Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ringing in 2010 as a Penguin

As the clock counts down to the end of what's been an exciting and crazy year, I'll be with JoanMarie in Yosemite National Park. We wanted to attend their New Year's Eve celebration last year, but tickets sold out extremely fast. So this year, the very day they went on sale in March, I woke up early and got 'em!

So that's where I'll be at the beginning of 2010, wearing a tuxedo for only the second time in my life. The first was at my senior prom almost 17 years ago...

I'll see you in 2010 with more posts about whatever I feel like postin' at the time, more contests (including a giveaway of two very special books during the first week of the new year), and hopefully something really exciting will happen so I can uncross my fingers and tell you all about it!

Thank you all for making 2009 a year which I'll never forget.

Friday, December 25, 2009

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

(Just in case your Christmas card got lost in the mail!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Michelle Does Well

A few weeks after JoanMarie and I married, we moved to Wyoming for six months so she could complete a college internship. Although I didn't know it at the time, if not for that move, I probably never would have written Thirteen Reasons Why.

While there, I worked part-time as a bookseller at an indie bookstore and part-time as an assistant children's librarian. Because of that library job, I first began reading teen novels. It was on my way to that job that I first came up with the idea for my own teen novel. Of course, it was also at that job that I led my very first children's storytime...and only one child showed up. Reading a story to one child is fine, but leading one child in movement-oriented songs is extremely embarrassing, especially when the mom is watching and you know she can tell you have no idea what you're doing.

But anyway...

I just found out that Michelle Havenga, the head children's librarian (and my boss), recently won the Wyoming Library Association's 2009 Distinguished Service Award!

Yay, Michelle!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

William “Bill” Woollen

JoanMarie’s stepfather, my stepfather-in-law, passed away early this week. We’re in Mount Shasta right now, along with JoanMarie’s youngest sister, staying with their mother. The other two sisters were in town a couple of days ago.

Bill was born in 1922. He served in the U.S. Combat Infantry 103rd Division in World War II and was a prisoner of war survivor. He worked as a drafter and a church pastor, which is where he met DonnaJo, the church organist (JoanMarie’s mom). I always loved that the church pastor married the organist!

I will always remember Bill as a great storyteller and, over the past several days, have enjoyed recalling many of my conversations with him.

God bless, Bill.

(For your consideration this holiday season, here’s a link to Bill’s favorite charity: ChildFund International)

Other notable events from 1922:
  • The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed, giving women the right to vote.
  • King Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered.
  • Reader’s Digest debuted.
  • A man in Minnesota became the first person to ski on water.
  • Judy Garland was born.
  • Nosferatu the Vampire was released.
  • The first Newbery Award was given to The Story of Mankind. Honor books: The Great Quest, Cedric the Forester, The Old Tobacco Shop: A True Account of What Befell a Little Boy in Search of Adventure, The Golden Fleece and The Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles, The Windy Hill

Monday, December 14, 2009

Extra butter on the popcorn, please

Original shots, borrowed clips, great music...and anime!

Psst! Hey, Hollywood. Are ya payin' attention?

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Thank You, Cleveland!"

For my final book-related outing of the year, Cleveland was a great note to end on. Sure, it was bone-chilling outside. Sure, I should've listened to JoanMarie and packed warmer clothes. But it was still a wonderful visit!

The first school I spoke at was Brush High School. Two other schools sent students to hear my presentation, and another six watched live through a distance learning program. So how many total students was I speaking to? I have no idea!

A lot of people ask if I ever get writer's cramp from signing books. Well, I don't believe in writer's cramp! Signing books is just way too much fun to let hand muscles get in the way. It's mind over matter, baby.

Then I spoke at Independence High School. They welcomed me with shiny red glitter, which is my absolute favorite color of glitter. (I lied. I don't really have a favorite color of glitter. But red glitter does look nice!)

Okay, has anyone heard of Front Row Joe? The girls in the front row at IHS kept insisting they were Front Row Joes, to which I could only say, "That's really nice." But apparently F.R. Joe is the feline mascot for Cinemark Theaters and he sits in the front row at their theaters. (I know. What???)

For dinner, I had a great meal with three students from both schools, along with their school librarians, at The Bistro. That's the restaurant inside Joseph-Beth Booksellers, and it is yummy! (In fact, I had three meals there the past couple of days. All delicious!)

Finally, to end my first trip to Ohio, I had a booksigning at the bookstore.


I also got to see the house from A Christmas Story!!!

And yes, they had a leg lamp in the window.

Thank you, Sharon, for getting me to all of my events on time...and indulging my cheesy tourist requests.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"Hello, Cleveland!"

I will try my absolute hardest not to shout the title of this post at the beginning of my presentations on Friday. (In case you're scratching your head, "Hello, Cleveland!" is one of many classic lines from the movie Spinal Tap.)

This will be my first trip to Ohio, and also my final book event of the year. After speaking at two high schools during the day, I'll sign books at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at 7pm. If you're around, please stop by!

But first, if there's time after my flight arrives on Thursday, I'm hoping to swing by the A Christmas Story house. I actually saw A Christmas Story this Tuesday night at the Fremont theater. (You may know that theater as the inspiration for the Crestmont theater in my book.) The older I get, I swear, the funnier that movie gets!

Speaking of Christmas houses...

I'm reading a non-fiction book right now by Hank Stuever called Tinsel: A Search for America's Christmas Present. One of the families Mr. Stuever follows for three Christmases in Frisco, Texas is the Trykoski family. Every holiday season, they set up an insane light display on their house and in their yard. When people drive by, they tune their radios to a certain station, and the lights put on a show to the music.

Check it out:

Monday, December 07, 2009

Where's the Messiah?

JoanMarie was raised on classical music. I was raised on classic rock. So she was excited to hear about a fundraising holiday concert which would include selections from Handel's Messiah (especially since that was something she performed in college).

The performance was set to take place in the partially restored Mission San Miguel.

Below is a photo "borrowed" from the Mission's website, and by the time we got to the place, almost all of the pews were filled. The musicians and choir were at the front of the church and it looked like it would be a beautiful performance. I was actually shocked to see so many people almost busting down the adobe walls of this minus-2000 population town.

The staff was very kind, setting up folding chairs to accommodate as many people as possible. Unfortunately, seven of us wouldn't fit. But they took pity on us and said that if we wanted to sit in a room off to the side, we would still hear the musicians, we just wouldn't be able to see them.

“Sure,” we said.

‘A room off to the side’ turned out to be ‘a room down the hall where we could kind of hear the concert through a tiny amplifier.’ (That's the amplifier beneath the table.)

A good attitude can make almost anything entertaining. But listening to a bunch of musicians and a choir filtered through one microphone and a small amplifier gets a little hard to listen to after a while.

So we left Mission San Miguel, stopped by Boo Boo Records, and picked up a version of Handel's Messiah as performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

I must admit, that Handel was a talented guy!

Quick Tip o' the Day: If you're ever on your way to see Handel's Messiah and make a quick stop in a store along the way, and if the clerk asks if you've got any plans for the day, the correct answer is, “We're going to see Handel's Messiah.” If you simply say, “We're going to see the Messiah,” the clerk will probably give you a weird look, stop talking to you, and give the impression that she can't wait for you to get out of the store.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

'Tis Better to Give...

Check out this article at ScienCentral.com: Joy of Giving

If you don't feel like reading the whole article, it's basically about a bunch of scientists who discovered that "donating to charities lit up the brain's reward circuits even more than receiving cash."

Sounds good to me. Count me in!

JoanMarie and I already have a few organizations we give to throughout the year. But because so many great charities are suffering this year, we're looking to donate to a few more...and that's where we'd like your help.

In the comments section, tell us about a charity you think should be remembered this season and include its website so everyone else can check it out. We'll pick at least one from your list to further light up the reward circuits in our brains.

As well, I'll link to your charities in the sidebar of my blog so anyone stopping by will have the same opportunities to light up their brains, too!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

What the Dickens?

On Wednesday, I came across an article in the New York Times which I'm so excited to share with you!

Each holiday season, The Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan displays the original handwritten manuscript of A Christmas Carol (in a sealed glass case, of course) for public viewing. Only one page can be seen each year, but it's fascinating to see the edits Mr. Dickens made on the page. For example, when Scrooge sees Marley's ghost, he tries to dismiss the apparition as brought about by something he ate. At some point during the writing of this classic, Dickens changed a "spot of mustard" to a "blot of mustard", I'm sure because it sounds a tad grosser.

I love that!

You can check out a few high-res pages of the manuscript by clicking here.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Countdown to Christmas

The Christmas season doesn't begin around here until we take a trip to Holloway's, the neighborhood Christmas tree farm. Even though we weren't ready to bring a tree home yet, my sissy-in-law Louise was visiting so we decided to head on over anyway.

JoanMarie still can't walk long distances, but we did take a stroll through the trees. And that's all it took to totally get us in the spirit.

With hot cider in hand...

...and popcorn in mouth...

...does it get any better?

Of course it does! Just grab a chainsaw while being pulled by a tractor along a bumpy road and let the fun begin.

Last year, I don't remember Holloway's having this two-person spinning swing.

Of course, JoanMarie will have to wait until next year to ride the swing, but at least we didn't have to play rock-paper-scissors to find out who would take the photos.

Did I mention that Louise went to a circus school? Yeah, well, she did. And it's amazing how many times a year those skills can be used.

Later this week...the cheesy hometown Christmas parade!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What I'm Thankful For

I wanted to get this post up last night, but I just didn’t feel right staying up to write it after JoanMarie went to bed.

Yesterday was one of the most anxiety plagued days of my life. As you may know, JoanMarie recently had emergency surgery. The surgery went well and she’s been recovering at superhuman speed. But we were still waiting to hear from the doctor as to whether or not what they removed was malignant or benign (cancerous or not). The news was supposed to come on Tuesday. It didn’t. If we didn’t hear on Wednesday, we wouldn’t hear until Monday because of Thanksgiving.


So we tried to keep ourselves distracted, although her phone was never far. We went to brunch, and at one point, an odd yet beautiful moment occurred. I don’t remember what JoanMarie was talking about, but I noticed how full of joy she looked. Her smile and her eyes were as bright as ever. If you’ve ever been around her when she’s like that (which is often), you know how contagious that is. It looked like such an out of place emotion for what was “really” going on, yet somehow she allowed herself to purely enjoy the moment.

But as the day went on and the clock ticked closer to 5pm, when the doctor’s office would close for the holiday, things felt more tense. Friends and family were calling and texting because everyone wanted to know if we’d heard anything. At one point, shortly before 5, I went upstairs. I was full of that need-to-fix-things attitude, but I didn’t know what to do. Really, what could I do?

So I sat in my writing chair, and that image of JoanMarie’s joyous expression came to me. I still couldn’t remember what she was saying, but I was able to watch her enjoy the moment all over again. It’s my favorite expression in the world! And with that image playing in my mind, I did something I’m not known for being real good at. I did something that usually feels silly to me. But I prayed. It was the only thing left that I could do. I just felt so sad and happy and nervous and joyous all at the same time and I needed to tell somebody.

Then some friends came over, bringing JoanMarie tea, magazines, and pajamas. The doctor’s office closed and the evening went on.

And then the doctor called. We could enjoy our Thanksgiving, she said. It was totally benign.

We put on a really fast and funky song because it fit the moment, but what we really wanted to do was slow dance. So we danced slow and close to a fast and funky beat…and that’s exactly what the moment called for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wild Horses...

...couldn't drag me away from speaking to teens and English teachers, which I was given the chance to do in Philadelphia a few days ago. But as I said in my previous post, I did have to leave Philly a few days early and miss several engagements. So to all of you who came out to an event to hear me speak or get your book signed, and yet I wasn't there, I apologize.

Unfortunately, there was a medical emergency in my family. To those of you who knew what was going on and e-mailed your prayers, JoanMarie and I both thank you tremendously. Things are looking good.

JoanMarie also wants to share with you a couple of her favorite hospital gifts.

JoanMarie, Johnny Depp (both of them), and I are back home now. For the next several weeks, while JoanMarie reads her magazines and relaxes, I'll be cooking and cleaning and watering plants and running errands...and there's nothing I would rather be doing.

And hopefully I can see anyone I missed in Philadelphia real soon!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sleepless in Philadelphia

My Philadelphia visit has to be cut short a few days, but I thought I'd quickly share some of the fun times and cool people that made these two days so special.

On Thursday, I gave two library presentations where several high schools sent students. Every student had been given a copy of Thirteen Reasons Why before their visit, which always makes the Q&A much more interesting. And I finally autographed a book for someone with the title "Sister"!

On Friday morning, at the National Council of Teachers of English conference, I was on a panel with David Levithan and Lauren Myracle to discuss intellectual freedom. I'd never met Lauren before and had only caught a glimpse of David in the past, so I was really looking forward to this panel. We've all had different experiences with our books being banned or challenged, so hearing their thoughts was fascinating. But beyond what they had to say about tampons, thongs, erections, and the word %$@&, they both seemed like genuinely wonderful people.

After I signed books on the conference floor, I grabbed some autographs and photos of my own. As many of you know, Gordon Korman is a rock star to me. When he offered a blurb for my book, I was in heaven. But I actually haven't seen him in person since before I'd even finished writing Thirteen Reasons Why. So it was great to catch up!

I love Gene Luen Yang's Printz Award winning graphic novel, American Born Chinese. Though I already have a copy back home, when I saw that he was signing books, I had to buy another so I could have it autographed.

Of course, when I heard that Sandy Asher was nearby, I had to finally meet her. But no, we aren't related...though we tried to find some distant relative in common.

Though I've seen Laurie Halse Anderson at a few writing events, chatted with her briefly a couple times (and sent her a gushing fan letter for Chains), I've never had the pleasure to actually hang out with her. Suddenly, I'm sitting behind a table with her at a booksigning! For this event, with both Laurie and Lauren, I temporarily changed my name to Laurel. So here's Laurel Asher, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Lauren Myracle...

The people who showed up were brilliant! They had such amazing questions. In this photo, I think Lauren's showing the crowd how she can make her hand move really, really fast...

And in case you were wondering, yes, of course I devoured a Philly cheesesteak during my visit!

Monday, November 16, 2009


I'm heading to Philadelphia for several days of speaking at the NCTE and ALAN conferences. (Hey, maybe I can sneak in a ghost tour while I'm there!) If you're attending either of these conferences, be sure to say hi.

If you're not a member of NCTE or ALAN (for example, say you're in high school!), I'm also signing books at two events that are free and open to the public. The authors I'm doing these events with are absolutely unbelievable. If you're in the area, let me give you two reasons why you should stop by:

  1. Because you love getting autographs from some of your favorite authors.
  2. Because you love watching me get all nervous when I ask some of my favorite authors for autographs.

Friday, November 20 - 7 to 9pm
Doylestown Bookshop - Doylestown, PA
authors I'll be pretending not to be nervous around: Laurie Halse Anderson, Lauren Myracle

Sunday, November 22 - 1 to 3pm
Children's Book World - Haverford, PA
authors I'll be getting autographs from: Laurie Halse Anderson, T.A. Barron, Sarah Dessen, Steven Kluger, Justine Larbalestier, David Levithan, Lauren Myracle, Scott Westerfeld, Jacqueline Woodson

See ya there!

Friday, November 13, 2009

So Much Drama! - 5

I think I hid it well, but I had an insane amount of butterflies in my stomach all day. One minute I would be completely excited, and the next minute totally nervous. Seven months ago, a high school drama teacher asked if her school could turn Thirteen Reasons Why into a play...and I said yes.

Was I crazy???

At seven in the evening, I would find out. Thankfully, the school kept me busy during the day.

I began the day in a discussion with the Seminar for Scholars group. This group meets about once a month to discuss controversial issues with guest speakers. It's been a long time since I've heard any group of adults dissect and discuss moral issues with as much openness and honesty as this group.

During the three lunch periods, I gave three presentations in the library.

And finally, after who-knows-how-many school visits I've done, I finally met someone named Hannah Baker!

After school, I walked around the beautiful downtown streets. The alternative would've been to pace back and forth in my hotel room, watching each minute pass on the digital clock.

Finally, it was six o' clock and I headed back to the school.

The halls were decked out with posters depicting the different covers of my book from around the world. From the ceilings, they hung giant cassette tapes.

And the brownies? Delicious!

And then...it was time.

I chose a seat near the middle of the audience. J-113. When the lights went down, my pulse began to race.

This was it.

For the next two hours, I sat in my chair and watched Thirteen Reasons Why brought to life on a high school stage. When the entire cast returned to the stage at the end of the show, I clearly had my answer as to whether or not I was crazy to entrust my story to these students.

No. I was nothing but honored and awed by the performance.

The staging and lighting were beautiful and extremely creative. The momentum of the story kept building, and every actor and actress fully embodied their roles. They literally brought Hannah, Clay, Tony, Jessica, Courtney, and the rest of the characters (yes, even Bryce) to life right in front of my eyes.

Many times throughout the night I kept thinking, I can not believe what I am experiencing right now.

When I was called to the stage, I took a moment to shake the hand of the actor who played Clay (in the yellow shirt) and give the actress who played Hannah a hug. She had to memorize an unbelievable amount of dialogue!

I will never forget this night.

From here on out, I will always consider this Friday the 13th as one of the luckiest days of my life.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

So Much Drama! - 4

The day I've been anticipating since March is almost here.

Today, I arrived in Antioch, Illinois. My hotel room was loaded with goodies (some to eat and some to wear) by the cast and crew behind the stageplay of Thirteen Reasons Why. Something I will probably wear every single day for at least a year is this hoodie...

Though I won't be attending the show until tomorrow night (Friday the 13th, of course!), Antioch Community High School is right across the street from my hotel. And I knew the cast would be there getting ready for tonight's performance. And I just couldn't wait to meet them! So I walked on over.

But first, I had to take a sneak peek at the stage...

Then I went backstage to the make-up room to let everyone know how deeply honored I am that they chose to turn my book into their fall production.

They are an absolutely amazing group of students. I wish I could've hung out with them longer, but they had to finish getting their make-up on for tonight's debut performance.

But I couldn't leave the premises without seeing if the rocketslide really works.

It works!