Sunday, June 26, 2016

In Orlando

Last week, I flew to Orlando for a couple of publishing events. It would be my first time to exclusively promote my upcoming novel, What Light, which I was very excited about. Coincidentally, some very special people happened to be visiting Orlando at the same time. My cousin Cindy's daughter was competing in a volleyball tournament. They live in California, several hours south of where I live, so we met up on the other side of the country. Another cousin, Michelle, lives in Florida a few hours from Orlando, so even more of the family was able to get together. 

A couple years ago, I posted about a YA writing retreat I attended. I wasn't able to attend their retreat last year, but this year they held it in Orlando. Though I couldn't hang out with them as much as last time, I did meet up with the authors for dinner. Kristin Harmel brought make-up bags for everyone, featuring our latest book release. But I've been using mine to carry Sharpies for autographing.

Visiting Orlando so soon after they were hit by horribly violent acts, there was a somberness that--rightfully--crept into conversations. Those attacks weighed on me heavily leading up to my visit, so I went to the makeshift memorials at these sites. Among the flowers, photos, crosses, and candles where Christina Grimmie last sang, a fan taped a handwritten note to a window about the inspiration in Christina's voice, as well as the life she lived.

I drove a couple librarians to the site of the Pulse tragedy. People were crying and praying, in groups and alone. The air was so hot and humid, and the terror of what happened in that small building behind the fence was crushing.

Conversations about these events continued throughout the week, but the publishing world also pushed forward.

At the ABC Children's Institute, part of the American Booksellers Association, Penguin held a dinner for several independent booksellers from around the country. To celebrate the upcoming releases of The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz and What Light, the menu was styled as if we were dining at Jay & Adam's Evergreen Tavern.

Most of my Orlando events were later in the week at the American Library Association conference. One event was a pizza party attended by many authors and a whole lot of teens. Each author sat at a table-o-teens for several minutes to discuss their latest books, and then moved to the next table-o-teens where the pitch was repeated. During that time, the teens dines and the authors attempted. This is what I'd been able to eat after a few rounds.

My first official signing of What Light was thrilling! I'd been brainstorming and working on this book for over a decade...and now people get to read it! The signing line, which wrapped beyond where I could see it, gave me goosebumps.

Later, when Greg Neri tried to steal my man-purse (I mean, Sharpie container), my wrist held strong!

There were several restrooms marked for men and women around the convention, but this was the first event where I've seen a couple opened as gender-neutral. I was curious as to how people would react. Truly, it was kind of beautiful to see people notice the sign, shrug (if they offered a reaction at all), and head on in to take care of their natural business. After the nearby Pulse tragedy, it felt like an especially huge deal. After having lunch with my author friend Amber Hart and gonna-be author friend Tori Kelley, we wanted to get a pic at the entrance to this ALA awesomeness.

It's always flattering when people fanboy and fangirl while getting an autograph. Myself, I did plenty of fanboying at ALA. I's Anne M. Martin! Not only is she the author behind The Baby-Sitters Club series, but she's bringing one of my favorite series back-to-life. While I read about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle growing up, today's kids will get to read those same books, but also new ones about her niece, Missy Piggle-Wiggle.

I finally got to meet a friend of some of my author friends, Amy Lukaviks, who writes creepy and scary books. That--be prepared!--is a bucket-list genre for me, too.

I also got to meet a man whose commentaries I always enjoy, Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book. If you don't read Roger, you should!

PIP (People In Publishing) always laugh at me for assuming other PIP won't know who I am. But, whatever! It makes it that much more exciting for me when people do know who I am. Simply asking for a selfie for this blog post, I had a couple of those exciting moments when I met Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)...

...and Kwame Alexander.

Actually, I already knew Kwame knew who I was, but only because of a freak-out fanboy moment I had earlier on Twitter.

Dude. I mean, just...dude!

I took part in another table-hopping pitch fest, but this time with librarians and many more authors. Check out all these story-scribblers!

For my final event before heading to the airport, I had a book signing at a table next to Grace Lin, which allowed me to get another great book signed for my son.

The advance reading copies I came home with, though the authors weren't in Orlando to sign them, were How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, The Best Man by Richard Peck, and One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards.

Books I had signed and personalized to me were Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson, Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, Poppy Mayberry, the Monday by Jennie Brown, The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz, The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles, Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid, The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics, The Homecoming by Stacie Ramey, and The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat.

Books I had signed for my son were Whoosh! by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate, Ling & Ting: Together in All Weather by Grace Lin, Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure by Ann M. Martin and Annie Parnell, and Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton written and illustrated by Don Tate.

Monday, June 13, 2016

WHAT LIGHT: Dear Readers

When my publisher was putting together the advance copies of What Light, I asked if I could write a letter to introduce the book to the booksellers, librarians, and anyone else getting an early look. They also added a photo that I took at one of the farms I visited while researching the story.

Here's what it looks like in the advance copies:

And here's what it says:

"...make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with light."

Dear Readers,

     Since the debut of my first novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, the themes of hope and forgiveness have been at the center of my interactions with teens. Many have told me they finally felt understood within the pages of that book, even if it could never reflect all parts of their lives. Others, while they could appreciate the book, didn't see it as a reflection of their experiences. A novel about their lives, sadly, would not get hailed as "a brave, honest look at the teen years." So, after a recent book tour that had me speaking to such a variety of students in all fifty states, I felt drawn to explore hope and forgiveness again, but in a new way.
     The story of What Light has been glowing in my mind for a long time. I read a newspaper profile about a family with a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. Every year, they hauled the trees south and sold them on a lot where I live in California. The part of their story that stood out most concerned their children. When not selling trees, they attended a nearby public school or hung out with friends. When the holiday was over, the whole family went back home. Two sets of friends? A defined timeline? There had to be a story there! But it would take about a dozen years before I found it.
     I continuously brainstormed and took notes even after I began work on Thirteen Reasons Why. That book describes the suicide of someone who lost hope in the future and was unable to forgive the past, though hope and forgiveness are found by someone left behind. If I were to address those themes a second time, I wanted to bookend them in an uplifting story about love.
     I looked closer at my notes for What Light and saw that potential. It would let me revisit many similar issues, but through different lenses. Love rather than hurt. Overcoming rather than succumbing. Forgiveness--especially the forgiveness of self--rather than guilt.
     I wrote this book for the teens I've met who've had too many dark days but hold on to hope that things can get better. And I wrote it for the teens I've met who have mostly good days but who still encounter sadness and difficult decisions.
     It is a story I've wanted to share for a long time: What Light.

With gratitude,
Jay Asher

"...behold this night
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light."
--William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

You can find out more about What Light, or pre-order it, by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Author Events: June 2016

Where you can find me in the next few weeks:

June 10
Barnes & Noble
(open to everyone)
98 Middlesex Turnpike
Burlington, Massachusetts

June 12
Barnes & Noble
with Mary Weber and K. Makansi
(open to everyone)
894 Marsh Street
San Luis Obispo, California

June 16
(open to all teens)
North Central University
Minneapolis, Minnesota
evening keynote (open to everyone): 7pm

June 22
(for booksellers)
Orlando, Florida

June 25-26
(for librarians)
Orlando, Florida

Plus, a video I love about six
awesome upcoming books!
(Mine, What Light, is the last one discussed.)