Monday, June 30, 2008


I am back from a terrific 3-day weekend at the American Library Association annual conference.

Here's what I got to do:

  • Sign hundreds of Advance Reader Copies of Ghost Medicine.
  • Meet and hang with some of my favorite author heroes.
  • Witness a full-scale pillow fight.
  • Spend some quality time with my editor and talk about 2009's release of in the path of falling objects, which I am told is pretty scary (and I'm happy to hear that, since I wrote it, and created an ultra-creepy character for the story).
  • Got to meet a terrific lady, one of my "first fans," editorial assistant Allison Remcheck.
  • Meet hundreds of people from all over the country who are reading Ghost Medicine.
  • Actually be asked by several people if they could have their picture taken with me (ugh).
  • Got to meet, and sign a book for, another Andrew Smith. It was like getting sucked through a wormhole into an alternate universe, and I was afraid we'd end up on opposite sides of the signing table. Go figure... there is actually more than one "Andrew Smith."

It was a great weekend, and I look forward to doing it again (and bigger) next year.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

sound bytes

I got a chance to spend the day at the Random House recording studios yesterday, where they are currently producing the audiobook of Ghost Medicine.

I had a great day, and it is really an amazing facility. Producer Dan Musselman was gracious enough to give me a tour of the place, including a trip through the warehouse, which was kind of like heaven... stacks and stacks of books going back decades, back to the era when people listened to "Books on Tape," which, I am told were little plastic things with wheels and a brown ribbon that wound from one spool to another.

I think Dan was just making that up.

Then I got to meet the director of Ghost Medicine, Jessica Kaye, who was really something else. I couldn't believe how she could sit there and catch when an actor did something like mispronounce a "T." The actor doing the reading is Mike Chamberlain, and he is doing a terrific job on the audio. From time to time Jessica and Mike would stop and ask me if something should be said one way or another and I would just shrug and say, "I don't know."

After all, I only know Ghost Medicine from the words I put on paper. It was a totally bizarre experience for me to close my eyes and hear those words being spoken by the voice of my characters. But I loved the experience, it was a great day, and Dan, Jessica, and Mike really made me feel welcome.

So thanks.

This weekend, I am heading down to ALA, and I will definitely post my take on that event.

Monday, June 23, 2008

this much is true

Seeing is believing.

In words, I guess it's hearing. Tomorrow, I am headed out to the studio where Random House is producing the audiobook of Ghost Medicine. I will, of course, give my take on the trip.

It's a funny coincidence that this is now week two of the use of Ghost Medicine in a read-aloud segment of three all-boy high school literacy classes in Santa Clarita, California.

On Thursday, I get to be Best Man at my great friend Steve's wedding. Steve and I have been friends ever since we were kids. We have had some amazing adventures together, some of which have shown up in the novels I have written.

And then on Friday, I'm heading down to Anaheim, California for the Annual American Library Association Conference for a signing at the Feiwel & Friends booth at 3:00 on Saturday. I've been contacted by so many librarians and teachers across the country, and I am really looking forward to meeting some of them in person this weekend. It's hard to say how great it is to receive (as I did) an email from a teacher in Pennsylvania telling me how much they liked Ghost Medicine.

Oh... and the picture on this post? I'll explain that, I figure, by August... so hang in there.

Friday, June 13, 2008

summer reading (part 2)

I wanted to say thanks to the nice people who waited in line to pick up advance copies of Ghost Medicine at Book Expo America. Apparently, lots of them have been doing some summer reading on their own. I checked out the Barnes and Noble website this morning, and I saw that our galley readers have posted some very nice reviews of Ghost Medicine. Here are some excerpts from our very first fans:

1. I found this book to be shockingly easy to relate to, despite the settings and circumstances being different than my own. Andrew Smith is to be commended for his attention to detail and beautiful descriptions both of characters and the settings. Often times I found myself so engulfed in the story that I had completely stopped reading for the sole purpose of taking in the landscape the author had created in my mind. The story, however, is not without its twists and turns. I was so caught up in reading that I brought the book to work with me and read it instead of doing my job, and I nearly got caught a few times, but it was well worth it. I even stayed up until 4am because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. It kept me guessing until the very last page, and when it was over, I was disappointed. Not because it was a bad book, but because I wanted there to be more of the characters whom I had grown to love. I would recommend this book to anyone, including you.

2. Truly a great story. Good for all ages. With a gripping plot line and fantastic story.

3. For a long time I was never able to find a book that interested me. I am a 17 year old male. I enjoy reading books about the outdoors. This book is the best book i have read in a long time.

4. A poignant and fast-paced narrative about teens--mostly boys--growing up: friendship, loyalty, young love, bullying, loved ones dying. Excellent concrete, sensory detail, especially of rugged terrain (lots of horse stuff) and minute but significant character actions. Found myself tearing up in spots where the emotions were extremely real. Looking forward to his next book.

5. I found it a stellar story of friendship, loyalty and trust. A must read for my book club! Hauntingly beautiful.

Thanks, readers! And... I will be at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Anaheim signing galleys on Saturday, June 28 in the Feiwel and Friends booth... but come early! We ran out of galleys at Book Expo America.

Monday, June 9, 2008

summer reading

Okay. I need to say this little bit again, and anyone with a decent memory, or anyone who has raised a child through the first few grades of primary school will likely agree.

What is it that kids want to learn more than anything else when they first start school? Of course, we all know kids want to learn how to read and write. I remember from my own schooling, which was centuries ago, and my own kids' experience that there was such a sense of accomplishment in reading those first simple storybooks; and making legible words -- a name (usually just the first name and a last initial with a period) -- out of those nervous and squiggly lines.

And, if you ask any kid, boy or girl, in first or second grade if they love to read... they will all tell you they LOVE reading and writing.

So... WHY do more than 50% of boys surveyed consider themselves to be "non-readers" by the time they get in to high school? And why do boys entering high school in grade 9 typically lag behind girls by 3 to 4 grade levels in reading and writing? It didn't used to be like this, and we can't blame TV and video games.

This coming week, a school district in Santa Clarita, California, is piloting three all-boy intensive literacy classes for high school students, and they will be using Ghost Medicine as their read-aloud novel. It's been chosen for a number of reasons, in particular because it emphasizes some of the key elements that boys want to read about. Also, because the classes are boy-only, the instructional methods steer away from cooperation, group work, and reflective "feelings-based" assignments (which are all very difficult things for boys to do in mixed-gender classes) and allow for more male-like processing of the learning, including competitiveness.

I'll get to go and visit some of these classes and read to the boys and talk to them over the summer, and, of course, I will keep posting what I get to see going on there.

As far as I'm concerned, summer is the best time for reading. It's when I do most of my reading for the entire year, and I've already torn through a stack of books I picked up at Book Expo America. During summer, I also become a book voyeur, because I love to sneak around and see what people are reading on airplanes, at the beach, or sitting around the poolside at a hotel. One of these days, I hope to catch someone reading Ghost Medicine in such a setting, and when I do, I am sure I'll make a complete idiot of myself.

Happy summer.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

vaseline eyedrops

BEA was a surreal experience for me, largely due to the fact that as soon as I arrived at the Expo my eyeglasses broke, so all weekend long it looked like I had used Vaseline for eye drops. I got to meet and hang out with some incredible people, and the best part of the weekend was seeing (not seeing?) people actually lining up to get a signed galley copy of Ghost Medicine.

We ended up giving out every copy the Feiwel & Friends people brought with them, and even had to turn people away. Hopefully, we'll bring more to the ALA conference in Anaheim at the end of this month.

Big highlights of the weekend for me (in no particular order):
1) Getting to sit down and chat with my amazing agent, Laura Rennert, whom I haven't seen in a long time (and finally meeting agent Jennifer Jaeger, who was so positive and encouraging... and asked for a signed copy of Ghost Medicine)

2) Elizabeth Fithian's "Red Macmillan" drinks. I think they were 99% caffeine because I could not get to sleep that night. But maybe it was all the excitement from the day.

3) Jean Feiwel's incredible dinner at Asia de Cuba... and she swears she cooked it herself.

4) Kicking it with the "Friends." As Lewis Buzbee told me, there is a good reason why Feiwel & Friends has that particular name. What a great bunch of people... I am so fortunate to know them.

5) Liz Szabla, Lewis, and me sharing pictures of our kids at dinner. Makes me realize there's hope for the future of humankind, after all.

6) Realizing that someone just asked me (me?) for my autograph.

I was so wiped out when I got back home on Sunday afternoon that it felt like I had to sleep for two days just to recuperate, and now that I have, it's going to be back to the topic at hand and our little experiment with boys and reading. We are in the process of developing curriculum and lesson plans to accompany Ghost Medicine, and as soon as that's available (and has been tried out), we'll put it on the website... so look for that during the summer.