Belated Travel Report: NYMBC 2009

Yes, yes — I am woefully and inexcusably late in reporting on my travels. Mea culpa.

So, I spent a few days in the lovely city of San Francisco, communing with its lovely people. Had a great time and did some cool stuff leading up to (and including) Not Your Mother’s Book Club’s Fall Bash 2009.

First up was a trip to Carlmont High School in Belmont, CA. I was there to speak to English teacher Gail Langkusch’s three (that’s right — THREE) Creative Writing classes. You know, at MY high school, we were lucky to have a single class in creative writing. Gail somehow managed convince her administration to have three of them. (She assures me there were no blackmail photos involved.)

And you know what? I believe her because the best part about these classes was that the kids in them clearly were serious about writing. I’ve seen creative writing classes where it’s obvious that the kids in question were just looking for something to do, a way to blow off an elective, something like that. But the kids in Gail’s classes were all attentive and they had some TERRIFIC questions. (Including one that I’ve never gotten before: “Are you ever worried that there will come a day when the age gap between you and teens is too wide for you to keep writing for them?” Fabulous question!)

I spoke for roughly half of each class, covering some of the territory in my Writing Advice series of blog entries, then took questions, tossing Goth Girl minimates to each kid who asked a question. (I literally tossed them, as the kids who were smacked in the face can attest. Minimates in their packages are not terribly aerodynamic, it turns out.)

The next day, I spoke to the Ravenous Readers, a book club at Wallenberg High School in San Francisco. This was a terrific event, one that both broke my heart and raised my spirits.

See, it turns out that — due to budget cuts — the librarian at Wallenberg was laid off last year. I hate to see that. Yeah, I know times are tough all over and it may seem that school librarians aren’t all that important to a student’s education, but man! Librarians don’t just sit around the library shushing kids, y’know. They maintain the library, keep the collection up-to-date (which is CRUCIAL, especially nowadays), and teach kids critical thinking skills when they’re doing research (things like, “Don’t just rely on Wikipedia!”).

So, it killed me to walk into this school and be told that the librarian wasn’t there (and wouldn’t be there, ever) and then to see the library, which was a lovely space that deserved some professional love.

Well, then I met the kids, the Ravenous Readers. And I learned that, in the absence of their librarian, they had taken it upon themselves to continue the book club on their own, holding meetings, coordinating author visits, etc. They had even taken over the library, doing their best to maintain it without a librarian.

I was really blown away, and then it got even BETTER because their former school librarian showed up! She took time out of her own day to come back to her previous job, just to support her kids! It was really terrific.

I had so much fun with the Ravenous Readers. They had all read my first book, so I read a little bit from Goth Girl Rising for them, then answered questions. Once again, the questions were terrific. I don’t know what they put in the school drinking fountains in the Bay Area, but all of the kids I met had wonderful questions.

That night, it was off to Books, Inc. for the NYMBC Fall Bash. This event has already been covered pretty well elsewhere, so I will point you to the blogs of Sara Zarr and Heidi R. Kling, as well as this piece in the Examiner for more information. I will mention, though, that usually when I read from Goth Girl Rising, I read one of the letters Kyra has written to Neil Gaiman. The night of NYMBC, though, I felt like trying something different, so I read the chapter titled “Boobs,” reminding the audience to imagine Kyra saying these things, not me.

And then, when I was finished, I learned that my reading had been broadcast throughout the entire store, including the coffee shop next door!

Oops. Hope y’all enjoyed Kyra’s rant on breasts!

Here are some pix from NYMBC (hover over them for details). A great time was had by all. Special thanks for Jenn Laughran of Books, Inc. for making it all possible, and to Mary Kole for taking the pictures!


Allen Zadoff, L.K. Madigan, Sara Zarr, me, Andrew Smith


Trying to make a point, maybe?
Reading from GGR

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