Monday, April 29, 2013

My Rochester Vacation

When I travel, I rarely get a chance to check out the town I'm visiting. But in Rochester, NY, between two book signings and a speech at the New York Library Association (NYLA) conference, I snuck away to three museums!

The first, the Strong National Museum of Play, is one of the most fun museums I've ever been to. They have so many unique areas, but I spent most of my time browsing the exhibit on the history of toys. This first pic is of The Landlord's Game, which eventually morphed into Monopoly.

They had a Commodore 64, which was the first computer my family owned. And yes, the keyboard in this pic was the entire thing. You plugged it into your TV, and off you (slooooooowly...) went!

I also played the original versions of some of the first video games, including Pac-Man. Look at these cutting edge graphics!

When I saw their Teddy Ruxpin (which I never owned), a great/twisted idea hit me.

In Thirteen Reasons Why, Clay has to figure out how to play Hannah's cassette tapes so he can listen to them away from home. What if Clay, instead of what happens in the book, goes into his attic and finds his dad's old Teddy Ruxpin?

Imagine him holding that bear close to his ear, riding a city bus, as Teddy's mouth moved, saying things like "There was just something about you that made me need to be your girlfriend."

Someone please film that book trailer!

After the Museum of Play, I went to the house where Susan B. Anthony lived. On the guided tour, it was almost overwhelming to imagine the history-making conversations and events that happened right where I stood.

That tree pictured above was growing there when Ms. Anthony lived in that house. The stones making up the sidewalk were the actual stones she walked on. I love that the city preserved that section of the sidewalk!

That night, I got to hear Jacqueline Woodson (another very inspiring woman) accept the Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature.

The next morning, I gave a presentation as this crowd of librarians ate breakfast.

Maybe it was the "breakfast pizza" (topped with scrambled eggs!) that put them in such a good mood, but they laughed so easily that even I laughed a few times. And I'm usually good at keeping a straight face during presentations.

After my talk, Svetlana Chmakova and I were taken on a tour of the Eastman House, owned by the man who built the Eastman Kodak Company.

Especially while viewing his massive library of (non-digital) books, I felt guilty taking (digital) photographs on my phone. I wouldn't blame the museum if they only allowed tourists to use cameras that required Kodak film!

I returned to the conference to hear Dan Gutman give the closing keynote. This dude absolutely cracks me up!

Thanks for a great visit, NYLA!

And yes, Rochester, I absolutely got the message that your teen book festival is an amazing event. I am very seriously looking into attending next year (hopefully with Carolyn Mackler and my family...Isaiah would love the Museum of Play). And if any of you readers are near Rochester this May 18th, check out this list of authors you can meet!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Checking Facebook On an Empty Stomach

Kristen Pettit was the editor of Thirteen Reasons Why. Even though she's now working at a different publishing house (I won't tell you which one because I'm a Penguin to the core!), we've remained good friends ever since.

Earlier this week, Kristen posted a photo on Facebook. Attached to the following photo was the caption: "Likely the last homemade pot pie of the season."

The last? As in, no more? But what if I wanted to try one? Sure, Kristen lives in New York and I live California, but knowing that was her last pot pie of the season made my tummy rumble.

So Kristen and I bantered back and forth in the comments section (click the above photo to see how that went), and soon she was posting step-by-step pics of the pie's journey from NY to CA.

(She just had to sneak in a pic of her new publishing house.)
The very next day, I opened that very same box.

JoanMarie and her mom were at The Great American Melodrama, so the first helping went to Isaiah. The chicken pot pie more than passed the 2-year-old test.  (My son is 2-years-old, not the pie. The pie was only 2-days old!)

And then it was my turn...

The eyes say it all!

Thank you, Kristen!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's All Write in Virginia

Late last week, I flew to a speaking engagement in Virginia. Usually, my first flight leaves before the sun comes up, but this time I left late enough to see what my hometown looks like from the air.

My first event had me speaking at a juvenile detention center. This is the second time I've spoken at a detention center, and they were both wonderful experiences. A lot of what those teens have been through is much worse than most of what Hannah experiences in Thirteen Reasons Why. Sometimes, they've done things worse than most of what happens in that book. But their desire to discuss that book and understand the characters, as well as share their personal experiences with me, made the entire trip worthwhile.

But there was still more!

I then spoke to a group of students at Park View High School in their school library. It was hard not to look down and smile whenever I walked by this display.

Then I spoke at the public library in Stone Ridge. This library has only been open since February, and it is beautiful! Here's one side of the audience who turned up for the free pizza (and to meet me...I hope).

One guy drove five hours to be there, and if you look through the window, you'll see that it was pouring outside. And that makes him extra awesome!

Something I'm starting to do more of, since some people own my books digitally, is to sign books that I didn't write. So if I'm ever in your town, feel free to bring along my book...or anyone else's book.

The next day, I handed out the awards for the It's All Write student writing contest. Awards were handed out in middle school and high school categories. The names and titles on these displays list all of the entries.

Linda, the organizer of my trip to Virginia, lives near Oak Hill, the home built for James Monroe (fifth President of the United States). The home remains privately owned, but since Linda is friends with the owner, I got a private tour of the house and its beautiful surroundings.

Virginia, you are beautiful. Thanks for being a great host!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Denver Sandwich on Chicago Bread

In the last two weeks, I flew to Chicago, then home, then Denver, then home, then back to Chicago. And what do I have to show for it? Some great memories, but hardly any photos! I don't know why I've fallen out of the habit of taking pictures of almost everything. Yes, it lets me be a little more in-the-moment during my visits, but I also love looking back at where I've been.

So here's a quick photo-light recap of two fast-paced and inspiring weeks.

Over two days, just outside of Chicago, I spoke at Libertyville High School and Grayslake Central High School. Both schools were hosting their own version of Writers Week, bringing in many types of writers to speak to the students about their passions, as well as giving students the opportunity to read their works in front of their classmates.

Here's one student reading in front of a packed auditorium at Libertyville shortly before my presentation.

Here's the stage at Grayslake as the students began arriving to hear me speak.

Grayslake had artwork made to highlight each of the speakers, which we all eventually signed.

In Denver, I joined Lauren Oliver as a keynote speaker at the Colorado Teen Literature Conference. Hundreds of teens and adults came out to hear us speak, as well as partake in discussions about many aspects of teen literature. Separately, Lauren and I recorded podcasts with readers who asked some of the best questions. Having done hundreds of Q&As since my books came out, it's always refreshing and surprising to get asked something new!

Lauren and I each led writing workshops in a fun basement-level room that reminded me of pics I've seen of The Cavern Club where The Beatles honed their skills. I did my workshop on suspense (No Bookmarks Allowed!), and if you've attended that workshop, you know I include a photo in my Powerpoint of another author freaking out over something random. Here's Lauren freaking out over a mini-Milky Way (and yes, this makes sense in the context of my presentation).

Back outside of Chicago, in the town of Skokie, I spoke at Lincoln Junior High and Fairview South School during the day. At Lincoln, I spoke in the gym, beneath a beautiful ceiling I totally should've taken a picture of! At Fairview South, a group of girls came in before my presentation to hang a beautiful poster.

That evening, I spoke at the public library, and was happy to see a poster with my in-person visit listed above Dan Brown's video visit. (Sure, that simply had to do with my visit being first, but it's still cool! And yes, I'm definitely buying Dan Brown's Inferno when it comes out next month.)