Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Believe in the Great Pumpkin

From my bedroom window, I can see the Christmas tree farm where JoanMarie and I cut down our tree every December. But the bright lights they put up so customers don't trip over stumps were turned on rather early this year. So the other night, we drove over to see what was going on. Amid the still-growing Christmas trees, they were also growing pumpkins this year!

To help raise money for high school sports, the owners of the farm let the athletes grow pumpkins on their land free-of-charge. Each week, athletes from a different team are responsible for taking care of, then selling, the pumpkins. We were there on water polo night.

While we already had a few pumpkins back on our doorstep waiting to be carved, we just couldn't leave without buying a few more.

Sometimes it feels like the world is becoming more selfish. It's so wonderful to occasionally stumble upon a business doing a bit more than their share to help out their community.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nervous in Oregon

I used to be terrified of public speaking. Thankfully, I've learned to love it. But I still get extremely nervous before delivering a speech I've never given before.

Some time ago, I was invited to speak at the Eugene Public Library in Oregon. They wanted me to give one speech to teens about writing Thirteen Reasons Why, and another speech to teachers and librarians about the importance of books dealing with controversial subjects.

One way I've learned to enjoy speaking is by getting the audience to laugh. It was hard to find many natural places for humor in the speech to teachers and librarians, but they were very responsive to what I had to say and the stories I shared about attempts to ban or restrict access to Thirteen Reasons Why. In fact, I might just have to find a place to give that speech again! (But next time I'll try not to worry as much so I can get more than four hours of sleep the night before.)

Then I got to speak to my teen readers, which is always fun. And to follow it up with pizza? Absolute heaven!

The teens in Eugene were wonderful to chat with as I helped myself to some slices o' greasy goodness.

For more pics from the event, check out fellow Razorbill author Suzanne Young's blog. (Based on the reaction to Suzanne's upcoming book, I think she's got a hit on her hands!)

Upcoming Appearance: This Tuesday, I'll be speaking at a suicide prevention forum at the United Methodist Church in San Luis Obispo, CA. The 3-hour event begins at 6pm and is filled with valuable information. Plus, there will be free cookies!

Friday, October 23, 2009

It Ain't Nothin' but a Shower

After my recent visit to Arkansas, I took a trip down to Memphis to see Graceland. I was a huge Elvis fan when I was younger, spending hours perfecting the leg twitch and Thankyouverymuch.

The stone wall surrounding Graceland is completely covered with the names and brief messages of fans passing by.

Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me close enough to rock out Chopsticks on The King's piano.

The most shocking thing was that Graceland, compared to all of the Houses of the Stars showcased on TV today, wasn't huge. The rooms were actually small and cozy.

The tour ended with a visit to his final resting place.

Of course, I just had to try his favorite grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich while I was there!

Here's the part that I'm still scratching my head about. Back at my hotel, I noticed a weird bit of text on the sign out front. Usually hotels highlight that they have wi-fi, HBO, or an indoor swimming pool. But...try our showers???

I took two showers that night, just in case I was missing something. But I wasn't. It was just a shower!

At least I flew home smellin' purty!

P.S. If you're anywhere near Eugene, Oregon this Saturday (October 24), stop by the public library and say hi!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fried Green Tomatoes

Yes, my visit to Arkansas was about more than eating great food. But if you've never had a BLT sandwich where the T comes fried and're missing out! When I get back to California, if I can find a restaurant that serves those, they'll have a customer for life.

My real reason for being in Arkansas was to give three presentations at the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library. The first two presentations were during the day and students were bused in from several local schools. The evening performance was open to the public, but there were also some students bused in from a school further away. That meant they trekked to the library, after school hours, to hear an author speak!

Y'all have a great way of making a guy feel special. Thank you!

Once again, I signed a whole lot more than just books. A while back, in Florida, I signed a guy's forehead, which was a first for me. Well, tonight I signed my first female forehead.

That's Jazz in the photo above. Later in the evening, I signed my second female forehead...but I forgot to get a photo. D'oh! That would've been a fun collection to have.

And thank you, Nikki and Kathryn, for making these very cool t-shirts for the event.

I had way too many "favorite moments" throughout the day to share them all. But let me share two that are easy to describe.

1. A guidance counselor told me she framed a quote from my book and has it hanging in her office as a daily reminder: "Everything affects everything." (That just happens to be my favorite quote from the book, as well.)

2. I got an e-mail from one of the students who heard me speak today. Part of her e-mail said: "I want to become a writer more than anything in the world. After hearing that it took u 12 years to get a great book published, I now know it's not going to be easy...But it's worth it." Do I need to say any more about why I love meeting my readers?

As promised, here are left and right photos from each presentation. Next time, I'm taking panoramic shots!

The only person who made it into all six of the photos above, the woman in blue, is Miss Kay, the Children's Librarian. She set up a very well-organized event and was wonderful to work with over the two years it took to make the event happen.

I can't wait to come back!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Popcorn, Please!

Yep, the Thirteen Reasons Why fans have made me proud again.

Friday, October 16, 2009


As you know, I've been extremely excited about the upcoming high school production of Thirteen Reasons Why in Illinois. (As a recap, here are links to my previous two posts: So Much Drama! and So Much Drama! - 2) The other day, I opened an e-mail containing several letters written by students and teachers involved in the play. I'd like to share some excerpts from those letters, followed by a message for the students in Antioch.

Letter 1
I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so supportive of our production of your INCREDIMAZABLE book! I love the story and I think that this book has helped bring us all closer together in understanding what goes on in each other’s heads.

Letter 2
Thank you. You had enough faith and trust in us (even though you didn’t know us) to take your book and make it into TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY the stage play. The process has been amazing. Without you, none of this would have been possible. Sure, we still would have put on a fall show. There still would have been a play so the thespians would not go insane or go through withdrawal. But none of this magic could have happened. And that is exactly what this experience is for all of us: magical. Everyone involved has had their eyes opened up about these serious subjects. We have learned that no matter how insignificant you may think your actions are, they affect others. You have given us the wonderful opportunity to not only entertain the public, but also to educate them.

Letter 3
First off, we’d like to say we love your book and its message very much. It has caused us to think before we speak, help those who need it most, and do our best to be excellent friends.

Letter 4
Your novel has spoken to me because I’ve actually felt like Hannah before. I felt disgusted and depressed with myself so much that I felt like hurting myself. But then, after your book came into my life, it made me realize that deception, heartbreak, and complicated relationships shouldn’t be reasons to do something horrible to yourself. It has taught me that it is alright to reach out to someone when you need help. Your book has changed my outlook and perspective on life completely and has molded me into the young woman I am today.

Letter 5
I do not read much but I loved your book and could not put it down. I really enjoyed reading the book and having the opportunity to be a part of bringing it to life and hope that your words can help inspire our school.

Letter 6
TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY you should come to Antioch, IL...
13. We would like to meet the author of the book that compelled us to adapt it into play form.
12. We would like you to be able to celebrate this experience with us.
11. Not all of us are “avid readers,” but none of us could put this book down.
10. We would love the opportunity to converse with you about your process of writing this book and our process of putting this production together.
9. We would love for you to have the chance to see your story come to life.
8. The play has brought many new faces to our stage.
7. The book/play will open up avenues of conversation among students, parents, and ourselves.
6. It has opened our eyes and made us aware of those around us.
5. We have implemented the same preventive measures with our freshmen class.
4. It would be a wonderful experience for our community to meet the man behind the scenes…or, rather, the tapes.
3. The characters and the text are realistic, yet open to interpretation.
2. If you walked through the door, some of the females are likely to cry or possibly even wet themselves.
1. ACHS is proud to present “TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY.”

What else can I say? I would be absolutely honored to attend your production.

See ya in a few weeks!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Will Not Reference Toto, Dorothy, or Oz

The audience at the University of Kansas was made up of students from several schools. To get to the Literature Festival in time, some had to board a bus at 4 a.m.! When I heard that, my two-hour California/Kansas time difference didn’t seem so bad.

To begin the festivities, Lois Ruby spoke about a few of her books. Her presentation inspired me to grab myself an autographed copy of Steal Away Home.

Then I was presented the 2009 Heartland Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, which put me in a rather happy and celebratory mood. And during my presentation, which immediately followed the award, the audience had me floating across the stage. I’m just going to assume that laughing gas was seeping into the auditorium, because if every audience was like that audience, I would seriously consider a career as a stand-up comic. (As some of you know, that has always been a little fantasy of mine. But I’m too chicken!)

During the autographing sessions, I had a wonderful time chatting with the students individually.

By the end of the autographing, I think I’d signed one cast, three backpacks, one belt, two arms, one shirt, two hands, two hats, five shoes…

…and my very first Hello Kitty lunchbox.

Check out the following excerpts from letters some of the teens gave me:

  • Thank you for writing the book, I really enjoyed it. I couldn’t put it down, literally, because I had to read the book then write a paper on it, and it was due in a week because I put it off.
  • This book was really good for your first one.
  • [In reference to the first children’s book I ever wrote] Also hope your bunny book eventually sells, uh, one day somewhere in the future if our bunny overlords allow it and it’s not a disgrace to their kind!
  • Your book was AMAZING!…Oddly enough, it inspired me. I read 13 Reasons Why a while go and I don’t remember exactly what I was inspired to do, but I do remember that unique feeling. Thank you for giving it to me.
  • I hope I can see myself on your blog.
  • You are funny, weird, and down-right cool. I say that with as much respect as possible.

Some of the teens also opened up about personal issues, both in letters and in person, and I am so grateful that they felt comfortable enough to share so much with me.

Yes, Kansas was definitely one of my top author visits.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Audrey, Wait In Your Room!

As expected, Robin Benway and Jordanna Fraiberg were a lot of fun to do a booksigning with. I absolutely loved both Audrey, Wait! and In Your Room, so it was great to hear the backstories of where they came up with the ideas for their books.

In fact, if I wasn't sitting on the same side of the table as Robin and Jordanna, I would've still come out to hear them speak.

For everyone who got a book signed, we had special gifts. They got to take home Advanced Reading Copies of some upcoming Razorbill books. (And one or two may have accidentally come home with me, too.)

But the fun didn't stop when the work was done (of course, booksignings feel much more like fun than work). We all went out to a nice dinner with JoanMarie and Alex, also known as my wife and Jordanna's husband. And I got to show off some of the highlights of my town, such as Bubblegum Alley!

Yes, the walls of Bubblegum Alley are coated with exactly what it sounds like.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

3 Razorbillians, 1 Store

What does that poster say? No, not the one advertising a Peanuts Trick or Treat Bag for $1.95 (though I may have to get me one of those). The poster behind me!

This Saturday at the Barnes & Noble in San Luis Obispo (where I used to work), I'll be signing books with two of my favorite authors, Robin Benway and Jordanna Fraiberg.

Thirteen Reasons Why, Audrey, Wait!, and In Your Room are all Razorbill books, and we'll be giving away free copies of upcoming Razorbill books to a few lucky attendees.

Oh, good! It looks like the display is working...

And if you live a bit to the south, I'll be speaking...all by my the Santa Maria Public Library on Friday at 4pm.

Monday, October 05, 2009

So Much Drama! - 2

What are these students doing? It looks like they're just lounging around, having a good ol' time on sofas and cushy chairs.

Oh. Apparently they're rehearsing for a play.

In the few acting classes I took while in school, it was fairly obvious I wasn't cut out for the stage. But I did work on the sound crew for a few plays in high school. Unfortunately, I wasn't very good at that, either. As far as creative arts go, I should just stick with writing novels and stay out of the theater.


Wait! What do their binders say? Thirteen Reasons Why??? Oh, I get it. These must be the students at Antioch Community High School I was telling you about, moving forward on their fall production.

Here are the actors and actresses who will play Clay and Hannah on different nights.

I wonder if they have any idea that they're taking a dream I didn't dare wish aloud and turning it into reality.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

FAME is Exhausting!

I am so worn out.

I've spoken at a lot of schools and conferences over the past two years, but never at a conference for school librarians. The attendees at the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME) conference are like a swarm of Energizer Bunnies. They just keep going and going and going... And it's wonderful! They understand the importance of their jobs and jump at every opportunity to make reading more exciting and enticing for their students. So the authors at this conference are constantly being asked to pose for photos to show the students back home. I've never smiled so much in my life!

After yesterday's panel with Roland Smith, Neal Shusterman, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Ridley Pearson, I had my first of two book signings. I've wanted to meet Wendy Mass for years, and was lucky enough to find myself signing right beside her.

I think I acted a little fanboy around her, but I couldn't help it.

Then I sat down for a filmed interview, which is always interesting. Do I look at the camera? No, look at the reporter. Damn! I looked at the camera.

At night they had a dinner, followed by dancing. But people were having so much fun talking, the dance floor remained bare. JoanMarie, a dancing fool, was with me and kept asking, "This song? What about this song?" So I finally gave in and showed off my four swing dance moves.

And then I skedaddled off the dance floor. So JoanMarie began pulling everyone onto the dance floor and soon the place was hoppin'.

The President of Fame even told me I'd better bring JoanMarie back next year, whether I'm nominated for anything or not.

This morning, I rushed downstairs to hear Margaret Peterson Haddix give a speech during the Author Breakfast. But a hotel worker ushered me into the wrong breakfast and I missed most of Margaret's speech because I was too busy hanging out with the folks from some conference with Cardiovascular and Renal in the title.

Definitely not my crowd...though I did eat their food.

Then I accepted my Florida Teens Read Award, which was a huge honor. And now I have to somehow fit a couple of heavy personalized glass bookends into my carry-on luggage.

That was followed by a tear-inducing keynote speech by Jodee Blanco. I am absolutely buying her book, Please Stop Laughing at Me...One Woman's Inspirational Story. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait to get it signed because the bookstore sold out of her book.

Finally, I gave my presentation.

It was a very fun event for a couple of reasons. The audience was made up of people who've definitely contributed to the success of my book, so I felt like I was talking to friends. And JoanMarie was there. She's only seen me give this presentation one other time, back when I was brand new to this public speaking thing. And I'll admit, I was showing off a bit for her!

And now it's time to hit the pool.