Slightly infected Sunday

I’m not sure if this is the Great Cold of Schenectady, Part II, or some new-fangled Pittsburgh bug, but the symptoms hit again Sunday. I do not feel like death, but I have that hesitant, lurking feeling, like a viral stalker is hiding behind the potted plants, waiting for me to stop drinking fluids so it can pounce on me and suck out all my energy and refill my sinuses with quick-hardening cement.

If you think I am a slightly hysterical, near-hypochondriac now, you should have known me as a kid.

I didn’t have too many things to do on Sunday, besides blow my nose. Beth and I had long, long conversations about the standard high school curriculum, what I don’t like about it, and how unprepared so many kids are for college and real life. We sat in the lobby of our hotel which she called a giant living room. It is decorated for Christmas, which normally would irritate me, but it doesn’t here because this feels like some other-worldly place in which everyone loves books and cares about teenagers and it is OK to have Christmas trees in giant living rooms.

Last night was the big ALAN reception. ALAN stands for The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents. It is a part of the National Council of Teachers of English. If you teach English, Language Arts, Writing, Reading, etc. to teens, you really should belong to this group. They will enrich your classroom and help keep you inspired. If you are a new English teacher and the thought of paying dues to join something makes your wallet whimper, then ask the people who love you to give you a membership as a holiday gift. But really, it’s not that expensive, and you do not have to join NCTE to belong to ALAN (although you probably want to!).

So anyway, we went to the ALAN party, which rocked the house. The room was crammed with authors and teachers. I was glad we got there early because I had been craving cheese all day and I was able to snag a couple pieces of Havarti before the mob hit the door. I lost count of how many people I talked to and only remembered to take a couple of photos. Thank you so much to all of the teachers who shared their stories of how they use my books in their classes.

One of my favorite people in the whole world was there last night, Walter Dean Myers. If you have not read his books yet, you must. Put it on this week’s to-do list. He is one of the finest American authors alive today. Not surprisingly, he also has a talented son, Christopher Myers, who illustrates as well as writes. Chris wasn’t there last night, but Walter was, and it did my heart good to see him again. But I am an idiot, so I forgot to take his picture.

The photos I did manage to take

Saturday night parties

A glorious day of rest! Slept in, ate a sloooow breakfast, talked with Beth the Best Girl Friend, talked some more, talked, talked (you see where I’m going here) drank tea, talked, etc. This was all recovery from last night’s fun: a nice dinner and party that flew by way too fast.

OK, maybe not so scandalous. But you clicked. That’s how powerful words are.

Image hosted by TinyPic.comThe dinner had yummy food and highly dignified pats of butter, seen here with the help of the lovely and talented Lori Goodson of Kansas. It was put on by Penguin, who publishes all my YA books.

Image hosted by TinyPic.comAfter dinner, three authors read from their works – T.A. Barron, Joan Bauer, and me. (Yes, I read a few pages from my WIP. It was nerve-wracking, but they seemed to like it.)

After dinner, we headed to the Simon & Schuster dessert party. I’m pretty sure I saw M.T. Anderson, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him or stalk him for a photo. I did see these folks:

Image hosted by TinyPic.comPatrick Jones

Image hosted by Very cool teachers Connie and Judy from Ohio, and Jill from New Hampshire.

Image hosted by Annette Curtis Klause, who had the best earrings, but this photo does not show them well.

Image hosted by and finally, Chris Lynch, whose new book, Inexcusable, is one that I highly recommend.

That’s all for now. It’s time to get read for the ALAN reception, which is a gathering of teachers, professors and authors who all care deeply about books for teenagers. Will def. be a good night. Pictures tomorrow!

NCTE fun

You know the best way to travel to the National Council of Teachers of English conference? Drive 7.5 hours to Pittsburgh with your best girlfriend in the car. BGF (aka Beth the College Professor) and I have not had the chance to talk our fool heads off in way too long, so that’s what we did the whole drive. It seemed like we were only in the car for an hour or so.

When we arrived, our room wasn’t ready so we changed out of our scuzzy traveling clothes in a hotel bathroom and did our make-up in the mirror while chatting with two girls who go to a local high school whose English teacher is Ms. Dana Getz. There are a million English teachers in Pittsburgh right now, so consider this your shout-out, Ms. Getz, in case I don’t run into you.

I spoke on a panel about bullying that was organized by C. J. Bott, author of The Bully in the Book and in the Classroom. Also on the panel were Graham Salisbury, and one of my favorite writers:

Image hosted by TinyPic.comJames Howe.

And there was a book signing. And then not enough sleep. And after breakfast this morning, another book signing. And another book signing. And another book signing. And then I signed stock for Anderson’s Bookshop (no relation). All in all I signed books for almost five hours today.

Image hosted by TinyPic.comHere are the teachers who lined up early at the Simon & Schuster booth. People often ask if I get bored at book signings, or if my hand gets tired. I love them. Honestly. Especially at a conference like this where I meet teachers from all over the country and they tell me how they use my books in their school, and what their students like, and the kinds of books their students are hungry for. It is a real privilege to shake the hands of so many hardworking teachers. And no, my hand does not get tired. All the hours spent typing on this keyboard keep my fingers in good shape.

Image hosted by During one of the signings I sat next to a hero of mine: Lois Lowery!!! I was a total drooling fangirl and she was gentle and gracious.

Tonight I’ll be at a dinner hosted by Penguin and then a party by Simon & Schuster. Tomorrow will be much calmer…. not sure if I’ll sleep, visit workshops, write, or all of the above.

OK, so I lied

I wasn’t going to post this week, but I just read this article about the 50% college drop-out rate. I have been ranting about this for years, and it was a major motivation for the writing of CATALYST. We are very good at getting kids into college in America. We suck at preparing them to actually succeed in college and graduate, and we do a lousy job helping them choose the college that is right for them!!!!! (Read my essay about this.)

:pauses to wipe spittle off mouth::

How do we do this better? How do we help kids choose the right school? What tools do they need that they are not getting now?

Tomorrow is a big extended-family gig, then I’m off to NCTE, camera in hand. Tune in this weekend for photos.

NCTE Schedule

I am taking this week off from LJ updates to focus on my revisions. I’ll check back in here around Thanksgiving.

On Friday, I leave for Pittsburgh for the National Council of Teachers of English annual conference. This is one of my very favorite conferences to attend and I am stoked. If you see me there, please say hi. Here’s where you can find me:

Fri. 11/18, 2:30-5pm: Program – Beat Bullying with Books: Teens and Character Meet on Common Ground. Also on the panel will be authors Graham Salisbury and James Howe. C.J. Bott, author of The Bully in the Book and in the Classroom, put this presentation together. She has a world of experience dealing with bullying and intimidation issues in schools. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, take it.

5-6pm: Signing at the Penguin Young Readers Booth #610

Sat. 11/19, 9-10am Signing at Anderson’s Bookshop Booth #633
10-11am Signing at Simon & Schuster Booth #811-815
11-noon Signing at Demco Booth #424-426

Sun. 11/20, 6 pm ALAN reception, Westin Pittsburgh, Westmoreland Room

Mon. 11/21, holed up in hotel room writing

Tues. 11/22, 8:30 am ALAN Program, Westin Pittsburgh, Allegheny Room
10 am drive to Millersville to pick up Meredith!!