February 2nd, 2007

Ten years ago today, two very important things happened.

One: my dog was born.

Two: I joined a teen writing website hosted by Scholastic called Write It.

You could say that one of these things alone was the best thing to ever happen to me, because they’ve both shaped me and saved me in so many ways. But the combination of the two, by far, makes February 2nd, 2007 a particularly notable day for me. And now here we are, in 2017, ten years later, and so much of what has dominated my life over the past decade can be traced back to that day.

Of course I didn’t know anything particularly important was happening on February 2nd, 2007. I just happened to join a new website; a few months later I’d meet my best friend at my thirteenth birthday party and she’d just so happen to have been born February 2nd as well.

I think everyone knows how much I love my dog. (And how much it sucks to have to be away from her—which is ironic, since the having-to-be-away thing was caused by joining Write It. More on that later.) But fewer people probably know about the thousands of hours I logged on Write It throughout my middle and high school years. And how much the friendships we forged and the stories we crafted and the dreams we ignited on there made me who I am today.

I’d always wanted to be a writer, but it was Write It that got me to sit down and actually write my first novel. It was Write It that taught me about NaNoWriMo (which I’ll be celebrating a different ten year anniversary with, this November). It was on Write It that I learned there was such a thing as being a Creative Writing major, and it was on Write It that I learned about revising and publishing, and it was on Write It that I got my first taste of critiquing novels and organizing events. It was on Write It that I first found people who felt like me.

It’s no wonder, taking this all into consideration, that it was wanting to meet my friends on Write It that gave me the idea for the Chapter One Young Writers Conference—and now look at us. (We were in Writer’s Digest last year! Our keynote speaker was a New York Times bestseller!) And because Write It gave me the confidence to pursue a Creative Writing major, I ended up at a dream university, studied abroad at Oxford, interned in New York, received highest honors on my creative writing honors thesis, completed the Columbia Publishing Course UK—and most importantly: I met some of the best friends I will ever be lucky enough to have.

My senior year of college, I was a regional judge for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. We used to call them the “SAWAs” on Write It. (Fun fact: the Write It writing forums were founded with the purpose of preparing kids to enter the SAWAs.) I thought at the time that I had finally come full circle. From kid-entering-the-SAWAs to judge. I thought, This is what February 2nd was leading to.

One year later, though, and I see now what full circle really looks like. Because I now work at Scholastic. (I mean, I’m an editorial intern. But still.) And I found out about this job because a friend had a job at Scholastic, and she recommended me. And I know this friend because she’s a member of the Ch1Con team. And Ch1Con was founded, originally, by members of the Scholastic’s Write It community. And on and on and on—it all leads back to that day.

Looking back on the past ten years, I don’t know how they could have turned out any other way. Because clearly this was the right course of events. Clearly the dominoes lined up just right to lead me here. (When I was twelve, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I’m really, really happy that, thanks to joining Write It, I did not become a veterinarian.)

So, here we are: ten years ago today, I was a pretentious twelve-year-old idiot who had no idea who she was or who she wanted to be. But she knew she liked to write. She was dreaming of New York City and meeting authors—and, yes, the chance she might someday get a puppy.

Today, February 2nd, 2017, I am a sentimental twenty-two-year-old idiot who’s still figuring out who I am, but who knows exactly who I want to be. I still like to write. I’m living in New York City, now. I work with authors every day. And today is my puppy’s tenth birthday.

I might not have ended up where I meant to go, but I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. So here’s to February 2nd, 2007. Here’s to Twelve-Year-Old Julia. Here’s to the days that shape us (and save us).

And here’s to February 2nd, 2017. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

~Julia

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Story Time: BEA and BookCon 2016

Hey there! I’m back with another super belated (and super long) recap post.

This past May, I attended BookExpo America and BookCon again. This year they decided to try something different and host the two conventions in Chicago.

This made BEA and BookCon really different, feel-wise, from what they’ve been the past couple years. For one thing, Chicago’s so close that my mom and I drove (which meant no luggage restrictions or having to ship heavy boxes of books home). For another, it meant that we didn’t have to stay in a stupidly expensive hotel, because we have family in the area. (However, downside: this meant we had an hour+ drive to get to McCormick Place every morning. Also, it felt like less of a vacation.)

BookExpo America (Friday)

Getting Lost and Finding Food

Like last year, we forewent attending the whole week of BEA and just hit the last day (Friday) instead. Having arrived the night ahead, we got up at 4:30 AM central time to get ready and head out. Our first event of the day was the Children’s Book & Author Breakfast at 8:00. We thought it should be pretty easy to get to McCormick Place by then, having gotten up three and a half hours before it began, but we underestimated Chicago traffic (and overestimated our–okay, my–navigation skills), so we ended up very lost and very late.

We were supposed to be meeting two different friends there, and they are both amazing, because both of their groups saved us seats. Literally one minute before the breakfast began, Mom and I managed to find one of them (Hannah) and we slumped into our chairs.

Speaking at this year’s Children’s Book & Author Breakfast were:

  • Jamie Lee Curtis (master of ceremonies)
  • Gene Luen Yang
  • Sabaa Tahir
  • Dav Pilkey

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I adore all of them and they were all incredible. At one point, Jamie Lee Curtis teared up over Dav Pilkey and his ability to get reluctant readers to love books and it was great.

Panels, Part I: Diversity and the Buzziest of Buzz Panels

After breakfast, we all split off in different directions. First, I hit a panel put on by the Children’s Book Council called “Strategies for Selling Diverse Books.” Speaking on it were:

  • Betsy Bird
  • Elizabeth Bluemle
  • Erica Luttrell
  • Shauntee Burns

I’ve never worked in a traditional bookstore (the one I spent senior year with was a used shop), but owning a children’s bookstore someday is one of my pipe dreams, so this was super interesting and helpful.

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I had to leave about halfway through, though, to head over to my next panel: “Meet BEA Young Adult Buzz Authors 2016.”

The YA buzz authors this year were:

  • Aaron Starmer
  • Billy Taylor
  • Kerri Maniscalco
  • Sonia Patel
  • Stephanie Garber
  • with Susannah Greenberg hosting

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I was already excited about Stephanie’s book (check it out here!), but I hadn’t heard of the others yet and they all sounded wonderful. Billy Taylor’s book in particular, Thieving Weasels, sounded like it was right up my alley; luckily, my mom managed to grab an ARC later on and that was one of the first books I read from BEA this year. (It’s really fun, if you like heist stuff!)

The wonderful(ly awful) Michael met me after the panel and we wandered the floor for a while, then hit the “BEA Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz” panel with Hannah and her friend. The books featured were:

  • Booki Vivant’s Frazzled
  • Kate Beasley’s Gertie’s Leap to Greatness
  • Wade Albert White’s The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes
  • James R. Hannibal’s The Lost Property Office
  • and Ross Welford’s Time Traveling with a Hamster

I love hearing editors talk about their books. They’re always so enthusiastic and smiley. (Of the MG buzz books, so far I’ve read Time Traveling with a Hamster. Adorable and oh-so-very British.)

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Mikey H20 is too tall for his own good

Signings and Panels, Part II: Three Authors and a MG Buzz Panel

After that, we all split up again and I headed back to the floor to hit some signings. I managed to get one of the last spots in Stephanie Garber’s line (she’s such a sweetheart!), then I joined Mom in the Veronica Roth line (where I proceeded to have my daily existential crisis about where to move to now that I’m done with college). VRoth was as adorkable as always.

Mom and I then went over to the baggage check to stuff our books in our already crammed suitcase (we have so much stuff to give away at Ch1Con this year!), then went and checked if the Sabaa Tahir signing later that day was going to ticket (they told us no), and while doing that ran into Adam Silvera and got to talk with him for a minute.

After that, Mom and I hit the “BEA Middle Grade Buzz Authors Panel 2016” (see the list under the “MG Editors’ Buzz”). Following the panel, we hiked back over to the booth Sabaa’s book signing was going to take place, twenty minutes before it was set to begin–only to find that the employee with whom we’d talked an hour earlier had been wrong about the not ticketing thing and they’d already handed all of the signing tickets out.

Luckily, however, I already had an ARC of Sabaa’s new book, A Torch Against the Night, from the breakfast that morning and the people running the signing were gracious enough to let me get that signed. (Btw: this is another BEA book I’ve read this summer and SO GOOD!) Sabaa was super friendly and kind and I’m so glad I got to meet her. (That line ended up being really cool. Ahead of me were a bunch of BookTubers, so I got to hear them nerd out about BEA, and my friend Cassie stopped by to say hi.)

Galley Drop and Panels, Part III: Gemina and Books for Not-Adults

While I waited to meet Sabaa, Mom went to the Gene Luen Yang signing, then headed to the Gemina galley drop and held a spot for me in that line. I’ve never participated in a book drop at BEA before and it was INSANITY. (Like, Madre got in that line at least an hour before the drop was supposed to happen and we ended up towards the back of the people who got copies. I LOVE IT WHEN PEOPLE ARE EXCITED ABOUT BOOKS IT’S SO COOL.)

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After getting our copies of Gemina, we headed to our last couple events of the day, both at the Uptown Stage: “Surviving Fictional Worlds with Tor Teen!” and “Middle Grade Marvels: Award-winning Authors Discuss Writing Lasting Stories for Young Readers.”

Speaking on the Tor Teen panel were:

  • Kate Bartow
  • Kristen Simmons
  • Sarah Porter
  • Susan Dennard (yes, that Susan Dennard!)

And speaking at the “Middle Grade Marvels” discussion were:

  • Becky Anderson (owner of Anderson’s Bookshop!)
  • Jennifer L. Holm
  • Richard Peck

Both of these events were great, and between them I got to gush with Susan for a hot sec about how excited we are for Ch1Con this August.

By the end of the “Middle Grade Marvels” discussion, BEA was winding down: the exhibitors not sticking around for BookCon were packing up their booths and pretty much all of the attendees had vacated McCormick Place. We stopped by the Scholastic booth to take a picture (because always).

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Aaaaand while there we managed to run into Maggie Stiefvater, to whom I squealed, “YOUR BOOK MADE ME CRY CAN I HAVE A PICTURE?” (Luckily, she decided that would be easier than calling security on the deranged twenty-two-year-old.)

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After that, my mom and I grabbed our bulging suitcase full of books and headed back to the suburbs, where we ate dinner at a local Italian place with my aunt and uncle. (It was delicious, by the way–bread sticks, chunky vegetable soup, fresh rolls, steamed spinach, and spaghetti, for me.) Then I stayed up way too late reading (also because always).

And so ended BEA.

BookCon (Saturday)

Line of Death

Upside of staying up late: the next day was BookCon, which starts much later than BEA, so we didn’t have to get up as early. (I mean, we still had to get up at 6:30. But that’s better than 4:30 by, you know, a lot.)

On our way out of the house, my aunt and uncle forced a little container of fresh fruit on me, because it’s apparently a well-known fact that I forget to eat on busy days. (Throwback to last BookCon.) We picked up Ch1Con team member Emma on our way into the city and arrived around 9:00 AM.

Unfortunately, the getting-into-the-event issues of BookCons past continued to haunt this one. (I don’t know why I keep assuming it’ll get better some year.) On the upside, though, McCormick Place had us waiting in a different part of the building instead of outside the way Javits Center does, so it was at least a nicer setup.

Still: getting into BookCon was CHAOS. No one seemed to know which line led to what and people were constantly cutting in line and jostling. At one point, we gave up on the line for getting into the exhibition hall and tried the autographing wristband lines–only for someone to literally come up and steal my autographing bracelet before they could put it around my wrist. (And it was the LAST ONE for that author, too.) Mom, Emma, and I all did manage to get a wristband apiece, though.

Then we rejoined the exhibition hall line and stood in that while all of the morning sessions we’d meant to hit slipped away.

The Day Begins For Real

Finally giving up, we headed straight to the Special Events Hall for the 11:00 AM panel in there: “What is Light Without Darkness? Balancing Good and Evil in YA Literature.”

Speaking on the panel were:

  • Veronica Roth
  • Lauren Oliver
  • Sabaa Tahir
  • Melissa de la Cruz
  • Margot Wood (moderator)

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This panel was wonderful–really funny and nerdy–which was exactly what we needed to make up for the wasted morning.

After that, we split up. Emma and I wandered the show floor for a little, she got food, and we accidentally got caught for a minute in Ransom Riggs’s signing line and, in the process, got to say hi to Margot Wood. Then I dropped Emma at a panel and wandered a little more on my own. In doing this, I ran into one of my highlights of BookCon: Scholastic’s Muggle Wall.

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Can I just say: I LOVE the fact that Harry Potter’s getting really big again. Also, I maybe snuck some Ch1Con in there:

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Magic, Movies, & More

Worried about getting into the next event I wanted, I headed over early–only to find that the panel ahead of that one was still loading into the room and had some standing space left. This was also a panel I’d wanted to see (but had figured I wouldn’t get into), so five points to serendipity.

This first panel was “Friendship Is Magic,” featuring:

  • Alexandra Bracken
  • Susan Dennard (hello again!)
  • Sarah J. Maas
  • and surprise guest Victoria Aveyard

I want to be best friends with all of them, really.

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Following that, I grabbed a seat towards the front of the room for the “YA Blockbusters: From Books to Film And Beyond” panel. It featured:

  • Cassandra Clare
  • James Dashner
  • Richelle Mead (go blue!)
  • Anthony Breznican (moderator)

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This was interesting, because of the three authors, James Dashner is the only one to get a sequel off his initial film adaptation (and at the moment the Maze Runner film franchise is in limbo since Dylan O’Brien got injured on set). Normally authors don’t openly talk about their frustrations with film adaptations (well, besides Rick Riordan obvi), but they were willing to discuss the bad nearly as much as the good, and I think that’s a good thing for readers to hear.

Next, I headed for the Downtown Stage, where I was supposed to meet Mom, Emma, and Hannah and her friend. On the way, I got caught in a knot of people and ended up having to jump out of the way of Sherman Alexie and his team as they hurried him through the crowd, which was surreal to say the least. (BEA and BookCon, really = RUNNING INTO AUTHORS EVERYWHERE.)

However, I did eventually make it to the Downtown Stage, where I caught the end of Leigh Bardugo and Marissa Meyer’s “Truth or Dare.” Then the event our group had headed there for began: “The Power of Storytelling,” with:

  • Sherman Alexie (yup)
  • Meg Cabot
  • Kate DiCamillo

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(Side note: I got to MEET Kate DiCamillo in Ann Arbor a couple weeks back! ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF MY LIFE.)

The panel was lovely and funny and just a little bit sad (in that relatable-and-bittersweet way that makes them all such great authors) and I adore them.

ARC Signings

Then Mom headed to the David Levithan signing (which is the one for which that girl stole my wristband) and Emma and I headed to the Nicola Yoon one.

Now, my mom felt awful that I hadn’t been able to get the David Levithan wristband (especially since I’d wanted to meet him last year and she met him instead and here it was happening again). So, she devised a plan to be the last person in his signing line, to try to convince them to let me go up and meet him with her. (We didn’t need anything extra signed. I just wanted to meet him, because David is incredible and a huge inspiration, with the way he manages to do a billion things at once.)

Of course, the David Levithan line moved about three times as fast as the Nicola Yoon one (because she is a sweetheart and wanted to stop and talk with each person to come through it)–so by the time Emma and I got up there and met her, David’s line had emptied out and, even though his signing technically wasn’t supposed to be over for a while longer and several people hadn’t even gotten in line yet because of that (not even including my mom), someone made the decision that he should leave.

Which then led to a tween girl, her mother, and my mother all chasing him through the exhibition hall to try to at least get a book signed for the girl. (Have I mentioned that BookCon is not the best organized event in the world?)

The girl did eventually get her book signed, though, and I’m sure my mom and I will have another chance to meet David Levithan, so it all worked out well enough in the end.

BookSPLOSION

Mom agreed to meet Emma and me, next, at our last BookCon event of the day: the “Booksplosion BookTube” panel.

(So, I honestly don’t watch that many BookTube videos, but the BookTube community has SO MUCH ENERGY and are so enthusiastic and unabashedly in love with reading. So I try to hit the BookTube panel at BookCon every year.)

Anyway, on the way to the BookTube panel, all of the exhibitors were breaking down their booths and, as we passed HarperCollins, they discovered that they had an entire box of Gemina galleys that they’d forgotten about, so we ended up getting a couple extra copies shoved in our hands (which kinda hilarious considering how long people waited for copies the day before).

By the time we reached the BookTube panel, they’d already cut off admission, so Emma and I went and waited in an auxiliary line, which they said they’d let in for the post-panel meet and greet. We had nothing planned for after BookTube, so we figured we might as well hang around for it. Which is how we ended up meeting Christine of PolandBananasBOOKS, Jesse of JesseTheReader, and Kat of Katytastic.

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(Side note: isn’t Emma’s sweater adorable??)

After the meet and greet, we bid adieu to McCormick Place and headed back to the suburbs, where we had a late dinner (during which the waitress seemed confused by the idea that vegetables are actual food, but that is a story for another time). Then we dropped off Emma and headed back to my relatives’ house–where I proceeded (you guessed it) to read until wayyy too late.

And that was BEA and BookCon 2016.

In total, this year we collected 151 books (all free, most ARCS and/or signed), 22 tote bags, and countless posters, pins, chapter samplers, bookmarks, and more. Not bad, eh?

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Thanks for reading!

~Julia

 

 

Story Time: I GRADUATED

Well, this post is now three months overdue. (Sorry! I will eventually catch up. Hopefully.)

Anyway, THIS APRIL I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE. And it involved four ceremonies and a lot of picture taking and I maybe burst into tears in the middle of Pizza House at the end of it all. (Warning that this post is about to be a billion words long. And involves me being at my melodramatic height. I’m mostly putting this up for posterity’s sake, so totally don’t feel obligated to read it.)

I hit a couple rough patches during undergrad (who doesn’t), but overall I adored my time at U of M. And I am so desperately sad about leaving. (Although the Ann Arbor Art Fair began yesterday, and that’s basically hell on Earth, so my opinion could be different in a few days.)

Graduation Weekend began for me, really, Thursday night. This was because after months of deliberating about what to put on my graduation cap, I managed to procrastinate actually putting the thing together until like 10:00 PM. (I am a genius.) So, while my friends all went out to celebrate our last night of undergrad, I settled in for one last assignment.

I had the TV on in the background–there was a How I Met Your Mother marathon–and I confiscated a roommate’s box of Kraft mac and cheese (because if there’s ever a time for comfort food, the night before you graduate from college is it). Luckily, I’d already done a lot of the legwork for my cap earlier in the week (dyeing paper with tea to artificially age it, buying fake flowers, picking out quotes, etc.). So mostly I was just hot gluing everything on, one piece at a time. Still, it took me until midnight to finish. And, of course, in like the last five minutes I managed to drip hot wax on my wrist.

(I graduated with half of my right hand wrapped in bandages, between the burn and my squirrel bite and a couple who-even-knows-where-these-came-from injuries. Remember: if I can make it through college, anyone can.) (Also, general PSA: don’t feed squirrels, kids; it’s a bad idea.*)

In the end, my cap looked like this:

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I ended up not being able to choose between two quotes, so I used them both. The quote layered in the background is from Winnie the Pooh and reads: “‘Is that the end of the story?’ ‘That’s the end of that one. There are others.'” And the quote on top is of course “mischief managed” from Harry Potter. (I know it’s cliche, but it’s just so perfect with the block M.) Also, the white flowers on the cap are decorated with cursive writing (to symbolize writing), typescript (to symbolize reading), and music notes (to symbolize, you know, music stuff).

So, totally unnecessary backstory on the Winnie the Pooh quote: for anyone who doesn’t know, I was the publicist for a local used bookshop throughout senior year, which mostly involved me posting pictures of books to our Facebook page to try to drum up business. I liked to keep these at least somewhat timely, so during finals I gathered a big pile of children’s books for a post about graduation.

I was flipping through the shop’s copy of Winnie the Pooh in search of this other quote I adore when I randomly came across the one above. I’d been searching for the perfect quote to put on my graduation cap since like October and had never even seen this one before, so YOU HAD BETTER BET I started crying in the middle of the sci-fi/fantasy section because HOW PERFECT IS THIS QUOTE.

(I’m not a big crier, but pretty much every time I cried this school year, it happened while I was working. That poor bookshop.)

ANYWAY BACK TO THE ACTUAL STORY: Even though I was exhausted when I finished the cap and I had to be up at like 6:00 to get ready for the first ceremony, I couldn’t sleep, so I stayed up for another hour or two reading the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and, you know, crying. Again. (I am a cautionary tale in what not to do during graduation weekend, if that was not already clear.)

I eventually did get to sleep, though, and the next morning Hannah and I rushed through getting ready and were only like twenty minutes late for the time my parents were supposed to pick us up to drive us over to the Crisler Center.

Our first ceremony of the day was for the Honors Program. We posed for lots of pictures before the ceremony, and met up with lots of other nervous friends, and then Graduation Weekend For Real began.

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Mortarboards are great for hiding the bags under your eyes.

People gave speeches. We walked across the stage. We posed for even more pictures.

From there, my family drove across campus to grab lunch at Noodles & Co., then we headed to the Honors Program reception, where they proceeded to stuff us with even more food. (This was unexpected, but turned out to be the rule of the weekend. I’ve been going to receptions for four years at this university and normally they serve us some fruit and maize & blue corn chips and cookies. But all of the graduation receptions throughout the weekend were catered with huge piles of real and delicious food. It was a-maize-ing, if you’ll ignore my completely awful but necessary pun.)

Anyway, continuing: then I showed my family around campus a little, we took–you guessed it–more pictures, and I–you guessed it–cried some more.

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My mom took this photo in Angell Hall, our English building. When I was a senior in high school, Michigan was my top choice school but I hadn’t actually been on campus since I was like ten, so Mom and I played hooky one day to come explore. It was seeing this building, dedicated to words and stories, that convinced me this truly was the school for me.

From there, we walked to the Union, where we had the Screen Arts & Cultures (aka: film school) ceremony and reception. My family loaded up on even more food. I talked with friends. Then we sat through our second ceremony, and I walked across a stage a second time, and people took more pictures.

The director of our screenwriting program, Jim Bernstein, gave a really wonderful speech about giving kids in arts fields the time to succeed. I’m paraphrasing here, because, again, it’s been a few months, but he basically pointed out how we give the kids who become lawyers and doctors all of their extra years of schooling past undergrad before we expect them to be successful. So, why don’t we do the same for kids going into film-making, or writing, or photography? Just because we’re not in a formal school environment doesn’t mean we’re not also using those years to learn and grow.

If you want people to succeed, you need to get them the chance to.

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I only minored in SAC, because I was way more interested in learning how the industry works and how to analyze and critique films than actually learning how to make them. So, I decided to forgo taking production classes in favor of taking only the classes I really wanted to (which means I was only a few classes short of a major, credit-wise, but requirement-wise I was nowhere close) (sorry not sorry; I had an amazing time in film school).

After that, my family said their goodbyes and headed home, and I headed back to my apartment. That night I went out with some friends to celebrate. (Yay!) Aaand my roommates and I made one of the biggest mistakes of our life by watching the series finale of Gilmore Girls. (NOT YAY. VERY NOT YAY.)

The next morning was Day 2 of Graduation Weekend. I got up at 5:30 to shower and Hannah and I were ready (actually mostly) on time, this time. We headed off to our friend Melissa’s apartment for breakfast. The group of us there ate, freaked out about the weather (WHY WAS IT LIKE FORTY DEGREES AT THE END OF APRIL?), then piled into an Uber and headed to the Big House.

For anyone who doesn’t know: the Big House is the nickname for Michigan Stadium, aka our football stadium, aka the largest stadium in the United States and second largest stadium in the world. (#GoBlue)

Every spring, the university hosts the big, everyone-is-invited graduation ceremony in the Big House. This means organizing something like six thousand graduates. It was madness. Our group managed to stay together, though, and we had a wonderful (albeit surreal) time.

The Big House ceremony is weird, because it’s the one everyone talks about, so it’s the one you most look forward to–but it’s also really impersonal and huge (and the speaker honestly left a lot of us feeling like we were getting lectured by our doesn’t-realize-he’s-racist uncle). But still, I love being in the Big House, and it was a last hurrah for a couple of the people in our group, and it was nice.

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A selfie of me and 6,000 of my closest friends.

After the ceremony, I adventured across the bleachers, stopping to talk with friends who’d sat elsewhere along the way, and finally found my family. We took pictures (I hope you’re noticing a trend by now), then we headed to a special graduation brunch in the Union.

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I am a walking stereotype.

The food was delicious (that was also a trend), but unfortunately, after battling traffic across campus, we arrived at the brunch about twenty minutes before I needed to be at my fourth and final graduation ceremony. So I had just enough time to stuff a bagel in my mouth, wave goodbye to my family, and sprint across campus (in heels that had already rubbed half the skin off my ankles at that point) to the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in the League to check in.

Although all of the graduation ceremonies were great throughout the weekend, my last one was by far my favorite. It was for the Residential College. The RC is known for being quirky and informal and the exact opposite of what the Big House is: personal.

I lived in the RC for the first two years of college and the girls with whom I’ve shared my apartment the latter two years are all RC. The hell that was Intensive Spanish my freshman year was an RC requirement. I had the same creative writing instructor from my intro class freshman year to my honors thesis senior year.

In the past four years, I’ve hated the RC and I have loved the RC. I’ve gone through periods when I never would have recommended even stepping within ten feet of the RC’s home, East Quad. But looking back on it, the RC defined so much of my undergraduate career. And I’m really grateful for the opportunities and friendships and weird stories being in the RC afforded me.

And, of course, RC graduation was the most RC thing in the world. Instead of just having us walk across the stage like at a normal ceremony, each graduate got a couple minutes to do whatever they wanted to on stage. There was a lot of thanking of parents and friends and favorite professors. There was singing and plant-stealing and two girls boxing. A friend even roller skated across the stage.

It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. It was incredible. I cried a lot. (Who’s surprised.)

From there, a parade of bagpipers led students across campus to East Quad, where the university stuffed us with even more food. (At that point in Graduation Weekend, I was pretty sure I would never be hungry ever again in my entire life.)

Unfortunately, because my family and I hadn’t realized quite how much U of M would be feeding us throughout the weekend, we had a dinner reservation for after the last reception at Pizza House (a local place known for their feta bread, which, by the way, is life in food form).

So we dutifully trooped over there, where we attempted to get through the mound of food they served us. And then I gave my parents a photo album I’d put together with pictures of our family over the last four years. And, yeah–this is the part I mentioned before about bursting into tears in the middle of Pizza House.

It was a really lovely time with my family, though. I’m so grateful so many people were able to come celebrate with me that weekend. I never would have been able to make it through college without them, so it meant a ton that they all came to graduation.

After dinner, my family dropped me back off at my apartment, where I spent some time staring at all of the Michigan stuff on my bedroom walls and being numb (I FINALLY CRIED MYSELF OUT IT WAS A MIRACLE). Then Hannah and another of our really good friends sat on our couch for a few hours drinking cheap wine and binge eating apple pie and talking and being sad-but-happy in that weird way things like graduation can make you and it was also lovely.

Overall the entire weekend was that way. A weird mixture of sad and happy. Lots of crying and lots of eating. (What’s not to love.)

And I’m really proud of myself. Like, college truly is what you make it, and I’m so happy I spent this time learning everything that I could and traveling and having lots of chill nights at home writing or watching movies with friends or playing guitar. And I love the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor and so many of the people I’ve gotten to know while here.

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I’m going to miss them, this place, and being an undergrad. But I’m also so excited to see what comes next.

For now: Ch1Con 2016. Then the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then the Columbia Publishing Course UK at Oxford.

After that, who knows. I’m kind of terrified. I’m really excited.

Here we go.

 

~Julia

*This is a lie. (But be careful because they do occasionally mistake human flesh for a snack.) (But LOOK AT HOW CUTE.)

Story Time: Pennsylvania Firefly Festival

Here we go: the first of the many recap posts I’ve promised.

Let’s do this thing.

So, this past weekend my friend Melissa and I went on a road trip to the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania to attend this event called the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival.

Around this time every summer, a bunch of types of fireflies living in Allegheny go searching for ~love~, and it means that you get to see literally thousands of fireflies all sparkling and dancing out in the middle of the woods. It’s really nerdy (and really wonderful), so when Melissa asked me if I’d like to go with her, I jumped on the opportunity.

We left for the festival Saturday morning, drove all day (only making a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for sustenance), and arrived at a campground in the afternoon. Unfortunately, it was not at all obvious what to do once arriving there, so we spent the next hour or so driving in circles and getting increasingly worried that we’d never find the actual campsites.

However, at least our view, during this portion of the day, was pretty pretty:


Eventually we did find a campsite, though, with the help of some very kind park rangers, and we spent another hour or so setting up our tent.

It was a three room, ten person tent. We are two very small people. I had never set up a tent before. I’m really proud of us.

Photo taken from the drawbridge over the moat surrounding our castle.

After wrangling that thing into standing, we headed for the festival itself. When we arrived, it appeared to be a pretty low key affair, which was disappointing at first. There were only a few food booths (and pretty much all the food was a variation on hotdogs) and there wasn’t much to see outside of that. (The music was all bluegrass–which neither of us were interested in–or stuff like Owl City’s “Firefly,” which is great and all, but is so on-the-nose I can only handle it for so long.) Bored with the sun still up (so no fireflies yet), Melissa and I decided to go for a walk along one of the trails branching off the property.

This was really nice and our first real taste of how gorgeous the Allegheny National Forest is.

Just, like, look at this:


Then the sun went down and a guide (who knew ALL about fireflies) took a big group of us out on a trail to watch synchronous fireflies come out to play and our earlier disappointment evaporated.

If you don’t know what the synchronous firefly is, it’s a type of firefly with a big, white glow that–if left in the quiet and dark for long enough–will synchronize its flashes with the rest of the synchronous fireflies in the area. So you get hundreds of fireflies all flashing in unison, out in the darkness.

I wish I had a picture or video to show you of this, because it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We sat out there for three hours, long after pretty much everyone else (including the guides) had headed home/back to their campsites. iPhone cameras just can’t capture that kind of magic though.

When we did walk back to the clearing where we’d parked, we were quiet and tired and ready to go flop down in our sleeping bags. But the moment we broke away from the treeline, we stopped and stared, eyes wide, tired lips quirked up in tired smiles–because there were more stars swirling away from us in the sky than I’ve possibly ever seen.

That entire night, it felt like we were living in a hyper-vivid dream–in that space between asleep and awake. It was all quiet, darkness punctured by pinpricks of light, fireflies that looked like shooting stars and stars that looked like resting fireflies.

I spent the drive back to the campsite with my forehead pressed to the car window, staring at the sky.

The next day, we packed up camp (again: SO PROUD OF US FOR WRANGLING THAT TENT) and headed out to a hiking area the lady at the visitor’s center suggested.

Of course, because we’re us, we got very lost and ended up trekking through a swamp for a while.


But then we eventually found the trail and it was GORGEOUS.

LOOK AT THIS COOL TREE GROWING OFF THE SIDE OF A HOUSE-SIZED BOULDER

We didn’t quite realize it while we were following the trail, but it led us to what appeared to be the top of a LITERAL MOUNTAIN (as in WE CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN) and it was SO BEAUTIFUL I CANNOT.


While we were trying to get a decent picture of the two of us at the overlook point, a group of guys hiking a different trail arrived, and while one took our picture we noticed that another was wearing a Michigan t-shirt. Our conversation basically went as follows:

Melissa: Oh, hey!

Me: Go blue!

Michigan Guy: What?

Melissa: We just graduated from there.

Michigan Guy: Really? Almost all of us are alums!

[We all proceed to swap war stories and talk classes]

Please note: we were out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. We came across maybe ten people on our entire hike. And four of them were fellow Michigan graduates.

THIS ALWAYS HAPPENS. LIKE I KNOW IT’S AN UNDERSTATEMENT TO SAY WE HAVE A LOT OF ALUMNI. BUT STILL.

After talking with the guys for a bit, we headed back down the mountain.

And proceeded to get lost again.

I partially (mostly) blame this on the fact that there were no maps available ANYWHERE in the park (even the visitor’s center was out) and our phones didn’t have any signal, so we couldn’t even figure out where we were using Google Maps or anything.

The nice thing about doing stuff with Melissa, though, is that neither of us really mind getting lost, so it’s more fun than anything else. We ended up climbing through a bunch of cave-like rock formations and shimmying between trees and stuff, and it was great.

Luckily, however, we did eventually become un-lost and found the car again, where we proceeded to collapse and gulp water and generally be thankful for air conditioning. (Please note: it was over 90 degrees and sunny throughout this entire adventure.)

From there, we bid adieu to Pennsylvania and headed home. We made a stop at an Ohio Arby’s for food and much needed milkshakes (we hiked 6.5 miles, in the heat, up a mountain; we deserved it), and got sidelined by a downpour at one point, but soon enough we were back in Michigan–grateful for showers and beds, sure, but also missing the fireflies.

And that is the time we went to the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival.

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~Julia

 

Story Time: Paper Towns NYC Premiere!

When I woke this morning, my plans for the day involved going to work, maybe hitting a museum in the afternoon. You know. The usual.

Then I saw John Green had posted his Tuesday Vlogbrothers video. And in the video he mentioned that today was the big, fancy New York premiere of the film adaptation of Paper Towns.

Um. What.

A google search revealed they would be handing out wristbands to fans to get onto the red carpet, then afterward to get to attend the movie. But people had already been lining up for a couple hours when I saw all of this around seven, and I was supposed to be at work until one.

Ugh. So close, but oh well. I got ready for work and started the long walk to my subway station.

However, I was still thinking about the premiere. My boss is really awesome and had said I could take days off whenever I needed to. The question was less of whether or not he’d let me take the day off if I called, as much as if this would be a legitimate thing to take a day off work for.

I trudged another block closer to the subway. Pulled out my phone to call. Put it away. Took another few steps.

It came down to the fact that yes, there are plenty of movie premieres (I mean, I literally just stumbled across the one for Pixels last weekend). There would definitely be more I could attend in the future. But Paper Towns is one of my favorite books, and I adore John and Nat and Cara, and I’m only in New York for two months.

I texted a friend for help and she tipped me over the edge: At the very least, I needed to ask if I could do it.

So I called my boss, and of course he gave me the day off (because, as mentioned, he’s amazing), and off I went to get in line. (Slowly. Because said friend, who gave me the amazing advice of taking a risk and going to the premiere, also gave me the horrible advice of taking an Uber during rush hour instead of the train. I guess we can’t win ’em all.)

Finally, a little after ten, I arrived at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater and got in line as number 246. A representative from Fox–the guy running the premiere–came by a little later to tell us that at that number, we were guaranteed to get onto the red carpet, although we were too far back in line for the movie. (No big deal.)

Everyone celebrated. They were supposed to hand out wristbands at eleven forty, so it was only a couple hours more, then we’d have a few free hours, then the premiere. IT WAS SO EXCITING.

Except, of course, that then everything fell apart.

People cut in line ahead of us. The people running the premiere ran out of wristbands because they hadn’t ordered enough for the three hundred people they’d promised to let in. (What even?) And, apparently unable to handle it all, the Fox rep left to “take a nap.”

The day dragged on, hot and muggy. Suddenly it was one PM, then two, then three. I needed to pee really bad. Pigeons lined along the edges of the buildings, apparently for the sole purpose of pooping on all the people stuck in the line below them. The fans who’d gotten wristbands paraded them past the couple hundred of us still stuck in line.

However, in the midst of this, some really awesome things happened that made the wait worthwhile. A woman working on the premiere came by with free water bottles for all of us (not that we could drink them, since it was so tricky to get to a bathroom, but still); I still managed to get all of the work I would have done at the office done, since I’d ended up with my laptop with me.

And more than anything, what made the all-day wait bearable was hanging out with the five girls in line around me.

Of the six of us, only two knew one another at the beginning of the day. But throughout the hours of harassing the security guards, complaining about the wristband shortage, and of course obsessing over Cara Delevingne’s eyebrows, we got to know one another.

When they finally brought out more wristbands around three thirty (they secretly had them the entire time, the jerks), we cheered and freaked out together like we’d known one another for years.


When they started splitting people into smaller groups to bring onto the red carpet, we refused to let them split us up. 

And we ended up meeting John, and Cara, and everyone else together.

John was super nice and took the time to sign absolutely everyone’s posters. So awesome.

Alex Wolff made eye contact with me and nothing will ever be the same.

A bunch of random celebrities showed up, including a certain couple models and, of all people, the freaking Property Brothers(!!).

We didn’t get to meet Nat, but the guy hosting the event did let him know we all wanted to go swimming with him, so there’s that.

CARA.

All six of us managed to get autographs from Cara and she even said hello to two of the girls. She’s so beautiful and amazing. I can’t. Oh my gosh.

The premiere was totally worth all the hours waiting in the heat, and I can’t wait to see the movie this weekend.
It’s funny how you can start out strangers at the beginning of the day and be friends by the end of it. And how something like making the mistake of taking an Uber instead of the subway can turn out not to be a mistake at all.

~Julia

Story Time: BEA/BookCon 2015! (Part 2/3)

Here we go! Part II of our crazy bookish weekend.

(A reminder that I’m splitting the recap of BEA/BookCon 2015 into three parts, corresponding with the days of the events we attended. You can read Part I–about Friday of BEA–here.) (Also a reminder that all of these posts are going to be long enough to make your brain bleed, so read at your own risk.)

BookCon 2015 expanded from last year’s event by spanning both Saturday and Sunday. They also expanded by selling more than twice as many tickets as last year, so EIGHTEEN. THOUSAND. PEOPLE. came to BookCon this year.

Take a minute to wrap your mind around that: Eighteen thousand people. Came to an event. About books. (Excuse me while I go into heart palpitations of joy.)

I was wary of attending BookCon this year, because I honestly had a, well, not great experience at it in 2014. (“Not great” might be sugarcoating it too much, actually. It was terrible.) However, there was a glimmer of potential in 2014’s Land of Poorly Organized Chaos, so I was willing to give it a second shot this year. (But with a VIP ticket this time.)

Before I go on, I want to preface this all by saying that I had an amazing time at BookCon this year. It so, so blew my expectations out of the water and I can’t wait to go again (no VIP ticket necessary).

However, the beginning of BookCon on Saturday was arguably worse than last year.

The BookCon website boasted that VIP attendees would have an exclusive, separate line to get into the show in the morning. So, with this in mind, we decided to sleep in a bit after the long day at BEA and didn’t leave our hotel until about an hour before the show floor was supposed to open.

Like Friday, we grabbed our empty suitcase and headed to the shuttle stop nearest our hotel. Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And, you guessed it: The shuttle never showed up.

Last year, BEA was still going on during BookCon, so we’d been able to take the shuttle to and from BookCon. For some reason, we’d just assumed the shuttle would still be running for BookCon this year.

After about fifteen minutes of waiting at the stop, we realized no such luck.

Which meant we had to walk to the Javits Center.

Not a huge deal. Oh well. We grabbed some quick breakfast sandwiches at a Dunkin’ Donuts we passed and finished the mile+ long trek in not too much time. It shouldn’t have been a problem.

Except, of course, that it turns out that the wording on the BookCon website was misleading and there actually wasn’t a separate line for VIP ticket holders to get into the show. Only to get into the show floor. Which meant when we arrived at Javits, after having several different harried security people tell us to go different places to get into the building, we finally found ourselves, once again, over a mile away–this time at the end of the general line to enter the Javits Center.

I’ll repeat that: Over. A mile. Away.

People had been lining up since 4:00 AM to get in. Again, eighteen thousand people attended BookCon and most of them were there on Saturday.

It was hot. It was humid. And after paying so much extra for the VIP tickets, my mom and I were pissed.

It’s not that I felt like we deserved special treatment or anything, believe me. It was that BookCon had told us something would be there, then it wasn’t.

At one point, when we finally got close to the doors, a few women tried cutting into line a little ways behind me and I turned around and full out yelled at them. (You should know: I’m not a confrontational person. I tried slapping a friend once for a rude remark–he’d asked me to as a means of getting him to stop making them–and I ended up just gently patting his cheek because I cannot physically hurt people.)

When we did finally get into the Javits Center, VIP attendees were supposed to get a special BookCon tote bag full of books, but none of the staff members near the entrance knew anything about them. Later we found out that they’d ended up giving a bunch of them away to random non-VIP attendees because the staff didn’t understand the VIP people had paid extra for those bags.

Yeah. It was fun.

The first thing I did upon finally getting into the Javits Center was find Hannah’s family in the line for the official BookCon bookstore (located in what had been BEA’s shipping cavern), because we’d picked up coffee for her grandmother while at Dunkin’.

I thought 2014 had been chaos? No. Chaos was that football field-sized room.

To the left of the doors were the lines to get wristbands for the Special Events Hall panels, flooded with people already lined up to see John Green and Co. at the end of the day. At the far end of the room and stretching almost all the way back to the doors were the autographing lines, at that point fairly empty but already buzzing with activity as people gathered around the white boards near them to figure out which authors were signing when. And finally, to the right of the doors, was the nightmare that was the line for the bookstore.

It was a mob. You couldn’t tell where one curve of the line ended and the next began. I waded through the exasperated, shouting masses and practically had to toss the coffee at Hannah’s outstretched hand.

I managed to squeeze my way back out alive and took a second to catch my breath. Then I got out of that room as quickly as possible.

However, that was the end of the bad part of BookCon.

And I heard that they got straight onto fixing the mess in the cavern, so the chaos died down within a couple hours. And, spoiler: When we arrived on Sunday, they’d figured out how to handle the line into the building well enough that it was, get this, nonexistent (more on that in the next post).

So, say goodbye to Complain-y Julia and hello to “OMG I HAD SUCH A GOOD TIME” Julia.

Part I of Saturday: Show Floor and Signings

The first thing I did once the mess was over was find the Wreck This Journal event Random Penguin was hosting. There I added Ch1Con to the life-size Wreck This Journal they were putting together, got my first tote bag of the day, and met up with blog reader Rachel for some freaking out and picture-taking.

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From there, Madre and I headed to the other end of the Random Penguin area to meet one of my favorite authors from when I was growing up: Norton Juster(!!!)

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He was funny and kind and I kind of want him to be my grandfather.

After that, we grabbed tickets for Macmillan’s One Book panel (detailing the publishing process from start to finish, following one book), then split up to wander. I grabbed some more free stuff, met a random debut author whose in-booth signing line I accidentally found myself in, and pet the Menswear Dog. We attended the One Book panel together, got ARCs of the book signed, then split up again.

This time Madre went to stash all the free stuff so far that day in the suitcase while I went to check on Hannah’s family, once again trapped in the bookstore line. I was planning on hitting some signings in the autographing area at that point, but pretty much every signing for the rest of the day had already maxed out. So, instead, I found my way back up to the show floor, where I grabbed a ticket for Carrie Ryan’s in-booth signing, then attended the Inside the Recording Studio panel on making audiobooks.

The Inside the Recording Studio panel was super cool, in large part due to the fact that a couple of the people on it worked on the Harry Potter audiobooks. They talked about how they originally weren’t going to make American audiobooks for the series, but then someone high up at Scholastic decided that the original British narrator was (get this) “too British,” so they got Jim Dale instead. And now he has a Grammy for it. So, like, that happened.

After that was the Carrie Ryan signing, which was very cool.

Part II: Movie Panels Galore

I love movies almost as much as I love books, so I spent my afternoon going to lots of film adaptation-themed panels.

First was the Me and Earl and the Dying Girl panel, featuring:

  • Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (director)
  • Jesse Andrews (author and screenwriter)
  • Thomas Mann (Greg, aka “Me”)
  • Olivia Cooke (Rachel, aka “Dying Girl”)

I haven’t read the book or seen the movie yet, but my screenwriting class did study the first act of the screenplay a few weeks ago, so it was amazing to get to learn about the process of adapting the story and all that. (Also, if you ever have the chance to read the screenplay for Me and Earl, do it. Do it now. It’s freaking hilarious.)

The way the Me and Earl adaptation came about is also a really cool story. Author Jesse Andrews imagined his own childhood home and high school while writing the novel and screenplay, and that came through so much in the writing that they realized they couldn’t shoot the movie anywhere else. So they got his parents (who still live in the house in which he grew up) to lend them his bedroom, and they got permission to fix up parts of the old high school (which had already been approved for demolition at that point) to film the school scenes.

They laughed about how Jesse’s mom would make all the crew breakfast down in the kitchen while they filmed scenes upstairs in Jesse’s bedroom, and like–how awesome is that?

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After the panel, everyone rushed the stage to get books signed. I managed to get close enough for awkward stalker shots of the actors.

After the Me and Earl panel, my mom and I went and checked out the VIP lounge, spent some time trying to locate our VIP tote bags (still to no avail), then stopped by the Rotten Tomatoes panel. (It was as hilarious and insightful as should be assumed.)

Then came the main event: the Paper Towns panel.

Speaking on the panel were:

  • Kathleen Heaney (moderator)
  • John Green (author)
  • Justice Smith (Radar)
  • Nat Wolff (Q)
  • Michael H. Weber (screenwriter)
  • Ryan Lott (composer)

People had been lining up for it all day, because despite the fact they all already had wristbands guaranteeing they’d get in, everyone still wanted to get as good of a seat as possible. Since we had VIP passes, we just had to show up a half hour early and were guaranteed admission (thank God).

The moment the doors opened to the VIP line, we all sprinted for the front of the Special Events Hall. Hannah and I ended up grabbing seats for our group in the second row, stage right. Which meant our view was this:

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Teeny tiny complaint about the lack of women on the panel. I’d assumed when they announced who’d be on it that they’d asked the female stars of the film to be on the panel, and they’d just turned it down for whatever reason. From the sounds of it, that wasn’t the case. Disappointing, BookCon. (But also: OMG JOHN GREEN AND NAT WOLFF.)

Our seats also meant that when it came time for the audience Q&A, we were right next to the microphone, so Nat Wolff and John Green and all of them looked right at us as they listened to people’s questions. Which was, you know, all right.

They showed us the new trailer that was going to premiere during Pretty Little Liars later that week, spent a ton of time having to explain inside jokes and on-set antidotes to us (like the time Nat and Justice got themselves kicked out of their apartment complex from shooting down a light that was annoying John with BB guns), and confirmed that John’s cameo made the final cut of the film.

This was news not only to us, but John himself, and he positively FREAKED. OUT. when he realized he was going to be in the movie. It was hilarious. Such a good panel.

It ended up running over (although the staff didn’t let it go as long as they did the Fault in Our Stars panel last year), and they jokingly had all of the people waiting in line at the microphones shout their questions at once, then gave out random answers (“Yes! No! Only on Sundays!”). But even then the audience got really upset (in a scary way) when they realized it was over. Hundreds of people rushed the stage and security ended up having to escort the panelists off while BookCon tried to sedate the mob by playing the new trailer again.

Now compare that reaction to what’s been going on with John Green the past couple weeks. Fame is scary.

Part III: Something Rotten (Is Ridiculously Good)

After the Paper Towns panel, my mom and I temporarily said goodbye to Hannah’s family while they grabbed a taxi and we grabbed our now full suitcase from the luggage check. Then we half-walked, half-ran with it all the way back to the hotel. Because we all had tickets to see Something Rotten. And it was starting in a half hour.

Luckily, Madre and I managed to dropped off our stuff at the hotel and get into the theater just before the lights went down, but it was a stressful thirty minutes (especially because I was starving by then).

Something Rotten was AMAZING. I haven’t laughed that hard at a show since Book of Mormon and I highly recommend it if you’re in NYC. (“A Musical” is my favorite number to come out of a Broadway show possibly ever. SO GOOD.)

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After the show, we parted ways with Hannah’s family again. My mom and I wandered into the Theatre Circle gift shop because she’d never been and ogled all the Broadway paraphernalia, then finally, FINALLY went to John’s Pizza for dinner.

After an entire day of standing and carrying around a billion books, on minimal sleep, with only a 240 calorie “healthy” breakfast sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts in my stomach, you had better believe I was ready to eat that entire restaurant Hansel and Gretel-style when we walked in at eleven PM.

Madre is much healthier than I am, so she ordered grilled vegetables. I ordered mozzarella sticks and pizza and gorged on both of them until I dozed off at the table.

From there, it was back to the hotel, where we packed to go home and finally dropped off to sleep.

And that was the end of Day 2!

Congratulations, if you survived this entire post. Part 3 (Sunday of BookCon) will be coming soon!

~Julia

Story Time: BEA/BookCon 2015! (Part 1/3)

Here we go. I’M FINALLY RECAPPING BEA/BOOKCON!

(Warning that I’m splitting this recap into three posts, corresponding with our three days of book events. But even with that, this post is going to be a billion words long, so read at your own risk.)

A couple weeks ago was the biggest publishing industry event in the US: Book Expo America (better known as BEA). This year’s event was hosted in the Javits Center in NYC–and my mom, roommate Hannah, her mom and grandma, and I attended the last day of it (Friday). Afterward was BEA’s sister event for consumers, BookCon, which ran Saturday and Sunday. Aaand we attended both days of that.

My mom and I got to New York Thursday evening, after lots and lots of super fun plane trouble (because it wouldn’t be a trip to NYC without it). We dropped our stuff at our hotel, then spent a couple hours checking out the area where I’ll be living later this summer and all that. We grabbed a late dinner at this place across the street from the hotel, and apparently a famous dude was sitting right behind us, but who really knows. (I didn’t recognize him, but the waitresses got supes excited and made him take a picture with them.)

Part 1 of BEA: Children’s Author Breakfast

First thing Friday morning, we headed to the BEA shuttle. Unfortunately, I forgot our empty suitcase (for putting freebies in), so Madre graciously ran back to the hotel to grab it, so I ended up riding the shuttle alone. Got to Javits Center, got Madre and my badges, then headed for the line to get into the Children’s Author Breakfast.

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Eek! Look how pretty my badge was!

Fortunately: Hannah and her family got to Javits way earlier than I did and saved my mom and I spots at the front of the line.

Unfortunately: My mom was still back at the hotel waiting for the next shuttle when they let us into the Special Events Hall to do the mad dash for decent seats.

Because we were practically the first people in line, we managed to find a table where we could all sit together and I could even save a seat for Madre. But then it was five minutes to the start of the breakfast and she was still waiting in line at the luggage check to drop off the suitcase (you aren’t allowed to have wheeled bags anywhere in Javits outside of the luggage check areas). And, like, that was a problem because I had her badge and her ticket to get into the breakfast. And I wasn’t exactly close enough to the door for it to be polite to just get up and leave partway through the authors speaking in order to get her stuff to her.

I felt so bad, because a really nice lady sat down next to me, and she was asking all about Ch1Con and talking about how she has a client who lives near where I’m from in Michigan (turns out she’s a literary agent) (BEA is the kind of place where you just randomly get talking with literary agents)–and through it all I was FREAKING. OUT.

Then, thank God, one minute before the breakfast was supposed to begin, Madre texted me to say she was at the door and I scampered over to hand her her stuff. We sat back down at our seats right as the lights dimmed.

The authors speaking at the Children’s Author Breakfast this year were:

  • Master of Ceremonies: Nathan Lane (Naughty Mabel)
  • Oliver Jeffers (The Day the Crayons Quit)
  • James Patterson (too many books to keep track of) (not that he’s written most of them, ugh) (but whatever)
  • And Rainbow Rowell (Fangirl)

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I want to be everyone who spoke at the Children’s Author Breakfast when I grow up.

All of the authors were super, super awesome and funny and adorable (even, I hate to admit it, a little tiny bit James Patterson). We stuffed ourselves with bagels and orange juice, ogled our first free books and tote bag of the weekend, then trooped out of the Special Events Hall to figure out our game plan for the rest of the day.

Part II: Wandering and Buzz Panels

Of course, five seconds out of the Children’s Author Breakfast, I made a fool of myself for the first of what would become many, MANY times over the course of the weekend when Hannah spotted Rainbow Rowell heading for the escalator and we not-so-sneakily fast-walked over to her to tell her we love her books and her and can-we-be-best-friends-please-OMG. We didn’t fast-walk quite fast enough though, because we reached her right as she was stepping onto the escalator, so it turned into us kind of shouting our adoration up to her as the escalator carried her away from us, and she very politely shouted an awkward thanks back, and the fact that Hannah and I didn’t die of humiliation is a testament to our strength.

However, THE STORY GETS BETTER: Only a couple minutes later, we were discussing the Encounter That Must Not Be Named while riding up another escalator when, GUESS WHO WALKS BY TO GET ON THE ESCALATOR BESIDE OURS, GOING DOWN. THAT’S RIGHT. RAINBOW. FREAKING. ROWELL. And of course, not thinking, my automatic reaction was to say, “Oh, hey!” And, of course, her automatic reaction was then to turn towards the person who seemed to be speaking to her. Except at that point we had already long passed one another on the escalators–because, you know, they were moving in opposite directions. And, like, I honestly don’t know how I’m still alive right now. I should be dead. Oh my gosh.

Luckily, things got slightly less awkward for a while after that. (BUT DON’T YOU WORRY; MORE IS DEFINITELY TO COME.) We wandered the exhibit hall for a bit, picking up free ARCs and bookmarks and stuff, then headed to the Meet BEA Young Adult Buzz Authors panel. The authors speaking on the panel were:

  • Moderator: Susannah Greenberg
  • Nicola Yoon (Everything, Everything)
  • Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (Nightfall)
  • Daniel Kraus (The Death And Life Of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At The Edge Of Empire)
  • And Estelle Laure (This Raging Light)

The authors were absolutely lovely, and so smart and nice. Afterwards, though, came Part III in the Adventures of Julia Not Knowing How to Human: On our way back into the exhibition hall, we passed Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pierce preparing for the panel they were about to be on, and I… maybe… accidentally… stared them down while trying to figure out if Tui Sutherland (who was also going to be on that panel) was with them.

(Quick back story on that: A billion years ago, Tui Sutherland had a message board on Scholastic’s online forums for kids, called the STACKS, where if you shared a wacky story about a pet, she’d respond. I have a lot of wacky pet stories. We ended up talking on there a pretty decent amount and she even mentioned one of my stories–I think it was about our suicidal water frog?–in a blog post. I haven’t talked with her in like eight years though, so it would have been really cool to see her.)

I didn’t spot Tui though, and the others dragged me off (thank goodness) before I could make an even bigger fool of myself. From there we wandered the show floor some more, picked up more free stuff*, then headed downstairs for the Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz panel.

The editors and books on the panel were:

  • Moderator: Sarah Hines
  • David Levithan, talking about Alex Gino’s George
  • Nany Paulsen, talking about Lisa Lewis Tyre’s Last in a Long Line of Rebels
  • Martha Mihalick, talking about Nicholas Gannon’s The Doldrums
  • Elise Howard, talking about Adam Shaughnessy’s The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib
  • And Andrea Spooner, talking about Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish

It was a FANTASTIC panel, and afterward they gave out ARCs of all the books. (I’m so excited to read these things.)

As we were picking up our ARCs, we ran into Hannah’s cousin who works in the industry. Esther is amazing, so it’s always a pleasure to talk to her, even if only for a couple minutes. We all split up after that and I headed back to the exhibition hall for my first book signing of the day.

However, on the way there, I got a little lost and ended up running into this beautiful human:

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Part III: Book Signings and More Panels

The first signing line I braved for the weekend was Shannon Hale’s, signing The Princess in Black. I adore Princess Academy–it’s one of those books I grab when I wake up from a nightmare and need something to calm me down; it’s just so sweet and beautiful and ugh–so it was really nice to get to meet her.

Of course, because being awkward around authors had become a reflex at that point, I stumbled all over my words while meeting her and it took me like thirty seconds to remember the name of Princess Academy and I had half a second of panic when I wondered if she truly was the one who’d written it or if it had been someone else. (Yeah. I don’t even know.)

Then, as she was handing my book back to me, Scott Westerfeld appeared out of nowhere to talk to her.

And she went, “Oh hey. This is Scott Westerfeld.”

And I went, “Hi.”

And he went, “Oh hi there.”

And I went, “IT WAS NICE TO MEET YOU LOVE YOUR BOOKS ‘KAY BYE.”

And then I ran.

After that, Madre and I found each other, stopped by a booth to talk with a friend, then dropped off the books we’d collected so far in our suitcase (seriously, such a nice thing to have there). From there, we headed to the WNDB Presents: Diversity, Be the Change You Want to See panel. (However, Madre kindly left it early to go grab a signed copy of Rules for Stealing Stars for me from Corey Ann Haydu.)

The speakers were:

  • Moderator: Ellen Oh (Co-Founder and President of WNDB)
  • Matt de la Pena (super cool author person)
  • Linda Sue Park (other super cool author person)
  • Tim Federle (yet another super cool author person)
  • And Lamar Giles (VP of WNDB)

It was an amazing panel. A part that especially resonated with me was when Matt de la Pena called for more literature focused on characters who are incidentally diverse (as in: while diversity is important to these stories, the plots revolve around something else). This is the kind of diversity I’ve really, really been wanting to see more of, so it was SO COOL to hear someone like Matt say he wants the same thing.

After the panel, Hannah and I went up to talk to Matt, because our YA literature professor from this past year knows him. He was super nice and, like, please go read his books. (Here. Here is a link to his GoodReads page.) Then, on our way out, I spotted Kaye (one of this year’s Ch1Con speakers!) and I stopped to say hi to her. The moment she found out who I was, she threw her arms around me like we’d known each other forever, and OHMYGOSH KAYE IS SO INCREDIBLY NICE TOO. EVERYONE IS SO NICE. YAY PUBLISHING.

From there, I scurried off to my next round of book signings.

First up was Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pierce (signing Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures), who luckily didn’t remember the Stare Down From Hell. After that I hopped into the Marissa Meyer line and got a signed copy of Fairest.

I wasn’t sure what to do after that, because I had a bit of a blank patch in my schedule, so I decided to try the Patrick Ness line. After only a couple minutes in it, though, I spotted Christine Riccio of PolandBananaBooks on Youtube. Her videos give me life, so I hopped out of line to grab a picture with her.

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Because of that, I missed the cut off for the Patrick Ness signing line (but so worth it to get to meet Christine, along with Kat of katytastic and Jesse of jessethereader). Luckily, right as I was trying to figure out what to do instead, Hannah texted me to say she was going to the Middle Grade Characters & Adventures panel, so we rounded the group up and all hit that together.

The panelists were:

  • Moderator: Peter Lerangis (Seven Wonders series)
  • Corey Ann Haydu (Rules for Stealing Stars)
  • Lauren Oliver (Curiosity House)
  • Kevin Sands (Blackthorn Key)
  • And Ken Oppel (Nest)

It was yet another really, really great panel. Afterward, I grabbed ARCs of Blackthorn Key and Nest (I was too slow to get the others), got a couple Curiosity House pins from Lauren, talked with the authors for five seconds, got my Blackthorn Key signed, and managed to get out of the panel without being too much of an idiot. (Improvement!)

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Part IV: Last Few Signings

Madre and I had Avid Reader Passes (basically, they let you into special signings) for Meg Cabot and Jennifer Armentrout, so we headed back to the Autographing area for the last few signings of the day.

Neither of us had used our Front of the Line passes (pretty self-explanatory) yet, so we used those to jump the massive line to meet Meg Cabot. She is beautiful, and just as funny and sweet in person as you’d expect from her books.

She was one of the few authors during the day I remembered to ask for a picture with. It was the Return of the Awkward though, because in order to get behind her signing table to take the picture, I had to dodge around the line divider and a trash can, which obviously meant that I consequently tripped all over the trash can. But Meg Cabot–bless her beautiful, funny, sweet heart–helped me untangle myself from it, all the while cracking jokes and making sure I was okay.  

After that, Madre and I met Jennifer Armentrout, got wrangled into getting some other books signed from an author we’d never heard of (the poor guy had gotten stuck at the signing table in the far corner where no one could see him, so his line was nonexistent), then headed out to the lobby area to grab our suitcase and figure out what to do with our books.

On our way, we spotted a mob of Youtubers sitting on the floor, just kind of hanging out, so we stopped so I could get a picture with Kristina and Kayley from FiveAwesomeGirls(!).

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Still can’t get over the fact that I got to meet some of these people.

We also stopped at the Scholastic booth, because I had to snag a picture with their sign in honor of my days on Write It. (LOOK HOW FAR WE’VE COME.)

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At the luggage check, we quickly realized we had way too many books to fit in our suitcase, so we ended up lugging all of them down to the shipping cavern to send home in a box.

Afterward, we met back up with Hannah’s family at the tables by the Penguin truck. Hannah, her cousin Esther, and I talked for a while, while our moms and Hannah’s grandma talked, then we all grabbed our stuff and walked to a cute little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant a few blocks away.

Post-dinner, Madre and I said goodnight to the others, dropped our stuff at our hotel, then went exploring a bit. We ended up spending like an hour just sitting at a table in Times Square, taking it all in. We joked about how I won’t be allowed to enjoy the touristy parts of New York anymore once I move there in a few weeks, and it was really weird to think of how This Is Truly Happening. I’m actually moving to New York for two months. I’ve been dreaming of living in New York City since I was like ten. It’s kind of terrifying and kind of amazing.

IMG_8665From there, we walked back to the hotel and called it a night.

And that, I guess, is where this first obnoxiously long and detailed recap post ends.

Thank you for slogging through this entire thing, if you made it this far. (And if you just skimmed the post, I totally understand.)

Check back later this week for Parts 2 and 3, covering BookCon!

~Julia

PS. I want you to know that I’m currently dyeing my hair with honey (because why not) and it keep dripping on my hands as I type. #Professional

*I freaking. adore. free. stuff.

Story Time: Going Home

Warning ahead of time: This is going to be a long and sappy one.

Yesterday was my first day of spring break and after a funky chain of events involving yet another dermatologist appointment and my mom needing to get back to work, I ended up with her minivan and the task of getting myself home in one piece.

Although I learned to drive a billion years ago, I didn’t get around to getting my license until the very end of 2014, and since then I haven’t been home enough to really use it. Until yesterday, I’d only driven by myself once before and that was entirely on surface streets that I knew like the back of my hand, making the trip to a friend’s house New Year’s Day in a compact, easy-to-maneuver Jeep.

So there I was, in Mom’s massive, headstrong minivan, driving for the first time in a month and for the first time by myself in two. On only my second solo trip.

Mom had rattled off a series of directions for getting home as we pulled up at her office, but I didn’t trust myself to remember anything (I was a little more focused on, you know, not killing anyone), so I opened Google Maps on my phone and told it to guide me home.

The first bit went all right. I turned where I was supposed to, merged onto the highway without too much trouble, and was even feeling so good about my prospects of surviving that I turned on the radio.

Then I realized which way home Google Maps was taking me.

There’s this terrible stretch of highway I’ve taken a thousand times as a passenger, but had never driven before, where a bridge breaks up the monotony of patched pavement. On one side of the bridge is an entrance ramp, always clogged with road rage-y drivers trying to force you out of their way, and on the other side is an exit ramp that sometimes gets so backed up, the line blocks the entrance ramp.

Here’s a problem with Google Maps: It told me what I needed to do. I even recognized what I was speeding towards. But it didn’t click until I was like twenty feet from the exit ramp, the entrance ramp people crowding me out of the far right lane and trying to force me even further to the left, that it really clicked that Google Maps was instructing me to take the exit that has made my mild-mannered mother mutter expletives on more than one occasion.

I can’t remember ever once going past that exit—I don’t even know where that highway leads past that exit—but as I tried to merge into the right lane, the car in that one pulled up beside me and tried to merge into mine. We were barreling towards the exit I needed and he clearly didn’t want. And somehow magically, magically, I managed to slow down without the pickup truck on my tail rear-ending me, giving the car to my right just enough time to pull ahead and into my lane while I swerved into his and straight down the exit ramp. A ballet of sorts.

Heart pounding, palms sweating, I made it down the exit ramp (which is actually an entrance ramp) and onto the connecting highway.

Slowly my heartbeat slowed. I recognized the backs of strip malls as I passed. And I stopped needing Google Maps because I was back in home territory, on streets I had driven before although never alone, and I made it home.

It was a beautiful day out, all clear blue sky and sparkling snow. Heat pulsed through the vents and I yanked off my hat and scarf. Unzipped my heavy down coat.

I pulled up outside my house and realized I didn’t want to go in.

So, after sending a quick text to my mom to let her know I was still alive, I pulled away from the curb and made my way to a nearby nature trail. I had to use a traffic circle and turn left into the parking lot—both things that terrified me just a couple months ago—but I made it fine. I sat in there in the warm minivan for a little while, letting “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers wash over me. Then I headed out on the trail.

The snow was about a thousand inches deeper than the last time I’d gone hiking there, a few days before Christmas with my family, and I wasn’t dressed for it, with only a light sweater on under my coat and heeled, knee-high faux leather boots. But I made it a decent way along the path, stopping to watch a churning river flow under shiny, clear ice and following deer tracks along a side path. After a while, I found what I was looking for: a pair of benches out in the sun, their snow melted so long ago they were dry.

I sat down on one, pulled the book I’d brought from my purse, and read.

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I don’t know if you’ve ever just sat out in the middle of nature without another creature in sight for an afternoon, but it’s one of my favorite ways to detox, especially on days like yesterday when it was cold but not too cold. (No bugs, no other people, but also no hypothermia.)

At one point an old man walked by and we exchanged hellos, but otherwise I didn’t see a single other person the entire time I sat there.

Growing restless after a while, I got up and hiked a couple more of the side paths, then came back to my bench and lay down with the sky so blue, blue, blue above me and the sun warm on my cheeks and birds calling to each other somewhere high in the branches, and read for a while longer.

At which point I realized I had no idea how much time had passed (it could have been two o’clock or five) and my phone was dead, so I pulled myself up and made the trek back to the minivan.

It wasn’t TOO late (only like three thirty), so I drove from there to Barnes and Noble to pick up a few more books, relishing in the fact that I’d managed to turn left out of the nature trail’s parking lot despite heavy traffic and I parked between two cars at B & N without straying outside my spot’s lines. (Also the fact that I drove past the pet store without stopping, despite my realization that I was an adult with a credit card, a car, and no one to stop me from going in there and adopting a hundred kittens.)

Perfect. The afternoon had been perfect.

Then I tried merging into the right lane to turn towards home and the car beside me wouldn’t let me over.

This was no complicated, lucky dance like had occurred on the highway. This was someone who clearly didn’t want to let me ahead of her, with another car right behind her.

This time, I missed my turn.

It wasn’t devastating or anything. It was only another mile to the next turn towards my house, so I’d barely lost any time or gas. But it was disappointing for an entire afternoon of doing well behind the wheel to end in this.

Except, wait—I saw a street sign coming up that I recognized and had forgotten about. My old street, the one my family lived on until I was around six, that also connected to where I needed to go. A shortcut.

I turned onto it.

I’ve been on my old street plenty of times since we moved. We still know people in the neighborhood and, as mentioned, it made a nice shortcut. But I’d never driven it before, not even with an ever watchful parent in the passenger seat, so it was strange to guide the minivan up the road, drawing closer and closer to the house where I’d learned to ride a bike and had countless playdates and first fallen in love with make believe and stories and symbolism.

The backyard’s full of fruit trees—cherry and a whole row of apple. There’s a maple tree that my brother and the neighbors and I climbed constantly and bled all over almost as constantly from scraped palms and knees. We had a sandbox shaped like a tugboat that my brother used to grow maple saplings from seeds and a play gym my dad built himself.

This was the house where my brother and I built forts in the living room with cardboard bricks and couch cushions to keep the monsters away while watching Scooby Doo. This was the house where I had “tea parties” with countless babysitters with my pink plastic tea set full of hot water from the bathroom sink, and made up complicated, endless stories about my collection of toy horses.

This was the house where I terrorized our cats by zipping them into suitcases and yanking them out from beneath furniture. This was the house where my brother once shattered the bathroom window by hitting it at just the right spot with a toothbrush while trying to kill a fly. This was the house where my parents left a TV on in my bedroom all night long for weeks on end in kindergarten because I was afraid of the dark and sleep and everything in between.

I have so many wonderful and terrible memories of that house, all so lodged in the past, buried under more recent things, more relevant ones, I hardly ever think about them anymore.

As I pulled near, I spotted movement up the driveway and I realized there were three little kids racing toward the garage with backpacks that were far too big for them bouncing, two boys and a teeny, tiny girl, dressed in head-to-toe pink.

It’s funny how life goes on. How one day you’re five years old, living in one house, and the next you’re twenty, just driving past it on your way to another. It’s funny how hard I cried when my parents made us move, how we panicked when we thought the movers had let my cat out and he was lost forever, but we found him and everything was okay and he made it all the way to my senior year of high school instead.

It’s funny how now I’m a junior in college, contemplating where to go, what to do after I graduate, and how those kids were still so many years away from existence the last time I was inside the house that is now theirs—and it’s funny how then, by chance; thanks to a jerk not letting me turn when I wanted to—there we were in the same place at the same time for a moment, a flash as I drove by and they hurried up the driveway, these kids who will never know who I am or what they have in common with me and probably didn’t even notice the minivan as it passed.

It’s funny how there I was, enjoying an afternoon of freedom on my first day of spring break—feeling it settle into my bones, this Being An Adult thing—and completely on accident, I drove past the house where my life took shape and didn’t see the place where I tore up my knees on the climbing tree or made up my very first stories in a cozy pink bedroom cluttered with toys, but three shiny new lives also just starting to take shape, another little girl in pink trying to keep up, life going on, on, on.

And it’s funny because symbolism. I’m in love with symbolism, and here was a whole bunch of it handed to me on a platter. A moment that would feel “too constructed,” not real, in fiction, but happened in real life.

I didn’t slow down or anything. Just kept driving. The kids disappeared behind trees and mailboxes.

But I pressed a little on the gas pedal and smiled.

~Julia

Story Time: SNOW DAY

Snow days are really rare at my university. So rare, in fact, that the one we had last year broke a nearly forty year streak of never once cancelling classes due to weather.

So imagine our surprise when, amidst a 14.1 inch snowfall overnight, the university emailed us to say we were getting a snow day the next day (Monday/yesterday) for the second year in a row.

There was screaming. There was jumping up and down. There was quite possibly a massive dance party with my roommates in our living room that left me more exhausted than most workouts.

Yesterday morning I lay in bed for a while, reading All the Bright Places (by the way: as good as everyone says), then did some work (because even when classes are cancelled, there is work to be done), then finally got up for real and had Belgium waffles and peppermint tea with Hannah, cozy in our PJs with the snow blowing outside our windows and the apartment building quiet around us.

After breakfast, we got bundled up in a billion layers, threw on Hogwarts scarves (Ravenclaw for me; Gryffindor for her) and went to meet another friend outside her apartment. (We’ll call her Oxford Friend.) The city was quiet–a lot of stores and restaurants closed due to the storm–and coated in a clean layer of white. The three of us walked from there across campus to the Arb.

IMG_7862If you don’t know U of M well, the Arb (short for Nichols Arboretum) is a massive park full of woods and fields and hills, bordered on one side by the Huron River and absolutely gorgeous. We hiked through the snowy paths for a while and stopped to watch geese on the river, climb a snow-covered stack of logs, and throw snow at one another (multiple times).

IMG_7865Hannah and Oxford Friend made fun of me for stopping to take a picture of a frozen drinking fountain out in the middle of nowhere. (But that thing looked like it belonged in freaking Narnia.)

IMG_7877For a while, we sat on a fence at the top of a hill and just took in the valley stretching below us. (No pictures of that. It was too peaceful to ruin with pictures.)

At one end of the Arb, we found a bunch of people sledding on a hill, including a friend whose group had bought an inner tube and made a jump out of the snow. We took turns going down on the inner tube, then Hannah, Oxford Friend, and I walked back to our apartment and ordered a ton of Chinese food and grilled cheese and made soup and nachos (because who needs to be healthy when it’s a snow day).

Our other roommates sat down with us, another friend came over, and we watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone then Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets back to back. (We’d been marathoning Harry Potter all weekend, but we started with Prisoner of Azkaban, because we’re reading that for fantasy lit class right now. So the snow day gave us the chance to go back and watch the first two, too.)

Lying in bed last night, I couldn’t get over how lucky I was: To live in such a wonderful place, to have such wonderful friends, and to get a snow day at all. It was basically as perfect as a day can get.

If you got pounded by the blizzard the past few days as well, I hope you’re staying warm and safe and having fun with the snow, too.

Talk to you tomorrow!

~Julia

PS. NEW HARPER LEE BOOK SEQUEL TO TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD WHAT. (Just had to throw that in there.) (But also this, unfortunately.)

Story Time: Lessons from Chipotle

I tried Chipotle today.

I know, I know. As a college student, I’m supposed to eat so much Chipotle I’m more burrito than water. But I had it once a billion years ago–towards the beginning of high school, when I’d first become a vegetarian and was still way too picky about, well, everything–and I thought it was absolutely disgusting. So I’ve been avoiding it ever since.

Then, today, on my way back from running some errands in downtown, heading to a film class screening, I started to go past Chipotle and found myself opening the door and stepping inside and getting in line. Completely on a whim.

I got flour soft shell veggie tacos with brown rice and lettuce and cheese, with a side of guac and chips. And you know what? While the guac and chips were average at best, the tacos were excellent. Like I basically inhaled them because they were so good.

And I’ve been depriving myself of these excellent tacos for like seven years now simply because I didn’t like Chipotle at a time when my tastes were super different.

Besides getting to gloat that I ate really excellent tacos today, this post does have a point: Things are worth trying twice. Or three times. Or fifty.

I went through a period when I couldn’t stand fantasy books, and now I love them. I’ve hated an author’s debut, then gone on to love their sophomore novel. And I’ve certainly tried to write a story over and over again to no avail, only to have it suddenly start working a year later.

Tastes change. Circumstances change. And as we grow, it’s worth it to go back and try things again.

You never know when you’re going to go to a restaurant you used to hate and end up with tacos from Heaven*.

 

~Julia

*Let’s be honest. The point of this post really was just to gloat about the tacos.