It Started with a Tweet

This has been a week to remember. And it all started with a tweet.

Actually, it started last summer when I read Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens. The book came across my radar as a wonderful debut novel about a girl and a boy who help each other uncover and speak their painful truths. When I read this book, I fell in love with it and felt an instant connection with the characters and the author, who I started following on Twitter. I couldn't wait to put Faking Normal in the hands of my students when school started.

Fast-forward to November. Shyann, a junior at my school, walked into the Skeeter Library and asked me to recommend a great book. After doing my librarian thing and asking her some questions to make the perfect book match, I handed her Faking Normal. Two days later, Shyann returned to the library to tell me that it was "the best book I've ever read." I said, "Let's tweet the author!" I like to do this because it's so cool to watch kids connect with authors via social media. So we tweeted at Courtney:
And she tweeted us right back!
Shyann and I were giddy because of her quick response! Since Courtney's tweet included her email address, I decided to take a chance and email her for my own personal reasons as a writer. I told Courtney about the book that I am writing and asked for any advice. That started a correspondence of twenty-seven emails in which Courtney dispersed her writing wisdom and began to mentor me writer-to-writer. She coached me through revision and then how to query an agent. She told me to join SCBWI and was so supportive and encouraging of my book dream, which was actually withering away. Courtney's encouragement kept my dream alive, and if I ever get the chance to write an Acknowledgements page in the back of my book, Courtney will be one of the first people I thank.

In the course of those emails, Courtney told me that she was interested in doing some school visits in Texas. She is from Kentucky but now lives in Nashville, so this was going to be a big commitment of her time. After some negotiation and discussion of dates (all via email), we decided that Courtney would visit Mesquite in May. I sent an email to all of our high school librarians to get more schools booked so that her trip to Texas would be worth the travel commitment. My librarian peeps at West and Poteet were interested, so we booked Courtney to visit our three schools.

Throughout this school year, Court and I have emailed each other to finalize her school visit. It was like we were twenty-first century pen pals because those emails felt like friendship more than business. That's why when Court asked if she could stay at my house during her visit to Texas, I said yes. It felt like we'd known each other forever.

Court with my girls--2 of her biggest fans

So that's how a published author ended up staying at my house this week, and it's been magical--not just because A PUBLISHED AUTHOR STAYED AT MY HOUSE but because Court and I have formed a friendship. She fit right into our family--Landry and Peyton gave her huge hugs each night before bed; Jason and I stayed up late chatting with her; she even went to Martinez with my family--our Wednesday night Mexican food ritual that goes back twelve years. She met my wonderful parents, and they are now members of the Courtney Stevens fan club, too. My mom even bought a copy of Faking Normal for Court to sign.

Court's visits to West Mesquite on Tuesday and Poteet on Wednesday were amazing. She connected with those students in powerful ways; my librarian peeps were thrilled with her visit and the impact that she made on their students and even some of their teachers who have always been skeptical of YA lit.

Court visited MHS, my school, on Thursday, and I felt like a nervous mom. I wanted my kids to connect with her and listen to her words. Honestly, I hoped that they would get SOMETHING out of the experience, but what happened exceeded every expectation that I had.


Court did two "motivational" assemblies with our students, and I was blown away with their level of engagement. They were leaned in to her, which is what I look for as a sign of true teen engagement. They hung on her every word because she didn't just talk about her book and her writing process, but she talked about LIFE. Court is an experienced motivational speaker and former youth minister, so she is skilled in speaking to teens. She is SUPERB. It was an experience that our kids won't forget.











After she finished her hour-long presentation, the kids clamored around her like she was a rock star. Many of them had never even heard of her book, but they wanted selfies and autographs. She signed a shoe. She signed a t-shirt. She signed a cell phone case. Kids wanted to hug her, and she hugged them back--hard--because that's how Court is. She's a hugger because she loves people fiercely.









Court met with my book club.


Then she did a writing workshop with sixty of our aspiring writers. Their engagement and energy made me so proud. They shared their writing and listened and learned. They walked away feeling empowered. Their words matter. Their stories matter.

 


Shyann was there for all of it, and of course, she got to meet Court. She even got to be the one to sign Baymax, Court's "mascot" that she takes to all school visits and chooses one student to sign.



This week has been amazing for so many reasons (I know that I overuse that word, but it has been AMAZING). I watched kids connect with an author; I watched kids feel validated and HEARD; and honestly, that's what happened to me personally. Court mentored me this week. After three exhausting days of giving everything she had to those students, she stayed up late to be my publishing whisperer--dispensing sage advice about the process and coaching me through my next steps. But most importantly, she gave me confidence. She made me believe that I CAN do this. That this book dream CAN become a reality. As long I don't quit. As long as I "channel my brave," which is Court's main message.



You might have noticed that Courtney has become Court. It's because that's what her friends call her, so that's what I call her. Because Courtney C. Stevens is now Court--my friend. I am so thankful that God made our paths cross. I truly believe that HE did this. And I know that our paths will cross again.



This week has taught me the importance of "channeling my brave"-- taking a risk and reaching out to people--rather it be with a smile or a word or a tweet. You never know what will come of it. Maybe an unexpected friendship.

Maybe a dream will turn into reality.

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