Thursday, February 26, 2015

50 States Against Bullying: MAINE

Last week, I flew from the west coast to the east coast for two school visits on the 50 States Against Bullying campaign. Both of those schools had snow days, so I used my free days to explore the D.C. area, but I'll be back to make up those states, because 48 States Against Bullying just sounds...ooh, so close.

After a weekend back at home, I hopped in a plane and flew from the west coast to the east coast again to attempt a school visit in Maine, making it my forty-third stop on the tour.

But again...snow day!

This time, I was able to move my flight back a day in the hope that there wouldn't be two snow days in a row. So what to do with my free day in Bangor? Well, the most important thing any author can do in Bangor is pay his or her respects to the home where many, many, many brilliant and dark stories originated.

I'm talking, of course, about the home of Mr. Stephen King.

The gate around his house has evil looking metal sculptures guarding the inhabitants on the other side, so I didn't dare walk up to the door. But I wanted to!

Then I did a little fanboy touring around town, visiting the storm drain that inspired the famous paperboat and clown scene in IT. Of course, the drain was covered in snow, so I couldn't take a photo of it, but I know I drove over it!

I also visited the cemetery where they filmed some scenes from Pet Sematary, including Mr. King's cameo.

By the way, if your're not from here, you're probably saying Bangor wrong.

The next snow day! So I was able to visit Mount Desert Island High School.

I know what you're thinking: It sure doesn't look like a desert! And I knew you were thinking that because I thought the same thing. But this whole area obviously likes to play with how words are pronounced. It's pronounced dessert, like what you eat soon after dinner and usually again before bed. The story goes, some French guy came here and saw the mountains where nothing grew on top of them and thought they looked like deserted mountains. Did you hear that? Deserted. So that's why...

Nope! Still doesn't make any sense to me, but whatever.

Inside, they displayed their #ReasonsWhyYouMatter notecards.

The students were amazing to speak with and had many great questions, plus some silly ones. For example, apparently I look like I drive an Audi. I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not, but the Audi website calls them luxury performance cars, and that sounds pretty good.

By the way, the students at MDIHS are All About Those Books.

The school librarian took me and local author (and friend) Christina Baker Kline out to lunch. And yes, Ms. CBK is an awesome author, but guess what. She used to babysit Stephen King's kids! If you're thinking, "I think I recall a story in Stephen King's On Writing about a babysitter," you're right. But that was his babysitter, not theirs. Please don't get the two confused.

This was followed by coffee with YA author Carrie Jones, whose debut novel came out the same year as mine. And we were in the Class of 2k7 together, so there is much history shared!

On my way back to the hotel in Bangor, I had to stop and get a pic of this miniature golf course covered in snow. The place is called Pirate's Cove, which made me laugh because the Pirate's Cove where I live is a nudist beach. But I didn't see any nudies running around here.

And that's probably a good thing right now.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Red Carpet Fantasies: Part III

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I get very excited to watch the Academy Awards each year. Not just because I get to eat my traditional pint of Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby, but because I'm also a movie freak! This year, as enter the final fifth of my 50 States Against Bullying campaign, my publisher was kind enough to make sure I was traveling on Oscar night (and they know me well enough that I didn't even need to ask).

One of my not-so-secret fantasies is to one day write an Oscar-nominated screenplay. If that happens, and I get the chance to walk the red carpet, the question then becomes What will I wear? Or What shall I do with my hair?

So, with the help of InStyle's Hollywood Makeover, I decided to try on some hairdos of the nominated actresses of 2015...

Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything:

Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game:

Julianne Moore for Still Alice:

Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl:

 Emma Stone for Birdman or (The Unexepected Virtue of Ignorance):

Reese Witherspoon for Wild:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

50 States Against Bullying: OREGON

The forty-second stop on my 50 States Against Bullying campaign, Oregon, was an extra special one. I spoke at Grant High School, where my nephew, Ellory, is a student! Since we have family in the area, my wife and son flew to Oregon with me to turn it into a little workation.

The night before my presentation, JoanMarie and her sister, Gypsy, did some boring public exercise thingie in the park. Meanwhile, Isaiah and I went to an awesome movie at the awesome McMenamins Kennedy School. The Kennedy School used to be an actual school but is now a hotel with its own movie theater. Instead of individual seats, there are couches. And who needs movie posters when you have chalkboards and artists!

The next day, I attended school.

At the entrance to the library were projects inspired by Thirteen Reasons Why, including an essay, cassette tapes labeled with judgemental labels often given to teens, a swing in a box, and a poster.

Isaiah was excited to hear me give the presentation that's had me traveling around the country through so much of the past year. But while students were asking to get selfies with me, my family was taking selfies of themselves.

Gypsy, Adam, Isaiah, JoanMarie

And here are the students! Many of them take classes that use Thirteen Reasons Why in the curriculum. One of the teachers has been using it since its release in 2007.

In the school bathroom, JoanMarie snapped a pic of a beautiful message someone left on the mirror. (I'm only posting it here with the assumption that this wasn't done with permanent marker, and if it was, that this particular photographer didn't do it!)

The next pic is fuzzy because I was a little nervous getting to meet the star and writer/director of a Thirteen Reasons Why one-act play recently performed at Grant.

The school day was followed by a wonderful hike to the top of Mount Tabor, an "extinct or dormant volcano," according to Wikipedia. Personally, I think extinct and dormant are quite different, and I'd kind of like to know which it is! Either way, it's beautiful. But I do find it odd that the playground is situated in the same direction as the volcano. Makes me wonder if someone at Portland Parks & Rec doesn't like kids very much.

So now I'm off to the next state, and JoanMarie and Isaiah are back home in California. But we'll be back in Oregon very soon, I'm sure!

Friday, February 13, 2015

50 States Against Bullying: VERMONT

The forty-first stop on my 50 States Against Bullying campaign is one I'll have to come back to visit just for fun. Or relaxation. Or, more than likely, relaxing fun! Descending into Vermont was where the beauty started, even though it only involved a couple of colors.

Walking through the airport, I couldn't help comparing what I saw to my stereotype before ever setting foot here. For example, the chairs available to watch planes land and take off made me think, "That's so Vermont!"

Where did my stereotype of the Green Mountain State come from? From watching and loving this show in the 80s.

Even though the show about the inn run by Dick and Joanna was filmed in a studio, it was supposed to be set in Vermont, and the outside establishing shots of the inn were from a real Vermont inn. Even though it required driving an hour through snow to get there, I had to go there!

Yep, this was the place.

I drove an hour back to Burlington, and my tummy was growling, so I grabbed some yummy spaghetti and walked around (briskly!) in the negative-degree weather. It was so beautiful, even late at night, I couldn't just sit in a hotel and stare at generic hotel walls.

This is an ice sculpture, of which there were many around downtown. This one, if you lick it, actually has a hint of chocolate. I don't know if people are supposed to lick it, but how often do you have the chance to lick a Lake Champlain Chocolates ice sculpture?

No, I didn't really lick it. That would be too weird even for me. But seriously, that would be cool if they mixed a little chocolate into the ice.

This is the second time the people who stayed in a hotel room before me were so frickin' hilarious that they set the alarm for some random middle of the night time.




That tweaked my sleep just enough that I woke up five minutes before I was supposed to leave for Burlington High School. Luckily, my hair takes about as long to sculpt as it took you to read that first "Ha" above.

Upon entering the auditorium were filled out #ReasonsWhyYouMatter notecards, wristbands, and books. Three of my favorite things!

Then, a great introduction by a student...

...and it was my turn to speak to these beautiful people!

I loved all of the positive and thought provoking messages throughout this school.

And the flags hanging in the cafeteria depicted all of the nationalities represented by the students. It's a wonderful thing to see a school recognizing and celebrating its diversity.

What didn't I see in Vermont this time? Colored leaves on trees. The Ben and Jerry's factory. The Vermont Teddy Bear factory. The Rokeby Museum of the Underground Railroad. The Christmas Loft. And so many maple-making and cheese-making tours...with samples!

I'll be back, Vermont!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

50 States Against Bullying: RHODE ISLAND

The fortieth stop on my 50 States Against Bullying campaign brought me to Rhode Island. I took a three hour train ride from New Jersey to get here, which involved lots of sleeping, reading, eating, and then a little more sleeping. Immediately upon exiting the train station, I was hit by the beauty of the capitol surrounded by snow.

Now that I'm entering the final fifth of my cross country journey, which has been received well beyond my expectations, I'm beginning to notice lots of things that I'll miss that I didn't think I'd miss. For example, I'm going to miss the weather extremes (being from California, any weather is an extreme). I'm even going to miss the near-daily scramble as we try to figure out how to get me to my next stop when the weather throws me a curveball. But that wasn't the case in Rhode Island. Here, I arrived on time and was able to enjoy the snow, which I will definitely miss even though most locals can't wait for it to leave.

The buildings that make up Moses Brown School are beautiful on their own, but everything becomes even more beautiful with a dusting or dollop or dumping of snow.

And icicles!

And lamposts! Lamposts in snow will always remind me of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Inside, and out of the snow, I was definitely in the right place.

My audience was mostly seventh and eighth graders, but several high school students joined the school librarian on the left side of the stage.

Straight ahead were the middle school students. If you look closely, many of them have sleeping babies near them. There were a lot of babies in this middle school! I began to wonder if that's because people are stuck indoors so much because of the snow, but it turns out the babies are part of a school project and aren't real. But they cried like they were real! When that happened, "Mommy" or "Daddy" respectfully and quietly got up to put them back to sleep or change a diaper. I have no idea how real the diaper doodie looked, nor did I ask.

And to the right, more students!

Given a brief tour of the school on my way to the cafeteria to grab coffee, I saw uniquely painted tiles along one hallway. Seniors decorate the tiles to share something about themselves. I don't know what Mr. T represented for this student, but as an A-Team fan, I had to take a pic.

Did I ever tell you about running into Mr. T once? I did! My mom still doubts my story, but I really did! It was at the height of the A-Team. I was leaving a liquor store where I'd bought some candy when this limo pulled up. And out stepped Mr. T! He was in a tuxedo, but he still had the gold chains draped over his shoulders and across his chest. I looked up at him, but I couldn't say anything! My mouth just hung open as I looked up. He was huge! And he looked down at my dumbstruck stare and gave me this little smirk and...

No, he really did!!!

I swear it happened just like that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

50 States Against Bullying: NEW JERSEY

The thirty-ninth stop on the 50 States Against Bullying campaign (after a false start in a state I'll return to soon) brought me to New Jersey. A few years ago, students at a Catholic girls school used Thirteen Reasons Why as a book club pick and during their discussion decided to clean up a vacant classroom and turn it into a safe room that anyone could enter at any time, no questions asked, to just get out of the halls, or decompress, or...whatever they needed. And I've loved hearing about other schools doing this, whether inspired by my book or not.

So it was great to see these stickers on the first classroom door I saw in Seneca High School.

I spoke to the school's entire freshman, plus a few other students from nearby schools.

During the Q&A, someone asked me a writing question that, for the first time, concerned bacon.

While I couldn't get a clear shot, I had to capture the sound and light crew hanging out of a window to get their picture taken.

I'm a sucker for themed library displays. And if it has to do with one of my books, even better!

Seneca High produces a morning show, which teachers can let students watch from any classroom. After my presentation, I was interviewed by this crew, and guess how many questions the interviewer had for me. Guess! Go on, I know you can figure it out!!!

Okay, she asked me thirteen questions. And if you guessed anything else, you really haven't been following my blog for very long.

I spent lunch with so many wonderful students, selected because of how they answered: "Thirteen reasons why Thirteen Reasons Why was meaningful to me..." (Like I said, if you couldn't guess how many questions that interviewer asked, you have not been here for very long.) As is often the case, I only ate half my lunch because the students had so many thoughtful questions, including a fascinating theory concerning Hannah Baker, the barista in Monet's, and piano benches.

After the school visit, I headed to Words Bookstore, where I spoke to more students and adults, including an elderly woman who chose to read her first YA novel, and it was an honor to sign it to her. Another reader, who drove in from New York, finally had her copy of The Future of Us signed by me, it's other author!