Friday, September 24, 2010

When in Rome...

Only positive things can come from teens and adults honestly discussing the serious issues presented in so many teen novels. That's why I'm always so happy to hear about parents reading Thirteen Reasons Why, or teachers working it into their curriculum. So imagine how thrilled it made me to know an entire community had decided to read and discuss my book! My visit to Rome, Georgia this week was only the conclusion to their lengthy discussion of bullying and suicide prevention.

On Thursday, I spoke at three schools. My time at Floyd Education Center, Rome Transitional Academy, and Rome High School were wonderful because almost every student I spoke to had read the book. At one school, students figured out something positive to take away from each cassette tape (in most books, that's what you'd call a chapter), and were reminded of those positive thoughts every time they walked down the hall.

Another school recreated Hannah's map on the wall as they read through the book aloud. But they didn't read the entire book themselves. Their teacher had previously recorded all of Hannah's words onto cassettes (their sides labeled 1 thru 13), and then different students added Clay's words. They also made Found Poetry, taking snippets of text from each cassette to create poems.

At Rome High School, I spoke to all of their freshmen at once.

And then, something I thought was going to be insanely cheesy turned out to be quite inspiring. Each guidance counselor had their respective students stand up and repeat a chant, challenging their group to have the most graduates in 2014. The entire freshman class then stood and sang their alma mater accompanied by members of the school band.

That evening, I attended a reception with the seven winners of a county-wide Thirteen Reasons Why essay contest, which included middle school, high school, and college students.

The reception was followed by a presentation to the community.

It was a very emotional evening from beginning to end. Hanging up in the auditorium were quilts displaying the names and faces of Georgians who took their own lives. The woman who introduced me to the audience said she felt personally connected to Thirteen Reasons Why because her son had once attempted suicide, and I had the pleasure of meeting him when my speech was over.

The speech itself was so much fun. The questions during the Q&A were some of the best I've been asked (and I didn't even have to pull teeth to get them to ask questions!).

Here are some shots of my new friends. Aren't they beautiful!

To check out the newspaper's take on my visit, as well as see some photos and watch some video taken throughout the day, check out the Rome News-Tribune.


Mechele said...

As a resident of Georgia--if not Rome--I am so glad your visit went so well!

Hope you have the chance to visit again soon, Jay!


Christine Macdonald said...

What a beautiful post. I can only imagine the feeling you have knowing you are touching readers. Published is one thing. Being understood, touching the reader is quite another.


PS: Great speech at the CCWC by the way!

Claire Dawn said...

I think TRW should be required reading in all high school so I'm glad they did this. And I'm glad the visit went so well.

Anita Saxena said...

What an amazing experience for you. Growing up I knew a lot of teens that feigned suicide and those that actually attempted it. When I read 13 Reasons Why it just reminded of how fragile that age can be and how important it is to help those that are hurting. Thank you for sharing your time in Georgia.

Sandy said...

I'm happy it was such a great and inspiring visit ^_^.

Connie Barris said...

Thanks Jay.... My son attends Rome High and this really opened up a lot of discussion in our home...

thank you


Anne R. Allen said...

It sounds like a great experience!

It was so great to be able to hang out with you at the CC Writers conference last weekend. You really inspired me. I talk about it on my blog today and linked to this site.

Nanci Ball said...

first I want to apolgize for my behavior at the book signing in Rome. I told you what the psychologist said about cutting. It was unfair of me to assume......well I am sure you know where I am going with this. Now to the GOOD part. I want to THANK YOU for coming and sharing your wonderful book with us. There are many that would never even read this "certain" type of book except for this program. Your talk was very enjoyable. Also I don't know if you noticed or not but the was a a lot of teenage male participation. I want to thank you for the awareness that your book has offered and maybe one Hannah can be saved. Again Thank you for making the trip and I hope that we were very hospitable.