anghara (anghara) wrote,
anghara
anghara

What I did this weekend

I was invited to join six other authors, including S.A. Bodeen, Janet Lee Carey, Arthur T. Lee, Maureen McQuerry, Renee Riva and Hugo-winner Timothy Zahn (whom I managed to flummox ever so slightly by bringing a damn-near-thirty-year-old edition of one of his books for him to sign [grin]), in an event dubbed The Cavalcade of Authors organized by the extraordinary librarian at the Enterprise Middle School in Richland. I had been fortunate enough to fall into her hands on my first EVER school visit, and it was a really great experience - I went back to her school this year during Radcon, having instigated and judged a short-story competition for the kids at the school, and it was just as great - and then, when she conceived of this multi-author extravaganza, she emailed me and asked if I'd want to take part. Of course I jumped at the opportunity - and I had an absolute ball this last weekend.

I had a volunteer mom come pick up at the airport when I flew up to Pasco on Sunday afternoon, and she took me to my hotel and then straight to the signing at Barnes and Noble which had been set up for that evening. Five of us were there, sitting around our tables, chatting with the occasional visitors, when this group of teenagers exploded into the place and got all worked up and excited about the whole idea - "Duuuuude! You're all writers? You've written all these books? And you're ALL HERE right now?" I honestly couldn't give you an accurate estimate of age - they looked anything from twelve to twenty, but the energy in the room went up a couple of notches just from them breathing the same air as us. One of them, a tall slender blond with a baseball cap jammed down low over spiky-cut yellow hair and a pair of "I'm ready for my close-up now Mr De Mille" sunglasses told of us about the novel that he himself was writing - and the word for it is "intense"; I seriously hope it's the product of a highly active imagination and not personal experience...

I promised the winner of that February story contest that I would give a one-on-one crit of some of his work, so he and his mother turned up at the B&N towards the end of the signing, and they gave me a lift back to the hotel where Budding Writer and I went at it with his MS pages. He's so keen I can see the light of it in him like a phosphorus flame; he is full of ideas, and he has some utterly unexpected and beautiful turns of phrase even in casual conversation, never mind in his fiction. I have high hopes for this young writer. (I told him if he wanted bonus points from his buds the next day at the event at the school he was welcome to come up and give me a "how's-it-going" high-five - and of course, he did, grinning from ear to ear...)

They picked us up at 7 AM from the hotel the next day (we grabbed breakfast by the light of the dawn breaking over the river just outside our hotel...) We were taken to the school, deposited in the classrooms where we would be presenting, and the fun began. We did FIVE 40-MINUTE SESSIONS that morning, with a break for coffee and donuts after the first two - with different groups of kids rotating between the authors. In order to qualify for being there they had to swear to the fact that they had read (from cover to cover!) at least four of the seven visiting authors' books - and it was amazing how much difference the familiarity actually made with the kids' interactions with the presenting authors. They weren't looking at us blankly and with incomprehension. They *knew who we were*.

I got the "Time Out" room, but the kids who came in kept on saying, "I've never BEEN in here before" so my theory is that kids with imaginations who want to write hardly ever end up in detention for bad behaviour [grin]. We're the Virtuous People...

My presentation involved Heroes and Villains and what makes them different from one another... and what makes them alike. I did a bit of a spiel and then I split them up into groups and told them to give me a story - got them to ask the Holy Journalistic Questions of Who/What/When/Where/Why/How - and then figure out who would be in opposition to that story, i.e. the story's villain - and then turn the whole thing 180 degrees and tell me the same story but with the VILLAIN now the HERO and the original hero somehow in the wrong. The immense importance of POV was thus borne in upon them - but quite aside from that, they had fun with this, and I had fun right along with them. We had stories involving evil nuns at strict boarding schools, weasels used in cancer-curing research, an albino squirrel who was out to save the penguins while WOrld War Three was going on, a guy who was bent on stealing ice from glaciers and dumping it on the North Pole to "stop global warming" (I was informed by one of the sixth-graders involved with this particular tale that the guy in question was 22 years old and single [grin] I think she had high hopes of meeting him some day...) - and more, oh, so much more. The recurring pattern for the day (must have been something in the water) was the reappearance in practically every group of a character named Bob (the one time that didn't happen we had a Bubba, which was close enough...)

Then we went back to the library for a signing session, and bunches of kids came scurrying in with bulging book bags... and everyone wanted their program books signed... and then some genius decided that he or she wanted the white t-shirt that they all got signed, too, so they ALL had to have that done immediately... one of the kids wanted me to sign my initials on her wrist like a tattoo, which of course had her best friend instantly offering her arm, too, and another girl plucked a stray long white hair off my sleeve and was all set to tape it into her program book next to my signature...

Then we were released for lunch ("Thank you for coming!" one of the kids said to me in passing as I waited in the lunch queue, his priorities obviously affected by his environment and the rumbling of his stomach. "The food is SO much better than usual today!") and after that they had an author panel with all seven of us where the kids got to fire questions at us - they had them lined up to the side and they could come up to the stage and get the mike and ask their question and then we'd all answer it - but there were LOTS of kids and seven of us and it was all starting to take a huge amount of time so they first got the remaining kids to address their question to individual authors rather than all seven of us, and finally released them to just come up and ask what they wanted, and it was like a dam breaking, a wash of children pouring across the steps to the stage and accreting before individual authors on the dais, some with t-shirts they had yet to get signed by everyone...

Back to the hotel, and then, later that afternoon, there was an event at the local Library - an evening talk by myself and another one of the authors at one library and two of the other authors at another. The day had been a perfect spring day, and the librarians warned us that this meant, after a week of solid rain, that attendance would likely be low because people would be out there enjoying the sunlight - but that was okay, we got to talk to a bunch of folks who were interested in hearing what we had to say, and then the librarian who had charge of me and who turned out to be a fan (she had read "Jin Shei" and loved it) called up her daughter and the three of us went out to dinner which was very pleasant and spent in great company.

The next day I had one more school visit to do - to a middle school named after Ellen Ochoa, a NASA astronaut and mission specialist of Hispanic heritage whose name had been given to a middle school with a similar demographic and I would be speaking to a group of some 30 or so kids selected from the general school population for their writing proclivities or for being avid readers. The school was apparently some 96% or 97% Spanish-speaking, with many of the kids speaking English as a second language, so there was a certain amount of challenge there - but it went really well, a couple of live-wires at the front table asking all the questions, of course, but that's par for the course - and one curly-haired, round-cheeked young man earnestly informed me that he had read the first Worldweavers book and that "it was the BEST book, EVER." WHich was pretty cool [big grin]

Back to the hotel again, swift packing up of belongings, and it was off to the airport, and then home.

A fairly intense couple of days, but man, was it fun.

And hey, we not only made the local newspapers, we made the local TV news! (keep an eye out for Yours Truly at around the 0.11 mark...)

So. Off to Norwescon tomorrow.

As jaylake likes to put it, see some, all, or none of you there...
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