Yesterday I spent the day at Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School. This was my fourth annual visit to the school and as always, I was made to feel welcome the moment I stepped through the door. There was a new receptionist at the front desk but she greeted me by name before I even opened my mouth; she’d learned all about me from the librarian, Mrs. Robinson, who might be my most ardent fan! Her passion for A Wish After Midnight has spread throughout the entire seventh grade and within minutes of my arrival I was asked—yet again—when the sequel would be coming out. Even at my aunt’s funeral last November my mother’s friend offered her condolences and then asked me about Judah’s Tale. I MUST FINISH THAT BOOK! I’m hoping 12 Years a Slave will clean up at the Oscars in March and it would be good to ride that wave of interest in the slavery era, especially since I used Solomon Northup’s kidnapping case to map Judah’s journey from north to south. I just bought my ticket to the premiere of Belle, which looks amazing. For once, people aren’t trying to avoid the subject of slavery.
It’s not easy doing five back-to-back presentations; by the third one my voice was starting to go, but the students and staff at Brooklyn Excelsior were so wonderful—attentive, engaged, excited. Mrs. Robinson plied me with snacks in between presentations and then ordered lunch for me; I spent the sixth period in the principal’s office talking about literacy and ways to engage reluctant readers. Another principal was visiting the school from upstate and she asked for a copy of Bird for her son. As I headed back to the library the receptionist slipped me a few pages of her memoir, which she hopes to publish soon. I stepped out into the hallway and a teacher rushed up to tell me how much she loved Bird, which she shared with her 5th-grade students a few years earlier. I did my last presentation and then went back into the hallway and another teacher rushed up to shake my hand and tell me how much she loved A Wish After Midnight. An author couldn’t ask for a better day! I hope to continue partnering with this school and others like it in the future.
One of my goals for 2014 is to make connections with people in the film industry. It breaks my heart to have kids ask over and over, “When is the movie coming out?” When I finish presenting on Ship of Souls—especially if I end with a reading—boys rush up and ask where they can get the book. But when I talk about The Deep or A Wish After Midnight, it’s mostly girls who crowd around me, casting themselves in the starring role of films that may never be made:
“I could play Genna!”
“I could be Nyla, right? I want to be Nyla.”
They look at me with such complete confidence—like they truly believe I can snap my fingers and make it happen. Can I? I barely know how to use Twitter but it might be time to reach out to Jada Pinkett Smith and Alicia Keys and Ava DuVernay…women who really DO make movies.