Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mavericks Matter

When a librarian picks you up at the airport in a convertible Mustang with the top down, you know it's going to be a good visit.

When you get to the school (in this case, Marvin Ridge High School in Waxhaw, NC) and the cafeteria is covered with posters saying YOU MATTER and PAUSE; PLAY, and those posters are covered in affirming statements, you know it's going to be a very good visit.

During a dinner with faculty, I was given insight into the many things they've done with Thirteen Reasons Why leading up to my visit, from classroom readings and analysis to community discussions on the issues in my book. That night, I spoke to mostly adults in the school's auditorium.

Back at school the next day, I gave a writing workshop to two groups of students who were selected to participate based on essays they'd written.

In that first group was the fourth student I've met named Hannah Baker, the main female character in 13RW.

Then it was off to the auditorium with my coffee to set up for the first of two presentations.

The sign on the stage was made up of even more positive statements
and spelled out MAVERICKS. It was supposed to say
MAVERICKS MATTER, but they ran out of time.

I spoke to the entire school over those two presentations. Both groups had great questions. Some questions were actually more personal comments, often greeted with applause by the other students for their openness.

I heard about that type of openness happening in classrooms as students shared reactions to the characters and issues in my book. Some of those discussions included tears, often by the students listening to other students speak. One of the best statements I've heard in my eight years of doing this was when one teacher apologized to another for not being more encouraging about the school-wide activities inspired by my book. Understandably, he was nervous about how the subject matter would be handled and taken. But after seeing the reactions of the students, and how they participated in my visit, after decades of teaching, this was his favorite day.

Openness and empathy are so powerful.

Then I spoke to the second group of essay winners.

This was another visit that required me to sit in my hotel room for a while after, and then take a long walk outside, to let myself fully appreciate what these amazing students and teachers shared with me during my short time with them.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

One Book, One Community - OHIO

Last weekend was a busy and beautiful one. It began with the wedding (thirteen years in the making) of my brother, Nate, and his new bride (my new sister!), Sarah. They had an outdoors autumn-themed wedding. When you walked from your car to the ceremony, you went down a leaf covered path, past pumpkins, lanterns, and hand-painted signs that retold their story. If you arrived as early as the wedding party, you may have seen my son (one of the two ring bearers) give each pumpkin a hug.

And here is the magical couple!

Early the next morning, after partying late into the evening, I flew out to Ohio for a One Book, One Community event. Why? Because I wrote the book! New Philadelphia chose Thirteen Reasons Why for their community read, hosting several events leading up to my presentation that made for a wonderful visit. They had school and public discussions surrounding the book and its topics. They held a book trailer contest, where the students of the winning trailer earned a visit from me to their school. So my first stop in town was Buckeye Career Center!

One thing I've really enjoyed during my author visits is getting to see the many creative ways communities educate their students. BCC has over thirty vocational tracts students may choose from. Here are some of the students who came to hear me speak...

...including a Hannah Baker. Her name badge even proves it!

I then had time to stop at an awesome used bookstore, Books-N-Things, where I bought just enough merchandise to barely squeeze into my carry-on luggage. They even had an entire section of Christmas books, which I'm a sucker for.

In the evening, I spoke at the Kent State Tuscarawas campus.

But before I spoke, the winners of the top three book trailers received a signed book and prizes.

This was a very fun group to speak with, laughing easily, oohing and aahing on cue, and asking great questions.

The autographing part of the evening was one of those inspiring and slightly overwhelming times of being an author that send me back to my hotel with so many profound emotions that I need to decompress by reaching out to author friends and then taking time to let it all soak in. These are the times I feel both unworthy and completely grateful to be in this position.

One of the notes I was handed included a line I can repeat right back to so many of the people I meet at these events.

Of course, it was also very cool to sign so many books handed to me in this condition!