Here are a few shots from my recent trip to NYC for NCTE, where I officially became a member of the Standing Committee Against Censorship, saw bits and pieces of the city by way of foot, and met up with again or for the first time some very cool people.

The ultra-cool author of Harmless and soon to be released How to Build a House (Wendy Lamb Books, 02/2008), Dana Reinhardt

Chris Crowe (Getting Away With Murder & Mississippi Trial, 1955) and me at dinner (I'm the shorter one)

Christopher Myers signing Jabberwocky

Charles R. Smith, Jr. signing Twelve Rounds to Glory (Smith carries his own gloves)

**more photos to come**


Reading Life 16

Jellaby by Kean Soo (due out 02/2008)
This first installment in Soo's graphic novels is a solid statement on friendship, fighting bullying, and dealing with loss. Portia, the story's hero, is too smart for school, which is in part reason enough for the bullies to target her. She's also beginning to seriously ask herself (and even attempts to ask her mother but to no avail) about her father's whereabouts. She suffers from nightmares as a result. She's befriended by the unlikeliest of characters, Jellaby, a sort of dinosaur-looking alien or non-alien she sneaks up on one night in the woods. Then there's Jason, another kid who's constantly being bullied, who makes three. Together they devise a trip to the city, made easier because it's Halloween and they train Jellaby to talk enough to buy three train tickets, one adult, two kids. The goal is to visit a sort of haunted house that Jellaby recognizes in the newspaper earlier in the week. Not the house, but the door, and so because the kids know that everyone should be where they belong, they want to help their lizardy friend get home. A fine graphic novel!

Writing Life 11

I'm at NCTE in NYC. It's a great city, my first time here ever. It's cold, and I'm from Texas, and so you would think I'm not enjoying the weather, but my wife and I really love the cold. Too bad she and the boys aren't here with me enjoying the city. Though I'm not into the sites, I've enjoyed walking up and down Broadway, Avenida de las Americas, and 5th Ave. The lights, the pace, the noise. The crosswalks and the rules of the crosswalks. Taxis coming hard to the intersection so long as the light is green, seemingly never minding the people sticking a foot onto the street too early, but honking instead. The stagehands enclosed within gates, picketing. And how hard it is for folks who have come to NYC at absolutely the wrong time, tickets in hand. Food's expensive, though.
I got the chance to hang out with Don Gallo and C J Gallo today, and I met Louann Reid also. What a group of people! So much love for literacy and for the kids who need it so much.
I also visited Random House's offices. It was Catherine S. who led me around, and it's such a wonderful space, so much light, and the views are amazing that high up. The amounts of books, man! And it's cool walking into the building. On walls facing each other just beyond the entrance, two gigantic glass shelves housing the history of RH's list. What titles.
And talking to Wendy Lamb over dinner last night, and then in her office briefly. I'm so fortunate to have such a wonderful editor. And this morning talking to Adriana Dominguez at HarperCollins was fun too. And there's still tomorrow.


Writing Life 10

Reading Rock Stars! is one thing that makes the Texas Book Festival one of the premiere gigs. Here's how that works: schools in the Austin (TX) area apply for consideration. What they get if they're chosen: an author or two to visit with kids a day before the actual festival begins. Another plus: each child receives at least one of the author's books, signed. Schools chosen are Title 1 campuses, which means most of the kids are traditionally non-readers, or book owners. I say traditionally, meaning really stereotypically non-readers, b/c my experience at St. Elmo Elementary proved otherwise. (On a side note: based on my experiences with such communities, as writer and teacher both, I didn't need proof of the fact). The 4th and 5th graders I met with on my visit went more than very well. Here's the skinny in a nutshell: I show up, and lined up just outside the office waiting to be walked to class is a group of 2nd graders: one of them says to me, "Hey, you're the author." I say I am. We talk a bit. Another writer, Sally Cook, is there to meet with the little kids. She's a picture book writer (most recently of the non fiction book Hey, Batta Batta Swing! The Wild Old Days of Baseball), and I got to sit in on part of one of her presentations. She had close to 100 preK kids and in the cafeteria. They were hilarious and Sally was too cool. She's done this before. I hung out in the library with some solid readers. Their teachers obviously don't believe for a moment that Title 1 means lesser fortunate and so lets water down their education. They're about teaching kids to learn for themselves. Awesome job, teachers!
The following day I met, briefly, Sherman Alexie. I walked up to him and asked for his autograph since I wouldn't get another chance for it since we were presenting at around the same time. He said, "Funny, I was just telling Sharon (his guide for the day) that being in Texas is like being at home b/c there's always a guy who looks like my cousin Steve, pointing at you." Or words to that effect. But still, I guess if Alexie wants a cousin in Texas, I'll be it. I loved his latest The Almost True Diary of a Part-time Indian. I also met Monica Brown, Sarah Cortez, and a couple of others. And I got to present with Linda Sue Park, whose Tap Dancing On the Roof: Sijo (poems) is a great read! I so want to present with her again.