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Home to Omaha

Halfway through my last book tour I went -- very oddly -- home. Home to Omaha, the city where I grew up. And having gone back to Omaha was almost like going back in time for me -- or like that weird lurch in time when you relize the baby you haven't seen in a bit now has a driver's license.

I ended up in Omaha because my old university, Creighton, has a new MFA program, and they invited me to give a public reading, and to address the students. I also volunteered to pop into the physics department and chat about science writing. (I actually studied physics, not English, and still work as a science writer.) It was lovely to see my old mentors, in both poetry and physics, to whom I owe so so much. Dr. Cherney, Dr. Spencer -- thank you. I don't think I ever did say that enough.

And then, in what must surely be an ACHEIVEMENT: UNLOCKED moment, I went back to my high school, which also landed me on the front page of the Omaha World Herald, our big newspaper.

You can read about what I said to the Mercy students in Erin Grace's lovely column. But I wanted to mention one moment -- the one where I brought up the f/f relationship in THE SCORPION RULES to the entire student body of my (tiny, all-girls, Catholic) high school.

I'd been torn over whether or not to do that. That was partly because I think it's lovely if the readers can let it unfold as it unfolds for the characters inside the book. It's better if you don't know, which is why I won't say much more here.

I hestitated, too, because I wasn't sure if mentioning the two-girls-kissing thing would be polite to my hosts at Mercy. I did not want to presume their disapproval, but also I did not want to go out of my way to offend them -- they were gracious hosts, and we owe our hosts something.

And yet. I decided to include a mention of the queer characters, if only a brief one, because I was absolutely SURE someone in that audience needed to hear it. So I said "I don't know who you are, but I know you're here. To the geek girl flying under the radar, not quite straight.... Do you want to see yourself as a science fiction hero? Because I wrote you a book." This got a HUGE round of applause, loud and sudden, nearly an ovation. And I stopped speaking for a moment, floored.

It hadn't been an applause line. I hadn't wanted to say it at all; I was expecting awkwardness or stoney silence, which is what I would have gotten back in the day.

But I had NOT actually gone back to the day, and things have changed. And of course I know that. But I had never really had it come home to me until that exact second, and it took me a moment to gather myself. I don't think the moment really showed on my face, but if you find me here, Mercy Girls -- I just wanted to say THANK YOU. You shook me up and changed my heart and made me cry-happy. Thank you.

(In this picture, courtesy The World Herald, I'm talking to a Mercy student named Casey, who has, GET THIS, two completed novels, for which she's seeking an agent. And she's getting requests for fulls, too. If you've played the publishing game you know what a huge and amazing deal that is. You go, girl!)

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