Thanks, ALA Midwinter

Philly

I could go on and on about how awesome ALA Midwinter was, but I have to keep this brief because I’m in the middle of edits for my next novel. More on that later because I don’t think anything’s official yet 🙂

However, I do want to extend a huge thanks to all the librarians I got to meet at my signing on Saturday. It was so wonderful to see such enthusiasm over YA lit, and my work, specifically. I also need to thank Running Press, who made my attendance possible. They keep supporting me on so many levels that I can’t truly express how much I appreciate them.

Also, I wanted to post my trailer again for all the librarians to whom I mentioned its existence. It’s great material for a book talk, and I truly hope it inspires some readers. And if it does, have them tweet, email, or in any way let me know they enjoyed.

Thanks, again.

Trailer for Dare Me, created by Patrick Willems

Update to Yesterday’s Post

In a word: Awesome! 

The night exceeded my expectations. The students’ presentations were excellent. They were poised and confident, and ultimately blew people away, including their own parents and my administration. I had many parents come up and thank me, which felt awesome. And I understand why they were so happy.

We all went above and beyond on this. The students spent fifteen weeks changing their lives, and then creating amazing Prezi presentations documenting the change, and then preparing the delivery of that presentation to highlight what they had done. I provided an opportunity for their children to showcase their talents in a very public and significant way. I only wish I could hold more opportunities like this for all of my students. Talk about authentic education.

I’m a very proud teacher today, and my students should be as well. I see them as a class, tomorrow, and look forward to rehashing last night. The afterglow hasn’t faded.

The Monomyth, My Students’ Journeys, and My Fear

On September 20, 2013, I challenged my college level World Mythology class to embark on their own Monomyth. For the past four months they have been on their journeys, succeeding, failing, and changing direction. Tonight, over dinner and dessert, they present their journeys to their families, staff, and administration. I am exceptionally nervous.

You see, I’ve never done this before. Have never said, “Hey kids, go change your lives and document the change, because you’ll be graded on it.” I have often thought during this semester: What am I doing?

That’s because there have been other end-of-the-semester presentations, but they have been of the academic bent, highlighting research. Throughout the semester I have demanded high academics, so the course has not suffered, but this direction I’m taking the culmination has not been done.

And like with all new things, I’m second-guessing my choice. Not because of the students’ presentations, but because of the potential reaction.

It is my sincerest hope that the audience gets this. I want them to see that the purpose of education, in regard to mythology, is not to learn every name of every god and goddess, nor every creation and flood myth, but to understand the nature of storytelling.

All our lives our stories: the ones others tell about us, and the ones we tell ourselves. Throughout the course I have asked the students to look for this again and again: myth as a suggestion for how to live. And in the Monomyth, often the ordinary individual becomes the hero. I cannot think of a better message to send to my students.

I want them to see that being the hero is recognizing you are the narrator of your life. Narrator does not equal master. Often life moves out of our control, and this truth must be accepted. However, that does not leave us powerless. We can focus on the details that matter, and we can shift the story’s perspective, so the tragic is a blessing, and the mundane, paradise.

This is why I wanted my students to change something, because the practice of altering one’s life is the heart of success. All too often there is a passivity to how we approach who and what we are, how we live. There a myriad reasons for this: fear, complacency, indifference, and on and on. Regardless of the source, the results are often sad and about “lives of quiet desperation.”

Therefore, it is my greatest hope that the families and staff gathered will understand my premise, that to properly educate is to simply tell a story. One that’s been told countless times. The trick, however, is to tell it in a way that entices and that asks the listener to question it, and to analyze it, and in some way, make it his or her own.

Tonight, we will all teach one another, and then let the stories echo, and live on.

Belated New Year

Last week, post Holidays, I wanted to write something profound. New Year, new insights, etc. That didn’t happen.

After a very nice Christmas with my family, I got very ill. Fortunately, not with the stomach bug that’s going around, but with either a severe reaction to a medicine I took, or the coincidence of having taken that medicine at the same time I got ill.

Either way, New Year’s Eve morning, 2 am, I awoke shivering, and could not stop. I didn’t have a fever, and my joints throbbed as if I’d just done Olympic lifts for a day straight.

Of course we had company on the way for that night, and my wife had put in hours of prep time, so I wouldn’t think of it when she suggested cancelling. I said hey to my friends when they arrived and then spent the night in my room under covers, watching HGTV and trying not to shiver.

I saw the ball drop only because I dragged myself out of bed to do so, and then I plugged in earbuds to drown out my now very loud friends, and went to sleep.

This went on for a couple of days. During that time, I barely ate and mostly sat in the corner reading The Walking Dark. I think reading something about the plague would have been more appropriate.

I managed to recover enough to eat meals, and to have conversations, and eventually return to work, now that break is over. I’m still not 100%. This rattle in my chest needs to go. But, in spite of a lousy end to my time off, break was excellent.

With two young daughters, Christmas is a grand event, and I cherish how much they love it. And then we had snow and they played in it, and then I was well enough to make zombies and snow angels.

Being temporarily ill affords you the perspective that life will get better and reminds you to appreciate it when it does. So possibly that’s my insight for the New Year. It’s not exactly a new one for me, but an appropriate reminder of just how good I have it.

So here’s to 2014. I’ll have another novel out in the fall. I don’t yet know when I can talk about it, but I promise I will, and hopefully you will all enjoy.

Preferably, not while ill, wrapped in blankets, shivering.

Ringing the New Year with the Flu

I’m sick. Like shaking uncontrollably, joints on fire, and possessing a rather zombie-looking pallor.

Whatever hit, did so at 2 am, Tuesday, and I barely opened my eyes to see the ball drop last night. But there was an upshot in all this that warms my depressed heart.

While I was not sleeping, Tuesday morning, I was writing, inside my head. I’m currently reading The Walking Dark, and it is as creepy as the title sounds. Therefore, in my mind, I was within the pages of that dark novel, writing new scenes, projecting on those to come. And it all sounded pretty good. If I’d had any energy I would have found a notebook, but it’s probably best that I just lay there.

The takeaway for me is that in spite of my current illness, my body’s itching to get back to writing, which I haven’t done any of since the 20th. Therefore, I’m excited to get over this sickness and get back to my work. I have three projects on the go and I am so very thrilled to be able to work like this, in sickness and in health 🙂

Happy 2014!