Friday, August 14, 2015

If You Build a Literature Festival in Rural America, They Will Come

IN MY STUDY -- Children's writers write so kids will read. Kids find our books with the help of librarians, parents, teachers and even other kids. As often as possible, we meet our kid readers at school visits and author events and library story times.
But what about kids who live in places so rural that they don’t have a library in their town or even in their school? They can buy books through school book clubs, or maybe their parents visit bookstores when they travel to the city. Or they can buy books online. Kind of like the old days. Think Sears or Montgomery Ward deliveries of new school clothes in the 1960s (ripping open the brown paper bag to discover… my new plaid, pleated skirt, with a giant gold safety pin!) or how about the Wells Fargo wagon delivering bathtubs (or was that just a song?). Anyway, kids in rural America can get their hands on books if they want to. But what about meeting authors?
That’s where Karen Drevo, the heroine of my story, steps forward (with hands over her face because she would insist that NONE of this is about her). Karen, a youth services librarian, and her sidekick Marci, assistant youth services librarian, have run the Norfolk Nebraska Literature Festival for 21 years, bringing kids from rural Nebraska to meet authors whose books are included on Nebraska’s Golden Sower Award list. This year, I was privileged to be one of those authors.
On our 2 ½ hour drive from the Omaha airport, I got to talk children’s books and writing with Karen (who had already driven 2 ½ hours to pick us up) and two of the three authors who were part of this year’s event. Riding shotgun was Pat Zietlow Miller, 2014 Golden Kite winner for her lovely picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH. Sitting next to me was Liesl Shurtliff, author of RUMP and its companion books JACK and RED, magically reworked fairy tales. We would meet up with Lisa Bullard, author of an adventure/quest/mystery tale called TURN LEFT AT THE COW. She was driving (past cows) from Minnesota. My book, PRISONER 88, filled the historical fiction category, a genre that is sometimes hard to sell to kids who think history is just a list of dead people.
First thing the next morning, we authors hosted individual writing workshops. Among my participants was a group of four kids from a class of approximately 14 (some discrepancies there about kids leaving and kids moving in). They had hit the road before 7 a.m. On a Saturday. In July. With their teacher. To talk to authors. (Some other kids came from as far as 2 ½ hours away!) One girl, a soon-to-be seventh grader named Taylor, a ginger with a smile as wide as Nebraska, told me that she loved to write everything, even presentations for school. She volunteered to read for each exercise we practiced. Her enthusiasm gave me the burst of energy I needed after the previous day’s two flights and long car trip.
By late afternoon, after all of our author presentations (wow, did I learn a lot about how to capture an audience’s attention), we signed books, took selfies (“us”ies?), hugged young kids and old kids, too. And then we packed all of our overflowing bags (yes, we all bought books) into the car and headed back to Omaha.
To me, a first-time published author at the age of 55, the whole experience was a dream come true. Based on the great questions I got after my talk, I think there are now some kids in Nebraska who will try more historical fiction.
Karen and Marci and all of the staff and volunteers from the Norfolk Public Library did a Herculean job herding authors and readers through a day filled with books. Or maybe it’s more appropriately American to say that they did a Paul Bunyonesque job. Marci’s latest round of chemo had left her unsure the night before whether she could attend. (She was there. All day.) Everyone sweated out a shipment of books that finally arrived the morning of the festival. Karen drove a total of ten hours in just over a day. Ask her about it and she’ll tell you it was no big deal.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Larry's out in 151st place

BACK AT THE HOTEL -- Larry moneyed, but he ran into a nasty hand and went out in 151st place. He paired a Jack, the other guy did runner runner for a straight. Bummer. But Larry moneyed in 2 out of 3 events he played in.

Today's table

I didn't see ANY women in the money at this tournament, but this is Maria Ho, and she might have been in it.

Day Two of 6-Handed Tournament

AT OUR HOTEL -- Day Two of the 6-handed tournament restarts at 1 p.m. We got back to the room around 2:30 a.m. and got to sleep maybe around 3 a.m.

Some numbers:

1,651 entrants. 206 left after Day One. Paying 180. Larry is in 95th place with 52,700 chips. First place is $457,000. The chip leader, with 213,000 chips, will be at Larry's table.

I helped him stack chips as people busted out and the chip stacks got pretty high.

We're ready for today.

At dinner break

Heading back after a break. The weather is perfect, not nearly as hot as usual.

One light is a streetlight, the other is the moon.

Antonio Esfandiari in glasses. He's still in, has about the same size chip stack as Larry for Day Two.

Daniel Negreanu before he busted out early on.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Doing Well in 6-Hand Event

POKER KITCHEN -- 7:22 p.m. We're eating dinner. The dinner break is 90 minutes meaning that if Larry is in it at the end of today's play, that will be sometime after 2 a.m. He's got about 18,000 chips right now. They started with 7,500. He's playing well.

His chair outside the ropes is where I've been hanging out.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

WSOP continued

IN HOTEL ROOM -- Tomorrow (Wednesday), Larry will play in a 6-Handed No-Limit Hold 'em tournament that starts at noon. If Larry's table is close to where spectators can stand, that will be great. It's easier for me to see what's going on when there are only six players at a table.

We checked out the Mob Museum today. It's located in an actual old courthouse where some mob trials were held.

Mail box slots left over from when the building was a courthouse.

The other night, we had a terrific meal at El Dorado, a Mexican restaurant that is located in a rather strange place.

The two businesses have nothing to do with each other, although I'm sure there are some patrons that have visited both.

Excellent empanadas

The Riviera is no more. It has closed its doors, and it will be imploded like so many other Las Vegas casinos long past their prime.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Table 7 Wasn't Lucky

BACK AT THE HOTEL -- Larry busted out at about 5:30. He had pocket Kings. He got all the chips in the middle pre-flop against pocket Jacks and the third Jack arrived on the river. Boo.

Antonio Esfandiari is in that tournament. We also saw Michael Mizrachi and Vanessa Russo.

Larry will play in a six-handed tournament starting on Wednesday. Maybe third time's a charm.

Pot Limit Hold 'em Tournament

POKER KITCHEN -- Larry is playing in a pot-limit hold 'em tournament. There won't be any All Ins, but it will be interesting to see if there are other ways that this type of tournament is different than no-limit.

Ready for start of today's tournament

Brasilia Room
What a different atmosphere in the WSOP poker rooms today. It's so quiet. The only action is in the Brasilia Room, the tournament that Larry's playing in.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

On to the Next Event

LAS VEGAS -- Larry busted out in 1,483rd place. Out of more than 22,000 players, that's pretty good. He moneyed, and he played well. It was a crazy but fun day. The remaining players will play until probably close to 3 a.m.

Tomorrow starting at noon, Larry will play in a Pot Limit Hold 'Em tournament. That one will go three days. I hope he goes the distance.

Larry waiting to play on Day 2

WSOP Colossus Day 2

LAS VEGAS -- Play starts at 5 p.m. Folks are eating in what's left of the Poker Kitchen (there are a few tables for eaters while the rest of the place has been given over to poker tables).

Some numbers:  3,448 players will start Day 2. Larry is in place 1,942 with 24,200 chips. He's at table 177, seat 3 in the Pavilion Room. The total number of entrants hasn't been figured out yet. Some people registered ahead of time for more than one "flight" -- for this event there were four flights, A, B, C and D. Larry registered for A and C, but because he lasted through the A flight, he will get a refund for flight C. It makes it complicated to know exactly how many paid entrants there were, but it's somewhere above 22,000.

Heading into the Rio for Day 2

On the roof of our hotel with Hannah last night. Blue sky at night, poker player's delight?

Friday, May 29, 2015

On to Day Two

LAS VEGAS -- Larry made it through Day 1 with 24,200 chips. They think the average is about 32,000 which means they lost about 85% of the entrants for today. (Larry did the math portion of this blog.) Players were busting out so fast that they were shifting dozens of people at a time to other tables to fill in. Larry changed tables at least 4 times. (We lost count, so it might have been 5 times.) When players start on Day 2, they will already be very close to the money bubble.

Exhausted. We get the day off tomorrow and then Day 2 starts at 5 p.m. on Sunday and will run until sometime in the middle of the night. Yawn.

Poker in the Kitchen

LAS VEGAS -- So far, so good. Play started at 10 a.m. for the $565 buy-in that they are calling the Collosus. They will have more than 20,000 buy-ins, but it will probably take days to figure out all of the numbers. I generally sit at a table in the "Poker Kitchen" to blog, but those tables have been replaced by poker tables. They can't afford to waste that space. I don't know where people will eat. The food is still available, but nowhere to sit.

Play started with a measly 5,000 chips. At the end of level 1, Larry had 6,500. People are busting out fast because they can buy in to the other three Day 1 flights. Go big or go home seems to be the theme, at least in this first flight.

Larry is ready to play

When Larry started playing, I got breakfast. The blackish looking thing is a crunchy piece of potato.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It's Time Again for the WSOP in Las Vegas!

PITTSBURGH -- We're leaving on Thursday for this year's WSOP lunacy in Las Vegas. What's new? The Colossus, with a $565 buy-in (as opposed to the Main Event's $10,000 buy-in) and a guaranteed prize pool of at least $5 million. Records will be set, but it's hard to know exactly which ones.

The most entrants ever in a live poker event? Predictions are of more than 20,000 players over the four Day 1 starts, so that's possible.

The most toilet flushes in a 2-day span? Potentially the most people (men) ever using the parking lot as a port-a-potty because a whole fleet of port-a-potties won't be enough.

I'll be posting photos (but probably not from the parking lot). Stay tuned.

More details here: