The Cavalcade of Authors, in the Tri-Cities, is the reason I’m over here in the States. It’s an amazing event, created and run by a wonderful woman called Michelle Lane. The idea is to bring together twelve authors and a load of schools for a day of talks, creative writing workshops and author panels. Genius! Michelle got in touch with me last year and asked if I’d like to come over for it, as the Furnace books were popular in the schools. And of course I said yes!!
So I flew out of Seattle on Tuesday night after my school events, and got picked up from Pasco airport by Lisa, one of the volunteers. She was incredibly enthusiastic, and a perfect introduction to the remarkable energy and excitement of the week. The Cavalcade itself wasn’t until Friday, but I had four school events scheduled before then. The first was at the Southside United Protestant Sanctuary, and it was inside a chapel! It was cool, although I felt a little weird talking about monsters and gore and shooting cow pats in there. The audience, which came from a few different schools, was great, and didn’t seem to mind the setting at all (although I got a few funny looks from the staff when I was talking about my first novel, the one about the man-eating angels)!
After that I headed over the state line into Oregon to talk to the students at the Clara Brownell Middle School in Umatilla. These guys were so awesome!! The event started in the coffee shop across the street from the school, where I met with forty of their keenest readers. We had a great chat about books and writing over coffee, and one student even bought me my first ever Hershey’s bar – thanks again for that!! It was great to be amongst such bright and enthusiastic kids!
Afterwards we all headed back to Clara Brownell and I gave my talk to the whole school. And the best thing was that they presented me with this ENORMOUS thank you card before I left, which was so awesomely cool!! Thanks so much to everyone at the school! Thanks also to Paula and Carol for doing all the driving!
There’s a newspaper article about it here, but you have to be signed up to read it. I’ll post a copy!
The day wasn’t over yet. I travelled north again into Washington State to do an evening event at Richland Library, which is a fantastic place. There was a great crowd, full of enthusiastic writers and readers, and it was loads of fun. Thanks to Gavin for inviting me, and to everyone for coming!! To top off a perfect day, I even got to ride in Terry’s bright red Ford Mustang to and from the library. I have always wanted to take a trip in one of these! I was so excited I forgot to take a photo. Thanks Terry!
On Thursday I went to speak at Enterprise Middle School, which was brilliant! To begin with I was interviewed by a student called Andrew, and we had a long chat about writing and books. There was a reporter there too, and his article about the morning can be found here! There are also some photos here!
Afterwards, Michelle and Leslie, the two organisers of Cavalcade, took me out to lunch. I had the choice of pretty much any restaurant, but I think I horrified them by asking to go to Taco Bell. What?! We don’t have them in England!!! It was delicious! Following that, we drove over to Kamiakin High School for my last talk of the week. I spoke to hundreds of students in the main auditorium, and they were an awesome bunch! Afterwards Steve, a librarian and teacher there, presented me with some thank you prizes, including a very rare Kamiakin Chiefs pin, so I was very honoured! He also gave me his hat, emblazoned with the logo of the biker gang he belongs to (the Bad Teachers). He wanted to take me back to the hotel on his motorbike, which would have been great, but he was told not to! I was so disappointed!! But we have now made plans to travel to Sturgis next time I’m in the country, and hang out with bikers all weekend. It will be great! And I did get to try on his cut later in the day! Thanks Steve!
On Thursday evening the Cavalcade officially began, and I got to meet the other eleven authors. They were (deep breath)… Robin Wasserman (who I met earlier in the week in Seattle), Frank Beddor, Blake Nelson, Royce Buckingham, Ridley Pearson, Janet Lee Carey, Alex Flinn, Vivian Vande Velde, Pete Hautman, Colleen Houck and Jim Whiting. I have nothing but amazing things to say about all of them, but if I did then this blog would never end. Suffice to say they were a brilliant bunch, and fascinating to talk to. Read their books!! The authors and event organisers all went to Olive Garden for a meal, and a chance to get to know each other. Then we all went over to Barnes and Noble for a mass signing. Twelve authors all in a row signing books… I think we were all nervously comparing the size of everybody’s lines. But I’m happy to say that there were loads of people there with copies of the Furnace books! It was a truly smashing evening.
So finally Friday rolled around, with a 5.30am wake-up call!! I got picked up an hour later by Lisa, my host for the day, and headed out to Columbia Basin College. Events started at 8, and consisted of four forty-minute long workshops. In order to attend Cavalcade, each student had to have read at least four books from the authors, so everyone there was a dedicated reader! The workshops all went brilliantly, with over a hundred kids in each one! We talked about horror, and how to come up with scary ideas based on our own worst fears, and some of the story ideas you guys came up with were truly chilling! There were some excellent writers in the audience, and I know we’ll be hearing about them in the future. Just remember what I said: never give up on your dreams!!! After the workshops was an author panel, where we answered questions from the huge audience. There were over 600 kids there, which is (I think) the largest group I have ever spoken to!
To finish things off there was a signing, which went on for well over an hour – there were still people queueing for books as the school buses were pulling away (I hope no-one got left behind)! I was enjoying it so much that my special red-inked Furnace stamp exploded (I was stamping a little too enthusiastically), making it look like there was blood all over my table (very fitting). Oh, and I spotted a little mistake on my signing sign:
Prizes for guessing which of my favourite authors that is!
The event wrapped up shortly after two, which was a shame as I was up for doing it all over again! It really was such a brilliant day, and just amazing to see so much enthusiasm for books and for reading. I don’t think I have ever seen so many people share such a passion for stories under one roof! I want to say a GINORMOUS THANKS to everyone who attended Cavalcade, especially the students. You guys were all so great!! Good luck with your writing, and remember if you write some scary stories send them to me, I’d love to read them! Oh and extra special congratulations to the short story prize winners!!!!!
Also extra special thanks to Lisa, who was my bodyguard during the day (you should have seen her fighting a path through the hordes so I could grab some lunch), to Leslie and Carol and Paula and Steve and the other Cavalcade staff (too many to mention here, sorry, but you were all amazing), and of course Michelle, without who none of this would have happened. Best. Day. Ever!!!!
Oh, and I know loads of pictures were being taken at the Cavalcade itself, but I have no idea where to find them. I’ll add them as soon as I can!
Later that evening a few of us went to dinner, which was fun. On Saturday I had a day off (yay!) and met up with lovely Leslie and her brilliant daughters Madisson and Hailey for a tour of the local shops (including the best chocolate shop ever!!!), then we went for a wine tasting with Lisa, Elaine and John (delicious, although I couldn’t tell the difference between any of the wines), and finally we went back to Leslie’s for my first ever traditional US barbecue, which was awesome. I had a wonderful evening, and made some great new friends!
I was truly sorry to fly out on Sunday, because it really was a super week – like I said, one of those weeks that makes me realise how insanely lucky I am to do what I do. Michelle, invite me back to Cavalcade soon!!!!
There was no time to rest, though, as I was heading straight over to San Francisco for Part 4 of the tour!!