Sunday, February 14, 2016

Author Events: Margaret Peterson Haddix and Marissa Meyers

In the past two weeks, I wound up attending two different author events at the closest Powell's.  Since I only remember attending two author events before, ever (other than at teaching conferences), this was significant change for me.

It happened thus:  my students are, as I've mentioned before, obsessed with MPH.  I've read two of her books to my seventh graders this year, at their request and to much enthusiasm, and The Shadow Children series also has a steady check-out rate from my classroom library.  I got a selfie with her at NCTE and when I sent it to my sub, she sent me back a picture of my students squealing with glee.

So a few weeks ago, I went to her website, just to look, and I saw that she was coming to Portland the next week.  At first I was just thinking I'd let the students know when and where, but when I asked the principal to get my letter home translated, he said, "Why don't we just get a bus and make it a field trip?"  Since it was in the evening, there wouldn't be any hassle with kids missing classes, and the school wouldn't have to pay for a sub for me.  I surveyed the students to see what level of interest there was, and although some were disgruntled that they wouldn't be missing school, I definitely got a bus's worth of kids showing interest.

The night of the field trip, 28 kids showed up.  Both of my co-chaperones got sick with this upper respitory thing that's going around, so I was a tiny bit nervous.  We rode into town, with the 8th graders in the back of the bus singing "The Wheels on the Bus" followed by "Hotline Bling."  And that pretty much sums up everything you need to know about middle schoolers.

We were met as we got off the bus by the Beaverton Powell's event coordinator (I'd called ahead to give fair warning).  She showed us a giant foamboard poster of Haddix's latest book, Under Their Skin, and asked if we'd like to have it signed to us.  Um...yes.  We had some time before the event started, so kids started wandering the bookstore, creating even more nervousness as I lost track of who was where.  They all made it back in time though.  We made up about 50% of the audience, with the rest being divided between families and random adults.

Ms. Haddix talked about her latest book, telling us just enough to get everyone excited about it without giving anything away.  Then she took questions, and I was pleased at some of the questions my students came up with.  She was patient and good humored, and my students led the group in several spontaneous bursts of applause.  Only a few of my students could afford the new books, and I wish I'd thought to let them know they could have bought an older or even used book for less, and she would have been just as gracious about signing them.  I got three copies signed, two for my classroom and one for the school librarian, and have not been able to get my hands on any of the copies since, which is a great sign.  The kids who did get the book are also reading it with great enthusiasm.

Inspired, I went back to the Powell's website, and discovered that Marissa Meyer was coming the very next week to talk about Stars Above, her Lunar Chronicles short story collection.   Long fantasy/sci fi books are not the type of things my struggling readers are drawn to, so I called the friend who first loaned me Cinder and Scarlet, igniting my enthusiasm for the series.  We met at Powell's the next Thursday evening.

This time instead of about 40 members of the audience tucked away in the back corner, there were close to 200 seats set up in the main area of the store, which had been cleared of all bookshelves for the event.   Getting there twenty minutes early put me in the second to last row, and there still wasn't enough seating for all the people that showed up,  Meyer had a pretty, starry backdrop and told us about how she enjoyed coming up with backstories for her characters, and where her enthusiasm for fairy tales comes from.  Then she read us the Hans Christian Anderson original version of The Little Mermaid, which not only has a tragic ending (which I remembered), but comes with a preachy moral about doing good (which I didn't remember).  She mocked it freely, which made me a bit confused about why she was sharing it with us.

There wasn't much time for Q & A, and the line to get autographs was done row by row, so I wasn't sure how long it would take to get to our row.  My friend had to leave, and the copy I'd bought came already signed, so instead of taking my opportunity to meet Ms. Meyer, I spent a bunch of cash on graphic novels for my students, and left a half hour later, with my row still patiently waiting their turn.

Both authors were gracious and intelligent, but despite the fact that I like Meyer's books better, I found Haddix the more appealing speaker.  It wasn't just that I did get the chance to interact with her due to the smaller crowd, but she had more to say about her process and writing history.  Still, I certainly don't regret giving up one evening to spend with my students and another to see one of my literary heroes.

1 comment:

  1. I love author events, and I am always curious what an author is going to be like in person. I've discovered new authors that I love simply by picking up their work after enjoying them highly at an event. I've also met some authors that I've loved reading, but walk away a bit disappointed at their interactions with their fans. I love the whole process of discovering more about an author!


Please share your thoughts. Comments are almost as sweet as chocolate!