27th May 2013
Day 9-11: West Coast Swing (SF, LA)
Schools Visited: 8
Total Audience: 2500
Where I am right now: Noshing on sour green plums on an open-air terrace at my friend’s house in Brentwood
What’s on my iPod: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift
The tour is finally over and as sleep-deprived and cranky as I was at its end (at one point, I barked at a 10-year old who was interviewing me for her school newspaper, “HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE?”), I already miss it. I miss the laughing kids, I miss putting on a physical, adrenaline-fueled show, I miss the experience of seeing something I’ve worked on so long find its audience.
This is where I should talk about the Mount Vesuvius explosion of good news last week — hitting the NYT Bestseller list in our first week, scoring the deal with Universal… But for the life of me, I’m not sure what to say. The funny thing about being on tour is that you’re constantly surrounded by new people, so both bits of news came in solitary moments. I found out about the NYT list while wolfing down a leaky salad and running to a signing; I found out about the movie deal while crouched alone on the floor in the Dallas airport, charging my phone. I just remember getting off the phone both times, in completely unfamiliar places, feeling as if I had to tell someone the news… and yet, oddly afraid to. It took me an hour to make the first call. (My mom’s reaction: “Oh my God. I’m going into yoga! How will I concentrate!”)
The truth was I couldn’t concentrate myself. I still had 8 schools left in Dallas, SF, and LA to finish off, which brought some of my biggest audiences yet — and also some of the more memorable experiences, both good and bad.
At one school, a mob of students gathered afterwards to get a closer look at the book. A sullen teacher barked them back to class, adding, “None of you can afford the book anyway.” I must have bleached white, because she looked right at me and said, “It’s the truth.” Sometimes withholding the truth is the human thing to do.
At another school, a mischievous, charming teacher “cockroached” me, which involves pretending to hand you something and instead handing you a plastic cockroach. (I live in NYC, where there are more cockroaches than people, so my reaction wasn’t particularly satisfying.) Still, he was famous at the school for cockroaching students and teachers — and mentioned off-hand that he knew my book was worth reading because “there were cockroaches in it.” (He’ll likely pop up in Book 2 as an Evil teacher.)
In one city, a disgruntled principal hadn’t given out order forms for the book, because she couldn’t be bothered and had an attitude worse than Amanda Bynes’. (When she saw a student sitting outside her office to see her, she rolled her eyes and said ‘UGH.’) Meanwhile, when the kids realized they’d lost out on the chance to get signed SGEs, they all asked if there was someway they could still get them — I said they’d have to make the drive to the bookstore that afternoon, where I’d be doing a signing. The principal was quite confident none of them would show. In the end, more than 30% of them did. We made sure to send a message to the principal letting her know.
If I was sunny and a good sport for the first 11 days of the tour, the 12th and last brought me to my breaking point. I was in a comically poor mood tramping around LA like Norma Desmond — to the point that I had to keep apologizing to the publicist for being a holy terror. At the first school, when the A/V went all wrong, and the bookseller suggested we move to plan B, I helpfully responded with ‘THERE IS NO PLAN B.’ At the second school, I was so sleep-deprived I left my computer, my bag, and my equipment in a school bathroom. At the last school, when the kids got rowdy, I apparently snapped, ‘Everyone needs to be quiet or I’m not doing the show.’ (As if I was Madonna at Wembley Stadium.) The topper came at dinner that night. At a counter restaurant, where you pick up your tray after ordering, I took the wrong tray with someone else’s food. When the guy at the counter helpfully pointed this out, I grumbled loudly about ‘CONFUSING AND INEFFECTIVE ORDER SYSTEMS’ before taking the correct tray and sitting down. I was like a feebler version of Michael Douglas in that movie ‘Falling Down.’
Truth was I just needed sleep, which I’d perhaps avoided, because it’d mean processing all that had happened. I was scared that I would, in fact, wake up scared. But when I finally did get my 12 hours, I woke up feeling relieved instead. Because as the tour went on, I saw the book that was once mine become everyone else’s, the book that I had written in isolation become a shared experience. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone anymore. Instead, I felt like I was just a storyteller who finally had an audience, buoyed by hope, love, and possibility.
Best question of the week: “If I write a novel like yours, how much money will I make?”
Weirdest incident of the week: A teacher at one of the last schools apparently had been reading my blog and noticed my Gwyneth Paltrow eating habits, because she procured vegan cupcakes and kale-spinach juice for me before I arrived.
Awkward / heartwarming moment of the day: A jockey boy came up to me to get his book signed and I noticed he’d disposed of the book jacket. He was just holding the hardcover book with the emblazoned silver swans.
ME: What happened to the jacket?
JOCKY BOY: (sheepish) You know… Girls on it.
ME: Um. There’s girls in the book, you know.
BOY: I know. I’ve already read it twice. But this way it looks like it’s about swans.
New York release events all this week with parties and BEA. Will blog one more time next weekend before I grow a beard, wear ill-fitting hoodies, and go into hiding.
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