Saturday, October 9, 2010

Patrick Ness and The Chaos Walking Tour

Sunrise was at 7:20, sunset will be 6:30.

The author Patrick Ness (The Chaos Walking Trilogy) was in town last week and Third Place Books got to be his host for two days. After weeks, nay, months, of back and forths between his publicist, teachers, and me, we got two high schools organized, price sheets sent out, advanced reading copies distributed and many of the people on the staff completely caught up in Todd Hewitt's life with Viola and war with the Mayor of Prentisstown.

Patrick is one of the best school presenters I think I've had the pleasure to host (Eoin Colfer is another). He was clear, funny, succinct, had great ideas for writing, used the words poo and fart (very important in a room of juniors and seniors, mostly boys), and kept control over his audiences of 100 or so. He made it clear that the few disruptive students were being rude without completely embarrassing them and then went on with his business.

The hardest thing to do with and for high school students is to get money out of them for books. They don't remember the day or the price sheet, they may not care about the books (it's often hard to get high school boys to read, period); this is just another day in the life of a student, just another hour to get through before football practice or work. But, that changes when you have someone like Patrick, passionate about his work, serious about showing kids that they all have stories to tell, and let's not forget FUNNY (and fun to look at, thank you very much!) standing at the front of the room, striding back and forth, making the connection between kid and book.

I got a note from one of the librarians the next day who said that every teacher in the room was thoroughly rapt and thanked her for making this event happen. The English teacher said that he is going to incorporate Patrick's writing ideas in his own classroom and the librarian said that a boy came up to here and said, "Do you have that book?" and she knew exactly which book it was. All the copies she had were spoken for by lunch and there was a long reserve list for them. A woman brought her son to the store to meet Patrick later because her husband, who is a teacher at one of the schools, said she had to; he really wanted his son to meet Patrick, buy a book, and then read it. That's really cool.

Now, at the schools, one book was sold to one student. More were purchased by the librarians. But it still feels like such a success! The residual sales will be larger later. But I have to say that when you can get high school boys to ask for a book to read, on their own time, one they may have never heard of, that's true success. And it happens when a connection is made like this, one author who is thoughtful about what he does, his books, and group of people in a room together.

Thanks, Patrick! Come again, any time!

(Patrick is the author of two adult books, only available in the UK, and The Chaos Walking Trilogy which is made up of The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men. Published by Candlewick Press and good for ages 13 and up. You grown ups out there should read them.)

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