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Thursday, May 21, 2015

This Is Why I Do What I Do

No big post this time. I just wanted to share this wonderful picture that shows better than any of my words can explain why I write books for children. This is what it's all about!
Robert reading Fibonacci Zoo to some wonderful children.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chelan - Morgen Owings Elementary Author Visit

What a great day to talk Fibonacci! This morning I got to spend 40 minutes each with four different groups of second and third graders, talking about 'the Zoo'. More than 200 students in total. Boy, was I nervous!

No, not being in front of people talking. I do that for a living as a high school teacher. No, it was being in front of second and third graders that made me a little nervous. See, what is it that really motivates an eight-year old? For some, it's the excitement of coming to school and learning each day - that's awesome! For others, it's just trying to sit still when there is all this energy inside just waiting to get out. For a few, it's a chance to tell another person a story about their life, relevant to the conversation or not. I heard after the fact that 'some famous author was coming to their school to talk about his book.'. My first response was, "Who?" was me.

Fibonacci wouldn't appear to be for the faint of heart. Yes, the sequence is simple enough, but oh, the applications! Still, would it be enough to talk about mating bunnies and zoo animals to keep these youngsters content and still for 40 minutes? The answer was a resounding YES.

These sweet children were such a delight! They asked questions, told me about their bunnies at home, this time they went to the zoo and saw a gorilla just like the 13 in the book, how a cousin speaks Italian (like Fibonacci) and on and on. No one was really that curious about how the book-writing process works, but then again, these were younger students, apparently really excited to meet a famous author (as soon as I figure out who that is, I will let you know!)

I think the best part was filling out our 'notebooks' just like Eli did, and discovering the pattern in the process. It was astounding how many of these kids figured out the pattern on their own without any hints or prompting from me. They discovered the animals were coming in alphabetical order, and easily predicted which animal would be next (except for the geese. They were gorillas). But the best part was when the book ended with a challenge to guess how many animals the next exhibit would hold. I was fascinated by the guesses, from a low of 20 to a high of 300. But so many figured out that after 21 comes 34, and they were expecting to see 34 iguanas, which they did, each one beautifully illustrated by Christina Wald.

I admit - doing four straight presentations is a little tiring, but the adrenaline was pumping, and the smiles on the faces kids discovering a powerful sequence, then successfully drawing their own Fibonacci spiral was what I will remember.

You know - I think I could get used to this...

Friday, May 15, 2015

WWU Woodring Love!

I am happy to announce that the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA), my Master's degree alma mater has featured my book Fibonacci Zoo on its latest alumni news page. Check it out at the link below!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Inside Story - Success!

What a night! May 5, twenty-eight authors gathered in the UW Bookstore -Bellevue to tout our new books. I don't get rattled all that easily, but this night was something completely new for me. So many people there who knew lots of other people. I felt like I had been invited to a party where everyone knew everyone, and I was the only person new to the group.

But it wasn't like that at all. We all had our displays set out, ready for us, and the best part of it all was seeing my hardcover books for the FIRST TIME! Hats off to Lee, Donna, Heather, and Katie at Arbordale Publishing who went above and beyond to make sure that Andrea (Gabriel, author and illustrator of Wandering Woolly, also from Arbordale) and I had our books for the event. They made it with just a couple of hours to spare!

They told us there was food and wine available to enjoy but a) I didn't find out until it was too late to get any, and b) I was so nervous, I couldn't really eat anyway. What do you do at an event like this? Do people just come up to you and talk to you? Do they actually buy your book?

What if I sit there the whole night, having driven three hours to get there, to be followed by a three-hour drive back home, and no one wants my book? It's daunting. It's frightening. And it's exhilarating!

Just before the evening began, I got a sign everything was going to be ok. Jeff (The Drake) Heckel showed up, the first of THREE former students who came to see me and buy my book. What an honor it was to sign the very first copy of Fibonacci Zoo for Jeff and his kids. And then another Jeff (Wood) showed up with his wife. And then it was Bethany and Garrett with their kids and all of a sudden, I felt like a bit of a rock star.

I got my two minutes to speak, working through the presentation I had practiced, about 28 times while driving over (see earlier reference to three-hour drives...) and while the time slipped away before I could fully finish my story, I was able to close with my key line 'Remember, you can COUNT on Fibonacci!'

It got a few chuckles, and we moved on. The night was long, but then out of the blue, the lady sitting right in front, closest to me, won a trivia question and went to select her prize from the collection of books we had donated. She picked mine! Wow. I mean, I knew my friends would buy my book, but here was a lady I had never met who wanted, out of all the books she could choose from, mine! Later, when she came to have me sign it, I might have been beaming from ear to ear.

The view from my corner.
Finally the presentations ended - and by the way, what an incredibly diverse set of stories, experiences, and perspectives. I was and still am incredulous at the talent I saw that night. But then it was the 'free-for-all' time. Well, not like the books were free for still had to pay for them. But the lines started, and the books started moving, I was signing, making conversations with teachers, librarians, book sellers,etc. And it was such a rush! It was not unlike being at a farmer's market or a trade show where you see people approaching and wonder, are they coming to see me? You don't want to seem desperate or needy, but you don't want to blow them off either. It was almost an out of body experience for me. Pictures with my students, dedications to whole schools and classrooms, and just like that it was over, and there I was...with ONE copy left over. I looked around. Some authors had stacks left over. Some sold well. But I sold all but one of mine and I felt like they had gone to good homes or schools, where good kids will get to read about and learn good math.

Truth be told, afterwards, I was exhausted, emotionally spent. It didn't help that I had taught all day, then driven (how many hours was it?) across the passes to get there. But I was light as air, not wanting the night to end. I said my thank yous, grabbed some M&Ms for the road, and left, wondering when my next event would be, and how popular my book really was going to be. For one night, however, everything felt right.