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Thursday, February 25, 2010

JUSTIN CASE, read aloud

I've been invited to my son's 5th grade classroom today. They have been reading the proof of JUSTIN CASE: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters and today they are coming to the end -- I am going to read the months of May and June.

I am really excited, even though it is snowing really hard which makes me want to take a nap (nothing like napping while the snow falls), and even though I am writing and rewriting a really fun book and like the reading nerd I so deeply am, I can't wait to see what happens next.

I know that sounds weird since I am the one who's writing it but trust me, it's a big reason I write books -- I have these characters in such intense situations, and the only way I know to find out what happens is to write the darn books. If there were a more efficient way, I would definitely try it. The answer, btw, to how is it going to turn out? is always: not the way you think it will. People always ask me if I plan out my novels before I begin them. Yes. Absolutely. I always know how it ends before I begin. My sixteen and seventeenth novels are coming out this spring. So far I have known the ending of all but one (the one I wrote with my friend Avi, which was a lark) before I started, and so far I have used that ending zero times. I am always sure, and I am always wrong.

But still, I am excited to take a break from my current book about a girl who is living in a blended family which includes the boy she has a horrible, enduring, explosive crush on. (Any guesses which book this is a sequel to????)

I am excited to go to class 5C today because, well, for one, I am very nosey and love to see what goes on (socially) in my kids' classrooms. I actually love eavesdropping/spying on classes even when my kids aren't in the class -- it's one reason I love doing school visits!

Another reason I'm psyched is, honestly, I really love this book. I love Justin and all his worries and his sense of humor and doom, I love the way Matt Cordell did the drawings (see the adorable sketches above -- and the final art is, believe it or not, even CUTER). I love how the book is turning out as it heads toward publication. I particularly love reading this book aloud -- and this gang is the first group of kids who will be experiencing JUSTIN CASE. I can't wait to hear and see their reactions. The book focuses on a boy (Justin) who is in third grade -- I am wondering what these fifth graders think of his dilemmas, his choices, his struggles. I wonder if they will get jokes that third graders might not, or get them differently. I also want to know what questions the kids will be left with...

My son had some words of advice for me:

Him: "Don't worry, you'll do great. Everybody loves the book and you are pretty good at reading it."

Me: "Thanks! Hmmm..." (looking out unhappily at the snow, thinking of naps, realizing my kids' boots are in CT and we are in NYC, at the start of yet another blizzard; and the Bad Mommy Award goes, again, to ME!) "What should I wear?" (subtext: you have no boots, again)

Him: "Nobody will be dressed all that elegantly, so don't wear something fancy."

Me: "You don't think I should wear a gown, then?"

Him: "Mommy. Maybe a casual dress, if you want."

Me: "Okay. Any other advice for me?"

Him: "Don't be all loving toward me. And NO KISSES."

Me: "At all?"

So now I am going to find a casual dress that will match my snow boots, since I am the only one around here who has boots in town (Bad Mommy). Maybe then I will write for a little while longer to see at least what happens when my narrator wakes up in the middle of the night and HE IS UP TOO (ack!), and then head out to read aloud the conclusion of JUSTIN CASE.

Wish me luck.

As always, I can't wait to see what's going to happen.

Rachel Vail


  1. Awesome! Loved reading about your process here, and how cool that you get to read JUSTIN today. Wish I was in that class!

  2. I love JUSTIN's illustrations, the book seems awesome and so much fun! I'm sure those kids will definitely love it, and they're so lucky to hear it in prèmiere! Anyway, I'm sure you'll do fine. Good luck! By the way, your kid looks so mature for fifth grade! What a sweetie!

    Oh my god, you're writing a sequel to "If we kiss", aren't you? I love that book and their main characters so so so much, I'm just looking forward to reading what happens next!

    Laura (from Spain)

  3. Matt -- I wish you'd been there, too. What a great group of kids, and such an amazing reception for JUSTIN!

    Laura -- you win! You are right! I can't wait to see what will happen next, either -- which is why I had to agree to write the book... Thanks for the kind words and great good wishes.

    Lots of love,