Road Trip #2

No sooner had we unpacked from Lake Placid than OfficeMouse and I packed again. Yesterday we traveled to Amherst, MA, home of Theo Black, aka my WebGod, and his talented and fun wife Holly Black. (Yeah, her.) Holly is running a Spiderwick contest on her blog that involves free DVDs and lolcats, so be sure to check it out.

We are here so that the OfficeMouse can learn at the feet of the master (Yeah, Theo) the arcane magic involved with updated my website with things like book tour dates. I have never had an assistant before and I am astounded at what a difference she has made in my life in just a couple of weeks. I’ve been pretty good at staying on top of my writing responsibilities (though not as good as I’d like), but in order to do so, I let everything else go to hell.

Office assistants clear up the hell part.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Yesterday she had me working on fan mail in the car while she drove.

We’re leaving soon on another adventure, then the journey home, but there are two more photos from the race I want to show you.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Underneath the brims of those caps are John Connolly (the great English teacher I told you about yesterday) and me.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic BH and I stretching our tender calves at a gas station on the way home from the race. We’re not hurting as much as I thought we would, but we’re definitely moving slower.

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?