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A writer recently wrote a blog post about how he's quitting teaching writing. I'm not going to link to it because though it made me want to write this post of my own, I'm not planning either to praise or disparage the post or its author, whom I don't know and whose work I haven't read (though I've heard good things about it). Reading the post, I was simply struck by how different his experience is from my own experience, and I wondered why, and I began to think about what I value in teaching writing, and why I've been doing it in one form or another — mostly to students without much background or interest in writing — for almost twenty years.
I don't know where the quitting teacher works or the circumstances, other than that he was working as an adjunct professor, as I did for five years, and was teaching introductory level classes, as I continue to do now that I'm a PhD student. (And in some ways did back when I was a high school teacher, if we want to consider high school classes as introductory to college.) So, again, this is not about him, because I know nothing about his students' backgrounds, his institution's expectations or requirements, his training, etc. If he doesn't like teaching writing where he's currently employed, he shouldn't do it, for his own sake and for that of his students. It's certainly nothing you're going to get rich from, so really, you're doing no-one any good by staying in a job like that, and you may be doing harm (to yourself and others).
Most of the quitting teacher's complaints boil down to, "I don't like teaching unmotivated students." So it goes. There are, though, lots of different levels of "unmotivated". Flat-out resistant and recalcitrant are the ultimate in unmotivated, and I also really find no joy in working with such students, because I'm not very good at it. I've done it, but have not stayed with jobs where that felt like all there was. One year at a particular high school felt like facing nothing but 100 resistant and recalcitrant students every single day, and though the job paid quite well (and, for reasons I can't fathom, the administration wanted me to stay), I fled quickly. I was useless to most of those students and they were sending me toward a nervous breakdown. I've seen people who work miracles with such students. I wasn't the right person for that job.
But then there are the students who, for whatever reason, just haven't bought in to what you're up to. It's not their thing. I don't blame them. Put me in a math or science class, and that's me. Heck, put me in a Medieval lit class and that's me. But again and again, talented teachers have welcomed me into their world, and because of those teachers, I've been able to find a way to care and to learn about things I didn't initially care about in the least. That's the sort of teacher I aspire to be, and occasionally, for all my fumbling, seem to have succeeded at being.
It's nice to teach courses where everybody arrives on Day 1 with passion for the subject. I've taught such classes a few times. It can be fun. It's certainly more immediately fulfilling than the more common sort of classes where the students are a bit less instrinsically motivated to be there. But I honestly don't care about those advanced/magical classes as much. Such students are going to be fine with or without me. At a teaching seminar I attended 15 years ago, the instructor described such students as the ones for whom it doesn't matter if you're a person or a stalk of asparagus, because they'll do well no matter what. I don't aspire to be a stalk of asparagus.
There's another problem, too, and that's the problem of pedagogy. Many colleges and universities are terrible at providing training for teachers. There's an unspoken assumption that teaching is something anybody with an advanced degree can do. This despite the fact that anybody who's spent more than a few days in a college or university knows there are plenty of people with advanced degrees, people who may be brilliant at all sorts of other things, who can't teach at all.
Teaching writing is a particular skill, especially when teaching unmotivated students. I'm lucky to have spent some undergrad time and now some PhD time at the University of New Hampshire, where the teaching of writing is taken really seriously because writing teachers at UNH have long been interested not only in writing, but in the art of its teaching. The ghosts of Donald Murray, Donald Graves, and Robert Connors still haunt our halls. I continue to draw on things I learned in a Teaching Writing course in my last semester of undergrad. In my early years of teaching, I read every pedagogy book I could get my hands on. I still pick them up now and then, because I'm still learning to teach.
If you're struggling to teach writing, have no support from your institution, but don't want to quit, there are resources that can help you. (Though really, you should consider quitting, especially if they're not paying you well. Schools exploit people who they provide little support to because those people feel some sort of obligation to work for crappy wages and in crappy conditions. Say no! Or at least help organize a union.)
Don't just be a writer who shows up in a classroom. You've been hired to be a teacher who also knows something about writing. You need to see yourself in that role, or else you're just grossly stroking your ego in public. Develop a vision of yourself as a teacher, and read the works of writing teachers who inspire — Peter Elbow is my go-to guy whenever I'm feeling bad about my teaching, with Everyone Can Write as the key text (though I'm fond, too, of Writing with Power and Writing Without Teachers). Read Lynda Barry. Read. Talk. Listen. Plenty of people have had all the challenges and disappointments and frustrations that you've had. Learn from them.
And yes, of course there are lots of frustrations along the way. Even the best classes will have bad days, and sometimes you'll have an entire bad term. That's the world of teaching. Analyze what isn't working and try to figure out ways to fix it; seek out other people's ideas when you're stuck. I hate the feeling of having been a bad teacher, but it also invigorates me, because it makes me determined to fix the problems the next time around. (It's when the problems seem utterly unfixable that you know you're the wrong person for the job. If nothing seems like it will get better and again and again you find yourself dreading the next class, the next term, then quit if you can. It's okay. You don't need to spend your entire life as a bad teacher. Create an exit plan before you kill yourself or one of your students. Seriously.)
I've been meaning to write about the most successful writing course I've taught, and so this gives me a bit of an excuse to do so. By "successful" I mean that the students' work and reflections on the course at the end of the term consistently met my goals for the course through multiple sets of students, both in face-to-face classes and online. The course is called Writing and the Creative Process, and I taught it at Plymouth State University. It's the lowest-level creative writing course the English department offers, and it fulfills a general education requirement, so typically it is taken by students will little background in writing and often not much interest in it. They arrive to the course because they need the credit, and many assume a creative writing class is an easy A or B.
My goals for the course are not for the students to become great writers. That's out of my control. Great writing is a mix of talent, practice, experience, circumstances. My goals are more about helping the students to overcome some assumptions about writing and creativity.
Most students arrive to my classes, whether writing classes or otherwise, with an idea that writing is about following rules and not making mistakes. They've lost all sense of play. I want them to be less afraid of playing with language. I want them to be less afraid of the unfamiliar. If I can do that, then a lot of what matters in writing will take care of itself. Of course, there are rules and conventions. Writing is (usually) a form of communication, and communication requires some rules and conventions. But they can be learned, and if learning them is still beyond you for whatever reason, you can probably find friends who will proofread your work for you. (Many excellent writers are rotten with commas. And plenty else. Proofreaders exist for a reason. Research the manuscripts of well-known writers and you'll be astonished.) I love the intricacies of grammar, usage, and style, so I pay a lot of attention to it myself, but for me it's part of the essential play that makes writing a worthwhile activity for me. I try to impart that to students, even in the Writing and the Creative Process class, but I also don't expect them all to be like me.
After teaching the class a few times in a way that didn't thrill me, I finally came upon this progression of material, which seems to work:
Unit 1: First Things Unit 2: Shaping Raw Material Unit 3: Images and Senses Unit 4: Words Unit 5: Sentences and lines Unit 6: Paragraphs and stanzas Unit 7: Revision Final Exam week: Portfolio
Lots of people teach the course by going through major genres, but I don't care for that approach because in my experience it's highly superficial to write essays for a week or two, poems for a week or two, stories for a week or two, etc. I sprinkle different genres throughout the term, but we never stick with any particular one. Learning different genres is not the goal. I want the students to play around, and I want them to think about similarities in different ways of writing rather than differences.
The First Things unit is focused on introductions, starting out, and beginning to forget the "rules" you think you know about writing. I think of it as the deprogramming unit. Especially given the mania for standardized testing in schools over the last 15 years, students arrive to my classroom with great anxiety about "proper" writing. They mostly think they're bad at it, and they're terrified of losing points. So I make a point of getting them to pay attention to themselves, to do things like stare at an object for 10 or more minutes and then write about the experience, to write a list of rules for good writing and then violate them all, etc. The basic theme might be able to be boiled down to, "Who are you? What do you know? How do you perceive things? And how might we expand/broaden/explode all that?"
The Shaping Raw Material unit is exactly what it says. The exercises have the students write 5 versions of a short piece of writing, try out different points of view, rewrite a folktale, rewrite a partner's piece of writing, etc. Some of it is similar to Kenneth Goldsmith's "Uncreative Writing" ideas, some of it isn't. The goal is to look at the different ways writing can be shaped, and the effects of different shapes. Again, it's about breaking out of a narrow way of thinking about writing, because narrow ways of thinking only lead to anxiety about "getting it right". Again and again, I say: There are no right answers, so stop looking for them.
The other units are exactly what they sound like: close attention to senses and images, to words, to sentences and lines, etc. It's good to be deliberate about these building blocks. Too often, we take them for granted. They're all fun to play with.
The Portfolio requirement at the end is this:
What your portfolio must include, at a minimum:
Your own artist's statement / portfolio intro. Length: 114-119 words. (Yes, this number is arbitrary. Most rules are.)
Examples of 3 different types/genres of writing, each with at least one revision included. (You will have done a lot of this work for previous units. Now you’re collecting it and polishing it.) Include all drafts along with a final, polished, proofread draft.
A reflection of at least 500 words. This should be the last thing you write. After you've put the portfolio together, read it, then write this reflection.
You are welcome and encouraged to include more than this in your portfolio, but this is the absolute minimum.
All grading before the portfolio is purely on whether the students follow the guidelines or not. For instance, here's an assignment:
1. Go to the index at the website Worldwidewords.org. 2. Read around on the page. Click on words that grab your attention. Look for weird words. 3. Once you are familiar with the site and how it works, write a piece and use as many unfamiliar/weird words from the Worldwidewords.org list as you can -- at least 20.
(Each exercise is worth a certain amount of points, and I just add them up for their exercises grade, so 95 points = a 95 (A), 84 points = 84% (B), etc. They have a number of exercises to choose from in each unit. All of the exercises together add up to more than 100 points, but I've rarely had students try to go beyond 100 points because I don't count anything above 100 and, in any case, most of the exercises are more complex and take more work than the one above, so if you do them all at the highest level, it's quite a lot of work.)
I don't evaluate their writing until the portfolio, and even then it's light evaluation of their progress more than anything. This has been crucial. The point of this course is discovery and play. That's what I want to encourage. I don't much care if their writing is great or terrible. I want them to improve, though, so we spend time at the end of the course working on revision, but only after we've spent the majority of the course playing around. I want the students to become more flexible thinkers and writers.
My paying no attention to whether they are writing well or badly is liberatory, and the effects are remarkable. The students discover skills and interests they never knew they had because they were so terrified of writing badly and getting low grades. They often struggle against the class in the first weeks because they think I'm going to trick them. They are conditioned to be graded and ranked and evaluated at every turn. They don't know what the freedom from grading, ranking, and evaluation feels like. It's terrifying at first. I must be a bad teacher, I must be a dishonest teacher, they must be doing something wrong. It isn't until a handful of exercises have been graded and they realize they really are just being graded on output that most students begin to really free themselves.
The exercises are not small or easy, and numerous students have told me they've written more for this class than for any other. If I were trying to grade evaluatively, it would be an awful paper burden on me, but I'm not grading evaluatively. I'm mostly just counting words.
The students don't need me to read their work in any depth until the revision stage, and even then mot of the work is on them, as the revision exercises are designed to get them to look at their work in new, different ways. It extends the freedom to experiment to the revision process. Then they sift through everything and begin to put order to it and show off the work they're most pleased with, most proud of. They write about how they got there, and that reflection is vital — students need to think about the processes that allowed them to write in ways they see as successful, and reflective writing is key to helping solidify what they've learned. They reflect on what they've done and what they would like to do in the future.
Their final grade is ultimately not about them being a good writer, but being a writer who has 1.) learned how to play around and experiment; 2.) learned how to look at their work with a new and critical eye toward revision; 3.) learned how to extend what they've discovered to other realms of thinking and writing. If they've been able to do that, they do well.
Grades for the course tend to average around a B, a bit higher than my usual B- average for courses. Sometimes, a group really takes to the material and I end up with an A- average. I don't feel bad about that. Because the grade is based on how much they've written, to get an A- average, the students have written an awful lot.
When teaching more advanced courses, I tend to add in a bit more evaluative grading, I tend to do fewer exercises based on playing around and more toward specific skills and goals, then finish the course with one complete and revised piece of writing. Sometimes this goes well, sometimes not.
I don't much like the traditional writing workshop. Maybe it's fine in grad school, but I really dislike it for undergrads, as I think it wastes a lot of time and doesn't give them the tools they need. I've never much liked traditional writing workshops, myself, so maybe it's just a matter of my personality. I'm sure there are people who are great teachers within that structure at whatever level. Personally, as both a student and teacher, I prefer exercises, discussions of a wide variety of published writing (and by wide variety, I mean as wide as possible — true variety, not just Lishian stuff), a focus on sentences and paragraphs, etc. There are plenty of ways to meld some of the virtues of the workshop approach with other structures. I haven't hit on a perfect solution yet, but I keep experimenting when I get the chance to teach an advanced course (which hasn't happened recently, as I'm only teaching one course per term as part of the PhD program, and mostly what I teach is first-year composition).
My goal is not to create professional writers. One or two of my former students have gone off to publish things, but they're really the outliers. I want to help students gain more confidence in their ability to use the language, and I want them to become more enthusiastic, informed readers. The reading part is important to me — I want more students to be delighted by the weirdness of Gertrude Stein, to be willing to try out complex and difficult and alienating texts, to not just seek out what feels most immediately "relevant" to them. Teaching writing is one path to that goal, because it lets students begin to think about how texts are constructed, and what writers think about. Reading like a writer is a good way to read. Experiencing writing as both and art and a craft helps, I hope, to overcome some of the prejudices that lead to writers and artists being seen as people who don't actually labor.
I also don't want to blame students for the failures of institutions. I'm skeptical of the recent discourse about whiny, overprotected students. I don't think teachers should be against students. I think we should be against the neoliberal university that sees nothing but economic indicators. As teachers of writing, we have a special place in that struggle, I think. I take hope from Steve Shaviro's ideas about aesthetics and political economy, e.g.:
I think that aesthetics exists in a special relationship to political economy, precisely because aesthetics is the one thing that cannot be reduced to political economy. Politics, ethics, epistemology, and even ontology are all subject to “determination in the last instance” by the forces and relations of production. Or rather, if ontology is not entirely so determined, this is precisely to the extent that ontology is itself fundamentally aesthetic. If aesthetics doesn’t reduce to political economy, but instead subsists in a curious way alongside it, this is because there is something spectral, and curiously insubstantial, about aesthetics.
As teachers of writing, we can wield aesthetics as a weapon against the all-consuming power of neoliberalism — we can help and encourage students to revel in the inefficacy of our aesthetic projects.
Ann Marie Meyers grew up in Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies. She has a degree in languages and translates legal and technical documents from French and Spanish into English. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and daughter. Meyers is an active member of SCBWI and facilitates a children's writing group twice a month.
Synopsis of UP IN THE AIR by Ann Marie Meyers, illustrated by Ethan Aldridge (Jolly Fish Press):
When Melody lands on Chimeroan and gets wings, she thinks life is finally going her way. She can fly! Yet she soon realizes she cannot outfly her past and is forced to come to terms with her part in her father's accident and the guilt that plagues her. Ultimately, she must choose between the two things that have become the world to her: keeping her wings or healing her father.
Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?
This is my ‘cat shelf’. Most of the cats are gifts I’ve received over the years, though I have no idea how this trend started. I don’t mind though because I love cats. Many people think they’re cold and standoffish (and yes, some definitely are). However, my experience with them is different. Cats have attitude! Yet when you bond with a cat, they’re loving, while holding on to their independence. They’re patient though demanding, and they are very determined. What I also admire about them is their apparent inner peace with the universe. They are content to sit back and let cat lovers dote on them to their (the cats’) content. I also love how they presume that whatever they see belongs to them.
Witness my cat drinking water from MY glass.
The little girl in the photo below is Melody, the main character of my MG novel, Up In The Air. My daughter created her with the rainbow loom rubber bands, wings and all. Picture tears with a huge smile on my face that she was inspired to do this.
Q. What advice do you have for young writers?
Dare to dream, especially when life throws ‘curveballs’ at you, because no matter what happens, you’ll always veer back on the path if you keep your dream alive. I find that whenever I recapture the exhilaration of the moment I realized that creating stories gave me a sense of joy and fulfillment, this keeps me focused and buffers any obstacles or negative comments that crop up along the way.
I firmly believe that if anyone has a dream and holds on to it in a state of excitement and anticipation, nothing can keep this dream from becoming reality. It will happen… not necessarily in the time you want, or in the manner in which you think it should occur, and it may not turn out exactly as you planned. Nonetheless, life has a way of steering you toward the object of your attention, and it’s simply a question of being open to possibility and throwing limitations out the window.
Q. What are you excited about right now?
I’m working on the sequel to Up In The Air. The story is taking off in a direction I could never have imagined, and this is one of the most exciting things imaginable.
I’m also thrilled about watching my daughter grow into a young woman (okay, she has to pass through teenage-hood, and yes, she’s only 14, but still, she has her whole life ahead of her to shape and direct according to her dream(s)).
As you continue on with your NaNoWriMo novel today’s tip is: Silence Your Inner Critic.
You will have plenty of time to edit your novel in December and January. Right now you have a novel to finish and overly analyzing every word won’t help you accomplish this goal. For the time being don’t let yourself get caught up with a critical eye. Instead finish the story. If you have critical ideas, create a document to jot them down onto. You can reopen it when you go back over your novel with a fine tooth comb next year.
This is our 17th NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day. To help GalleyCat readers take on the challenge of writing a draft for a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, we will be offering advice throughout the entire month.
Author and artist Miranda July’s new book came out this fall. The First Bad Man is July’s first novel (She has previously published a short story collection, a screenplay, and a book based on an art project about love).
The novel “tells the story of Cheryl, a vulnerable, uptight woman in her early forties who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat, unable to cry.” In an interview with The Believer, July revealed that the similarities she shares with the book’s main character. Check it out:
Well, it’s funny: when my husband read this book—which he only just did fairly recently, after it was done—he was like, “Oh, well, this is just you, this total insanity.” Not the whole character of Cheryl, but the part about cleaning the house, thinking of yourself as your own servant so that you’re not cleaning the house. I appear to be really into cleaning, but actually I hate it so much that I have to disassociate—it can’t really be me doing it.
Describing the very ‘beginning’ of the Universe is a bit of a problem. Quite simply, none of our scientific theories are up to the task. We attempt to understand the evolution of space and time and all the mass and energy within it by applying Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. This theory works extraordinarily well. But when we’re dealing with objects that start to approach the infinitesimally small – elementary particles such as quarks and electrons – we need to reach for a completely different structure, called quantum theory.
Mary Abel and 4-year-old grandson, Robby, enjoying a snack after story time (Photo courtesy of guest blogger)
There are perils to being a children’s librarian. This never occurred to me until I took grandson Robby to story time. At one session, the head came off of the turkey puppet that was helping to illustrate a story and song about Thanksgiving. While the librarian was trying to stick the head back on the turkey and sing simultaneously, the felt board fell over. The 3-and 4-year-olds seated in a circle erupted in laughter. The librarian was quick on his feet and rescued this “turkey” by playing his guitar and singing I’m a Little Turkey to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot as they all strutted around like Thanksgiving gobblers. My grandson thought it was the best thing ever.
This November when children’s librarians are strutting their stuff by cutting Thanksgiving turkeys out of construction paper, singing songs and playing with puppets, there is another important observance to headline: It’s National Diabetes Awareness Month.
Years ago, Type 1 diabetes was rare in children and Type 2 did not exist. A nationally representative study[i] now has confirmed that from 2001 to 2009 the incidence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes drastically increased among children and adolescents across racial groups in this country. The study found that the prevalence of Type 1 diabetes increased 21 percent among children up to age 19. The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among ages 10 to 19 rose 30 percent during the same period . Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have this disease.
Tear sheet from Maddy Patti and the Great Curiosity showing a main character, Gideon, astride his horse, Stony the Pony, saving Pickles from drowning.
As an author and journalist with a background in health care communications, I am passionate about writing books that empower and help children deal with medical conditions. The most recent effort is a self-help book for children with diabetes, Maddy Patti and the Great Curiosity. Dr. Stan Borg, a family physician, and I collaborated to write this story across the miles—354.8 to be exact—to help youngsters understand and manage their diabetes.
A special section in the book is for teachers and parents. Teachers especially may benefit from this information because it helps them understand why, for example, a child with diabetes may need more bathroom breaks because of high blood sugar levels, or they may need to eat periodically throughout the day.
Q. What special tools will help illustrate and promote National Diabetes Month for youngsters at our libraries?
Q. How can librarians find help and support for children and parents who are dealing with a diabetes diagnosis in our community?
Q. How can we use National Diabetes Awareness Month to garner publicity for our library?
Despite the occasional perils of falling felt boards and headless puppets, I believe that children’s librarians are important and necessary advocates for youngsters not only with diabetes but all children because you are fluent at knowing and interpreting their needs to teachers, parents and the community. So amid the sing-a-longs about gobblers and the Thanksgiving tales this November, National Diabetes Awareness Month might be a good topic to feature at your library, too.
 ] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health , Search for Diabetes in Youth, 2008-2009, multicenter, continuing study to examine diabetes (type I and type 2) among children and adolescents in the United States from 2000 to 2015.
Mary Abel has been a professional writer for more than 40 years and is the recipient of multiple writing awards, including the Sigma Delta Chi Mark of Excellence Award in journalism. She holds a BA in journalism from The Ohio State University. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at email@example.com.
When horses were a common means of transportation, horseshit was as common as potholes are today. While actual horse feces is rare nowadays, horseshit is as common as ever in our vocabulary.The list of synonyms and euphemisms—such as horsefeathers, horse hockey, horse hooey, horse pucky, and horse apples—is huge, taking up many pages in the Dictionary of American Regional English, Green’s Dictionary of Slang, and the Historical Dictionary of American Slang.
Netflix has unleashed the first teaser for season two of Marvel’s Daredevil series on Twitter. The video embedded above offers glimpses of a new “watering hole” in Hell’s Kitchen.
Actors Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, and Elden Henson have signed on to reprise their roles as Matt Murdock, Karen Page, and Foggy Nelson. Two new members of the cast include Elodie Yungas Elektra Natchios and Jon Bernthalas The Punisher.
Design & Trend reports that the second full season of episodes will be posted online in 2016. Follow this link to watch a sizzle reel for Matt Murdock.
The graphic reveals that Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are both former teachers and Bram Stoker managed a theater. Check it out: “For those cursing their work commitments there’s good news: some of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful authors clearly drew inspiration from their day job to create stunning works of fiction.”
The Economist has recently popularised the notion that patents are bad for innovation. Is this right? In my view, this assessment results from too high an expectation of what should be achieved by patents or other intellectual property. Critics of intellectual property rights seem to think that they should be tested by whether they actually increase creativity.
Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for GIVE UP THE GHOST by Megan Crewe, re-releasing December 1, 2015. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Megan:
Hello YABC! Welcome to the reveal of GIVE UP THE GHOST's brand new cover!
I'm very excited to be re-releasing my first novel, GIVE UP THE GHOST, next month, and to have a (if I do say so myself) beautiful new cover to go with it. While GIVE UP THE GHOST is indeed a book about ghosts, to me it's always been more about loss, isolation, and finding our way back to human connection. I tried to give a sense of all those elements through the color scheme and the imagery, which echoes a key scene in the book. I hope you love the new look as much as I do!
~ Megan Crewe (GIVE UP THE GHOST)
Ready to see?
Scroll, YABCers! Scroll!
Here it is!
*** If you choose to share this image elsewhere, please include a courtesy link back to this page so others can enter Megan's giveaway. Thank you! ***
GIVE UP THE GHOST
by Megan Crewe
Re-release date: December 1, 2015
About the Book
Cass McKenna much prefers the company of ghosts over "breathers." Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody... and Cass loves dirt. She's on a mission to expose the lies and backstabbing between her fellow students.
But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass's whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.
As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim's life, she's surprised to realize he's not so bad--and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it's time to give the living another chance...
To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.
About the Author
Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives with her husband, son, and three cats in Toronto, Canada (and does on occasion say "eh"), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she has yet to make friends with a ghost, though she welcomes the opportunity.
You know who you are. You fell in love at the first page of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and you never looked back. But there are some things that people who have not read Harry Potter just don’t understand about you . . .
You wish Hogwarts were real and you desperately want to get your Hogwarts letter.
You try seriously hard to do magic and are frustrated when your “wand” (a.k.a. stick) does not work.
Dobby, Fred Weasley, Professor Lupin, Snape, and Tonks.
Trying to explain Quidditch to your non-Harry Potter friends so you can play it at recess.
The movie did not include your favorite line or scene from the book.
You scream while watching the movies, “That didn’t happen in the book!”
When someone says, “JK” (for just kidding), you think, “Rowling.”
You are desperately waiting for J.K. Rowling to write another children’s book.
If it’s not Harry-related, you kind of don’t want to talk about it.
Nothing else you read is ever as good as Harry Potter.
Can YOU relate to any of these? Leave a Comment to tell us your problems that only other Harry Potter fans understand!
The book from the 266th pope will feature a collection of letters and drawings from children ages six to 13, which were sent to the Pope from around the globe. His personal responses will run alongside these thirty handwritten letters and drawings.
Loyola Press in Chicago will publish Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World on March 1, 2016. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, and Tom McGrath of Loyola Press will edit the work. It will be available as a hardcover in English and Spanish in the United States.
Storytime breaks serve a lot of great purposes. I have two favorites, the first being that storytime breaks give me time to brainstorm and create new things. I’ve written grants during storytime breaks, created new programs, developed new circulating materials, and re-organized collections.
This past week I had the pleasure of seeing several large scale projects completed and now available for our patrons to use.
[1000 Books Display, photo courtesy of the author.]
1000 Books Display
Our 1000 Books program was launched in September (during another storytime break!) and this month saw a new advancement for this passive program. We received partnership funding from the Darien Rotary Club to fund the first 300 kids to complete the passive program. Additionally, the Darien Women’s Club helped us purchase this beautiful display. Each month we’ll feature a suggested title for kids to read who are participating in the 1000 Books program. Along with the suggested book, I’ve also created a recommendation booklist. This month’s featured book is Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera and the booklist is all about song books. I am in love with the picture frames that showcase our book. Also: the graphics and signs from our Marketing Department.
[Book Bundles and LeapFrog Kits, photo courtesy of the author.]
I was finally able to put out our newest circulating kits: Book Bundles & Parenting Packs! These were funded by a Target early literacy grant. All of the work that went into these kits was done during storytime breaks, including purchasing all materials and developing the activity sheets/resource guides found inside each bundle or pack. Book Bundles are aimed at ages 2-6 and have books, puzzles, manipulatives, and more in twelve different topics like ABCs, 123s, Colors, and Shapes. I should also mention that all of the LeapFrog kits were developed during a storytime break in the summer of 2014.
[The re-organized Parent/Teacher collection, photo courtesy of the author.]
This one, I confess, I worked on during this past storytime session. But it was finally completed and ready to roll out when our storytime break began. Our Parent/Teacher collection is now organized by subject instead of Dewey decimal/fiction. This means that all of our picture books are integrated with their subjects. This also means that hopefully families going through tough times will be able to browse for their own materials rather than ask a librarian about a sensitive subject. (Although we’re always willing to help!) I spent much of my off storytime time shifting shelves. The red totes at the bottom are the Parenting Packs I mentioned before. These are geared towards caregivers to use with children and include topics like Potty Training, Staying in the Hospital, and New Baby in the House.
So, what’s next during this storytime break? Creating a Language Learners area, purchasing new Playaway Launchpads, working on a monthly early literacy calendar for 2016, partnering with a local preschool for our first preschool fair, and of course, preparing for the next storytime session.
I leave you with this quote, one that my boss sent to me after a particularly stressful summer reading had just ended:
Think about it: Humans are the only creatures in nature that resist the pattern of ebb and flow. We want the sun to shine all night, and when it doesn’t, we create cities that never sleep. Seeking a continuous energetic and emotional high, we use everything from exciting parties to illegal chemicals. But natural ebbs — the darkness between days, the emptiness between fill-ups, the fallow time between growing seasons — are the necessary complements of upbeats. They hold a message for us. If you listen at your life’s low points, you’ll hear it, too. It’s just one simple, blessed word: Rest.
— Martha Beck
Will you join me in taking storytime breaks? What can you do for your patrons to fill the time?
Are you wondering what's new in YA today? Check out these wonderful new releases!
Like any other Saturday night, Gabby Perez and her best friend, Maria, are out dancing. But this isn’t just another night. When a mysterious stranger warns Gabby their drinks have been drugged, she hurries Maria home. Sure enough, the next day, Maria can’t remember a thing. Gabby’s shaken by their close call. And she’s not going to stay quiet about it.
She opens up the airwaves on her radio show and discovers an even worse truth: the guy who drugged them was going to force them into prostitution. Then Gabby’s friend Bree never makes it home from a party, and Gabby fears the worst.
Gabby reaches out to the guy who saved her, the gorgeous stranger she knows only as X. As they dive into the seedy underworld of Miami, searching for Bree, they can’t ignore their undeniable attraction. Until Gabby discovers the truth about who X really is and the danger that surrounds him. Can their love survive the light of day?
In the thrilling sequel to Lies I Told, Grace learns that the most difficult thing about pulling off the perfect crime is living with the consequences.
Grace Fontaine was trained to carry out perfect crimes. But when a mistake was made the night her family tried to execute their biggest heist yet, her world fell apart. Now her brother is in jail, her mother has disappeared with the entire stolen fortune, and her father is determined to find a new mark, no matter the cost.
Haunted by the way she betrayed her friends—and Logan, the only boy she’s ever loved—as well as the role she played in her brother’s arrest, Grace decides she must return to the place every thief knows you should avoid: the scene of the crime.
Returning to Playa Hermosa as a wanted criminal is dangerous. But Grace has only one chance to make things right. To do it, she has to use everything she’s been taught about the art of the con to hunt down the very people who trained her: the only family she’s ever known.
Perfect for fans of Ally Carter, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Gail Carriger, this thrilling, high-stakes novel deftly explores the roles of identity and loyalty while offering a window into the world of the rich and fabulous.
What do you do if you find yourself fantasizing about kissing your best friend? Sensitive guitarist Jake has been asking himself that same question for a long time, and there’s no easy answer. Telling his dream girl –talented anime artist Elena– about his feelings might lead to the ultimate rejection, but not telling her just might kill him.
Before Jake can make his move, though, a new mysterious guy enters the picture in an unexpected way. In Elena’s mind, Harlow is excitement-personified: a rebellious yet kindred spirit who she instantly connected with online. Jake’s gut is telling him that something about Harlow is off, and that Elena is in way over her head, but the more Jake pushes the issue, the more he pushes Elena right into Harlow’s arms –and into a tragedy that neither of them would ever see coming.
A heartrending but ultimately uplifting debut novel about learning to accept life’s uncertainties; a perfect fit for the current trend in contemporary realistic novels that confront issues about life, death, and love.
Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that will tell her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother. With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family’s genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she’ll live to be a healthy adult—including going to ballet school and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool, and gets an audition for a dance scholarship in California, Rose begins to question her carefully-laid rules.
After Gabi’s relationship with her long-time boyfriend Max falls apart, she just needs to get away—and she finds the perfect escape in a summer internship for her favorite TV show in London. All the gorgeous actors in the cast will more than distract her from the Break-Up.
Then she meets Spencer Black: student, show extra, expert flirt. Spending time with him is fun, intoxicating, and uncertain. Their relationship is heating up when he lands a featured role on the show. Will his newly found fame break them apart, or is Spencer the one?
In this steamy love story, the drama is just as real off-screen as it is on.
If there are any new YA books we missed, let us know in the comments below, and we'll add them to the list!
Vegetarian or vegan, kosher or carnivore, this is one turkey we can all get behind, especially book lovers and paper fetishists such as myself. Thanks to Reading With Scissors for this one:Happy Thanksgiving, all! See you next week. In the meantime,... Read the rest of this post
The cover has been unveiled for Mary Robinette Kowal’s forthcoming book, Forest of Memory. We’ve embedded the full image for the jacket design above—what do you think?
According to Tor.com, Christine Foltzer served as the designer and Victo Ngai created the artwork for this project. Tor/Forge, a division at Macmillan Publishers, has scheduled the release date for Mar. 08, 2016.
Policing patriotism at the concert hall is a time-honored tradition. One of the latest targets is the Fort Worth Symphony, which has endured public criticism for performing The Star-Spangled Banner regularly before its concerts. One fed-up critic, Scott Cantrell, recently urged all American orchestras to abandon the practice because a concert should “transport” listeners to “another world” away from “narrow nationalism.”
Rapper Nicki Minaj (pictured, via) recently recited the verses of another: the famous poem “Still I Rise” by the lateMaya Angelou. Follow this link to read the poem in its entirety.
The video embedded above features the hip hop artist’s performance at an A&E television special called Shining A Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America. Click here to watch a video with Angelou’s own reading of “Still I Rise.” (via BuzzFeed)
So I’m going to confess something to you. All year long, from January onward, I’ve been keeping track of any picture book, easy book, or early chapter book I’ve seen containing some kind of diversity. Have I missed books? Of course I have! You cannot make a list like this without missing something. Books from publishers like Kar-Ben Books and Inhabit Media (amongst others) should be better represented, but I failed to keep proper track early in the year. There probably isn’t enough Lee & Low or Cinco Punto either. At the same time, the books that I was able to gather could be potentially useful to folks. You will find them organized by their publication release dates.
I apologize beforehand that sometimes the notes here do not mention the specific ethnicities of the characters. Often this is because the book itself has not made it clear. For these titles, you will need to look at the books individually.
As ever, if you see something missing here please note it in the comments. Also, if you think I’ve included wrong information about a book, let me know so that I can make the change.
Title Author Pub Date Age Subjects Type
Shelley Rotner & Sheila M. Kelly
family, alternative lifestyles, same sex families
3, 2, 1, Go!
Emily Arnold McCully
strong girls, science girls, STEM
How to Grow a Friend
Multi-ethnic Cast, friendship, nature
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
nature, bears, cities, Diverse Main Character
Last Stop on Market Street
Matt de la Pena
family, multigenerational, lower income, African-American, Diverse Main Character
The Tea Party in the Woods
Diverse Main Character, Asian, animals, tea parties
Ready, Set, Kindergarten!
Diverse Main Character, starting school, biracial
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay
Disability, friendship, sports, African-American, Diverse Main Character
Diverse Main Character, African-American, American history, freedom
multi-cultural, moving, Asian-American, friendship, Diverse Main Character
Harlem Renaissance Party
Diverse Main Character, African-American, American history
Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure
family, Latino-American, Diverse Main Character
Sofia Martinez: The Missing Mouse
family, Latino-American, Diverse Main Character
A Dozen Cousins
Lori Haskins Houran
family, Multi-ethnic Cast, boys, girls
The New Small Person
family, new baby, siblings, jealousy, Diverse Main Character
I Had a Favorite Hat
Diverse Main Character, Clothing, Imagination
The Red Bicycle
multi-cultural, Africa, bicycles, philanthropy, world culture, Diverse Main Character
The Sock Thief
Latin America, soccer, sports, altruism, Diverse Main Character
Diverse Main Character, Disability, friendship
Party Croc! A Folktale from Zimbabwe
Margaret Read McDonald
Diverse Main Character, folktale, promises
No, No, Kitten!
Shelley Moore Thomas
Diverse Main Character, Cats, Pets
Diverse Main Character, Jewish, WWII, Holocaust, hope
Jan De Kinder
Bullying, Friendship, School
Bird & Diz
jazz, African-American, American history, music, Diverse Main Character
Diverse Main Character, Imagination, Drawing, Art
Red, Yellow, Blue (And a Dash of White Too!)
Diverse Main Character, Imagination, Colors, Art, African-American
Peace Is an Offering
Annette Le Box
Multi-ethnic Cast, peace, friendship
15 Things Not To Do With a Baby
Diverse Main Character, new baby, siblings
Thank You, Jackson
Diverse Main Character, manners, Africa
Salsa: Una Poema Para Cocinar / A Cooking Poem
cooking, Latino-American, family, Diverse Main Character
And What If I Won’t?
Diverse Main Character, family, mothers, behavior
Drum Dream Girl
Diverse Main Character, Cuba, music, girls, multi-racial
It’s a cornucopia of cover reveals at Upstart Crow this week!
Today, we are thrilled to share the cover for Amy Allgeyer’s riveting debut novel, DIG TOO DEEP (Albert Whitman, April 2016). The good folks at YA Books Central did the official reveal yesterday, and you can hop over there to enter to win a free advance reading copy.
It’s not just that Liberty Briscoe feels like an outsider in Ebbotsville, Kentucky. She expected it wouldn’t be easy to move from the city to her granny’s place for her last year of high school. Still, Liberty can’t shake the feeling that something’s not quite right. Everyone says the water’s safe, yet nobody drinks it. When Granny becomes sick, like so many others in town, Liberty starts to wonder about the water, the people who
Rabia Chaudry, a woman whose mission to save a friend from a life sentence which she believes he doesn’t deserve, is writing a book.
Adnan Syed was convicted and sentenced to life plus thirty years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland back in 2000. Chaudry, always believed that he is innocent and has been fighting for more than a decade to get him released.
In 2013, when all of the appeals had been exhausted, she contacted This American Life producer Sarah Koenig in order to publicize the case. Koenig’s research into the story turned into a Peabody Award-winning podcast called Serial.
Murder, Justice, and the Case that Captivated a Nation: Adnan’s Story from St. Martin’s Press is due out in September 2016, but is already available for presale on Amazon.
During a panel I did recently at the Virginia Children's Book Festival on Fairy Tales and Gothic Novels, I mentioned what an important role Twilight had played in my daughter's life and therefore in my own writing career. I expressed my opinion that people often miss the true genius and importance of the novel. Someone in the audience agreed with me, and came up to have me sign Compulsion afterwards, and thus I had the very great pleasure of meeting Jes Simons, who lectures at Longwood University and teaches Twilight to her freshman students. We had a long chat about both books, and about the very special perspective that she has on Twilight as a reader and a teacher. Long before we were done, I knew I had to ask her to write about her experiences. I'm honored to be able to share that with you today!
The Sparkling Appeal of Twilight
An Essay on Being Different, Being Transformed, and Being Connected
A Guest Post by Jes Simmons
Early in Twilight Bella Swan admits, “I didn’t relate well to people my age. Maybe the truth was that I didn’t relate to people, period” (Meyer 11). Many of us gave a collective “Yes” to this because Bella was voicing our innermost secrets and fears. Suddenly we could breathe easier because Stephenie Meyer gave us a relatable and reliable narrator who, like us, didn’t fit in and never truly felt at ease in the world. And when Bella later speculated, “Maybe there was a glitch in my brain” (11), she completely had us on her side. Bella is one of us, an awkward and out-of-step outsider who just wants to find a place to fit in and be accepted. She finds this with the Cullen family (and with us). The appeal of Twilight to meis not the love story of a precocious and self-sacrificing 17-year-old girl who falls in love with a strikingly handsome vampire who will always look 17. Nor is it the action-packed vampire chase and fight that propel the book to its conclusion. What draws me to Twilight is a unique connection with Bella and the Cullen family that comes from being a reader who literally is different from most other people, a reader who doesn’t fit in with peers or the dominant culture. Twilight “sings” to me as a male-to-female transsexual who finds affinity with both Bella and the octet of vampires in the Cullen family.
Like Bella in school, I was acutely aware of how different I was from my classmates, both in body and mind. Despite growing up in sunny Phoenix, Arizona, Bella’s skin wouldn’t tan. Out of step with her peers, Bella stumbled and tripped where others easily walked. Growing up as a gender dysphoric boy, I was painfully aware of behaving and looking more effeminate than masculine. A group of girls in seventh grade used to follow me down the hall, commenting loudly on how I carried my books and walked like a girl (and their words prophetically caused me to stumble). They even called me “Alice.” (Ironically, I now love being a “Team Alice” Twihard!).
Ballerina Misty Copeland has signed a deal with the Hachette imprint, Grand Central Life & Style. She plans to write a health and wellness book entitled Ballerina Body.
The New York Times reports that Copeland (pictured, via) will discuss diet, exercise programs, and tips. She plans to share information that will be applicable for both dancers and laymen. The publication date has been scheduled for early 2017.
Here’s more from The New Pittsburgh Courier: “Copeland, the first African-American woman to become the American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer, is a member of President Barack Obama’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Copeland said in a statement issued by her publisher that she wanted to show ‘all athletes have to take care of themselves from the inside out.’ Her previous books include the memoir Life in Motion and the picture book Firebird.” (via Elle)