Ah, September. The start of a new school year. I envy those of you who got to shop for shiny new notebooks, funky gel pens, and a mirror to stick inside your locker so you can check your teeth after lunch. That was always my favorite part of going back to school (buying school supplies, not getting stuff stuck in my teeth). But I can’t complain too much. I did get to do some fun children’s book stuff this month. First was the Princeton Children’s Book Festival in Princeton, NJ where I got to meet lots of readers and made some new author-friends. If you live within an hour of Princeton, it’s a wonderful annual event where kids and teens get to meet dozens of authors and illustrators.
Next came a quick trip outside Philadelphia to a conference of Independent Booksellers to sign my newest book, Every Soul a Star. I was a bit concerned when I checked into the hotel because the welcome package included a pair of earplugs, a CD of soothing music, an eye shade, and a small bottle of lavender-scented “Linen Spray.” Basically this tells me the walls are thin and I should expect to use the earplugs and/or CD to drown out the screaming baby next door, the window blinds must not close all the way and I’ll need the eye shade to block out the blinding sunrise, and the linen spray? Well, that doesn’t say anything good about the condition of the sheets. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded and I slept like a baby. The good kind, not the screaming kind.
My last event of the month was Children’s Book Day, another annual event which brings over sixty authors and illustrators to the banks of the Hudson River in beautiful Tarrytown, NY. It was like the event in Princeton, but they had a life-size Clifford and Biscuit and Bunnicula running around. Well, more like walking around very carefully because it’s hard to see out of those big furry costumes. Again, if you live anywhere nearby, you won’t want to miss this next year. On the drive up there, I was listening to the audiobook of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. As you know from previous blogs, I’m a big audiobook junkie. Usually I’ll listen to children’s or YA books, but I’d heard this book was really funny. And while it’s definitely funny, it’s heartbreakingly sad too. I had to drive through the blinding tears, which meant I was blotchy and red all day. Ugh. I hereby apologize to anyone who reported crying on trains/buses/planes/study hall when reading A Mango-Shaped Space and/or Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. My latest books are tear-free and suitable for reading/listening to in any public place. I promise.
And now, for the month of October, I am going underground. This is a term my friend Carolyn Mackler uses when she’s hunkering down and facing a deadline. The book I’m working on is called Finally, and it’s about all the things that a girl named Rory gets to do once she (finally!) turns twelve. No crying will be induced. Only laughing. It’s going to be a funny book. At least I intend to laugh while writing it!
Before I head out to the library with my laptop, I wanted to share one piece of advice I recently learned. If making all the changes that you want to make in your life feels overwhelming (as it does to me), simply Do One Thing Different. (Yes, I know it’s supposed to be differently, but this is a blog, not a book, and the rules of grammar are more flexible, so there.) Anyway, just do one thing different. That’s it. Take a different route through the halls at school, or through town. Eat at a new place. Talk to someone in class you’ve never spoken to before. We’re so used to our routine that we don’t see how things can ever change. The first thing I’m going to do different(ly)? Instead of taking the train into the city tomorrow (I live about two hours outside New York City), I’m going to take the bus! I’ve never taken the bus from here before. Might not seem like a big deal, but at least it’s different, right? I’m going in for the opening of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. A two hour bus ride might seem like a long journey to see a movie, but this is a special movie and my friends in the audience will include Rachel Cohn and David Levithan who wrote the book that the movie is based on. I’ll let you know how it went.
UPDATE: It is now midnight. I have returned from the movie and my adventure on the bus. First—the movie. AWESOME! Hilarious and sweet, and it kept the same “feeling” of the book, even though a lot of the plot differs. I highly recommend it if you’re old enough. (It’s PG-13). You can’t really read it, but David and Rachel are standing below the sign for the next showing of Nick & Norah. Courtney Shienmel (author of the new book My So-Called Family) and I are pretending we’re part of the movie poster.
Ok, now onto the bus part of my story. Well, let’s just say, never could I have imagined how making that one simple choice would have led where it did. The ride in was fine, uneventful. Then home…I got to the Port Authority at 5 pm to see a big sign flashing the news of a Big Delay due to police shutting down the opening to the Lincoln Tunnel to investigate suspicious activity. That is never a good sign. After sitting on the bus inside the station for over an hour, not moving an inch, people began to stream out by the hundreds. I wound up walking to the Ferry, buying a ticket off a nice man in line (otherwise would have had to wait like 4 hours!), and headed across the Hudson River with the sun setting behind the glimmering city, the ferry lolling on the waves. But when I arrived on the New Jersey side, there was no bus out to where I needed to go. So I had to take a cab to my mother’s house an hour away (I didn’t have enough $ to have the guy take me all the way out to the bus stop where my car was), but when I got to my mom’s she was on her way out to a dinner date with her friends so along I went, grimy and exhausted. When the last fortune cookie was finally opened, she drove me the twenty miles to my original bus stop to collect my car. Moral of the story? I’m too tired to figure it out! But I’m pretty sure it’s something to do with me being glad to have broken out of my routine, and to have had an adventure I never could have foreseen. It also gave me the confidence to know that I was able to get myself home, even if it did take six hours! And my mom was happy because she got to see me and that made me feel good. So if you’re brave enough, try the One Thing Different idea. You never know, you just might get free Chinese food of the deal!
I’m now beginning my descent underground, and I hope you all have a wonderful fall season. If you’ve signed my mailing list or emailed me before October, expect a newsletter soon announcing the arrival of EVERY SOUL A STAR and some other fun updates, including a contest.
p.s. Those of you who have read Jeremy Fink will understand how excited I was to find a mutant red Good & Fruity in the shape of a perfect heart. Seriously, it’s a work of art! I’ll include a picture in my next blog. Assuming I don’t eat it first. Which I probably will.