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Find the Future

May 10, 2011

I’m still riding the grand, enduring wave that hit when I received my acceptance into the Find the Future game at the New York Public Library. When I first saw the ad in April, I applied within about fifteen minutes, hesitating only long enough to triple-check the spelling on my application. Today, I received the email stating that I’ve been accepted. My my my. If this is Nerd Heaven, I’ve spent my life right and true.

From the original NYPL posting plus a CNN article about the game:

Find The Future at NYPL brings visitors to the Library together with players around the world to tap into the creative power of the Library’s collections. It is first game in the world in which winning the game means writing a book together—a collection of 100 ways to make history and change the future, inspired by 100 of the most intriguing works of the past.

The game is designed to empower players to find inspiration for their own extraordinary futures—by bringing them face-to-face with the writings and personal objects of people who made an extraordinary difference in the past.

“At each object, players meet a challenge. Jane McGonigal [game creator] hopes the challenges will bring history to life and inspire people to create some history of their own. ‘The library’s collection has all of these rare and just precious, awe-inspiring objects that you really have to come face to face with,’ she said. ‘It’s one thing to look at it online and it can really have some impact, but when you’re there it really becomes clear that for every moment in history there was a person who set that moment in action—and you could be that person.'”

Starting May 21, 2011 anyone, anywhere in the world can play Find the Future—by visiting the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in New York City, or by logging into the game site at

But on the night of May 20, 2011, five hundred daring people will become the first in the world to play Find the Future. They’ll experience the overnight adventure of a lifetime, including the chance to stay at the Library from dusk ’til dawn—and explore its treasures as never before.

The overnight game runs from 8 PM to 6 AM … and by sunrise, you’ll be an author.

You’ll also have gone where no gamer has gone before… into the underground stacks of the Library, where more than 40 miles of books are waiting to be discovered.

I don’t know what will be waiting for me and 499 others when we enter the NYPL next Friday. But I’ve never felt quite this intrigued, this much like a comic book character, this empowered, this excited in the way I suspect kids get excited at the prospect of sleeping over at an aquarium or Yankee Stadium or the Museum of Natural History. I no longer wish to remember that particular feeling from childhood, because I have it now. I am still bouncing off the walls, eight-year-old-style. Pinch me.

To apply, we had to finish the sentence, “By the year 2021, I will become the first person to _____.” And we had to describe our strengths and what drives us. Here’s what I wrote:

By the year 2021, I will become the first person to write a narrative survey of childhood obesity worldwide. My writing partners will be kids.

The health and well-being of all children drives me. If I could somehow ensure every child grows up in a safe, loving, healthy, stimulating, happy environment, I would. And I don’t mean taking kids out of their homes and sending them to “better” lives in “better” environments. I mean increasing literacy rates in the seven countries currently sitting below 40%. I mean strengthening the social services programs that aid children after natural disasters. I mean educating families and communities about basic health care while still recognizing and respecting the local belief system. As a former elementary school teacher and a current editor of materials used to prepare teachers to work in the toughest schools in the United States, I have been chipping away at that goal, and still do. It’s not insurmountable, but it will take the lifetimes of many to make this happen. I’m willing to throw my lifetime into the effort.

I can’t actually remember most of my childhood. I remember the evening my mother, sisters, and I were told that my father had been killed by a drunk driver. And I remember the day after Hurricane Gloria when a candle lighting our bathroom started a devastating house fire. Nothing else. For four years I have been researching, and attempting to recover, childhood memory. My hunt lives in prose in the pages of my first book-length manuscript. I’ve begun research on book two, on childhood obesity around the world.I’m a woman without a childhood of my own. I had to adopt myself, and now I devote my creative energies, professionally and personally, to the greatest possible gift humankind could give itself: The Universal Happy Childhood.

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  1. Jeanette permalink

    Suzanne, as a lover of libraries and of adventure – I just keep thinking this is one of the coolest things I’ve read lately. I’m just so excited for you and am sure this will be a writing experience like no other.

    Your words are resonating in my brain as well – about being a woman without a childhood. It made me feel deeply- but also grateful that you are committed to promoting happy childhoods- yes, a wondrous gift indeed.

    Your memory research should continue to lead down some amazing paths as well.


  2. Cheryl permalink

    What an amazing adventurous experience. I cannot wait to hear about your night in the library! XOXO


  3. Risa permalink

    This sounds fantastic!! Can’t wait to read more about it.


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