What an amazing week this was. The launch of Poached (in ebook, audiobook and good old actual book formats) — as well as the launch of Spy Camp in paperback — coincided with Children’s institute and the Texas Librarian’s Association in San Antonio, my old stomping grounds. So not only did I get to hang out with my awesome editor, Kristin Ostby, and my awesome publisher, Justin Chanda (as well as all the other awesome folks at Simon & Schuster) — and not only did I get to sit on panels and hang out with a huge number of super-cool fellow middle-grade and YA writers (including but not limited to Michael Buckley, Michael Fry, Erica O’Rourke, James Ponti, Jonathan Maberry, Liesl Shurtliff, Nathan Hale, Tom Angleberger and Pseudonymous Bosch) — but I also got to hang out with folks I grew up with and speak at my old elementary school!
I hadn’t been back inside the school since I’d been a student there. It was amazing how many memories came flooding back, especially when one of my fifth grade teachers, Mrs. Yates, showed up.
In addition to being a great teacher, Mrs Yates was also one of the finest practical jokers I’ve ever known. Every year, she pulled off what is still the best Halloween prank I’ve ever seen. She had made what looked like a giant doll which would sit in a rocking chair on her porch with a bowl of candy in its lap with a sign asking trick or treaters to only take one piece. But it wasn’t really a doll. It was a full-sized doll costume with Mrs Yates inside. If anyone grabbed more than one piece, she’d grab them — and scare the holy heck out of them. We used to hang out by her place, waiting to see her frighten unsuspecting kids.
At some point, Mrs Yates and her fellow fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hiester, even inspired a prank in Belly Up. Mrs Yates liked jellybeans. Mrs Hiester had a rabbit. Rabbits produce what look like black jellybeans in great quantities. So one day, Mrs. Hiester picked the most trustworthy, well-behaved kid in her class (that would have been me), gave me a bunch of rabbit poo in a cup and suggested I go ask Mrs Yates if she’d like any jellybeans. Mrs. Yates figured it out before anything terrible happened and thought it was funny. Years later, when I needed a prank for Teddy to play on Large Marge, I had him swap out her jellybeans with rabbit poop. I’d totally forgotten that the inspiration for this was none other than my own fifth grade teachers!
Anyhow, it was an absolutely fantastic week.
For the record, here’s me with my publisher, Justin and editor, Kristin, just so you can see what nice, friendly, great people to work with they are.