I’ve got a history with the Boston Marathon.
My first memory is sitting in an umbrella stroller, being pushed through crowds and cheering for my father. He’s run the race more times than I can remember. I’ve been there to yell encouragement almost every time.
— Tiffany Schmidt (@TiffanySchmidt) April 15, 2013
My two and a half year old twins have joined me on the sidelines the past three years and watched their grandfather run past. These are memories I cherish. This is a family tradition that fills me with so much pride.
The Schmidtlets and I spent weeks practicing our cheers. “Go, runners, go!” “You can do it!” “You’ve got this!” “You look great!”
I’m that spectator, the one who doesn’t stop cheering. My voice gives out before my enthusiasm. My hands get chapped from clapping. The people with names on their arms, legs, shirts are my favorite, because then I can cheer for them specifically. Yesterday a fellow watcher turned to me and said, “You know, I thought you knew all those people… I’m just realizing you’re reading their names.” We shared a laugh and then she joined me in shouting encouragement to individuals.
There are those runners that make you laugh with their costumes (hamburgers, business suits, wedding dresses, bumble bee) – the ones that make you teary-eyed (running for Sandy Hook, In memory of, “I’m so proud of my wife —>”) And there are the military who march past with heavy packs and quiet dignity that make me so proud to be an American.
There is the anxiety of checking my father’s pace and progress on my phone as I stand on the sidelines and wait for him to run past—doing mental math and calculating whether or not he’s on track to qualify to run again next year.
And there’s the happy-sigh contentedness of spending the day with cousins, aunts, loved ones and strangers – in an environment of positivity and comradeship. It’s no wonder I make a pilgrimage back to MA each year to be a part of race history. It’s no surprise that I wanted the Schmidtlets to have this event be part of their personal history.
Running this race is an act of love. Standing on the sidelines in weather conditions that vary from hypothermia to heatstroke is an act of throwing love at those athletes.
Every one of those runners has a story. Boston isn’t a marathon you luck into. It’s one you work hard to qualify for. It’s one you train for through New England winters of sub-zero temps and sidewalks hidden below ice, sleet, and snow. It’s one that throws hills and more and more hills beneath your sneakers. There’s a reason it’s famous for Heartbreak Hill.
Yesterday it broke my heart.
I’m not ready to process the terror of the moments when I couldn’t get through to my father’s cell phone. The stretched-out minutes of silence when I went through every word of our last conversation—him having recently finished the race and waiting in the area for a buddy who was still running. Or the exhalation of hearing he was okay. The bone-melt relief of hearing his voice. Then the stinging anxiety of hearing stories of more bombs found and knowing he was still in the city trying to meet up with his friend. The post-adrenaline exhaustion of him finally arriving back home.
I’m not sure how to work through the thoughts that I HAD THE TWINS THERE. That I took them to an event that was bombed. That something I did, choices I made placed them at an act of terror.
They’re safe. They’re fine. I understand that. I do.
And it’s that but that kills me. The but will I take them next year. The but how is anything safe? The buts and what ifs and what nows? The fact that I’m an anxious parent to begin with and now danger feels like it’s hovering in every sandbox and shadow.
It’s the fact that there were children there who aren’t fine. That all my prayers and grief and heart-deep wishing can’t change that or make things easier for their parents. It’s the runners and spectators and race personnel who won’t ever run again.
It’s the fact that this will never make sense.
AND it’s the fact that people ran toward the explosions to help the wounded instead of running away.
It’s the people who opened their houses to stranded runners, offering them food and water and places to stay.
It’s the fact that Red Cross could announce within hours of the explosions that they had more than enough blood because volunteers had queued up so quickly.
It’s the fact that there were 27,000 runners, 500,000 spectators, countless stories of triumph, humanity, compassion… and ONE act of evil.
I’m not sure how to do that math on that, but I’m sure about one thing: good wins. It overcomes.
Love is stronger than hate.
And I won’t let an act of redefine my past, taint my memories, or direct my future.
I love this city. I love this race. I love those runners. I love those spectators.
And I’ll be on the sidelines next year throwing love at those runners.
I’m thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to be participating in the 2013 NYC Teen Author Festival! Have you seen this line-up? Normally I just sit in the audience and try and contain my inner-fangirl, but this year I’ll be spending some time facing the audience…
…and I hope YOU’LL be in it!
Monday, March 18 (Mulberry Street Branch of the NYPL, 10 Jersey Street b/w Mulberry and Lafayette, 6-8):
I’ll Take You There: A Change of Scenery, A Change of Self
Description: In their recent books, each of these authors have plunged their teen characters into new places as a way of revealing their true selves. We’ll talk about this YA journey narrative – where it comes from, and what it can lead to.
Jennifer E. Smith
moderator: David Levithan
Tuesday, March 19 (WORD Bookstore, 7-8:30, 126 Franklin St, Greenpoint):
The Only Way Out is Through: Engaging Truth through YA
Description: Pain. Confusion. Loss. Mistakes. Revelation. More mistakes. Recovery. One of the things that makes YA work is its desire to engage the messy truths of both adolescence and life in general. Here we talk about what it’s like to engage this messy truth, and how to craft it into a story with some kind of form.
moderator: David Levithan
Wednesday. March 20 (42nd St NYPL, South Court room, 6-8):
Imagination: A Conversation
Description: It’s a given that authors’ minds are very strange, wonderful, twisted, illogical, inventive places. Here we talk to five rather imaginative authors about how they conjure the worlds in their books and the stories that they tell, along with glimpses of the strange and wonderful worlds they are creating at the present.
moderators: David Levithan and Chris Shoemaker
Thursday, March 21:
SOHO Teen night, 6-9pm (Books of Wonder, 18 W18th St)
Celebrate the launch of SOHO Teen, featuring readings by Jacquelyn Mitchard, Joy Preble, Margaux Froley, Elizabeth Kiem, Heather Terrell & Ricardo Cortés, and Lisa & Laura Roecker.
Friday March 22, Symposium (42nd Street NYPL, Berger Forum, 2nd floor, 2-6)
2:00 – Introduction
2:10-3:00: He Said, She Said
moderator: David Levithan
3:00-4:00: Taking a Turn: YA Characters Dealing with Bad and Unexpected Choices
Description: In each of these authors’ novels, the main character’s life takes an unexpected twist. Sometimes this is because of a bad choice. Sometimes this is because of a secret revealed. And sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice at all, but rather a reaction. We’ll talk about following these characters as they make these choices – both good and bad. Will include brief readings illuminating these choices.
Terra Elan McVoy
K. M. Walton
moderator: Aaron Hartzler
4:10-4:40: That’s So Nineteenth Century
Description: A Conversation About Playing with 19th Century Archetypes in the 21st Century
Leanna Renee Hieber
Moderator: Sarah Beth Durst
4:40-5:30: Alternate World vs. Imaginary World
Description: Of these authors, some have written stories involving alternate or parallel versions of our world, some have made up imaginary worlds for their characters, and still others have written books that do each. We’ll discuss the decision to either connect the world of a book to our world, or to take it out of the historical context of our world. How do each strategies help in telling story and developing character? Is one easier than the other? Is the stepping off point always reality, or can it sometimes be another fictional world?
Sarah Beth Durst
E. C. Myers
Moderator: Chris Shoemaker
Friday March 22, Barnes & Noble Reader’s Theater/Signing (Union Square B&N, 33 E 17th St, 7-8:30)
Nova Ren Suma
Saturday March 23, Symposium (42nd Street NYPL, Bergen Forum, 2nd Floor, 1-5)
1:00 – Introduction
1:10-2:10 – Defying Description: Tackling the Many Facets of Identity in YA
Description: As YA literature evolves, there is more of an acknowledgment of the many facets that go into a teenager’s identity, and even categories that once seemed absolute now have more nuance. Focusing particularly, but not exclusively, on LGBTQ characters and their depiction, we’ll discuss the complexities about writing about such a complex experience.
moderator: David Levithan
2:10-2:40 — New Voices Spotlight
Description: Each debut author will share a five-minute reading from her or his work
J. J. Howard
2:40-3:30 – Under Many Influences: Shaping Identity When You’re a Teen Girl
Description: Being a teen girl is to be under many influences – friends, parents, siblings, teachers, favorite bands, favorite boys, favorite web sites. These authors will talk about the influences that each of their main characters tap into – and then talk about what influences them as writers when they shape these characters.
Hilary Weisman Graham
moderator: Terra Elan McVoy
3:30-3:40 – Break
3:40-4:20 – Born This Way: Nature, Nurture, and Paranormalcy
Description: Paranormal and supernatural fiction for teens constantly wrestles with issues of identity and the origin of identity. Whether their characters are born “different” or come into their powers over time, each of these authors uses the supernatural as a way to explore the nature of self.
moderator: Adrienne Maria Vrettos
4:20-5:00 – The Next Big Thing
Leanna Renee Hieber
Saturday March 23: Mutual Admiration Society reading at McNally Jackson (McNally Jackson, Prince Street, 7-8:30):
Nova Ren Suma
hosted by David Levithan
Sunday March 24: Our No-Foolin’ Mega-Signing at Books of Wonder (Books of Wonder, 1-4):
Jessica Brody (Unremembered, Macmillan)
Marisa Calin (Between You and Me, Bloomsbury)
Jen Calonita (The Grass is Always Greener, LB)
Sharon Cameron (The Dark Unwinding, Scholastic)
Caela Carter (Me, Him, Them, and It, Bloomsbury)
Crissa Chappell (Narc, Flux)
Susane Colasanti (Keep Holding On, Penguin)
Zoraida Cordova (The Vicious Deep, Sourcebooks)
Gina Damico (Scorch, HMH)
Jocelyn Davies (A Fractured Light, HC)
Sarah Beth Durst (Vessel, S&S)
Gayle Forman (Just One Day, Penguin)
Elizabeth Scott (Miracle, S&S)
T. M. Goeglein (Cold Fury, Penguin)
Hilary Weisman Graham (Reunited, S&S)
Alissa Grosso (Ferocity Summer, Flux)
Aaron Hartzler (Rapture Practice, LB)
Deborah Heiligman (Intentions, RH)
Leanna Renee Hieber (The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart, Sourcebooks)
Jeff Hirsch (Magisterium, Scholastic)
J. J. Howard (That Time I Joined the Circus, Scholastic)
Alaya Johnson (The Summer Prince, Scholastic)
Beth Kephart (Small Damages, Penguin)
Kody Keplinger (A Midsummer’s Nightmare, LB)
A.S. King (Ask the Passengers, LB)
Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14, Macmillan)
David Levithan (Every Day, RH)
Barry Lyga (Yesterday Again, Scholastic)
Brian Meehl (Suck it Up and Die, RH)
Alexandra Monir (Timekeeper, RH)
Michael Northrop (Rotten, Scholastic)
Diana Peterfreund (For Darkness Shows the Stars, HC)
Lindsay Ribar (The Art of Wishing, Penguin)
Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, St. Martin’s)
Kimberly Sabatini (Touching the Surface, S&S)
Tiffany Schmidt (Send Me a Sign, Bloomsbury)
Victoria Schwab (The Archived, Hyperion)
Jeri Smith-Ready (Shine, S&S)
Amy Spalding (The Reece Malcolm List, Entangled)
Stephanie Strohm (Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, HMH)
Nova Ren Suma (17 & Gone, Penguin)
Greg Takoudes (When We Wuz Famous, Macmillan)
Mary Thompson (Wuftoom, HMH)
Jess Verdi (My Life After Now, Sourcebooks)
K.M. Walton (Empty, S&S)
Suzanne Weyn (Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters, Scholastic)
Kathryn Williams (Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous, Macmillan)
Over the holidays my mother handed me a stack of papers to bring back to PA with me—“It’s your permanent record; thought you might want it.”
Um, yes! That thing that teachers and books and movies constantly cite as the paper trail* that will make or ruin your whole future—I was dying to get a look at it.
It turns out it’s mostly vaccine records and report cards and the various results of standardized tests. Other people’s may be wicked exciting, but mine was really disappointingly boring… which is surprising, because I was/am quite the hijinks-magnet.
EXCEPT for one little paragraph in the results of some IQ testing I had when I was in second grade…
Many of you may have heard me talk about my writing process: non-linear, no outlines, and I write the dialogue first (followed by the kissing scenes). Apparently this isn’t a new habit:
Today, the first day of 2013**, seemed like the perfect time to reflect on things that change and things that don’t.
So, while my writing technique hasn’t varied much since I was eight, a whole lot changed this past year. My first book hit bookshelves. I still get a rush each time I see it there. I still squeak out “Really?” in response to anyone commenting, “So, I read Send Me a Sign.” Maybe I should work on my poker face, because I had a high schooler respond, “Yes… Was I not supposed to?”
I have a hard time wrapping my head around dreams-coming-true.****
Last year brought me so many nights of lying awake because I’m too excited to sleep. Or too impatient to sleep. Or too nervous to sleep. Summary: there hasn’t been much sleep—(I’m hoping 2013 is the year of the pillow). But 2012 brought me many new friends: writers, readers, bloggers. And I’m grateful for each of them.
I’m not sure about 2013*****. I don’t have a book coming out this year; my next novel is slated for release in March, 2014. So there’s definitely some fear that all those “Really?” readers of Send Me a Sign will forget about me. There’s also a sense of restless that’s already creeping in—what is my goal for the year? What am I working toward?
My natural tendency is going to be impatience for 2014—and since I’m not okay with rushing through a year of my life to get to Bright Before Sunrise—I’ve decided my resolution will need to be slowing down, focusing on THIS moment, enjoying the now, and letting what’s-next? come at it’s own pace.
And, of course, writing more books: dialogue first.
Happy Twenty-Thirteen, everyone!
*Yeah, they’re probably not on paper anymore, huh?
** Totally typed 2012 there… the habit usually fades out around May
***Yup, did it again.
**** I still go tiptoe in The Schmidtlets’ room sometimes at night and whisper, “Do you know I get to keep you?” Um, but in a totally non-creepy, momma-adoration way.
***** Nailed it first-try that time!
I started today with the shiniest of expectations. My first NYC signing. I bounced the whole train ride into the city and spent the morning meetings with the Walker-Bloomsbury crew trying not to beam and blurt out: I’m so lucky to have you all!
I left the Flatiron Building and pulled out my phone to call St.Matt and gush about my talented team… and saw multiple texts and a voicemail from my father.
I could tell from the tone of his “Hi, Tiff” that I wouldn’t want to hear what came next. I tried to cut him off “Hey, Dad. Remember I’m in New York today? Remember, I have that signing tonight?”
It didn’t work. I couldn’t stop his words or change the news he was burdened to deliver:
Grandma… massive heart attack… irreparable damage… only a matter of time. Today. Will keep you posted.
I piggybacked his phone call with one to a friend, my feet pulling me toward my next destination as my mouth and mind said, “I don’t know how to do this? I can’t,” and the my friend’s voice in my ear said, “But you will. You’ll be author-Tiffany until you get on the train home, and that’s when you’ll think about this.”
A few weeks ago when E.C. Myers asked if I wanted to spend the day signing stock with him, I don’t think he was expecting the version of me that arrived. My “I can’t talk about it,” melting into moments of needing to talk about it– “even if I weren’t here, I couldn’t be there, I’d never get home and then from PA to RI in time,” blending back out to “I can’t.” We walked a lot–because I needed to keep moving, and standing still in a subway car was inviting a meltdown I couldn’t afford to have.
And then there was the signing. Words were said, some of them were mine–but I couldn’t tell you what they were. I could tell you how much I needed every one of the hugs I received before and afterward, and how much I appreciated the presence and love from every single friendly face in that audience.
My phone rang again as I sat down on the train home.
“Grandma passed away.”
The train’s wheels brought me toward home and I fought against memories:
How she made “money cake” — aka chocolate frosted angel food, peppered with wax paper wrapped coins hidden inside. Or how she had a box of Jello 1-2-3 in the cabinet a good 10 years after they stopped manufacturing it because she knew how much I loved it. How she taught me to play Slap Jack and War, and never complained when I wanted to for hours. The walks we used to take. Fishing off the dock of her house in Rhode Island. The magnets on her fridge that I have memorized. How, until I was embarrassingly old, I really thought “Amazing Grace” was about a person named Grace who was amazing… a person like her.
The fact that the last words she said to me were two weeks ago, the Friday after Thanksgiving: “I’m proud of you, Tiff. Do you know that? I’m proud of you” and I’d blushed and shrugged them off with an “I’ll see you soon,” because I was supposed to see her again in a few weeks for Christmas.
And the fact that if I’d known, I would’ve spent less of the four days she and I and the twins were all at my parents’ house locked away revising, and more of those precious hours sitting and talking and asking her to tell me stories about when she was little, or when my father and his brothers were hellions who locked her out of the car and the house.
Not that I would be satisfied even then. I know myself well enough to know I’m greedy– I didn’t have enough time, but I never would have had enough time, or enough stories to fortify myself for all the future years that she won’t be in.
When I finish writing this, I’m going to go wake up The Wild Imp–named after my grandpa, her husband, who passed away shortly after The Schmidtlets were born– and carry him up to my room. I’ll curl myself around his warm body and hope that sweet smell of baby and innocence are enough to soothe me to sleep. And if they’re not, I’ll whisper stories against the top of his head — the time my sister and I peeled an entire ten pound bag of onions in Grandma’s basement to be “helpful” — and how she figured out ways to use them all. How she spent our teen years making up acronyms (“Don’t D.D.S. — drink, drugs, sex (smoke?)) and giving us books with titles like “Ten Dumb Things Smart Girls Do To Ruin Their Lives,” always with a cheeky grin and a “I know my rosebud knows better…” How she drank the sweetest wine I’ve ever tasted, and kept what was left from an unfinished bottle in Nalgene containers. The fact that my family decided not to tell me when she broke her hip in the hotel lobby the night before my wedding, but I knew from the moment we started “her” song — Amazing Grace — that something was off. How she mailed the twins’ birthday cards two weeks ago with hand writing that’s become so much harder to read over the past few years. But how each of their cards–just like each of the cards she mailed me, right up to this past September–contained a crisp five dollar bill.
And I’ll save the thank you note I hadn’t gotten around to mailing– because I thought I’d have more time.
I will always want more time.