Since I have failed to blog regularly throughout Spring Break despite my plans to do so, this will be a doozy. A two-parter, even. Here is a list of events I will address; feel free to skip around and read only what interests you:
1. Parental visit to NYC (not including their visit to my school, which will be described separately)
2. Trip to DC/Northern Virginia
3. My visit to Fox Mill ES
4. Adventures in Reston, VA
Parental Visit to NYC
The first weekend, my parents were visiting. We went to see Blithe Spirit on Broadway (funny!). We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (artsy!). We watched TV (sporting events and TV dramas about fictional sporting events). My parents left on Monday of the first week of Spring Break. After they left, I impulse-bought a tiny computer.
Trip to DC/Northern Virginia
On Tuesday, I took the train to DC and used my tiny computer on the train. Hopefully it is tiny enough that it was challenging for my seatmate to read what I was typing despite her completely unsubtle efforts to be nosy. Pete picked me up at Union Station, and we went to Alexandria to celebrate the engagement of Omar and Kim. (O + K (+ !) = OK!)
On Wednesday, I went Fox Mill ES in Herndon, VA, to speak to the first and second graders about KEENA. They were a fantastically attentive audience who asked many good questions, including some I hadn’t heard before. I cannot overstate how much I love school visits. I love hearing kids’ perspectives on the book. Often during school visits I’ll talk about Keena’s tendency to make mistakes, and I’ll ask students if they have (or anyone they know has) ever made a mistake. I always raise my own hand. This particular audience was very curious to know what mistakes I had made as a child. I tried to think on my feet about an instance of my own bad behavior that would be both bad enough to be interesting but not SO bad that the children were frightened by my delinquency. I can’t remember what I came up with, but I do remember that it was something kind of lame. Something like not doing my homework. Perhaps I should ask my parents for a list of suitable examples.
Many of the students I spoke to had not yet read KEENA, so I briefly summarized the premise at the beginning of the presentation. I explained that Keena is disappointed that she will be in a different class than her best friend and asked them if they‘ve ever been placed in a different class than a friend. But I guess I never reassured them that Keena does indeed make other friends, because one child was quite concerned about Keena’s social adjustment to the unexpected separation. After the official Q&A period I had, as I often do, a few future members of the White House Press Corps who persistently kept their hands raised even as they were lining up. I called on one worried-looking little girl who asked, “What about the other kids in your class?” and I said, “In my class? They are on Spring Break.” And she said, “No, I mean, um, in Keena’s class.” And I said, “Oh, what about the other kids?” and she said, “Were they nice? Were some of them nice?” And I told her that yes, many of the other students were very nice and that Keena makes friends. She looked tremendously relieved. I felt pretty bad that she had been worrying about that for the entire presentation.
Then a boy asked, “Why didn’t the teacher know Keena’s REAL birthday? I mean, shouldn’t she know it?” I feel like I’ve gotten this question before, but for some reason this time it threw me. Maybe I had been so taken aback by the little girl’s sorrowful expression who was afraid for Keena’s emotional well-being. So I gave the little boy some completely unsatisfying answer like, “I think Ms. Campbell probably had it on a chart somewhere, or like an enrollment form…maybe a roster…but she just didn’t check the chart because she figured Keena was telling the truth about her birthday.”
Sometimes when answering questions at schools I feel like Miss Binney in Ramona the Pest, when Ramona and her class are fixated on asking why Mike Mulligan never seems to take a bathroom break while digging the basement for the new town hall. (It’s the same question many of us have about Jack Bauer on 24. I guess Mike Mulligan was the Jack Bauer of steam shovel operators. Or Jack Bauer is the Mike Mulligan of counter-terrorism agents.) But these kinds of questions certainly challenge me to be very careful in my writing. School visits are just galvanizing overall, which is why after I went to Fox Mill I was able to write a considerable chunk of the next KEENA. It made me think, I wish I could do school visits every day! They are so important for my imagination! And then I realized, I do kind of do school visits every day. In my real job. So I guess I’m in the right line of work.
Adventures in Reston, VA
The day after my school visit I spent some time catching up with my friend Molly. Not only was it great to see her, it was also nice to have a shopping buddy at one of my favorite stores, Husband Kryptonite, which is also known as Anthropologie. In other retail news, I spent an inordinate amount of time wandering around bookstores. But I didn’t buy anything. Just kidding!
I like going to Reston and doing things I can’t really do in Manhattan, like going to Target and Michael’s and eating at Chili’s. I managed to do all of these things. Like JD McCoy said on Friday Night Lights, “I set goals and I achieve them.” Yes, big box stores have blighted the face of America, but good gracious the bargains.
Like the frame sale at Michael’s. Amazing! I invented this project for myself called Operation Prettywall. Here is the directive I gave myself for the project:
“Put this pretty paper in a frame and hang it on the wall since the other person who lives in your apartment won’t let you paint and these walls are like so boring,”
But the project developed a prequel called Operation Crazyframe as I was collecting materials at Michael’s. The other name for this operation was I’ll Take One of Everything in Aisle 13. And it went a little something like this:
“Hmmm, you can get these unfinished frames, and before you put the paper in the frames you can sand the frames, get some of this paint to paint them, use a stencil to paint a design, then wait are those mosaic tiles? And ooh Mod Podge. Someone get me another shopping basket.”
So then on Friday afternoon Pete wandered into the break/dining area at his office and looked out the window to see me sanding away, sitting at a picnic table that was covered in craft supplies.
On Saturday we drove back to NYC where Pete could keep a closer eye on me and make sure I maintained a safe distance from craft stores.
Coming up in Part II:
5. Attending a taping of The Daily Show (!!)
6. Books read
7. Events yet to come