Friday, February 03, 2017

3rd Time, Still a Charm in Florida

There are only three schools I've visited after the release of each of my three books. And I've always visited them in the same week because they're located very close to each other in Florida: Charlotte High School, Lemon Bay High School, and Port Charlotte High School.

The first time I visited, they'd displayed one of the American Library Association READ posters of me reading The Monster at the End of This Book, and took a photo of me pointing to that poster. The next year, we took a photo of me pointing at the photo of me pointing to that poster. This year, we took a photo of me pointing at the photo of me pointing at the photo of me pointing to that poster.

These schools always go all out, both in making me feel welcome, and getting the students excited.

Here was a backdrop for one of my signings:

At another school, I signed under a tent similar to the Bigtop in What Light. The students who helped me wore nametags labeled Sierra and Heather. It wasn't until the end of the day that I realized those weren't their real names. (I assumed they were chosen specifically because their names matched those of my main character and her friend. Nope! Just a cute addition.)

These cookies were delicious. And check out the Easter mug! It's exactly how I envisioned the one Sierra uses, though hers obviously didn't include her words, "I've been raised to believe that everyone can become better."

For an assignment, a student illustrated each of the reasons from Thirteen Reasons Why...

...and several scenes from The Future of Us.

One class shared with me highly annotated copies of several pages from Thirteen Reasons Why.

And have you ever eaten a tie-dye cake? Because I have!

It was also great timing for my third visit to the area, because it coincided with the release of artwork for Netflix's upcoming adaptation of 13 Reasons Why!

I was having lunch with several students when the first video teaser went live.

If you haven't seen it already, here it is:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Twelve Crazy Days Before Christmas (2016 edition)

The following story, to be told over the 12 days leading up to Christmas, is from a picture book manuscript I wrote years ago. I finally decided to post it here for all of you, and a friend agreed to do an illustration for each day. Every day, the latest installment will be added to the bottom of this post.

Just click the pics to enlarge!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

WHAT LIGHT...Go Yonder

A little over a month ago, my new book came out. I was so thankful my publisher organized a tour for me because my favorite part of being an author is meeting readers. In this post, I want to share with you a research trip I took while writing the book, but first I'll share some pics from the tour that were a result of finally...finally!...finishing WHAT LIGHT.

The first stop on my tour began as perfectly as I'd hoped. I had a great school visit, and then gave a talk at a local bookstore where I saw my book's floor display for the first time. So beautiful!

After spending a full day speaking and meeting people, signing books, and taking selfies, there can be a lonely adjustment period. So even if it's late, I often grab a dinner and read before going up to my room. This time, I noticed John Cho sitting at a nearby table, but I didn't want to interrupt his dinner. And then Kal Penn joined him, and I...well...come on! So I told them I just started a book tour and would love to get a photo if it wasn't an inconvenience. But those two were so cool, and said they were huge readers, they invited me to join them for dinner. How cool is that!?

(It's very cool.)

Throughout the tour, the school visits were incredible. I'm so grateful that I continue to get asked to speak about the serious issues in THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, and I love discussing how much fun I had writing THE FUTURE OF US, but it's been so nice to also talk about the uplifitng aspects of my new book. And schools used its setting to create some very festive art for my visits!

Schools also used the concepts of forgiveness and reaching out to others for projects, like writing encouraging thoughts...

...and words of kindness on thematic art hung throughout the library.

Bookstores got into the theme, as well. Many offered hot cocoa (with the WHAT LIGHT hot cocoa packets my publisher provided), to be stirred with candycanes like Sierra does in the book.

All of that was wonderful and made me feel great. But it was still all about the students!

So about that research trip...

The idea for WHAT LIGHT came from a newspaper article about a family that lives seventeen hours to the north of me, but for one month a year, they turn this local lot...

...into this Christmas tree paradise!

The idea of having two homes during the year, one on a small lot selling trees while living in a trailer, and the other living in a house on hundreds of acres of farmland, intrigued me. So I headed seventeen hours to the north!

I visited the Hopper Bros. farm and received a tour by the owner, Dennis (who makes a cameo in my book as the owner of the other tree lot in town). Before I went on my research trip, I read a few books on growing and selling Christmas trees so I could ask specific questions instead of merely getting a feel for the basics.

Something that makes me feel like a professional author is when I don't write interesting details I've learned that won't add to the feel or progress of the story. But I learned so much! And while I didn't use the majority of what I learned, the mere confidence I gained to write about people who live this life most definitely made it into the book.

I visited two other Christmas tree farms while in the Pacific Northwest, and sometimes things that I saw inspired scenes.

I also visited a Christmas tree farm tradeshow going on that weekend. My namebadge didn't list a farm or company. It said: author. And you don't walk around a tradeshow telling people you're writing about their business unless you do it. So I did!

It just took me more years than I expected.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Buckeye to Lone Star

When I landed in Cleveland, Ohio last week, I zoomed straight to the house used as Ralphie's in A Christmas Story. I took a tour of the place previously, as seen here, but this time I just wanted to get a couple shots with it as a background for my soon-to-be released Christmas story.

In earlier trips to the area, I never got to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but this time I was determined to change that. So I did! And I got to see one of Slash's hats...

and Bruce's outfit from his Born in the U.S.A. album cover...

and the scribbled lyrics to Jimi's originally titled "Purple Haze Jesus Saves".

But in beweent the Christmas house and the hall of rock, I visited Holy Name High School in Parma Heights.

They were a lovely bunch of nicely dressed students.

And they had some of the best questions. There were questions about character motivation, my own take-away from my books, and even a request to try to get Selena Gomez as some dude's prom date.

Then I had snacks and further conversation with 13 students. (The number 13 was just a coincidence...they said.)

After Ohio, I took a brief breather in California, then it was back on a plane to Texas. There, I visited several very nice art museums in Fort Worth, featuring artists I've studied a lot recently, like Thomas Cole.

That evening, I met up with the organizers and fellow authors to kick-off the Mansfield Book Festival Mellow Mushroom. Here I am with Daniel Jose Older and Christina Diaz Gonzales with our cupcakes (provided by Creations Baking Company).

The first presentation I went to was for Kid Chef Eliana. She is an incredible presenter...

and a delicious cook! I had her book Cool Kids Cook: Fresh and Fit signed for Isaiah.

One of the most entertaining while educational presentations I've seen was Nathan Hale's discussion of his "Hazardous Tales" series. Is there any better combination than hilarious and historical? I mean, if Nathan and Eliana did a program together, that would unbeatable!

I gave a keynote presentation, which is always fun (though slightly intimidating when other authors are present), where I got to get rid of more packets of my What Light hot chocolate in exchange for questions.

That was followed by a panel about social media with Julie Murphy and Kelsey Macke. So this pic, I guess, is Murphy, Mac and Me!