The Dreaded Act of Suitcase Packing

I am oudda here again. This time it’s a trip south to speak at the PA School LIbrarian’s Association conference. My homies.

Not sure when/if I’ll have Internet from now until Sunday. Think of me fondly while I’m offline and read a couple pages in a book. For fun.

As a matter of fact, let’s make that the question you can answer for me: what are you reading now? Is it any good? Why/why not?

My dad

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

He turns 79 today, but that’s not how we’re supposed to say it. He prefers us to note that he is “beginning his eightieth year.” This way he gets to say he’s 80 a year early, in the same way I started calling myself a teenager when I was 12. But we’ll honor the request. After all, he’s almost 80. That counts for something.

My father has been a profound influence on my life and on my writing. He is a poet, first and foremost. This means he sees the world through the eyes of a child, and his heart is pure, and his feelings are easily wounded. He is an alchemist who transmutes emotion into words into laughter and tears. He rages against social injustice and corruption and he cheers good intentions. He is a hopeless optimist. He does not suffer fools gladly. He is committed to the life of a Christian seeker. He is not allowed to touch chain saws, but he makes great soup. (There was a time when he made Very Bad Soup. The scene in SPEAK where the dad buries the nasty turkey soup in the backyard was inspired by one of Dad’s earliest soup attempts in the early 1970’s.) He likes Harry Potter. He has never forgotten the lessons of the Great Depression. He gave a poetry reading last month that left the audience in tears. He loves my mother.

My father is a great man.

In all honesty, I have to report that I did not think this when I was 13 years old. Our family went through a very, very rough decade (more like 15 years) and through much of it he confused me, bewildered me, infuriated me. I am sure I did the same to him. There was love underneath it all, but lots of pain was smothering it. So if you’re having a hard time with your dad or mom or whoever today, take a deep breath and count to 80. Try to talk about it. The pain can be washed away and the love will grow.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic My dad.

How to hold a Teen Book festival

Step One – contact Stephanie Squicciarini at the Fairport, NY Public Library. She combines the best qualities of a librarian: passion for books, compassion for readers, energy, eye for detail, and the ability to dream big. Steph is a red-headed visionary in a hot green Beetle. Plus, she’s lots of fun.

It took Stephanie and her committee 16 months to plan for the day. The plan was simple: convince local business to sponsor a day-long festival so that teens from the greater Rochester could hear from their favorite authors for free. They did it. They brought 11 authors to town: me, Terry Davis, Alex Flinn, Brent Hartinger, Mary Beth Miller, Alex Sanchez, Terry Trueman (who I swear was my older brother in another life), Vivian Vande Velde (who has one of the coolest names in the world) , Ellen Wittlinger, Chris Yambar and Amy Kim Ganter. We spent all day Saturday talking to the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of kids, parents, and teachers who turned out.

That’s right, folks. HUNDREDS of teenagers spent an entire sunny Saturday hanging out with authors. Why? Because teenagers love to read books that are interesting.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Authors lounging in the lobby. Or maybe, lurking in the lobby.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I knew it was going to be a good day when the limos showed up.

When we pulled up to the Fairport HS where the festivities were held, a mob of volunteers were waiting, screaming and taking pictures. I kept looking around wondering when the rock stars were showing up. Oh, wait – we were the rock stars! Imagine a world in which authors and literature were honored and adored the way celebrities are today. This would be a much better world than the one we live in. First off, authors don’t expose their flesh the way many rock stars do. This, my friends, is a good thing. Second, we don’t exactly have scandalous private lives. (Diet Mountain Dew is the beverage of choice, we go to bed early, and our idea of a wild and crazy time is blowing fifty bucks in a used book store.) Third, literacy rates would skyrocket. If you dream it, it will happen. Just ask Stephanie S.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Brent had the best line of the day in the limo: “What if it turns out we’ve been hijacked and this is really a reality TV show.”

Reality TV with YA authors. The mind boggles.

A million, bazillion hugs and thank yous to all the amazing people who came out (that means YOU, Kate, and YOU, Tierney); the volunteers who dedicated the last year to this, the parents who drove their kids, the students who kept me on track and introduced me, the musicians who played, the teens who danced, the business who donated, the janitors who had the hard jobs, the teachers who cared enough to join us, and the mother of the most beautiful baby I’ve seen in a long time, and who was generous enough to let me hold the baby. The child’s name is Blessing and she was, indeed.

I’ll close with the funniest fan mail I’ve gotten in a while. Unintentionally funny, to be sure.

Reader whose name I am protecting for obvious reasons writes: Hey, i was wondering what the complete and detailed setting was for this book. Well I really hope that you can help me out. By the way, Fever 1793 is by far one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read and believe my I read a lot. It actually made History seem exciting! Well please write back with my question answered. Thank You very much for your time, i appreciate it.

Gentle reader, I suspect you did not exactly read the book. You might want to try that technique. It works.

Caroline writes: …What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not writing a book. Do you have any pets? What do you like best about being an author? I would love to know if you could ever come to my school and give a speech. i know you live far away from Maryland but take it into consideration. My school gets out on June 9 so you probably won’t be able to but that’s okay.

One of this year’s goals is to get my work load under control so I can have hobbies again. I would like to garden and run and ski and maybe quilt and knit. I would like to travel, but that has to wait a couple years. We have one dog named Keziah. My favorite part of being an author is when I actually get to write, which doesn’t happen as often as you might think. Sorry, but I won’t be able to make it to your school. But thanks for writing and have a great summer!