Thursday, November 18, 2010

What can I even say?


After an excellent flight down (the plane was only about a third full, leaving all of the gleeful passengers with a full row to themselves) and a mildly harrowing ride to the airport in a van that smelled like smoke and air-freshener, I arrived at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami.

I checked into the room, took a moment to marvel at the mountain of decorative pillows on the bed, and promptly ripped open my luggage to frantically search for the individually wrapped stick of cheese and the squashed Nutri-grain bar I'd bought at the Wawa back in Philly. Note to future self--when you get to a hotel at 10 at night and you have to be up early in the morning, you're not going to run around looking for a restaurant. Have something a little more substantial on hand than an individually wrapped stick of cheese and the squashed Nutri-grain bar.

No matter. I found the bed under Mt. Pillow, turned on the teevee, and promptly fell asleep.

In the morning I headed up to the hospitality suite. It's like author central, where tired, confused authors from all over the world come to eat bagels and be handed off to volunteers who take care of us for the day. Being an author is kind of like being a kid traveling alone in an airport--there are people whose jobs it is to make sure that you don't get lost/miss your flight/climb into a storage bin to take a nap. I was introduced to my handler for the day, Bill, who whisked me off to my first school.

As we walked into the school, the warm Miami temperatures started playing tricks with my mind. There aren't going to be any kids at this school, I thought, because it's summer. But I was happily wrong and I had a great time with the kids at Bowman Foster Ashe Elementary (and about half of them had already read The Popularity Papers!) After the program the principal of the school gave me my very own orange Bowman Foster Ashe school uniform polo shirt (should I ever want to matriculate).

Eliseo Hernandez, the school's principal, introduces me to the kids. As you might be able to tell from the photo, the heat here has begun to transform my hair into an exciting ball of frizz.

Bill and I had a little time to kill before heading off to our next school, so he drove me through some of the neighborhoods of Miami; Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Little Havana. I saw the hotel where Bill Clinton stays when he comes to Florida to play golf and the old building where Cuban immigrants used to come to be processed. I took photos of nothing because that's Mark's job and d'oh! Okay, I need remember to take more photographs. For now I'll just post a picture of the house from The Golden Girls.

I keep looking around for Betty White. So far, no luck, but I've only been here for a day.

Then we were off to Auburndale Elementary. Now I'm getting used to doing school events--it's a little like when I was a substitute teacher. I'm new, nobody knows me, the best I can hope for is to make a good impression.

But not at Auburndale. At Auburndale, they knew who I was.

Liliana Salazar, principal at Auburndale. "You have no idea what you're getting into," she told me as she walked me down the Popularity Papers-decorated hallway to the school library. "They all love the book. You have no idea." She was totally right.

The PTA had bought all of the kids copies of my book. I want to hug the PTA of Auburndale Elementary School.

This was the first time that I'd been at a school where all of the kids had read the book, which was astonishing because it was the first time that I didn't have to explain the premise of the book. They all came prepared with questions written on index cards. Oh, and AND THEY ALL OPTED TO WEAR DRESSES AND SUITS WITH LITTLE KID NECKTIES FOR THE OCCASION.

Look at these kids!!! I felt kind of like a schlub in my jeans.

After we finished the program there was a little luncheon and they gave me flowers. They are now sitting in an ice bucket full of water in my hotel room.

But one of the most amazing parts of the visit was the job that the staff and the kids did in decorating the school for my arrival--

Would you like to see some details?

Awesome. I love this so much it's REDONK. But wait...

AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! IT'S THE PHOTO OF TILDA THAT I TOOK THE JUST THE DAY BEFORE!!! Modern technology met Google and ingenuity and scissors and paste and COMPLETELY BLEW MY MIND!!!!!

Bill, my super awesome guide for the day, asked how I felt as we walked out of the school (with students still waving at me). I honestly had no idea how to feel. One of the most emotional days I ever had in my career was the day I was offered a book deal. One of the most exciting days I ever had in my career was the day I first saw my book in a bookstore. But this was the first time I'd ever been with a large group of kids in formalwear who had all read and loved the book. I feel a tremendous gratitude to the Miami Book Fair for bringing me down here, for the faculties at both schools for welcoming me and introducing my book to their students, and and and...

What can I even say? Last night when I got back to the hotel (after an excellent evening with Ruthie and Jeff, Mark's aunt and uncle) I called Mark to tell him about the day, and all that came out was, "LITTLE NECKTIES...DECORATIONS...FLOWERS...I MISS TILDA!"

Two more schools today! I will try to take more pictures.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not quite sure how to compete with that school, but I know I will find a way to make your visit to Hancock memorable... Love your recent posts. You always make me giggle! :)