"Nate" Author Tim Federle's Book Tour Takes Him To Every School But His Own

By Whitney Chitwood
14 Jul 2014

Tim Federle
Tim Federle

Tim Federle, author of the novel "Better Nate Than Ever," opens up to Playbill.com about reaching young adult readers who feel they don't fit in — and being turned away from some schools where his voice may be needed.


"The point of 'Better Nate Than Ever' is not to raise eyebrows. It's just to tell a hopefully funny story that reaches people," Broadway performer-turned-author Tim Federle said referencing his coming-of-age novel which was acclaimed by The New York Times and Publishers Weekly shortly after hitting shelves in 2013 from Simon & Schuster.

Multi-award-winning and critically hailed, "Nate" tells the story of Nate Foster, a 13-year-old Pennsylvania boy who dreams of making his way to the Great White Way. When he finds out about an open casting call for E.T. the Musical, Nate leaps at the opportunity and heads to New York City without parental permission, much less a chaperone. There he discovers a whole new world of lights, people, and bustle that he couldn't have even imagined.

A tale that would fit seamlessly among the canons Roald Dahl or Judy Blume, "Better Nate Than Ever" deals with ambition, familial struggles, the claiming of one's own identity and a host of other coming-of-age issues that its preteen readers are inevitably facing. And Federle, who has spent the nearly two years since the book's release touring the country as a motivational speaker with Nate as the inspiration, has seen firsthand the incredible impact the book has had. Sporadically, though, some schools and conferences have canceled his events.

Federle described some of the organizations' reasons as "nebulous at best." Planned months in advance, these short-notice cannings caused Federle's inner 13 year-old to fill in the blanks. "If you grow up getting called names you can sense tone, and I know why they canceled on me. Other schools," he continued, "have been more overt and just said, 'There's a middle schooler in your book that thinks he might be gay so we're going to cancel on you.'"

Federle's disappointment in the small wave of cancellations came to a head when the Pittsburgh, PA middle school that was his alma mater pulled the plug. "What was hardest was imagining a little version of me in school. Struggling with anything. [The kids missed] meeting somebody who's been in their shoes and still the next day gone on and chose to go on."


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