Saturday, November 10, 2018

Top of Tennessee, bottom of Virginia

I spent the first week of November speaking at six schools, five close to the northeast corner of Tennessee (the Knoxville suburbs) and one in the southwest corner of Virginia (Abingdon).

Come back along with me...

Most of the TN schools were in Oak Ridge, famous for being the Atomic City (AKA the equally cool-sounding Secret City) during World War II. The town was built from scratch and encircled by a fence so scientists within it could help develop the atomic bomb. Signs of that are frequent there today, even in schools:

Day 1. Webb School greeted me with an elaborate and colorful set on which to perform. They also loaded me up with a generous superhero-themed gift bag. (We had to start later than planned because a fierce storm swept through late the night before, felling many trees, which forced school to open on a delay.)

 photo courtesy of Webb School

Day 2. One of the two schools, Norris Middle School, asked me to tag their author graffiti wall. It was my honor...and my first time with a spray can, hard as that may be to believe, given the edgy persona I sport.

Students at Norris had spent some time with Brave Like My Brother (and asked more questions about it during the Q&A than any other group ever). They'd created these character sketches...

...and one student even wrote a "deleted scene" in the form of another letter from Charlie to Joe. I loved this dearly.

Day 3. Robertsville Middle School had an impressive wall to acknowledge their past author visits. Surely nothing intimidating about following Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds.

Only a day after I'd been there, I was already added.

At Jefferson Middle School, library tables are strewn with picture books and an invitation/challenge to students to pick one up despite the perception by some that picture books are only for elementary kids.

For my last school of the trip, I drove 2.5 hours through scenic (if rainy) country to cross the border into Virginia. A teacher at that school runs (with her family) a picturesque, new construction rental barn for special occasions like weddings. It has a large event space on the ground floor and one cozy bedroom/bathroom on the second. That rainy night, for the second time in six months, I was the only guest in a house. Though the rain pelleting the roof was moody, no ghosts this time.

Thank you again to Scot Smith, Kristie Atwood, Debbie Callis, Kat Hall, Emily Havercamp, Kim Hobbs, and Teresa Campbell for making this lovely week possible.

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