Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More Fan Art

I got this picture from Alexia at a recent school visit.

 She's a totally amazing artist. See if you can find her in this picture of kids at her school.

Incredible, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Who Am I?

I always start my author visits by asking the kids if they know who I am and what I do.
Today, reading to a kindergarten class, I asked if they knew what my job was.

One kid raised his hand and asked, "Are you the janitor?"

Maybe I should start dressing better?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Home and Gone Again

In case any of you have been losing sleep over the fact that I appear to be perpetually still in New Jersey; fear not. I returned home safely last week.

Sadly, that fate was not shared by my pillow and some of my clothes.
While I was in New Jersey, I got an email from my lovely wife explaining that my lovely son had been taken to the lovely hospital for lung x-rays. He had a lovely case of pneumonia.

This, I freely admit, upset me a bit.

I woke up very early the next day (like 3:30 early) and decided to just hit the road and get home. It seemed a wiser option than sitting in my hotel room, staring at the ceiling and listening to the roar of the traffic racing by.

I staggered blearily around my hotel room, showered, packed up my stuff and ran a large armload of my belongings out to my car. While there, I saw something shiny and got distracted.
"Ooooh coffee!"

I wandered over to the Dunkin Donuts, conveniently located in the scenic parking lot of my hotel, and entered its sacred coffee-infused walls. The clerk behind the counter was Indian and didn't seem to have a firm grasp on conversational English yet.

"Do you have vanilla coffee made?" I asked, seeking a whimsical, flavor-filled change in my coffee drinking experiences.

The clerk looked at me, obviously not understanding the question.

"Baniya?" he asked.

"Vanilla," I nodded, "Yes, do you have any vanilla coffee?"

He stared for a moment longer and then his face broke out into a radiant smile.

"Ahhh!" he said, "Medium french baniya, cream sugar!"

"That's it!" I cried, marveling at his psychic ability to penetrate my unkempt exterior and discern my innermost desires.

He handed me my coffee and I made my way back toward my car, marveling at the fact that he had learned English based entirely on the Dunkin Donuts menu items and how the majority of customers preferred them.

I was impressed. Thrust into the streets of Calcutta or Agra or Bombay, I doubted that I would have fared as well as he had.

I hopped into my car and sped off into the night, completely forgetting about the second load of belongings that sat in my hotel room, gathering up toxic levels of hotel carpet stink that I'm certain will render my pillow unusable for several washings.

I arrived home to find Alex doing better. My joy at that news was tempered slightly by the fact that I only then realized that I had forgotten all my stuff in New Jersey.

A quick call to the hotel confirmed that they would be delighted to do absolutely nothing to help me get my stuff back.

"Uhhh, I'd have to talk to the manager about sending it back to you, but I don't really think that's gonna happen."

Thanks Motel 6!

I sent a rather panicky and completely humiliating email to Cindy, the lady who had arranged my visit to New Jersey, asking her if she could possibly go to the hotel and grab my pillow–the one with the dirty socks and undies stuffed in the pillow case–and mail it up to me.

She agreed to undertake this odious task and I will forever be in her debt.

For the past week, I have been visiting schools from Massachusetts to the White Mountains. It's been fun, but exhausting. Every school is different and I never know what to expect when I arrive. This keeps me on my toes and in a perpetual state of near paranoid alertness.

At Fuller Meadow School, I was treated to delicious lunches (Candi, the coordinator, had read my blog entry asking that I not be served Sloppy Joes and Tater Tots) and, as if that weren't enough, she sent me home with two half gallons of delicious ice cream from the ice cream stand across the street.

My trip to Campton Elementary, way up north in New Hampshire began with a presentation to the 7th and 8th graders who, I was warned, might try to kill me and eat me.

Adults, as a rule, are terrified of 7th and 8th graders. Mostly with good reason, I imagine. But my visit with them was delightful. They were fun and enthusiastic and did not throw rocks at me or try to eat me. What's funny is that I gave almost exactly the same presentation that I normally do for 4th graders. It went very well, as did the rest of the day.

The only slight glitch in the day was the last presentation I gave to the Kindergarten, first, and second grades. It appeared that some poor child was suffering from some sort of gastro-intestinal distress and kept farting throughout my presentation. The child had the uncanny ability to time his farts to whenever I paused for dramatic effect.

"And then..." I paused, savoring the magical moment of silence. And when I opened my mouth to continue...


It was very amusing for everyone.

Tomorrow I head off to Portland, Maine for three days of school visits. I'm looking forward to this trip a lot because my good friend Amy lives up there and she claims to possess knowledge of the whereabouts of an excellent Thai restaurant.

And I know that, as I have yet to get my pillow back from New Jersey, there is no way I can leave it at the hotel this time.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Still In NJ

Today I spent the day talking at a few hundred kids at Beeler Elementary here in New Jersey. It was great fun and I'm delighted to report that I was not fed Sloppy Joes or Tater Tots. That fact alone makes the drive to NJ worthwhile.

I got to enjoy a brief bout of rock start status at the school, where the kids had obviously been well prepared for my visit. They passed me in the halls and I heard whispers of "That's MartyKelley. Hee Hee Hee" And, yes, the MartyKelley is all one word there. I'm not sure why, but when I visit a school, the kids always refer to me as MartyKelley. Not Marty. Not Mr. Kelley. MartyKelley. Like Cher or something, I guess.

The PE teacher, Becky Jenkins, even went as far as to incorporate pictures from my books in her annual Jump Rope for Heart theme.

Hey, Becky, be on the lookout for a thick envelope from my lawyer!

(kidding, kidding, kidding.)

Is that cool, or what?

(answer: Yes, it is cool. Very cool.) It's very flattering to be made to feel like a big, famous hot-shot or something.

I'm returning to the school for one more presentation tonight. I'm sure it will be great. I found a great looking little Mexican restaurant that I'll hit before I go back. I can't forsee any possible downside to eating pounds and pounds of beans before a long public speaking gig.

Then, I get to spend the first 6 hours of my birthday tomorrow driving home in the morning. (Feel free to send gifts, cash or pizza.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The March Book Tour

Woo Hoo!
March madness has begun in earnest in the high stakes world of picture books.
March is busy for me.
Very busy.
School across the nation celebrate Read Across America by bringing authors to their schools and feeding them Sloppy Joes and Tater Tots.*

* If I come to your school; don't even think about it. Save them for the next author, please.

This March involves a lot more traveling than I usually do. Traveling, as you are no doubt aware, is one of the greatest ways to leave home and sleep in strange beds surrounded by unusual sounds, unfamiliar sights, and occasional unpleasant odors.

As I write this, I am in a hotel room in New Jersey pondering deeply why the non-smoking room I got should contain an upside down ashtray with a "No Smoking" sticker stuck to the bottom of it. It sort of tells you "No Smoking (but if you do, here's a convenient ash tray)".

When I asked the helpful fellow at the front desk about this odd choice of furnishings, he shrugged his shoulders and grunted a slightly feral "unh-nuh". I got the same response when I asked about the distance to the next town over.

It seemed wisest to cut my losses, and besides, not knowing about the ashtray will give me something to think about while I am staring at the ceiling tonight listening to the roar of traffic howling past the hotel.

My real, actual home is on a very quiet, some might say bucolic, back road in the outskirts of New Hampshire. Two cars passing our house in 10 minutes is a major traffic event. So I find myself unable to properly adjust to situations like my dinner tonight. I am planning on going out to a fabulous, nationally known establishment that serves the latest in cutting edge pizza cuisine.

In fact, I can see the restaurant from my hotel room. If it weren't for all the exhaust fumes, I could probably smell the pizza. The problem is, I don't know how I'm going to get there.
There is certainly no safe way to cross the six lanes of furious traffic that is whizzing by. And even if I managed such a daring feat, I'd most certainly spill my drink on the way back to the hotel.

So I have to drive there.
500 yards away.

To make my dinner plans more interesting, there are no turns allowed from the roaring highway of doom I am on, so I may well have to drive for several miles to simply get my pizza.

I need to be safe about this, because I am scheduled to visit a school tomorrow morning and I'd hate to get lost on my way across the street and spend the next several days wandering aimlessly up and down the highways of New Jersey, looking for my pizza.

If you do see a hungry looking guy with out of state plates, toss a piece of pizza my way, okay?