incredible museum! I couldn’t get over the fact that it is free to the public–you just have to pay for parking if you drive (which obviously, in LA, you do). The site alone is spectacular: the architecture, the views, the gardens. Then there are the exhibits. I had a single track on repeat in my head: “Wow.” In another landscape it might all be sensory overload, but weaving in and out of the museum was completely relaxing. The breaths of fresh air, the sunshine, and the glimpses of hills and ocean built pauses into the days. Except at night where the cold wind was more a shock to the system, but that was a different story.

On Sunday I stopped by the main bookstore to sign copies of Thérèse. Walking into a bustling store and seeing my book on the shelf was an event in and of itself. My father and my cousin and their friends were with me which brought on all the oohing and aahing I could hope for. If you want fanfare for things like the publication of your first book, it’s best to travel with family.

Photo of Alexandra Hinrichs with Thérèse Makes A Tapestry on the Shelf at the Getty Bookstore

Ta da! After my first sighting of Thérèse Makes A Tapestry on the bookstore shelf (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

These are the things I learned from signing copies:

  • I should have a favorite pen I like to use. I do not yet. I’m working on this. (That’s not entirely true–I have a type of pen I love to use and I fondly recall the experience of writing with it, but I can’t remember what kind of pen it actually is and whether I own it. I have tried unsuccessfully to reproduce this writing experience.)
  • I am clearly a newbie at this because I plowed through the towering stack of books and even signed another towering stack and laughed off a comment about my hand cramping. As if hand cramps could stop me from signing! I was so excited! Some day I hope to be a really famous, hand-cramped author who cannot bear to sign another copy. Or at least who will do a better job a playing it cool.
  • where to sign my name on the title page.
  • that it is actually possible to misspell my name.

On Monday I finally got to meet members of the book team in person! This included my wonderful editor for Thérèse, Elizabeth Nicholson, who took us on a tour of Getty Publications. The set-up brought me back to my American Girl days and I felt right at home, except there were wall to ceiling windows that let in the most incredible amount of natural light everywhere and had some unbeatable views. Then it was off to the big press event up the hill.

Photo of tapestry curator, author, illustrator, and editor in front of The Getty's version of the Chateau of Monceau/Month of December Tapestry

Exhibit curator Charissa Bremer-David, Author Alexandra Hinrichs, Illustrator Renée Graef, Editor Elizabeth Nicholson in front of the Chateau of Monceau/Month of December, part of The Getty’s collection (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

The highlights, not in chronological order, from the press event were:

  • meeting Renée Graef in person. I can’t state enough how in love I am with Renée’s illustrations of Thérèse, and I was glad to finally be able to give her the hug I’d been hanging onto for so long! In fact, I’d actually met her briefly back in Madison at a Wisconsin Book Festival Event after an illustrators’ panel (that also included Kevin Henkes). Funny that our next encounter should be in Los Angeles, and amazing that it should be after working together on a picture book! Things worth noting: she wears fabulous hats.
  • meeting Charissa Bremer-David in person. Charissa is another person about whom I can just gush. Curator of sculpture and decorative Arts at the Getty, she is an expert on French decorative arts, and her expertise shines through in the new exhibit catalog Woven Gold as well as her other books on French tapestries. Charissa is so knowledgable and gracious with her time and willingness to share that knowledge. She always took time to talk to me on the phone or by e-mail, answer questions and even to do original research when we ran across a stumbling block over how gilded thread was made, all while organizing this monumental exhibit, working on two books of her own, and contributing to goodness knows how many other projects.
  • signing more copies of Thérèse for various reporters and especially signing copies to each other (Renée, Charissa, Elizabeth, and I called this our “yearbook signing,” and it was full of smiles and laughs).
  • the chocolate peppermint cookies.
  • and finally…seeing the tapestries.
Me, a very happy author, after seeing the Chateau of Monceau/Month of December tapestry for the first time. The tapestry is on loan to The Getty Museum from the Mobilier National (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

Me, a very happy author after seeing the Chateau of Monceau/Month of December tapestry for the first time. The tapestry is on loan to The Getty Museum from the Mobilier National (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

Close-up of the Chateau of Monceau/Month of December (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

Close-up of the Chateau of Monceau/Month of December (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

Oh my goodness. Walking into a room full of these enormous tapestries is truly spectacular. Breathtaking. There is nothing that compares to seeing them in person. No photographs or descriptions can possibly do them justice, because their grandeur in size and in material cannot be adequately captured. I felt extra lucky to be seeing them with Charissa as a tour guide. She is quite the storyteller herself. For me, seeing the tapestry called The Chateau of Monceau/Month of December was particularly emotional. This is the tapestry that inspired Thérèse, and Thérèse weaves its likeness. I had looked at this tapestry in books, on computer monitors and iPhone screens, and lived with it in my head for a couple of years. So when we entered the final room of Woven Gold and there it was…well…my eyes weren’t exactly dry. The gold threads glint in the light in a way they just can’t in pictures. The range of colors and the minute details are extraordinary.

Detail of Chateau of Monceau/Month of December border which better displays the gilded thread (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

Detail of Chateau of Monceau/Month of December border which better displays the gilded thread (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

The textures beg to be touched. I wanted to touch it. I didn’t. But I really really wanted to. The Chateau of Monceau/Month of December was actually cleaned in Belgium and conserved by weavers at the Gobelins Manufactory (now part of the Mobilier National) over a period of 9 months in preparation for the Woven Gold exhibit.

Thérèse Makes A Tapestry on display in the Woven Gold exhibit (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

Thérèse Makes A Tapestry on display in the Woven Gold exhibit (photo by Alexandra Hinrichs)

Across the room in mirror image is another smaller version of the tapestry. The first was made for Kind Louis XIV, the other for a private patron at a slightly later date. Both these versions of the Chateau of Monceau/Month of December are depicted in Thérèse Makes A Tapestry. In between the two tapestries in the exhibition room is a table with a couple of books on display, including Thérèse. I love that she is there, hugged by the tapestries she “made” and that made her.

By the time we went to the exhibit opening that night, I didn’t think I could feel much happier. Champagne toasts with the book team and another visit to the tapestries proved me wrong. And this time I got to show my family– my dad, my cousin, and my brother– the tapestries, too.

Author yours truly, Illustrator Renée Graef, Designer Jim Drobka, Production Manager Elizabeth Kahn, Editor Elizabeth Nicholson (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

Author yours truly, Illustrator Renée Graef, Designer Jim Drobka, Production Manager Elizabeth Kahn, Editor Elizabeth Nicholson (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

Bruce Dean and Alexandra Hinrichs in front of The Chateau of Monceau/Month of December tapestry (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

Bruce Dean and Alexandra Hinrichs in front of The Chateau of Monceau/Month of December tapestry (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

Woven Gold exhibit opening at The Getty Museum (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

Woven Gold exhibit opening at The Getty Museum (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday we returned to the Getty one last time in the morning. It’s hard to explain the connection I felt to the tapestry, it wasn’t something I anticipated to be honest. But I found myself wanting to see it one last time. Chances are I will never see the tapestry again, and I wanted to feast my eyes on it one last time and say goodbye. I did, and felt satisfied even if a bit sad. However, then I got to go to another exhibit and get some inspiration for a new book. And my dad, brother, and I spent the afternoon in Santa Monica, which was the perfect note to end the trip on before heading back to the hotel to pack up for early flights.

Throughout the visit what struck me most was how special this whole project really was. I mean, of course I like to think everyone loved this book. It was my first book! But meeting everyone in person– Elizabeth, Renée, Charissa, designer Jim Drobka, production manager Elizabeth Kahn, and others– I kept thinking, “Wow, they all loved this project, too!” It’s hard to gauge that from a distance (or at least a distance of Maine to California). The reminder of their investment meant the world to me.

If you are anywhere near the Getty or planning a trip to the area between now and May, I urge you all to run to the Woven Gold exhibit. Some of these tapestries have not been together in centuries, and most have never been so accessible to view as they are often hung at lofty heights and not at eye level. It is remarkable and luxurious and the stories within the tapestries are a treat.

Author, editor, and illustrator gazing up at the Chateau of Monceau/Month of December Tapestry (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

Author, editor, and illustrator gazing up at the Chateau of Monceau/Month of December Tapestry (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

For more information about the exhibit and the history of tapestries, take a look at the articles below:

Also be sure to watch The Art of Making a Tapestry, a video that shows the weaving process at the Gobelins Manufactory. (Getty Museum)


Explore the full gallery of photos from the trip

Check out Bruce Dean’s website to see even more of his photography and artwork.

The countdown begins.

One month. That’s how long before I am sitting in a bookstore at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, signing copies of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry— a picture book that I wrote–for the very first time. This book is close to my heart. It is my first, so there’s that. It is the book that made my long held dream of becoming an author come true. It is the story of a girl who finds a way to accomplish her own dreams. It is a story dedicated to my mother, who passed away this past summer. It is a book that I have been working on in one form or another over the last two years.

Image of the invitation to Woven Gold, the exhibit at the J. Paul Getty Museum

The invitation to the opening reception of Woven Gold: Tapestries of Louis XIV at the J. Paul Getty Museum

Like all picture books, it is a story made complete only by its beautiful illustrations by the masterful Renée Graef, who rendered Thérèse with such thoughtfulness and care that I recognized her the instant I first saw her! It is also a story tied to history, art, and an exhibit at the Getty Museum.

While writing Thérèse’s story, I was neck-deep in research on weaving and tapestries produced at the Gobelins Manufactory, but this will be my first time seeing the tapestries in person. Thérèse Makes a Tapestry will be available on site at the Getty starting next month, but its larger release will come in March, and then you will hopefully be able to find it at a bookstore near you! In the meantime, keep checking here for all things related to Thérèse and yours truly.

 

Secret #2: Picture book coming!

It’s August. How did that happen?! It’s not only August, it’s the very end of August. As in almost September. I can hardly believe how quickly the summer has flown by, in a way that only summers can. Life here has been full of travel, visits with family, adventures by the sea, weekly trips to our CSA farm, digging around in our own small garden, work, deadlines, my son’s second birthday (holy cow, I have a two-year-old), reading (of course), and…writing.

This summer I haven’t just been writing in my journal. In fact, my journal has been about as neglected as this blog. I have been writing a story that you all can read next year when it comes out as a picture book!

I am very excited to announce that I am the author of a forthcoming children’s book fromGetty Publications, due out November 2015. Excited is an understatement. This is a long-held dream come true, and I feel just plain lucky. Does luck ever feel plain actually? I feel extraordinary and giddy in my luck!

The picture book, with the working title Therese Makes a Tapestry, tells the story of a young girl whose family works at the Gobelins Manufactory during the era of Louis XIV. It is being published on the occasion of a major exhibition of French royal tapestries at theGetty.

Through the wonders of Skype, I have been able to meet the team of incredible individuals that I’m collaborating with, including my amazing editor and the fabulous illustrator. I truly couldn’t be happier with the process so far. Again, I thank my lucky stars.

So that’s the secret I meant to share much earlier this summer. Thanks for sticking with me as I come and go! Stay tuned for more book updates in the future.

 

Secrets and playing catch-up

mother_and_son_4-14

I can’t believe it is already May and nearly two months since my last post. In addition to keeping busy with part-time jobs, toddlers, travel, etc., I have been working on a couple of secret projects. One of these two projects I am now at liberty to share. I am cooking up baby #2, due in October! Ha, that counts as a project, right?

Pregnancy takes up a whole lot of energy. Naps have reentered my life (although they seem to be slowly drifting out again). Thinking about our life a few months from now, I’ve decided to let myself enjoy the occasional nap at present. I mean, all that well intended advice to sleep when the baby sleeps is really only applicable the first time around. Once there are two or more kiddos in the household, will anybody be sleeping, ever? A fierce internal voice says, YES! The mama in me chuckles and sighs, Sometime, someday.

I will leave you in suspense about the second project. I promise it is more of a traditional project, though.

We have been reading a lot, as always. I even had put an Off the Shelf series together back in March but for some reason never posted it. Better late than never?

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Off the Shelf: 2/17/14

My son loves books. Now, at almost 18 months, he will sit on the floor for 15 minutes or so reading to himself (and longer if someone reads to him!), flipping through page after page and reciting words and lines he knows. It can be a challenge sometimes to get a new book through the pile of tried and true. However, when a book is in, it’s in.

Over the past few months, I have been thinking about starting a feature of what the boy’s favorite books are each week or two weeks, however time allows, since they do change. These are the books that I can hardly get put away during the week, let alone during the day because he wants to read them over and over and over, often three times per sitting, and usually two to three sittings a day. And so they stay off the shelf until he has quenched his thirst and is ready to move on to the next love, visiting these established loves between times.

Without further ado, here is the first installment of Off the Shelf.

off_the_shelf_2-17-14

Over the last two weeks my son’s favorite books have been:

  • Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie
  • Goodnight Wisconsin by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper
  • Hello Baby by Mem Fox and Steve Jenkins
  • Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry
  • Lulu’s Busy Day by Caroline Uff
  • Oscar Otter and the Goldfish by Maurice Pledger
  • Balancing Act by Ellen Stoll Walsh
  • Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman
  • Goodnight Kisses by Barney Saltzberg
  • My First ABC Book Board Book by DK Publishing, Inc.

Jazz Baby is still at the top of his list, and I will write a review later this week.