lumbering into the 21st century finally!

Hello Dear Readers! I’ve enjoyed meeting many of you during school visits and so many of you have SOOO ENTHUSIASTICALLY told me that you want to be authors. So I thought it would be fun to start this blog to show you all the stuff you have to do when you’re an author. If you want the real scoop on how a book is made, this is the place!

As you’re starting a new school year, I’m starting a new ALVIN HO book! I have no idea yet what Alvin’s going to do in Book 6, the only thing I know is that Alvin and his family are going on a trip far, far away. And because they’re going on a trip, I have to go too! As an author, you have to get there first so that you can get the all the scenery and facts right in the story.

The place that Alvin is going to needs a special permit called a visa. So today I got up earlier than usual and hopped on a bus into New York City. When I got to the consulate where I was to get my visa, I was only the FIFTH person in line on the sidewalk. Wow! Count ’em, just five! I was super-duper excited! I’m never early, so being early made me feel AWAKE and AHEAD OF THE GAME! Then I started feeling outright SUPERIOR because just then the line formed rapidly in back of me and stretched down the block like at a rock concert!

BUT … when the guard started to check our papers to let us in, he said that I didn’t have the right application. I had downloaded the wrong page. So he sent me away! — in front of the long line of people that I had just been feeling so superior over. He said I would have to come back and wait again — at the end of the line of a hundred people, at least! Oooh, I was SOOOO MAD!

And here is where he sent me:IMG_1166The reading room at the New York Public Library where I could download the correct document. UGH.

But libraries are magical places, as you know, and a very nice lady showed me how to use a machine to turn a dollar bill into a plastic card that had only 70-cents on it, and then use the card to make copies of the CORRECT, FOUR-PAGE (not one-page) application that took me FOREVER to fill out. So much for being early. It was now around 11 a.m.

When you’re an author, you’re never early. I don’t know why. It’s just that way.

On my way out of the library, I met this guard at the 42nd Street entrance, who had told me to step lively on my way in, and “God bless you,” on my way out:


His name is Rassoul Sambe. He’s from Paris. He’s worked at the library for eight years and been living in NYC for 14 years. I said “God bless you too,” back to him because his words suddenly made me feel so grateful for everything and I felt that he deserved to hear it too.

After that, I bounced happily down the street and took my place in the back of the line, which didn’t look too bad now that someone had given me a good word:

It was about noon.

Then I made it inside. I had no idea there was another line: 

When you’re an author, you always have to wait. I don’t know why. You should just expect it.

Eventually, after many games of Scramble on my phone and my low-battery screen popped up, I made it to the window.

I could hardly breathe.

I answered a few questions.

I smiled.

I looked like a nice author.

The lady on the other side looked like a nice lady.

But she pushed all my papers and passport back through the window.

“You need to write a statement about what your book is about,”  she said.

“You mean I have to come back?” I asked.

She nodded.

Under occupation, I had typed “AUTHOR.” Under reasons for visit, I had checked “Tourism,” “Family Visit,” and “Business.” So she asked what kind of business and I explained that I needed to do research for a children’s book.

My application was now incomplete.

When you’re an author, you should always be humble and not even LOOK like you could write a book, or else!

Or else you will have to come back another day and stand in line again.

It was 2:08 p.m.

I wanted to cry. But I wanted to EAT more than I wanted to cry. So I hurried out and found this:

Wow! I could hardly believe my eyes! 99-cent pizza! What could be better than that??? I began to feel grateful again. I dove in there like a fox into a egg basket. And this is what I got:

Mmmmm! I could have eaten a whole pie I was so hungry!!! But I had only one slice.

When you’re an author, you can do simple math. A whole pie costs $8.00. One slice costs 99-cents. Which is the better choice if your weekly food budget is nearly zero on account of you’d rather do research than eat?

So when you’re an author, you appreciate every bite of everything.

The crust was thin and chewy.

It was piping hot right out of the oven.

The cheese was melted just right.

And the tomato sauce sang tenor between the soprano and the bass.

It was really good pizza!!!

Then I went to church to say some prayers, but nearly missed it because someone had put up some scaffolding so that you couldn’t see anything it was so dark:

When you’re an author, you do a LOT of praying. If you don’t know how, just start your first book and the prayers will come, just like that. I can’t explain it. It’s just the way it is.

Then I fell asleep on the train home and nearly missed my stop, which isn’t bad when you’re on the PATH train because it runs on a loop all day and night until midnight between 33rd St and Hoboken so you could get in a really good sleep for just $1.50 if you own the SMARTLINK card, which I do. I was so tired.

After getting off the train, it smelled strangely like a campfire, and so I headed for my favorite $1 yogurt cone on Washington Street when lo and behold, I was stopped dead in my tracks by police tape and fire trucks everywhere:

It was a five-hour fire.

Exhausted firemen were folded up on some steps.

A building was missing its windows.

And the insides were black and empty like a cavity.

It felt dangerous and scary and immensely sad all at the same time.

When you’re an author you never know what’s going to happen.

And you feel a lot of things all at once.

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