Monday, March 31, 2008
My second day in Italy and I’ve almost adjusted to the time change.
I stepped off the plane on a beautiful Sunday morning. My luggage actually arrived – hooray! I checked into the Hotel Baglioni in the heart of the historical city center, took a short nap, and then worked on Percy 5 for a while before meeting up with my agent Nancy for a reception and dinner.
It’s a bit daunting going to these publisher parties in Bologna because everyone knows everyone. Nancy compared it to a high school reunion, because so many of the attendees have been coming to the book fair for twenty years or more. Despite being a book fair ‘noob,’ I saw many familiar faces and made quite a few new friends. I got to catch up with Riley Ellis from Fox, who tells me that preproduction work on the movie is going well. They are still working out the budget, doing concept art, and tinkering with the script. Apparently they’ve brought in another writer to work on it under Chris Columbus’s direction, but she assures me this is a good thing, not a problem! One interesting detail: they’re having a debate on how to do Grover. Making a satyr come to life will take some special effects magic. I look forward to seeing what they come up with!
I also met agents and editors from Turkey, Sweden and the UK, just to name a few, as well as Nancy’s husband Craig Virden, former president of Random House Books for Children, whom I’d heard about for years but never met in person.
After the Random House reception, we had a lovely dinner (is there any other kind in Italy?) at Rodrigo. Between Craig’s Italian and the waiter’s English, they managed to arrange some delicious vegetarian courses for me. I had pasta with mushrooms and cheese tortellini, followed by an entrée of fresh asparagus topped with two eggs over easy. Diane Roback, editor for Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf, had the same thing, and remarked that it saved us the trouble of having breakfast the next day! The conversation was lively, which was a good thing considering my jet lag, and I got some excellent tips on what to see in Bologna.
This morning, I set off with map in hand to explore the old city. You can see some of my pictures above. I thought the statue of Poseidon was a very good omen. That guy shows up everywhere! I told him Percy said hello. I wandered down to the San Stefano church, which has a lovely quiet square and some cool crypts. Then I decided to climb a tower, which is not recommended for authors over forty who aren’t in shape, but no one told me that. The ticket guy just took my three Euros, grinned evilly, and let me go up.
There are two towers at the center of the city. The short one leans, so I decided to climb the tallest. And I mean that thing is tall. I took my time going up and thought about quitting at several points, but I persevered. The view was worth it. You can see my shots from the top, but it’s hard to convey in a picture how panoramic the scene is with the sea of red roofs, cobbled streets and the sunlit hills in the background. My legs are going to kill me tomorrow, but I’m glad I took the climb!
Tonight, Scholastic is hosting a dinner to preview The 39 Clues for the foreign publishers. The guest list is a real who’s-who of movers and shakers from all over the world. I’m looking forward to it! Tomorrow, I’ll be visiting the Disney booth to celebrate the Percy Jackson series. Hyperion Books for Children will also be making a major press announcement about the books tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for that!
And now, darn it, it’s time for another Italian meal. I’m thinking ice cream for lunch. Hey, if I can have fried eggs for dinner, why not? I’m off to check out a gelato shop that Craig tells me is the best in Bologna. I’ll let you know!
Friday, March 28, 2008
Would you want to be one of Artemis’s Hunters?
Why do so many monsters go into retail—and why are they never selling anything a demigod really wants?
At the beginning of The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson tells us to stop reading: if we suspect we, too, might be demigods, we should put the book down right away. But how can we, when the world he lives in is so much fun?
Spend a little more time in that world—a place where the gods bike among us, monsters man snack bars, and each of us has the potential to become a hero.
· The pros and cons of having a god as a parent
· Why Dionysus might actually be the best director Camp Half-Blood could have
· How to tell a monster when you see one
· Why even if we aren’t facing manticores and minotaurs, reading myths can still help us deal with the scary things in our own lives
PLUS, consult our glossary of people, places, and things from Greek myth: how Medusa got her snake hair extensions, why Chiron isn’t into partying and paintball like the rest of his centaur family, and the whole story on Percy’s mythical namesake (could it hold clues to Percy’s fate?).
Elizabeth E. Wein
Sarah Beth Durst
Elizabeth M. Rees
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Richmond has fascinated me ever since I was a kid. I last visited here when I was twelve. It was my first trip to the East Coast, and it left a huge impression. Since then, I've come to Williamsburg several times to participate in the Colonial Teachers Institute. I fell in love with the mystique and history of the James River area. But I hadn't been back to Richmond itself, so when St. Christopher's School invited me, I jumped at the chance. Of course, like many of my visits, this was planned over a year in advance, but it was worth the wait.
A storm blew through last night, but today was sunny and cool. Spring has definitely come early. The cherry blossoms and plum trees are already starting to bloom. I had dinner with some of the faculty last night, then had three sessions with the students today. St. Christopher's is an all-boys school. I don't do many of those, but they sure were a receptive bunch for Percy Jackson! In both groups -- elementary and middle school -- I was impressed that the boys knew the answers to my hardest mythology questions even without the hints I usually give. Thanks to the many librarians from other schools and public branches who attended, and to our other visitors, including a group of girls from St. Christopher's sister school, St. Catherine's.
The second grade did research projects on the Greek gods and decorated the stairwell with paper cutouts of their subjects. I told them the Perseus and Medusa story, but I could tell the tale about Kronos eating his children had already fired their imagination. Every time I asked them a rhetorical question during the storytelling, the answer was the same:
Rick: "What do you think Acrisius did to his poor daughter Danae and her son Perseus?"
Second grade: "He ate them!"
Rick: "What do you think Perseus did to the wedding guests then?"
Second grade: "He ate them!"
Rick: "Why do you think Greeks put coins under their tongues when they died?"
Second grade: "They ate them!"
They were a fun bunch! Thanks also to the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders for their suggestions for future Percy books. They suggested, among other things, that Percy become a counselor guiding other half-bloods in future books, or that Annabeth and Percy have a child who would have adventures. What will really happen in the future? I'm not telling.
The middle school was so well-behaved I wasn't sure I was really in a middle school. They all came into the auditorium in dead silence. I'm trying to remember the last time I saw 120 adolescent guys go anywhere in dead silence. Nope, I can't think of a time. Regardless, they were an enthusiastic bunch once we got started.
Thanks to Lucinda and the rest of the staff for organizing the visit. One of these days, I'll get back to Richmond when I have time to indulge my love for history and check out the Civil War sites, but for an overnight trip, this was a keeper!
In other news, I got a sneak peek at Hyperion's new Percy Jackson site this week. It's going to be awesome when it goes live. You can expect cool new games and some artwork of Percy, Annabeth and the rest of the gang that you won't find anywhere else. I'll give you more news about this when the site is up and running.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
She goes on to say Brian will be getting Battle of the Labyrinth for his birthday, and she'll make sure he has a safe place to read it, or at least the proper Greek armor!
Thanks for reading, Brian. Percy Jackson did warn you that reading his books could be dangerous, but I doubt this is what he meant!
Friday, March 14, 2008
I spent the last three days doing school visits in Mansfield, Texas (between Dallas and Fort Worth). I visited every grade from second to eighth, saw five different schools and signed hundreds of books. There are now a lot of kids in Mansfield walking around in black Battle of the Labyrinth T-shirts!
Some of my favorite moments: at one school, the AP art kids had done some incredible, five-foot-tall reproductions of the Percy Jackson book covers. At another school, the sixth grade made a variety of cool projects, like ‘book reports in a can’ – you make a paper film strip of one chapter, make slits in the plastic lid of a coffee can, then use it as a little slide show presentation. They also did Percy Jackson scrapbooks and presentations made entirely of torn paper. My favorite was the scene in Crusty’s Waterbed Palace! Thanks to all the librarians who helped organize and host the visits.
While hanging out in one of the libraries, I happened across a recent edition of School Library Journal with His Excellency Jon Scieszka on the front cover, so I got to read the interview with our newly appointed national ambassador for young people’s literature. As I’ve mentioned before, Jon is one of my heroes. I’ve been a fan ever since The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. I was so delighted that the Powers that Be actually had the wisdom to elect someone who makes reading . . . well, fun. It’s a great article if you get a chance to read it. As usual, his remarks about how we can get more kids to read are right on target. I love the list he posted about the perks he should get as ambassador, especially the Apache attack helicopter. I want to show up to my next school visit in one of those babies.
On a more serious note, one morning I stopped by Starbuck’s (or ‘Fourbucks,’ as one of our local bloggers calls it) and I was looking at the book display by the counter while I waited for my latte. The book was “Beautiful Boy,” by David Sheff. I kept staring at the author’s name, thinking, ‘Why does that sound familiar?’ I picked up the book, which is about a father struggling with his son’s drug addiction. I looked at the author’s photo, and a chill ran down my back. I knew him. I’d taught his son. Then I look more closely at the cover photo, and there’s Nic, as I knew him years ago when he was a little boy. Wow. It was eerie, and sad, and very moving. I couldn’t believe how much time had passed since that photo was taken, or how many turns all our lives had taken. Of course, I bought the book and have just started reading it. I told my wife the story, and she got on line. Soon, she had more news. Not only does David have a book out, but so does Nic. “Tweak” is Nic’s own account of his experiences with drugs. I’d seen the book, but I hadn’t realized who wrote it. When I knew the Sheffs, I was in my twenties, and I had no kids. Now, my older son is about the same age as Nic was when I knew him. It’s a lot to process. Perhaps I’ll write more after I’ve read the books, but just seeing their faces again and hearing what they’ve been through – an experience that is every parent’s nightmare – made a powerful impact on me. I hope the books have been a healing process for them, and I have no doubt they will help other families (too many families out there) who are struggling with similar issues.
Now I’m back at home and working on my own writing. I’m also in the midst of having my website redesigned. Stay tuned for more on that. Next week I’m off to Richmond for a quick school visit.
Have a good weekend, everyone!
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Today marks two months exactly until Battle of the Labyrinth is released!
This news hot off the presses -- a few minutes ago I received the first information about where I will be going for the Battle of the Labyrinth U.S. tour in May. The list is not yet complete. I don't have exact times, and locations for a few days have yet to be confirmed, but you can check out what is available so far on the website's calendar.
The hardest thing about touring is not the places I go, but all the places I don't get to visit. If you don't see your city listed in May, chances are I'm not going there. There are so many great bookstores and great cities, but we only have two weeks, and it just isn't possible to get everywhere. I couldn't possibly pick, which is why I'm glad the publisher is in charge of that. I know the good folks at Hyperion have tried their best to spread my time around the country.
If I'm not appearing at a store near you, remember that any of the stores hosting me will be very happy to take orders in advance for personalized books. If you contact one of these stores before my appearance, they can get a book (or books) signed and shipped to you. It's also possible your neighborhood store can get signed bookplates from the publisher. We ship out hundreds every year.
One fun addition to this year's tour: Radio Disney will be joining the party. They will have "street teams" at many of my events, giving away prizes, playing music, hosting games, and generally getting the crowd pumped up before the signing. There will also be a sweepstakes happening that you can participate in on-line (I can't say very much about this yet -- but more info. soon) with a fantastic grand prize that involves Camp Half-Blood . . .
It's going to be an amazing, crazy month. I look forward to seeing a lot of you on the road! I'll post more information as it becomes available. I'm psyched!
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Case in point: I finished my newest Percy short story on the plane, and unearthed some amazing new facts about the camp. You'll have to wait and see what I mean when I post the story later this spring. The story is one of Patrick's tenth birthday presents, and since his birthday was last week, I'm behind schedule and he's been chomping at the bit! Finally, I'll be ready to read it to him after school today.
Back to Orange County . . . Yesterday I visited Hewes Middle School in Santa Ana and really had a good time talking to the kids. I met quite a few aspiring writers and signed a ton of books. Thanks to Jean LaBarbera, the librarian, for organizing the visit!
Now I'm home for a few days, working on my writing. Next week, off to Dallas!