Last Thursday through Saturday was one of the most fulfilling three days of my author career. It was hectic, yet inspiring. It began with a presentation to 6th and 8th graders at A.D. Oliver Middle School in Brockport, NY.
This was followed by lunch at Brockport High School.
If you've been there, and you've read any Carolyn Mackler books, it may feel familiar. That's where she went to school, and where she visualizes a lot of her scenes taking place as she writes them (such as the track scenes in The Future of Us). And even though we're good friends now, I felt a little "celebrity stalker" when I drove by the home where The Carolyn Mackler grew up.
While having lunch with some students, I got to experience my first high school fire drill in over twenty years!
(The word selfie was not in the dictionary during my last drill.)
Back at the middle school, I spoke to the 7th graders.
And I signed a Hello Kitty backpack (my first autographed Hello Kitty item in four-and-a-half years)!
Back at Brockport High, about to begin speaking, I noticed the podium was a gift from the Class of 1996. 1996? That's the year in which Carolyn and I set The Future of Us.
The next day was spent mostly at Rush-Henrietta Senior High in Henrietta, NY. Their library had a display of my books alongside non-fiction books dealing with some issues presented in my work.
I met a student who looked exactly like the guy on the cover of A.S. King's Everybody Sees the Ants.
During lunch, we had cake, and everyone was kind enough to avoid eating my name. Isn't that sweet?
The library has a column where authors and librarians leave handprints. I found the perfect spot for mine, just below my mentor, Kathleen Duey.
I then spoke at the Ninth Grade Academy, which was one of the most enthusiastic audiences I'd ever spoken in front of.
Saturday was the day of the 9th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival. Thirty-one authors were set to appear, though a few couldn't make it because of flight cancellations, which was very unfortunate (for them and us). The rest of us were picked up from the hotel in limos. When we arrived at the event, some of us stayed in the limos and some of us jumped into the back of a pick-up truck for our grand entrance.
And it was indeed a grand entrance! Screaming readers welcomed us, and we were led into the building by a marching band.
Each author was given a bag of pins with our faces on them to hand out. A late-addition to the author crew was Amber Lough, my sister-in-agent. Since she didn't have her mug on a bag of pins, she beautifully turned one of mine into a mirror-image of herself.
I have no idea how many teens attended this massive literature rally, but this pic shows the people right in front of me. It doesn't show the packed stadium seating on both sides.
This is when each author partook in an event called Truth-or-Talent, hosted by Charles Benoit. A lot of people who hear me speak have told me I don't seem shy, but I am. I guess I'm just a good actor! My stomach, brain, heart, knees, and sweat glands hate me for agreeing to speak so often. And while I do enjoy it once I begin, the anticipation is agony. So waiting to hear my name called for this was excruciating! And really, what talent do I have beyond writing? I wasn't sure! But the night before, two authors were rehearsing "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. And that's why I teamed up with Amber Lough and Alethea Kontis. It was the perfect opportunity to display my fabulous impersonation of seaweed.
Then Greg Neri was called upon. He was planning to beatbox to "Come and Get It" by Selena Gomez. For for some totally unplanned (*wink-wink") reason, he decided to call me out to perform with him. As I said into the microphone, "I do seaweed. I don't sing!" But that day, I sang in front of the biggest audience I've ever sung in front of before (or ever will again).
Each author gave three presentations throughout the day. My first speech almost turned into a fire code violation, so we had to ask a bunch of people to come back later. And yes, I would be happy to be called Jay "Fire Code Violating" Asher!
Finally, we came to the ginormous autographing party. Mostly books were signed, but we also autographed shirts, bags, phones, and I had the opportunity to sign the inside of a girl's glasses.
Afterward, I couldn't travel to Rochester without visiting the beautiful and eerie Mount Hope Cemetery, the final resting home of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Before the gates closed, I had time to locate one of the two.
The next morning, I got in a final chat with (Uncle) Terry Trueman, Joelle Charbonneau, and Alex London, before heading to the airport.
My trip to Rochester is severely incomplete as described in the post above. I had so many more beautiful moments with authors I'm always happy to see or that I met for the first time. I had great conversations with so many readers, and the librarians and teachers who drove me around and hosted me at their schools are all people I hope to see again.
So yes, I'll definitely make another trek to a future Rochester Teen Book Fest!