Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I Find This Hopeful

Being a Connecticut resident, as I am, and a reader of newspapers, as I also am, I've been aware for a while that authors occasionally make appearances at our casinos. Sure, they're usually bestselling adult authors. However, YA author Eric Luper will be at Foxwoods this weekend signing two of his books.

Okay, these two books have a gambling connection. But, come on, a casino recognizing that its customers are interested in reading--that's got to be a good thing.

Learned about this through the NESCBWI listserv, not the local press. But if I see it mentioned this week, I'll let you know.

Hmmm. I haven't been to Foxwoods in a long time. I wonder if there's a bookstore there? That would be interesting.


Friday, November 20, 2009

I Missed The Real Fun

Check out Marc Tyler Nobleman's blog post about the Connecticut Children's Book Fair. Be sure to scroll down to the photographs that look as if they were taken at a crime scene.

By the time all this was going down, I was back from my trip to the ER, had finished my calm down reading, and was asleep. It's probably a toss up as to who got more sleep that night.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good Times...Good Times

This year's Connecticut Children's Book Fair was a great day for me. My presentation went well, pretty well attended and with me coming in under the twenty-minute time frame I had been given so that the audience had time to ask questions. Plus my PowerPoint slides were some of the nicest I saw because my computer guy is an artist.

For my signings I was set up between Pegi Deitz Shea, who I've known for years, and P.W. Catanese, who, I learned when attending his presentation, has sold over half a million books. Pegi has a new book out Noah Webster, Weaver of Words, illustrated by Monica Vachula. Very attractive. And Paul (see, I'm among those people who know the "P" in "P.W." stands for Paul) has a new series, The Book of Umber.

Leslea Newman did a great presentation about her book Hachiko Waits. Marc Tyler Nobleman's talk was terrific, too, especially when he started in on Superman because who doesn't love Superman?

Remember Janet Lawler, whom I mentioned back in September? She is my new B.F.F. We bonded in the green room and then ate dinner together in the evening.

I also met the children's services librarian who maintains Jacket Whys a blog on Children's and YA book covers. I won't out her by giving her name (though I'm among those people who know it) because she doesn't use it in her "About" section.

Before I left the house yesterday morning, I explained to a family member that I hadn't invited anyone to attend the dinner with me because I didn't want anyone to see how poorly I schmooze. He agreed that it would be a painful thing to watch. However, I pretty much schmoozed all day (except for an hour break late in the afternoon when I did some more reading of Walden at the library.) I even made it through the forty-five minute pre-dinner cocktail ordeal pretty much unscathed, too.

Oh! Oh! Lois Lowry ate dinner at the table next to mine! I didn't notice until dessert, though. I had a camera in my bag, and I could have tried to sneak pictures of her, but it would have been tacky. Someone asked me if I could give Lois (I'm not among those people who can call her Lois, but she'll never know.) instructions on how to get back to her hotel, and I offered to give her a ride. But by that time, she'd already left the building. It was just as well, because while I know I could have gotten her there (it was within walking distance of the Dodd Center, where we ate), it might have taken me a couple of shots to find the right tiny, cramped road to turn onto.

So I left feeling very professional and more positive about work than I have been, but then...but then...but then I ended up spending an hour and a half or so in a hospital emergency room in the middle of the night with one of the elders!

Where, I am ashamed to say, I read still more of Walden while he was off having tests. And I read more of it today after we brought him home.

What a wild ride, huh?


Friday, November 13, 2009

The Connecticut Children's Book Fair Is Tomorrow

In my enthusiasm for moaning and groaning about the miserable situation for writers these days, I almost forgot to remind everyone that I will be at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair tomorrow. It's on the UConn-Storrs campus, in the Rome Ballroom. (Rome Hall.) I'll be there from 11 to 2 or thereabouts. I'm speaking at 12:15.

I have a PowerPoint presentation, for those of you who enjoy slides. Everyone enjoys slides, right?


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

One Issue Down, Another To Go

I'm feeling very good today about my presentation for the Connecticut Children's Book Fair on November 14 at UConn in Storrs, Connecticut. Now I just have to work out what to wear.

Sad to say, I actually have already been thinking about this and poking around at some of my possessions. When the seasons change, I sometimes am pleasantly surprised by what I find in the bins in my closet. Not so much this fall.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Have Details

I've been meaning to mention that I have details about my appearance at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair. I'll be there on Saturday, November 14th with a presentation at 12:15 PM and signings from 11 AM to noon and 1 to 2 PM. The fair will be held in the Rome Commons Ballroom of Rome Hall on the South Campus of UConn in Storrs, Connecticut. Here are your driving directions.

I am working on a new PowerPoint presentation. Whenever I make an appearance I seem to need a new PowerPoint presentation.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dinosaurs Romping In The Snow In Connecticut

Here in central Connecticut we had a nice, floppy snow today--our second snow this week. So I thought it was neat to learn this afternoon that a launch event for Tyrannoclaus--a Christmas book about dinosaurs--will be held November 8 from 1 to 4 pm at Connecticut's own Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill. If it's already snowing here in mid-October, might we expect a bit on the ground at Dino State Park by November 8th?

Dinosaurs? Snow? Christmas? Come on! I can't be the only one who's seeing the way this whole scenario is coming together.

By the way, there's a fee to tour the museum, but the readings at 1:00 and 2:30 and the booksigning in the gift shop are free.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Upcoming Connecticut Events

Fish Tales, Tugs & Sails is coming up this Saturday in New London. (New London is very close to Groton.) This is a "nautical-themed family event promoting literacy and the environment." Among the authors appearing are two I know--Dana Meachen Rau and Mary Newell DePalma--and one I've heard speak--Jeanine Behr Getz.

I have family stuff going on Saturday, the kind of family stuff that involves setting tables and washing vast quantities of dishes. I will be thinking of New London, especially if the weather is good.

Then for two months a consortium of eastern Connecticut libraries will be inviting local authors to showcase their books. They're calling this series The Connecticut Authors Trail.


My Trip To See Margo Lanagan Was Meant To Be

I drove down to a library about forty minutes from here last night to hear Margo Lanagan speak. (Look! She has a blog! I will have to read it for a while.) I am halfway through Tender Morsels and liking it a great deal. I just happened to have picked it up from the library before I heard she was going to be speaking nearby. I know when I'm being sent a message from the...whatever...and I definitely pay attention.

As I left home last night to head toward the coast, a family member said, "Hope you'll be able to understand her," since he was aware that Lanagan is from Australia. I felt that she sounded far more like Emma Thompson than Crocodile Dundee. I brought my camera just in case I got the nerve to take pictures. I didn't. Particularly since I couldn't have done it in a subtle way, since there were only twelve of us (counting the librarian) in the audience.

I was, and continue to be, appalled. This woman is an internationally known award-winning author and justifiably so. What the hell was going on in Groton last night? Was the fleet coming in or something? (That's a Connecticut joke because we all know the sub base is down there.) I've spoken to crowds so small I would have been grateful if they'd reached a dozen. I usually speak to crowds so small I would be grateful if they reached a dozen. But this was Margo Lanagan, who just had a Printz Honor Book talked up at the ALA Conference! There was a dessert reception and you had to pay for tickets and everything!

Okay, they only had cookies and lemonade at the Groton Library...but it was free!

It's going to take me a while to get over this.

Anyway, as a general rule, I enjoy hearing authors speak, but I don't care to listen to readings. I need to see the printed word before me. (I am definitely a visual learner--I have to take notes after taekwondo class so I can read them later in order to retain anything about what just happened.) But Lanagan's readings last night made me want to read Black Juice.

Black Juice is a book of short stories, and you know that I tend to dwell on short stories.

Training Report: Still more on the 365 Story Project! And I updated my Amazon blog for the first time in a month, since there is now a remote chance that some reader will find it.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Will I Meet Margo Lanagan Next Week?

I picked up Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan at the library today. The library has had it since February, and I'm the first person to take it out. (We still use stamped sheets attached to the book covers, which I love because I like to see what kind of action the book has been seeing.) This is not a comment on Tender Morsels by any means. I can't tell you how many times big name YA books--often big name YA books that are very good--don't move much at our library. We're not what you'd call a literary town, as I may have mentioned before.

After I got home, I learned that Margo Lanagan will be appearing next week at the Groton Public Library. That's the Groton Public Library, Groton, Connecticut. And she'll be speaking from 7:00 to 8:30 PM.

That's actually doable for me. And you did notice that the event lasts less than three hours, right? Custom made for moi, whose attention hits the wall at the three-hour point. Probably before, if the truth be known.

Training Report: I had hoped to finish something and get it into the mail today, but I never finish things and get them into the mail when I think I will. In fact, I usually plan for that. It's been so long since I've finished anything and tried to mail it that I forgot, though.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Oh. So That's What I've Been Doing Wrong

You know, if I'm doing a book signing, I figure if I put on make-up and earrings and made sure I've got a good pen, I've gone over the top for preparation. Crowe's Nest has a post up about Grace Lin baking and decorating 80 cupcakes, putting them in boxes and then putting the boxes in goody bags with some homemade paper flowers, a poster, and an activity sheet all to give out at a signing...where she also did a slide show.

Don't those paper flowers look like the things we all made out of tissues and bobby pins when we were in grade school? Because I think I could do that. Though it wouldn't relate in any way to anything I've ever written.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Connecticut News

By way of Book Tour, I've learned that Tony Abbott (Firegirl and The Postcard) will be appearing at the Barnes & Noble in Milford, Connecticut next Tuesday at 7:00 PM. Eric Berlin, who did a blog tour and contest in April for The Potato Chip Puzzles (my computer guy entered almost every single day and won nada), will be at the same store on Monday, June 22, at 7:30 PM.

I've also recently heard (well, the publisher sent me an e-mail) about a publication here in Connecticut called The New Haven Review. According to its website, "It was founded to resuscitate the art of the book review and draw attention to Greater New Haven-area writers." We're all for book reviews and Greater New Haven-area writers here at Original Content. (I am not a Greater New Haven-area writer, though I did eat at Pepe's last year.)

At its website, The New Haven Review has what appears to be a blog maintained by a number of writers. On June 5, Alison Moncrief wrote about the New Yorker article Show or Tell: Should Creative Writing Be Taught? Alison ends her post with with some interesting questions. She says:

"Would the New Yorker publish, “Sight and Vision: Should Painting be Taught?” or “Stories upon Stories: Should Architecture be Taught?” or even “Eat Your Cake too: Should the Culinary Arts be taught?” I don’t think so. How and why is writing held to a different standard? Is it that ultimately we don’t as a nation really consider writing to be an art form? That we can’t understand that painting, buildings, and poems can all narrate humanity-just through different media?"

Personally, I think it's more likely that we as a nation consider writing to be way too arty. People see it as being too mystical to even explain, let alone teach.

"Stories upon Stories: Should Architecture be Taught"--I thought that was very clever.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Yes, I Actually Have Plans To Go Somewhere

I will be one of the featured writers this fall at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair. Among the other authors attending will be Holly Black, who chaired a panel at Readercon last year, and Katie Davis, who I have actually met.

I have already begun planning what I will speak about during my presentation. At this point, I expect it will involve dead mice.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Read Across America Victim Of White-out

In Connecticut and a lot of other east coast states, school was cancelled today. That means Read Across America Day was cancelled, too. I've been rescheduled to read at my host school next Monday, though I'm not sure how big an event they're planning now.

This cancellation wasn't a crisis for me. In fact, I actually revised an entire chapter today, something I'm not always able to pull off. Great day.

However, cancelled events (which absolutely cannot be helped--life happens) can end up being a frustrating and even costly situation for some writers. If you're presenting to a new age group, for instance, it can mean days of creating content and a new PowerPoint presentation, as well as some run through practice. A presentation that big usually also involves payment. But if everything has to be cancelled, the writer loses days of work--both the days she spent prepping and the days she lost from writing because she was preparing for a presentation. If you're an author who actually makes a decent (or even adequate) income from your writing, a cancellation can be a bit of a financial blow. You can hope that you'll use the presentation some day, but you may not.

Fortunately, a Read Across America invitation only involves reading something you've already written. The biggest preparation I did for today was finding something in my closet to wear. And now I'll get to wear it next week. If only Read Across America came every week.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Read Across America

Monday, March 2nd is Read Across America Day. I'll be reading a selection from A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers to a couple of kindergarten classes here in Connecticut. This appearance came about because of my involvement with my local Kids Heart Authors Day event.

It's the second year in a row that I've been invited to take part in Read Across America, so I'm feeling very popular right about now.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Gail Loves Kids Heart Authors Day

I had one excellent morning at Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, which hosted five author/illustrators for Kids Heart Authors Day. We had a nice, steady stream of people stopping by (and purchasing) and great booksellers who did a wonderful job preparing for us.

I also met some terrific new people. (But what kidlit people aren't terrific, right?):

Deborah Freedman, author and illustrator of Scribble.

Sandra Horning, who wrote The Giant Hug

Laura Jacques who illustrated Whistling Wings (among other things--I saw some of her other books there today)

Nancy Tafuri who has written and illustrated a number of books but was signing The Blue Goose today, as well as I couple of other titles I didn't catch because, well...

...we were all talking and having a good time!


Friday, January 30, 2009

Kids Heart Authors Day

I've been doing some promotional work for Kids Heart Authors Day here.

Kids Heart has a real promotional person, and don't think it wasn't terrific to just send her a list of publications in my state and let her deal with them. I could get used to that.

This week Computer Guy made a lovely flyer that described both Kids Heart Authors Day and my particular store appearance. I've been sending it to area schools as well as to some librarian connections. This was actually more fun then I've found doing this kind of thing to be in the past, probably because I actually know some of the people I've been contacting. Plus, because I was doing this by e-mail, two people responded positively within minutes.

It sort of made me feel as if I were gambling and had just won a couple of hands. Let's play some more! Who else can I send this thing to?

I'm going to be one of five authors and illustrators appearing at Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut on Valentine's Day. One of the librarians who got back to me today said that this particular bookstore is a "huge supporter of libraries."

A very nice reputation to have.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Getting Ready For Valentine's Day

Christmas tends to be an endurance test for me. Looking forward to January is what gets me through it.

This year looking forward to Valentine's Day helps, too. Here in New England Kids Hearts Authors Day will be held on February 14th. Authors and illustrators will be making appearances across the region in independent bookstores that morning.

Authors and illustrators and independent booksellers still have time to sign up.

Planning for the new year is the best way to avoid a post-Christmas letdown.

By the way, Kids Heart Authors Day is the brainchild of Mitali Perkins.


Pick A Topic And Stick With It, Gail

Today I did a writing process talk for two fifth grade classes, using The Hero of Ticonderoga, which some of the students are reading as part of a history unit, to illustrate points. I usually talk about using personal experience in writing when I visit schools, so this was all new material for me. My talk was a rough draft, as I explained to the class.

The teacher who contacted me had requested that I speak about journals and revision, which I did. The talk went well enough, with lots of questions and teachers sounding appreciative. However, I had overplanned for the time allowed and had to hurry to end so that the kids could have a few minutes to ask questions before they had to get on their buses.

I was dissatisfied, though I don't think anyone else was.

As I was driving away, I decided that the mistake I made was trying to cover more than one topic at a time. I should have done only one thing, expanded on it some more, and finished early.

So now I have what we could still call a rough draft as well as a plan for two new presentations. Whether or not I ever get around to completing them remains to be seen.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Student Writing

I'm going to be giving a talk on writing process to some fifth graders later this month. The teacher I've been working with mentioned an author named Ralph Fletcher who writes books for teachers on writing. It turns out he also writes both picture books and chapter books.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

The Three Robbers Celebration--The Hannah and Brandon School Presentation

I've discussed in a couple of my Three Robbers blog tour interviews that I became interested in writing a book for younger readers after talking with teachers at elementary schools where I was doing presentations for middle grade students. Then at The Miss Rumphius Effect I talk a little more about my school visits. So I thought that today I'd say a few words about the presentation I developed for first through third graders around A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat, the first in The Hannah and Brandon Stories.

Teachers suggested that I speak to the littlies about things like characters, plot, setting--what sounded like the elements of fiction to me. So I thought I could try introducing kids to those terms, or, in the case of students who already knew them, reinforce their meaning/significance. But how? I use storytelling in my talk for older kids, which is about writers using their experience in their work. I hardly wanted to stand up in front of younger children and do a literature lecture.

Preparing a presentation was a struggle for me, until I came up with a couple of metaphors. Oh, how I love metaphors--the meaningful kind that explain life. Surely you all have some of those? Mine for this presentation are:

1. Writers are scientists who make changes in their characters, plot, and setting every time they create a new experiment/draft.

2. A story is a jigsaw puzzle, and the characters, plot, and setting are the pieces that a scientist/writer moves around while experimenting, until all the pieces come together into a story.

After that, things fell into place for me. Sort of like a jigsaw puzzle, in fact. My computer guy loved the metaphors and made me a set of terrific slides.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

I Don't Talk Too Much, Do I?

My on-line chat with the kiddies in Maine went very well today, though there was a little snafu when one of their computers didn't connect with me the way we expected it to. I was asked some very good questions, some of which I hadn't heard before. Plus, I was able to ask one. Last week I reread A Year with Butch and Spike, which was the main subject of our discussion, and I began to worry that "Butch" and "Spike" weren't very contemporary names. But the people there said they knew a couple of Butches and a Spike, and they were all kids. So, huzzah!

While I was typing away, though, I was worried that I was typing too much, droning on and on. I even stopped everything and asked, "Am I talking too much?" They didn't respond to that. Do you suppose they were just trying to be polite? You know, as in if you can't say something good, don't saying anything at all?

I did e-mail with my contact for this event, and she seemed happy and felt everything went just fine. I didn't ask her if I talked too much. I phrased it differently. I said, "I did worry that my answers were too lengthy. How did you feel? Was I giving the kids too much information?"

I felt that was a less pathetic way of asking if I'd talked too much.

Anyway, I love the idea of doing "appearances" from my office in the cellar and hope to get more of that kind of work.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Talk Talk Talk About Author Talks

I've been interested in author presentations this spring because I did one last month and have two more coming up. Many children's authors who do school and library presentations would be embarrassed to have so few lined up, but I find three overwhelming. The next one is an on-line chat, which sounds fun and should be easy. (That means I'm riding for a fall, of course.) But the one in May is at a junior/senior high school. In another state. And the library media specialist said I could eat lunch in the cafeteria with the kids, which means he must have read my website page on presentations (the brochure) where I say I like to eat lunch in the cafeteria with the kids. And I do. But in a junior/senior high school?!! I've written scenes in two books (one unpublished to date) about the horrors of eating in those cafeterias. Who's going to want to eat with me? It would be like eating with their mother.

On top of all that, I have to revise my presentation for that age group.

So, anyway, I've been thinking about all that lately, and I've noticed that Mitali Perkins has been thinking about it, as well, because she's been doing author presentations, too.

I also finally read (skimmed) Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers by Toni Buzzeo and Jane Kurtz. Toni Buzzeo is a kind of guru of author presentations here in New England. Or maybe the United States. Or maybe the world. The book she wrote with Jane Kurtz is filled with information, but primarily of interest to media specialists and teachers planning author events. Though new children's authors looking for ideas for preparing a school presentation will certainly get some from Terrific Connections. In fact, even I got a little inspiration for my high school talk.

For anyone interested in finding an author to come visit a school, I've recently learned about Author School Visits BY STATE!, a new blog that collects websites of authors who do school visits. Which is pretty much what its title says.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mystery Reader

Yesterday, I was a Mystery Reader in a fourth-grade classroom at an elementary school in the next town. Mystery Reader Programs are used in a lot of elementary schools. Adults from many different fields are invited into classrooms to just read a story to kids and talk for a while. This class was doing Mystery Readers as part of its observance of Dr. Seuss's Birthday, which is tied to Read Across America Day.

I brought in one of the arcs for A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers and read a story from it, so these kids were hearing work from a book that won't be published until this summer. I also explained to them what an advance readers' copy is, showing them a manuscript from my printer and explaining that between the time a story looks like that and looks like a completed book, it goes through a galley stage. (I also had a stack of those.) And, of course, it's galleys that are bound and mailed out to review journals, distributed at professional conferences, yada, yada, yada.

This was the first time I'd done any kind of presentation related to the Hannah and Brandon Stories. As I was reading out loud, I was thinking, Don't they like it? What if they don't like it? What if we're on the second book in this series, and kids don't like them? Maybe I should have stayed home. Did I spend more time putting on makeup and clean clothes than I'm going to spend here in this classroom?

But as soon as I finished, the kids were very vocal about liking what I'd read. They wanted to know if the first book was at their library, and then they wanted to know if I'd read this book or that book that they'd really liked.

I particularly enjoyed that part of the visit, because I don't know a lot of adults who read children's books. I don't have a lot of people I can talk to about the things I read. Talking about books with kids really is an enjoyable experience for me.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Stellar Day

Read Across America events were held yesterday in classrooms all, well, across America. And I was a guest for one of them. I did a day of I Don't Want To Write About That presentations for third and fourth graders at an elementary school here in Connecticut. I presented to five groups and ate lunch in the cafeteria where green eggs and ham was served. (I passed on that and ate a ham and cheese sandwich.)

It had been a while since I'd worked in a school, so I was anxious the week before until I'd rehearsed my presentation maybe four or five times and e-mailed my PowerPoint slides to the school's media specialist who assured me that he'd been able to load it and all was fine. The day ended up going very, very well. One group of fourth graders asked questions of such sophistication that I felt as if I was at a writers' conference. We talked about what publishers look for (one child clearly is interested in writing a fantasy novel), point of view, and magical realism.

I like to move around to different tables at lunch (sometimes I worry that I'm annoying the lunch monitors, but they were cool yesterday), and at one point I was sitting across from the Led Zeppelin kid. He was wearing quite a cute little Zeppelin shirt, and when I asked him about it, he and his buddy started raving about how much they loved the group. It does not appear that Led Zeppelin has a big following with grade schoolers, however. I suspect that at least one of those boys came from a Zeppelin fan family.

A third or fourth grader who loves Led Zeppelin--If I read that in a kids' book, I'd say, "That is so incredibly fake." But there you go. Nothing beats reality.

It was a great day, but it was a lot like honest work, which I don't do very often. I was dragging by the time I got home.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Kids get a lot of heat for asking authors how much money they make. Believe me, adults want to know, too. They just aren't as honest about it. They'll say things like, "Do well with that, do you?" when they hear you're a writer to try to get a feel for how much cash you're taking in. (The correct answer to that question, of course, is a simple no.) Or they might ask, "Does that pay well?" or "How does that pay?" so that they can pretend they aren't asking how much you, personally, make. But they are.

I would much rather have a kid ask me how much money I make than how old I am. Once a kid did ask me that. I laughed it off and said I didn't answer that question. Someone raised her hand and said, "Tell us when you were born, and we'll work it out ourselves." (The correct response to that is, "Children your age can't work with figures that large.")

Thanks to Camille at Book Moot for the Slush Pile link.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Long Distance Appearance

I have an on-line chat scheduled for next April with a 5th grade book discussion group at a public library in Maine. I'm excited about this because I've been interested in trying it for quite some time. You may have picked up on the fact that I'm not a great traveler. I'm not in Chicago this weekend because if I'm going to get on a plane, either a near and dear relative is going to have to be intensive care with plans to stay there for a while or someone is going to have to give me an enormous award, probably international in nature. I don't mind driving, but even with GPS it's a crapshoot as to whether or not I'm going to get where I'm going, so I don't go too far.

So, anyway, I've thought this on-line meeting business could be the way to go for someone like myself who, as one of my family members once observed, wants to be beamed places. I've just never done anything about trying to set anything up. Fortunately, this library sought me out. And for a very interesting reason.

This town has a population with a French Canadian background. I'm guessing that for most kids these days that will mean French surnames, that their great-grandparents were the immigrant generation, their grandparents grew up speaking French, and the language was lost after that. The librarian has been reading A Year with Butch and Spike with fifth graders because Butch and Spike are named Couture and I am named Gauthier. So they're interested in me because of my Franco American connection.

This spring the kids taking part in the discussion will be given copies of The Hero of Ticonderoga after we talk. That book should be perfect for their purposes (if I do say so myself) because though we usually talk it up for its historical aspects, when I was writing it, I was very interested in portraying how families are assimilated. The LeClercs are losing their language, they are losing their food, they are even losing their names. At home, Therese is Therese. Her teacher, however, calls her Theresa. Her brother is Marcel at home. But when Therese runs into a non French speaking high school boy who knows her brother, he refers to him as Marc.

No one else has shown any interest in this aspect of the book, so I'm quite excited about talking about it with these kids.

Anyone interested in the French experience in America might enjoy reading French Canadian Lit: Clark Blaise on Philip Marchand a review of Marchand's book Ghost Empire: How the French Almost Conquered North America.


Friday, May 04, 2007

I Swear, I Don't Make This Stuff Up

Why would I make up something like this?

So last night I had an appearance at a middle school in a town near here. The event was a "Literacy Luau," one of those events schools sometimes run to celebrate reading and books. Someone did a lot of work on this thing. They had games planned in various locations, a book fair, a book drawing, a book swap, a bake sale, and readings by two poets and an author. (The author being me, of course.) And they were offering my most recent book for sale.

I have a friend who subs at this school, and she had called me earlier in the week to tell me that every time she subbed in an English class, she had to read Happy Kid! during the read-aloud time. Yesterday afternoon she told me the school had been promoting the event all week and kids were going to get extra-credit for showing up.

Yesterday I was thinking, Gee, maybe I should prepare a mailing for middle schools with ideas for using Happy Kid! and send it to the reading teachers instead of the librarians, since my contact at this school was the reading teacher and she was really working for me. This could be the beginning of something big!

Well, I get to the school last night. Adults greet me, they're happy to see me. Yada, yada. If you can think ahead at all, you've probably figured out what happened next.

Not a soul showed up for my reading. And I was supposed to do two.

However, there were people across the hall where the poets were reading, in large part because in addition to the adult poets, student poets were going to read their work. And where you have students, you have their parents. So my contact decided to move me across the hall with them, and we'd all do one big reading.

That was fine. The poets were good and created a very coffeehouse-like atmosphere. But I'm sitting there a little worried that when I get up to read at the end, everyone will leave because they've only come to hear their kids after all.

Fortunately, a couple of kids read stories, which provided a nice little segue to my fiction reading. I was introduced as their featured writer (which was putting a nice face on a bad situation). And I did nail the reading. Fortunately, I have a great deal of experience with poorly attended appearances, and I wasn't as rattled as I would have been if I wasn't used to this sort of thing.

The reading seemed to be a hit, people laughed, seemed engaged. Then I was moved back across the hall with anyone who would like to talk with me while something continued in the poetry room. (I don't know what.)

Two parent-child units came by as well as a substitute teacher. The school sold two books, which was two more than I expected. I was very happy that I don't sell my own books at these things because the school ordered twenty or thirty, and I already have cases of books in my cellar.

A number of people who saw me afterwards said how great I was, though.

The reading teacher felt very badly and was worried that she hadn't promoted me well enough. (I truly don't think that's the case.) So I ended up in the hallway consoling her by telling her stories of all the author appearances I've made that were busts.

As you can imagine, we were there a while.

Thank goodness for my virtual life. While I was sitting in that room trying to listen to those poets, I was working out how I'd describe the experience on my blog.

I'm now thinking about trying to become the Harper Lee of kids' lit. She never makes appearances, and she seems to do quite well with sales. And she's only got the one title. So I'm thinking about refusing to make appearances and spreading stories about being a recluse, which wouldn't be that hard since I only go to taekwondo class and the grocery store.

It's what you might call a reverse marketing plan.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

To Say Nothing About What Could Be Done With Make-up And Lighting

I'm considering turning down a request for a library appearance because it will require me to travel through a bit of New York City in order to get to the Garden State Parkway. So this article on authors giving up tours in favor of movies...spoke to me, shall we say?

Though, seriously, if people won't come out to a bookstore to see a live author, why will they turn up to sit in chairs and look at a short movie that will almost certainly not be shown on a big screen? And will not have any car chases or nudity?

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