Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

There is No Tampa State

Earlier this week, I gave four presentations at Tampa Preparatory School. All of the freshmen had read The Future of Us, and I did a writing workshop with them in the morning.


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.

The collection already has a first edition of Thirteen Reasons Why and several of Carolyn's books, and now they have The Future of Us.

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.

Also in the audience was the English Department Chair, Stephanie Cardillo, who was responsible for putting this visit together, and bestselling author Michael Connelly. (Their noggins are circled in green.)

Thanks for a wonderful visit, Tampa!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My So-Called Life-brary

Yes, the title of this post is cheesy. At least I'm not one of those people who doesn't realize he's cheesy. Oh, I realize it! But that title was the only way I could tie together the coolest elements of my trip to Burr Ridge, Illinois.

Some of you may already know of the influence My So-Called Life had on my approach to storytelling, especially while writing Thirteen Reasons Why. The tone of that show was constantly in mind while writing that book. I played the soundtrack repeatedly to set the right atmosphere. There's even a subtle tribute to MSCL after one of the party scenes.

So I was so excited to share the same in-flight recycled air, from L.A. to Chicago, with Tom Irwin, the man who played Graham Chase!

My first speaking engagement was at Hinsdale South High School. When I first arrived, I was shown a very cool poster designed for the library.

Then I spoke in the auditorium. I always love hearing what students come up with to introduce me. Sometimes, as was the case here, they give 13 reasons why they're excited to have an author visit.

Then I spoke at Burr Ridge Middle School.


I always enjoy the Q&A portion of presentations, especially when someone asks a question I've never been asked before. For example, a question about the number of times Clay "hurls" in my book!

In the evening, I spoke at Indian Prairie Public Library.

After my presenation, students accepted awards for entering the 7th Annual Write-On Cool Compositions Contest. Andrew Salgado gave the awards for songwriting, and I gave the awards for short story and poetry.

Thank you, Sarah, for organizing these wonderful events (and letting me steal some of these pics!).

Of course, I couldn't leave the area without grabbing a Chicago dog at the airport.

Yes, I tried to add Chicago dog into the title of this post, but I couldn't make it work. And yes, that disappoints me very much.

Thursday, November 01, 2012