Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tour, Week 3

We've seen so much this week! From thunder and lightning in Houston, TX to a remarkably sad and beautiful Civil War Cemetery in Vicksburg, MS to lush green trees and wildflowers in the meridian of highways across the south, to a historic house attached to the governor's mansion where the authors of the Alabama Book Festival were treated to a lovely meet-and-greet (with "heavy hors d'oeuvres").

Today, though, was something ... unforgettable. There was the not-so-small matter of reconnecting with the "Swear to Howdy ladies" -- the women who first introduced me to Southern hospitality and helped me with the research of Swear to Howdy. It was so wonderful to see them again and they, once again, spoiled me!

But this morning we went to Easter service at the 16th Street Baptist Church. (For you young'uns who aren't aware of the historical significance of this church, I urge you to take a little sidetrack and read this right now.)

Across the street from the church there's a park with a joyful monument honoring  the young girls who were killed during the bombing. I was already crying from across the little plaza, and that didn't get any better as I got closer.

What a horrible time. What a horrible act. What a horrible tragedy for the families.

And yet, the girls are captured there so joyfully. Like their youthful spirit lives on. And freedom does ring.

I love everything about the installation, but the shoes taken off and placed aside really capture something about childhood, joy, and freedom.

I love those shoes.

The 16 St. Baptist Church

Today's Service--the music was fantastic!

A memorial for the 4 girls by the church door where the bomb was placed.


Jessica said...

That statue is beautiful. It made me a little teary-eyed just from the picture. It's hard to believe it's already been 50 years since the Civil Rights Act -- and sometimes it's also hard to believe that it's only been 50 years.

I toured the MLK Historic Site in Atlanta alone, and it made me aware of race in a way that I usually am not -- stepping to the side to let an older African-American gentleman pass, I was aware that he grew up treated like a second-class citizen by people who looked like me. I wondered whether he took a role in the boycotts and marches. And I wondered whether he ever imagined that a white woman would move aside to let him by out of deference to his age.

Kylie said...


Sculptures really get me. Because well done ones can really capture your emotions. The thought behind them all is just amazing. I mean the shoes and the placement of the girls. Just wow.

In other news I finally got Road Rasher and I love it! I am almost done with it, right now I am debating if I should stay up to finish it or not. (I think I might).

Have a good rest of your trip!


Gabrielle said...

Those statues of the four girls are amazing. Can't believe people would go and kill people just because of their race.

Hope everyone has a fantastic week!


Jessica said...

I just got home from meeting Wendelin and Mark! I was downstairs waiting for the presentation to begin with everyone else, and Mark walked through the door and played Sammy to my Marissa, urging me to sneak behind the "Employees Only" door and meet Wendelin. I didn't stand around doing the McKenze dance, let me tell you! I was Marissa in Justice Jack chasing five grand.

The bookstore has a "Galley Club" where they give ARCs to kids to review the books, and one of the girls had a Kiss Goodbye ARC! But it hit me hard -- when I finish that book, it's over. And I'm not ready for that yet.

The presentation was awesome. Wendelin is Sammy -- she kept getting sidetracked ("What was I saying again?"). And Mark was kind of a cross between Casey and Billy Pratt. He did a cool demo on the cajon while giving us a bit of history on it.

Okay, I have to go squeal and jump up and down some more. I tried to act normal in front of Wendelin, but I was jumping up and down all day. When I met Richard Preston (author of "The Hot Zone," which introduced me to my dream profession, epidemiologist) in college, I started crying when it was my turn to talk to him, which totally weirded him out -- I don't think authors typically get that kind of celebrity reaction. I managed to not do that with Wendelin, thank goodness.

Okay, back to squeeing and lacing up my shoes with my new SK laces. I hope the rest of you get to see them in person soon.

Yusa said...

I'm so SO happy for you! Ive been waiting for one of the main bloglettes to meet her! That sounds amazing and great and I cant wait for it to be my turn!


Kylie said...

Jessica that is so exciting! I am so happy you finally got to meet them! It sounds like you had a lot of fun. I am so glad that that girl got an ARC copy of KG, I hope she enjoys it, but like you I don't want to read it just for the fact that after it there is no more. But I also really want to read it. Ahh the pains of ending a series.

I am so excited to meet Wendelin and Mark. I finished Road Rash and for all of you that haven't read it, READ IT! LIKE NOW! It is really fantastic!

Jessica said...

Kylie, it's taking all my willpower not to start Road Rash right now (because it's basically bedtime for me, and if I start it I'll read until I finish it), and you're not helping. I'll start it tomorrow morning for sure.

One of the kids from my Sunday School class (eighth grader) showed up; he's a big fan of Flipped. And one of the women from my writer's group came, too. (A friend got stuck late at work and came just after the shop closed.) So my papering of the town (er, the internet) managed to get 2 people there.

And I totally forgot to ask Wendelin to sing the Sammy Keyes song, so one of you guys must ask and record it for me so I can hear it!

P.S. I'm beginning to understand Kip's and Marco's obsession with drumsticks.

Kylie said...

Sorry. But I totally have to agree that once you read it you won't be able to put it down. It is great!

(I think I am still not helping...)

Yusa said...

Guys I need to read Road Rash but I cant because I have testing until like May 29 and on May 30 I leave the country to somewhere where there are like no libraries and the book stores have a very limited selection so I have to wait until at least August!


P.S. stop tempting me!

Jessica said...

Two hours later I'm on page 123...

Yusa, could you order it and take it with you for when you leave the country? Sounds like the perfect book to read on a trip. (Maybe have someone hide it for you until testing is done.)

Gabrielle said...

Wow, I missed a lot! I'm so happy for you, Jessica! I can't wait! I'm going to see Wendelin and Mark today actually. I'm really excited!!! :D I hope all do you guys have the opportunity to meet them!!


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Yusa said...

Gabrielle: What happened!!!!???? In your visit!

Mark said...

Wow... we've been crazy-busy the past couple of days - time to catch up.

Jesica - YOU were awesome. So nice getting to finally meet you! Have fun with the drumsticks, and hope you enjoy Road Rash.

Gabrielle - You (and your parents) were AWESOME, too. I think that's a record so far on how far someone has driven to see us. :)

Kylie - Thanks so much for the book-love for Road Rash! That book really is special to me, so I'm stoked when someone else finds it special, too.

The Sammiacs we've met around the country have definitely been the high point(s) of the tour - you guys are all great!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Wow! I'm totally behind! All these comments...

Totally sidetracking from the blog post itself and going to the comments about the event meetings.

THEY WERE AMAZING! It has made me heart-bursting happy to meet you in person and I want you to know how much it means to me. And I'm glad we weren't a disappointment... you know how that can be, where the real-life person doesn't hold up to the image you had of them? For me it's been like dream people come to life. I didn't have pictures of you, so it was all PRESTO you're S0-and-So from the blog? And I hope I didn't scare you with my spasticity and hugging tendencies...

Additionally, Jessica, thank you for the care package and sweet note (the soda bread was wonderful!)and Gabrielle, I just have to say that you have outstanding parents. 7 hours for shoelaces...that's how it's going to go down in your family lore...

Gabrielle said...

Thanks!! You guys were awesome too! By far the best day ever!!!! I'm lovin' my shoelaces and horseshoe!! :D

Yusa: it was great! So many nice people there, and it was awesome to hear them talk about their books! Their van was awesome!!


Jessica said...

i forgot to check in and say that Road Rash was so awesome I only got about 3 hours of sleep that night... I could see it as a movie.

Mark said...

Jessica - thanks so much for the book-love for Road Rash. Really glad you enjoyed it!