Wednesday, October 21, 2009

teen read week

I was driving home last night, thinking about the blur of Teen Read Week for me. Between Saturday and Tuesday, I'd made appearances before five high school groups and two public libraries.

Here are just a few of the things I saw.

At Ayala High School in Chino Hills, the art teacher, Mr. Robledo, and one of his students, Jonathan Romo, created sidewalk chalk art of my book covers in front of the library.

The libraries at Ayala and Chino Hills High Schools are two of the nicest school libraries I have ever seen, and I have to say they are run by staffs who really get it when it comes to kids and reading. Both of them have all kinds of regular activities designed around getting kids connected with their libraries, and the number of students I saw there showed the efforts had been paying off.

There is absolutely nothing better to me than talking to kids about reading and writing, and I have to say the students and teachers at the schools I visited really listened to my ideas about boys and books, reading and writing (and most of the girls in attendance resoundingly agreed with the idea that boys are getting dumber).

Yesterday, I spoke at Marshall High School in Los Angeles. It's one of those old-L.A. multistory brick high schools, and it is huge, with about 5,000 kids enrolled.

Afterwards, Erika, the amazing teen librarian, drove me to the Los Feliz Branch of the L.A. Public Library (where she works) and I got to walk around the beautiful community of Los Feliz for a while before my panel there in the afternoon.

This is where I found Skylight Books, on Vermont Avenue, a well-stocked and inviting independent bookseller. For an author, it's always a rush to walk into a small bookstore and see my book on their shelf for sale, so I asked them if I could egotistically take a picture of it -- and they asked me to sign their stock (which was so incredibly cool).

Well, I can't walk into an indie store and not buy a book. It's a personal rule, and I felt especially obliged to buy one from Skylight, so (no, I didn't buy a copy of in the path of falling objects) I bought a really expensive book that I've been really wanting to read.

When I returned to the library, it was nearly time for my panel with author Cylin Busby (The Year We Disappeared) to begin. I had a terrific time. The local pizza place, Lucifer's, donated pizza for the kids, too. There were about 50 kids in attendance, and maybe around 4 or 5 adults, and they loved the talk Cylin and I gave about -- you guessed it -- reading and writing. They asked insightful questions, too.

Here's Cylin talking to the crowd:

At the end, the library gave away all kinds of prizes: signed books, audiobooks, posters, and even a couple brand-new Guitar Hero games that had been donated to the program by Activision. The kids had a blast. This guy's named, Jhay. He wanted a shirt:

And, afterward, one of those great moments -- a father who'd been present came up, shook my hand, and thanked me for being an inspiration to his kids and letting them know it's okay for them to want to be writers.

Well, now I guess I get to rest for a while until the big, fantastic, amazing Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Author Feast and Awards on Saturday at the Millennium Biltmore in L.A.

But there are still a few more days left in Teen Read Week, and you know how to get hold of me. And I never say no when it involves helping out kids, libraries, and schools.