Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reflections from the Road: A Whirlwind Tour of Southernmost Texas

Last week, I had a whirlwind tour of nine schools in the southernmost tip of Texas. I drove home from Dragon Con and the Decatur Book Festival on Monday (September 7th), quickly laundered my clothes, repacked, and raced to the airport to catch a mid-afternoon flight. Which was a frantic day after an exhausting weekend. And I was just getting started!

Because next up was nine schools in three days! At three schools a day, I visited Garza-Pena Elementary School (San Juan, TX), PSJA Southwest, Early College High School (Pharr, TX), and Clover Elementary (San Juan, TX) on Tuesday, Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School(Pharr, TX), PSJA North, Early College High School (Pharr, TX), and Kelly-Pharr Elementary (Pharr, TX) on Wednesday, and Marcia R. Garza Elementary School (McAllen, TX), Alamo Middle School (Alamo, TX) and Cantu Elementary School (Alton, TX) and Thursday!

I arrived late Monday night, flying into the McAllen airport, where two girls holding up copies of Nightborn were waiting for me. It turns out my escort, the I-soon-found-out AMAZING Nora A. Galvan had brought her daughter and two granddaughters to meet me as well. Nora is the PSJA  ISD Library Coordinator for an enormous district. Her daughter is a librarian at one of the schools under her bailiwick, and her granddaughters are avid readers. They were all wonderful and made me feel instantly at home from the moment I arrived.

Nora is an amazing person (let me say that again), and I would be hard pressed to name another person who worked harder at fostering a love of reading and learning in students than she (though the nine librarians I met on my tour came close). She spent a lot of time with me in a three day period, not only driving me to all nine schools but also taking me to lunch and dinner, and consequently, I got to see her work on the phone and in person as I received a taste of how enormously busy she is and how much she does for the librarians under her supervision and the "kidos" at those schools. I'm really, really impressed and really heartened the kids of Alamo, Alton, Pharr, McAllen, and San Juan have someone like her in their corner.

And the kids! Wow. What an incredible bunch of students! I went to five elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. Every time I walked in I asked "who has read or started Frostborn?" and nearly every hand in the room went up. There were pictures advertising my visit everywhere. Some schools showed me artwork the students had made. Others had posters concerning elements of the book. All of them were eager and excited and engaged and asked me tons of questions about the characters and world of Thrones & Bones, the process of writing, and the reasons that lead me to create the books I did. It was so obvious at every stop how hard each librarian had worked to instill this love of literature and learning in these kids and it showed. Every stop on the tour held a welcoming and enthusiastic crowd, and I had an absolute blast. And check out this diagram of the plot and thematic structure of Frostborn was created by a student named Bianca at PSJA North. I was thrilled to see it and really enjoyed talking writing with her.

Meanwhile, I'm afraid to step on a scales thanks to the Mexican breads, the huge gift baskets, and the restaurants I was treated to during my visit, not least of which was the enormous "botana" from Costa Messa Restaurant!

Huge thanks to Nora Galvan, all her librarians and students for an amazing week. And thanks to Celia Torres, Producer/Reporter for KTRI TV, and her team for taking the time to interview me for the local district channel. I'm told they'll be YouTube and Vimeo videos in a few and I'll post links to that when it goes live.

Here are some more pictures from my visit!


Amy Marquez said...

We really enjoyed your visit to PSJA. Mr. Anders would you mind correcting our school name to read "Marcia R Garza" instead of Reymundo G Garza? I also have some pictures to share with you but I don't have an email for you. How do I get ahold of you? I will keep an eye out for the video going live and forward you that information too .

Lou Anders said...

Hi Amy, thank you for stopping by. My apologies for the mistake - the name is corrected now. I'll shoot you an email re: photos. Thank you!