Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spilling Secrets

Several really cool things happened while I was in New York to accept the Josette Frank Award from the Bank Street College of Education for The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones. 

First, the newsy stuff:

Aside from the awards ceremony (which I wrote about last time), the date (April 6th) happened to be Sammy Keyes' birthday and was (by complete coincidence) also  the day that sample copies of the first three repackaged Sammys landed on my editor's desk. So I got to hold them for the very first time - a super cool way to celebrate Sammy's day!

Besides the whole 'rebirth' thing, the books are "so pretty and shiny!" and inside there's a new "What Do You Think" class/club questions page, which I think makes for a really helpful addition. Series tend to get dissed in terms of substance, but there's always something to think about / discuss with Sammy Keyes! 

For example: 

"Sammy and Marissa have such different homes and families. What are the pros and cons of each?" 

"Why do you think Sammy was so determined to help Holly? Why is Holly so reluctant to take her help?" 

"Sometimes things have surprising value. The value can be monetary, but also sentimental. In your own life, what things are of most value to you?"

The questions are gentle enough to not feel like homework, but substantive enough to encourage thought and discussion. I like that balance. 

The first three books become available on May 2nd, and on the high-top heels of that, the next batch (#4-8) is in the process of being finalized. 

The art (which I also got to see while in New York) is awesome, but I've also been under deadline to turn in tweaks to the text. All those Sammys plus my last-chance read-through of Wild Bird before it goes to press added up to the enormous stack of pages on my desk. I've been a reading machine!

The non-newsy New-Yorky thing I wanted to share with you has to do with the dinner I had with a small group of book people. It's always fun to be out with book people. Conversation is lively and thoughtful and fun. This was a dinner in my honor (because of the awardy-thing for The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones), but I didn't want the focus to be on me. I had already spilled a lot of personal stuff about my "secret life" during my acceptance speech and didn't really want to talk about me. So I suggested that we go around the table and everyone share about their "secret life." Fair's fair, right?

There were about ten of us at dinner, and some of the people had known or worked with each other for many years. But as we went around the table, new and surprising things surfaced. It was fascinating. It wasn't so much a "secret life" thing as it was the sharing of things that others didn't already know about them. One of them worked at a tire store. One of them had danced on Broadway. Everyone had something fascinating about them that the others hadn't known about them before. 

It drove home to me how you can work alongside someone for years, but not really know their personal story. Or what built them into the person that they've become. Maybe it's just easier that way. In my acceptance speech, I talked about how I didn't share about my past life with my new colleagues when I became a teacher because it was too hard, too complex, and really, how could they ever really understand?

In new friendships, I think we tend to start at our meet date and move forward from there. But with lasting friendships, I think it pays to also look backward. Not in a prying way, more in a Tell-Me-Something-I-Don't-Know-About-You way. 

You already know about my "secret life" - the life I had before I became an author which, not coincidentally, is also the life that led me to writing. (If you missed it and are curious, go to the previous post - there's a link.) And you already know about Lincoln Jones's secret life. And Sammy's - talk about a secret life!

So now it's your turn. Some of you have been reading this blog for years. We're all "friends at the blog," so share something about your life. 

Tell us something about you.

As always, thanks for checking in. Looking forward to seeing you in the comments!


BH Bart said...

Hello! New blogger here. I've been a long time fan of Sammy and when I heard that the covers were being redone, I thought it would be a perfect time to reread the series. I stumbled across this blog recently so I thought it would be nice to join in on some talks! I think it's incredibly nice that you run this blog, Wendelin. Such a great way to get to know fans!

Anyway, on to my "secret life". I think one of the hardest times in my life took place between my freshman and junior years of high school. The winter of my freshman year was a really difficult time for me because my parents were in the middle of a nasty separation. My dad had been struggling with PTSD for years (although we didn't know it at the time) and things had reached the tipping point at my house, so he moved out. It was really hard for me to see how this was hurting my mom and sister so I would try to step up when I could. In addition to my dad moving out, I had to deal with a running injury that I'd been fighting all cross country season. Going to practice was my way to escape from the madness at my house so when I got a doctor's note saying I couldn't run, I was crushed. Thankfully, I got healed up, and my dad went to therapy so he was working on getting better too.

The next big event/struggle in my life was spring of my sophomore year. My aunt had been fighting cancer for five years, but unfortunately she lost her battle. Her death was the most devastating thing I've had to live through. She was my closest relative and it killed me inside to see her shrink down to skin and bones and unable to take care of herself. I remember seeing her a week before she died (on the first day of my Spring Break) and I could tell that it was over. My mom would go visit her every day during break and on that last Sunday me, my dad and sister got a call telling us that she had died. I felt so numb for months after, I didn't care about anything. As heartbreaking as it was to lose my aunt, it didn't help that I was once again injured. Like I said before, running is like my safe haven. I just wanted to get out and run so I could get my mind off everything and feel something but unfortunately I couldn't do that, so I kinda kept everything bottled up inside.

Okay, on to my junior year of high school. Nothing bad happened this year, thankfully. I feel like this was the year when I learned how to deal with everything that had been going on for the past two years. Basically, it was the year when I exploded. Around winter time I was getting so sick of feeling numb and nothing about everything and anything. I was tired of the dark thoughts in my head. I wanted to care again. One night I just started talking to one of my good friends and teammates about everything that had happened. She never new about half of the stuff going on in my life so I felt like I was coming clean. I can't even tell you how good it felt just to open up and talk to someone. I probably ended up telling her more that I would have if had I been more open about my feelings over the span of the last two years. Everything just kinda came out at once and I couldn't stop once I started. I'm not acting like my life has been perfect since opening up, but I do feel way better about where I am mentally and emotionally.

Sorry for that essay, that's enough about me. I look forward to following this blog in the future and making some more posts (hopefully more positive posts)!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Hey, BH Bart! Thanks for the essay :-), and for taking that leap of faith to put it out to the world like that. I think the moral of your story is that it's SO important to find someone to talk to. I'm glad you did! Also, I agree that running can be a safe haven. I call it therapy. And I think it's wonderful that you had such a close relationship with your aunt. I'm sure she treasured having you in her life.

Shaina said...

I am behind on your blog again! But I'm here! And I love having a few fresh posts stored up to read. My secret life? Hmmm... I actually had an AMAZING childhood! We moved from Indianapolis to a tiny town with one stoplight in west Tennessee when I was in 5th grade, and that turned out to be amazing for me! We moved into a big house in the middle of the woods (our driveway was half a mile long--my dad and I used to run one mile loops on it at lunchtime, around the front driveway and back driveway. That's how I fell in love with running at age 11. We also discovered an old whiskey still in our woods with slash marks in it, presumably from Buford Pusser's big stick.) Anyways, we lived out in the middle of nowhere and it really fed my inner introvert. We got two aged horses and those old girls taught me so much about courage, respect, patience, and good ole sweaty hard work. And they were a ton of fun! In high school we moved to a bigger town with a better high school ands sold the horses, but now at age 30, I still think back the most fondly to those days wearing overalls and riding horses bareback through the woods outside Adamsville, TN. So I'm the wife of a teacher, living in south central WA with three kids, reader and runner to the core, with a past in horses. I dream of writing a story book based on my horsey years, if my cute kids ever start functioning without my constant care. :) That's my biggest, scariest secret I think: my ambition to write. Thanks for sharing and getting me a-thinking!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Shaina, I was loving reading the description of your childhood, so don't keep it a secret - you CAN write! I'm thinking middle grade. Your version of my How I Survived Being a Girl. It's not easy to move from what actually happened when you write fiction based on history, but the more you do it the easier it gets. Start with your story, then cut yourself loose!