Fordian Fun

WWYK

By the end of my day presenting to grades 7-12 at Waterford Jr/Sr High School, I was backed into a corner by a mob a middle school students looking for signatures and selfies. “They sold out of books. Sign my arm,” one kid said, and so I did. The bell rang and a teacher told the group they needed to get to class. They didn’t budge. With phones in hand they wanted pictures. They got them, and then I packed up, went home, and collapsed.

Fortunately the drive wasn’t far. I live in the town in which I presented, which boasts a K-12 school for the tight-knit community. To say the day was a success would be a gross understatement. Because as I sat, after hours of presenting, my phone began a slow and steady explosion that would last the rest of the weekend. The students had found me on Twitter, and the teachers and parents, and others in the community, on Facebook. And all were positive:

I was even invited to a local diner 🙂

I cannot express how fantastic it is to receive such swift and positive feedback. I have done a fair amount of presentations, and never has the outpouring of support been so strong.

Maybe it’s because I’m from the town. Possibly it’s because I high-fived every student as he or she walked in. It could be that the kids connected with my message or my writing. I don’t honestly know. It could be simply that I went into this presentation as I always do, with the goal of pouring my heart out, and the kids noticed this. Yes, I have pretty engaging books to read from, and a slick Prezi that accompanies my talk, but I tend to think it’s the willingness to look like this that makes all the difference:

Whatever it was, I cannot say thank you enough to the faculty and staff for inviting me in. And a special thanks to the English department and Mrs. Clinton for doing so much work behind the scenes to make the day a reality.

Thinking back on my own high school experience, I can count on one hand the amount of presenters who came and fired on all cylinders and truly connected with the school and with me. It is my hope that for the students of Waterford, my presentation is one they will remember in such a positive light, because damn did I have fun 🙂

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TLT: Teen Librarian’s Toolbox: Breaking the Gender Molds, a guest post and giveaway by author Eric Devine

Reblogged from Teen Librarian’s Toolbox (Which is a phenomenal site. Head over there to enter the giveaway)

Breaking the Gender Molds, a guest post and giveaway by author Eric Devine

I’m a 36-year-old, cisgendered, heterosexual, white male, who writes Young Adult novels that are boy-centric, and I’m bothered by the slim definition of what it means to be a man.
 
I was raised under very stereotypical precepts about manhood, and I was always bothered by them. Instead of watching sports, I read. Shyness overtook bravery. I did not demand, I accepted, and it was problematic.
 
Until I flipped the switch during middle school and played the part. It was instantly apparent how much easier it was to be a loud-mouthed punk than it was to be me. But in spite of the ease, I was unsettled, because I knew who I had abandoned.
 
Painful, yes, but excellent training for the work I do today. Because those expectations, those norms of masculinity, still exist, are extremely pervasive, and put boys and teens into extremely uncomfortable situations where they either have to behave the part or suffer the consequences. The pressure is real and terrifying, and something I try to address in my work.
 
 
In summary: Tap Out is about what one does as a very stereotypical “tough” male in a hostile and violent environment that has only one use for him. One he doesn’t want, but is hamstrung to escape.
 
 
Dare Me explores what it’s like to want to break the profile of “nothingman” and win acclaim, earn money, and come out on top by succeeding at feats of valor––or more commonly known today as YouTube stunts.
 
 
Press Play is about pushing back against the dominant, violent culture, by fighting with technology and intelligence, instead of fists. It’s about choosing not to hide, in spite of the enormous danger of exposure.
 
Much of my decisions regarding what I write and how I address issues of gender, in particular masculinity, are informed by my own experience, but equally by my students. We talk. A lot. And I tell stories of my youth because they want to understand how I’ve arrived at my perspectives. I’ve addressed aspects of drug use, sexuality, violence, suicide, rape, privilege, and any number of humorous/disgusting combinations about life you can think of. Often we talk about expectations placed on girls and boys, even if my students don’t realize that’s what they’re talking about.
One day we discussed fighting. There had recently been one, and based on the details, I innocently asked about a broken nose. The class sensed I knew more about this topic than I was letting on and asked me to tell a story of what I knew of breaking someone’s nose.
 
I did, briefly, but more importantly, then asked, “What are the expectations for males in our society, especially contact sport athletes, when it comes to fighting?”
 
This led to an engaging conversation that quickly turned from only males in sports to males and females broadly. And it was an interesting experience for many of the girls to hear the boys talk about the pressure of fitting in. They deftly detailed that on some level the dirty jokes and swearing and fighting are part of the roles in which they are asked to play (Yes, they struggled to word it this way––they’re teens––but the message was clear: forced stereotypes are universal).
 
I was so proud of our conversation because it was obvious that I had provided a space for my students to think about concepts they’d never fully entertained, which is exactly what I try to do in my stories. Yet, the issue stuck with me. Because what didn’t emerge in that conversation was that those pressures don’t go away. They morph and become stronger. And in light of very recent events of parties and rape and fight clubs, I felt a bit hopeless. How is a male, today, supposed to successfully navigate the pressures of being “a man” and evolve into someone who is unafraid to embrace a balance of masculine and feminine traits? In essence, how are they to succeed where I failed?
 
I won’t say books are the answer, because that’s naive. Parents, adult figures, older brothers and sisters, and by very large measure peers and pop culture all have a hand in shaping boys and girls. Books are a part of that, and a significant one if they flip preconceived notions on their heads. If they challenge the stereotypes. If they offer alternatives to the norm of cisgendered, heterosexual, white protagonist. Or if they expose and explore the trappings of how and why the stereotypes abound.
 
And they already exist. But the audience needs to be wider. I know men and women who haven’t read a book since high school, and so for all the good that I can do by writing novels that challenge societal assumptions, how are my stories ever going to find a way into the hands of the sons and daughters of these adults, who do not value reading, who may be completely comfortable with the expectations of the standard male and female models because they were never challenged to think otherwise, and who have not had conversations with their children about the fact that “being a man”  or “being a woman” is an ever-evolving process that is a paramount pursuit in order to have a fulfilling life?
 
But there are others. Like me, and not at all like me, who are having these conversations, who are reading and helping teens navigate. There are teachers and librarians and adult figures in various capacities who are open and willing and helpful. There are allies in every struggle. And I feel that the issue of redefining both masculinity and femininity is a pressing and important concern. Not so that we can foist new roles on boys and girls, but so that we can accept the traits of masculinity and femininity, the fact that they are a part of us all, regardless of gender or sexuality. If only so that the “boys will be boys” mentality, that is one of the most ignorant concepts in our culture, can die.
 
And so with it, some of that pressure. I say “some” because there will always be pressure. But it is up to us to decide how it is applied, and to what end. Do we want to continue the binary opposition of male versus female in our culture, or do we want to move forward with a better understanding of humanity and of ourselves?
 
Because in the end, even my freshman understand the pressures are they same, they just manifest differently. Therefore, we should be seeking virtues of behavior and not categories. Because breaking the mold is beautiful, but never again having to fill one is stunning.
 

Eric Devine is a high school teacher and the author of Tap Out, Dare Me and the upcoming Press Play, all from Running Press Kids. He blogs here at Teen Librarian Occasionally and wrote a chapter in The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services, edited by myself and Heather Booth and published in July from ALA Editions. You can follow Eric online: 

 
Win Eric Devine’s Books!
 
Eric and Running Press Kids have generously donated a copy of Tap Out which I am putting together with my arc copies of Tap Out and Dare Me picked up at various library conferences to give to you as a prize. You can win a complete set of Eric Devine books! If you live in the U. S. you can do the Rafflecopter thingy below until Saturday the 23rd, The Tween’s birthday and the debut of the new Doctor, to enter.

Siena College Visit

I did not attend Siena College, but have had the good fortune to be invited to speak there by Pendragon, the college’s Literary Magazine Club. I will be giving a presentation on my path to publishing, fielding some Q&A, and then signing after, thanks to the support of Market Block Books. If you want to swing by, check the flyer below or the pertinent details, and I hope to see you there!

At a Glance: Six Months of Promo and Events for Dare Me

I have been promoting Dare Me for the past six months. It was fun, exhausting and very rewarding. However, I am glad that the crunch is over. The time and energy it takes is extensive and wreaks havoc on anything else scheduled––you know like the rest of my life 🙂

That’s not a complaint, just a simple fact. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the craziness, and I’m fortunate enough to be doing it all over again for my next novel, which will be released in the fall (details to come).

Therefore, for those of you who might be interested, I’ve outlined all that I did, or that happened regarding Dare Me for half of a year. Many authors do more, and many do less. This is what I did, and I hope it illustrates the business of books on the personal level. Because trust me, if I were to write about the behind-the-scenes work, this post would have to run for a week straight.

July 2013

I didn’t get started until the end of the month, but I kicked things off with a bang, releasing my trailer for Dare Me through a blast, released by over 50 bloggers, worldwide. There was a copy of the novel and a t-shirt giveaway that netted over 5,500 entries. Not bad, right?

Then I wrote an article for one of my favorite librarians and her site Teen Librarian’s Toolbox, titled “Careening with our youth culture“. It’s all about why teens like to do crazy things, and especially why I felt compelled to do some of my own. It was paired with a giveaway, too.

August 2013

August is always busy, and so I only managed to release the flyer for all of my scheduled events for Dare Me. I put it on Scribd, which made sharing so easy.

September

My publisher printed 200 copies of those same flyers I posted to Scribd and I sent them to local high schools at the start of the school year.

Then I had my Dear Teen Me letter posted. Go read it, if you haven’t. It’s awesome.

I then held my first signing at Market Block Books.

October

Dare Me was published in October, so things got cooking. I was interviewed by our local WNYT affiliate, and then held these signings and events:

Signing @   Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library

Signing and panel discussion Troy Author Day @ Troy Public Library

Signing @ Barnes & Noble:  Saratoga Springs

Release party & Signing @ McGreivey’s Restaurant

During this time I also ran a five-day giveaway for Dare Me as a build up to the publishing day.

I also received this awesome review from Kirkus

November

I was interviewed by Kori Miller of Back Porch Writer for her podcast. It was a blast, and if you have a half hour, go listen.

Awesomeness hit in November when I went to NCTE. I signed copies of Dare Me and met English teachers from around the country. A couple of my colleagues even showed up, which was so nice. And then I met a few authors whose work I love, and I even got my picture taken with A.S. King.

December

The last month of the year started out fantastic with both the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune selecting Dare Me for their holiday books gift guides for Young Adults.

Then I got to use my author status for some good by participating in a signing/fundraiser for the High School I work for at another, local Barnes and Noble. If you have kids or are an author and teacher like me, contact B&N and set up a Book Fair. So simple, yet so effective.

January

The American Library Association’s Widwinter Meeting was held in Philadelphia this year, home of my publisher, Running Press. Therefore, I got to go to the city of brotherly love, sign, meet awesome librarians, and then have a blast wining and dining with everyone from Running Press and some of my pub siblings. I even met Daniel Kraus while at our cocktail party. I refrained from getting all fanboy and we had an awesome chat.

For the duration

I ran four giveaways at Goodreads, at various times throughout these six months. I now have only two copies of those I receive from my publisher left. But it was worth it, as close to 2,500 people entered the giveaways and, therefore, have Dare Me on their radar.

Now

Phew. That was a lot. Or maybe it was just enough. Possibly there was more I could have done. I have no idea, because that’s the impossibility of any business. Some analytics cannot be measured.

So what matters to me are the answers to these questions:

Did I have fun? Yes.

Did all of this enrich my life? Yes.

Would I do it all over again? Absolutely.

And I will, in another six months. Be sure to join me, and thank you if you did this time around.

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

Some Good News & My Last Event of The Year

LA Times

I begin each of my classes with Good News from my students. They talk about how happy they are about finally getting enough sleep, or seeing THE MOVIE that’s out, or just getting to hang with friends. Simple stuff that should not be overlooked. Because all those little things, sometimes they are the big things. I don’t offer good news, because it is about them and not me, but I can share some with you.

Now, I did make the rounds with this on Facebook and Twitter, so if it’s redundant, I apologize. But I think it’s worth repeating that both the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune have included Dare Me in their holiday gift guides for books for Young Adults. It’s pretty fantastic that my work is on the radar of such institutions. Now I can only hope that parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. start showing up to their bookstores looking for Dare Me. I do hope they remember my name or at least the cover image, or they may end up with Megan Abbott’s YA novel of the same name. A phenomenal story, but wholly different than mine.

Please feel free to share this gift idea with family and friends. Dare Me has appeal for both males and females. I’ve read reviews from teen readers and they love it all around. And also feel free to share the next bit as well.

B&N 2013

This Friday, December 6th, I will be taking part in a signing/fundraiser at Barnes and Noble in Colonie for Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School. I’m there from 4-7, but the fundraiser goes on all day. The school gets a percentage of total sales so long as patrons use the certificates at the register. There are piles of them at the checkout, but students will also be handing them out along with candy canes and other goodies. Additionally, we have gift baskets up for raffle, and last, but not least, it’s Polar Express night.

At 7:00, the staff hand out cookies and hot chocolate and read the classic Christmas tale to the children in the store. I can’t think of a better way to support the community, get in the Christmas spirit, and have a fun Friday out.

I hope to see you on there, and I promise to pass along any additional good news between now and then. Trust me, like all good gifts, I’ve got some on the way.

Feeling the Love at NCTE

This past weekend at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention was all about feeling the love. I know the motto was (Re) Inventing the Future of English, but that’s some title someone decided was necessary to give us direction. As if English teachers need any 🙂

For me, however, it was a trip of double-duty. I was there as an author and as an educator. Therefore, the experience was very symbolic of the differences in the two worlds in which I live, as well as the connections.

Prior to walking into the Hynes Convention Center, I had to stop at the Barnes and Noble in the mall to pick up a book suggested by my agent. While there, I just had to peek. Yup, there sat Dare Me, ready for purchase. I loved this fact.

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Following this, I walked the exhibit hall, checking out the publisher and vendor booths. There was an alarming amount of materials and software programs available for purchase. All of it geared toward making our lives as educators easier, and somehow capable of this (re) invention. These booths were sparsely populated. The English teachers that did dare, dodged sales pitches and tried to assess the products for their merit.

The publisher booths were not sparsely attended; they were packed. Albeit, many were giving away books, so that’s an obvious draw. And many had famous authors signing, another enormous plus. However, the lines for these booths told the real story. English teachers, who were spending days being told how to (re) everything within the classroom, were willing to spend time in line, waiting for a book and a moment with an author. That’s so very telling. Educators clearly understood the power of returning to a classroom with books, and especially those signed and dedicated to their students.

This I adore, because it doesn’t get much more basic than a class and kids and books. No (re) invention here. Just the foundational basics that are necessary and that work, with the bonus of a dedication––possibly a promise for what may be achieved by reading.

I too, stood in line. For Bill Konigsberg’s Openly Straight. It’s an excellent story of a teen who tries to cast off a label, but ultimately understands the futility in denying oneself ownership of who he is. Bill was wonderful. Happy to have a fellow author, but more happy to have me as a reader and teacher, willing to share his novel with students who might not necessarily find it otherwise. Yes, I totally love this combination.

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I love it almost as much as I love this next picture:

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Two of my colleagues, Laurie Berner and Kim Shell, attended the conference and texted me this picture while they were in between sessions. I love them for taking the time to check out the booth where my work was displayed and letting me know they cared. This is the perfect blend of my two worlds.

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I’m not going to lie; this is one of my favorite pics from the weekend: me signing away. My hour flew by, as I spoke with and signed for educators, excited to bring my work back to their students. All my books went, and I  can only hope that the students who read, remember to reach out to me afterward. I so want to hear their feedback. Because in spite of the audience of adults, I write for teens, and appreciate their insight.

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And look who showed up again. How could I not love this?

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And here is possibly the highlight of my event: meeting A.S. King. She has written some of the best YA lit I’ve read, and having the opportunity to say hey and have a picture taken with her was a true honor. But what I loved about this moment is two-fold. One, she actually knew who I was. I’m sorry, but that recognition went straight through me and I am positive I blushed form head to toe. Two, I loved the down-to-earth nature she possesses. I had heard that meeting her would be very chill, but it was more chill than I had imagined.

We had signings at the same time, so I made a bee line to her both, after mine, and there she was, talking away with another fan, like she had all the time in the world for us. And she gave us that time. I can only imagine how many students will now benefit from the teachers who picked up her work and will now gladly bring it back to their classrooms, full of praise for the author and her stories. THIS is exactly why educators need more if this experience. It changes the dynamic and makes books so much more authentic.

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My last event of the conference was a luncheon with teachers and a keynote address from Ishmael Beah, author of the memoir A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, and the soon-to-be-released novel, Radiance of Tomorrow. The dichotomy of the event could not have been more striking. As educators we sat and talked about the highs and lows of the conference, from the CCLS to just what mixed-modal meant. We examined and considered the title of the weekend. And then Beah spoke.

His speech was beautiful, and within it was the promise of everything we as educators hope for: finding a better way through language.

However, Beah comes from an oral tradition culture. His writing is infused with such, as was his speech. And the irony for me was profound. Beah spoke of learning narrative structure and of how to be a good listener and ultimately practitioner of the tradition and upstanding member of the community through storytelling. That’s it. It all boiled down to the stories. Speaking them. Listening to them. And owning them in a way so that you could retell them.

And for me that struck such a chord. Because as an author and educator this is exactly what I’m trying to do. I want to write well enough so that readers are engaged. I want them to be so invested that they then take ownership of the story and share it with others, so that the process continues. The same holds true in education. Regardless of the delivery, the stories I tell via a lesson plan or that the students create on their own through an essay or a presentation, the concept remains. Learn how to love the story and it will become a part of you, and you will be a part of it, and in the process both will grow.

It’s funny that it took a conference about (re) invention to bring this to light. Because we’re already there, always have been. We just need to remember what that looks like.

So thank you to everyone I met. I hope you share my work, and I hope your students enjoy it, and allow it to inform them, and then pass it along. I hope their stories grow from mine.

Maybe we can all reinvent ourselves, just not through an artificial application, but through the very organic aspect of stories. What’s there not to love in this?