One of the greatest privileges in writing for young people is interacting with young people. I began speaking at schools in 2001 through a New York City volunteer program called Authors Read Aloud and launched my own school visit program in 2004.
It did not get off to an auspicious start, as you are about to see.
Since then, I have visited around 80 schools across 13 states and, like any author, have had experiences from sublime to strange (but mostly sublime).
In honor of those kids heading back to school this week, hot as that is to believe, so begins my first TEN-part series: Most Memorable School Visit Moments.
For the first year or so, I didn’t take photos, but I did take notes. Of course, I have loved something about every school visit. And in a year, this list may be completely different. But for now…
Most Memorable School Visit Moment #10
"Snow Days, Long Drive"
To introduce myself to schools, I made my own mailing list. In October 2003, using a school directory web site, I went town by town in my county, calling every public elementary school and asking for the name of the person to whom I should address such a mailing.
In case you missed that word, it was every.
My list ended up including close to 400 schools. Took me the full day every day for a work week to compile.
Then I spent two more days stuffing envelopes and sticking on not one or two but four adhesives—school address, return address, a “teaser” label, and the stamp. The teaser was about a writer and cartoonist wanting to visit their school…so, not such a tease (and therefore, not such a good use of time).
I mailed off those 400…and got one call.
That school, praise be, booked me for January 27, 2004.
Which ended up being the first snowstorm of the season.
We rescheduled for February 6, which—no joke—became the second storm of the season. Look it up.
So we rescheduled for February 25 at 9:30 a.m.
Then one of my best friends had his first child, a son, and scheduled the brit milah (commonly known as the bris) for February 24.
At 5 p.m.
In Washington, D.C.
So my wife and I drove down to D.C., stayed for several hours, then drove the four hours home, arriving in the middle of the night.
The next morning, when I actually could’ve used a snow day, was perfectly clear. So I lugged the slide projector I’d bought on eBay (for $60! Who knew they’d be so expensive?) and did my first official school visit in a state of exhaustion so strong that I came home after and napped for almost as long as the drive from D.C.
A first is always memorable, and that one even more so.
Read the whole countdown.