Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sun Prairie, WI

Earlier this week, I was in Wisconsin to speak at Sun Prairie High School. It was a beautiful school, with very different scenery around it than I had at my high school.

This visit broke a record for me. Seven back-to-back presentations, with a short lunch in the middle. I spoke each period so all English classes could attend. A lot of schools think I'm joking when I say I'll speak as often as they want throughout the day. But my favorite part of being an author is speaking with students, so I love when a school says, "Alright. You asked for it!"

(I won't get too graphic, but after my seventh presentation, plus a book signing in the library, I got my first real break of the day and waddled as fast as I could to the nearest restroom!)

Half of my presentations were in their amazing theater.

Every time I see a photo like the one above, it makes me sweat a bit. I absolutely love what I do, but I can imagine what I would've thought five years ago, seeing this image right before my book came out. "There's no way I can speak in front of all those people! I have stage fright!!!"

You'll get over it, dude.

Their school had a choir concert that evening, so half of the day was spent speaking in their library so students could rehearse in the theater.

Having students sit on the floor brought me back to my Assistant Children's Librarian days. It felt like storytime! The library media specialist suggested that I bring puppets next time, which is actually a great idea. I can bring a boy and girl puppet, then read from Thirteen Reasons Why or The Future of Us, and no one will get confused as to which character is speaking.

I signed a lot of books after school. Sometimes I signed pieces of paper so they students could paste them into books they had at home or would purchase later. Or, in one case, I signed a copy of The Illiad.

On my way to dinner, I walked through downtown Madison, which has a cool funky vibe. Here's a pic of the capitol building. Wisconsin has a special recall election coming up next month. Obviously, the governor is doing everything he can to keep his job. He even set up a street light in front of the capitol reminding voters to Go Right. (Did he use taxpayer funds for that light? What a hypocrite!)

I had dinner at the Wisconsin Union, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. What did I eat? A bratwurst sandwich with sauerkraut and mustard (but absolutely no ketchup), obviously! I was there with Ms. Coller (library media specialist), Mr. Rouse (assistant principal), and his wife. They told me no one is allowed to leave the Union on their first visit without sitting in one of the oversized Terrace chairs. So I made Ms. Coller and Mr. Rouse sit on it with me.

The next day, I took a 4 a.m. shuttle to the airport, hopped on three flights, and made it home before noon. No matter how much fun I have at school/library/bookstore/conference visits, it's always nice to get home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mini-movie and Interpretive Dance

There are a lot of great reader-created videos for Thirteen Reasons Why on YouTube. I used to frequently post my favorites here, but I became so busy writing and promoting The Future of Us that I had to stop checking for a while. Well, the other day I took a look again,!

This first video is longer than most, with some great camera work and beautiful acting.

The next video is the first dance interpretation of the book I've seen. It's fun to figure out which scene they're depicting, and the ending is so powerful.

Once again, my readers have both stunned and inspired me.

Thank you!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


After my last book event, I had a nearly four-hour drive home. That left me with just enough time to grab 50 minutes of sleep before heading to the airport for my next event.

But this time, my family was coming with me! For some reason, Isaiah and I both look happy to be at the airport at such an early hour.

JoanMarie, Isaiah, and I were flying to Portland. I had two school events lined up, but we also have family there, so we arrived a few days early. We grabbed our rental car and made it to my nephew Ellory's marimba concert with mere minutes to spare.

Ellory is closest to the camera in the white shirt.

The video below is the end of a song Ellory wrote. (Yes, he's talented like that.) This time, he's playing the most elevated instrument on the right.

The weather in Portland was beautiful. Actually, for the first time, their weather was a bit warm for my ideal Portland experience. I like my Portland rainy! But it allowed us to experience more of their natural offerings.

Isaiah now likes to lead our hikes rather than be carried on them. And he's just getting the hang of blowing bubbles, so he adapted that new talent to blow dandelion seeds into the wind. We told him to make a wish each time he did that, but also told him he's not getting a full-size tractor for his upcoming half-birthday. (I tried reasoning with Mommy on that, but she's pretty set against it.)

Then it was time for the school visits. First stop was Ulysses S. Grant High School. What made this one of my all-time favorite presentations is that my niece Genevieve, a sophomore at Grant, introduced me! It was my first time speaking at a relative's school, and a wonderful experience for both of us. Especially me! You should've heard her very sweet introduction.

Here I am with Genevieve and Ms. Battle, the school librarian.

And here's the audience, made up mostly of the Class of 2015.

The stage remained partially decorated with scenery from their recent production of Hairspray. It was a bit odd seeing the following image whenever I turned to my right.

Then we took a break back at our hotel, McMenamin's Kennedy School. If you visit Portland, you need to stay there! It's a renovated elementary school, originally built in 1915. The rooms (once classrooms) even have the original chalkboards.

Then we ate dinner with our Portland family, where Isaiah played pool. (He's been into bowling lately, so he hopped up on the table and crossed the games together.)

Then it was off to Cleveland High School, where Ms. Quinn used Thirteen Reasons Why for their Community Reads program.

It was a great turnout.

They even had to set up overflow seating!

Back at the hotel, I opened the two goodie bags I received from the schools. The edible stuff, sadly, is almost gone.

But we'll be returning to Portland soon, I'm sure.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Not Yo Momma's Book Club

Sorry. The official name is Not Your Mother's Book Club, but it's so fun to find new ways to add Yo Momma to this blog. (Actually, I think that's the first time I've dropped a Yo Momma here, but I'm hoping to find more opportunities.) NYMBC organizes author events for Books Inc, an amazing chain of indie bookstores in California, and I was lucky to enough to join a panel of YA authors at their Palo Alto store.

The panel consisted of Kevin Emerson, Jandy Nelson, Cat Patrick, and me, with Daisy Whitney moderating. They named our event A Bucket of Awesome, and placed dozens of tiny metal buckets on the dessert table so people could fill them with goodies and munch during the event. Here we are, each dipping an authorly finger into a bucket, thereby filling it with awesome!

Kevin, Cat, Daisy, me, Jandy

Unlike my event a week earlier where I was on a panel with three authors I'd never met (though I now consider them all friends), this was a group of authors I've hung out with before. And that caused silliness to ensue immediately. (Hence, our fingers mingling in a bucket.)

The photo below was taken "backstage" as we waited to meet the readers. We had to wait backstage a little longer than expected so they could set up extra chairs. Yes, there were more people arriving than expected. (Do you know how awesome that makes authors feel? Our buckets runnethed over!)

(Sorry for that buckets runnethed over comment.
It didn't sound nearly that cheesy in my head.)

I've shown you photos pre-event and backstage, so here's one I took during the panel.

After the author introductions were over, I received a present from a co-panelist. Tired of reading my tweets and Facebook updates where I made fun of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, Cat presented me with my very own copy. But I'm not going to read it. I mean, I may glance at the first few pages to see what the big deal is, but then I'm stopping. I swear!

The panel was a lot of fun, thanks in large part to Daisy's great questions. And then it was time to sign books and pose for pictures.

Author Barry Eisler came out for the event, and it was a pleasure to finally meet him.

And an extra-special audience member in attendance was my agent, Laura Rennert.

After the last book was signed, I drove three-and-a-half hours home, slept for 50 minutes, then headed to the airport to fly to Portland, Oregon. There, I'll be giving two high school presentations. The best part is that my niece is a student at one of the schools, and she'll be introducing me!

And finally...

Yo, Mommas -
Happy Mother's Day!!!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Ontario, Too

Last month, I did a book event in Ontario, Canada. This past weekend, I was at Teen Book Fest in Ontario, California. When I asked readers on Facebook and Twitter to come to this lastest event, there was some confusion when I said it was in Ontario, CA. (CA can represent either California or Canada, and a few Canadians said they were happy to see me coming back so soon. So while I'm sorry for the confusion, at least the reaction was positive!)

I always enjoy being on author panels. Not only do you get the fun of interacting with an audience, but also with other authors. Though I was already familiar with what the other Teen Book Fest authors had written, I'd never met Josephine Angelini, Anna Carey, or Alexandra Monir in person. But after taking part in that panel, I hope we have a reunion panel every year! (Mostly because I'm sure it'd be hard to schedule a reunion every week. But if enough libraries want to try...!)

In this first photo, we're all opening our books to the pages we'll be reading. I was reading from Thirteen Reasons Why, which is hard to read aloud by myself, so Alexandra read with me.

The panel was so much fun. When it comes to discussing how authors start writing and eventually become published, this was probably the most diverse group of authors imaginable. Their "origin" stories were crazy-ridiculous!

After we spoke, there was Q&A with the audience, followed by a book signing. (We all signed books for each other, too!)

Then came the wall of photographers (which always looks a tad paprazzi-esque), and we also got some shots with the librarians and teens who helped organize the event.

Then we all went to dinner at Macaroni Grill, along with some of the library staff, Andrea from Mrs. Nelson's Toy & Book Shop (who sold our books at the event), and a spattering of family members. (Is that an appropriate use of spattering? If not, I apologize to any family members wrongfully spattered.)

Because I hate it when a good time ends, I invited everyone to Boomers, which was just down the road. They politely laughed, because of course I was kidding, right?

Well, whenever that reunion panel happens, we're following it up at Macaroni Grill...and then Boomers!

To watch some video from the panel, filmed by an audience member, check out:

Speaking of panels...

If you're in the Bay Area this Friday (that's the California Bay Area, not the Canadian one), please stop by Books Inc. in Palo Alto and say hi!

Friday, May 04, 2012

IRA 2012

Over three days at the International Reading Association's conference in Chicago, I either met or got reacquainted with many wonderful people, signed a whole lot of books, and got very little sleep.

So the trip was a success!

On my first day, I had three one-hour book signings: one for Thirteen Reasons Why, one for The Future of Us, and one for both. But when I first arrived at the convention center, I ran into my friend Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Together, we stumbled upon R.L. Stine, and the three of us posed for a photo.

For some reason, the photo makes it look like Bobby (R.L.) is signing books behind us.

Jarrett and I met again while he was signing books with Matt de la Peña and Adam Gidwitz.

When we saw that b&w photo, we noticed that our true calling may not be as authors, but members of a boyband...or perhaps...a manband.

All we need is a catchy name. So if you've got a suggestion, we'd love to hear it!

Greg Neri and I decided to take a break from the signing and schmoozing to check out a museum of contemporary art. Each piece in there must've taken the artists at least a few minutes to complete (give or take).

On the second day, I sat on a panel with Rita Williams-Garcia, Heather Brewer, and Siobhan Vivian called "Bullies, Brats, and Bystanders: Combating Negative Peer Pressure with Young Adult Literature." It was one of my favorite panels I've been on. These authors are some of the nicest and most caring people you'll meet, and it was a privilege to be included with them.

This photo was taken by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
as I'm about to sip from my lifesaving coffee.

The panel was followed by my final book signing of the conference. As an added bonus, Amy Reed stopped by with a signed copy of Crazy for me!

Leaving the convention floor to head home, I grabbed one final picture with Rita Williams-Garcia (one where I'm not sipping coffee...though my hand was trying to get near her coffee!).

And then...home.

Isaiah rockin' the tie-dye and munchin' a banana.