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Welcome! We are six children's book authors with a wide range (and many years) of experience teaching writing to children, teens, and adults. Here, we share our unique perspective as writing teachers who are also working writers. Our regular features include writing exercises (our "Writing Workouts"), teaching tips, author interviews, book reviews, and answers to your "Ask the Teaching Authors" questions.
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1. Of Words and Spirit...


Words and spirit were the stuff of my favorite books this year,
beginning with Jen Bryant’s and Melissa Sweet’s already award-winning and multiply-starred picture book THE RIGHT WORD – ROGET AND HIS THESAURUS (Eerdmans Books, 2014).
This story of how Dr. Peter Roget came to create a Thesaurus has been lauded for its lyrical text and brilliantly-detailed reader-friendly illustrations. I laud it for its celebration and love of words, its accessible story-telling of a one-of-a-kind long-ago individual hell bent on listing each and every one, its brilliant use of synonyms and downright gorgeousness.  Just as every writer needs a Roget’s Thesaurus by his side, those of us who love words and good storytelling need THE RIGHT WORD on our bookshelf.
Peter Roget remarks in the story “how wonderful it was to find just the right word!”
My very sentiments.

Mark Repo’s THE BOOK OF AWAKENING (Conari Press, 2011) sits on my bedside table for daily reading.
I love its subtitle: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.
A philosopher-poet and author, Repo wrote this book when “freshly on the other side of cancer.”
He chose to exchange his life of words, he wrote, for a life of spirit.
Each day’s entry offers a parable or a tradition, a quote or an insight, a poem or verse, followed by Repo’s beautifully-written comments and a related meditative exercise.
Admittedly I don’t always do the exercises but instead journal about the eye-opening, heart-opening truths.
Today’s December 15 entry opens with the truth, “The sun doesn’t stop shining because people are blind.”
Repo then offers examples from the lives of Goya and Melville and closes with these words:
“No one can really know what you are called to or what you are capable of but you.  Even if no one sees or understands, you are irreplaceable.”

Ariel Sabar’s MY FATHER’S PARADISE is a book of words and spirit.
Subtitled A SON’S SEARCH FOR HIS FAMILY’S PAST, journalist Sabar tells the story of his father Yona, a distinguished professor and author of the only dictionary of the language of Jesus, Aramaic.  Aramaic was the language Yona's Jewish family spoke in the remote Kurdish village of Zakho in northeast Iraq.  Mostly illiterate, Yona’s people lived harmoniously with their Muslim and Christian neighbors, considering themselves descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel.  Part memoir, part history, part linguistic primer, part geography, at its core is the author’s story of reconnecting with a father he’d disparaged for his differentness.  As the book’s cover states, it is “a son’s epic journey back to his father’s lost homeland.”
The writing is superb, as in National Book Critics Circle Award Winner for Autobiography, allowing me to live inside this so unfamiliar story, no matter the locale, no matter the time period. 
“I am the keeper of my family’s stories," Sabar wrote. "I am the guardian of its honor.  I am the defender of its traditions.  As the first-born son of a Kurdish father, these, they tell me, are my duties.  And yet even before my birth I resisted.”
Sabar’s page-turning telling had the writer in me breathless, not to mention, envious. 

Finally, I consider Jacqueline Woodson’s BROWN GIRL DREAMING  (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2014) a book of words and spirit too.
Recently named a National Book Award Winner, the novel in verse tells the story of Woodson’s childhood in the Jim Crow 60’s and 70’s and her longing to become a writer.
I read the book from cover to cover in one sitting, then promptly returned to the first page and began again.
Just the way Beverly Cleary took me back to West Philadelphia at age 9 with the mention of Ramona’s pink plastic raincoat, Jacqueline Woodson pierced my little girl’s longing to be a writer.

    "You’re a writer, Ms. Vivo says,
    her gray eyes bright behind
    thin wire frames.  Her smile bigger than anything
    so I smile back, happy to hear these words
    from a teacher’s mouth."

 May the above books gift you as they’ve gifted me this year.

 Merry! Happy! Cheers for the New Year!

 Esther Hershenhorn

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2. Reading for Pleasure, Not Research

I read way too fast. I skim over details to find out What Happens. In the process, I sometimes miss important points. Plus I usually read at night. Because I’m tired, I often forget what I’ve read, and I have to go back a few pages the next night and reread to figure out what’s going on. I’m always trying to make myself Slow Down and Pay Attention. When I read a book I really enjoy, I start over at the beginning as soon as I reach the end. The second time through, I notice the language, the writing techniques, the way crucial details are revealed at just the right moments. I zip through a lot of books that way, and they tend to blur together in my mind. Because I’m always researching picture books and poetry, I read mostly young adult novels for pleasure. Here are three that stuck with me this year.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. Although the plot involves several issues, the one I remember best is the relationship between the two brothers. I ached for the narrator. I cried at the end.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, another sibling relationship story. I read this on a plane, and I never read on planes. I could not put it down.




Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire. I remember telling my husband that I could leave this one on my bedside table and reread it for the rest of my life. The writing is gorgeous, and the story is compelling, with plenty of food for thought.




Most of the poetry I’m reading these days is research for my Poet’s Workshop series for Crabtree Publishing. I’ve finished books 5 (Haiku) and 6 (Cinquains). Now I’m looking forward to moving on to Concrete Poems and List Poems. One more nonfiction series is lined up for another educational publisher in 2015. I'm looking forward to researching four more interesting topics!

Happy holidays, all!
xox,
JoAnn Early Macken

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3. Books and Chocolate Chip Cookies

O my! How can I have just one favorite book with all the marvelous, marvelous treats that came out this year – and every year! I think books are like chocolate chip cookies: I can’t have just ONE!

Monica Kulling’s Great Idea Series is one of my favorite nonfiction series for young readers. The books showcase inventors, some more known than others, and how they were inspired to create their inventions that, in many ways, changed the course of history. Monica excels at taking a moment in history, oftentimes a forgotten moment, and fashioning a story that is both compelling and informative. Her poetic narrative makes the book the perfect read aloud. Her newest book is “Spic-And-Span: Lillian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen.”  This book follows the amazing story of Lillian Gilbreth, the inspiration for the matriarch in the movie and book, Cheaper By The Dozen.



I am a huge fan of western movies as well as classic western reads. Erin Johnson's (Laurie J. Edwards ) book,  “Grace and the Guiltless,”  is written in the same vein as Zane Gray’s classic westerns. In fact, I am reminded of Gray’s two books in particular, Riders of the Purple Sage and Wildfire. The detailed imagery of Tombstone, Arizona and the surrounding western desert sets the tone of the story.





 Christina Banach’s book, “Minty,” is a gripping, mystical story of love and loss, told from Minty’s point of view, reminiscent of one of my favorite movies, Ghost. An engrossing character-driven tale that combines unfailing heartbreak, perfectly timed humor, and an obsession of all things Roman.





Given current events, Yvonne Ventresca's new novel, “Pandemic,” is less
science fiction/dystopian and more of a harrowing prophecy. An outbreak of a strange new flu is spreading quickly with deadly results. Her parents out of town on business, Lil finds herself alone as tragedy strikes. The plot is fast-paced and thoroughly engrossing as she struggles to find hope and trust amidst a terrifying life and death ordeal.



Marcia Strykowski’s book, “Call Me Amy,”  is set in a quaint coastal town in Maine, in a coming-of-age story that presents a timeless tale of friendship, teamwork and community responsibility. This book reminds me in many ways of Hoot, the 2003 Newbery Honor by Carl Hiaasen. I’m currently reading its sequel, Amy’s Choice!


I also revisited Eric Kimmel’s “Moby Dick,”
A great, great read aloud! Can’t we just hear the booming baritone foreshadowing doom as Captain Ahab comes on deck! The sailors' fate is sealed as the Captain and the Pequod chase the great white, Moby Dick.  With the rhythm of a sea shanty, the narrative rises and falls and rises with the action, in tune with the lush, rich oil and pencil illustrations by Andrew Glass. And then, the great white whale, Moby Dick, rises out of the depths in a dynamic two-page spread. The Pequod faces its destiny and the narrator ends with a   warning, "The moral of this story is,/ as my sad tale has shown:/ Respect all creatures, great and small,/ and leave the whales alone!” Ahoy!



And finally -- but certainly not the last of my favorites -- Donna Marie Merritt’s “Her House”  is a splendid collection, made all the more splendid by Wendell Minor’s cover art depicting seagulls at sunset, an open invitation for readers to take a walk along the beach to see life in a glorious new light.


Keep reading. It's one of the most marvelous adventures that anyone can have!"  -- Lloyd Alexander.

 Time for another chocolate chip cookie and a new adventure!  

 Bobbi Miller

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4. 15 Best Poetry Books of 2014...Pick 1!

.
Howdy Campers!

Yippee!--it's Poetry Friday!  (the link's at the end of this post ~)

Confession regarding the title of this post: I lied. Although there were many wonderful poetry books this year, I'm going to talk about just one.

You may already have read it...or read about it on Laura Purdie Salas' TeachingAuthors post in May.

You may already know that it's gotten starred reviews in Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist and School Library Journal.

You may have heard that it's one of Publisher's Weekly's Best Picture Books of 2014, it's a School Library Journal Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, it's in the American Booksellers Association Best Books for Children Catalog, and it's on lists predicting the 2015 Caldecott for illustrator Melissa Sweet.

Of course I'm talking about
selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

In this beautiful collection, master anthologist Paul B. Janeczko has organized 36 very short gems around the four seasons, illuminated by Melissa Sweet's both sophisticated and whimsical illustrations.  Wow.

My father was a farmer and an artist. When he sketched my mother playing piano, his goal was to use as few lines as possible to tell that moment of my mother, the light from the window, that sonata.  

In the same way, these poems show moments...and so much more in a few short lines.

Here's one of my favorites from this sterling anthology:

FIREFLY JULY

When I was ten, one summer night,
The baby stars that leapt
Among the trees like dimes of light,
I cupped, and capped, and kept.


Another of my favorites is the always amazing Joyce Sidman’s “A Happy Meeting,” which describes what happens when rain meets dirt (first, “soft, cinnamon kisses,” then, “marriage: mud”). 

And...surprise! I am honored that one of my poems is included in this collection:

SANDPIPERS

Sandpipers run with
their needle beaks digging--they're
hemming the ocean.
April Halprin Wayland

and look who just popped in to wave hello...
poet and anthologist Paul B. Janeczko and illustrator Melissa Sweet!

for hosting Poetry Friday today!

posted with affection by April Halprin Wayland in honor of
my mother, who loved both words and music ~

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5. More "Gratitudes" from our Readers


Even though today is Wednesday, this isn't a Wednesday Writing Workout post. (We'll be back with more workouts in January.) I just wanted to share a quick update regarding our Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving challenge. This year was the first time we ran a book giveaway in conjunction with our series of posts expressing our gratitude. Last Friday, when I posted my wrap-up linking to posts by other bloggers who joined in our challenge, I didn't realize that a number of our readers had shared their "gratitudes" in their giveaway contest entries. It wasn't until I reviewed all the entries this past Monday that I saw them. Their gratitude was so uplifting I had to share them with you.
When asked to "Tell us three things you're grateful for," here's what they said:

  • Family, children's books, great blogs to follow!
  • I'm grateful for my family, my awesome poetry friends, and for my wonderful life.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if it all is real.
  • I am grateful for my family, friends and God for my life. 
  • Health, loved ones and faith top the list today!
  • My job, my friends, and my family
  • Wonderful family, immediate and extended, fabulous friends from way back and from recently, and writing for the sake of writing. Thankful, happy, humbled.
  • I'm thankful for: the cornucopia of rich SCBWI IL and beyond authors and Illustrators sharing their skills and knowledge with us; my family that perpetually allows me to pour myself into my writing and art; and nature that is a constant well of inspiration for all that I create! 
  • Thankful for family and thankful for the snow
  • I'm grateful for 1. my hubby, 2. currently having no obstacle, be it physical, mental, emotional, or practical, to enjoying every simple joy in life that I could wish for, and 3. having no obstacles (except for my own inefficiencies) to exercising creativity in many ways every day.
  • I am filled with gratitude for my loving home and family, more than five years of being cancer free, and my opportunities to make a difference. 
  • I am grateful for: A wonderful network of writers through SCBWI. My two challenging, supportive writers groups: one in Illinois and one in Virginia. My family, who provide inspiration, encouragement, ideas, and yes--distractions.
  • I'm grateful for health, happiness and heaps of good books to read--and WRITE!
WE'RE grateful so many of our readers took time to share their "gratitudes" with us! 

Congratulations to our giveaway winner, Margaret Simon, who shared her wonderful "Thanku to Roux" along with a student Thanku at her blog, Reflections on the Teche on November 8.


Thanks again to everyone who participated.
Happy writing!
Carmela

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6. Our Favorite Books: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

     December 1.  The year is winding down.  While to some December means end-of-the-year holidays and cold weather, to me it means the arrival of  "Best of the Year" booklists.  I pore over them the way I used to study the old Sears Christmas catalogs, agreeing with some selections, shaking my head over others and marking those still to be read. The Teaching Authors don't think the reviewers at Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal should have all the fun.  In the next couple of weeks we will be discussing our own favorites reads of 2014, whether they were published this year or not.

     In fact, my favorite read of the year, the graphic novel Drama by Raina Telgemeier, was published in 2012. Telgemeier also published this year, Sisters, which is every bit as good as Drama.  However, Drama first caught my eye because it is about a subject close to my heart...a middle school drama club.  Having been a middle school (and high school) drama club director for many years, I wanted to see how close the book came to my own experience.

     Telegemeier not only nailed the excitement of producing drama on stage, but all the little "dramas" that go on every day in middle school.  Callie, the main character, can't sing or act well enough to perform on stage in the school musical, but she loves theater so much she is thrilled to design and build the sets. The characters are not the school "cool" kids but the "stage rats," kids besotted by the world of theater.  One detail that the author captured perfectly is the ability of these junior actors to accept each other unconditionally.  Nothing really mattered except whether or not a person could perform their assigned task, onstage or off.

     Telgemeier is also the author of Smile, a graphic novel of living though orthodontia. Smile is geared for an elementary audience getting their first braces. Drama is most definitely for an older reader, sixth grade and up.  My review for Drama?  Standing ovation, all the way!

posted by Mary Ann Rodman

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7. Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving Wrap-up


Today closes out our Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving. See below for my round-up of posts and thank-you notes. If you haven't shared your link/comment yet, you can still do so. I'll update this post later with any additional links/emails we receive. And don't forget--today's the last day to enter for a chance to win a copy of the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) containing my interview roundup article, "Writing for Boys (and other 'Reluctant Readers')." See my November 7 post for all the details.


Thanksgiving is over for most people (and many are busy celebrating the more recent American ritual of "Black Friday"). However, I'm getting ready to celebrate our second Thanksgiving this week, this one with my husband's family gathering here in our home. This two-Thanksgivings-in-one-week tradition started years ago when my son was young. When my husband and I were first married, we actually spent Thanksgiving day with both our families, eating an early meal at one home and then driving to eat a second Thanksgiving dinner at another. After our son was born, we realized that was no longer practical. My in-laws came up with a simple solution: scheduling their family gathering on a different day, usually the weekend before or after Thanksgiving. Over the years, I've been very grateful to be able to celebrate fully with both sides of the family. So, while some of you may be gearing up for the December holidays, I'll be cleaning and cooking in preparation for Thanksgiving #2. That's why I'm keeping this post short. J     

Here are the links to the Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving blog posts:
Also, I want to thank the two readers who were unable to post their Thanks-Giving comments but took the time to email them to us:
  1. Wendy, who blogs at An Education in Books, who wrote: "I am thankful for my family and for the unexpected snow!"
  2. And Julie Phend, who said, "I am grateful for: 
A wonderful network of writers through SCBWI.
My two challenging, supportive writers groups: one in Illinois and one in Virginia.
My family, who provide inspiration, encouragement, ideas, and yes--distractions."
Don't forget to check out today's Poetry Friday round-up over at Carol's Corner.

Happy writing!
Carmela

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8. Yet One More Thanks-Giving Thanku!


Finally it’s my turn to join my fellow TeachingAuthors in sharing Three Things for Which I Am Grateful and my 2014 Thanku.
(And oh, how I delight in how we've kept alive this original poetic form - a Haiku that expresses thanks.)

When folks ask me how I am, I often borrow the three-word response of former Ambassador Walter Annenberg, philanthropist and founder of the School of Communication I attended - i.e. “hopeful and grateful.”

Each day I awake

-         grateful I’m here, alive and well,

-         grateful I’m loved by treasured family and friends,

-         especially grateful for the chance to love them back.

I also offer thanks for the joy my life’s work brings me and the non-stop opportunities the Universe delivers which I gladly pay forward. 

As for that second adjective “hopeful,” like all Cubs fans, I always believe “Next year’s The Year!”  (And this time it really could be!)

You can share your Thanku’s by commenting on any of our TeachingAuthors blog posts through November 28.

You can also send them via email to teachingauthors@gmail.com, with “Thanks-Giving” as the subject, and even post them on your own blog, sharing the link with us via a comment or email. Carmela will list the links in a later post.

And don’t forget our Book Giveaway of the 2015 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market!

And now for my Thanku to my soon-to-be-five bi-lingual (Brazilian Portuguese and English) lindo grandson who, though Rio-born, lives in my heart para sempre*.

 
Obrigado to my Grandson Gabe
My Carioca
who snuggles up to tell me,
“I love you, Vovo!”

 
Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow TeachingAuthors and our TeachingAuthors readers!

Esther Hershenhorn

P.S.

*beautiful
**forever
***Thank You
****a native of Brazil
*****endearing Portuguese name for Grandmother

 

 

 

 

 

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9. Thanks from the Depths


the whole alphabet
is somehow not enough
to express my thanks


Hello from the depths of a big freelance project—for which I am grateful, of course! Today I continue the Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving series, in which each Teaching Author is supposed to share three things she is grateful for. Like the others who posted before me, I tried, but I can’t limit it to three. So I’m sharing three categories.


People: my dear husband Gene, our strong, determined, and healthy (!) sons, my mom and my sisters, my cousins, my writing companions: my wonderful VCFA classmates the Hive, my writing group (How is it that we’ve never given ourselves a name?), the amazing current and former fellow Teaching Authors (and the readers who make our posting so rewarding), my Poetry Friday pals who inspire me even though many of us have not met yet, editors who respond with thoughtful comments even when they reject my work, teachers and students, writers everywhere who share their joys and woes, plus anyone who works for justice, anyone who tries to save the planet and its inhabitants, and anyone who tries and tries and tries again

Places: home with all its connotations (warmth, respite, a place to put my feet up), Lake Michigan, wilderness wherever it still exists

Things: sunshine, opportunities, courage, even (or especially) when it’s borrowed, reliable transportation that enables us to visit family and see a bit more of the wide, wonderful world, and the Internet, which makes worldwide communication possible--along with travel directions, weather reports, and planning for family reunions (Yea, cousins!)

That’s all I can think of for now, although another thing or two will surely pop up as soon as I click “Publish.” As in years past, we also invite you, our readers (and your students), to join in by sharing your own thanks with us in one of three ways:

  • Comment on any of our blog posts through Nov. 28.
  • Send them via email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com, with “Thanks-Giving” as the subject. We might share some of your comments in our posts.
  • Post them on your own blog and then share the link with us via a comment or email. (Feel free to include the Three Weeks image in your post.) On November 28, Carmela will provide a roundup of all the links we receive.

Don’t forget about our CWIM Giveaway! You can enter until November 28.

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at Tapestry of Words. Enjoy! And happy Thanksgiving, from the depths of my heart!
xox,
JoAnn Early Macken


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10. Wednesday Writing Workout: "The Stakes Should Always Be Death," Courtesy of Maureen McQuerry


Today I'm pleased to share with you a guest Wednesday Writing Workout on creating tension in fiction from award-winning author Maureen McQuerry. Before I tell you about Maureen, a quick reminder that it's not too late to enter for a chance to win a copy of the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) edited by Chuck Sambuchino and published by Writer's Digest Books. See the link at the end of today's post.

Now, about Maureen McQuerry: I was recently introduced to Maureen (via email) through a mutual friend. Her first YA novel, The Peculiars (Abrams/Amulet) was an ALA Best Book for Young Adult Readers 2013, Bank Street and Horn Book recommended book, and a winner of the Westchester Award. Her most recent novel Beyond the Door (Abrams/Amulet), has been named a Booklist top Ten Fantasy/SciFi for Youth. The second book in the series, The Telling Stone, releases May 2015. Maureen has taught writing to children and adults and loves giving author talks in schools and at conferences.

I'm hoping to meet Maureen in person when she visits Chicago in a few weeks. So far, she's scheduled to do a signing at The Book Stall in Winnetka on December 6 and one at The Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park on December 8. For more info, check out her website. You can also connect with her via Facebook and Twitter.

Before I share Maureen's WWW on tension, here's a little about her newest novel, Beyond the Door:
        Between his love of learning and his passion for Scrabble, Timothy James has always felt like an outsider. The only person who really understands him is his older sister, Sarah, and he’s also fairly certain nothing interesting will ever happen to him. But one dark spring night, everything changes.
A mystery of unparalleled proportions begins to unfold, revealing Timothy's role in an ancient prophecy and an age-old battle of Light against Dark. Together with Sarah and the school bully, Jessica, Timothy must embark on a quest to prevent the Dark from controlling the future—and changing the past. Can the trio work together in order to fight the ancient evil that threatens our world?
      The first book in the Time Out of Time series, Beyond the Door, is a fast-paced adventure that combines Celtic myth, shapeshifters, and a secret code in a coming of age story.
VOYA described the novel as "jam-packed with twists and turns," a sure sign that Maureen knows a thing or two about creating tension. Here's her Wednesday Writing Workout on the topic:   

Wednesday Writing Workout:
The Stakes Should Always Be Death
by Maureen McQuerry

Story isn't about plot. It isn't about character or setting or a great idea. It's about how events change people. We keep reading because we want to find out how a character navigates all the struggles that come her way. In fact the most critical component in reader satisfaction is the protagonist's arc. And notice I used the word struggle, because struggle is what changes characters. It's what changes us.

Struggle implies conflict and tension. Tension keeps us turning the pages. But how do you add conflict and tension to a story without an explosion or battle scene on every page, maybe without explosions or battles in your book at all? Tension begins with the stakes. If you've ever been told your novel is too quiet, it may be that your stakes aren't high enough.  The greater the stakes, the greater the risk, the greater the tension and the more pages turned.

What do I mean by stakes?  Stakes are what your protagonist has on the line. In a dystopian world like Hunger Games, the stakes are personal survival, survival of people you love, of a community, of the world. But not every story will or should be dystopian or apocalyptic. The stakes may be the risk of emotional death. In my MG novel Beyond the Door, Timothy finds himself in physical danger, the type of danger that might result in death, but he fears failing to complete his challenge almost as much. He believes it's his one chance to prove himself in the eyes of his friends. His self-worth is on the line.

For the reader to be concerned, risk has to be real and the protagonists' motivation worthy. Worthy motivations involve noble concepts like: forgiveness, love, redemption, self-worth. For example, a character who wants a part in the school play engages us when the stakes are based on a motivation that is worthy. She wants a part in the play because she sees it as a way to connect with her estranged father who was once an actor, but has rejected her or because she's never once fit in anywhere, been bullied or is handicapped and it's her one chance to find a community. If she fails here, she may never try again. Hope and worry for the protagonist create tension.
  • A good beginning question to ask is what are the stakes for my protagonist? What is at risk? What will die?
Because a story is about how events change characters, you must have a clear idea of your character's arcs. In Beyond the Door, Timothy needed to evolve from an insecure observer to a confident leader.
  • Ask: What is my protagonist like at the start of this adventure? What do I want her to be like at the end of the story?
  • What will it take to get her there? What kind of gut-wrenching decisions, public humiliations, dark nights of the soul? What antagonists will she have to face?
  • Does each turning point create change? That's what moving a story forward means.
Below are some considerations for assessing your story for tension.
 
Assessing the risk in your story:
  • The risk of failure must be real and must be devastating—big consequences.
  • Conflict must be external and internal—your protagonist must struggle in her mind and heart and with external forces.
  • Tension must be relentless.
  • A clear antagonist strengthens the conflict.
  • The solution must require everything the protagonist has—the greater the risk, the more we worry.
  • The solution should be inevitable, but surprising (Aristotle).
A few time honored techniques to increase tension, such as those below, will keep readers turning the pages.

Techniques to increase tension:
  • Increase the stakes—as mentioned above
  • Withhold info from protagonist—mystery novels are a great example of how one missing piece of information can put your protagonist at risk.
  • Introduce doubt—Who can she trust? Were her assumptions faulty?
  • Limit time—the ticking clock.
  • Give and take away—just as your protagonist has everything she needs, the bottom falls out.
Whatever struggles your character faces, remember they are the engines of transformation and tension is the fuel.

 Writing Exercise Text © Maureen McQuerry 2014, All rights reserved.

Thanks for this, Maureen. I've already used your questions to assess (and up!) the level of risk in my current work-in-progress. Readers, if you try any of these techniques, let us know how they work for you.

Meanwhile, don't forget that time is running out for you to enter the drawing for the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) giveaway, Along with tons of great information and resources, the 2015 CWIM features my interview roundup article, "Writing for Boys (and other 'Reluctant Readers.'" To enter, see my last post.

Good luck to all, and happy writing!
Carmela

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11. Apple Dumplings





If you live long enough, life becomes more about letting go than of gathering. It is inevitable, this letting go.

Sometimes we have to let go of our favorite things: our favorite pair of shorts worn to the fray. Our favorite book with its tattered pages. Even our car, with its 200,000 miles of memories.

Sometimes we let go of clutter, and wonder why it took us so long to throw them out. You know what I speak of: The box full of old research gathered for stories that probably won’t ever be written. Those uncomfortable shoes with pointy toes and impossibly high heels that you never, ever wore, but dang they look sparklie. Those skinny jeans that felt more like a bone corset then denim. Those old love letters, although the guy went on to marry someone else. Those laser disks (what?). Those eight-tracks (what?). That rotary phone (what?). Those old ideas that no longer serve a purpose in our lives.

Sometimes the letting go is more profound, as we say good-bye to our special friends, the four-legged as well as the two-legged sort. And those with wings. And we say goodbye to family. To colleagues and heroes and inspirations.

Of course, the key phrase in all of this, If You Live. And perhaps, along the way of living our lives, we gather some understanding of it all. We become, hopefully, wise. It’s an elusive concept to grasp. Through the ages, religious leaders, philosophers, even politicians have debated on what is wisdom.

According to Dr. Vivian Clayton, wisdom consists of three elements: cognition, reflection, compassion. Wisdom happens when we take the time to gain insights and perspectives from one’s cognitive knowledge , what she calls the reflective dimension. Then we can use those insights to understand and help others, what she calls the compassionate dimension.

Of course, if it were that easy, with just three ingredients, there wouldn’t be all this debating about what it means. That’s why I like hanging out with poets. They know about such things. Marion Dane Bauer inspired me in her recent post, “Because receiving is another way of giving. The giver grows in the giving. And that’s a truth we all need to hold close at any time of life!”

And her wisdom resonated with me. I am not the poet like my fellow Teaching Authors. Did you see Carmela’s Thanks-Giving Thanku

I am just a storyteller. Begging your indulgence, I was reminded of an old English folktale (Source: Lindsay, Maud. The Storyteller. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard; 1915).  It went something like this: 

There once was an old woman who lived in the woods. One day, she decided to bake apple dumplings. These dumplings were her favorite. She had everything she needed to bake the dumplings, except for the apples. She had plenty of plums, however. She filled a basket with these plums, covering them in her finest white linen. Then she dressed in her finest clothes and set out to trade these plums for some apples.


Morguefile


By and by, she came across a young woman. The old woman asked the younger if she had apples to trade for her plums.

“No,” said the young woman, as she looked with such longing at the plums. “I have plenty of chickens, and not much else.”

The old woman traded her basket of plums for a bag of feathers. The old woman thought it was a good trade. The bag of feathers was much lighter to carry.

By and by, the old woman came to a garden, one of the loveliest gardens she had ever seen. She stopped a moment to smell the roses when she heard a couple arguing. The couple saw her, too.

“Tell us, old woman," said the woman.  "Do you agree that cotton is best for making a cushion on our bed?”

“No,” said the old woman.

“See, the old woman agrees with me,” said the man. “Straw is best for our bed!”

“Never straw!” said the old woman, as she held up her bag of feathers. “But a bed made of feathers is fit for a king!”

The old woman traded the bag of feathers for a bouquet of roses. She thought it was a good trade.

By and by, the old woman met a young prince who looked as sad as a rainy day.

“I go to meet my lady love,” said the young prince. “But I have no gift to show her how I truly value her.”

“Give you lady love these roses,” said the old woman. “And she will know.”

She traded the bouquet of roses for a gold farthing. What a good trade! At last she had enough money to buy her apples!

You may think the story might end here, for it seems like a happy ending. But it does not.

By and by, the old woman came to a young mother and her child, who stood with a big and furry dog. They were all frail from hunger.

How can I eat apply dumplings when my neighbors cannot eat at all? thought the old woman. And she said to the young mother,” I have need for a companion, and would ask for your help. May I trade this gold coin for your handsome dog?”

The young mother agreed. The old woman worried now, for how could she take care of a big and furry dog? Where would he sleep? What would he eat? Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t notice where she was walking.

“That’s one fine dog,” someone said. She looked up to see an old man rocking on his porch. His house sat in the shade of an old apple tree.

“That’s a fine apple tree,” she said.
Morguefile


“Apple trees are poor company to an old man who cannot bake,” he said. “But I’d trade all the apples you want for that fine fellow!”

The old woman traded the big and furry dog for a barrel of apples. She baked apple dumplings for her and her new friend. And that night, she enjoyed one of the finest apple dumplings she had ever baked.

Not The End.

My list of grateful things:

My daughter, who stands above any list.

For the wisdom of my friends. For working in a field where my heroes have become my friends. Including Eric and Marion, Monica and Emma, and Karen, and far too many that I do not have space enough to list. Thank you.

For the compassion, and love of my kindred spirits, like Cynthia, Carmela and The Teaching Authors, Rebecca and the Collective, Brian and the Snuggies; for soul sisters Jo and guiding lights Bonny and Bette. And many more. Thank you.

For apple dumplings.


If you like this tale, you might be interested in my book, One Fine Trade, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand (Holiday House, 2009).

You also might be interesting in this: Phyllis Korkki. “The Science of Older and Wiser,” New York Times , March 2014.

Don’t forget about the CWIM giveaway!

Bobbi Miller


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12. 3 (well,5 actually) of the Most Kindhearted People in my Life...and Poetry Friday!

.
Howdy, Campers!

Happy Almost-Thanksgiving and Happy Poetry Friday (original poem and link to Poetry Friday below)

To enter our latest giveaway, a copy of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, check out Carmela's post.

I'm the third TeachingAuthor to chime in on our annual Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving--woo woo!


Carmela thanked three times three, topping it off with an original Thanku Haiku, Mary Ann succinctly thanked three writing-related groups and I'd like to thank...

I'd like to thank...

Oh, geez, gang.  Our host for Poetry Friday, Keri, just lost her grandfather.

It all comes down to love, doesn't it?

Not good looks. (When you're young your skin looks, well, young.  When you're old it doesn't.)

Not rushing around. ("Is there anything that you regret", I asked my nearly-92-year-old mother, recently. "Rushing," she said.)

Just goodness.

Here's who I'm grateful for this very minute (how can one edit it down to just three?!?):
  • my husband, Gary Wayland, who accompanies me deep into the jungles of my darkest thoughts and who always, always, always has my back;
  • my friend, "folksinger and songfighter" Ross Altman, who landed like an angel on the front steps of our house today, and walked twice around the block with me, listening as I poured out my troubles;
  • my three best friends--Elizabeth Forrest, who will move heaven and earth to help anyone anytime, anywhere; author and SCBWI 's regional events editor Rebecca Gold, who moved all the way across the country (how dare she?) but still wraps her long arm around me when I need her most--and I needed her this morning...and author Bruce Balan (all the way over in Thailand, for heaven's sake!) who immediately offered to jump on a plane and be by my side when my husband was ill.
So many.  And so many more, of course.

I'll bet you thought I was going to write a Thanku for one of them, right?  Surprise!

Here's my Thanku:

For the way you play
those black and whites; for the way
you brush my hair, Mom.


Don't forget to enter to win a copy of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, check out Carmela's post. Good luck!

Poetry Friday's at Kerry's this week.  Thank you for hosting, Keri!  And Happy Thanksgiving to All!


With an open heart,
April Halprin Wayland, who deeply appreciates you reading all the way to the bottom.

Poem and photo (c) 2014 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

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13. WWW: Creating AUTHENTIC Characters


Meet my fellow Chicago children’s book author, the lovely and talented Claudia Guadalupe Martinez who so generously agreed to share today’s Wednesday Writing Workout in celebration of the release of her second Cinco Puntos Press book, the YA novel PIG PARK.

As her biography notes, Claudia grew up in a close family in Segundo Barrio in El Paso, Texas.  Reading the Spanish subtitles of old westerns for her father, she soon learned that letters form words. By six she knew she wanted to grow up to create stories.  Her father, who died when she was eleven, encouraged her to dream big and write many books. 

Cinco Puntos Press is located in El Paso, Texas, “a fact that informs every book that we publish,” publisher John Byrd shared.  Along with others championing diversity in children’s books today, he considers PIG PARK and Claudia’s debut award-winning novel THE SMELL OF OLD LADY PERFUME to be worthy examples of the kinds of books the Cooperative Children’s Book Center and WeNeedDiverseBooks encourage and seek.

“Claudia,” Byrd wrote, “has a clear fronterizovoice: innocent, shy, witty, full of border culture and understanding.  She used that voice well in THE SMELL OF OLD LADY PERFURME, earning herself a great deal of attention with readers, teachers and librarians looking for new and talented writers coming up out of the Hispanic community. That voice has matured in PIG PARK, still shy and clear, but now feisty as well and full of opinions as she chronicles the summer that fifteen-year-old Masi Burciaga and her neighbors came together to save Pig Park.”

 

I so appreciate Claudia’s willingness to share her insights and expertise on creating authentic characters with our TeachingAuthors readers and writers.

Enjoy! Enjoy!

Esther Hershenhorn

P.S.
To enter our latest giveaway, a copy of CHILDREN'S WRITER'S AND ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET 2015, check Carmela's Friday post.

                                              *  * * * * * * * * * * * *


 Wednesday Writing Workout: Creating Authentic Characters
The face of America is ever-changing.  “Minority” children are set to become the “majority” by the end of this decade, and are already such among babies under the age of one.  Yet, among the children's book titles published, approximately only ten percent are by or about racially or ethnically diverse populations each year--according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

This conversation isn’t new, but the mainstream is taking note, thanks to the success of the recent  WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.  I am more frequently asked for advice on writing diversity, specifically when it comes to authenticity.  In such instances, I refer my fellow writers to author Mitali Perkins' tips for writing diversity.  Mitali lectures widely on the topic.

When it comes to authenticity in racial identity, she advises writers to ask, "How and why does the author define race?”   She suggests writers consider the following:

“When race is explicit in a book, ask yourself and your students what would have been lost if a character’s race hadn’t been defined by the writer. Why did the author choose to define race?”  The reason should be to establish something for the character, and not just to follow a trend or be politically correct.  I, for example, wrote about young Chicana in THE SMELL OF OLD LADY PERFUME because I pulled from my own experiences growing up in a Texas border town.  The Latino kids in PIG PARK were loosely based on my experiences in Chicago.

Alternatively, writers can ask, “Why didn’t he or she let us know the race of the characters?”  If no explicit race is mentioned, will this cause readers to default to white characters, or do other cues establish diverse identity?  Physical appearance, language, names, food can all be used to designate diversity.

While Mitali’s advice focuses on race, authors can apply it to creating authenticity for various other forms of identity.  The point is to start thinking about how genuine the attempt at integration is.

To figure out what this might mean for you, whether writing inside or outside your experience, try this exercise.

Write a character biography based on his/her racial/ethnic identity.  Answer the following questions:
                                                                      
When and how did he/she become aware of his/her identity?

What role has the specific identity played in his/her life?
                                                                    
How does it affect his/her social activities?

How does it affect his/her school activities?

In what ways does the character benefit from this identity? In what ways doesn’t the character benefit?
                                                         
How does the specific identity affect your story?

Variation: Write a biography based on another form of diverse identity (religious, sexual orientation, ability, etc.).

 
We live in a complex world where identity is both assigned and assumed.  Authentic diversity isn’t casual or happenstance, but something that we as writers must develop as carefully as all other aspects of our story.

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14. A Half Glass of Blessings

     It's a good thing we have a holiday dedicated to thankfulness. Otherwise I would rarely give my blessings a thought. I am one of those "the glass is half empty" people.  So here is what fills my glass this year.

     Sorry, Carmela, but I have to begin with one you already mentioned, our terrific Vermont College MFA group, The Hive.  Outside of my family, they are my longest sustained relationship. Most of us met on the airport bus going to campus on a July evening in 1998. Rarely a day goes by that at I am not in contact with at least one of them.  Collectively, they are a never-ending source of energy, enthusiasm and advice. I truly do not know how I survived as a writer without them.  Thank you, lovely Bees!

     Next up on the gratitude list is my own local critique group, WINGS (Writers in North Georgia).  Every month (with occasional sabbaticals) since October 2001, I have driven the hundred miles, round trip, to meet with this group of five in Conyers, Georgia. Driving that far in Atlanta traffic is no small matter, but the reward is worth every nerve-wracking mile.  Connie, Nancy, T.K. and Stephanie as well as our Fearless Leader Susan (plus member-in-absentia, Maureen) are the best writers and critiquers one could ever hope to find.  Almost everything I have published is the result of their sharp eyes and spot-on suggestions. I could not fly without my WINGS.

     Lastly, I am grateful for SCBWI, The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (we writers do like our acronyms!)  I learned about SCBWI from a Hive member while I was at Vermont College and wasted no time joining.  SCBWI is more than just an organization of like minded people.
It is an endless supply of all a writer needs:  the latest publishing information, editorial contacts, writing conferences, and most of all Opportunity (with a capital O). The conferences alone provide the opportunity to meet editors and agents, to submit manuscripts to houses that would otherwise be closed to unagented authors (like me), to have work critiqued by industry professionals. SCBWI, you are worth every penny in membership dues and conference fees.

    To enter our latest giveaway, a copy of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, check Carmela's Friday post.  (http://www.teachingauthors.com/2014/11/thanks-giving-CWIM-giveaway.html).  Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

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15. 3 (Yes, THREE!) Weeks of Thanks-Giving plus Another CWIM Giveaway!


If your name wasn't selected in the drawing for our 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) giveaway, I have good news for you: Writer's Digest Books, publisher of the CWIM, has generously donated a SECOND COPY for us to give away! See details at the end of this post. And congratulations to Sue H, who won the first copy.

If you're a long-time TeachingAuthors follower, you know about our tradition of setting aside time in November to give thanks. It started in 2011, with our Ten Days of Thanks-Giving, inspired, in part, by Esther post about thank-you haikus, also known as Thankus. In 2012 we expanded to Two Weeks of Thanks-Giving, which we repeated in 2013. This year, we've decided to stretch our Thanks-Giving posts to a full Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving!


We're going to keep our Thanks-Giving simple this year. Each of the TeachingAuthors will share 3 things we're grateful for. As in years past, we're also inviting you, our readers (and your students!), to join in by sharing your own "gratitudes" with us in one of three ways:
  1. Share them in a comment to any of our blog posts from today through Nov. 28.
  2. Send them to us via email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com, with "Thanks-Giving" as the subject. Depending on the number of emails we receive, we may share some of your gratitiudes in our posts.
  3. Post them on your own blog and then share the link with us via a comment or email. (Feel free to include the above image in your post.) On November 28, I'll provide a round-up of all the links we receive.
To get us started, here are my three "gratitudes":
  1. My loving and supportive family. First and foremost, I'm grateful for the three very special men in my life: my husband, my son, and my father-in-law (who now occupies my son's old room). But I'm also blessed to have a wonderful extended family--being Italian means that includes A LOT of people. J
  2. My wonderful writing friends. Three groups, in particular, support and nurture me on a regular basis: my fellow TeachingAuthors, my Vermont College classmates (known as The Hive), and my critique group. Without them, I would have quit writing a long time ago. Thanks for helping me stick with it, Ladies!
  3. Our amazing TeachingAuthor readers. This blog wouldn't be here if not for the feedback and affirmation we receive from you, our readers. I'm especially grateful for three lovely ladies I've never met who often comment on my posts, so I know someone is reading them: Linda Baie, Jan Godown Annino, and Rosi.   
Hmm. I'm sensing a theme here. It inspired me to write this Thanku:

Thanks-Giving

Three times three times three . . . . . 
My thanks keep multiplying,
to infinity.

© 2014 Carmela Martino, All Rights Reserved

I invite all of you to also participate in our Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving and share your "gratitudes" with us!

To my above "gratitudes," I'd like to add a huge THANK YOU! to Writer's Digest Books for donating a second copy of the 2015 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (CWIM) for us to give away.


Readers, use the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post to enter our giveaway drawing. You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options. The giveaway ends on Nov. 28. 

When you're done here, check out the terrific Poetry Friday roundup over at Diane Mayr's Random Noodling.

Good luck and happy writing!
Carmela

P.S. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here's info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address. Email subscribers: if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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16. Here's to Our Story-Traveling Readers!

So,
I’d like to take a side road of sorts in continuing our TeachingAuthors discussion on writers’ reader considerations.

Yes, indeedy, I agree with my fellow bloggers: writing with passion trumps every consideration when we are writing to tell ourselves the story.
That kind of telling is the stuff of our firstdraft, our first pass, at who and what grabbed our hearts.

Our second draft, though? 
That’s the draft in which we make choices to grow a story and tell that story the best way possible to our intended reader.
IMHO, the “best way possible” considers where that reader is chronologically, emotionally and cognitively so he or she can easily travel the story, can emotionally connect with the characters, can live inside the story and take its truths into his or her heart.

When I read a student’s or writer’s manuscript for the very first time, when I read my own first drafts readying to finally revise, I read on behalf of the intended young reader.
Both the story and the format must be age-appropriate, of course.
But do I know who claims the story and what it’s about? Am I grounded in the story’s time and place? What kind of story am I expecting?
Left unanswered, those questions will likely force the intended reader to leave the story.
Language must also be considered – word choice, sentence structure, metaphorical language, as JoAnn noted when she wrote about assessing reading levels in her Friday post.
And richness of language need not be sacrificed – ever (!) - for clarity.

JoAnn’s post brought a smile as I remembered my experience this past September attempting to write original poems for the newest addition to THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGYseries (Pomelo Books), THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR CELEBRATIONS, scheduled for an official April 1, 2015 pub date.  The book features 150 poems in Spanish and English versions for preK and up, covering a wide variety of celebrations: Poem in Your Pocket Day to National Pet Week to Juneteenth to International Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day to World Bread Day to Winter Solstice.

Invited writers could choose a day that spoke to them and try their hand at creating a poem.

Hmmm…National Hat Month?
I loved that idea and began fingering my way through my Roget’s Thesaurus, having a high ol’ time.

Here’s the poem I first submitted, in celebration of National Hat Month:

             Mixed-up Mad Hatterisms to Celebrate Hat Month

             Bees in your beanie.

A feather in your fez.

Pass the fedora.

Bearskin in hand.

Tom scored a tam trick!

Talking through your cap.

Tip o’ my turban.

Pass the sombrero.

Helmets off!

At the drop of a wimple.

Home is where you hang your beret.

              (Copyright 2014 Esther Hershenhorn)

The anthology editor Janet Wong returned the poem, kindly reminding me of the designated preK-and-older audience.  

Hmmm…National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week?
That’s the ticket! I thought.
I brainstormed all sorts of letter-writing possibilities and settled on our TeachingAuthors Thank-u’s.

Here’s the second poem I sent off to Janet:

             A Haiku Thank You

            Dear (fill-in-the-blank),

You knew how to make me smile.

Thank-u very much.

(Copyright 2014 Esther Hershenhorn)

Janet remained kind while again reminding me of the designated preK-and-older audience.

“How about St. Patrick’s Day?” Janet wrote me.  “There’s St. Patrick and everyone dressed in green and folks even dye their rivers green!”

I think I got this now! I thought.  And I was off and running.
This time, though, after brainstorming All Things St. Patrick’s Day, I thought about my pre-K and K readers.  I even Googled “St. Patrick’s Day curriculum for preschoolers” to learn the top 3 take-aways for little ones about this day.

I’m currently unable to share my finally-accepted poem, “St. Patrick’s Day.”
Suffice it to say, I again had fun writing about my suggested green  March 17 celebration, but…
I was extremely aware of my audience’s needs.

Happy Writing!

Our young readers deserve our passion, our best writing – and – IMHO, our consideration of their chronological, emotional and cognitive needs.

Esther Hershenhorn

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17. Audience, Revising, and Poetry Friday!

Today, I’m continuing our Teaching Authors series on whether to try to appeal to reluctant readers, or any particular type of reader, when we write. So far, we seem to agree that we should write what moves us and hope that it moves others, too. I’m going off on a few tangents to add some related thoughts.


I started writing for kids when our kids were little. I found inspiration while hanging out with kids on playgrounds, in school, and at soccer games. I kept our kids in mind as I wrote. When they grew out of picture book age, I lost them as audience but kept their younger selves in mind, along with their friends, my own younger self, and the children my sisters used to be. Maybe that’s why one editor kindly described my voice as “classic.” With school visits dwindling, perhaps I should spend more time at the playground.

When I worked as a managing editor for an educational publisher, a reading specialist assigned reading levels to all our books. We also assigned each one an interest level, which was intended to attract reluctant readers to subjects that might appeal to them even if did not correlate with the reading level. This category included many high-interest topics for boys: amazing sports feats, weird facts, adventure stories. How well did it work? I can’t say. I thought of it as just one more marketing tool.

My writing group is remarkable in many ways, but what applies to this topic is their ability to pick out words, phrases, and concepts that seem too adult for a poem or picture book manuscript. Yesterday, I sifted through my filing cabinet and recycled a paper grocery bag full of old drafts. I was struck by the number of gently worded rejection letters, several of which referenced this problem, especially in my poetry collections. Although we should not focus too much on audience when we write, we should pay attention when we revise. Maybe some of those old poems are worth taking another crack at with a young audience specifically in mind.

I’m revising a nonfiction manuscript that includes a lot of scientific information. I’m putting more complex details in sidebars. A few nights ago, out of curiosity, I separated the main text from the sidebars and checked the reading levels separately. (To do this in Microsoft Word, select the text you want to check. Then on the Review tab, click Spelling and Grammar.) I went through the main text and checked it sentence by sentence so I could revise the most difficult ones. I’m not saying that reading level is necessarily an indicator of text complexity, but it does contribute. I use this feature a lot when I write for educational publishers who specify a reading level. When a sentence is too high, I substitute simpler words, divide it into two sentences, or even cut it.

Here’s an example:
We piled into the car, rode to the library, and picked out our favorite books to read and share.


The revised version:
We piled into the car. Mom drove us to the library. Each of us checked out a stack of books. We read our own, and then we traded.


Notice that I added words and also varied the sentence structure.

It’s Poetry Friday! Here’s a poem I found yesterday when I cleaned out my files.

My Singular Garden 
My garden is a skinny one
with just the right amount of sun.
I planted one delphinium,
one violet, one trillium,
one rosebush,
one geranium,
one tulip,
one chrysanthemum.
I wish I could continuum,
but I have reached the maximum.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Teacher Dance. Enjoy!

Today is the last day for our 2015 Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market Book Giveaway! Enter here.

Finally, don’t forget to V O T E !

JoAnn Early Macken

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18. Wednesday Writing Workout: Finding the Best Beginning, Courtesy of Lenore Look


Hi Everyone,
The clock is ticking! If you haven't entered for a chance to win a copy of the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) yet, see the link at the end of this post. The giveaway ends on Friday!

We're hosting the 2015 CWIM giveaway this month to celebrate the publication of my article in it: "Writing for Boys (and other 'Reluctant Readers')." The article contains advice and insights from four award-winning authors known for writing books that appeal to reluctant readers: Matt de la PeñaLenore LookDavid Lubar, and Steve Sheinkin. Today, I'm pleased to share a guest Wednesday Writing Workout from one of those authors: Lenore Look!


Here's Lenore's bio, as it appears in the 2015 CWIM:
Lenore Look recently released the sixth book in her award-winning (and boy-friendly) Alvin Ho chapter book series: Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions (Schwartz & Wade). She is also the author of the Ruby Lu series (Atheneum) and several acclaimed picture books, including Henry’s First-Moon Birthday (Simon & Schuster), Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding (Atheneum), and, her newest, Brush of the Gods (Random House), a historical fiction account of the life of Wu Daozi, China’s most famous painter. Lenore taught creative writing at Drew University and St. Elizabeth College in New Jersey, and frequently speaks in schools in the United States and Asia. She has also co-presented the Highlights Foundation workshop "Writing for Boys" with Bruce Coville and Rich Wallace. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, and blogs frequently at lenorelook.wordpress.com.

I'm a big fan of Lenore's Alvin Ho books, which is why I approached her about participating in the CWIM article. I haven't read Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions yet, so I'll share the blurb for it that appears on Indiebound:
Here’s the sixth book in the beloved and hilarious Alvin Ho chapter book series, which has been compared to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and is perfect for both beginning and reluctant readers. 
Alvin, an Asian American second grader who’s afraid of everything, is taking his fears to a whole new level—or should we say, continent. On a trip to introduce brand-new baby Ho to relatives in China, Alvin’s anxiety is at fever pitch. First there’s the harrowing 16-hour plane ride; then there’s a whole slew of cultural differences to contend with: eating lunch food for breakfast, kung fu lessons, and acupuncture treatment (yikes!). Not to mention the crowds that make it easy for a small boy to get lost.
From Lenore Look and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham comes a drop-dead-funny and touching series with a truly unforgettable character.
Sounds like a fun read! J

For today's WWW, Lenore shares a great exercise in beginnings.

Wednesday Writing Workout:
Finding the Best Beginning
by Lenore Look

When I worked as a newspaper reporter, the first thing I learned was how important the “lede” or beginning of the story is. The first sentence is crucial. It’s called the “hook” because it snags your reader and reels them into your story. Without a strong hook, your reader will get away before you can tell them the five Ws and H – who, where, what, when, why and how.

When writing fiction, your hook is not just the best way to snag your reader, but it’s the place from which you will hang the rest of your story. It’s THAT important. For me, the beginning is the hardest part of the book to write. I’m faced with all my research, my characters, what I want to say, and a few ideas for scenes. It’s overwhelming. Where do I start? I pick something and have a go at it. It’s a mis-start, or a scrub, as they call it at NASA when a launch is aborted. I have many scrubs. When I find the spark that will finally launch my rocket, there’s more trouble.  Often I will agonize over the first sentence for days, re-writing it, tweaking it, throwing it out, starting it over, again and again. But when I finally get it right, it’s blast-off! And the rest of the book seems to write itself.

Here’s my top-secret recipe for finding the strongest beginning, and I hope it helps you find yours.

How to Find the Strongest Beginning to Any Piece of Writing.
1. Sit down.
2. Open your writer’s notebook.
3. Ask the following questions:
            a. Who’s your character?
            b. What’s your setting?
            c. What does your character want?
            d. What are the obstacles in her way?
4. Summarize the story you’re telling in one sentence.
5. Write your summary sentence in the center of a blank page.
6. Now surround your summary sentence with your answers to the questions from #3. Some people call this “clustering,” – if you draw circles around each of your sentences/ideas, it begins to look like a cluster of grapes. I don’t bother with the circles, instead I make lists, and surround my summary sentence with lists that answer the questions.
7. Add your research as they fit under the different questions in #3.
8. Step away.
9. Eat some ice cream.
10. Stare at the sunset.
11. Call a friend.
12. It’s important to start the next part with fresh eyes.


How to Find the Strongest Beginning, Part II
1. Look at your messy page(s).
2. Find the smallest, most simple detail that captures your entire story.
3. What you’re looking for is the KEY to your house. Keys are small. A small detail will open the door to the rest of the house, which is your story. All the rooms in your house are the different scenes that make up the story.
4. Study carefully the beginnings to books you like.
5. Using the detail you found in #2, and the inspiration you found from #4, write the most compelling beginning you can.
6. Let it lead you into the first room of your story.
7. Finish off the ice cream.
8. Stare at the sunset.
9. It may be the last sunset you see for a while.
10. Writing a book takes a long time.
11. Cry.
12. Cry your eyes out. It’s only the beginning. You still have the middle and the end to tackle!


            Writing Exercise Text © Lenore Look 2014, All rights reserved

Thanks, Lenore, for this terrific exercise! Readers, if any of you try today's WWW, do let us know how it works for you.

And don't forget to enter for a chance to win your own copy of the 2015 CWIM, where you'll be able to read additional helpful tips from Lenore. See my last blog post for details. The giveaway ends October 31.

Happy Writing!
Carmela

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19. Lucky, Lucky Me!

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend David Harrison’s “Poetry for the Delight of It” workshop, organized by the Highlights Foundation. I’m happy to report that I found not only the poetry but the entire experience delightful. From my ride from the airport to the tour of the Highlights for Children offices to the comfy couches where we discussed poetry to the massive fireplace on the patio where we roasted s’mores, every detail was taken care of so that I didn’t have to think about anything but poetry. And the food—oh, my! We were spoiled. During breaks and in the evenings, we retired to our own cozy cabins with rocking chairs on the porches and plenty of wonderful books to read—a writer’s heaven!


David Harrison (a Guest Teaching Author in 2012) led group discussions with a reassuring blend of wit, humor, explanation, and examples. He supplied writing prompts that resulted in humorous and heartfelt poems, and he provided perceptive, encouraging critiques of our work. Poets Jane Yolen and Kenn Nesbitt visited via Skype to share their own tips and examples. Boyds Mills Press Senior Editor Rebecca Davis participated in a session about editorial and marketing practices, and Executive Editor Liz Van Doren joined us for dinner.

Lucky me! I’m still floating.

Here’s a poem I wrote there, inspired by one of David’s prompts, about waking up early:
Day 
Catbird screeches up the morning.
Acorns drop to mark the minutes.
Knock! Woodpeckers count the hours.
Crickets sing me back to sleep.
Another lucky surprise: I got to meet and hang out with our longtime friend Linda Baie, who wrote about connecting the experience to writing in one of her blog posts. What fun!

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Enjoy!

JoAnn Early Macken

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20. A Resource Discovery: NAMING THE WORLD!


How fitting that today, the 522nd anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World, I share with you my recently-discovered resource, thanks to my writer Bridget Conway of Camden, Maine – NAMING THE WORLD (and other EXERCISES for the CREATIVE WRITER), edited by Bret Anthony Johnston (Random House, 2007).

Johnston writes in his introduction that “much of the writer’s work must be – can only be – accomplished by doggedly venturing into territories unknown, by risking failure with every word.  His purpose in gathering writing exercises from well-respected authors was “to create an environment in which each writer feels invited and prepared to take such risks.”

Like all discoveries, this collection of focused and insightful writing exercises widened my eyes, raised my eyebrows and had my brain whirling in record time.

Indeed, Betsy Lerner, author of another favorite resource of mine – THE FOREST FOR THE TREES: AN EDITOR’S ADVICE TO WRITERS (Riverhead, 2000) describes NAMING THE WORLD as “the equivalent of a master class in writing by some of the best writers/teachers around.”

What I especially like about NAMING THE WORLD is Johnston’s organization:  8 sections, 7 of which focus on a key element of fiction.  Each section begins with relevant perceptive quotes by well-known writers, then offers an overview of the particular element. Chosen authors’ understandable, doable exercises follow, exercises designed to “demystify the common and complex mechanisms by which the specific element operates.”  

Getting Started exercises and Daily Warm-ups bookend the sections which focus on:

       ·       Character

·         Point of view and tone

·         Plot and narrative

·         Dialogue and voice

·         Descriptive language and setting

·         Revision

I loved reading how some of my favorite authors, including Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Strout, Elizabeth McCracken and Richard Bausch hone their craft.

I also loved discovering authors heretofore unknown to me.
Be sure to check back on Wednesday for Paul Lisicky’s exercise on the rhythm of language.
(His award-winning book THE BURNING HOUSE is currently on reserve at my Chicago Public Library.)


I’m happy to report my Newberry Library Picture Book Writing Workshop students this semester are also enjoying the exercises, completing one per week.

Explorers such as Columbus looked to the stars to help find their way.  With that thought in mind, I hereby declare NAMING THE STARS stellar, as in *-worthy.  The collection of exercises is certain to help writers discover their stories and how best to tell them.

In celebration of Signor Columbus’ 1492 New World landing, Happy Discovering!
 
Esther Hershenhorn

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21. WWW: All About Rhythm


As promised, I’m sharing a most original WWW I came upon while reading NAMING THE WORLD, the collection of writing exercises gathered by Bret Anthony Johnston (Random House, 2007) I reviewed in Monday’s post

The author, Paul Lisicky, titled the exercise “All About Rhythm.”  
It appears in the section “Descriptive Language and Setting.”

Lisicky writes about finding a rhythm that matches the meaning of our story's drama – not a distracting rhythm but one that is crucial, that makes our fiction sing.

He began by quoting Virgina Woolf.

“Style is a very simple matter; it is all about rhythm.  Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words….Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words.  A sight, an emotion creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it.”

How can we bring a poet’s central tools to our own work, he wondered, “and be more deeply aware of pauses, sentence length, stops, even alliteration and assonance in the prose we read and write,”  all the while opening ourselves to our own rhythms?

Enjoy! Enjoy!

Esther Hershenhorn

                                        * * * * * * * * * * 

Paul Lisicky’s ALL ABOUT RHYTHM

“Take a paragraph by a writer whose work has been important to you. 

Type it out once.

Then type it again.

Once you’ve done that, substitute your own noun for each noun, your own verb for each verb.

Replace all the adjectives and adverbs.

Play with it for a few days.

Then do another version.


If you’re lucky you might have the beginnings of a story.

Or, at the least, a more intimate sense of that writer’s rhythms.”

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22. Reaching Reluctant Readers, Poetry Friday, and a CWIM Giveaway!


Happy Poetry Friday, Everyone! Today I'll be sharing a fun, "spooky" poem by David L. Harrison. But first I'll tell you about my latest publication, an article in the 2015 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books), edited by Chuck Sambuchino. Then, at the end of this post, you'll find instructions for how to enter to win your very own copy of the 2015 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market!


If you're not familiar with the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (also known as the CWIM), here's an excerpt from the book's blurb.
"If you write or illustrate for young readers with the hope of getting published, the '2015 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market' is the trusted resource you need. Now in its 27th edition, 'CWIM' is the definitive publishing guide for anyone who seeks to write or illustrate for kids and young adults. Inside you'll find more than 500 listings for children's book markets (publishers, agents, magazines, and more)--including a point of contact, how to properly submit your work, and what categories each market accepts." 
In addition to the market listing, the CWIM includes great articles, interviews, and success stories. This year's edition features my interview roundup article, "Writing for Boys (and other 'Reluctant Readers')." The piece contains advice and insights from four award-winning authors known for writing books that appeal to reluctant readers: Matt de la Peña, Lenore Look, David Lubar, and Steve Sheinkin

Although  these authors write a wide variety of books, and everything from picture books to young adult novels, there was one bit of advice they all agreed on: If you want your writing to appeal to boys and other reluctant readers, don't try to target this particular audience. That's right, DON'T target them. Instead, write what moves, excites, or interests YOU. Then, "revise it over and over until it hums," as Matt de la Peña said. All four of the authors shared additional, specific advice on how to reach reluctant readers, especially boys. So be sure to enter our giveaway below for a chance to win your own copy of the CWIM!  

In researching "Writing for Boys (and other 'Reluctant Readers')," I discovered some very discouraging statistics about boys and reading. Not only do girls, on average, score higher on reading tests than boys, but the gender gap is widening. Fortunately, the news isn't all dire. As Jon Scieszka, the first National Ambassador of Young People's Literature and founder of Guys Read points out on the GuysRead website
". . . the good news is that research also shows that boys will read—if they are given reading that interests them."
Poetry can be a great way to hook boys (and other reluctant readers), especially if it's short, funny, and/or focuses on boy-friendly topics, such as sports, adventure, animals, and the supernatural. You'll find some wonderful books that fit this bill on the GuysRead list of poetry books. I also recommend just about anything written by David L. Harrison. His book Bugs: Poems about Creeping Things (Wordsong), illustrated by Rob Shepperson, is chock-full of poems with lots of boy-appeal. Here's one example: 

              cicada ghosts

              Haunted skins
              cling
              emptily
              to the rough bark
             of the hackberry
             tree,

             and farther up
             where I can't 
             see,
             ghosts are 
             buzzing 
             eerily:
             zz-zz-zz-zz
             zeeeeee!

          © David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

If you'd like to see the wonderful illustration that accompanies this poem in Bugs: Poems about Creeping Things, visit this page on David's blog (after you enter our drawing below!).

For additional resources on poetry and reluctant readers, see the Poetry Foundation article "Against Slogging: Engaging Poetry in the Classroomon" and the WBEZ piece, "Writing Poetry Improves Reluctant Readers." If you're a parent or teacher, you may also be interested in Literacy Connects compilation of activities to use with reluctant reader

Finally, before you head over to check out these resources or the other great poems in this week's Poetry Friday round-up at Today's Little Ditty, you'll want to enter to win your own copy of the 2015 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. You can do that via the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post. You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options. For option 2, "Leave a Blog Post Comment," you must share a comment to TODAY'S blog post and include your name!
(If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com. )

The giveaway ends on Oct. 31. 

Good luck and happy writing!
Carmela

P.S. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here's info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address. Email subscribers: if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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23. Hitting the Target Without Really Trying

     The question I am most asked by parents is "What is the reading level of your books?"

     I am currently teaching an adult class on writing for children.  The first question I am usually asked by those students is "How do you write at an appropriate reading difficulty for an age group?"

    Those questions are not as easy to answer as you might think.

     Carmela's Friday post stated that in reaching "reluctant readers" a writer should simply write whatever they are passionate about and the readers will follow.  I have most certainly found this to be true.

     When I first began writing, "targeting" a group, or writing with a specific grade level vocabulary never crossed my mind.  Thanks to years and years of working in children's library service, I have read thousands and thousands of children's books for all ages.  When I write, my brain goes into "child mode."  That's just the way I write, period.  My normal style involves short sentences and short paragraphs using simple words.

     I was not aware of my writing style, until my then elementary school-aged daughter introduced me to "Accelerated Reader."  This was the program her school used for "pleasure" reading. (I am not sure how pleasurable it was since it was required.)  Only books on the Accelerated Reader program were counted for the reading grade.  Books had point values, based on complexity of language and interest level.

    I was thrilled to learn that all my books were on the Accelerated Reader list, which increased the likelihood of their purchase by a school library. However, I was puzzled to learn that my middle grade books, Yankee Girl and Jimmy's Stars, were not being read by the fourth and fifth graders, my intended audience.

     The mystery was solved when one of my daughter's friends told me how much she liked Jimmy's Stars "even though it doesn't have many points."  A trip to the school library informed me that both of the books had a point value of 3.  For comparison, anything written by J.K. Rowling had a point value of upwards of 7.  That particular year, my daughter was supposed to read 7 points worth every six weeks.  How could I compete with Harry Potter?

     A little digging into the mysteries of Accelerated Reader yielded the information that while my middle grade books had a third grade reading level, their content was appropriate for upper fifth grade and sixth grade students.  Considering that the subjects of those books were Civil Rights Era Mississippi and the ravages of World War II, I thought that was a fair evaluation.

     Then parents began to ask me that troublesome reading level question.  This was often prefaced with something like, "My daughter is in second grade but she reads on a fourth grade level. She should be able to read your books, right?"

     I found myself in the strange position of talking down my own books. While the child in question would be able to read and recognize the words I had written, would they be able to understand the events in the book?  It had never occurred to me that a seven-year-old might read those books.  Tough things happen in them:  racial prejudice, death, violence.  Although I didn't "target" my writing, I didn't think anyone under ten would be reading them.  I started hedging my answers by telling parents they could buy the book but perhaps they should put it away until their child was older.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.  No matter what I said, some parents completely missed the fact that some "low reading level" material might contain concepts too mature or sophisticated for a first grader who was "a really good reader."

     What did I learn from this experience?  Did this cause me to become a cautious, self-censoring writer?  Do I now write in a more complex style?

     No.

     I write what I am passionate about.  I write for my inner eleven-year-old.  It's the best that I can do.  It's all any of us can do.

     Don't forget to enter our latest book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market.  See Carmela's post for details.

     The giveaway ends Oct 31.

     Best of luck,  Mary Ann

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24. 3 Leading Ways to Target Your Writing for Children--NOT!....and Poetry Friday!

.
Howdy, Campers!  Happy Poetry Friday!  Poem and link to Poetry Friday are below ~

Our topic this round is Do you try to appeal to reluctant readers, or any particular type of reader, when you write? 

Carmela's post addresses the topic of writing to reading levels thoroughly. She writes:"If you want your writing to appeal to boys and other reluctant readers, don't try to target this particular audience. That's right, DON'T target them. Instead, write what moves, excites, or interests YOU."

Mary Ann's post, agrees: "I write what I am passionate about. I write for my inner eleven-year-old. It's the best that I can do. It's all any of us can do."

As for me?

I titled this 3 Leading Ways to Target Your Writing for Children--NOT!  because I agree with Carmela and Mary Ann's conclusions.  Essentially, write with passion and you'll hit a bullseye.

from morguefile.com
Here are three thoughts hopefully slightly related to this topic:

1) I am a reluctant reader.  Always have been. Once I dive into a book, I'm swimming, but getting to the edge of the pool, dipping my toe in? Terrifying.  Every book.  Every time.

2) Many years ago, former bookseller, and book reviewer Janet Zarem was hired by my son's elementary school to talk to parents about reading.  She began by passing out a paragraph in and asking us what it said.  Okay, so let's try it.  I'd like you to read this paragraph and tell me what it says.  You have two minutes:

*see bottom of this post for attribution*

When we saw the paragraph, we were scared'r than a long-tail cat in a room full of rockin' chairs.**

Isn't that a powerful way to show someone the world from a new or challenged or reluctant reader's point of view?

3) That's how scared many of us feel about learning anything new.

For example, UCLA Extension's Writers' Program is in the process of changing how its instructors post course materials for our students.  We are moving from a platform called Blackboard to one called Canvas.

When I saw the first email about this, I rolled into a little ball.  I felt as outdated and useless as a screen door on a submarine.***

I see now that I went through the five stages of loss and grief, finally arriving at acceptance: Wow--it's done, it didn't take long, and I am truly invincible.
Tah-dah--I did it!
RELUCTANT
by April Halprin Wayland


New? New?

Who are you talking to?

You’ll have to leave a message—
I think I have the flu.

It’s too bad that you saw me
I stick with tried and true.

If you want revolution,
I’ll leave it up to you.

Who? Me?
You found me up this tree?

Just cut that sheet in two?
And paste it here with glue?
That’s all we have to do?

I’m standing on my head, now:
I see your point of view.

poem & drawing (c) April Halprin Wayland 2014
=====================

Don't forget to enter our latest book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (in which our very own Carmela Martino has an article!). See Carmela's post for all the details.

The giveaway ends Oct 31.

Poetry Friday is at Merely Day By Day ~ Thanks, Cathy!



poem & drawing (c) April Halprin Wayland 2014

posted by April Halprin Wayland, who thanks you in Greek for reading all the way to here.

*from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey
**from: http://charlottenewcomers.blogspot.com/2008/01/southern-expressions-uglier-than.html
***from: http://www.examiner.com/article/southern-isms-50-of-the-funniest-southern-expressions-and-colloquialisms











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25. Odd Girl Out


I was never a reluctant reader. I have to admit, I feared writing about this topic because it is something I know very little about. While my parents were not avid readers, they were willing to drive me to the library. When I was very young, I was confined to bed because of a long illness. I found solace in reading. I learned to read at a young age, and I read everything. I loved action/adventure stories. When I was finally healthy, I couldn’t run fast enough, all the time running about, creating my own adventures. And when I wasn’t running about, I was reading.


Ezra Jack Keat's APT 3
 I was the odd girl out in middle school. I was a nerd before it was cool to be a nerd. High school was a bit easier because it was small and private. The nuns didn’t take kindly if someone came to class without having read the assigned pages, or books as the case may be. So everyone read. No one liked the “or else.”

Of course, I didn’t have computers, iPhones or iPads or video games way back then. There was no Facebook or text talk. Ooo! I shudder to think how Sister Alice Marie might have reacted if I dared write into an essay, AFINIAFI (A friend in need is a friend indeed)!

Although, to be sure, nerds will be nerds, no matter which century, and kids will always be kids. A friend and I had learned Morse code, and then tapped out messages during class. Colonel Seese, the retired Army colonel who taught history, caught on. He was scarier than the nuns. While he approved of our ingenuity, we still had to serve detention.

  Those were different times. I have to wonder if there may be some connection between the gadgetry of today and reluctant readers. As much as these electronic gizmos can be an aid to our learning process, might they also be a deterrent? I wrote in my last post (here) about current studies that suggest old-fashion hand writing helps cognitive development, critical thinking skills, and reading skills. Connected to this is another important question, how does the new technology we use to read change the way we read? Are we still reading as thoroughly and attentively? As Jabr Ferris suggests (Scientific American, 2013), while studies are still ongoing, there seems to be a consensus that “modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way.”
 Where The Wild Things Are


 So could it be that one key to coaxing reluctant readers is to re-create that tactile and sensory experience?   

I have long been impressed by uber-teacher and Facebook friend Paul Hankins, who teaches English 11. He posts about his strategies that treat the senses and engages the reading process. His projects include using collage, which he calls remixes, to recreate covers of favorite books, including Ezra Jack Keat's APT 3 and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.



Halloween produces some of my favorite books. What better way for a tactile experience than skin shivers and tingling spines! So many books, but currently I am reading (again) Stephen Messer’s The Death of Yorik Mortwell (Random House/Yearling Edition, 2012), a mock-Gothic horror story inspired by Edward Gorey.

Another treat is Philippa Dowding’s Jake and the Giant Hand (Dundurn, 2014), all about weird stories gone wrong. 




As a writer, I take to heart the wisdom Carmela shared in her post: "If you want your writing to appeal to boys and other reluctant readers, don't try to target this particular audience. That's right, DON'T target them. Instead, write what moves, excites, or interests YOU." In my books (Big River's Daughter and Girls of Gettysburg), you can still find me running about, all the time running, and having the best adventures.


For more information, you might find this interesting: Jabr, Ferris. The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens. (Scientific American, April 2013)

What do you think? Share some of your insights, experiences and strategies below!

Bobbi Miller

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