Archive for Current Events

Celebrate Books at the 25th Annual Rochester Children’s Book Festival

Yeah, it’s happening this Saturday, November 5th.

Please come if you are in the area. 

New location this year, so be sure to stomp on this link for details & directions.

And while I’ll have many books available to sign, we won’t be selling copies of my new middle-grade series, EXIT 13: The Whispering Pines, which is only available at this time through Scholastic Book Clubs and Book Fairs. However, if you are a teacher or a librarian, talk to me: I can possibly slip you an Advanced Reader’s Copy, free of charge. 

Come See Me at Book Festivals Across New York: Warwick, Chappaqua, Rochester, Hudson

 

Let’s imagine, for a wild moment, that you are desperate to see James Preller sitting at a table filled with many of his/my books, Sharpie poised in his/my hand, glazed look in his/my eyes. 

Well, this is your lucky day!

Here’s a list of 4 different book festivals in New York State that I’ll be attending in the near and semi-near and quasi-distant future.

No other state will have him/me. 

And by “near” I mean: this Saturday. And the Saturday after that. 

And by “quasi-distant” I mean: Next Year!

And — joking aside — I am grateful to be invited to participate in these celebrations of books, of literacy, of reading. Meeting teachers and parents and young readers. There will be a day soon enough when I am no longer invited anywhere. Which is why I say yes to everything!

Thankfully, happily, eagerly.

Click on the links for details if you are a detail person. 

 

CHILDREN’S BOOK FESTIVAL APPEARANCES . . . 

WARWICK: October 8th!

CHAPPAQUA: October 15th!

ROCHESTER: November 5th!

HUDSON: May 6th!

 

Thank you and, yes, please, ask me about school visits!

Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival: October 15th!

 

I am happy to remind everyone about the upcoming Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival on October 15th. As always, I am grateful and honored to be invited — I never take that for granted — privileged to participate in this great, book-centered event. The poster art was done by my pal, the redoubtable Hudson Talbott. This year’s festival will be a celebration of getting through the pandemic w/ grace and good will. But best of all, it comes with a sense of relief and heartfelt joy for Dawn Greenberg’s recovery and return to good health after a serious illness. Dawn is one of the prime movers behind this festival, she puts her heart and soul into it: a treasure to her community. There’s so much to be grateful for in this crazy mixed-up world.

Save the date. Come see what it’s all about. And please say hello if you do. 

“The Most Beautiful Work of All”: Patti Smith & Robert Mapplethorpe

I’ve seen a lot of concerts over the years, but somehow one of my heroes, Patti Smith, always eluded me. But I recently saw her down in Knoxville at the Big Ears Music Festival. Twice, in fact. One show was a standard rock concert with a full band in the Tennessee Theater. The other show, titled “Words & Music,” took place in a slightly more intimate setting, the Mill & Mine. No drums, no bass. Patti on stage with only her son Jackson Smith on guitar and Tony Shanahan on keyboards and various other instruments. A cozier, chattier, more relaxed vibe. Patti performed songs, including covers of Bob Dylan (“One Too Many Mornings”) and Stevie Wonder (“Blame It On the Sun”); she gave brief readings and allowed herself the time to introduce songs at length. It was, as they say, a special night.

One of the things Patti read — maybe at the Tennessee Theater? — was the letter she wrote in 1989 to artist Robert Mapplethorpe who was in the hospital at the end of a long illness. Another bright soul taken by AIDS. Patti explained that she returned home after a hospital visit and composed a short letter to her friend, a relationship lovingly chronicled in her award-winning memoir, Just Kids.

He died the next day without ever having read it.

But you can. We can.

 

Dear Robert,

Often as I lie awake I wonder if you are also lying awake. Are you in pain, or feeling alone? You drew me from the darkest period of my young life, sharing with me the sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist. I learned to see through you and never compose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowledge I derived in our precious time together. Your work, coming from a fluid source, can be traced to the naked song of your youth. You spoke then of holding hands with God. Remember, through everything, you have always held that hand. Grip it hard, Robert, and don’t let it go.

The other afternoon, when you fell asleep on my shoulder, I drifted off, too. But before I did, it occurred to me looking around at all of your things and your work and going through years of your work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still your most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all.

Patti

The Fire Hydrants of Knoxville: Joy in a Time of Heartbreak

In late March I traveled down to Knoxville, TN, for the Big Ears Music Festival. It’s one of the world’s great music festivals — “wonderfully weird,” according to Spin Magazine — famed for celebrating a wildly diverse array of music. Seriously, you can see and hear anything there, and sometimes, euphorically, for the first time in your ever-music-loving life.

For me, it was a beautiful experience, an expression of something we’ve missed during the pandemic: a sense of belonging, of togetherness. Most of us have managed to stay connected with our family and close friends, the inner circle, but it’s been those expansive concentric rings that I’ve missed, the outer spheres of our diminished community. In Knoxville, I talked to a lot of strangers, good conversations with people from all over. Across four days, I didn’t see one openly drunk person, didn’t witness a single example of bad behavior. The attendees came with ears and hearts and minds wide open. We listened, hard; we participated, gratefully.

One crucial feature of the festival is that music is going on simultaneously at a variety of venues. A Scottish bar, a cozy theater, a church, a dingy club, on and on. Attendees wander the streets of downtown Knoxville, seeking out a percussive string quartet in a church, a hot jazz band in a club, an exploration of ambient drone somewhere else, or, hey, Patti Smith in the Tennessee Theater. It’s all there. From the familiar to the experimental.

While I wandered from venue to venue, I kept noticing the blue-and-yellow fire hydrants of Knoxville. They made me think of Ukraine, each one a metal flag bringing to mind the unforgivable slaughter. The brutality of Putin’s attack, the senseless cruelty and inhumanity and suffering of our world.

A disturbing dissonance droned through my skull, plucked at the strings of my heart. I was happy, thrilled with a feeling of joy and discovery and community, encountering good people and magnificent art at every turn. Yet those fire hydrants of Knoxville kept reminding me of dropped bombs, toppled buildings & innocent blood, our sad & broken world.

And I guess that’s the challenge we face. Finding the joy, the deep pleasures and satisfactions, the reasons why life is so worth living — and yet not forgetting the heartbreak, the devastation, the important & necessary work that still needs to be done.

Oh sweet ravaged world, we need to do so much better if we hope to live, together.