Thursday, January 29, 2015

50 States Against Bullying: WASHINGTON

The thirty-fifth stop on the 50 States Against Bullying campaign brought me to Washington. I got to my hotel Wednesday night, and when I looked out my hotel window the next morning, it looked like it would be a beautiful day.

But really, any day where I get to speak to students is a beautiful day!

Did that sound too cheesy? Well, too bad! Because it's true.

I entered Chinook Middle School and saw #ReasonsWhyYouMatter notecards in flag-formation.

The 7th and 8th graders filled the gym, and it was fascinating to compare the students with faculty at this school. The students had so much energy! They'd listen closely and quietly, but then laugh so easily it could take a while to bring the noise down again. Which made it fun for me! And the faculty? They were just as energetic. I don't know if they all do jumping jacks between class periods or what, but they're doing something right here.

Then I had a few hours before a signing at University Book Store, so I went to the EMP Museum, which has the best pop culture exhibits of any museum I've seen. They had an entire Nirvana exhibit, which included several recognizable Cobain sweaters.

Walking through the Sci-Fi rooms, every time I rounded a corner I thought of a different friend who would have geeked out over what they displayed. Like David Bowie's clothes and wig from Labyrinth!

But the area I was most excited to explore concerned horror movies.

They had one of those stick thingies from The Blair Witch Project...

...a panel of dials and levers used in many classic movies, like Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein...

...and a zombie suit from Michael Jackson's Thriller video, which was probably my introduction to horror.

But the scariest prop was still that wig over in the Sci-Fi room.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

50 States Against Bullying: NEVADA

Stop number thirty-four on the 50 States Against Bullying campaign brought me to Nevada. The last time I visited Reno was a little over twelve years ago. A few weeks after my wife and I got married, we hopped in a car and drove to Wyoming, where we would live for the next six months (and where I began writing Thirteen Reasons Why). On our way, we stayed the night in Reno. But I don't remember the glittery stars dangling over their welcome sign.

YA author Naomi Canale joined me at Wooster High School and snapped this photo before I began to speak.

Yes, the pic was posed. Yesterday, you saw what I really look when I get nervous as students begin piling in. You could see the fear in my eyes, but I otherwise looked composed. So this was an interpretation of how I feel inside.

But once again, the students were wonderful.

There were more students than expected, so I even had some sitting on stage with me! That was a first.

After speaking, I signed books and took a lot of pics with students.

I even took one selfie. I mean, there were plenty of pics where a student took a selfie of me with him or her, but one student wanted me to take a pic of just myself with her phone. She didn't want to be in it! So that was... I don't know. But it was whatever it was!

A beautiful moment, for me, occurred when I heard a student who didn't know I was listening thank the teacher responsible for bringing me to Wooster. It takes a lot of work to organize an author visit, and it's nice when the faculty members who think outside the box for new ways to reach students are appreciated for that work.

The past few days, I've been noticing my shoes slowly falling apart. Even though I only have one more state to go before I head home (for less that 48 hours), I didn't want to risk needing to give a speech in my socks. So, with a short amount of time before my flight to Washington, I zipped over to the mall and bought a new pair of shoes.

You may wonder how in the world I went shoe shopping in such a short amount of time. Well, it helps if you're only looking for a pair that looks very similar to your last pair.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if it is broke, throw it away and get something that makes it look like it was never broken in the first place.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

50 States Against Bullying: NEW MEXICO

Another first-time state on the 50 States Against Bullying campaign brought me to New Mexico for stop number thirty-three. Upon entering La Cueva High School, I immediately took time to read some comments on their #ReasonsWhyYouMatter notecards.

As many of you know, my favorite part of being an author is speaking to readers. But many of you don't know, or don't believe me when I tell you, that I get major stagefright. I enjoy myself once I begin, but leading up to it is Anxiety City. Especially when I watch the students start piling in! Here's an unposed photo of that moment. And I do believe you can see the fear in my eyes.

But they were great! Nothing to fear here, dude. (There never is anything to fear, and knowing that is how I get myself to show up to each school rather than faking a flat tire.)

I love when members of the faculty, after the presentation, remark that they were a little surprised and impressed by how attentive the students were for so long. I take that as a compliment, and I think it's partly because the students can tell I really enjoy speaking with them (once I get over my fear of them, of course).

While I didn't make it into the women's restroom myself, I was told about a message scribbled on a tile in there and the responses written around it. While I don't condone writing on walls, I still had to send someone in there to take a pic.

Little comments of positivity make me so happy!

It also made me happy to see Jessie and Chris post themselves proudly wearing their #ReasonsWhyYouMatter wristbands.

Before I headed to the airport, librarian Gerri Barnhart took local YA author Shea Berkley and me out to lunch.

We ate delicious New Mexican cuisine at El Pinto.

Gotta love photobombers.

And here's what happens after I fill my belly with totally legit pinto beans.

So now I'm in the airport, waiting to head to my next state, and contemplating why two girls at La Cueva gave me this.

But still, I really do appreciate it!

It's creepy, but I appreciate it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

50 States Against Bullying: OKLAHOMA

Stop number thirty-two on the 50 States Against Bullying campaign brought me to Oklahoma for the very first time. When I arrived, I had an hour before a booksigning at Best of Books, a great indie bookstore. After the signing, I went out to dinner with the bookstore owners and faculty from the school where I'd be speaking. I left the dinner with some inside jokes about granola and a fictional girl named Rita. (No, I can't tell you the jokes. They're inside jokes!)

The next day, I woke up early to be interviewed on an Oklahoma City news program, which you can watch here. Then I had an entire day to do sightseeing!

And laundry. I also had to do laundry.

First, I went to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. There were plenty of beautiful paintings throughout the museum, but photographs weren't allowed of my favorites. But upon entering the museum, you're hit with the very effective sculpture, The End of the Trail.

From there, I went to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. I will always remember where I was the day the American-bred terrorists bombed the Murrah federal building. I was working at a shoe store, and that's all anyone could talk about that day, employees and customers. To see the site of the bombing in person, and the record of the event captured by this museum, it brought me right back to those emotions. And sometimes it is necessary to be strongly reminded of these tragedies.

The museum contains a dramatic timeline leading up to the event, reminding us how beautiful that day was in Oklahoma City. And then the explosion happened at 9:02am, which is when this clock stopped ticking.

It then follows the search for survivors, the uniting of the citizens, and the capture of the men who destroyed so much.

Outside, it's nearly impossible to speak while taking in the memorial. On one side of the water is a large doorway labeled 9:01, marking the time before the explosion. On the other side is a matching doorway labeled 9:03, marking the time when healing had to begin.

In between, across the water, are chairs representing all of the lives lost.

I could never describe how moved I was the entire time I spent at the museum and memorial, and how much I felt in a daze long afterward. It's a place everyone should visit at some point.

The next day, though, was the reason for my time in Oklahoma. I arrived at Santa Fe High School, and even though my name wasn't on their marquee, they accidentally left a tribute to my book. Just like on the title graphic of Thirteen Reasons Why, the numbers (1 and 3, even) were in red!

At my booksigning at the bookstore two days before, there happened to be a limousine outside. I don't know why it was there, but several students who were there thought it was for me. Isn't that sweet? So I had to let them down by saying I'm not limo-worthy...yet!

But I do often get special parking for my rental car at schools.

#ReasonsWhyYouMatter cards draped across the hallway inside the school.

Sarah Ondak, a student at the high school, posted this photo from near the end of my presentation. I know I use my hands a lot when I speak, which makes me feel more comfortable on stage, but it always makes my photos look silly. But that's cool. It's all good! I'm fine with that.

And here are the students, who had so many great questions when I was done.

The owner of Best of Books took this shot of my signing line. This is always one of my favorite parts of a school visit, because it allows me to speak one-on-one to the readers. Some of them nearly had me in tears with what they shared, while others had me busting up.

And some of them boggled my mind with how much they took notes throughout my book.

a student's book

a teacher's book

Friday, January 23, 2015

50 States Against Bullying: MONTANA

Stop number thirty-one on the 50 States Against Bullying campaign brought me to Montana. I flew in and then drove to my hotel the night before my presentation, and felt very welcomed by the town of Whitefish when I drove past this sign.

Whitefish Middle School was selected to represent Big Sky Country, but they extended an invitation to neighboring schools. The audience contained a few book clubs and students from nearby, as well as parents and school board members. It was heartwarming to hear their applause for their respective schools when I pointed out that the only reason I was speaking to them was because their faculty took the issues in my book seriously and weren't afraid to tackle issues that make many people shy away from even discussing.

Here's a pic of me, taken by the school, as I began my talk.

There was a banner at the school with Thirteen Reasons Why buttons attached, which were made by the school, and students were invited to wear them ahead of my visit. One dude "somehow" managed to have thirteen with him for the event, and I signed them all.

Yes, I'll be checking eBay to see if that's where they end up! (And if the price is really low, I may bid on them myself so my ego doesn't get crushed.)

I'm sure this town looks beautiful throughout the year, but it looks especially magical with snow all around. Since I'm a Christmas geek, I was thankful I got to visit before they took down their decorations.

I was also lucky enough to have a few hours in the afternoon to wander the covered sidewalks of their charming downtown. And I'm not a person who throws out the "charming" word casually!