Category Archives: Appearances

Things I Wrote When I Was Fifteen…

I’ve been visiting a lot of elementary and middle schools lately to talk about writing, which turns out to be the secret, practically-full-time job of most middle grade writers.

I say “secret,” because when I first got Deadweather and Sunrise published, nobody told me that the only way kids will realize your book even exists is if you show up at their school with a PowerPoint presentation.

But it is, and so I do.

One of things I talk about is how I got my start: by writing humor pieces for my high school newspaper, starting with an article I wrote as a sophomore about how I couldn’t understand why, just once, Wile E. Coyote couldn’t catch, kill, and eat the Roadrunner.

A bunch of kids have asked if they can read the article, so here it is. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it good…but to be fair, it WAS written by a 15-year-old:

Roadrunner1985 2


Incidentally, the front page of that same issue is below, and it’s worth a look for a couple of reasons:

PretzNewsheader1985 2

First, do you see the pretzel in the upper left corner?

That was our mascot.

Our mascot was a pretzel.

We were The Pretzels.

We had “Pretzel Pride.”

The weirdest thing about it? Nobody in my high school thought it was weird.

Second…take a look at that headline over the lead article. See anything amiss?

Apparently, we were a little short in the “Pretzel Proofreading” department.

Posted in Appearances, Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 15 Comments

Best Panel Discussion Ever!

Someone just sent me a photo of the awesomest panel discussion I’ve ever had the honor of participating in, along with Sonia Manzano (aka Maria from Sesame Street), Newbery Award winner (for The One and Only Ivan) Katherine Applegate, and fantastic moderator/MG author Nan Marino (Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace).

You’re going to have to take my word for it that it was awesome, because the photo makes it look like Sonia’s angry, Katherine’s nodding off, and I’m staring down a heckler just offstage:

Brooklyn Book Fest


I’m not exactly sure what made this particular panel (at last week’s Brooklyn Book Festival) so much awesomer than the usual.

It may have been the inspirational quality of Sonia’s story–both how she got her start as a writer on Sesame Street and what led her to create the fascinating and moving The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, set in Spanish Harlem in 1969. 

It might also have been Nan’s uncanny ability to pose questions that alternately evoked thoughtful answers and provided the perfect setup to punch lines.

Or it could have been Katherine’s willingness, within five minutes of meeting me, to make fun of my bad parenting skills in front of a large group of strangers.

In any case, it was fantastic. If you were there, thanks for coming! If you missed it, please contact your local book festival and demand that they book the four of us. Katherine’s up for it, too:

And a special thanks to outstanding Penguin publicist Marisa Russell, who not only managed to convince the Brooklyn Book Festival people that I belonged in such esteemed company, but also took the following (and much less angry/sleepy/heckled-looking) shot of the four of us post-panel: IMG_7431[1]

ETA: Click here for Nan’s take on the event, which is full of both A) applied math and B) surprises. (Nan: you were a pro! I never once got the sense that you were thinking about making a run for it. Although, now that I think of it, that would have made the whole thing EVEN MORE memorable.)

Posted in Appearances, Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series | 2 Comments

Endangered Authors Tour Diary: THE FINAL DAY

The tour wrapped up yesterday, and I’ve never been more sad to see the end of something that left me totally exhausted. I haven’t been this tired since my kids were toddlers.

Incidentally, if you’ve been reading these diary entries and are still totally confused as to what the show was like, click here for a great writeup on from journalist/super-librarian Pam Kramer.

Our last day found us in New Jersey, courtesy of the wonderful folks at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair (thanks again, Marisela and Liane!), where you can get autographed copies of all our books. So go there now! If you live in New Jersey.

The second-to-last show was at Charles H. Bullock Elementary in Montclair, where the kids were fantastic, and so were PTA parents Adriana and Kathleen, who helped organize the whole thing, brought coffee and muffins (which were delicious), and posed for this picture with us before the show:IMG_5213b

Then this happened. The photographic record of which I just swiped from Adriana’s Facebook page:12407_307079112756403_363112355_n

Notice the spiffy new hat Curtis is sporting, which he bought at the Goorin Bros. hat shop on Bleecker Street in Manhattan. If you think you can pull off a look like that (I can’t, probably because I’m not British), they are fine purveyors of quality hats.

After a delicious lunch at the Comfort Food Kitchen next door to Watchung Booksellers (try the eggplant parmesan! It is crazy-good), we headed to the Ridgewood Avenue School in Glen Ridge, home of awesome librarian Joyce Mooney.

We couldn’t have asked for a better crowd of kids to finish the tour, and Peter in particular was in rare form.

Here he is (with many thanks to awesome Penguin sales rep Dawn Zahorik for the photos) threatening to read from my private diary while I try to look dismayed. Over 23 shows, my look of cartoonish dismay definitely improved. Not sure what to do with this skill now that the tour is over:IMG_5305b

And here’s Peter cracking up a bunch of the Ridgewood kids:IMG_5314b

I think that shot says a lot about how much fun everybody had on this tour.

And now that it’s over, some people need to be thanked:

First, Elyse Marshall and Molly Sardella of Penguin, who worked incredibly hard to make this tour not just happen, but run remarkably smoothly considering all the moving pieces. I am eternally in their debt.

Second, my tour companions Adam Gidwitz, Jacqueline West, Curtis Jobling, and Peter McNerney. I’d never met any of them before the tour, and I liked them all so much that, just 24 hours removed from being stuck in a van with Curtis’s luggage digging into the back of my neck, I get a little choked up just thinking about them.

I feel like I’ve made four lifelong friends.

At least, I think I have. We’ll see if they return my phone calls.

But even if they all secretly hated me, they’re incredibly talented people, and I was very, very fortunate to be paired up with them, because they’re all more successful than I am, and riding on their coattails did a whole lot more for me than I did for them. images-2

In the unlikely event that you haven’t read them already, please check out A Tale Dark and Grimm, The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows, imagesWereworld: Rise of the Wolf, and all their sequels. There’s something for everyone in these books.images-1



And if you live in or near NYC, please check out Peter’s improv show, Trike, on Saturdays at 10:30pm at the Magnet Theater. large_trikeI’m headed there with my 12-year-old next month, and I know we’re going to have a fantastic time. Even–or perhaps especially–if it’s totally age-inappropriate.



Thanks also to all the phenomenal librarians, language arts teachers, PTA moms, administrators, and everybody else at the 23 schools we visited! We could not have done this without you.

And thanks to the kids! Who should also be thanking their teachers and librarians. Can you believe they let you out of class for such a thing?

Finally, a sincere and heartfelt thanks to the fantastic independent booksellers who hosted the tour along the way, all of whom have autographed copies of all our books in stock:

In Lexington, Kentucky: Joseph-Beth Booksellers

In Decatur, Georgia: Little Shop of Stories

In Fairhope, Alabama: Page and Palette

In Miami, Florida: Books & Books

In Houston, Texas: Blue Willow Bookshop

In Austin, Texas: Perma-bound

In Naperville and Downer’s Grove, Illinois: Anderson’s

In Oak Park, Illinois: The Magic Tree Bookstore

In Winnetka, Illinois: The Book Stall

In Alexandria, Virginia: Hooray for Books

In Madison, Connecticut: R.J. Julia

In Montclair, New Jersey: Watchung Booksellers

Please, please shop at these stores, because they are the beating heart of the book world, and if it weren’t for them, we’d all need day jobs.

Speaking of day jobs… The Chronicles of Egg: New Lands comes out next week… New Lands cover

It’s good! And I’m not just saying that because I wrote it.

Posted in Appearances, Endangered Authors Tour | 4 Comments

Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 16

The second-to-last day of the tour (if you’ve read all these posts and are not my mother, God bless you) found us in Connecticut.

Which seems rather tiny on a map…but is actually enormous. At least, it feels that way when you’re driving through it at rush hour.

We started the day at the Meadowside School in Milford (hi, Carly!), where we met awesome librarian Gail Sostilio and a ton of enthusiastic kids. Thanks to the photographic prowess of Penguin’s Molly Sardella — who, along with Elyse Marshall, has done a superhuman amount of work to get the tour up and running — here’s a shot of the Meadowside crowd with their eyes glued to Jacqueline, just moments before they all burst into laughter at the punch line of her story about an unruly French horn: IMG_5175


And here’s Adam making his terrified-little-kids-who’ve-just-had-the-real-Grimm’s-Fairy-Tales-read-aloud-to-them-for-the-first-time face, which never fails to get a similarly huge laugh: IMG_5174

After taking some time to sign stock for Madison, CT’s fantastic R.J. Julia bookstore (hi, Karen!), we headed to the Abraham Pierson School in nearby Clinton. Super-librarian Emily Kelsey’s homemade brownies were delicious! And the kids at Abraham Pierson were all-around awesome.

Especially the little girl who hyperventilated with joy upon meeting Jacqueline.

With the tour winding down, I’ve gotten more reckless about snapping photos from the stage at particularly fun moments — like Peter’s screaming freakout after losing all his hair, which two weeks ago was a five-second bit that, 21 shows later, has stretched out longer than a Jimmy Page guitar solo — and is both every bit as loud and twice as awesome. Here’s a still: IMG_0537


And here, for entirely self-congratulatory reasons, is the sea of hands that goes up every time I ask how many people in the crowd have seen Daddy Day Care:IMG_5200

Not bad for a movie I wrote before most of these kids were born.

And it takes the sting out of the fact that most of them haven’t read Deadweather and Sunrise.

But they will.

Oh, they will.

Or there will be consequences.

Anyway, great bunch of kids in Clinton. Here we all are post-show:IMG_5208

Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of the World’s Longest Book Tour!

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 15

Something very, very disturbing happened on Day 15 — so disturbing, in fact, that I hesitate to mention it in a public forum.

But first, the good news: the kids in Alexandria, Virginia are great! We started the day at Hollin Meadows Elementary, where awesome librarian Kelly McKee introduced us to both some delicious breakfast pastries and a fantastic bunch of very enthusiastic kids. Here they are listening with bated breath to Adam’s G.I. Joe story:IMG_5134

After stopping at the wonderful Hooray for Books in Alexandria, where we signed a ton of stock, we had lunch at a restaurant called Table Talk — which turned out to be more than just a clever name when an 86-year-old Freemason dining next to us wound up talking to our table at great and entertaining length.

Then it was on to Mount Vernon Community School, where fantastic librarian Debbie Griffin and the wonderful Mount Vernon PTA had gotten free books in the hands of all the kids in the audience. Which was AWESOME. The Mount Vernon kids couldn’t have been more fun, and everybody had a great time.

Unfortunately, the light level in the auditorium was a bit low for photos, and the flash on my iPhone caused a lot of eye glare. Either that, or some of the Mount Vernon kids are demonically possessed:IMG_0515

All in all, it was a great day.


This is hard to talk about. Not only because it’s so disturbing, but because I fear my life may be in danger if I discuss it.

But there are two days of the tour left, and if something should happen to one of us…or, heaven forbid, someone in the audience at one of our shows…it’s better to have the information out there so people can take the necessary precautions.

As regular readers of this tour diary know, I have long suspected that Curtis may be a werewolf. It’s not just that his book series, Wereworld, is all about lycanthropes. Or that he lives in the same part of England where David Naughton got the bite in An American Werewolf in London. Or that he has body hair in a quantity most commonly seen in woodland mammals.

It’s his behavior. Which can be a little…off.

Still, after I’d checked the lunar cycle and confirmed that there wouldn’t be a full moon until next Thursday, I’d managed to put it out of my mind.

Then came today.

It all started shortly after we’d arrived in the Mount Vernon auditorium. It was such an attractive, pristine-looking space that I asked Jacqueline to pose for a photo. So she did…


And as I took the shot, I noticed something strange over her shoulder…all the way in the back corner, near the right-hand exit…



Braving the shadows of the darkened auditorium, I stepped closer…



Ten rows back, I heard the sound of a struggle, accompanied by a feral gnashing of teeth…



Then I drew near, and the full horror revealed itself…


With trembling fingers, I raised my camera to snap another photo. This proved my undoing. Enraged, the beast turned on me and attacked:


What followed was brief, violent, and entirely one-sided. I would no longer be alive to write this if it hadn’t been for Peter — or, more accurately, Peter’s leftover roast beef from lunch. He managed to distract Curtis with the meat while I fled to safety, the Mount Vernon nurse patched up my wounds as best she could, and we went on with the show.

Curtis claims to remember nothing of the incident, which he blames on jet lag. And to be fair, he’s been very apologetic.

But the puncture marks on my arm are a feverish red, the hair on my knuckles has turned thick and coarse…

And day by day, the moon grows full.

Posted in Appearances, Endangered Authors Tour | 5 Comments

Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Days 13-14

With no events scheduled until Monday, we all went our separate ways for the weekend.

It was a little bittersweet–kind of like the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, if the Fellowship had been torn asunder because Boromir’s wife was getting resentful at being stuck home with the kids, Aragorn was tired of eating dinner with the same people every night, and Frodo needed to get back to the Shire to do his laundry.

Speaking of laundry, I am very grateful to be home, because it means I can stop looking like Peter’s balding twin.

With so much traveling on the tour itinerary, we all had to pack light — so the only clothes I brought were jeans, T-shirts, a gray hoodie, and a pair of New Balance sneakers.

Peter packed the same things. EXACTLY the same. While he was in costume during the shows, evenings were a little weird. Here we are headed to dinner in Georgia:photo

And returning home from dinner in Alabama:IMG_1449

Definitely looking forward to digging my blue hoodie out of the closet. Not that we don’t look adorable.

Speaking of adorable… Here’s what happened when Tracie, the Mills Elementary assistant librarian in Austin, asked everybody to make a silly face… and both Kaye from Permabound and Mills librarian Jan Higgs inexplicably decided the request did not apply to them:Tracie Austin photo

Tomorrow begins the last leg of the tour: Virginia, Connecticut, and New Jersey. See you there! I’ll be the one in the blue hoodie.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 12

Our last day in Chicago, where the weather is positively schizophrenic: after torrential rains on Wednesday night caused nearly biblical levels of flooding yesterday, we woke up this morning to snow flurries.

Really, Chicago? Really?

But what Second City lacks in amenable weather, it more than makes up for in enthusiastic elementary school crowds. Courtesy of the good people at The Book Stall (hi, Robert!), we started the day at Lincolnwood Elementary in Evanston, where awesome librarian Jan Troy treated us to some crazy-delicious homemade muffins before unleashing a very excited crowd of sign-waving kids.

How excited were the Lincolnwood kids? THIS EXCITED: IMG_1683

Many thanks again to our media escort Paul Buchbinder, who shot another round of very artfully composed photos for the blog. Like this one!IMG_5420

It was a great show, and the kids had so much fun that after it was over, they showed their appreciation by nearly trampling us:IMG_1707

Then it was on to Oak Terrace Elementary in Highwood, where we had lunch with uber-librarians Kara Smith and Pam Kramer and then met another fantastic crowd of kids from both Oak Terrace and surrounding schools.

Curtis performed his usual crowd-pleasing trick of drawing his brainchild Bob the Builder, then turning him into a werewolf:IMG_1720

But the real stars of the day were Oak Terrace’s homegrown artists:IMG_1727IMG_1726IMG_1723

It was a great day, and a fine ending to a wonderful week.

By the way, I learned something new today: if you mention in a tweet that you ate a deep-dish pizza with such reckless abandon that it sent you into a food coma…and you happened to eat that pizza at a restaurant that’s as on top of its social media game as Gino’s East…they will send you a sympathy tweet:

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 11

So, today was weird. Unless having an event cancelled due to flooding is a totally normal thing in the book-tour business.

Either way, that happened.

Chicago is currently being ravaged by Rainpocalypse 2013. Sounds harmless enough, right? CHECK OUT THE CAR-SWALLOWING SINKHOLE:images-1

Full disclosure: I did not take that picture. But it is actually from this morning in Chicago.

Anyway, the governor declared a state of emergency, the roads are a mess, and Hester Junior High in Franklin Park was among the many Chicago-area schools that were closed due to flooding today.

Which is very sad. Hester Junior High kids: if you want a signed book plate, please email me.

Fortunately, we were able to make it (just barely) to Heritage Middle School in Berwyn for a show this morning. Even more fortunately, our media escort was Paul Buchbinder, who’s a MUCH better photographer than I am. Here’s a wide-angle shot of the positively enormous crowd of awesome Heritage middle schoolers:IMG_5402

And here’s a very artfully composed shot that makes me wonder why I have such weird posture:IMG_5395

The kids from Berwyn were awesome, and after the show we headed over to the extremely cute Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park to sign books.

Then, despondent over the cancellation of the Hester Junior High Show, we retired to Gino’s East and drowned our sorrows in the chunky tomato sauce of these: IMG_0492

I think I speak for all of us when I say we ate WAY too much. Now everybody needs a nap.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 10


Or, more accurately, the suburbs of Chicago! Not far from where I grew up. I feel like I’m home again, especially after the breakfast buffet at the hotel raised my cholesterol level by thirty points. (Not many people know this, but the state motto of Illinois is “Everything’s Better With Cheese On Top”.)

Our first stop was Lincoln Elementary in Oak Park, where awesome librarian Carolyn Frame managed to coax my dying camera into recording a few decent photos of the crowd of enthusiastic, super-fun kids:IMG_1639b


Here’s Jacqueline, confessing to her longstanding fear of “deep water, most basements, the telephone, and any fish larger than a hot dog bun”:



Then it was on to Cossitt Avenue Elementary in LaGrange, where–in an odd coincidence–my mother attended school in 1949. Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of the teachers remembered her.

Librarian Kelly Davis and her horde of parent volunteers couldn’t have been more awesome (thanks for the cookies!), and the kids were phenomenal. Following is a shot of some of them, along with Adam’s rear end:


Why am I including Adam’s rear end? Because earlier that morning at Lincoln Elementary, a kid asked Adam, “Do you always wear such tight pants?”


I want to say a special thank you to Kelly and all the other staff at Cossitt Avenue for getting so many copies of Deadweather and Sunrise into their students’ hands. Here’s a line of them waiting for me to sign their books, which I am including because no one has ever stood in a line this long to get one of my books signed, and I am very, very flattered:  IMG_1656b


Here are Curtis, Jacqueline, Adam, and our all-star media escort Bill Young leaving Cossitt Avenue. Nice building, right?



It looked pretty much exactly the same when my mom walked to school with her friends back in 1949:


Hi, Mom! Sorry I didn’t ask permission before posting this.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 9

Cincinnati, Atlanta, Mobile, Miami, and Houston, I have bad news: none of you are as cool as Austin.

Don’t take this personally. It’s hard to be as cool as Austin! Just ask Seattle (nice try, Seattle! You had a good run there in the ’90s).

We got in a little on the late side, but thanks to the motivational efforts of Adam and Jacqueline, we piled into a cab and made the trek from our hotel-in-the-lonely-shadow-of-the-interstate to the South Congress neighborhood, where we had fantastic Tex-Mex at Guero’s…IMG_0451

…then stepped across the street to catch the last half of the Peterson Brothers’ set at the Continental Club… IMG_0452

…after which we all realized we were exhausted, so we packed it in. But not before I took this picture, because in Austin, EVEN THE BATHROOM WALLS ARE COOLER THAN I AM:IMG_0454

After an early wake-up call, we headed to Mills Elementary. You know how they say everything’s bigger in Texas? That’s DEFINITELY true of their elementary school audiences:IMG_0458

Great bunch of kids at Mills Elementary! Only about half of them are in that shot, because my camera doesn’t have a wide-angle lens.

Then it was on to Kiker Elementary, where super-librarian Zonia Smith and her crew greeted us with these:IMG_0459

This is the first time a flower has ever been constructed from my face, unless it’s happened before and I suppressed the memory. All four of us posed with our floral doppelgängers, but only Jacqueline looked cute doing it:IMG_0463

The kids at Kiker were awesome, and there were a LOT of them:IMG_0469

Now we’re headed for a three-day stand in the Chicago suburbs, a mere 110 miles from my hometown of Freeport, Illinois. Which is exciting!

Except that we’re not actually going to make it out there this time around.

See you on Skype in a couple of weeks, Freeport! Looking forward to it.

Posted in Appearances, Endangered Authors Tour, Texas Librarians | 1 Comment

Endangered Authors Tour… Day 8 1/2

With apologies to Fellini (raise your hand if you get that joke), and courtesy of Curtis Jobling and his Wereworld Facebook fan page, I was going to embed four short clips from various stops on the tour, all featuring the brilliant Peter McNerney in character as Holden A. Grudge.

Unfortunately, I am not competent to properly embed the videos without the technical support of my 12-year-old son, who is currently thousands of miles away.

BUT! If you click through to either the Wereworld Facebook page or the Chronicles of Egg Facebook page, you can find them all there.


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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 8

Houston, Texas! Not a lot of jokes in this installment, because the woman sitting next to me on the flight out wouldn’t quit talking long enough for me to write them.

But there were a LOT of great kids in Houston. We spent the morning at West University Elementary, home of thoroughly awesome librarian Kelly Russell (whose husband, Glen, owes me an email) and a few hundred of the best audience members we’ve encountered yet. Here they are listening to Adam explain how a road-worn copy of the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales inspired his bestselling A Tale Dark and Grimm:IMG_1933

Here they are gazing in awe at Curtis’s transformation of Bob the Builder into a werewolf:IMG_1943

Then it was on to Bunker Hill Elementary, where we were treated to lunch with not only awesome librarian Tammy Holley but also the phenomenal Cathy Berner of Blue Willow Bookshop (where you can currently get signed copies of all our books).

And the kids at Bunker Hill were the best:IMG_0446

See the shaved heads? They did that as part of a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money for childhood cancer research.

Kids don’t get better than that. No joke.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Days 6 and 7

We’re in Houston! And there weren’t any events scheduled over the weekend, so this seems like a perfect opportunity to complain about my hotel room. 

Penguin booked us into the finest hotel we’ve stayed at yet — so fine, in fact, that there’s a fireplace in the lobby! It’s not real, but it does seem to be in HD:IMG_1538b

And there’s a world-class restaurant downstairs! By “world class,” I mean “so expensive that Penguin would never reimburse us if we tried to stick them with the bill for eating there.” Which is why we wound up walking a mile along an interstate underpass to get to the Cheesecake Factory last night.

When I first entered my hotel room, I was so impressed (not quite La-Quinta-in-Atlanta impressed, but still pretty floored) that I immediately took a picture:IMG_1526


Nice, right? And it was!

Right up until I pulled out the desk chair to sit down:IMG_1527


Do you see it? You don’t see it, do you? I didn’t think so. That’s why I took a close-up:IMG_1528

Yeah, that’s what you think it is. That’s a half-eaten Rice Chek.

Which raised ALL sorts of questions.

First of all, is the singular form of Rice Chex actually “Rice Chek?” We debated this while sitting around the fake fireplace, and the general consensus was yes, although Jacqueline pointed out that it could be “Rice Che” if the Rice Chex people are French, or even just pretentious. But spelling it that way would require the insertion of a French accent mark that I can’t figure out how to access on my keyboard, so I’m going with Rice Chek.

More importantly, though, WHOSE RICE CHEK WAS THIS? It was not mine. I very much doubt it was the cleaning person’s. Most likely, it belonged to a prior guest.

Which opens up a real can of worms. Hotel rooms are like girlfriends–you know they’ve had other boyfriends, but it’s sooooo much better if you can just pretend that’s not true.

And when they leave their Rice Chex behind, the illusion is shattered.

This is a real problem for the relationship. Because you can’t stop thinking about what kind of things went on between your hotel room and this other person.

Where else did he eat Rice Chex besides the desk chair? The couch? The bathroom? The bed?

(Not the bed. Oh, please, not the bed.)

He must have had a drink, too. Nobody eats Rice Chex without getting thirsty. Was it a sticky drink? Did he spill it anywhere? What glass did he use? That one, there? Next to the sink?

Oh, sure, it LOOKS clean. But IS IT?

I didn’t sleep well last night.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 5

Our second day in Miami! Even more humid than yesterday. Good thing we’re headed to Houston after this, because…oh, right. Never mind.

Our first stop this morning was Palmer Trinity School in Palmetto Bay, home of the World’s Greatest Librarian, Ruthanne Vogel (time to raise your game, Other Librarians!). And some fantastic kids, too. Especially the one at the far right in the front row of red shirts:IMG_1494bSome context: Peter’s character in the show is named Holden A. Grudge. He went to ask a question of the kid on the right, who prefaced his answer with a meticulously constructed joke about Holden Caulfield that was not just hilarious, but so clever I didn’t even get half of it until Jacqueline deconstructed the truly clever part for me in the van an hour later (I’m slow that way). As you can see in the photo, Peter had to take a second to think of a comeback–which, considering how quick-witted Peter is, was a MAJOR accomplishment. That kid’s going places.

The Palmer Trinity kids who’d read our books had divided into teams, each of which had its own T-shirt. The T-shirt thing may or may not have been exciting for the kids–but it was REALLY EXCITING for me. Here’s my team:IMG_1500


And here’s my team from the back:IMG_1501

I have never had a team named after me. I have also never been asked to sign someone’s T-shirt. Let alone ten of them. Will I remember this moment on my deathbed as one of the high points of my life? Yes, I will.

Next stop was Gator Run Elementary in Weston, which is a loooooong way from Palmetto Bay. But thanks to our media escort, Emily, who looks all sweet and kindly but drove the van like she stole it, we got to Gator Run with time to spare.

Which was a good thing, because Curtis got detained for a while at the security desk on account of his not having proper ID. (Gator Run parents: believe me when I tell you that your kids are really, really, really safe.)

This was a more intimate crowd than the gymnasiums we’ve been in the past couple of days, but it made for one of the best shows we’ve done. Peter in particular was really on his game. Here’s the kids laughing at him:IMG_1509

Here’s the adults laughing at him:IMG_1517b

Here’s the kids AND the adults laughing at him:IMG_1519b

And here’s a group photo from after the show (with many thanks to Emily for both her photographic and driving skills):IMG_1522b

Finally, here’s a shot of Adam backstage, talking to a bear. Because why not?IMG_1502

Now we’ve got the weekend off. I’m going to sleep for 14 hours and then do my laundry.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 4

We’re in Miami! It’s humid.

This morning’s stop was Carver Middle School in Coral Gables, where the kids could not have been more awesome. In the weeks before we showed up, they’d split into teams to read our books, and the various teams drew banners…IMG_1467b


…and made posters…IMG_1469b


…and applied werewolf (or possibly were-some-other-animal) makeup…IMG_1464


…and the girls who read my book all wore pink! Not completely sure why, but it was totally cute: IMG_1466

Incidentally, everything Curtis says about these awesome girls on his Facebook page is unfair and, frankly, born of rabid jealousy…even though his team dressed as werewolves and made all the best signs. (Look for his “Days Five and Six” post, because even though it’s really only Day Four, Curtis is still on English time, which apparently is two days ahead.)

Then it was off to the fantastic Books & Books, where we signed stock and played Mad Libs.

After that, we had a rare treat: an afternoon off. I’d planned to sit by the postage-stamp-sized, chain-link-fenced, naked concrete pool at our budget hotel. But Adam–who is much more clever than I am–suggested that instead we have lunch at the historic, absurdly opulent Biltmore Hotel, then slink over to the Biltmore’s pool and pretend we belonged there.

So we did. And wow! What a pool. Here’s Adam revising The Grimm Conclusion against a foreground of Greek statuary:IMG_1479


Nice, right? You have no idea. If you sit here long enough, a uniformed pool boy will come by with a complimentary sorbet in the daintiest waffle cone I have ever seen. It looks like this:IMG_1481


And there’s free Wi-Fi! So I’m posting this while still poolside. We’ll be here until they get wise and throw us out.

Which might be soon, because I just spilled Adam’s Coke all over the patio, and now one of the pool boys is muttering into a walkie-talkie while giving us the stinkeye.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 3

I’m not what you’d call well-traveled, so prior to today I’d had very littleimages experience with Alabama outside of Lynyrd Skynyrd lyrics.

Alabama, it turns out, is awesome! And I’m not just saying that because a lot more kids there have read my book than in the other states we’ve visited.


When we arrived last night at the Hampton Inn in downtown Fairhope, I found this Post-It note affixed to the headboard of my bed: IMG_1450

Let me say that, first all, I REALLY appreciate this; and second, I am now terrified that the other hotels aren’t leaving Post-It notes like this one because they’re not actually washing the duvet covers and sheets between guests. Eeew.

We had dinner at the Pelican Patio in Fairhope, which was delicious even though they were out of crawfish. Over dinner, Curtis told a story about a foulmouthed kid at one of his school visits in the U.K. that made everybody laugh until our faces hurt, and which if I retold it here would get me (and probably Curtis) banned for life from the children’s book industry.

This morning, our first stop was Fairhope Intermediate School, which was not only great but HUMONGOUS. There must have been at least 500 kids at the show. I’d post a picture of the vast sea of awesome, fun, happy kids, but my camera battery died before I could take one. Fortunately, our wonderful media escort Angela got this shot of a disheveled Peter harassing a kid near the front row while Jacqueline eggs him on:IMG_1936

Then it was on to the wonderful Page & Palette bookstore in Fairhope, where I charged my camera battery in time to get this photo of the four of us standing in front of all the stock we signed, and which I am posting even though I look like an idiot in it:IMG_1458

Page & Palette, by the way, is a fantastic store, and we signed a LOT of books, so if you’re anywhere near Fairhope, please stop in and buy some. There are cartloads. Literally.

Then it was on to the J. Larry Newton School in Fairhope, where we met a couple hundred of the nicest and most incredibly polite kids I have ever seen. Signing books, I was called “sir” more times than I can count. Which was A) very touching; and B) made me wonder whether I am a lousy parent, or New York City is just a terminally impolite place and I am scarring my kids for life by making them live there. Everything about the J. Larry Newton School visit was awesome. Here’s a shot from the back row, again courtesy of Angela:


Now we’re in the Pensacola Airport, which serves a surprisingly good chicken sandwich and has free Wi-Fi, making the 90-minute delay of our flight to Miami almost painless.

More to come!

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 2

Turns out it’s easier than you think to incite a riot among a bunch of elementary school kids. 17lithuania01-600All you have to do is stand in front of a group of, say, sixty of them, all politely sitting cross-legged on a library floor, hold up a camera, and say, “everybody skooch in for a picture.”

I meant that as a joke–the joke being that there were obviously WAY too many of them to fit in the photo.

Turns out I was too subtle by half. Actually, more than half. As the left and right flanks of the crowd began to collapse inward and several kids on the perimeter stood up with the clear intention of stage-diving toward the middle of the room, I realized I’d just made a terrible mistake, of the sort that might eventually require me to hire a lawyer.

I took the photo as fast as possible and put the camera down, hoping that might keep the situation from spiraling out of control. Which is why the photo below, taken about three-fourths of a second before peak mayhem, is considerably more, “oh, isn’t that cute?” than “when will the police be arriving?” IMG_1443

Order was eventually restored, although I think the library carpet might have to be replaced.

That was at Davis Academy in Atlanta, a wonderful place with some really great kids, several of whom are going to be in real trouble if they don’t follow through on their promise to read my book.

Next up, after a brief stop to sign books at the absolutely fantastic Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, was the St. Thomas More School. Another great bunch of kids (hi, Javier!). Here’s a photo from the event, taken by our awesome media escort for the day, Ed Feldstein: IMG_6469

Whoooole lot of interesting stuff going on in that photo. See if you can make out: A) Curtis’s drawing of Bob the Builder as a werewolf; B) the broken picture frame hanging from Peter’s neck; and C) Jesus.

A word of explanation: in his other career as an illustrator, Curtis designed Bob the Builder, and turning Bob into a cartoon werewolf is Curtis’s way of integrating that biographical detail into the discussion of his Wereworld series. Here’s a closer look:IMG_6474

Just between us, I’ve started to wonder if Curtis’s interest in werewolves isn’t also biographical. Seriously, take a close look at that photo. See anything unusual?

There’s a full moon coming. This is cause for concern.

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Endangered Authors Tour Diary, Day 1

So, I’m on a book tour. Which is exciting! And I’m not alone! I’m traveling with three other middle-grade authors: Adam Gidwitz, whose A Tale Dark and Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly are wonderfully creepy, often very funny retellings of Grimm’s fairy tales; Jacqueline West, whose bestselling Books of Elsewhere series also lives at the delightful intersection of funny and creepy; and Curtis Jobling, whose Wereworld fantasy series kicks funny to the curb in favor of flat-out horror.images-2 images images-1

At least, I think that’s the deal with Curtis. He’s British, but not Downton Abbey British–he’s more original-BBC-version-of-The-Office British, where if you don’t turn the subtitles on, you have to pause the DVD like every two minutes and back up because you have no idea what’s just been said.

Unfortunately, Curtis doesn’t come with a subtitle function, so most of the time I’m utterly mystified by what’s coming out of his mouth. He seems very friendly, though. And nobody else seems to have any trouble understanding him. I think maybe I just haven’t spent enough time in England. Or I need to re-watch The Office.

Anyway, we’re all on the Endangered Authors tour, which is a very high-concept-y book tour wrapped up in a fake game show, emceed by Peter McNerney of the Story Pirates. The show is kind of hard to explain, except to say that Peter is hilarious in it, and extremely quick on his feet, which more than compensates for his unfortunate habit of leaving his luggage in inconvenient places (long story).

Our first stop, once Peter found his luggage, was Campbell County Middle School in Alexandria, Kentucky. Home of the Camels!


I think the Camels thing is a clever play on the word “Campbell.” Either that, or there are a LOT of things I don’t understand about Kentucky.

Here’s a shot of the Endangered Authors set. Peter’s in the background–the suit and tie are ironic, and (spoiler alert!) that’s not his real hair. Jacqueline and Curtis are in the foreground. I’m pretty sure Curtis is making a werewolf face, because the main character in the Wereworld series is a werewolf. Or he might be threatening to beat me to death for taking his picture without asking:IMG_1436

I am honestly not sure. I should check with one of the others about this.

The kids at Campbell County were great (hi, Anastasia!), we all had a fine time, and after a brief stop to sign stock at the so-nice-I-wish-I-could’ve-stayed-longer Joseph-Beth Booksellers and an uneventful flight to Atlanta, we’re now ensconced in the finest La Quinta Inn I have ever seen. I’m not being sarcastic. Just look at this hotel room!IMG_1439

That’s the foyer. Of my hotel room. Which has a FOYER. What didn’t fit in the photo, because I do not have a wide-angle lens, were the kitchenette, the study, the bedroom, a bathroom so big it had built-in shelving along one wall, and whatever you call the room you have to walk through to get from the foyer to the bathroom.

And the closet space! To die for. Honestly, this La Quinta is out of control. After the tour, I might come back and move in.

More tomorrow.

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Hey, look, people showed up

I had been warned, by more than one person, that bookstore appearances by first-time authors don’t tend to draw a crowd. Consequently, advance estimates in my household of the total number of people who would show up for yesterday’s appearance at the awesome Words bookstore in Maplewood, NJ were not high (my wife figured three; I was slightly less optimistic).

Very pleasantly surprised to discover those estimates were on the low side. Many, many thanks to everyone who showed up, and to Words owner Jonah Zimilies for hosting the event. Pictures below are courtesy of Michael Keane and Words.

Here’s me pontificating on the difference between writing movies and books. Or it might have been me complaining about the way The X-Files TV series ended. Hard to tell without the audio.


Signing books. This reminds me that I need to change my Facebook status from “balding” to “bald.”


Thanks again, Jonah!

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