Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp, Part Two

 The first Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp went over well enough that I’m raiding my archives (and exploiting my kid) for another one.

This is from two years ago, and it contains what I like to think is some very valuable career advice.

July 25, 2011

Dear Xxxx [still not his real name],

[Mostly dull opening paragraphs redacted; they included a discussion of the camp’s policy of forcing newly arrived campers to write a two-sentence-minimum note to their parents, which was then scanned into a computer and emailed to us as proof that they were still alive.]

Candles. I understand, unless I misread your handwriting once it was scanned into the computer, that among your activities is “candles.” I assume this refers to the making of candles and not, say, the lighting of them, which seems like it would get old in a hurry.

Now, look here: this is fine so far as it goes – you want to make some candles at summer camp, I won’t stand in your way – but I have to strongly caution you against falling too deeply in love with the candle lifestyle. Candles as a means of illumination – and, by extension, a marketable consumer product – have been obsolete for well over a century. Personally, outside of Hanukkah and birthdays, I have not used a candle since the mid-1990’s, and offhand I struggle to think of a single personal acquaintance who has not similarly switched over to electric light, usually exclusively.

What am I trying to say here? Only this, and please forgive me for being blunt: there is no future in candles, son. If you don’t believe me, do a Google search on “Top Careers in 2020,” which is approximately when you will be entering the work force. You will find “Candle Manufacturing/Sales” near the rock-bottom of the list, sharing space with such dead-end, dustbin-of-history occupations as “Blacksmithing” and “Screenwriting.”

I want you to have fun this summer. I do. And if candle-making floats your boat, have at it! Go nuts! Just don’t get too attached. Because in the long run, candles will only break your heart.

Also, I understand you can change your electives at the midway point. Do they offer accounting in the second half? Think about it. I’m just saying.

Anyway… I love you and miss you. I am also jealous of you. Not so much for the candles, but the kayaking and the sailing. And also the part where you write “the sleep situation is fine.” I wish I could say the same. Your mother can be a very trying bunkmate. And your brothers…eeesh. Don’t get me started.

Love,

Dad

Click here for Part One of Letters To My Kid at Summer Camp…or click here for Part Three.

Posted in Less Than Completely Serious | 7 Comments

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp

It’s been a while since I posted. Partly, this is because writing books, while a fine way to make a living, has the unfortunate side effect of decreasing the amount of time I can spend writing blog posts that have absolutely no financial value whatsoever.

Mostly, though, it’s because I haven’t had any good ideas for blog posts.

Sadly, that’s still the case. But in honor of my oldest son’s imminent departure for summer camp, I thought I’d dig into my archives and post the following letter, which I sent to him while he was at camp last summer.

If you enjoy reading this kind of thing, please post a comment to that effect — if there’s sufficient interest in my continuing to exploit my family for material, I’ll post others.

August 3, 2012

Dear Xxxx [not his real name],

By the time you get this letter, over a month will have passed since I dropped you off (nauseous and underfed, but really, whose fault was that?) at the airport departure gate.

Which means I have gone an entire month without writing you a single letter.

I apologize for that. But it has been quite a busy month. As you may know, the Olympics are currently underway in London, and when I was driving back from dropping you off at the airport, it occurred to me that at 41 years old, I am not getting any younger, and this may be my last chance to represent my country in an Olympic event.

So I spent the next three weeks in intensive training at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, hoping to secure a spot on the national judo team.

I was unsuccessful.

And I can tell you this: it stung. Words cannot express the pain of seeing your dreams collapse into dust, even if they are dreams you only had for a couple of weeks.

Also, judo itself is painful. Some of the other fighters are pretty merciless, even in practice, and the fact that I was not an “official” member of the squad—and so was facing them not in the practice ring, but in the parking lot as they walked to their cars at the end of the day—meant that our bouts usually ended in a few seconds, with a submission hold resulting in loss of consciousness.

At least, I think that’s how it went down. I kept waking up in the parking lot, to the sound of cars pulling away, and with no short-term memory of the previous several minutes. (Here’s a fact, by the way, that might surprise you—in my experience, the women’s judo team is much more ruthless in combat than the men’s team, especially if you startle them while they are holding a set of car keys).

So that was a tough three weeks. After it was over, I went through a period of soul-searching. Judo had been my whole life, at least for the better part of July, and once it was gone, I felt a yawning emptiness that I didn’t know how to fill.

For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to fill it with letter writing. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I’m in a much better place now. And I’ve learned a lot, too—about the value of hard work, the wisdom of letting go, and why you should never challenge a martial arts expert to a fight in a parking lot.

What else can I tell you? It turns out it was a mistake to rent your room out to the elderly Uzbek man who smelled like rotten cheese. His check bounced, and when we confronted him about it, he skipped out on us. So, lesson learned. But we can’t get rid of the rotten cheese smell in your room, so I guess in a manner of speaking, he’s still with us.

Zzzz [my youngest son; also not his real name] has been difficult lately. I now think that among our family members, he is more likely than Yyyy [my middle son; ditto] to end up in jail. His soccer camp counselors think so, too.

Your mother—as she may have already told you—will not be contacting [Xxxx’s friend]’s mom about the summer reading list, or mailing you the appropriate books, because this is the kind of thing that you are old enough to be responsible for yourself. There will be plenty of time to read the books when you get home, unless you blow it all playing Ipad Monopoly or watching Storage Wars.

I hope you are having a great time! We miss you.

Love, Dad

(Click here for Part Two of Letters to My Kid At Summer Camp.)

Posted in Less Than Completely Serious | 12 Comments

The Germans are NOT fooling around

I’d been wondering what the deal was with the German edition of Deadweather and Sunrise, because I hadn’t heard anything about it in the more than two years since the rights sold to the lovely people at Carlsen. 9782021089677

Which is a pretty long time–I mean, the French rights didn’t sell until almost a year after that, and Le Trésor des Okalus has been available in fine French bookstores (and hopefully the less fine ones, too) for a couple of months now.

The lack of news from Germany was actually starting to worry me. Not to engage in cultural stereotyping, but you wouldn’t ordinarily think the Germans would take second place to the French in the speed-and-efficiency department.

Turns out I shouldn’t have worried. Apparently, Carlsen just needed the extra time to get a running start at the truly Teutonic levels of Sturm and Drang that are going on with this cover: German cover

Seriously! Right? I mean, if covers could talk…

Hey, let’s imagine they can. Here’s what I’m figuring is on their minds:

las-cronicas-de-egg_11814

 

Spanish cover: Wheeee! What an adventure!

 

 

 

 

9782021089677

 

 

 

French cover: Ah, bonjour! Let us bake a cake!

 

 

 

German cover

 

 

 

German cover: YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.

 

 

 

Dreckswetter und Morgenröte won’t be out until October 2nd — which is probably a good thing, because it’s going to take a while for the schoolchildren of Germany to prepare themselves for the onslaught.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 4 Comments

The Chronicles of Egg: Now Internationally Awesome

What’s that you say? Can’t get enough of The Chronicles of Egg? Tired of re-reading the first two books while pining for the release of Blue Sea Burning next April? 

Why not try reading it in Turkish? Or Italian! Or French! Or Spanish!

Not that you would. But you could! Just look at these:

9782021089677 las-cronicas-de-egg_11814 Mortaria images


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You could even read it in British English, which is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE!

Okay, that’s not actually true. The text of the U.K. editions is basically the same, except for a couple of innocent-seeming American words that turn out to be totally filthy in England… But the covers make them look like a whoooole different series: 

UK cover NewLandsArt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy, right? I mean, are these really the same books as these?

Deadweather_and_Sunrise pb art New Lands cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, yeah. They are. Covers are funny things.

Speaking of funny things, if you haven’t seen the Turkish TV ad for Deadweather and Sunrise, it’s worth checking out.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 10 Comments

Out Of Print, Not Out Of Mind

(Reposted with thanks to the wonderful people at the The Nerdy Book Club, where I originally guest-posted this.)

Hello, Nerds! I’m Geoff Rodkey, author of the comedy-adventure-coming-of-age series The Chronicles of Egg and a big fan of the Book Club. When I got the chance to contribute a post, I was thrilled–and immediately spent the next several days meticulously crafting a 2,000-word essay about how Bridge to Terabithia scarred me for life.

I was convinced I’d written something truly special–poignant, heartfelt, existentially profound–until I showed it to my wife, who helpfully pointed out that it was actually turgid, boring, and painfully self-indulgent.

So I added my 2,000-word Bridge to Terabithia reminiscence to the unfortunately long list of Things That Seemed Like A Good Idea Until I Ran Them By My Wife and decided to take a different tack.

This is still a reminiscence, it’s still about books that meant a lot to me as a kid, and even though nobody dies in an emotionally devastating fashion in any of them, it’s still a little poignant–because in a sense, these books are dead themselves.

In other words, they’re out of print. They survive in libraries (I hope), and you can still fish them out of the Internet’s vast ocean of used book stores, but other than that, they’ve passed on. If you can track them down, though, I’d strongly recommend checking them out. They’re worth the effort.

Well, some of them are. Read on and you’ll see what I mean:

pushcart war

THE PUSHCART WAR, by Jean Merrill

I still can’t believe this is out of print. It’s a made-up history of a war on the streets of New York City between a triumvirate of more-or-less-evil trucking companies and an eccentric band of pushcart peddlers who organize themselves to fight back (with pea shooters) when the truckers start trying to run them out of business. It’s got an offbeat, singular, very funny tone, and the plot works on multiple levels–as a comedy, an underdog story, an object lesson in standing up to bullies, and a parable about the vulnerability of conventional military forces to guerrilla tactics.

That last one might be a stretch. But not by much. And The Pushcart War holds up incredibly well, for readers of any age–I sat down with a copy a while back and had as much fun with it as I did when I was ten.

mouse that roared

THE MOUSE THAT ROARED, by Leonard Wibberly

This isn’t technically a kid’s book, but I read it when I was a kid, and my twelve-year-old loved it, so I’m counting it. It’s the story of a tiny, Andorra-like European country that decides, for reasons too complicated to get into, to invade the United States…using a small platoon of longbowmen, even though it’s the Atomic Age. And, for reasons that are also too complicated to get into, they win.

If this sounds even vaguely intriguing, hunt this book down. It’s a gem. The Mouse That Roared was also the basis for a Peter Sellers movie that I’ve never seen, because honestly, I don’t know how it could top the book.

harry cats pet puppy HARRY CAT’S PET PUPPY

One of several sequels to The Cricket in Times Square, this is the story of how Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse adopt a stray puppy, then have to find a home for it when the puppy grows into a sheepdog and no longer fits in the drainpipe where they live. I read it to my 7-year-old last year, and we both had a fine time with it. I’m not sure why it’s out of print when, say, Tucker’s Countryside (another Cricket sequel that, if you ask me, is no better or worse than this one) is still kicking around.

Incidentally, I liked the Cricket series so much as a kid that I wrote fan fiction about it. Rereading it as an adult (the book, not my fan fiction), I started to wonder what the deal was with Tucker and Harry’s relationship. Two confirmed bachelors, one of them highly fastidious, sharing a one-bedroom in the Theater District? Maybe you see where I’m going with this.

mcgurk

THE MCGURK MYSTERIES

If there was any justice in the world, the McGurk Mysteries would be as big as Encyclopedia Brown. The books, of which there were at least a dozen in print at one point, were about a detective agency of 10-year-olds who solved funny, age-appropriate mysteries around their neighborhood. In Ocean’s Eleven fashion, all the kids had a specialty: McGurk was the charismatic, Clooney-esque leader; Willie Sandowsky had a massive schnoz and a correspondingly exquisite sense of smell; Wanda Grieg was the muscle; Brains Bellingham was (big surprise) the brains; and Joey Rockaway didn’t bring all that much to the table other than being the narrator, but he–or, rather, author E.W. Hildick–was very, very good at it.

My youngest son would love these books if I could just convince him that the 30-year-old copies I bought on the Internet are okay to pick up even though the paper’s disintegrating and they smell like an elderly person’s closet.

irving and me

IRVING AND ME

This was late New Yorker cartoonist and Danny and the Dinosaur creator Syd Hoff’s only novel for older kids (I think), and I kind of get why it’s out of print. Which is not to say it wasn’t a pleasure to reread. The story of Artie, a 13-year-old Jewish kid from Brooklyn who moves to Florida and semi-reluctantly befriends big-eared, slightly odd Irving, still holds up reasonably well–Artie’s narration is breezy, likable, and contains a pleasant whiff of Borscht Belt; his problems are entirely relatable; and the ending’s even a little touching.

But it’s very much of its time, by which I mean the 13-year-olds in it occasionally smoke cigarettes, look at dirty magazines, obsess over girls, and generally act in ways that, while true to the lived experience of 13-year-olds both in 1967 and today, tend to get contemporary kid-lit gatekeepers a little bent out of shape.

Speaking of bent of out shape, the last stop on my preteen literary nostalgia tour is…

sergeant bloody bastogne

THE SERGEANT: BLOODY BASTOGNE

Let me be very, very clear: THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK, AND I HAD NO BUSINESS READING IT WHEN I WAS ELEVEN.

But hoo-boy! The Sergeant: Bloody Bastogne was one of a series of pulp novels for adults written under the name Gordon Davis, which must have been a pseudonym, because…hoo-boy! I stumbled on this one at a shopping mall bookstore in Rockford, Illinois when I happened to have $2.25 plus tax in my pocket, and I decided to buy it because at age eleven, I was insatiably interested in World War II.

Whether due to incompetence, apathy, or a loophole in the local blue laws, the checkout clerk sold it to me. And oh, man! Did I get a thrill out of reading this book. Sergeant CJ Mahoney was a US Army Ranger who was expert at two things: slaughtering Nazis in ridiculously graphic ways, and engaging in even more ridiculously graphic behavior with the Belgian farm girls who conveniently wandered into the narrative whenever there was a lull in the combat.

This was like the literary equivalent of playing Grand Theft Auto. You know how some people believe that it doesn’t matter what a kid reads, as long as he’s reading? They’re wrong. But I will say this: The Sergeant: Bloody Bastogne unquestionably opened my eyes to the almost limitless potential of books to expose a reader to new worlds.

Hoo-boy!

Got a favorite book that’s out-of-print? Drop a line in the comments–I’d love to hear about it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

NEW LANDS has nearly landed…

New Lands, the second book in The Chronicles of Egg trilogy, arrives in stores on Thursday, and it’s REALLY GOOD.

Just ask Kirkus Reviews:New Lands cover

“Occasionally gruesome, often funny and full of suspense, this one is sure to win Egg some new fans.”

Or Examiner.com:

“…fantastic characters and non-stop action…very difficult to put down…like riding a racing locomotive downhill with no brakes…”

Or this review from an actual kid!:

New Lands is a MUST read book… I don’t want to give away the secret Egg discovers in the Okalu temple, but I didn’t see it coming and it made me so happy…all my friends at school can’t wait to read!

Take it from the kid–get a copy today from…

Your favorite indie book store via Indiebound!

Or Barnes & Noble! Or Amazon!

Or, if you live in NYC, you can drop by the Strand on 12th Street, where last Friday they had two New Lands hardcovers in stock for $8.50. Which is annoying, for like five different reasons. But don’t get me started.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg | 1 Comment

Beavis, Butt-head, Al, Arianna, Etc.

Yesterday, I stopped by the HuffPost Live studio for a long-ish interview about my writing career that wound up focusing mostly on the nearly 20 years of film, TV, and political satire that preceded the Chronicles of Egg books.

The highlights of the segment are two clips from TV projects I co-wrote that I hadn’t seen in over a decade: the Beavis and Butt-head “Cow Tipping” episode from 1994 and the Politically Incorrect “Strange Bedfellows” segments from 1996 that featured Al Franken and Arianna Huffington arguing about politics while lying in bed together wearing pajamas (for those of you too young remember, this was back when Arianna was still a Republican).

The clips are pretty great — they’re buried in the interview alongside stories about Eddie Murphy, Rush Limbaugh, the undocumented nanny who cost Arianna’s husband a Senate seat, and a misbegotten road trip involving Harrison Ford and Danny Devito that led to the movie RV. 

It’s fun to watch. At least, it is for me. Your mileage may vary. Since I’m still incompetent to embed any video that’s not from Youtube, you’ll have to click this link to see it.

Posted in Appearances, Film and TV | Leave a comment

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 Examiner.com 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.

Except…

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…

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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…

IMG_5149c

 

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

IMG_5150

 

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

IMG_5151

 

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

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

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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

Chicago!

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”:

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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:

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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?”

Hey, kid: YOU DON’T KNOW FROM 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?

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

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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.

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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.

Enjoy!

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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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