Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Literary Homecoming -- Jay

A couple weeks ago, I received an e-mail from one of my old high school teachers. He was in a faculty book club at the school and they had just finished reading Thirteen Reasons Why. He was hoping I’d come back to school to discuss it.


So there I was, during lunch hour, in the conference room of my old high school library. The library looked the same as when I was a student there (except for the computers...and the fact that the trusty ol' card catalogue was a relic for display purposes only). I sat at one end of the room facing a bunch of empty chairs. And slowly, they started filing in. Who? A bunch of students and...my teachers!
  • Mr. Huttle, my Peer Communications teacher.
  • Ms. Avery, my American Lit. teacher.
  • Ms. Waterbury, my Tiny Tigers (an on-campus, student-run pre-school) teacher.
  • Ms. Porter.
  • Mr. Tedone.
It was surreal to hear students currently enrolled at my old high school, and my own teachers, discussing my book...which is set at that very school. But two moments stood out the most for me:

1. When signing Ms. Waterbury’s book, she reminisced about when I was a student of hers and how I told her I was going to one day become a children’s book writer. That was interesting, because I honestly didn’t remember wanting to do this that far back. I’ve been telling people it was a college-revelation. I guess I’m going to have to go back and revise my autobiography. (By the way, that was totally a joke. I’m not cocky enough to have written my autobiography...yet. But I do have a really good title for when I do!)

2. Sitting in the front row during my presentation was Ms. Avery. As juniors, we read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in her class. I would get so frustrated by her because she insisted that Mark Twain put tons of symbolism and extended metaphors in there on purpose. At the time, I insisted that she was reading too much into it. Same thing went for all those ironic statements and recurring themes she made us look for. I felt she was making it up simply so she had something to test us on. Now, every time I add a little symbolism or insert a subtle metaphor, I thank Ms. Avery for awakening my eyes to the powers of such literary tools. But during my presentation, I kept looking at everyone in the room except Ms. Avery. Because if anyone in that room was able to point out my literary weaknesses, it would've been her. But when I was done, she approached me, and...and...well, I'm not going to say what she told me (partly cuz it'd give away key parts of the book). Let's just say that the woman who found faults in my high school Huckleberry arguments (and there were plenty) was extremely complimentary about my use of ironically symbolic thematic metaphors.

I suppose I learned something in her class after all! Now, if I could only retake that final exam...

- Jay

Here are the first two pages from my 15-year-old copy of Huckleberry Finn:


Lisa Yee said...

Was that a library copy of Huck Finn?

Catherine J Gardner / Phoenix Rendell said...

Congratulations - that must have been awesome... Cate

Rita said...

What an experience. It's like a nightmare...except in an amazing, dream-come-true kinda way.

Colorado Writer said...

What did they have for lunch?

Disco Mermaids said...

No, Lisa, it wasn't a libary copy. Can you imagine my fine if I still had it after 15 years!?!?

And, CW, they brought paperbag lunches. I guess "school lunches" haven't changed much over the years.

- Jay

Deirdre Mundy said...

Hi Jay-- I just wanted to say that I just finished your book (tore through it, actually. I couldn't put it down.)

Is there an on-line discussion of it somewhere?

Also, have you talked any about Hannah's back-story?

I think you also did a great job portraying depression....

Really, I just wanted to say great book.... I'm jealous--I wish I could write like that! =) "Teen Suicide lit" is a genre I've never liked, but your book is amazing! And it's got so much depth! (sorry to gush.... but I was expecting it to be good based on all the buzz, I just didn't expect it to be THAT good!)

Congratulations on a excellent book!

(Sorry this post is off topic--I just wanted to put it where you'd see it. =) )

Danette Haworth said...

Congratulations! I guess you can go back home again!

a. fortis said...

Congratulations, but yikes! I would be so freaked out at the thought of returning to my high school to give a presentation. Sounds like you did a great job, though.

Aaron & Susie said...

What a memory you have built - and it will keep building for years to come - this was one of your life's great moments.

Great talking with you just after Thanksgiving.