Friday, September 27, 2013

September Song

Whenever I mention to my friends that I'm counting the days until I'm retired, they make funny faces and say, "You already retired once," like they've proven (to their own satisfaction at least) that I can't possibly mean it.

It's true I did retire once.Well, sort of. It was before I wrote Life As We Knew It. My career had been in one of its traditional downturns, and I figured rather than saying, "I can't sell another book so why bother trying," I said, "I'm retired."

Only then I wrote Life As We Knew It, followed by The Dead And The Gone, followed by This World We Live In, followed by Blood Wounds, followed by The Shade Of The Moon. Now that I think about it, there might have been a couple of other manuscripts in there that nobody wanted, and of course it took more than one try to write This World We Live In and The Shade Of The Moon. So I've worked a lot in the 8 or so years since I announced I was retired.

The difference this time...Well, there are a lot of differences this time. The big one is I'm 8 years older, and thus 8 years closer to Social Security, and I have nice little royalty checks coming in (I got one this week for $39.68 for the Chinese version of This World We Live In, and that will definitely cover the cost of something that's $37.00 or lower plus sales tax). And while I'm perfectly willing to believe I still can't sell another book, I don't feel any pressure to prove myself wrong.

My mother, by the way, doesn't express any skepticism about my retiring. She simply asks, "What are you going to do?" which is a fine question and if I ever figure out the answer, she'll be the first to know.

Earlier this week, I had my last school visit. I've been visiting schools for about 40 years now. I've never been one of those writers who visits schools all the time, and there have probably been years when I haven't visited any. But it's always been a part of my career. Some of the visits have been great fun and some have been duds or worse.

I'm delighted that my last school visit (or at least the last one I know of- I will gladly accept any invitations to Hawaii or Paris) was so much fun. The school was amazing- The Academy Of Aerospace and Engineering. If you mosey on over to their website and check their summer reading, you'll see they had their sixth graders read Life As We Knew It, and their seventh graders read The Dead And The Gone and their eighth graders read This World We Live In.

In other words, this is the greatest school that ever existed.

Of course there was that teeny tiny issue that the students were all a lot smarter than me. After I'd spoken to all three grades, I was introduced to a few from each grade, who explained their projects (they each had to solve a problem I created in one of the books).

The only problem with their problem solving was if I'd been smart enough to think of what they did, there wouldn't have been any problems in my books for Miranda and Alex to deal with. So it's all for the best I'm not as smart as the students, because otherwise I wouldn't be getting royalty checks for $39.68 (actually, that was about a year's worth of royalties before I wrote Life As We Knew It, which is why it's a darn good thing I unretired when I did).

I really had a terrific time at the Academy, and it will be a wonderful last school visit for me.

Saturday I'm participating in the Warwick Children's Book Festival. Warwick is about 20 minutes from where I live, so it should be easy enough for me to get to. If any of you are in the neighborhood, drop by and say hello.

I should be pretty easy to spot. I'll be the writer trying to decide how best to spend $39.68!


Anonymous said...

Will their ninth-graders be reading SHADE OF THE MOON, then?

Anonymous Santa Fe

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

The ninth-graders are in high school, Anonymous Santa Fe.

Who knows what they'll be reading!

Heather said...

Any chance those royalties might go towards signed bookplates for Shade of the Moon? I love the idea of the students solving problems expressed in your books!

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Heather-

No bookplates for The Shade Of The Moon. The business where I used to buy them closed, and I decided to take that as a hint!

Professor Tech said...


What a great pleasure it was for our students, families and teachers to share time with you when you visited the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering Middle School. You totally captivated us with your rye humor, your keen insights and your honest and open discussion of your writing process and life as an author.

While it could be considered an honor to be the last school you ever visited, at the same time I can't help but feel sorry for all the other schools that won't get a chance to meet and share time with a treasure such as yourself. So if you do get that invitation from Paris, Hawaii or Dusseldorf don't hesitate to take it. But remember we will always have an open door, a comfy seat, an appreciative audience and a cold glass of mango juice ready for you here at "the best school ever".

Jerry Crystal
Magnet Theme Coach

Professor Tech said...

Sorry that should be "The greatest School that ever existed."

How could I mis-quote you on your own blog? ;-)

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Professor Tech, aka Jerry Crystal-

I was just telling a friend of mine about your school. In fact, I told a lot of people about it at the Book Festival on Saturday (there's just something about saying how the sixth graders read one of my books and the seventh graders another and the eighth graders yet another that I find irresistible).

When the new school opens, I definitely want an invitation!

Mrs. Ruit said...

Any chance there will be an audiobook version of Shade of the Moon? I am not seeing anything on Audible or on Amazon... !

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello Mrs. Ruit-

Yes, there will be an audiobook version of The Shade Of The Moon. I know because I've already been paid for it.

When I have more details about it, I'll let everybody here know!

Caroline said...

I want to know what ideas the students came up with to fix the problems in the books :) What problems exactly were they trying to solve? Poor Miranda and Alex could have had it so easier.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello Caroline-

The kids figured out how to keep the meteor from striking the moon in the first place (thus depriving me of 4 books and a lot of money), and how to generate energy from riding bikes (something I've wondered about on my exercycle) and underground gardening, and other, very practical, solutions to problems I invented.

Like I said, they were all a lot smarter than I'll ever be!

Christie Schaeffer said...

SOOOOOOOO glad you 'unretired' and wrote Life as We Knew It!!! All my life, my favorite book has been The Box Car Children. Until I read that book! I absolutely LOVE it! I'm an elementary school librarian. Your book was offered in our book fair, last year, I think. I read it last year. This year, my 12 year old son told me they were reading it in class. I checked it out, again, from my library so I could read along with him and discuss it. He's not a reader, the librarian's son. BUT, he loved the book so much that he couldn't wait for the class to read it and he checked it out at their library because he could not wait for his clas to finish! When he told me he finished the book, I really couldn't believe it. So I asked what it was that Miranda saw that gave her what she needed to keep going and he immediately said a yellow paper! And then Mr. Smarty Pants was happy to inform me that it was the first in a series. Being an elementary school librarian of limited funds, I mainly purchase books with Scholastic Dollars, so I hadn't even thought to check anywhere else to see if there were more books! He's on your second book now, and I am INCREDIBLY jealous (which he is eating up)! So, I'll apply for a few grants to see if I can get funding so that my kids here can enjoy the rest of the series. I just wanted to share my story with you, as it will be a memory my son and I will have forever. Thank you for that! What a gift you have. It must be wonderful to know how you can touch so many lives!
Thanks again,
Christie Schaeffer
Franklin Elementary School
Vincennes Indiana

Christie Schaeffer said...

Oh, where's the EDIT button?! It's hard to get something intelligent down with a room full of kids wanting to check out books! So sorry... LOL I'm a librarian, not a writer!

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Christie Schaeffer-

Thank you for the lovely (and in no need of editing) comment.

I've had a lifetime of good fortune, but writing Life As We Knew It was probably the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me (well, it was certainly top five). And comments like yours are a major part of what make me thrilled that I "unretired" when I did.

Please say hi to your son for me, and then to all the students in your school. School librarians are so important and not always sufficiently appreciated (except by writers- we adore them!).