Monday, May 9, 2011

Holly Goldberg Sloan: I'll Be There

Sunrise was at 5:40, sunset will be at 8:32. Monday, May 9, 2011- School visits.

I'm on my way to a school visit to Aki Kurose Middle School with Holly Goldberg Sloan! Her first book, I'll Be There, is a suspenseful, survival story filled with longing and love. It's the story of two brothers, an abusive father who keeps them on the move, and the girl who discovers them. So GOOD!

A first-time author (a debut author in the parlance) is often difficult to market to schools, to readers, to librarians, but I gave the ARCS to some teachers and they snapped her up (after checking their testing schedules).


Well, Aki's presentations were good.The other one, not so much. How are schools so different in preparing their students for something like this? Both were middle schools, notoriously hard to control, very different demographics, but the south end school was monitored and the expectations of them were much higher than the north end school.

I walked into Aki, a large urban middle school in south Seattle on a really pretty day, no rain, no wind, and the sound of voices led me on up into the Library, a soaring library, all ceilings and windows. Holly was there with her driver, Diane, and Dene, the librarian, was ready to go.

We usually first meet the authors for these events at the places they are scheduled to go. So, we walk in cold, no real ideas about what we're going to see or hear, no ideas about the behaviors of the students, just a great hope that what is about to happen will inspire everyone in the room to at least read the book or, maybe, think about the possibilities of "future".

Holly had these 100 or students in the palms of her her hands. She introduced herself and the book and then started to talk about where she got the idea and how important the small things that happen in your life can be, that those are the things we might should be paying attention to. Her first book, I'll Be There, is built on those small turns in a person's life, whether you should go to that church for the music or the other, whether you should walk your dog past this neighbor or the other, whether your husband should eat that shrimp or even go on that vacation.

Holly is a filmmaker and entertained us with stories of movies and trips into exotic places, made herself loved because her dad designed the tests the kids are taking, talked about the book and her job as a writer, but especially wanted them to pay attention to the things in their lives that may not seem important at the time but could send them in a direction they may never have considered.

I especially liked how the kids meet her as a novelist, but she writes screenplays as her day job. She told them about how if you like to write, it doesn't have to be narrative. There are all kinds of different ways to write and make a living doing it. I'm glad those kids got to hear this from someone who has gone from no work to too much just because writing is writing is writing, you just have to learn the procedures for the differences.

She started writing as a 7th grade journalist (another turning point, first day of school, AP English, fires in the hills, teacher said, let's write about that, investigate, and the single page newspaper became a weekly award-winning event), graduated and went to college to study writing, won an award for a short story she wrote about a man she met on her walks into town, who sat in a lounge chair on the sidewalk, and then went on to write ads and lines for different kinds of things, tires, tacos, and started to write television shows and movies.

Just by the bad luck of an off-shrimp, and a vacation to a far-flung yoga retreat, the lack of any kind of electronic device, and the memory of a story a friend had just told her, she wrote I'll Be There, while she waited out her husband's sickness. Using only paper and a pen.

It's exciting to see how a chance meeting in a school library with someone like Holly could possibly shift the direction a life might take.

I stopped back by the school to talk to Dene and she said that the students were checking the books out and still talking about the visit. YAY! It worked!

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