john schu

My Love Letter to Emily Arrow


-A personal account of befriending and working with the world’s greatest kidlit singer and songwriter

It all started in March 2015. I was making red pipe cleaner glasses to support Kelly Light during her Louise Loves Art event (I was still in the children’s department at this time). All of a sudden this girl comes up and starts talking to my coworkers and I. She had a ukelele in hand and if I remember correctly, she was asking us when the event was going to start. I offered her a pair of pipe cleaner glasses and she expressed her love of Kelly Light. She said that she had talked to Kelly (online, over email?) and was going to play a song that she made for her. I’ll be honest, this is when I started to get nervous.

Who was this girl? Was she just a fan, or a stalker? I had talked to Kelly a few times on Twitter and had seen her once in person previously, and was incredibly fond of her. I was going to protect her from this crazy girl if I had to! Turns out Kelly was okay with this girl, (Emily Arrow) and let her play her song during the event! As soon as she started singing about Louise and her brother Art, I was brought to tears. I am a sap when it comes to sibling books, and Louise was/is one of my favorites. Her song added even more emotions to what I was already feeling. It was perfect. She had asked me to film her while she sang, and it was incredibly difficult (and probably a bad recording) because I was so overwhelmed. I know this sounds dramatic, but the first time you hear Emily sing a song, based on a book you love, you will feel the same, I promise.

After that, we kept in contact. I found her on Twitter and watched The Curious Garden, about a hundred times on YouTube. At the time, that was the only video she had up. She had promised to send me some other songs soon, as we had traded emails at Kelly’s event. Around August, I got a surprising email asking about events at the store. I let her know that she had the wrong Jen (there is another Jen that handles events) and gave her the right email. This led to her sending me some songs (The Dot, and maybe one other?) and asked if we could meet up to talk about her business plans. CRAZY right? I barely knew this girl and she wanted to talk to me about her career?!

We met at Urth Cafe last August (1 year ago!) and she asked me to be her booking agent. I was flabbergasted. I had no experience in this field and had no idea what she wanted me to do. Thankfully, she didn’t really care and was able to walk me through the whole process. She told me that she wanted to keep making songs based on children’s books and wanted that to be her main career. I thought that was awesome! Like some of her new fans, I wanted her to do songs for ALL OF MY FAVORITES. I soon learned that I needed to control myself. She picks out the books she does songs for, very carefully. They have to have just the right rhythms and have to feel good to her. She doesn’t pick just any book. She also doesn’t play favoritism. Just because she loves an author/illustrator, doesn’t necessarily mean she will do a song for their books. Most of the time, the books she picks, she has some relatability to. It reminds her of her childhood, or something close to her heart. In anycase, this new job was the start of a terrific adventure.

Throughout this past year, I have seen her grow so much! She has gone from non-paying gigs to ones that can support her life (apartment, coffee, hipster food and more coffee…). She took this dream that she had and made it a reality. When I first met her, there was no huge YouTube channel. She was still trying to get into the kidlit community. She didn’t know who Mr. Schu was!! Now she is making songs about, and for the man! And if you don’t know, now you know. I know there are some jokes in here, but I am so incredibly proud of her. She is only a year older than me, yet she is independent, on her own, knew what she wanted and made it happen. No more side jobs, just her passion and art. These are the kinds of things that book people dream of. I look up to her all the time.

Soon I went from being her booking agent to her assistant, as she was able to hire on more people. This was fantastic for me, because booking was not my specialty. The amazing thing about Emily is that she is incredibly kind and wants to be able to perform for as many fans as she can. The trouble that comes along with that, is that sometimes, people take advantage of her kindness, and that was really hard for me. Emily is so sweet and feels bad about letting people down, but she does need to be able to pay her rent. This made for some tough convos with inquiring parties. Luckily, I no longer needed to handle that. I was able to handle more organizational and logistical stuff and accompany her to really fun events!

I think anyone that spends time with Emily, will realize how real she is, which I love finding in a person. She cares so much and works so freaking hard to get content out to people. Sometimes she’s even a bit of a spaz…just kidding! No but really, she is a busy bee and her days are jam packed in figuring out more ways to be successful. If she spends anytime with you, know that you are incredibly special, because of how crazy her life is.

I think if I could leave you with some last thoughts about Em, I would say that she loves you all so much, and is so honored whenever she sees kids singing her songs or dancing or even creating their own songs! She is so enamored with creativity and wants to spread that with the world. I think that’s why she is such a champion of Dot Day (which fun fact, always falls on my birthday)! I didn’t realize when I was writing this entry, that it was so long, but now as I look back at it, I can’t really cut anything out. It was all part of the journey, something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

I’m only working sporadically for Em now, since I have a new job and she got some amazing new people on her team, but still feel like a part of #TeamArrow. I also got an awesome friend out of the situation. I think I will probably support Emily and her career till I die. What she is doing for the kidlit community is incredible and I can’t wait to see what she does in the future. Until then, keep watching, keep creating, and remember to “Follow Your Arrow”.