First off, if it’s snowing/sleeting/raining frogs where you are right now, you have my sympathies. Winter is really just showing off at this point, don’t you think? I can’t imagine how you folks who have been buried in snow for WEEKS are coping. It’s just cold and gray here and we’re all still crabby. Personally, I think Bravo needs to start running Real Housewives reruns in marathon form until things thaw out. It’s their national duty, practically.

In other news, one of the best things about living in my hometown is getting to give back to the local school system that I attended. Today I got to to go be a part of the Read-A-Thon at Franklin Porter Graham Elementary School, and it was just SO cool. I read to two classes, one third grade, one fourth, in the media center, which was decorated in an ocean theme. You KNOW I was loving that. There was even a wave noise machine! It was like being inside a conch shell. Anyway, I wasn’t sure what I’d be reading, as I am only well acquainted with books for the toddler set, but luckily the librarian had selected a bunch of great stories to choose from. I read There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Trout, The Stinky Cheese Man, A Bad Case of Stripes and ONE book I brought from home, a personal favorite, Ice Cream Larry. (Say it with me: “I do not feel sick.” That’s a Larry joke, sorry.)

My favorite part, though, was the Q&A after I read. One third grade boy raised his hand and asked if, as a writer, I had any competition. I said, “Well, yes. I guess so.” He thought for a second, then said, “Are any of them your enemies?” Um, no, I said. This seemed to disappoint him. I said, “You know, I don’t really have any enemies, actually.” He considered this, then said, “What about Darth Vader?” The rest of the class nodded: yes, what ABOUT Darth Vader? “Well, of course, Darth Vader,” I agreed. And here I think that I’ve been asked everything under the sun. Wrong again!

There were also lots of questions about how books get made. Does it take a long time to write a book? (Yes, at least for me.) How do I put them together in the cover? (I don’t, luckily someone who is very good at that handles that part of the job.) Why don’t I write nonfiction? (I kind of blinked at this one. These kids were SHARP!) How do I send my books to New York? (In the mail or, more recently, via email.) I had been a little worried how I’d do with the kids, as I was being preceded by the mayor of Chapel Hill and followed by a reporter from the local news station. I mean, I don’t have that kind of cred, people. But when I said that I had actually MET Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, who did the Stinky Cheese Man? That got me respect. Whew!

It was so great, in fact, that it actually made the first day of February fun. Which is saying something. I know, I know, I shouldn’t hate on February. It’s the month of Valentine’s Day, which means chocolate. And it’s mercifully short. But it’s also the last month I fully associate with winter, which means it can’t skedaddle out of here fast enough. Then again, once it’s March, that makes the release of my new book THAT much closer, which is scary and so exciting all at once. If March is right around the corner, May is just down the block. EEEK! Well, at least it’s not Darth Vader.

Have a good night, everyone!