So much for blogging on a regular basis. Blogfail. But I have a good excuse: I’ve been too busy living my life this past month to blog about it. To sum up, things are starting to happen in regard to Being Henry David. People are reading advanced copies and reviews are being posted online. (Thankfully, most of them are good.) I’ve been asked to speak at a book event in June. People are starting to pre-order my book. And the most amazing thing happened earlier this month: I met a group of middle school and high school students in the Chicago area who have already read my book!
I had no idea what a stroke of genius it was to have my book’s protagonist, Danny (a.k.a. Hank) hail originally from Naperville, Illinois. I was just following the “write what you know” adage, because I used to live in Naperville and it’s one of my favorite places, featuring some of my favorite people on the planet. But yes, it turns out that I am brilliant. Because coincidentally—and fortuitously—my publisher (Albert Whitman & Co.) is based in the Chicago area, and has a great relationship with Anderson Books in Naperville, which has been voted the best independent bookstore in the country. (It was also my favorite bookstore when I lived there.) Becky Anderson of Anderson Books often hosts pre-publication “Meet the Author” events, and because my book has scenes set in Naperville and I’m a former resident of the town, I was invited to appear at my own pre-pub event on Monday, December 3rd.
Well. Let me just say, it was amazing. Let me just say, these kids made me feel like a rock star. More than fifty kids, along with a few teachers and librarians, came specifically to see me, and talk to me about my book—how incredible is that? It started, as many things do when it comes to teenagers, with pizza. The kids sat at several different tables chowing down, and I visited each table to chat with the kids and answer questions about the book. It was so much fun to hear them talk about the characters I’d created like they were real people (obviously I feel that way about them too), to respond to their thoughtful questions, and to revel in their enthusiasm. After pizza, I made a brief presentation for the group at large, fielded more questions, posed for photos in the warehouse area of the building with ALL the kids (see photos), and then, I signed their books. Yes. They wanted my autograph. How weird is that? How many of us remember practicing our autograph in school notebooks, just pretending that someday it would mean something to somebody? And here I was, doing it for real. Looking up into each kid’s face individually (they were all so beautiful!) to get his or her name, then signing my own. It was…humbling, amazing, thrilling. I kept saying to my daughter Nicolle, “Is this real? Am I dreaming? When I wake up tomorrow, will you be sure to tell me I didn’t imagine all this?”
It was real. The pictures prove it. And here are just a few of my favorite things the kids said:
“I’m definitely going to be one of the people who has read all the Cal Armistead books!”
“Who do you think should play Hank in the movie version of your book?”
(After a boy high-fives me–) “I just high-fived an author!”
“Don’t you think I look a little like the kid on the cover?”
“This was my favorite book in a long time.”
And perhaps the highest praise from a teenager ever…
“You really get us.”
I know I can’t expect every author visit to be as good as this one…but wow, what a way to start things off. Excuse me while I fasten my seatbelt for the ride ahead. Sure, I’m nervous, but I’m also excited. Let the journey begin.