I've said this before, and this is a good time to repeat myself, but one of the most gratifying aspects of traveling to speak is finding fascinating people everywhere I go. I'm rather shy, and I'm horrible at small talk, but some people know how to make impromptu conversation easy for anyone. I get nervous whenever I find out a stranger is picking me up from an airport and driving me a good distance away (in this case, 90 minutes), but this drive was only the first of many fun and thought provoking moments on my recent trip to Bradford, Pennsylvania. We talked about UFOs and social inequality and movies and farms and I actually looked forward to my return trip.
Until then, there were many more things to experience. First, I had dinner with some of the organizers of my event and four students who won dinner with me via an essay contest. Their parents were there, as well, and we had great conversations about literature. Our photo even found its way into the local newspaper!
I then spoke at Fretz Middle School, where most of the students had read at least one of my books (not so at the elementary school...which is probably an okay thing). One of the older students created the following piece of art on a canvas, which I then signed for her.
Before my evening presentation, I had time to visit the Zippo/Case Musem. Zippo is known for its lighters, and Case for its knives, and while I'm not an aficionado of either, I am a great appreciator of people who are aficionados of things I'm not, and I believe that is the most I've ever used aficionado in a sentence. It was a great museum, tracing the impressive history of both companies. Plus, they had a Zippo car!
The people who invited me into their community organized a V.I.P. tour of the museum, which was an unexpected honor. I listened intently and oohed and ahhed respectfully over both brands, but the thing I really loved was this contraption.
Love these things!
They also gave me an employee discount in the store! Even though neither of us smoke, I bought one lighter that reminded me of JoanMarie and one for myself.
My evening talk took place in Wick Chapel at the University of Pittsburgh - Bradford. You never know how many people will turn out for things like this, especially when it's raining, but the place was packed. I was especially pleased about that because, before I spoke, those in attendance heard school psychologist Sarah Schreiber talk about "Building Kinder Communities" and cyberbullying. (How is it that we forget community continues online?) Cyberbullying is something I'm so glad I never had to experience in high school. Occasionally experiencing and witnessing it as an adult is hard enough.
A group of middle school book club members presented me with a poster describing "Thirteen Reasons Why We Love Jay Asher." As I mentioned at the beginning of my presentation, things like this always amuse me. When I was in middle school, girls couldn't come up with even one reason!
Other students presented me with a very pretty collage of quotes from my book and beautiful quotes about kindness.
I am one very lucky author with some very inspiring readers.