Every writer has war stories — a restless, sullen audience; a hotel with a horse in the room just above and a satyr next door; delayed flights and stomach flu.

Well, I’m here with good news: I’m just back from Chicago and three or four days (They do swim together, don’t they?) of school visits and then a LitFest panel. I got to see Chris Heppermann (Hamline grad) and Eric and the girls; I hung out with Penny Blubaugh (Vermont grad) and Lance. I rode the El. I saw the lake. And it’s true. That’s one big lake.

Mostly I talked to students, and they asked questions. One boy wanted to know what color my hair was when I had hair. Because they’d read STONER & SPAZ they wanted to known if I’d ever smoked weed. I said that I had and they were amazed and titillated. Asked what was the most unusual thing I ever autographed I replied that it was undoubtedly a young woman’s left breast. I confessed that I spelled my entire name. Slowly.

I don’t mind smarty pants kids; I’m a professional smarty pants. And my job as a presenter in those situations is, it seems to me, to be honest and entertaining.

Afterwards there are always a few who come up and say something that just knocks me out. Like how much a book of mine has meant to them. How they were having a horrible day and something in STONER or STRAYS made them laugh and forget about their problems for an hour. When I hear things like that if I’m tired, suddenly I’m not tired anymore.

Saturday was the LitFest panel and it was just fun. Carl Deuker was there, Ann Angel, Ellen Hopkins. The kids loved Ellen Hopkins. She was generous with her time and advice and posed for one picture after another with her fans. Two hundred and fifty kids and all of them crazy about books and reading.

I don’t do many school visits. I like to stay home. But this one this time was pure gold.