The countdown has begun!  There are just THREE DAYS left to enter the It Came From A Book! TRW Art Contest and today, we’re delighted to host a special guest blog by Ilsa J. Bick, EgmontUSA author whose YA titles Ashes and the newly-released Shadows (parts 1 & 2 in the Ashes trilogy) are flying off library, bookstore, and virtual shelves.

A School Visit with Ilsa J. Bick

YA author Isla J. Bick.

True story: I’m on tour for ASHES, and I go to this school library in Michigan to talk to about two hundred kids.  They’re nice.  Most kids are.  So we’re talking, and they’re into it and so am I—when, all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I see this big, hulking, football kid, call him Brandon, unfold from the depths of the couch where he’s been hiding.  (Really.  The kid was tucked up, head down, arms crossed, legs going in that please-God-get-me-out-of-here jiggle we all know because we’ve all done it.)

Now, Brandon is really huge, neck like a tree trunk, muscles large as cantaloupes, buzz cut.  The kind of boy a football coach would throw his grandmother under the bus to put on the team, know what I’m saying?  I’m not indulging in stereotypes, really, but given Brandon’s behavior, I know he’d rather have his tonsils taken out with a fork.  Except something snagged him, lured him out of hiding.

So Brandon makes this interesting circuit, walking the perimeter, scoping things out.  Counterclockwise.  (Yes, it’s the geek in me.)  Not quite making like a shark; more like a drone whose operator’s trying to decide if you’re worth the effort.  So I’m still talking, but I’m watching, see, keeping an eye on this kid, wondering what’s going on—when, from the very back, he shouts, “So, like, this book?  There’s survival stuff and an army guy and all that?  Like, and it’s not about vampires and boyfriends and in the future and crap?”   (He didn’t say “crap,” but this is a PG-13 blog.)

So, you know, I said that, no, my book was . . . blah, blah.  What I said really isn’t important.  Here’s what is: the minute Brandon said, “Dude, this is awesome,” and then marched up to sit in the front row.  (And, yes, you could see the heads turn and hear the buzz.)  Brandon even stayed after to talk until the librarian shooed him to his next class.

And here’s what else is important: when the librarian said, “Oh, this is marvelous. Brandon doesn’t read.  I’ve tried so hard to get him interested.  This is the first time I’ve seen him excited over a book.”  Thanked me for getting Brandon jazzed, and the way she said it?  Choked me up.

Now, was Brandon’s sudden interest a testament to my sparkling persona and great delivery style?  Only sort of; I’d like to think it’s the story because what this really speaks to is two-fold: a shared love for story, and a librarian’s commitment to her kids.  One almost never exists without the other because our librarians are often the ones who put the books we come to love in our hands in the first place.  That this woman knew this boy so well and tried so hard tells you, right off the bat, she cares not only about books but each kid.  She knows Brandon, and wants to share what she loves.

The best librarians are like that: people who turn an anonymous place into one where your name is known and you matter.  Where someone hands you a book and says, “I saw this and thought of you.”

Being nominated for a YALSA award is an honor and a thrill, all by itself.  Would I love for ASHES to make the Teen Top Ten?  You bet.  But the nomination is also fabulous because it affirms what I truly believe.  What I write, I write out of great feeling and with care for my characters, my craft, the story.  That what I do is valued and becomes a gift?  What writer could fail to be honored?

Brandon . . . Dude, enjoy the read.

Ilsa J. Bick is a child psychiatrist, as well as a film scholar, surgeon wannabe, former Air Force major, and an award-winning author of dozens of short stories and novels, including the critically acclaimed Draw the Dark (Carolrhoda Lab, 2010); Drowning Instinct (Carolrhoda Lab, 2011); Ashes, the first book in her YA apocalyptic thriller trilogy (Egmont USA, 2011) and the just-released second volume, Shadows. Forthcoming is The Sin-Eater’s Confession (Carolrhoda Lab, 2013) and the last installment in the ASHES trilogy, Monsters (Egmont USA, 2013).  Ilsa lives with her family and other furry creatures near a Hebrew cemetery in rural Wisconsin.  One thing she loves about the neighbors: They’re very quiet and only come around for sugar once in a blue moon.

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Teen Read Week™ is administered annually by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).  NeitherYALSA nor ALA sponsored or endorsed the TRW Art Contest, even though it is uncommonly cool.  Find information and more about this year’s Teen Read Week™ theme, It Came From the Library, at the official YALSA Teen Read Week™site.

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