Thursday, October 11, 2007

Is the Tour Over?

Good question from a California reader.
Answer: yes and no.

The official, Harcourt-sponsored, three-week scamper through the Carolinas, Mississippi, and up/down the west coast is done. Now we're finishing up with some conferences -- Southern Festival of Books tomorrow and Texas Book Festival in November. THEN the tour is completely over.

Then I need to decide if I'm going to keep blogging. I'm ambivalent about it. I had intended to blog only the tour, as I did in 2005 when I kept a tour journal that so many of you read during the LITTLE BIRD tour, and I have to admit to a certain fascination with being able to share stories in this way. I also have to admit that I've had my moments, sitting in a hotel room at 4am, trying to upload photos and talk about the day before, when I've thought "who cares?" and "what difference does it make?" and "it's so nekkid-making!" and more... so I want to hear from you. Please.

What do you think? My biggest concern, when Harcourt approached me about blogging this AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS tour was that it would seem self-serving -- so I wanted to make sure I wrote about what really interested me, which is... you. I have come to love gathering your stories (I often say I'm a story-junkie) and finding ways to write about them and share them visually... and now that it doesn't take me two hours to put together a blog entry, I'm feeling more kindly toward blogging. Still, I hesitate.

I've had lots of mail, lots of opinionated responses to my posts (most of them directly to my email inbox that's listed on my website... hmmmm....), so I ask you: do you have opinions about this blogging phenomenon in general? In particular? What do you think? I'm torn.

While I'm mulling this over, here are some photos from Tuesday's school visit in Oregon, Wisconsin -- Rome Corners Intermediate School. We had such a good day together. Librarian Chris Antonuzzo and I had been planning this day for over a year.

Chris wanted to keep her groups small so we'd have an intimate sharing time, and she wanted to target the fifth grade, so we did. I saw all fifth graders on Tuesday. Here is Chris, teacher Sindhu Thoppil, and her student Ed, who wanted to know "what's with the names in your books?" I answered by singing "God Rest Ye MERRY, Gentlemen, let nothing you DISMAY... oh, TIDINGS of COMFORT and JOY!"

Here are (not in order) Hunter, Collin, McKenzie, Alex, Sean, Wilhelm, and Claire, students in Mrs. Duvick's study hall who came to see me again at the end of the day. Speaking of names, I have a story to tell you about Wilhelm, who is second to last on the right. Doesn't his face tell you everything about what a together guy he is? I was so taken with his use of language and his presence when I spoke with him. When I signed his book, he told me he prefered "Wilhelm," not "Wil," and he told me something that, if I put it in a book, folks would say I was over the top with my names (as they have said before), but here is a true story:

Wilhelm's name is Wilhelm Rhinehard. One of his two brothers is Rhinehard Kaiser. The other is Kaiser Wilhelm. I am not making this up. "My mother said that, once she came full circle with our names, she stopped having children!" I am stealing this concept immediately. I loved meeting you, Wilhelm... loved meeting all students and teachers at Rome Corners. Thanks, Chris, for coordinating a great day.
Here's the library staff: Heather ("I'm the IT nerd!") with the beautiful braids (her nickname is "Alice" and you can see why), moi (Staff for a Day!), Kathy Piper, and Chris.

Sheri Sinykin was my ride to the airport Tuesday. Sheri is a fellow author and Vermont College alum whose new book, GIVING UP THE GHOST is just published by Peachtree. Yay, Sheri! Sheri and I were in the same Jan.2003 graduating class. Hello, Voice!

We had a good catch-up at the Madison airport, just before I got on a plane and sat there for three hours. On the runway. Ground stop at O'Hare, dontcha know. I missed my connecting flight (of course) and managed by a hair to catch the last flight to Atlanta that evening. The last leg was actually lovely -- no one next to me in a three-seat row, and soft darkness everywhere. Too bad I don't sleep on planes. But I did manage to shut my eyes and stop thinking for a while... I was going home.

Thinking, thinking, thinking... always thinking, on the road, always "on" -- even when eating lunch, as you're conversing with strangers who are quickly becoming friends, etc -- and always organizing the mind, the suitcase, and the energy for the next-thing, the next-thing... next-thing. This is the craziness of fall and spring travel to schools, conferences, libraries, etc... but all part of the making-a-living package for this writer, and it's all good work. If you've had me visit your school or conference, you'll know that I love being there. I love the partnership we form, I love the teaching, I love the sharing, and I love the people I meet -- it's such a privilege to spend time with readers in a school setting, at a conference, in a library... it enriches my life and my writing.

But I also love being home. Sometime I'd like to write about this balance (or lack thereof) and this way of making a living and hear some discussion... it's a perennial topic for writers when we get together.

Another perennial topic: How do we do this good work and also write the next book? How do we balance it all? Dunno, I'm still trying to do that. I've come up with various solutions through the years, but still haven't hit on what's ideal.

At home, I've structured a simple life, and I especially miss it this time of year. I love the way the light slants in autumn, I love the crisp in the air. My garden is weedy, and my office is dusty. My bed misses me. So does my husband. He takes good care of me when I arrive home yet-again.

I spent yesterday running errands, answering mail, and recovering, and today I fly to Nashville. Dinner with friends tonight -- and more Vermont connections. School visit tomorrow. Southern Festival of Books on Saturday. Then home again. And it will all be good. But as my friend Jane Kurtz has said to me many times, "the good is the enemy of the best." Hmmm.... must think more on that one. Don't you have that good/best conundrum to contend with in some part of your life? In many parts of your life? I know you do.

Here we go -- next-thing, next-thing, next-thing.... I hope one of those next things is writing the next book. I'm sure my editor hopes so, too.