Thursday, August 23, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Sarah Frances Hardy

I was first drawn to author Sarah Frances Hardy after reading a particularly banana peely guest post she did during the promotion of her picture book, Puzzled by Pink. I thought to myself, "Self, we must get this woman on the blog!"  I can think of no better way than to kick-start the Banana Peelin' series-a-la-back-to-school than with the experiences of this lovely lady, right here. See. There she is. Down to the left. Great picture, huh?  Please welcome, Sarah Frances Hardy!
Hi all! Thank you Elizabeth for having me today.

 I was directed to your fabulous Banana Peel series by one of my readers who commented on this blog post in which I tell the story of a particularly horrific critique. Plus, it happened when I was a wee babe . . . okay, not so wee, but fairly new to this whole writer roller coaster.

 Did I let it stop me??

 No. I did not. I’m a little tougher and wiser because of it, and I’m happy to say that my debut picture book PUZZLED BY PINK which I both wrote and illustrated was released by Viking Children’s Books in April. It’s kind of a “Wednesday Addams meets Fancy Nancy” story.
I thought all those embarrassing moments would end once I grabbed that brass ring and had a book on the shelves with a Big Six publisher. Right. I can hear all of you Banana Peelin’ readers laughing.

Here’s my most recent moment (and I’m sure that there will be many, many more to come):

Several months before my book came out, I decided to be proactive on the PR front since publishers do precious little for most debut authors. I sent out postcards, contacted media, worked on a website for a birthday party inspired by my book (I still haven’t officially launched it yet--but it’s here if you want to take a look, and I set up book signings at every indie bookstore I could find within driving distance--and we’ve got lots of great indies in Mississippi.

My book was still just a few weeks out and I’d had some successful regional signings as well as a killer launch party at my hometown bookstore. Flying high and proud, I hit the highway toward a small Mississippi town about an hour away. I brought my giant wooden cutouts of my book characters, coloring pages, and spider rings. I was dressed in my black dress with my pink jewelry. I was ready for story time, my friends.

I took a couple of wrong turns but made it to the bookstore with fifteen minutes to spare. The store had pink and black balloons out front, and the owner came out to greet me. As I was pulling out my characters, she said, “Where are the books?”

I stopped. Stared. Cocked my head to the side.

“Wha . . .?”

“The books? Oh my god. You forgot the books??!”

“I’m sorry,” I managed to squeak out. “What books? Don’t you have the books?”

“Well, no. Every time we’ve had authors, they’ve brought their books.”

“I’ve never brought books,” I say. “I mean, you’re a book store.”

“Oh. You must have been doing signings at big stores,” she said.

“No . . . small indie stores . . . so what do we do?” I asked as little girls started showing up. It hit me that she was used to dealing with people who had self-pubbed.

“Look. I’ll get in the car and drive up to Oxford and get them for you.”

“That’ll take two hours there and back, and here’s the thing . . . I don’t have any books.” And this was true. My publisher gave me a box of fifteen free books which I gave away for promotions. It had dwindled away to nothing. “I mean we could go and buy some from Square Books, but these kids aren’t going to wait for two hours. And I doubt they’ll come back.”

We stood out in the parking lot a little longer, just kind of staring.

“I’m doing a signing next weekend at a store thirty minutes away. I’ll bet they’ve already got the books. Call them.”

So she called, and she drove frantically to another small Mississippi bookstore (one who’d ordered the books ahead of time). Meanwhile, I’m at her store crawling on the floor with the precious little girls who had shown up. We colored. We talked.

And then I literally read every single picture book in the store to them. Every. Single. One. (Even a self published one that a local preacher had written with his son and it was illustrated with crayons.)

Everything worked out fine, and I honestly appreciated the owner’s willingness to make the drive to save the day. But whew!! Lesson learned. I now carry a box of books in my car at all times.

AND I had a signing a couple of weeks ago, and the bookstore ran out of books. Woo hoo!!! Luckily, I could pop my trunk and replenish the supply without missing a beat.


Sarah Frances


  1. I think Sarah wins the Nightmare Banana Peelin' Award of should. Yes, always take some books.

  2. Wow. That is some story. Hats off to keeping your cool. Glad to hear the spare books in the trunk came in handy later, what a great feeling.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Definitely qualifies for Banana Peelin'!!!! Sounds like you are great at thinking on your feet! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Running out of books seems like a great problem to have! Boy I bet you were sweating that first time, though. Congrats on handling it so gracefully.

  5. Wow, that was a slippery moment, Sarah, and thanks for sharing the Oh, No as well as the Phew, with us. You've saved me another huge faux pas!

  6. Great post, Sarah! I would have freaked. It's a good reminder for all of us to prepare for the worst! And to check with the bookstore how they like to handle the author's stocks. The indie bookseller in my hometown doesn't like the authors to sell from their own stocks (because they get a better deal on books through their distributor, I think). I had to make a complicated arrangement to "loan" her the stock should she run out. Fortunately, she had ordered enough that we didn't run out.

  7. As we say, it's just not a party until something gets Banana Peeled. Great story, Sarah, and thank you for sharing - although I'm still among the pre-published, my heartbeat and breathing were completely in synch with your story. I'm glad you had a happy ending - and may I also add, your Cutouts are just gorgeous!

    Thanks so much for sharing!
    NotAnonymously yours, Melissa Kelley

  8. Oh, my goodness, who would think to bring books to a bookstore? It's a good thing you were able to stay calm, cool and collected in the face of a book free book signing!

  9. Thanks for sharing your banana-peelin' moment! Great lessons for us to learn!

  10. OMG! I've had a lot of crazy book signing experiences but that one hasn't happened yet! You must have been panicked! Thank goodness it all worked out. Thanks for sharing your story, and good luck with Puzzled By Pink - I hope sales are going fabulously! :)

  11. Your Banana Peelin' innocent turned out to be an occassion that will probably be the most memorable book signing those little girls will ever go too! Surely, they've told their friends [maybe in the future even their children] that they hung out with the legendary author/illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy. Bet their artwork is hanging on the frig or in their room!

  12. Aiyiyi, what a nightmare! I'm amazed it had a happy ending. But yes - I have long believed that we must all live by the Boy Scouts' creed of "always be prepared" in every aspect of our lives! You never know what's about to smack you in the face. :)

  13. What a story! Thank you for sharing it with us. *Makes mental note for the future*

  14. Thanks all for your great comments! And thanks so much for having me Elizabeth!!!


  15. As they say, all's well that ends well! Yes...note to self...books in trunk at all times. PSP is so fun, I can't imagine anything but a happy ending--regardless of the circumstance :)