Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!!!

The following is my annual Easter re-post.

Every so often, a reader will tell me their impression of something I wrote in a way that deepens my own understanding of my own words. Someone in Florida once told me how a decision one of my characters made helped her illustrate a sentiment she'd been trying to get across to her friends.

Here's what she told me:

In the past, I've had to help friends realize that life goes on even after you've made a poor decision. Not because you move on or get over it, but because you grow as a result of it. You build something new, something with a higher purpose, using what you've learned as one of your bricks.

When I read that, my heart leapt! Since there was no way I could say it any better, I immediately knew I'd be using her words in future speeches (and blog posts).

So what does this have to do with Easter?

One of the most beautiful ideas surrounding this holiday is that we're all given an opportunity to make corrections if we find ourselves traveling down a road we don't want to (or shouldn't) be on. In fact, we're given that opportunity to change every day. Every second! But sometimes we need a calendar to remind us.

Refresh. Repair. Rebirth. Whatever you want to call it...

Renewal is a wonderful blessing!

Easter 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Temescal Canyon & Huntington Beach

My cousin teaches Spanish at Temescal Canyon High School in southern California. We've been trying to organize an author visit for a while, and last week we finally made it happen! I love speaking at schools (so feel free to invite me!), but there is an extra jolt of excitement when I get to display for my family what I do when I'm not sitting at a computer writing books...or blog posts.

My cousin Tracy's entire family took time off from work or school (I know, I wish I had an author in the family while growing up!) to hear me speak.

Right after speaking and signing books at T.C.H.S., I zipped across the highway to speak at a fundraiser for Huntington Beach Reads One Book. This was the sixth year of this event, when the entire community is encouraged to read the same book, and the HBReads committee organizes several events to discuss various aspects of the chosen books. This year they chose Thirteen Reasons Why, their first fiction or YA selection.

After the fundraiser, I spoke to a group inside the gym at Huntington Beach High School. I mostly discussed bullying, and what I learned about that issue both before and after writing my novel. In the back of the gym was a display of student-made movie posters for my book.

The next morning, students from several local high schools were bused into the gym to hear me speak. I always start by asking how many of them have read at least one of my books. When the great majority of their hands go up, my first thought is always, "Dude!" (I know, it'd be nice if my first thought was something more philosophical, but Dude! it is.)

And here are close-ups of a few of the posters:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hey Now, You're a Rock Star

Last week, my family flew to Portland, Oregon to attend a performance at my nephew’s middle school. I love Portland! Not only do I have family there, it’s such a literary town. I’ve been there twice for speaking events. Also, that area gave us Beverly Cleary, and I love Beverly Cleary! Some of her best-loved books are set in Portland, and the town even renamed her old elementary school Beverly Cleary School. (In contrast, my town hasn’t even hinted that they’re thinking of changing my old high school to Jay Asher Senior High.)

Because I travel so much, when JoanMarie and Isaiah normally go to the airport, Isaiah knows they’re dropping me off so I can “Go to work.” So it’s nice when my airplane-loving son gets to fly on a “passenger jet” with me (even though he’d much prefer to fly on a “military jet”).

To keep him occupied on the flights, we brought plenty of activities. If that meant I became the stickee for his stickers, I was game.

Like I said, Portland is a literary town. The day before we arrived, I noticed that several YA authors were speaking at Powell’s in Cedar Hills, a nearby town. (Aside from being literary, the people in that area are also very nice, including the officer who noticed I was driving at California freeway speeds. Sorry, Officer Warren.)

Here are Ann Aguirre, Lish McBride, Jessica Brody, Elizabeth Fama, Marissa Meyer, and JenniferBosworth. (Lish doesn't always pose like this, but sometimes a suggestion for an entire group to make the same silly pose doesn't work. Been there!)

I then joined these authors and an assortment of husbands and friends at a restaurant for a late dinner, where I had one of my most enjoyable group-author evenings in a long time. We talked about hippie communes, movies, infinite moments, future book projects, and our favorite literary critics.
Then it was time to see my nephew, Ellory, rock. The students at his middle school produced their own rock opera. Yes, the students did it. Not only did they sing all the songs and play the instruments, they also wrote every song in the production (Ellory wrote three numbers)!

Space Out was a lot of fun (even if my nephew's character had to die), with great songs and singing. Here's Ellory during his solo.

That wasn’t the end of our "rock" activities in Portland. Because Isaiah’s interest in heavy construction equipment is well known, my sister-in-law told us about a great site near her work, so we spent a lot of time watching rocks and concrete being moved from here to there.

We also took Isaiah to see Mo Phillips, a great Portland children's musician and songwriter. Here’s my son rockin’ out on his air guitar. No, I don’t know where he got that stance, but I refer to it as Izzy Straddlin’. (That joke was brought to you by the letters G-n-R.)

Then we put a real stringed instrument in his hands, and he instantly fell in love with the viola. This wasn’t a surprise since JoanMarie and both of his cousins played this instrument (or its cousin, the violin).

Every time he played a few notes successfully, he lifted his bow and beamed!

Next, I want to teach him to play the viola while doing the Izzy Stradlin’.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Cranbrook & Fremd

Cranbrook & Fremd sounds like it's either a lawfirm or a really bad buddy-cop movie, but they're really the names of two schools I visited in the past couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, none of my pics from Cranbrook saved (meaning, I accidentally deleted them), but my time there was inspiring. I've never spoken at a boarding school, and was fascinated to learn more about that and see how many beautiful experiences that school offers its students.

Just a couple hours after flying into Detroit and driving to Bloomfield Hills, I was speaking on a panel about bullying awareness and suicide prevention. The audience was made up of parents, which is something I love to see. It's only when adults aren't afraid to confront these issues and take them seriously that teens will feel comfortable reaching out and opening up.

The next day, I spoke to two groups of students, one for 90 minutes and one for 45 minutes. Almost all of the students had read at least one of my books, which always makes the Q&A portion of my presentations fun. I love having the opportunity to say, "Thank you! I've never been asked that before."

Oh, wait, two pictures did save! A student had left one of my books at home, so asked me to sign the two books she had with her that she was currently reading.

("Thank you!  I've never been asked to sign these before.")

Shortly after returning from Michigan, I flew to Illinois. Fremd High School in Palatine was nearing the end of Writers Week XIX, where I would be giving two presentations on the last day (Day V). It was fun to follow the tweets all week long and see so many former students saying Writers Week was the one week they wish they could return to high school. And it really is an amazing week! Not only do they have speakers come in from the community (or California), students get to hear other students read their works aloud, and student musicians play between sessions.

Rather than taking the time to compose a beautiful panaramic shot of the students in my sessions, here are three hastily taken and smooshed together shots from each presentation. (You can click to enlarge.)

Yes, I know. It's time to get a new camera!