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!

The SPEAK house

I’m back in Columbus, OH, where they filmed SPEAK. The librarian at Columbus School for Girls, Beth Abramovitz, generously drove me to the street where the House of Speak is so I could see it.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Ta-da! (Yeah, I think they’ve painted it.)

Thanks to the young women at CSG for being so sweet and energetic yesterday. The day flew by. But (for a change) I remembered to take some photos.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I am the one not wearing a cute plaid skirt. (I’m not sure I could ever wear a uniform… too rebellious.)

I was lucky enough to be invited to a cool Seder dinner for Passover last night, too. Many thanks to the family that opened their home and their celebration to me, and to Beth for arranging a great day and evening.

As I was being driven back to my hotel, the moon was full and fat, and the spring wind was blowing and I was exhausted, but feeling content and grateful.

I’m off to one more day of Columbus (why do so many of the big cities of Ohio start with “C”?). Home tomorrow!!

Playing catch-up

The research for the speech I gave on Thursday wound up taking a lot longer than I thought it would, but it was worth every minute. The speech was about literacy and literature in Central New York (which I call the Heart of New York), and included one of my patented rants about how we Americans should not rest until everyone in our country is functionally literate. I gave the speech to a room of very nice people – the folks who head up local charities and libraries, as well as the business groups which donate to both. So, yeah, I was preaching to the choir. It was great.

(If anyone cares, I’ll post a link to the speech tomorrow.)

One of the highlights of the afternoon was seeing my fifth grade math teacher again, Mrs. Williams. She was the most beautiful teacher at my elementary school, and all of us girls had mad crushes on her. I didn’t even care that she taught math, I just wanted to be like her – dignified, elegant – when I grew up. I still do. I also met a girl (I think her name was Tiiso) who is a fourth-grader at that same elementary school – Ed Smith. That was fun and she was adorable.)

Hung out with my mom all morning, feeding her doughnuts and pumping her for stories about WWII, and what it was like to be a country girl and go to Brooklyn at age 18. She has great stories to tell. My ongoing war with Medicare on her behalf might reach a peaceful resolution, but I’m waiting until I see everything in writing before I believe it.

This afternoon I’m writing and mentally preparing for this evening’s games. Tomorrow I head towards Buffalo. I’ll be speaking at the Lancaster Middle School on Monday and the Lancaster High School on Tuesday.

This is the most enlightening and mind-opening essay I have read in a very long time. Please read it. Along with essays like that, I’ve been chewing my way through fantasy novels that I missed the last two decades. Neil Gaiman is still my #1 Author, but now I’m into Diana Wynne Jones. I tried to finish Charles DeLint’s Trader, but didn’t love it. Can someone recommend another one of his books to me?

Pictures of library heaven

the perfect high school?

First things first. Thank you, thank you to the students, staff, and parents of the Chadwick School (esp Kim Sonnenblick!) for making my visit so relaxing and enriching. I enjoyed the last two days so much!

Now I am in Cerritos. The ride from Palos Verdes here was mind-boggling; a typical LA mild-traffic jam kind of experience. I guess living out in the country is having more of an effect on me than I realized. I kept thinking who are all of these people? Where are they going? And how do they live so close to each other??? The driver of the car pointed out houses that cost millions of dollars that are – literally- separated from their neighbor’s million dollar house by only a few feet. I cannot get my head around that.

Today is catching up on work day, so I’ll keep this entry short. I have a question for you before I go: if you had a magic wand and were going to create the perfect high school from scratch, what would it be like?

Cali pictures

Chilly CA

It hasn’t been exactly warm here, but it hasn’t snowed so I’m not complaining. Had a blast at La Jolla Country Day and am doing it all over again at the Chadwick School which I think is just outside LA. (The geography of Los Angeles confuses me. The greater LA area feels as big as Vermont. All I know is that if you’re looking at the ocean, you’re facing west.)

Image hosting by TinyPic Frozen Chadwickians. They aren’t quite used to the brisk temperatures out here. But they are really nice.

Image hosting by TinyPic The Writing Workshop – highlight of the day for me!!

Image hosting by TinyPic The best sign I’ve seen.

My hotel is interesting. The people in the room next door have deadly boring lives which they detailed LOUDLY on the phone last night for hours. Argh. And the guy who decided that it was a good idea to race his motorcycle around the parking lot when I was trying to sleep? I wanted to introduce him to the Boring People. Maybe they could have talked him to death or something. But except for those two things, this has been a stellar trip and I’ve had the chance to hang out with fantastic people, so it’s all good.