Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lake Placid

When I first became an author and spoke in a place I'd never been, I always stayed an extra day to check out the town. The school or library hosting me would pay for the hotel nights needed for my visit, and I paid for the extra night. It didn't matter how small the town, I always found something beautiful and unique on my Days of Exploration.
Eventually, especially with a young son at home, I stopped staying those extra days. While I've absolutely loved every town I've visited, I leave some places kicking myself that I didn't stay that extra day.
Lake Placid, in New York, is one of those towns. The downtown was so quaint, and the surrounding area was so beautiful!
I flew into Albany and then had a 2.5 hour drive to Lake Placid. When I need to rent a car, I usually pick something small and fuel efficient. But I checked the weather the night before I left sunny California, and I thankfully was able to upgrade to something a bit heavier because it snowed the entire drive.

Entering Lake Placid at night was kind of eerie. I knew the Winter Olympics were held there in 1980, but I didn't know most of the structures built for that event were still up. So when two ginormous silhouetted "things" appeared above the trees, it freaked me out! It didn't look like a factory. It looked like where you'd launch something into space. But as a NASA buff, I knew there wasn't a launch site in Lake Placid.

Turns out...they were ski jumps.

I spoke to the students of Lake Placid High in the morning, and they were a lot of fun!

I spent the rest of the day in the school library, where students and classes came throughout the day for informal chatting. We discussed books, writing, my teen years, and I may have leaked some Thirteen Reasons Why info that I wasn't supposed to leak yet. Thankfully, those students promised not to tweet anything. And they haven't!

When I was in high school, I took two semesters of Creative Writing. I wasn't any good at it, and I'm thankful I didn't know that at the time. Sadly, most schools have cut their elective writing classes. So I'm always thrilled to find schools like L.P.H.S. that found ways to keep those classes. In fact, one of the classes that joined me in the library studies nothing but Crime Noir literature. How specific and awesome is that!?!?

In the evening, I spoke on a panel about suicide prevention. The CYC helped bring me to Lake Placid, and any community that has a group like that is extremely fortunate.

The Bookstore Plus sold my books during my events. In the little downtime I had, I made my way over there and I picked up three books: a novel set in Lake Placid, Sugar and Ice, by nearby author Kate Messner; a book about the Miracle on Ice, The Boys of Winter, which took place in the hockey arena built right next to the high school (and I mean, right next to it!); and Champ, about America's own Loch Ness-type monster. So that's one fiction book, one non-fiction, and one non-fiction about something fictitious...or is it?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ben Davis High School

I'm sick. And I blame the guy sitting beside me on the flight home from Indiana. He kept talking at me, even with my earbuds in. Talking at me, even while I was reading. Talking at me, even though I pretended to play games on my phone now that we're allowed to do that!

So I blame him.

But my author visit to Ben Davis High in Indianapolis was still great! I was one of many authors there for their first Literacy Conference. Soon after arriving, I went out to dinner with several people on the faculty. I sat beside Sam Bracken, who wrote My Orange Duffel Bag. That is one inspiring dude who cares so much for his readers, as well as people who aren't his readers.

Not that I don't! I do. I'm just pointing out his awesomeness.

Not that I'm saying I'm awesome. I'm not saying that! I just...oh, never mind.

I was supposed to speak in the auditorium to all ninth graders and all students from the connected middle school. But because of Cold Days (not Snow Days...Cold Days), the middle school students couldn't come.

So the freshmen had to rock the place on their own!

Then I spoke to two individual tenth grade classrooms. Most of them had read Thirteen Reasons Why, which made for some great Q&A.

I love when traveling allows me to meet people I've interacted with online for years, and they seem like people I'd get along with. Mike Mullen is one of those guys!

Kids Ink Children's Bookstore sold books throughout the day, which was the first time I saw the floor display for my 50 States Against Bullying tour. There are still a few weeks for your school to apply for a visit, so have your school librarian visit here.

I wasn't able to hear Saundra Mitchell speak because our events were at the same time, but I was able to get a couple of her books signed! The other authors in the photo below are Gene Luen Yang, Eliot Schrefer, and Jason Reynolds. Gene, Eliot, and Jason spoke at a dinner, and the three of them made probably the best author combination I've heard. The differences in their topics, all conveyed with such passion, was fascinating.

Next up? I'm visiting Lake Placid, NY. And I will be better by then. I'm not letting that airplane-talker keep me down!

Monday, March 10, 2014

New York City to Los Angeles

To kick-off the nomination process for stops on my upcoming book tour, I flew to New York City last week. I gave a presentation at one school while schools across the country watched online. Of course, flying from California to New York with snowstorms approaching, everyone (including me) was nervous about whether I'd make it on time. I couldn't miss it!
Thankfully, I made it.
Before speaking at the school, I went to my publisher's office to have brunch with some of the many people who continue to have so much excitement for Thirteen Reasons Why (which is almost 6.5 years old now!).

Then I filmed a few videos that will be posted online in the near future. Like I always do after recorded interviews, I'm now thinking, "Why did I admit to that?" for a few of the answers.

We walked down to the Little Red Schoolhouse and Elizabeth Irwin High School (which is a mouthful, so thankfully they refer to it as LREI) for the webcast.

The students I spoke with in person were great. And I'm glad they were there! We had a back-up plan to do the webcast from the Penguin offices, with people from Penguin acting as my audience, if there was a snow day in NYC, but it all worked out. The front row in this pic is mostly made up of people from Penguin and School Library Journal (co-sponsors of this event).

The webcast will be posted on the SLJ site soon, and I'll link to that here when it's up.

It's weird being in such a large city where I have several really good friends, but having so little time to see any of them. I did get a chance to make a loop through Central Park with Carolyn Mackler, though. Here I am munching on goodies from Magnolia Bakery, a shop that gets a shout-out in our book, The Future of Us. In the background is Belvedere Castle, a location in one of Carolyn's previous books.

Before leaving, I had a delicious dinner with a few of my favorite people at Penguin: Carmela Iaria, Jessica Almon, and Ben Schrank. (If you're from Penguin and aren't in this photo, you should've been there. Because you're one of my favorite people, too!)

Back in California (you'll notice the clothes in the following photos don't look as warm), I was invited to participate in a stop on Lauren Oliver's book tour. Lauren was an editor at Razorbill when they bought Thirteen Reasons Why. When she became an author herself, I gave a quote for her first book, Before I Fall. And now she's promoting her eighth book, Panic.

Meanwhile, I'm still working on book three.


Before the event, I got to meet up with my good friend, now a Razorbill author herself(!), Romina Russell. Her book, Zodiac, comes out this December.

I got to the bookstore early, but not as earlier as I was hoping because of the L.A. Marathon and a cab that never showed up. I always like to take a sneak peek at how many people are sitting in the audience about 30 minutes before we begin.

But this time, I wasn't sneaky enough. You got me, Romance Bookie!

The chairs filled up nicely.

As someone who doesn't take selfies often, I'm somehow ending up with two selfies in this one blog post. And while Ellen's selfie at the Academy Awards (which I watched while in NYC!) broke Twitter with its massive retweets, I'm certain the crowd in ours reads much better books.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Atascadero, CA

I'm always happy to speak locally, and I got a chance to do that earlier this week at Atascadero High School. While I've travelled all over the country to speak, and even outside the U.S. a couple times, this was absolutely one of my favorite visits.

No, it wasn't because I got to sign two foreheads. Although, that was cool (usually, I only get asked to sign one forehead per school...if that!). The reason I loved this visit was mostly because the students in Ms. Hogan's Honors English classes had all read Thirteen Reasons Why.

I spoke to three of her classes, with each period lasting about 90 minutes. I wasn't required to stay the entire time, but because the classes had all discussed my book before the visit, they all had more than enough questions to keep me there.

And that's what made it fun! Their questions were extremely insightful, wanting to know my feelings about certain things that happened in the book and my thought process behind certain scenes.

When I speak to professional writers I rarely get this level of questioning, which gave me an opportunity to explore some new aspects of putting together a story.

Then I spoke in the school library...after eating a yummy salad provided by the district librarian, Ms. Bell, who also organized this visit. Before I spoke, though, we saw a great anti-bullying student video and heard from a Peer Helper at the school. (By the way, this school has a Wellness Center. Does the high school in your community have a place like this? Because it should!)

Thanks for being a great audience, Atascadero. Thank you for your great questions. And the stories some of you shared privately will stick with me forever.

Thank you.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Red Carpet Fantasies: Part III

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I get very excited to watch the Academy Awards each year. Not just because I get to eat my traditional pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby, but because I'm also a movie freak! (This year, I'll watch the show from a hotel room in NYC. Thankfully, this should keep me from stressing about the live webcast I'm doing the next day.)

One of my not-so-secret fantasies is to one day write an Oscar-nominated screenplay. Something just as exciting would be to have one of my novels turned into an Oscar-nominated adapted screenplay.

If either one of those things happen, hopefully I'll get the chance to walk down the red carpet. Of course, the question then becomes What will I wear? Or What shall I do with my hair?

So, with the help of InStyle's Hollywood Makeover, I decided to try on some hairdos of the nominated actresses of 2014...

Amy Adams for American Hustle:

Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine:

Sandra Bullock for Gravity:

Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle:

Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave:

Julia Roberts for August: Osage County:

Friday, February 07, 2014

Lincolnshire, IL

Back to Chicago!
As an author, I fly to Chicago more than anywhere else in the country. From there, it's just a short drive to speak in whichever school or conference I'm in town for. This time, I headed to the largest high school (by square footage) in the country, Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire.
Every two years, Stevenson hosts the Odyssey program. It's two days of nothing but fine arts, where students attend five workshops a day. And there is so much to choose from! I overheard students discuss classes on glassblowing, belly dancing, and stage fighting.
When I was in high school, I made a clay pot.
I gave two presentations each day during school, with sixty students per session. Every student who heard me speak got a free signed copy of Thirteen Reasons Why.

The library at Stevenson is beautiful. As the speaker, their stadium-type seating was great because I could easily see everyone.

When the first school day was over, my friend (and YA author) Christa Desir took me to Walker Bros., where she promised I could eat a pancake bigger than my head. But she wasn't entirely correct. Yes, it was physically bigger than my head, but there was no way I could eat it all! (Especially when it came stuffed with apples.)

That evening, I spoke to some students and adults in one of the school's theaters. (Yes, I said one of their theaters.)

The next day, I spoke to two more groups during school.

If you've read (or seen) Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you know there's a legendary piece of cheese on the basketball court that's bad luck to touch. At Stevenson, there's a similar tradition. In the center of a very busy hallway is a floor design no one walks across. No one! It doesn't matter how packed the floor is, everyone goes out of their way to walk around it. Everyone!

Actually, when classes were in session, I saw one guy walk across it, thinking no one was watching. And he got this real cocky look on his face when he thought he got away with it. But halfway down the hall, the dude's hair caught on fire.

It was pretty funny.

Even funnier, the Patriot holding the rifle in the artwork has six fingers. Six! Go on, count them.

Apparently this was an accident, but I think it's symbolic of the artist's political leanings. If the mascot ever let go of his gun to flip someone the bird by raising his middle finger, he'd have to raise his middle fingerS, thereby throwing a peace sign instead.

Pure genius.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Hungry Caterpillar Diet

Last week, on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, I shared my journey as I tested a popular 7-day diet. The Hungry Caterpillar Diet follows a food plan outlined in a bestselling book by dietitian (and occasional children's book author/illustrator) Eric Carle.
Here's how it progressed...
Day 1:
On Monday I ate through one apple.
Day 2:
On Tuesday I ate through two pears.

Day 3:
On Wednesday I ate through three plums.
(Well, prunes. Ripe plums aren't in season.)

Day 4:
On Thursday I ate through four strawberries.

Day 5:
On Friday I ate through five oranges.

Day 6:
On Saturday I ate through one piece of chocolate cake,
one ice-cream cone...
one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese...

one slice of salami, one lollipop...

one piece of cherry pie, one sausage...

one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon.

That night I had a stomachache.

Day 7:
On Sunday I realized we don't need fancy diets.
We're already beautiful butterflies!

By the way, that cherry pie and sausage combo was surprisingly good!