Spackle dust in my hair

First things first. Many, many thank yous to librarians Nettie and Suzanne for all their hospitality, and the cool and friendly students of Schenectady High School for making my visit on Thursday the highlight of a great week.

As I drove home on the Thruway Thursday night I kept thinking about all the people I met during the week – it really was a terrific experience. And then I realized I had a million thank you notes to write. And then it started to snow, which gave me a good reason to avoid thinking about the thank you notes.

Yesterday and today I have been the BH’s carpenter assistant, scraping spackle off of beams and other silly jobs that make me feel important. He redid part of the kitchen while I was out of town (it looks amazing). There is a big push to finish up some house projects before Thanksgiving. That’s why there is a nice guy painting the living room, a guy in the garage hammering on something, and a husband sawing heavenknowswhat. (BH has promised a quiet day tomorrow so I can get the thank you notes done and go back to work on the final revision.)

Now I have I find my power sander (yay!) and my polyurethane brush.

Cold rain in Burnt Hills

So I spoke in the Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa High School today. Kept thinking about the name “Burnt Hills” which some people told me had a connection to local Indian tribes. The weather here has turned November – cold rain, blustery winds. The inside of the school was warm and the students and teachers all really sweet. I apologize to the girls who wanted me to sign their arms. It just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. Most of the groups I spoke to were small (which makes for a more effective presentation). The big group I spoke to in the auditorium was made much easier by one of the highest quality wireless microphones it has ever been my pleasure to wear.

I was feeling so much better today I did not eat chicken soup. I picked something off a Chinese menu. Not sure what it was. I suspect the translation was “Noodles, Meat & Veggies cooked with volcanic hot sauces and spices that cause burps of flames.” When I wasn’t crying from the heat, it tasted good. And it did not take much to fill me up.

If you like reading about writers’ spaces, this article is for you.

Less lame

I’d like to state for the record that I made it as an awakeish person all the way until 8pm last night. Doubtful I’ll do it tonight, though.

Loads of fun at Draper Middle School today. Many thanks to Mary, Marie, and Greg the Math teacher for making me feel right at home. After the visit I was able to squeeze in a cup of coffee with my friend Coleen Paratore and catch up with her. That was a blast. She introduced me to the nice people at Book House. Readers, friends, and an independent bookseller. If only BH was here, it would have been the perfect day.

My cold has retreated slightly, thanks to last night’s obscene amount of sleep and regular dosing with chicken soup.

I’ve been reading a lot about various battle strategies during the American Revolution. It didn’t matter how well anyone planned things out, seems to me. Once the bullets started flying, it always turned into a mess. But they kept trying.

A lot of you had to learn about the Revolution in school. What do you remember about it? Was it interesting or boring?

The beauty of Guilderland

1. Guilderland is a cool word to repeat many times over. Guilderlandguilderlandguilderland – try it. It sounds faintly Ozish and makes me think of chocolate.

2. Guilderland is where my gr-gr-grandmother grew up. Her name was Maria Margaret Fredendall and she married a guy name John Halse. If she hadn’t, I would not be typing this. Thanks, dead ancestors.

3. Guilderland has a high school filled with very cool students and English teachers and a couple of amazing librarians. The public library has a YA librarian named Trevor who is one of my heroes for defending YA literature and is a crazy NASCAR fan.

Those are the reasons I like it here.

I battled this stupid cold all day and still the Guilderlanders were nice to me. Most of the time I felt like I was trying to talk through a large marshmallow taped to my face. This was not a bad hair day. It was a bad face day – my eyes looked like something from an icky Halloween costume and my sinuses were filled with concrete. But nobody ran away screaming at the sight of me because they raise their kids right in fair Guilderland.

The fact that I am obsessing with the name of a small town outside Schenectady proves that I need to go to bed right now, even if it is only 6:24pm. I am the lamest weenie in the world. The lamest weenie with a stuffed nose.

Emptying mailbag, packing suitcase

Lots to do today. I’ll try not ramble.

The Rochester Children’s Book Festival was a blast. Tons of authors (see the whole list here!), countless nice people who love books. Linda Sue Park and I did a Q&A session together which I think we should take on the road because she and I write very differently. Many, many thanks to everyone who made the day so much fun, and special thanks to babymowgli and Jenn for coming out.

This afternoon I drive east for a bunch of school visits:
Monday – Guilderland HS, Guilderland, NY
Tuesday – Draper, MS, Schenectady, NY
Wednesday – Burnt Hills HS, Burnt Hills, NY
Thursday – Schenectady HS, Schenectady, NY

Oh, I forgot to tell you about New York. Beloved Husband and I had a rather romantic couple of days there. The lovely and lively people at Penguin, my publishers, made a nice fuss over us because SPEAK has sold a million copies in paperback. They had a little party and took us out to dinner at a fancy pants restaurant. I felt like a princess. The next day we walked through Central Park (holding hands, of course) on the perfect autumn day. We went to a couple of museums and saw cool exhibits. We ate great bagels. Then we took the long train ride home and I caught a nasty cold.

Please send chicken soup thoughts my way.

A number of readers wrote in this week with questions. Before I answer, I want to repeat my email rule. I do not answer email. I post it here on the blog. Is this because I am a jerk? No, this is because I am human, and I don’t have enough time for my other responsibilities. The exceptions to this rule are few. If you are a teacher and need a direct response to one of my books being challenged, I’ll write back. If you are the victim of a sexual assault, I’ll write back. If you write to tell me of a highly personal experience, I will not post that on the blog. And I always protect identities. That’s pretty much it. If you write me an old-fashioned letter, I will write an old-fashioned letter back. Send it to me at P.O. Box 906, Mexico, NY 13114. And please be patient, because it takes a while for me to write back. (End of cranky email lecture.)

Hannah writes: … I am doing this interveiw about abook named “FEVER 1793” this title should resonate with you a bit because you wrote it!!! Would you mind it to much if I started to ask? (thanks for reading at least this much of this e-mail) #1 WHO are you? a day dreamer with her head in the clouds or more a stuck down to earth kind of gal? #2 WHAT gave you the idea about this book? Pleasedescribe it well. what was it like? #3 WHERE did you get this idea? Outside on your
porch!? (Its OK if you do not remember the answer to this question!! )

#1 – I’m a daydreamer with a work ethic. #2 & #3 Read this essay I wrote about the writing of FEVER 1793.

Samantha writes: I read the book Speak that you wrote. It was a very good book. I loved it! The message was so strong, and it toutched me in many ways…. I’m writing to you becaus it was a choice in my General Humanites class. Your book was one of the best I’d ever read. I have a question. Did you write this book based on another person’s life or experienc, or your own? Well I would really appreciate it if you wrote me back. Thanks for your time.

Kori writes: I read your book, Speak. I really enjoyed reading it. I thought the message it sent out was very powerful, and it really opened my eyes to that kind of situation…. I am writing you because this was one of the project choices I had to choose from in my Humanities class. Your book is one of my favorite books. I do have to ask you this one question. Did you write this book from your own perspective or from someone else’s? I would really appreciate it if you could write me back. Thank you for your time.

Rachel writes: I have just finished your book called SPEAK. I thought it was a great book. I am sending this e-mail as a project for my humanities class…. One of my favorties parts in this book is when Melinda finally speaks for herself at the end of the book. This part happens when Andy Evans tries to rape her and she actually says something. Even thoguh my name is Rachel, I am nothing like the Rachel in your book. I am not stuck up like her, and I don’t hang out with the exchange students just because I can’t understand what they say most of the time because of their accents. My question for you is What made you think of writing a book on this subject? Are the
people from the story related to your life? These are questions I would really like to know, so if you ever have the time, please e-mail me beack if you ever get the chance.

I’ll answer these three together. There are a few experiences in SPEAK that I pulled from my own life, but 90% is made up. I wanted to write a book that showed what high school felt like to a kid who was in emotional pain. That is definitely what I was going through back then. High school is a very, very strange world. I don’t think I have really nailed it yet. I guess that’s why I keep writing.