Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dark Days Tour in New Orleans is a Big Hit

picture by Tom Lowenberg of Octavia Books
It all started when a librarian in my district contacted me when she heard the Dark Days Tour was going to visit New Orleans this year. Five authors would be speaking on the panel: Veronica RossiTahereh MafiSophie JordanKiersten White and Claudia GrayThe librarian was hoping that one of the authors might be making a school visit. The tour is a grueling week where the authors make appearances in four different cities. A school visit was not going to happen. (My colleague couldn't even attend the event herself because she was needed as a chaperone for her school's band that was marching in one of the first Mardi Gras parades of the season.) When I talked to Judith Lafitte at Octavia Books, where the event was to be held, she mentioned that she needed a moderator. I suggested one of my students (Paris Evans) could do it. She is the head of Bookmarked and is willing to jump into anything that sparks her interest. The idea of moderating definitely sparked her idea of fun. She frantically spent the weeks leading up to the event reading book one of each of the series that the authors would be promoting. We sat down together a few days before to come up with questions. Paris really didn't need my help with that; she had wonderful thought provoking questions that were general enough to ask each author. She also designed a question specific to each author, but the time got away, and she did not get a chance to ask everything that she wanted. 

Dinner at High Hat Cafe before the big event
I told Paris that I would take her and several of her friends, who are also in Bookmarked, to dinner before the event. I chose High Hat Cafe because of the location, and I thought the kids could find something on the menu that they liked. The restaurant was a big hit, and they ate food that they had not had before. They were adventurous with their food choices, and luckily, they loved everything that they ate. When we arrived at the bookstore, it was packed and standing room only. I had to stand off to the side where I could hear clearly, but it was difficult to get good pictures. 

Judith on the far right kicks off the event
Paris got the ball rolling by asking the authors to give a brief description of their series for those in the audience who might not be familiar with the books. It was a great start. She also asked them about the themes in their books, if these are themes that they would pursue in future books. The authors, who all have strong female characters, fantasy and romance woven through their stories, all said that these are themes that they believe make a good story, and they will continue to use these elements in future works. Paris also asked about the special powers that the characters possess, and if the authors could have one of these, which would it be. Claudia definitely liked the idea of being a witch. Sophie definitely had no interest in having the gift of Homicidal Tendency Syndrome that her characters had. The authors spoke for about an hour, and then it was time for the signing. By then I had been on teacher duty for 12 hours. I was beat. 

View from spot on the sidelines
Paris received many compliments on her job as moderator from the authors and other attendees as well. The authors claimed that her questions were better than some of the paid professionals they have encountered. I was so proud of her. She was thoughtful, spoke with confidence and kept the discussion moving from author to author. She even made an inside joke about one of the characters that got the audience laughing. I will miss her terribly next year, but I know that she is destined to make her mark in the world which can't happen without continuing her education.

picture by Tom Lowenberg of Octavia Books

At the end of the evening, the students pose with the authors


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