Friday, October 13, 2017

Hello from the Book Tour

Good morning! I'm in Baltimore, at a Hilton Garden Hotel, and I've got 8 minutes until official checkout time and 53 minutes before I'm picked up by someone who's taking me to the airport. It's the third Friday of my book tour. I'm headed to Nashville, for the Southern Festival of Books (I'll be speaking tomorrow in the Nashville Public Library, at 3 pm, with Alan Gratz, please come) and then I'm going home. Mostly I've been touring schools and libraries, but this morning I video chatted with librarians and educators in Nebraska. The schoolchildren of Nebraska gave The War That Saved My Life this year's Golden Sower award, and while I couldn't manage to be physically present at the awards ceremony I very much enjoyed talking to them.

I've been talking a lot. I woke up Wednesday with a cold and today I've very nearly lost my voice, so I'm grateful I don't have school visits today. But the school visits in general have been excellent. I love talking to kids who are enthusiastic for my books, and I love talking to kids who are indifferent to my books. I've been trying to convince them all that reading is not about decoding squiggly lines on a page. Reading is about telling and hearing and understanding stories. I felt like I'd succeeded when a fifth grade girl stood up and said, "I have dyslexia. Do you think I could actually be a writer?"

I said, "Of course you can," and the girl beamed.
I hope she always understands I was telling her the truth.

The whole tour is about the launch of Ada's second book, The War I Finally Won. Wednesday I learned that on October 22nd it's debuting at #3 on the New York Times Bestsellers List. This is amazing. It's astounding. It's everyone-at-Penguin-was-dancing-in-the-hallways and I-couldn't-stop-laughing-even-though-I-was-on-my-second-box-of-Kleenex-for-the-day-and-felt-inspid-glorious. Thank you, everyone.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Happy Birthday, and Thank You.

Today is my Book Birthday, the official release date of my new novel, The War I Finally Won. It's a fabulous day, as pleasing to me as my recent actual birthday--and I loved my actual birthday.

I find I have something to say:

--to the 500 sixth-graders crammed yesterday onto a middle-school cafeteria floor, who listened to every word I said;

--to the student yesterday who handed me a copy of Jefferson's Sons for signing and said, "Thank you for writing this;"

--to the student yesterday who confided to me that they were being raised in foster care, and that when I said, "That's hard. You must be strong and brave," looked me dead in the eye and said, "I am strong and brave;"

--to the parent last night with tears in their eyes, telling me how TWTSML reflected their own reality of adopting traumatized children;

--to the student in the back row who dabbed when I came in, causing me to dab (in an embarrassing middle-aged white woman kind of way) (which the students nevertheless received with touching enthusiasm) on my way out;

--to whoever stuck the sign next to the white board for one of my presentations yesterday that read, "Kimberly Brubaker Bradley--welcome home;"

--to whoever wrote the early review saying, "Ada is for the ages;"

--to my author friends who thought 9 revisions astonishingly many, and even more to my (very few) author friends who thought 9 revisions astonishingly few;

--to the 50 or so people at Penguin Random House who worked very very hard to turn my words into an actual physical marketed on-sale book;

--to my agent, Ginger Knowlton, who loved it before anyone else, and that includes the rest of my family;

--to the indomitable Jayne Entwistle, reader of the audio version, who magically matched Ada's physical voice to her true one;

--to my mom, who thought it was better than the first one;

--to my dad, who caught a bad mistake on page 318 that no one else would have;

--to my daughter, who made one crucial change to the ending;

--to my son, who reminded me to try not to suck;

--to my husband, who helps me find the best stories;

--to Jessica Dandino Garrison, my amazing editor. The book is dedicated to her because she worked so hard and well on it that she deserved to have her name on it;

--to all of you who read it and will read it:

Happy Birthday. This book also belongs to you.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

All Children Need Books. Period.

I'm working on a presentation for the Tennessee Association of School Librarians Conference.

Here are some 2016 statistics regarding public school children statewide in Tennessee:

48.9% receive free or reduced-price school lunch
32.3% live in families that receive SNAP (food stamps)
24.1% live in poverty
11% live in extreme poverty
5% live in foster care

48.4% of 3rd-5th graders are reading at proficient level

Of 4th-graders eligible for free lunch, 22% are reading at proficient level.

This means that 88% of 4th-grades NOT eligible for free lunch are reading at proficient level.

This is the difference poverty makes. If you aren't poor enough for free lunch, you've got nearly a 9/10 chance of reading proficiently in fourth grade. If you are, it drops to 1/5.

I could throw more statistics at you--I've been working on this for two days--but the upshot is, poor kids need books.

Poor kids need books. Get them some. It's the way out.

Monday, September 25, 2017

On Tour: Where I'm Gonna Be

Okay, everyone! My official book tour for The War I Finally Won starts Friday!

Below is a listing of the events I believe to be open to the public:

Friday, September 29th: SCBWI Children's and YA Booksigning Party, Franklin, TN
***through special permission I will be signing TWIFW ahead of its Tuesday release date***
7:30-9:30 pm, Embassy Suites in Franklin. Open to all, and lots of writers will be there!

Monday, October 2nd
Moore High School, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Tuesday, October 3rd:  Release Date of The War I Finally Won!
Encyclomedia Conference, Oklahoma City
Signings from 9:45-10:30, 1:00-1:45, and 2:00-2:30
Sequoyah Book  Award Author Panel with Victoria Jamieson and Lois Ruby, 11:15-12:00

Wednesday, October 11th: Chevy Chase Library, Washington, DC
afternoon event, time tk

Thursday October 12th: A Likely Story Bookstore, Sykesville MD
Educators' Night Wine & Cheese
7:00 pm

Saturday, October 14th, Southern Festival of Books, Nashville, TN
3:00-4:00 Presentation with Alan Gratz, author of Refugee
4:00-4:30 booksigning

Come visit! I'd love to meet you!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy Birthday, Beautiful!

It's only 10:45 am and already it's been a weird day.

For starters, my dog collapsed this morning, in the middle of a joyful romp up our hill. It appears she now has heart problems. She's at the vet getting sorted, and the people at the vet were all kind and reassuring, but it's odd writing without her snoring in my office and it wasn't a good start to my day.

After I got back from the vet's I made myself a second pot of coffee, because circumstances called for it.

My writing so far this morning is lousy. I do not blame the excess caffeine. I blame my procrastination 3 months ago which has caused this deadline jam which means I can not just walk away from my desk today but must sit churning out lousy words.

Oh well. First draft. (Brace yourself, Jessica!) (That's my editor. My long-suffering editor.)

The good news is that today is the third birthday of my penultimate nephew, Fred. All my nephews are brilliant and funny and I love them individually and as a pack. I rejoice in my nephews. When I facetimed Fred and his older brother this morning they shrieked with joy and ran around showing me their new house and Fred's presents, a scooter and a microphone and a balloon that somehow sings "Happy Birthday" in Mickey Mouse's voice when you smack it. No kidding.

A few months ago when I was visiting my sister, I picked Fred up, just at one point in the day. He was chattering away, but suddenly he looked down at my face, cradled it in his two chubby hands, and said, in a tone of delighted wonder, "Oh--you're beautiful!"

I have no idea what made him say that, but I have a feeling that I'll remember it all my days.

Happy Birthday, Fred. You're beautiful, too.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Serendipity in Siricusa

So, this just happened. Really, it did. I’m typing this sitting on the floor near the front doors of Catania airport, in Sicily, because they won’t let us check our luggage until two hours before the scheduled flight time (the flight is already an hour late). And I’m so excited I got out my laptop. When I get wifi I’ll post this, and then I’ll really start writing.
I’m in Sicily, which is more or less insane. We scheduled this trip—which is actually a golf trip organized by the association for which my husband rates golf courses—way before I knew I’d have a book tour starting September 28th or that my Egypt manuscript due September 27th. Even knowing how full my September would be, my progress on the new book this summer was slow. I love summer and my girl was home, and I wanted to have fun. Also it was the first time in five years I was writing from a point-of-view other than my beloved Ada’s, and that was difficult. Also everything was a hot mess, as is usual with first drafts. Sometimes it’s hard to keep going when you know what you’ve written so far is shite.
So. Challenged by my friend Dan Gutman to make an audacious goal and achieve it, I joined the September Squad, with the goal of either 50,000 words or a finished draft by the end of the month (If I’ve got 50,000 words and I’m still not finished, the book is much more complex than I thought). I was plugging along happily until I hit this trip. I brought my laptop and my manuscript, but then I’d think—I could write today, or I could explore the Sicilian countryside on horseback, and I picked horseback, and learned what olive groves look like, young and old, and about wild fennel and wild thyme and the exact shade of the Mediterranean Sea, and then I bought a bikini and it’s not like I’m not taking the book seriously, it’s just that I’m not sure I’ll ever be in Sicily again. I’d be a shame to not pay attention.
Meanwhile, I’d hit a place in the Egypt book where I was really really pleased with a particular scene, and with its implications for the rest of the novel, but I was aware that I was lacking a crucial piece of background—that what I had happening needed an antecedent I couldn’t yet identify. So, that’s what first drafts are for. I kept on.
Mostly the itinerary for this trip is pre-arranged, but yesterday my husband and I looked hard at today’s proposed schedule, and thought it lacking, so we hared off on our own. Our hotel concierge suggested we would enjoy Siricusa, an ancient harbor. We arranged for a driver to take us there and then become our tour guide and show us the highlights. Unfortunately the driver we got didn’t speak any English and had never been to Siricusa at all. He got comprehensively lost in the ancient town, driving in circles the wrong way on streets designated pedestrian-only. He stopped several times to ask other Italians for directions. Finally he just stopped the van, threw us out, and told us he’d come back in four hours. By that time we whole-heartedly agreed. His meandering had shown us a basic layout of the town, and we immediately walked to the ancient piazza fronting the 7th century Byzantine cathedral which was a modification of a 5th-century-BC temple to Athena.
So that was cool. We looked at some other stuff. Then I saw a poster advertising a museum exhibit of Egyptian coffins dug up from Deir El-Bahari, which is to say the dig near Hatshepsut’s temple. So we paid five euros and went in. Turned out it was a traveling exhibition from a museum in Brussels.

Turned out it contained EXACTLY the information I needed. Two specific items. I’ve solved the plot issue and I’ve gotten a translation of an ancient source I was searching for, and it was brilliant, absolutely amazingly brilliant, and I have no idea on earth how I came to find this information about 20th dynasty papyri and ushabti in the middle of Siracusa where I hadn’t planned on visiting until yesterday. It’s all amazing. It’s beyond amazing.

So I’m ignoring the rest of my tour group to sit on the airport floor, laptop on my lap, and type this, and the others are sort of guessing that maybe I’m a writer after all. And it’s the icing on the cake, baby. The icing on the Italian cake.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Oh, Boy! We're Going to Call Him Red

So quite often on this blog I tell the truth but not the whole truth. Some things aren't public consumption. A few weeks ago, when I wrote about going to my sister's to help with her little boys while she worked 18-hour days the week of the PGA championship, I deliberately failed to mention that she was 8 months pregnant at the time. It just felt wrong. My sister is a warrior, and she was part of a good team, but it was still a potentially stressful situation and I decided to keep it private.

My sister and her husband had let everyone know that they were expecting a third boy, but they steadfastly refused to divulge his name. That's understandable, of course, but also of course I tried my best to find out early. When we got to Charlotte, my daughter and I cuddled up 2-year-old Fred, and said, "so, what's your new brother's name?"

"Filmore!" Said Fred. That's a character from her current favorite movie, Cars 3.

"Yeah," cut in four-year-old Louie, "but we're going to call him Red."

Baby Filmore was born this morning, healthy and beautiful, as is his momma. My siblings and I are seven for seven: seven pregnancies, seven children. Could anything be more blessed?

I'm off to meet him tomorrow, darling baby Red.