Last week, I spent three days speaking and signing books at the 18th Annual Novello Festival of Reading in Charlotte, North Carolina. Was it amazing? Was it amazing? Yes. It was amazing!
On Thursday and Friday, I spoke at four high schools: Ardrey Kell, Performance Learning Center, North Mecklenburg, and West Charlotte. It's unbelievable how every presentation can be a totally unique experience. And yet, you should believe it cuz it's true!
As usual, I use a PowerPoint to show my journey as an author and how Thirteen Reasons Why came to be. And, as usual, this slide here seems to get the biggest reaction. My favorite part, every time, is when I get to read a few pages with one of the students. Their interpretations of Hannah are always different (and not just because of the various accents they give her around the country) but they're always great!
This was the first time I arrived at a school, greeted by my name on the marquee. Did that give me the chills? Uh...kinda!
At another school, for the first time, they had posterboards and whiteboards all over the place announcing my visit. One whiteboard was overflowing with favorite quotes from the book. One posterboard was full of positive messages derived from the book. Here's Ashley and me in front of one of the whiteboards. (She designed the audiotape!)
The library across from my hotel had a gallery of original children's book art. There was a Tomie dePaola. A Garth Williams. And check out this close-up of a David Wisniewski paper cut-out piece.
Down the street was another library...just for children and teens. The ImaginOn is amazing! Aside from plenty of things to read (except for Thirteen Reasons Why...it was checked out!), there are a million cool things for children to play with. The teens even have a studio where they can film animated cartoons, live-action scenes (with a blue-screen for special f/x), or record their own music. And all you need is a library card.
Plus, they have some huge art structures.
Oh, and there were other authors in town, too! That's what Novello does. They bring in all types of authors to speak with all types of readers. And, quite often, I need to pinch myself over the people I find myself hanging out with. Here I am, dining with A.M. Jenkins, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Ellen Hopkins. (Pinch-pinch!)
On the final day of the program, all of the authors and illustrators for children and teens did a group Q&A at ImaginOn, followed by an autograph party outside. Here I am being clawed by the author of The Cheetah Girls, Deborah Gregory. Growl power!
I swear, Cynthia Kadohata, author of Kira-Kira, started it! But at least I can say I fulfilled my long-held dream of putting bunny ears on a Newbery-winning author.
Before going home, I paid a visit to a traveling Pompeii exhibit. The rooms were full of items excavated out of the ash, bringing back to life an amazing city. But the final room was heartbreaking. The walls and floor were black. Overhead spotlights illuminated the famous plaster casts of the final moments of people and animals trapped in their homes and on the streets. A slave still had shackles around his legs. A man held a handkerchief up to his mouth. A man and a woman spend their last moments together.
It's funny how authors are attracted to things like Pompeii. Ms. Haddix and Ms. Jenkins were walking the exhibit and ran into Ms. Kadohata. And then they ran into me. As Ms. Haddix pointed out, only one of us opted to purchase the audiotour device. And if you had to guess, based on our books, which author would be most fascinated by the idea of an audiotour...you might pick me.
And you'd be right.