Feb 22

More Thoughts from FYE Conference

Posted: under the writing life.
Tags: ,  February 22nd, 2012

It was great to meet people who are now heading, or working in, college programs in support of students with autism spectrum conditions.   Also students now moving toward certification as speech & language pathologists, or who want to work with special-education departments.  And–always–those who have a family member or friend (or friend with a child) on the spectrum.

It’s also great that colleges are trying to engage students in discussions across the boundaries that quickly rise  between academic departments (especially, I think, between the liberal arts and the sciences) and between different social groupings of students.   The bull sessions in the dorms do give students a chance to discuss things with people they’ve known all of six weeks…but what they discuss may not be anything that can lead anywhere useful, especially with the diversity of backgrounds.   Having a common topic–a single book that they’ve all read–makes a reference point (other than the school athletic teams) for discussion.   I’ve noticed that at the colleges where I’ve spoken about The Speed of Dark, and I’m sure it’s true for other books selected.

And in general, it seems that colleges are choosing better books for freshman reading programs than they did when I was headed that way.  We were given a list of books to read the summer before we arrived, and most were intensely depressing.    (I also had four wisdom teeth removed that summer, and got sick, so that may have affected my reaction.  But none of the books offered much hope that problems could be coped with–whereas the books written by the other authors this past weekend all had that hopeful–but not shallowly hopeful–position. )

I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference and meet the people who help choose the books…to learn more about their reasoning when they look for books, to get a feel for how my book fits or doesn’t fit their needs, and how an author’s campus visit “works” within the concept of a Freshman Year Experience.     (Because they aren’t all the same.   Every institution–and every incoming class in every institution–is unique.    And it’s clear that the faculty and staff I met were all very aware of their institution’s needs. )

It was a little startling to come home and find that I’d been Tweeted about, possibly even during the events.  (DUH.    Why surprising?  Probably because my netbook died shortly before the conference and I was flying along without my daily dose of internet navigation…no email, no Twitter, no blogging, no surfing.   No wonder the sock I was working on grew several inches!)

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Feb 21

FYE Conference in San Antonio

Posted: under the writing life.
Tags:  February 21st, 2012

I just got back from the First Year Experience conference in San Antonio, where I got to meet manymanymany  faculty and staff from universities around the country–what a great conference!    Random House brought five writers there to talk about the books we have that are suitable for an FYE or Common Reads program.   The Speed of Dark has already been used for such programs, stimulating discussions about not only autism, but issues of identity, autonomy, labeling, etc.

The other books being showcased were all nonfiction, and the other writers were all male.   It’s certainly not the first time I’ve been the only woman among the men, but usually we’re all writing in the same genre.  This felt very different–but still a lot of fun.    They videotaped our speeches at the Random House luncheon–I hadn’t anticipated that, but the years of speaking to groups of various sizes and in front of other cameras reduced the “Omigosh, what now?” factor.

And the Random House team is fantastic…such support!    If a pen clogged, another one appeared in front of me instantly.  Books flowed from boxes to the signing tables as if by magic.    And such individually pleasant people to work with, as well (some very efficient people can be stressful to laid-back country-gal writers, but not these–they were people I’d love to know better.

The day after a convention or conference is always super-busy, so I’ve got to rush off and keep after the chores, but…this was a new experience I really enjoyed.   (Fajitas at Casa Rio on the Riverwalk didn’t hurt either.  When we lived in San Antonio we couldn’t afford to eat on the Riverwalk often, but Casa Rio’s Tex-Mex was always good and reasonably priced.)

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Aug 21

Back from Clemson

Posted: under disability issues, the book, the writing life.
Tags: ,  August 21st, 2009

I had a lovely visit to Clemson University earlier this week.  The Speed of Dark had been chosen for the freshman summer reading, and I was invited to come speak to the freshman class (as well as meeting some faculty, trustees, administration, and more senior students.)

Two things in particular impressed me.  One was finding out that Clemson has a student organization for autism awareness, founded by some remarkable students with innovative ideas.  I met three of them–two were pre-med with hands-on experience with disabled kids.  Wow!   The other was hearing that the book opened a dialogue among faculty and administration members who had people on the spectrum in their families, but had previously felt isolated–unaware of the number of people in their community who were affected.

This is not the first “group reading” I’ve heard of that opened the topic among friends and colleagues, and it always moves me to that “blurry screen moment.”   I think, in part, it’s because Lou is not a scary character–he’s someone people can talk about without wincing.     At any rate, I’m grateful to have the book having such good effects, where it does.

So, many thanks to Clemson U. for choosing the book, and inviting me.  I met fascinating people, saw a beautiful campus, and got to speak to over 3000 people…talking about how it was to discover our son was autistic and how rewarding, as well as challenging (probably because it was challenging), the experience has been.   Some of these freshmen will have a child on the spectrum–if they can come to that experience without the fear so many have suffered with, if they can feel free to use their own intelligence and creativity to work with their child, then that’s a great benefit to them, their children, and society.

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Mar 31


Posted: under communication, life on the spectrum, sensory processing, the book, the writing life.
Tags: ,  March 31st, 2009

Today I gave a presentation on The Speed of Dark over the internet to a group at Howard Community College in Maryland–while sitting on a comfortable couch in Texas.  Technology has advanced to this point, and I wanted to try it–besides, I knew I would not be able to travel to Maryland in person in the time-frame they wanted.

What fascinated me, besides playing with technology I didn’t know, was the degree to which this particular setup messes with sensory input.   I had a light-bulb moment when I realized that the audio breakup (just enough of one) and the blurriness of the faces looking back at me–blurry enough that I could not see any of the usual cues of facial movement–and the delay between when I said something and when they saw/heard me say it–all made my experience more autistic than I’d expected.   I was having to put way more energy and concentration into figuring out their reactions, and what they were saying than usual.

The organizer sent email telling me that discussion went on in the hall after I “left”, which is a good sign.   I hope it was as valuable for them as it was for me.

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Mar 12


Posted: under the writing life.
Tags: ,  March 12th, 2009

Dates and other details about my appearances this year, including links to the institutions,  are here.   I’ll be posting any additional news about these on the same site.

However,  here’s the outline:

March 31, 2009.  Teleconference with Howard Community College in Maryland.

August 18, 2009.   Visiting Clemson University,  Clemson, SC.

September 21, 2009.  Visiting Schreiner University,  Kerrville, TX

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Mar 07

More good news for the book

Posted: under the book, the writing life.
Tags: ,  March 7th, 2009

Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas invited me to come speak to them in September.  No firm date yet.

Reminder that I’ll be doing a teleconference appearance at Howard Community College in Maryland because I couldn’t make that trip (and that turned out to be lucky, as the pneumonia I had upset everything and I’m even more in crunch mode now.)   That’s March 31.   I did the equipment compatibility test yesterday.  I don’t have the right stuff at home, so Central Texas College is handling things on this end.   They have a large telecommunications program and run the local PBS station from the campus.

There’s another probable appearance in August, but I have not heard back from the organizers that it’s “for sure” yet.

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Jan 14

Book Sales Happy Dance

Posted: under the writing life.
Tags:  January 14th, 2009

My agent has reported two “spikes” in sales of The Speed of Dark in the past month–so of course I’m happy about that.   The most recent was 92 copies in Portland, Maine.  WOW!

For anyone who’s contemplating using this book in a book club, class, or other reading group, please be aware that my publisher, Del Rey, may  have some special materials available, and I will be happy to do an email interview for your group.

Travel time is limited, but technology’s getting better every day–now that I have broadband, I might even be able to manage an online chat session.

(And now, back to the Happy Dance of  “People are reading my book, my book!  People are reading my book!!!”)

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