Celebrating Stories: A Magical Monday at IRA 2012

After two whirlwind days at the International Reading Association Convention in Chicago this week, I have three conclusions to share:

  1. Even in this age of high-stakes testing, passion for real reading is alive and well.
  2. Teachers have amazing, resilient, indomitable spirits.
  3. People who love books are the absolute best people to hang out with.

My Monday morning began with a 4am ferry ride so I could get to the airport & catch a flight to Chicago. I checked into my hotel and headed straight to the convention center for my signing at Anderson’s Bookshop booth.  I got to meet Uma Krishnaswami, who was signing her books one table over, and Trisha Bandre, who was on the committee that selected OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW as an NCTE Notable Book in the Language Arts.   I was so happy that Trisha came to introduce herself and say hi; so often when a book makes a wonderful list like this, authors never have the opportunity to meet the people who made that happen. It was nice to be able to say thank you in person!


After my signing, Emily Manning interviewed me about EYE OF THE STORM (out now from Walker/Bloomsbury) and CAPTURE THE FLAG (coming in July from Scholastic) for the Read-Write-Think podcast, “Chatting About Books.” Emily is delightful and always asks the most thoughtful questions. I’ll be sure to share a link when the interviews are posted.

I had lunch (notable because lunch is sometimes hard to come by at these conventions), and then it was off to sign books at Follett Learning, where they were cheerfully giving away paperback copies of MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS.


Next, it was off to Chronicle, to sign SEA MONSTER’S FIRST DAY and OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW.  Here’s the wonderful Lea Yancey from Chronicle, showing off one of our books.


Next, I found my way to the Scholastic booth to sign with Blue Balliett and Kimberley Griffiths Little.  Here I am with part of the Scholastic school & library team – Candace Greene, Lizette Serrano, and Emily Heddleson, who are just as friendly and awesome as they look.

This was my first time signing CAPTURE THE FLAG – just advance reader copies for now, but now I’m SO excited for the book’s release this summer!


(Photo shamelessly swiped from Tracy van Straaten’s Twitter feed. Thanks, Tracy!)

After my signings, I participated on a panel about engaging readers, with Tennessee teachers Jennifer Winstead and Beth Landers  I talked about Skype author visits and shared my list of authors who do free Skype chats with classes and book clubs that have read one of their books, and Jennifer and Beth shared zillions of ideas for getting school communities involved in reading. Their students are so lucky to have them.


After our panel, I hurried back to the hotel to meet for the Scholastic Book Clubs dinner.  I love spending time with the book club folks because they’re so fiercely passionate about getting books into the hands of kids. My kind of people, for sure.   Mem Fox was there, too, and Peter Reynolds. I got to chat with James Dashner and tell him how much I liked the first book in his upcoming INFINITY RING series.   I got to chat a little with Henry Winkler, too!  His book, GHOST BUDDY: ZERO TO HERO, co-written with Lin Oliver, is so funny and a great pick for reluctant readers.  I loved hearing how Henry and Lin collaborated on the book, hanging out in Lin’s office and both talking, tossing out ideas as she typed. Even though I loved Henry’s book (and was a Happy Days fan as a kid!) I didn’t have a photo taken with him because, to be honest, he was quite in demand, and I couldn’t help thinking that he’d probably just like to eat his dinner. Here he is doing that, and visiting with Scholastic CEO Dick Robinson.

(Stealth photo taken on my super-sneaky iPhone)

And then….well, then I collapsed into a puddle in my hotel room because it was late and I was sleepy. But Tuesday was another day full of great teachers, great readers, and one amazing breakfast —

Part two of my Whirlwind Days of IRA 2012 blog post will be on the way soon!

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