Hurricane Sandy touched millions of lives last week, including many in the children’s book community. Here a few authors and publishers tell their storm stories.
Dinah Stevenson, Clarion Books
Not a lot of drama, just a foot of water on the ground floor of my Hoboken brownstone, where the kitchen is. No power, no heat or hot water, no phone. I was sitting in the dark with a friend on Thursday evening, and our conversation was interrupted by a kind of rattling roar. “Oh, that’s just the fridge,” I said reassuringly. “Just the fridge?” she repeated. That’s when the penny dropped and I realized the electricity was on. Casualties: dishwasher, wall oven, and possibly the floor—it’s oak, the whole ground floor, and may have gotten wet beyond its ability to dry out. I’m aware every minute of how fortunate I was.
Lois Lowry, author
Sandy was relatively kind to Massachusetts and to Cambridge, where I live, but somehow it did single me out, and a tree fell on my house. Fortunately, it was mid-afternoon and I was downstairs. A large skylight, in glass shards and smithereens, fell on my bed; and in the master bathroom, a tree limb [see photo at right] entered by way of the wall (my contractor, a jolly soul, suggested I carve sayings on it and use it as an interesting towel rack). I called 911 in a panic, and a weather-beaten policeman came, looked at the damage, and the drenching rain entering through my bedroom ceiling, and said, “You’d better find someone to cover that hole pretty fast.” (I did, though it wasn’t easy.) In comparison to the tragedies farther south, I got off lucky. And just this morning, people came with chainsaws to remove the debris from my yard, and they left me a nice pile of firewood. (But I still have big holes in my house.)
Gayle Forman, author
We’d spent the days of the hurricane indoors, going back and forth to neighbors who were hosting their displaced friends from Tribeca and the Rockaways. There was a big call for volunteers, but there wasn’t much I could do. I had no gas (note to self: before next catastrophic storm, FILL THE TANK), I had my two kids underfoot, and my husband, who works for ABC News, was stuck to the computer working from home.By Sunday, I was going a little crazy. I’d bought a bunch of stuff on Amazon and sent it to City Council member James Sanders’s office in the Rockaways, and sent a couple of boxes of donations with other friends who were shuttling stuff back and forth, but I wanted to do something else. In the end, I reverted to my Jewish lady roots, and I cooked. I rode my bike to the nearest store and loaded up a backpack and a big blue Ikea bag and then wobbled back home. I spent the afternoon making giant pots of comfort food: mac and cheese, chili, and cornbread. I put a call out on Facebook to see if anyone could give us a lift to Red Hook, but it didn’t work out, though someone told me that there was a nearby center in desperate need of food. We’d been saving the last of the gas in case of an emergency but figured, this was one. So we bundled the kids into the car and drove the stuff to the Good Shepherd Center. Red Hook was a mess, but it was also full of volunteers. I’m hoping the gas situation improves so I can plan daily meal deliveries. I’m already plotting menus.
Shanta Newlin, Penguin Young Readers Group
Last Tuesday, we were alerted that two of our books, Colin Fischer by Zack Stentz and Ashley Edward Miller and Max and Ruby’s Treasure Hunt by Rosemary Wells, were going to be featured in a book recommendation segment on the Today Show on Friday, November 2, and that the Today Show needed finished copies delivered to their offices by Wednesday. The city was out of power and shut down. Our offices were closed and none of the subways were running. After many e-mails, we learned that the only finished copies available were in our offices. So Kim Highland, director of national accounts, and Elissa Baille, national accounts manager, Amazon, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge through Chinatown to the Penguin offices, where they met our head of office services. They searched the darkened halls with flashlights, found the books, and then physically delivered them to 30 Rock. Luckily, their hard work paid off and the segment ran on Friday.
Laura Vaccaro Seeger, author
So, this is what happened here in Rockville Centre, on the south shore of Long Island. I was hanging out with my husband in our family room all day, watching the news and sketching. My son, Dylan, kept coming in regularly to tell us that we should leave the room because we were in the only part of the house that doesn’t have a second story above it. At around 7:45, when Dylan begged us again to move to another room, we finally listened to him and within minutes, we heard the crash – the gigantic 200-foot oak tree in our yard snapped in half and crashed into the family room and my husband’s office. The next day, the tree removal guy told us that we’re lucky to be alive – thanks to Dylan. We spent the next seven days without heat or power, but compared to so many who lost so much, we are very lucky, for sure.
Clay Smith, Texas Book Festival
After the Festival [October 27-28] I got a message from Bethany Hegedus, a kids’ writer in Austin who owns The Writing Barn, who had been seeing Facebook chatter from our 2012 writers who were stranded in Austin because of the storm. She asked me if we could have another party at the Barn (we’d had one for all the Festival’s kids’ writers on the Friday night before the Festival). Since none of us at the Festival knew exactly which writers were stuck in Austin, I just wrote all of the 2012 writers and moderators so everyone would feel included; about 50 people showed up at the Barn that night. A common refrain heard during the party: if you have to be stranded somewhere, you could do much worse than Austin. A B&N bookseller brought s’mores ingredients and the writers toasted s’mores over Bethany’s fire pit. Everyone seemed happy to have another excuse to get together – the social high that comes from being feted at a large book festival can be a little hard to come down from.
Sharyn November, Viking
I live in Hoboken, which was Ground Zero – the PATH station, which is still closed, was a scene out of The Poseidon Adventure, and so many of my friends and neighbors were flooded out of their homes. I was luckier than most, because I live on the top floor of my building, and had hot and cold running water, a gas stove, a landline... and dial-up. (Yes, I dialed up to post on Facebook – although no way would I use my e-reader by candlelight!)
We lost power for three days. Friends across the country called and told me where people had set up informal charging stations – cords running out of their buildings with signs saying: WE HAVE POWER. PLUG IN HERE. On Thursday I joined a crowd of people at a power strip and plugged in my laptop. While it recharged, I started chatting with a woman and her daughter, who looked about 12. Of course I asked if she was a reader. She lit up, and we talked and talked about all of the books we loved, drawing in everyone around us. (She’s a fan of Rebecca Stead, Eric Berlin, and Philip Pullman, among many others.) To make a long conversation short: She’s going to be the first reader of a novel I’ve acquired from the U.K. that I am really excited about. I went home with a charged laptop and two new friends! No puns about the power of books, but I couldn’t ask for more.