During the Q&A, one student reminded me that Tampa State is mentioned in The Future of Us. A fairly big plot point revolves around that school, but until she brought it up, I'd forgotten that our character Emma originally ends up going there for college. Awesome!
And then the student asked, "Did you know there isn't a Tampa State? There is a Tampa University, though."
I stammered. "Um...uh...yes, of course. I mean, I think we knew that. And we must've had a reason."
During lunch, I called my co-author, Carolyn Mackler. "Yes, that was intentional," she said. "If we ended up writing a sequel, we knew there'd be several scenes set there, and we might need our school to have a different set-up than Tampa University." "Oh, right," I said, "just like Josh and Emma live in Lake Forest, Pennsylvania, which isn't a real town." "Exactly," Carolyn said.
See? I knew we had a reason!
And then I gave a writing workshop to the seniors, who had all read Thirteen Reasons Why.
(Thankfully, in that book, I don't name a city or state where any part of the story takes place!)
During the last period of the day, I gave a presentation to the entire school. While they filed in, I took a photo. Scenes like this make me laugh. I still get stagefright before I speak, but I know my pre-published self would faint if he knew I'd one day be speaking in front of groups like this. And he wouldn't believe it if I told him I actually enjoy it!
Friend and local author, Greg Neri, then took me to the University of South Florida (not a fictional school!) to visit their library's Ted Hipple Special Collection. That collection of thousands of YA novels includes "[s]igned first editions, manuscripts, authors' working notes, and page proofs" that "provide a window to explore the genre's creation."
Here I am with Greg and the Special Collectors (my name for their rock band), including Dr. Joan Kaywell. Ms. Kaywell later interviewed me for a video anthology they're putting together.
Before I left, I got to hold a stone tablet with cuneiform writing that's over 3,000 years old!
Back at Tampa Prep, I gave an evening presentation. In the audience was Alicia Thompson, author of Psych Major Syndrome, who reminded me that I included her book in this list.
Thanks for a wonderful visit, Tampa!