Friday, October 17, 2008

Magnificent Midland

I don't know if it's always beautiful, but in mid-October with the leaves are at their spectacular best, Midland, Michigan is a treat for the eyes. The people are nice, too. I just spent two days there, visiting six schools to talk about--ta-da!--myself. My books, actually. And I learned all over again that schools and teachers and students are the same everywhere, while, at the same time, they are completely different. I don't know why that continues to surprise me, but it does. One thing that never changes is the ten-forty-forty-ten rule. Ten percent of the students think I am great and no matter what I say or do, I'm da bomb. Forty percent think I'm probably-sorta-kinda okay, and they are willing to cut me a break since got them out of algebra class. Another forty percent think they are living in the Matrix and since nothing they see or hear is real, it doesn't matter. And the last ten percent...well, I got no freaking idea. These are what I consider "good numbers." The things that make every school visit unique are the individuals. Like the eighth grader who gave me a biology lesson on mosquito nutrition at (I think) Bullock Creek Middle School. I was playing fast and loose with entomological facts to make a point, and I got nailed for saying that "mosquitoes live on blood." They don't. But the females need blood to reproduce. Okay then. I'll watch my mouth in the future. I'm also impressed, again and again, by the librarians and teachers I meet. For example, the lovely and talented Stephanie Williams (right),who left engineering to become a librarian. Now THAT is an unusual career path. I had planned to take lots of great pictures in Midland, but of course I kept forgetting that I had my camera with me. But here's one of the book club at Windover Alternative High School. You see that kid way off to the left, like he doesn't want to be in the picture? Ask him about hemochromatosis. I dare you. I left Midland tired but psyched to get back to writing, and I came up with a new idea on the flight home, which I scrawled on the inside of the dust cover of John Green's new novel, Paper Towns, and wrote the first ten pages when I got home that night. It never stops.

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