I am back from a tour that took me to Boston, Cincinnati, Maine, New York, and New Hampshire. The launch party was at Porter Square Books.
In my last post, I talked about writing riddles with students, which I did in all of those places. Kids are amazing riddle writers, and I had a terrific time doing this creative writing with them. Two recent visits, though, were especially, well, special. Kingfield and Poland, Maine students both participated in a community read of The Water Castle. The connection to these towns was Poland Springs Water. The company was found in Poland, Maine where I lived when I wrote the book, and has a plant in Kingfield.
Kingfield was my first stop. This community read was facilitated by Kenny Brechner of DBG Booksellers in Farmington, ME. Kenny wrote about the launch of the event on the Shelf Talker blog, along with some great photos. Kingfield is a small town, even by Maine standards. There are about 125 kids in the K-8 school, 11 in the whole 8th grade. The kids were about half way through the book by the time I got there, and made me feel like both a star and an old friend, which I think reflects the loving community of the town and the school. The two eighth grade students who led me around had to leave me at lunch time so they could go behind the cafeteria counter and help serve lunch: that’s the kind of school this is.
After having lunch with a charming group of kids, I was up for my presentation. Along with the 3rd-8th grade teachers and students, we were joined by local senior citizens who were also reading the book. I talked about where the idea came from, and the historical background that built into the story. Then there was time for questions — not surprisingly given such a well-prepared group, the questions were fantastic! After speaking, I got a chance to sign books and talk to the kids one on one.
I left Kingfield with such a sense of happiness and love for this community (plus an idea for a new book brewing — shhh!). So, I was so happy to hear last Thursday that the Kingfield Public Library was going to be the recepient of a set of books from the MWPA. As part of the Maine Literary Awards (which, ahem, little boast here, The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill was the winner in the Young People’s Literature Category), the MWPA received two copies each of 170 books that were submitted for consideration. After the awards they give the set to a deserving library, and this year that library was in Kingfield. Deserving indeed!
The next week I went to Poland, Maine. Julie Purdy is the librarian for the middle and high schools in Poland, but she organized an event for fifth and sixth graders in the three feeder schools, as well as meeting with the writing group at the middle school. The fifth grade teachers did an amazing job, and when I arrived at the school I was greeted by the projects students had done to go along with the book. I had never heard of a Book in a Box before, but I loved peeking in each one and seeing what objects and passages students had include — a bloody piece of wood from the end of the book proved especially popular!
Again the kids were full of great questions, sometimes asking me things I had never thought of before, like what Will might be able to do scientifically with the discovery of the water that wouldn’t mean that the “fountain of youth” water would be out in the world for all to use and abuse. I brought some books for Julie to raffle off, and she decided to give them to teachers for their classrooms, which I thought was great because it meant more kids could read them.
Then I got to have lunch with the writing group. One girl told me she wanted to be the “J.K. Rowling from Maine” and let me tell you, based on the ideas these kids have, we won’t only have a J.K. Rowling and another Stephen King — we’re going to have a whole library’s worth of amazing work from creative Maine authors. Another young writer wants to be a doctor and an author, and a high school student told me she wants to work in interior design as well as writing. To which I said, “Yes!” A second job is a necessity, and can feed the writing.
As a librarian, I always loved designing community reads, so it is so gratifying to have The Water Castle used in this way. Thank you very much to Kingfield and Poland for welcoming me to your schools.
If you are planning a community read and want to use one of my books, please let me know. I would love to set up a Skype or in-person visit!