Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thank You, 2010!

I'll get back to talking about book-related stuff soon. And hopefully I'll be able to tell you about some very exciting stuff very soon! But during this holiday break, it's been nice to focus so solidly on what truly matters the most.

We had a wonderful Christmas this year, with 12 family members staying in our home for a few days. I'll admit, I was nervous about making it through the holidays with my sanity intact as a brand new daddy with 12 people in my house. But whenever I felt overwhelmed, all I had to do was ask whichever family member was holding Isaiah to please hand him back, and his cute li'l face and precious personality immediately reminded me how blessed I am.

For all of you family members and friends (and yes, that includes my readers) who weren't able to visit Isaiah within his first three weeks, here's a little bit of what we've been up to:

JoanMarie's been serenading him, which he absolutely loves. His favorite is the lullaby his mommy wrote for him, which he recognized the very first time she played it for him outside the womb.

We took him to the beach to watch his first sunset.

JoanMarie took him to check out one of the quirkiest spots in town: Bubblegum Alley. And no, he wasn't allowed to contribute to the wall just yet.

We gave him his very first bath, which he thoroughly enjoyed (once mommy promised to cover up his private parts for the photo).

Usually, he has a great sense of humor, yet he didn't seem to understand why I found it so humorous when he tried to suckle my nose. But you can tell in both of our eyes that it was a true father and son bonding moment.

So thank you, 2010. For Isaiah and many other reasons, you were the most fulfilling year yet.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The children were nestled...

Jay, JoanMarie, and Isaiah

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

At Ten Days Old...

Isaiah loves it when we read to him. His current fave is Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton. After we read through it, he likes to spend a few minutes staring at each page by himself.

He also loves Dr. Seuss (of course), but we want to give him access to as many books as he desires. So, like the responsible parents we are, today we signed him up...

...for his library card!!!

Even while sleeping, he won't let go of his magical new card.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Introducing: Isaiah Nathan Asher

On December 11, JoanMarie and I became parents to a beautiful baby boy.

It was a long labor, but the hospital staff at Sierra Vista were so comforting and kind to JoanMarie. They knew we wanted as natural a childbirth as possible, and they helped us stick to our birth plan. Our doula, Megan, was exceptionally encouraging and positive, making the experience much less stressful than it could have been.

I'm normally very squeamish, but I helped catch Isaiah when he came into the world. I gave him his first bath, changed his first diaper, and gave him kiss after kiss after kiss after kiss.

JoanMarie made Team Isaiah shirts for us to wear while heading home from the hospital.

Here's Isaiah with his daddy and my daddy (his grandpa).

I feel exceptionally blessed knowing that my son has JoanMarie for a mommy.

Isaiah Nathan Asher
December 11, 2010 6:41am
6lb. 5oz., 20in.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Full Swing Into December

This promises to be a very exciting month for so many reasons. And I can't wait to share everything with you as the month progresses. After all, 'tis the season for sharing!

Our month started with a trip to pick up our Christmas tree. Of course, I can't leave the tree farm without some rope swingin'!

On our visit last year, JoanMarie was recovering from a surgery, so she couldn't ride the swing. At the time, we didn't know we'd be expecting our first child by Christmas 2010, so I made the comment: JoanMarie will have to wait until next year to ride the swing.

I tried talking her out of it, but she was determined. So down in the dirt I went to act as a stepping stool. And up she went!

And away we go...!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Just a spoof...not my next book!)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Peter, Peter, Onion Eater

I’ll get to the Peter part of this rant in a moment, but the onion issue has been plaguing my mind all day. And yes, onion and plague are two words that should be seen together a lot more than they are.

If you know me, or you’ve read enough of my interviews, you’ll know that I can’t stand onions. Can’t stand ’em! If you invite me over to dinner, I may very politely ask if a certain dish has onions in it. If you say, “Yes, but you won’t taste them,” I may politely ask, “Then why include them?” And if you respond, “For flavoring,” my head just might explode. (See, it’s that whole flavor of onions I don’t like.)

But something even more disturbing than the above dialogue is when restaurants completely ignore onions. I don’t like being a pessimist, so when a restaurant lists the ingredients of a dish and they don’t mention onions, I feel weird asking if it includes onions. For example, I ordered a tuna sandwich for dinner tonight. Here’s how they listed it on the menu:

As you’ll notice, the menu item above the tuna sandwich doesn’t list any ingredients at all. So if they’re going to go out of their way to list ingredients for another item, you’d think that list would be thorough. In fact, if they’re going to list an almost tasteless ingredient like celery, there’s no way they’d ignore something as pungent as purple onions.


Now onto the Peter part of this post.

(By the way, the main reason I’m writing this next section is because I can’t stand the thought of writing an entire post about onions. I needed to dilute this post with something less disgusting. And since the following topic popped up in a conversation when JoanMarie and I saw a poster for a local production, this is what you get.)

I love Peter Pan. The magic! The adventure! The Disney cartoon! The Disneyland ride! But I hardly ever enjoy the plays as much as I should enjoy them. Why? Because Peter is almost always played by a she.

I remember the first time I saw this play as I child. I knew the story very well and had seen the cartoon many times. So when Peter made his first appearance, I said, “Who’s she?” An adult leaned over and whispered, “That’s Peter Pan.” Even though I was a kid, I think I said something like, “What the hell is going on here?”

I know what you’re about to do. You’re about to leave a comment telling me why Peter needs to be played by a female. You’re thinking that, since Peter is supposed to be a boy who never grows up, it would look awkward if a grown man played him. Women play the part because their features are softer and their voices higher than a man’s. Therefore, women look and sound more like pre-pubescent boys. Yes, I have heard that explanation. But think about this. If Peter’s maturity and growth have been stunted at a certain age, requiring him to be played by a female, why is Wendy’s younger brother John always played by a male?

Bring it on!

I did some research, and no one seems to have a good answer for why we continue requiring adults to lean over and whisper, “That’s Peter,” thereby breaking the play’s spell. Some say the tradition began because women are typically lighter than men, making them easier to harness and hoist into the air during the flying scenes. But think about this. John and Michael (played by males) need to be harnessed and hoisted, too.

Bring it!

JoanMarie came up with what I think is the most likely answer to why this tradition started. “The audience would have a tougher time imagining Peter as a young boy if he was played by a man…in tights.”

Good point.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Isaiah's Lullaby

My wife wrote this lullaby for our son, and we can't wait to sing it to him in person when he arrives in thirty-four days...give or take.

Isaiah, Isaiah
Beautiful baby
Isaiah, Isaiah
Wonderful boy

You are loved
The world is your friend
You will be loved
Beyond the end

You are adored
Provided, and guided
You are strong
You are tender

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Return to Rome

In 2010, I ventured outside of California on twelve different occasions to speak at schools, libraries, and conferences. If you saw me speak, hopefully it looked like I was having a great time...because I was!

In 2011, I'll be speaking a lot less because Isaiah will be here and I'd like to stick closer to home so I don't miss anything. But I just found this video, put together after my recent trip to Rome, Georgia. I think it gives you a good idea of why I've never said no to an opportunity to meet readers.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Soon after flying into Harlingen, Texas, I went out to dinner with a couple of high school librarians. There, I was introduced to one of the best cheeseburgers I'd ever had the pleasure of making disappear. The next day, I lunched on a scrumptious BBQ sandwich with English teachers. For dinner, I had a chicken-stuffed and deep-fried avocado. The next day, I joined a school's book club for lunch where we shared some amazing Mexican food. They even made the tortillas right there! That night, some spicy and delicious BBQ.

My stomach absolutely adored this week.

But in between all that good eatin', I also did a lot of speakin'.

First, I spent the day at Med Tech. This school was just oozing school spirit. They had a specific theme every day this week. During my visit, they were raising awareness and money for breast cancer research and prevention. As you can see, almost every person was wearing pink. Usually a lot of pink, including in their hair!

In the above photo, you can see some of the Thirteen Reasons Why displays the students made. Here's one which photographed particularly well.

I must say, I've visited a lot of libraries while traveling around to discuss my book, and the three school libraries I visited on this trip to Texas were on the tippity-top of the tippy-top tier. It really is amazing what they've got going on here.

During my second day, I began by speaking to students at the Gateway Library. This included one of the best Q&A sessions I've ever had. I probably could've stayed another hour and still been fielding questions, which would've been great. But, of course, we had to eat!

Before I feasted on catered Mexican food with members of the book club, everyone went around dropping notes of encouragement into the personalized paperbags of the other students. Yes, just like in my book! They even made a bag for me, and I think I may have received the most notes. Woo-hoo! (Not that it was a contest or anything...)

I presented a writing workshop that afternoon at Biblioteca Las Americas and I'm really upset that I forgot to take pictures because so many of them were dressed up for Halloween. There was even a Penguin! I also figured out a way to toss a sliced banana at students in the library and get away with it. All you have to do is pretend you're teaching them a lesson about storytelling. Seriously, with this job, you can get away with practically anything if you work it right!

The poster which led people to that writing workshop and the following presentation was my favorite event poster ever. While at Med Tech the previous day, one of the librarians took a close-up photo of my shoes while I was speaking. They blew up that photo, added text, and wa-la!

That evening, I spoke at the Parental Involvement meeting. I discussed the importance of making sure issues such as the ones presented in my book weren't swept under the rug. In fact, we need to do a better job of bringing those issues out in the open so people aren't afraid to talk about them. It was the largest group I'd ever spoken to about such serious issues, but I had some of the most honest conversations with parents afterward, which made the night end beautifully.

And then some dude asked me to sign his chest.

Friday, October 22, 2010

In the Wright Place

Walt Disney, Charles Schulz, Lucille Ball, P.T. Barnum, and the Wright Brothers. When I was a child, those were the people I was most fascinated by. I read everything I could about them and based as many school reports as possible around them.

This week, I had the chance to spend a few days in Dayton, Ohio, the home of the Wright Brothers. I love it when speaking gigs match up with places like this!

But when I first flew into town, I grabbed a rental car and drove down to Cincinnati. There, I stopped by a Joseph-Beth Booksellers and signed a whole bunch of my books, which they'll be distributing to several of their stores. So if you're near a J.B.B. and want an autographed copy of Thirteen Reasons Why, you may find one there very soon. I also grabbed a coffee with local illustrator Tara Calahan King.

How awesome was Ms. King? She gave me a signed copy of Odd Velvet to give to Isaiah when he's born!

The next day, I woke up early and went straight to one of the bicycle shops (now a museum, of course) once owned by Wilbur and Orville Wright. It was in these shops that the W. Bros. built and tested many of the parts that made it onto their gliders and flyers.

With time running out before that evening's speaking gigs, I drove to the Huffman Prairie Flying Field where the majority of the first powered flights took place. There, you can see replicas of the garage/hangar where they stored and repaired the flyers, and the metal pyramid contraption which gave the flyer enough speed for takeoff.

I'm not sure why the brothers didn't make the hangar a tad wider so they didn't have to disassemble their flyer each night, and I don't think they had this access ramp back in the day.

When the concrete weight dropped inside the pyramid, it zipped the flyer down the slender "runway".


Large white flags create a loop around the field so you can walk the same path as the first successful round-trip flight.

Before my speeches, I had the opportunity to hang out with Kristina McBride, author of one of my favorite recent YA novels, The Tension of Opposites. I was asked to blurb this book a long time ago but didn't get a chance to read it before it came out. I finally picked it up several months ago and could not put it down (always a good sign), so future editions of the book will include my blurb.

Here's the wonderful trailer for The Tension of Opposites:

The story takes place in Centerville, Ohio, and many of the images in that trailer were shot in the actual locations mentioned in the book. It felt surreal to walk through some of the locations with Ms. McBride as my guide.

My first presentation at the Washington-Centerville Public Library was just for students in 6th through 12th grade. Later in the evening, I gave a presentation open to anyone, where I spoke about my book as well as the issues of bullying and suicide.

Here's a nice photo of students from the first presentation. Lovely bunch, I must say!

Between the presentations, I was taken to a delicious dinner with three of the librarians responsible for getting me to Ohio and Ms. McBride. Have you ever noticed how locals are often the last people to check out their town's history? Well, in my limited time, I've already seen more of the historical sites around Dayton than any of these ladies!

(And now I'm going to check and see what's considered historical where I live so that if you come visit me, I can say, "
That? Of course I've seen that!")

Shelly, Sara (future YA author), my floating head,
one very awesome poster, Kristina, Elaine

Early the next morning, it was time to begin the journey home.

I'm not going to blame food poisoning on the Wright Brothers, but I wonder if they ever thought barf bags would be a fixture on future airplanes. Why do I bring that up? It doesn't matter! And I wonder if they ever used the exact phrase "Flight Canceled" when one of their flyers was broken. Why do I bring that up? Just because!

Thankfully, there's still the good ol' fashioned train around when you need it. And while the view looking miles down can be inspiring, so can the view looking straight across.

But what was the view I liked the best?

The one of JoanMarie waiting for me to finally get back home.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Of Mice and Baby Boys

JoanMarie and I were down in Southern California recently for two big shindigs. First up was our annual fall/winter visit to The Happiest Place on Earth.

This time, we were joined by my bro, Nate, and his girlfriend, Sarah...the FastPass king and queen.

The whole park was decked out in a Halloween theme. And since Halloween is one of the most awesomest holidays around, it made the park doubly fun. The tree below reminded me of The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite books of all time, and one which JM and I are reading together right now.

With Isaiah joining us this year, the Storybookland ride was about as crazy as we got.

But it was actually really nice to take our time walking around (stopping at virtually every restroom) and munching on pickles (three dollar pickles, I might add...but worth every penny!).

Here's our annual photo from the Buzz Lightyear ride. Unfortunately, the computer swapped our scores. JM beat me, as usual. You can tell by our faces who's the most competitive member of our family.

Then it was on to my Aunt Sher's for JoanMarie and Isaiah's first baby shower!

The cupcakes were homemade and delicious. The diaper-cake below wasn't edible, but I have a feeling the diapers were about as delicious as they're ever gonna be.

I stayed out of the way until the ladies called me in to act out the scene they'd created in a baby shower version of Mad Libs.

It was early in the morning in the year 13 when JOANMARIE felt her water break! “HOLY TOLEDO,” she yelled, “JAY, it’s finally time to go to the hospital!” She was SILLY, but she knew everything would be okay. She was right. After arriving at the hospital in BIG SUR and after 23 hours of labor, a HAIRY baby was born. The new parents were so SLIPPERY! The nurses wrapped the newborn in GREEN fluffy POOP. After being checked out by Dr. JOHNNY DEPP, they were finally allowed to take home their precious bundle of TRAMPOLINE. It wasn’t long before they realized that the baby would be waking them up at all hours and demanding BELLY BUTTON milk and creamed KALE. They also got used to the ROTTEN smells that often came from the diaper.

We both got a bit misty eyed at various times, especially when our new stroller was rolled out. We can already picture pushing Baby Isaiah through crowded stores, knocking customers out of our way.

And while this onesie definitely expresses Mommy and Daddy's sentiment, it's good to know Isaiah's already got a lot of self confidence!