Sunday, April 28, 2013

Why I Keep Wearing The Same 3 Outfits

The Boston Marathon bombings shook me up on a lot of levels. Having run 6 marathons myself, I know what a huge deal it is to cross a marathon finish line. The marathon (any marathon) is a celebration of lengthy, dedicated training.

Well, it's a painful, exhausting celebration, but still.

The senseless violence at the finish line would have shaken me up, regardless, but having some experience with what it means to complete a marathon (and what it means to have people on the sidelines supporting the effort) greatly magnified the impact on me.

And then there were the victims. That sweet-looking 8 year old boy who lost his life, and then all those people who lost limbs. Having researched and written The Running Dream, I'm acutely aware of what adapting to the loss of a limb will mean to these people, and it set me on a mission last week to send them money to help out. There's been good coverage on TV and now it's swirling around the Internet, and their funds are growing. Some even seem full. But I know that it's going to be a life-long physical and financial challenge to attempt to replicate what was ripped from their lives.

Regular readers here know that The Running Dream won the Schneider award for its portrayal of the disability experience. What you probably don't know is that, of all the wonderful, prestigious ALA awards like the Newbery and the Caldecott, etc., the Schneider is one that also comes with a monetary award.

When I got the call, the Schneider committee reminded me of the award and encouraged me to buy a new outfit. I think they must have researched me on the internet and discovered that I'm wearing the same 3 things in all the pictures.

I did not buy a new outfit. (I wore one of my favorite 3 things to the ceremony.) What I did instead was give half of my prize money to charities associated with the people who helped me research The Running Dream. It seemed like the right thing to do.

The other half I squirreled away. Until this week, when I decided to take it, match it, and divide it among the  funds for the victims. It doesn't work out to be much apiece, but it seems like the most appropriate thing to do with what I've got. (So no making fun of my same old outfits, okay?)

Just one more thing: A middle school in New England used The Running Dream as a school-wide read and incorporated it into a several day program that included amputees and inspirational guest speaker / demonstrators. Here's how the article begins...

BEDFORD - Edward Joyce, principal of Ross A. Lurgio Middle School, wanted to remind his students - in light of all that's happened in Boston and its neighboring suburbs this week - that while "there are some bad guys in the world, there's way more good guys."


If you're interested in reading more of the article (it's really inspiring), click here.

Thanks for checking in. I really appreciate that you do.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How Sammy Keyes Got Her Name

In response to a question posed a few weeks ago, tonight I make my confession about character names.

The big one first: Why 'Sammy Keyes'?

The 'Sammy' is hard to pin down. When I was a little girl there was a show on TV called Bewitched that I just loved. The (lovely, well-intentioned) witch named Samantha was always getting into trouble with her mortal husband. She's the only "Samantha" I can remember, so I like to think she sort of twitched her nose my way (her method of casting spells) regarding the name.

I didn't make the connection between Samantha Keyes and Samantha Stephens (the witch) until years into the book series, when people kept asking me why I'd picked the name Samantha. And I don't think I'd have chosen that name if there hadn't been the (very cool, in my opinion) nickname Sammy to be derived from it. "Sammy" just seemed to fit my character.

The 'Keyes' part is easy: When I taught high school I had a boy in my 4th period computer science class with that last name, and I lifted it out of my gradebook one early morning while searching for a name. 'Keyes' sounded great with Sammy or Samantha, and it was a perfect name for a sleuth. (I know there's an alternate pronunciation, but my student pronounced his last name with the long 'e' sound, so that's how I say Sammy's last name.)

Which brings us to other names in the series. A lot of them came out of my gradebook. I will share a hard-won nugget of knowledge with you: There are no good names in the phonebook. There are no good names in 10,000 Names for Baby. (Not one!) But there are great names in a teacher's gradebook. And having 6 classes to choose from, well, I had the luxury of snagging a first name from (say) first period and matching it with a last name from (say) fifth period. Almost all the names in the first four Sammy Keyes books are hybrids of names out of my gradebook(s).

Regular readers here already know that I had written the first four Sammy Keyes books before they got picked up by Knopf. And having no experience in what it meant to have an actual book out there, I gave no thought to my name selection methods coming back to bite me. But when the books started coming out, students I'd had as freshmen were popping into my classroom as seniors going, "Hey! Am I Tenille?" "Hey! Am I Monet?" And I'd swallow hard and go, What? No! Are you kidding me?

After I stopped teaching, I tried the phonebook and 10,000 Names For Baby again, but still, there were no good names. (Not one!) So I graduated from gradebooks to yearbooks. (I found great names in my sons' yearbooks.)

While we're on the subject of names...there is one name in the last Sammy Keyes book that will not come out of a gradebook or a yearbook, or the phonebook (or 10,000 Names for Baby). We're going to do a contest. I'll let you know as things develop, but we thought it would be a fun thing to do for Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye. We're going to have to figure out just what the contest will be soon, but it will be a Random House run event, so not only here at the blog. (You know I'll keep you posted here, but also remember to check in at the Sammy Keyes FaceBook page.)

Meanwhile, share how you got your name--are you named after someone? (My mom swears she didn't make mine up, but I'm pretty sure it was also not in 10,000 Names For Baby.)

Thanks for checking in. See you in the comments!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Give Sammy a Clue!

It's my son's birthday!

I have to pack for a trip!

The water heater is leaking!

So I'm out of time, but have a fun idea...

In Killer Cruise, there's a Clue (game) revival of sorts, and the Sammy & Co. change the names of the Clue cast to people on the ship, and then go a little wild with the game.

If you've never played (the board game), it's solution structure is: "It was so-and-so in the such-and-such, with a this-and-that."

Person, Place, Weapon.

So, "It was Professor Plum, in the library, with a revolver.

(Only I always go: It was Professor Plum! In the library! With a revolver!)

There are 6 names, 6 locations, and 6 weapons. My "fun idea" is for you guys to come up with 6 of each, relevant to Sammy and Friends (or enemies!).

Or do just one (like) It was Heather! In the bathroom! With a cigarette! (Well, that's pretty silly, but you get the idea.)

I think we'll all get a kick out of what everyone else presents. So play!

And meanwhile, It was Wendelin! In a bookstore! With a pen!

Thanks for checking in. See you soon!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sammy's Birthday! (And a FB Page is Born)

In honor of Sammy's birthday, I'm posting a day early.

Regular followers of this blog will recall a contest we did last year where the challenge was to figure out Sammy's birthday. Since the date was never stated in any of the books, it required the analysis of several books to determine what day our troublemakin' Aries was born. :-)

That was a fun contest. Lots of participation! And great detective work, too.

(Well, there were the entries that were total stabs in the dark, but they came out and said, This is a total stab in the dark, but..., which I found to be fun, too!)

Anyway, April 6th is the day and, today being April 6, I wanted to alert you to two things:

1) there is finally an official publisher-sponsored Sammy Keyes FaceBook page. I promised it months ago, but, Random House being a big corporation, well, there were delays.


2) there's a birthday survey at the page, which I know you will all get a kick out of (and I hope you'll all vote on).

The FB page will not take the place of this blog. This is where I, you know, talk to you! And listen to you! And share stuff of much greater depth than what you'll find on a FaceBook post.

But I hope you'll all go to the page and "like" it, and participate, and even "share" it with your friends. It'll only be fun if people go there and chime in, and you guys are the truest, bluest :-) so I hope you'll play along. (Leave comments, do surveys, enter contests...there's lots of stuff planned and it will be an active place clear through the publication of the final Sammy Keyes book.)

There's supposed to be a migration of other Sammy Keyes FB pages over to the official one this weekend. (There were/are several, and someone created a page on Mrs. Wedgewood, if you can believe that!) But before that happens I wanted to tell you guys about it, because it seems only right that you should be the "first" to know.

Here's the link to the new page. I hope you'll help us make it a fun place to visit!

Happy Birthday to Sammy!