My NCTE & ALAN schedule

I am packing again – this time for a trip to New York City for the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention and the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents. These are the conferences organized and attended by the best of the best English/Language Arts/Literature/Reading teachers *** in the country. They are the smart ones – the passionate ones, the ones who get to school early and stay wicked late to help their students. I love them.

*** note: some of the best of the best can’t make it to this critically important professional development conference because their school districts won’t pay for it. Some folks pay out-of-pocket (on a teacher’s salary!) because that’s how important this conference is.

Will any of youse guys be there? Here is where you will find me:

Thursday, November 15th
Spending the day in comfort riding the train and writing instead of suffering the hassles of the airport.

Dinner with a group of teachers.

Friday, November 16th
9:30–10:45 a.m. Panel: “Adolescent Literacy at the Crossroads: Redefining Sex and Sexuality in YA Fiction”. Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 West 34th Street (at 11th Avenue) | Room TBA

This panel has a YA killer line-up: me, Brent Hartinger, E. Lockhart, Laura Ruby, Tanya Lee Stone & Lara Zeises, and will be chaired by She Who Knows Most Everything, Teri Lesesne. You really, really, really want to come to this one. I imagine the conversation will continue in the hall long after the session is over.

2:00–3:00 p.m. Book signing at Penguin Young Readers Group, Booth #202, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 West 34th Street (at 11th Avenue) | Hall C, Level 1

3:00–4:00 p.m. Book signing at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, Booth #442, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 West 34th Street (at 11th Avenue) | Hall C, Level 1

Dinner with a group of teachers.

Saturday, November 17th
9:00–10:00 a.m. Book signing at Anderson’s Bookshop, Booth #479, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 West 34th Street (at 11th Avenue) | Hall C, Level 1

10:00–11:30 a.m. Book signing at PermaBound, Booth #357, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 West 34th Street (at 11th Avenue) | Hall C, Level 1

12:30–2:15 p.m. Books for Children Luncheon at the Marriott Marquis Times Square, 1535 Broadway | Westside Ballroom Salon ½. Andrea & Brian Pinkney will be speaking – this should be awesome.

Afternoon – I might hang at the convention or I might run in Central Park (if the weather is decent). Anybody want to join me? I’ll run 6-7 miles, probably at a 10-minute mile pace. You are welcome to join me for some or all of it. If you’re interested, let me know in the comments section and I’ll get more details to you.

Evening – I need to write.

Sunday, November 18th
Daytime – holed up in hotel, writing. Might sneak out to attend a few sessions. We’ll see.

6:00–7:30 p.m. ALAN Reception, Marriott Marquis Times Square , 1535 Broadway (at 45th Street) | Astor Ballroom, 7th Floor – I think I am going to wear my new shoes, so I will be the one limping.

Dinner with my publishers.

Monday, November 19th

Breakfast with my agent.

Daytime – hanging out at ALAN and meeting with an editor

Evening – a party and dinner

Tuesday, November 20th
10:30–11:05 a.m. ALAN Program: “Brown-Bagging It with Mattie and Hank: What does Testing have to do with lunch?” Marriott Marquis Times Square, 1535 Broadway | West Side Ballroom, Salon 1, 5th Floor

This should be really interesting. Professor Denise Ousley will demonstrate a fascinating classroom technique – giving students brown paper bags that are filled with objects that relate to a historical novel, and allowing students to respond to the objects. L.M. Elliott will talk about how this technique works with her book, UNDER A WAR-TORN SKY. I will be talking about it in relation to FEVER 1793. I’ll also be talking about the research for my new historical CHAINS (it will be published September, 2008). Please join us!

11:15–11:45 a.m. “Silent book” signing (as other authors will still be speaking) Marriot Marquis Times Square, 1535 Broadway | Room TK

Afternoon – fight the mid-town crowds trying to escape the city for Thanksgiving. If the Turkey God smiles on me, I will make my train and I will get a seat and I will trundle on home where our brood and all of their beloveds and the dog and my husband, who is the bestest Thanksgiving cook ever, will be waiting.

Monday madness

Thanks to everyone who ignored the gorgeous weather, the Bills game, and the Giants game to come out to the bookstore yesterday. The crowd was much bigger than I thought and I stayed for a very long time chatting and signing. I hope to have some photos to post soon.

I have already been working on my revision for a couple of hours. I should be able to ship off Part 1 this afternoon. I sure hope so – I am desperate to go to the gym.

In the breaking news category: FEVER 1793 will soon be translated into Korean, TWISTED has been nominated for The Heartland Award, and next month, a stage version of SPEAK will premiere at both Fayetteville-Manlius High School and Nottingham High School.

I leave you library lovers with a little game to play…

Happy Birthday, Doris Noble Prize Winner Lessing!

For teachers of FEVER 1793

I’ve had two notes from teachers who are doing a wonderful job bringing FEVER 1793 to life in the classroom.

Debbie Myers writes: Hi! … I am a teacher of the gifted in an intermediate school (grades 4-5) in Martinsburg, WV. I was looking for a good topic to do a class Social Studies project on and our librarian came back from the Children’s Literature Festival in Frostburg, Md. last year with your book, Fever 1793. She thought it might make a great “jumping off” point for a class project. I immediately read the book and loved it! I decided that it was the perfect topic for our class project.

So . . . to make a long story short. My class of six 5th grade gifted students read the book, discussed it, did some activities with it, and decided that the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 would be the topic of their class project. They read some more information (especially Jim Murphy’s book), researched on the internet, wrote their individual reports, created their backboard and their table display, and I chose two students to be the spokespersons for the project (the maximum amount you can have for a SS fair project in WV).

We won first place at the school level (no surprise there-we were the only class project), 1st place at the County level (where we did have more competition), and, finally, this past Friday, FIRST PLACE IN THE STATE FAIR!! I have had 3 other class projects go to the state fair but I have never had a first place winner. It was exciting and humbling at the same time. Needless to say, I am quite proud of my students.

I just wanted to let you know that your book really inspired all of my students to take a closer look at yellow fever. Usually, when I chose a book to read with my students, one or two will complain about it. Not this book! They all liked it. One student even said that her favorite part of doing the project was reading the book…. Thank you for writing such a terrific book.

On the other side of the country, Eleanor Ryan and her 6th grade students in Larkspur, CA have a wonderful Web project and blog about FEVER.

I love teachers.

I love my job.


Today was an excellent day. I spoke at Fairport HS in Fairport NY (where Philip Seymour Hoffman went to high school – LOVED him as the writer in State & Main) and Minerva, the 9th grade building. Everyone was mellow and sweet. I think maybe it is because this is the end of April and school is almost over.

Speaking of PSH, did anyone see Capote?

Now I am in my hotel room (gorgeous hotel on top of a high hill) eating take-out Chinese and catching up on email. Can’t complain about that. If I can get the email monster tamed by the time I head home on Saturday, I will be one happy camper.

Peyton, a teacher in SC wrote in with a great idea for using FEVER 1793 in the classroom: “I’ve had my students pair up and write scripts that could be read as a TV commercial. Their topic was to convince their viewing audience to adopt one or the other method for treating Yellow Fever. Their task was to be persuasive, and I’ve had everything from ambulance chasers to sweet little grandmas take the stage. I was struck by the variety of their responses, and perhaps other teachers might want to try this as well.”

I’ve been meeting a lot of kids who were named after places recently: Brooklyn, Paris, Dakota, Holland, Austin, etc.

Makes me wonder: what does that do to a person? What does that feel like?

Anybody familiar with Los Angeles?

I’ll be in the LA area at the end of March visiting schools. I’ll also be doing a presentation to the public at the Cerritos Library, the evening of March 24th.

Two of the schools had to cancel, so I am left with a hole in the schedule. I wish I could use it for sightseeing, but we all know I have a Deadline Dragon’s claws firmly implanted in my neck, and all free time until the fall must be spent writing.

I am looking for a safe, clean, affordable (yeah, I know, that’s the kicker) hotel or B&B to stay in that is between Palos Verdes and Cerritos. Can anyone recommend a place?

And now, more mail. This first note is rather enthusiastic.

Brittany writes: Hey! My name is Brittany! I’m 13 years old! I just recently read your book Fever 1793. I shared it with my grandmother. We both just loved it! She is an RN and she explanined a lot of stuff in your book! Fever 1793 is the first book of yours that I’ve read, but now that I’ve read it. I want to also read your book Speak. Well I just thought I would email you, if you can please email me back! My email is (removed) or (removed) is fine too! Well if I don’t get an email back its okay because I know you’re really busy! Hope you write lots more GREAT books!
Sincerely, Brittany and grandmother Sondra!

Major props to grandmother Sondra for sharing books. Thanks, Brittany!!!!!!

Emily writes; Hello! I read your book, Fever 1793. It was a wonderful book and I love the style you write with. I think it would be a great movie to make. You should seriously consider having it made into a movie. I would love to be a part of it. I am just like Matilda.

I am always surprised at how many people think that authors control the process that turns books into movies. We don’t. The movie people do. I agree – I think Fever would be a slam dunk movie… and Philly has exactly the resources needed to pull it off. If you know any movie people, please tell them about this book.

Tuyen writes: … I am currently a student in the seventh grade at Indian Valley Middle school. I am sending you this email on the behalf of my reading class where we are doing author study. I chose you because your type of writing has grabbed my attention.
I read in an interview that you wrote when the world turns on you and I felt the same way, but wanted to know why you didn’t just write poems but chose to write books which took a longer time to write. Also in another part of the article I read that your character’s behavior comes from feelings of your own and I wanted to ask you why do you chose to put your problems into the world of your character’s.
Words become short so I’ll end my email saying that I really did enjoy a lot of your books, especially “Fever 1973” and “Speak”.
P.S. You are a great writer so continue what you do best
P.P.S Thanks for reading

I do write poetry, but it is private. Well, so far it’s been private. Poetry is the form I turn to when I am depressed or afraid. I’ve thought about writing a novel in verse (who hasn’t at this point?) but I am not sure I have the skill to pull it off. Putting my problems into the life of a character helps me look at the problem from a new point of view and helps me learn about myself.

Kayla writes: I loved your book speak it was hard to listen to in class because when the book cursed everyone would laugh like they never heard a curse word when the cuss everyday. Well i thought i would let you know i loved the book. Cant wait until we read the next one if we do.

Cuss words are funny. I must write an essay about them someday… after I slay the Deadline Dragon

Caitlyn (age 11) writes: I have read all of your books even though u haven’t made any more books I still appreciate that u wrote all of those books and everyone is wonderful they inspire me to be a writer .


Nice talking to you, too!