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26. 7 Things I Betcha Don't Know about Paul B. Janeczko

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Howdy, Campers!  Be sure to enter our Paul Janeczko BRAND NEW Poetry Book Give-Away (details below).

Happy Poetry Friday (today's host link is below)...and happy

!
In honor of USA's annual poetry jubilee, I've invited someone to climb into the TeachingAuthors' treehouse who looks a lot like my co-op roommates in the 1970's.


Who? Why Paul B. Janeczko, that's who--magnificent poet, poet herder, anthologist, author, speaker, teacher, compassionate human and all-round cool guy. (Does this sound a little too fan-girl-ish? Full disclosure: my poems appear in five of Paul's anthologies.) Here's a previous TeachingAuthors post about his beautiful, multi-star-reviewed collection illustrated by Melissa Sweet, FIREFLY JULY--a Year of Very Short Poems.  (And here are all the TA posts which include the tag "Janeczko".) 

Years ago, I was invited to shadow Paul when he visited schools in Southern California.  Paul's a masterful and charismatic teacher, and he spreads poetry like Johnny Appleseed spread his you-know-whats. Paul's collections of poetry and his anthologies make poetry enjoyable and do-able. (

Paul B. Janeczko and April Halprin Wayland 
ha ha ha

Howdy, Paul! How did you become interested in writing?
I got interested in writing when I was a 4th or 5th grader. Not by writing poems or stories, but by writing postcards and sending away for free stuff. I’d see these little ads in my mother’s Better Homes and Gardens: “Send a postcard for a free sample of tarnish remover.” I had to have it! I had nothing that was tarnished or would ever be tarnished, but I had to have it.  It was the first time that I really wrote for an audience. And I knew I had an audience: I’d send off a postcard and get a free packet of zucchini seeds.

From postcards to post graduate...how did you officially become a TeachingAuthor? That is, tell us how you went from being an author to being a speaker/teacher in schools, etc, if this was your trajectory.
Actually, for me in was more of a coming back to where I started. I started out as a high school English teacher. Did that for 22 years. During that time, I published 8-10 books, but I decided that I’d like to have more time to write. So, when my daughter, Emma, was born in 1990, I became a mostly-stay-at-home parent. Emma was with me a couple of days week and in child care the other days, and that’s when I did my writing and started doing author visits. So, in a lot of ways, it was a very easy transition for me.

I've seen the map, Paul--you're been to a gazillion schools.  What have you noticed as you visit schools is a common problem students have these days? 
One of the main problems that I see is not so much a “student problem” as a “system problem,” and that is that most schools to not give writing the time it needs to have a chance to be good. The time pressure on teachers is enormous, notably when it comes to “teaching for the test.” So, teachers are, first of all, losing time to the actually testing, but they are also losing time prepping their kids for things that they do not necessarily believe in.

Can you hear our readers murmuring in agreement? But--how can you address this?
Because it is a systemic problem, there’s little I can do about as a visiting writer. However, I make it clear to the teachers and the students that our goal in the workshop is not to create a finished poem. That will take time. What I do, however, is usually get the kids going on a few different poems and get the teacher to agree that he/she will spend class time working on those drafts.

You say you get the kids writing poems.  Would you share one of your favorite writing exercises with our readers?
More an approach than an exercise: I like to use poetry models when I work with young readers. I try to show them poems by published poets, but also poems by their peers. When you’re in the 4th grade, Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost may not impress you, but reading a poem by another 4th grader may be just the motivation that you need. And before I turn the kids loose to write, we read the poem, and I give them the chance to talk about what they notice in it. Then we do something a group rough draft so they can begin to see the writing process in action. Then it’s time for them to write. (Readers, Paul has agreed to elaborate on this when he comes back here on Wednesday, 4/8/15 and gives us step-by-step instructions.)



You're so productive, Paul! What else is on the horizon for you?
I am finishing an anthology of how-to poems, which will be published in the spring of 2016, with the illustrator to be determined. And I have 3 non-fiction books lined up for the next three years. Little Lies: Deception in War will be a fall 2016 book. The two after that will be Phantom Army: The Ghost Soldiers of World War II and Heist: Art Thieves and the Detectives Who Tracked them Down. And I’m mulling a book of my own poems. Nothing definite on that project.

WOWEE Kazowee, Paul!  

Since it's Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere, would you share with our readers?

This is poem that I wrote for a book of poems and illustrations that marked the 200th anniversary of the White House.

Mary Todd Lincoln Speaks of Her Son’s Death, 1862
by Paul B. Janeczko

When Willie died of the fever
Abraham spoke the words
that I could not:
“My boy is gone.
He is actually gone.”

Gone.
The word was a thunder clap
deafening me to my wails
as I folded over his body
already growing cold.

Gone.
The word was a curtain
coming down on 11 years,
hiding toy soldiers,
circus animals,
and his beloved train.

Gone.
The word was poison
but poison that would not kill
only gag me with its bitterness
as I choked on a prayer for my death.

Abraham spoke the words
that I could not:
“My boy is gone.
He is actually gone.”
And I am left 
with grief 
when spoken
shatters like my heart.

poem © Paul B. Janeczko 2015 ~ all rights reserved

Incredibly haunting, Paul. Thank you so much for climbing up to our treehouse today!  
And readers: remember, we're in for TWO treats:
(1) Enter below to win an autographed copy of Paul's newest anthology, his (gasp!) 50th book, Death of a Hat, illustrated by Chris Raschka.  You can enter between now and 4/22/15 (which just happens to be TeachingAuthors' 5th Blogiversary!)



a Rafflecopter giveaway(2) Paul is coming back this Wednesday to this very blog to explain how he teaches on his poetry writing exercise.  Thank you, Paul!


(P.S: Every April I post original poems. This year's theme is PPP--Previously Published Poems and you can find them here.) 

Thank you, Amy of the Poem Farm for Hosting Poetry Friday today!

posted poetically by April Halprin Wayland and Monkey--who offered lots of ideas today...

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27. The Science of Reading

In a recent neuroscience study, researchers focused on the visual side of the brain and concluded that volunteers saw words and pictures and not individual letters. This research could prove very helpful in understanding how struggling readers process words, and improve tactics for teaching.

Arbordale truly believes that reading, and being read to, is a very important part of growing up. So, we are closing out the work with a Friday Reads Giveaway! Comment on this post to be entered to win these three Arbordale books!

Daisylocks_128 ShapeFamily_128 AnimalPartners_187

Learn more about the Journal of Neuroscience article on Science News.


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28. The Cake House, by Latifah Salom | Book Giveaway

The Children’s Book Review | March 24, 2015 Enter for a chance to win a copy of The Cake House, by Latifah Salom. One (1) winner receives: A copy of The Cake House Age Range: 14+ Paperback: 336 pages Giveaway begins March 24, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 23, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST. About the Book […]

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29. A Two-for-the-Price-of-One Interview with Dr. Steven L. Layne

Today’s interview subject qualifies as a Student Success Story + a TeachingAuthor.
But, truthfully, to label Dr. Steven L. Layne a “TeachingAuthor” is an understatement.

He’s a national-award-winning former suburban Illinois across-the-grades classroom teacher and reading specialist who currently serves as Professor of Literacy Education at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, directing the university’s Master of Education in Literacy program and co-directing the university’s doctoral program in Literacy Education.

He also authors picture books, including STAY WITH SISTER (Pelican), (which he wrote in my 2011 Newberry Library Picture Book Workshop), YA fiction, including THIS SIDE OF PARADISE(Pelican) and academic books for teachers, including LIFE’S LITERACY LESSONS,  IGNITING A PASSION FOR READING and, as of March 1, IN DEFENSE OF READ-ALOUD (all Stenhouse).

Dr. Layne also recently served as an elected Board Member of the International Reading Association, now the International Literacy Association. 

I’m honored to call this amazing former student-dash-TeachingAuthor both “Steven” and “friend” and welcome this opportunity to share him with our readers.  His earnest zeal for literacy is nothing short of contagious.

Steven travels the world igniting his audiences of teachers and writers. 
His mission statement as expressed on his website says it all.  Passionate about reading.
“Building lifetime readers,” he writes, “is what it’s all about for reading teachers and librarians.  If we aren’t doing that – what are we doing?”

In IN DEFENSE OF READ-ALOUD, Steven puts forth the research, the insights, the experience of teachers, librarians and authors to reinforce readers’ confidence to continue and sustain the practice of reading aloud in grades K through 12.

Thank you, Steven, for all you do to keep literacy alive – and – for sharing your smarts and experience with our TeachingAuthors readers.

Thank you, too, for offering one lucky reader a signed copy of IN DEFENSE OF READ-ALOUD via our TeachingAuthor Book Giveaway.  (Instructions appear following the Q and A.)

* * * * *

So, let’s divide the standard First Question of our Student Success Story/ TeachingAuthor Interview into two parts.

How did your teaching career begin?   

I wanted it to begin right after college—but I had no teaching degree.  My parents assured me I would starve if I became a teacher, so I became a therapist—who married a teacher.  It took only two months of listening to her talk about her students for me to return to college again—and to follow my destiny.  Over the years I worked with the impoverished, the insanely wealthy, the middle class – you name them, I taught them – every race, religion, shape, and size.  I like to think those experiences taught me a few things.

How did your writing career begin?  

I loved writing in school.  I often made up my own cast of characters for dramas and wrote short stories and plays.  My poetry and prose were awarded honors throughout high school.  Many years later, when I was in a doctoral course called “Writing for Publication” and had finished all of the required “academic” submissions, I asked about writing a picture book.  The professor encouraged me to “go for it.”  I did, and 27 rejection letters later – I sold it.  My mother and my aunt Mary bought copies right away but beyond that the sales were less than inspiring.  My second book, The Teachers’ Night Before Christmas, became a national bestseller—selling over 100,000 copies.  Suddenly, people wanted to talk to me about writing.



How does each role (teacher/author) inform and impact the other?  

The role of “Teacher” informs EVERYTHING that I do from the way I parent, to where I sit in church, to the way I interact on an airplane.  When I write for kids – I draw on my knowledge from 15 years of classroom experience.  I typically write fast-paced, plot-driven YA because I am thinking of what I know will grab the kind of reluctant readers I taught.  When I write picture books, I try to stay under 500 words and to write about an issue that will emotionally resonate with primary-grade readers, again, because I taught those grades.  Those kids were my first loves, so to speak.  When I write for teachers—how can I NOT write “as teacher?”  I spend a lot of time in public and private K-12 classrooms even now.  A colleague and I have been teaching in three fifth-grade classes on and off this past year and those experiences are definitely going to play into the writing of an article, book, or curriculum. 

The role of “Author” informs my teaching, primarily when I am talking to teachers about the craft and the process of writing.  I try not to speak only from my own experience but from that of others.  In fact, I am often gently criticized for not shining a light on my own work, and while it is true that I can speak to my process better than anyone else’s—I am loathe to have audiences feel that I am trying to showcase my own work.  That being said, I often pull from my knowledge of how “real world writing works” and from my experience when I teach about writing but am able to do so without using my own texts as the examples.

How and why did you come to write IN DEFENSE OF READ-ALOUD? 

My experience with read-alouds spans a wide range of grade levels.  I read aloud, even now, to both my masters and my doctoral classes.  The benefits are far-reaching and the research is sound, and yet the experience is often placed under the pedagogical microscope—raising eyebrows and leading to the question: “Is this a good use of instructional time?”  I wanted to write the book that would settle the questions once and for all which is why I enlisted an army of voices from throughout the literacy arena to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me on this issue.  I know of no other book where an issue of instructional practice has received such a resolute stance from so many.  My prayer is that this book will be every teacher’s and librarian’s defense if their practice in reading aloud to children or teens is questioned by someone who is ill-informed.

Can you share one or two reader responses – to any of your books – that remain in your heart and keep you going…doing your important work? 

I wrote my first YA novel This Side of Paradise when a 7th grader in my classroom challenged me to write a book for kids who hate to read.  That title has won more awards and recognition than all my other books combined.  The other day I received a letter from a single mother from California.  She was writing to tell me that her middle-school son, who had been having a tough time in school and HATED books – had discovered mine.  He read it, then read the sequel, and then came to ask her if she could try to find out if and when another book in the series was coming.  To see this book still working magic warms my heart.

I receive a lot of mail about my professional book Igniting a Passion for Reading.  I am frequently told by teachers that their reading of this title has completely altered their practice.  Yesterday, I was contacted by a school district in Texas.  They are opening three brand-new elementary schools and hiring all new faculty.  Igniting and two other titles from my dear friends Regie Routman and Donalyn Miller are the three books around which they will anchor all instruction.  They have asked me to come out and work with the teachers.  What an honor – I am so blessed.



What’s the next Steven Layne children’s book and/or Dr. Steven L. Layne academic title for which we should ready our bookshelves? 

Oh, I wish I could give you a definitive answer.  I am due for a new picture book because I typically bounce between genres; however, I have four chapters of a YA novel started and an exciting new book for teachers also taking shape.  You never know what I’m going to do next (and neither do I), and I actually kind of like it that way.  Let’s just say, you can reserve a place on your shelf because something’s coming – we just don’t know what . . . or when.

                                                …………………..

Here’s a way to instantly fill that saved space:  
enter our Rafflecopter Book Giveaway and win an autographed copy of Steven’s IN DEFENSE OF READ-ALOUD (Stenhouse)!

If you choose the “comment” option, please share your Favorite Read Aloud title – as either listener or reader.

If your name isn’t part of your comment “identity,” please include it in your comment for verification purposes.  Comments may also be submitted via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.

If the widget doesn’t appear for some reason (or you’re an email subscriber), use the link at the end of this post to take you to the entry form.

The Book Giveaway ends midnight, April 1.

Esther Hershenhorn

P.S. If you’ve never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here’s info on how to enter aRafflecopter giveaway.




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30. Share To Win 1 of 3 Inspiring Message T-shirts or T-shirt Plus 3 Signed Books by Cheryl Rainfield

STAINED releases in paperback on May 11th! To celebrate, I’m hosting this contest. Share to win 1 of 3 Limited Edition T-shirts, or a Limited Edition T-shirt plus a signed copy of SCARS, STAINED, and HUNTED.

cheryl-rainfield-tshirt-front-square-contest

cheryl-rainfield-tshirt-back-square-contest

To enter: Share one or both contest images; copy & paste this paragraph; follow Cheryl Rainfield (on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter); and tag @CherylRainfield. This contest is to celebrate STAINED paperback releasing May 11th! T-shirts are also available for purchase at teespring.com/cherylrainfield Full contest rules on CherylRainfield.com/blog.

Twitter contest tweet: “Share to win 1 of 3 Inspirational T-shirts plus 3 signed books by @CherylRainfield” (or whatever message you want as long as you tag me and include the contest image).

You get 1 entry for each social media you share this on. Remember to tag CherylRainfield so I can see your entry.

You get 10 entries for each copy of STAINED that you buy. Yes, this includes any copy you’ve already purchased, in any format. Email a receipt to Cheryl(at)CherylRainfield(dot)com

T-Shirt has two inspirational quotes–one on the front, and one on the back.

cheryl-rainfield-tshirt-front-and-back

Open to US, Canada, UK, and New Zealand readers.

Contest ends March 30, 2015 at Midnight EST.

Winner will be chosen randomly using the Random Number Generator.

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31. Seraphina Series, by Rachel Hartman | Book Series Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Seraphina, written by Rachel Hartman, and the newest release, Shadow Scale (Seraphina: Book Two). Giveaway begins March 9, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 8, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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32. Jade Stars: The Great Race: How the Chinese Zodiac Came to Be | Giveaway

The Children’s Book Review | March 8, 2015 Enter to win an autographed copy of Jade Stars: The Great Race: How the Chinese Zodiac Came to Be, by Stacey Hirata and Charles Huang, plus an accompanying sticker book and plush animal. One (1) winner receives: An autographed copy of Jade Stars: The Great Race: How the Chinese Zodiac Came to Be. A copy of […]

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33. The Berenson Schemes Series, by Lisa Doan | Book Series Giveaway

The Children’s Book Review | March 6, 2015 Enter to win all three Berenson Schemes books, written by Lisa Doan: JACK THE CASTAWAY, JACK AND THE WILDLIFE, and the newest release, JACK AT THE HELM. One (1) winner receives: All three Berenson Schemes books, written by Lisa Doan: JACK THE CASTAWAY, JACK AND THE WILDLIFE, and the […]

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34. If You Were Me and Lived in … Greece: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World | Book Giveaway

The Children’s Book Review | February 28, 2015 Enter to win a complete autographed set of the If You Were Me series, by award-winning author Carole P. Roman; including If You Were Me and Lived in … Greece: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World! One (1) winner receives the grand prize: An autographed set of Carole P. […]

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35. Homer the Little Stray Cat, by Pamela L. Laskin | Book Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed copy of Homer the Little Stray Cat (Little Balloon Press, 2014), by Pamela L. Laskin and illustrated by Kirsi Tuomanen Hill. Giveaway begins February 27, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends March 26, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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36. Crime Solver’s Detective Agency, by Victoria Schwimley | Book Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed paperback copy of Crime Solver's Detective Agency (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014), by Victoria Schwimley. Giveaway begins February 26, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends March 25, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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37. The Jaguar Stones: The Lost City, by J&P Voelkel | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a hardcover copy of The Jaguar Stones: The Lost City (EgmontUSA, February 10, 2015), by J&P Voelkel. Giveaway begins February 19, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends March 18, 2016, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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38. Fribbet the Frog and the Tadpoles, by Carole P. Roman | Series Giveaway

Enter to win a full autographed set of the Captain No Beard series, by award-winning author Carole P. Roman; including the newest title Fribbet the Frog and the Tadpoles; plus a Kidoozie Pirate Den Playhouse! Giveaway begins February 12, 2015 at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends March 11, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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39. Mom’s Good Advice

It’s my turn to continue the discussion of Beautiful Oops. (To learn more, read Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg. Read about Celebrate Oops!, “an initiative designed to build confidence and turn accidents into teaching moments.” Also check out Aprils and Bobbis posts and Barney Saltzbergs Wednesday Writing Workout.)

When this topic came up, I thought it would be an easy one to write about. I make a lot of mistakes. I tried to think of one I turned into a positive experience. Not so easy.

Brainstorming gave me a couple of ideas. One was Milton the Monster. The other was Mom saying “Oopsie Daisy” when one of us kids fell down.

The mistakes that haunt me now are often errors of omission—things I should have done but didn’t. Given a difficult choice, I can agonize until it’s too late to do anything. What if a better option comes up? Mom used to say, “Sometimes not to decide is to decide.”

Bird feeders outside Mom's window. Can you tell I'm craving spring?

Fear can be paralyzing, so sometimes almost any action is better than none. What if I make the wrong choice? No use crying over spilled milk, Mom says.

I always try to make the best of whatever situation I find myself in. But when I try to think about my mistakes, well, I don’t want to. Mom's advice? Don't dwell on them. Maybe blocking them out is the best way for me to be able to pick myself up, dust myself off, and carry on.

Thanks, Mom!

Don’t forget to enter our drawing for an autographed copy of the young adult novel Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan. Today’s the last day!

JoAnn Early Macken

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40. Possible Imaginations


As April Halprin Wayland reminded us, sometimes mistakes are masterpieces waiting to happen, that there is a “magical transformation from blunder to wonder.” 
  
We continue to celebrate The Beautiful Oops Day!


 The transition from blunder to wonder can be challenging. As psychologist Kristi DeName   suggested, whenever we experience transitions, we are letting go of Some Thing. These transitions are defined by loss. Some losses are profound: a marriage, a home, a friend, a pet, a job. Some are less profound, as we let go of habits or objects, or an idea. But all change is scary because all loss is scary. It is unsettling, overwhelming, disappointing, and confusing.


Adapting to change forces us to gain perspective. We are forced to re-examine our lives and our choices… and our options.

Blunders Ahoy!

As you know, I’ve long studied American folklore and history. I graduated from Vermont with a four-book contract for picture books that highlighted my love of American folklore and history. But, as much as I knew about writing and story, I knew nothing of the business of children’s publishing. That was my blunder, followed quickly by another: I signed on with the first agent who would help me with the multi-contracts. While this agent helped seal the deal with the contracts, issues arose. Needless to say, that relationship didn’t work out. I was referred to another agent, and more problems arose. It turned out that the contracts contained a couple of damaging clauses. According to this second agent, I couldn’t submit work elsewhere, and she couldn’t renegotiate the clauses. In other words, my career was not only stalled, it was completely derailed.


My first two picture books came out in 2009, eight years after signing the contract. The third book came out in 2012, eleven years after signing the contract. The fourth contract, however, was cancelled. Determined, I went to Author’s Guild, learned what I had to in order to understand these clauses, and then I renegotiated the particular clauses myself.


But there was yet another, stronger riptide I had to steer through. Beginning in 2001, the children’s market was changing dramatically. The folklore picture book market was bottoming out. The very genre that I had studied, loved, and sought as my career was no longer an option. Talk about a bumpy ride! My friend Eric Kimmel said I should write middle grade books.


Middle grade novels? I liked reading middle grade novels, but I had never considered writing them. How was I going to combine all that I had learned and loved in folklore and history with this new format? Was it even possible in a market that no longer viewed folklore as relevant? Historical fiction was having an equally hard time in the market.

 

  What do I do now?


Not only do writers have to adapt to the shifting markets, sometimes we have to make our own place in it. And there’s the wonder of it!! As my wonderful new agent, Karen Grencik, said “As long as you are writing what’s in your heart and doing the best you can…” Finally, twelve years after I graduated from Vermont College, Karen sold my first middle-grade novel Big River’s Daughter to Holiday House. Three months after that, she sold my second middle grade novel, Girls of Gettysburg, also to Holiday House. All things happen for a reason at the time they are supposed to happen. As River and Tiger plunged into the wilds of the frontier, taking on the Pirates Laffite and the extraordinary landscape of the mighty Mississippi River in the rough-and-tumble Big River’s Daughter, there is that truth of River’s journey: if one perseveres, life can be full of possible imaginations. 


This here story is all true, as near as I can recollect. It ain’t a prettified story. Life as a river rat is stomping hard, and don’t I know it. It’s life wild and wooly, a real rough and tumble. But like Da said, life on the big river is full of possible imaginations. And we river rats, we aim to see it through in our own way. That’s the honest truth of it.” River Fillian, Big River’s Daughter 

Bobbi Miller



Don’t forget about our giveaway, featuring an autographed copy of Sherry Shahan’s YA novel, Skin and Bones!

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41. A Dozen Cousins, by Lori Haskins Houran | Book Giveaway

The Children’s Book Review | January 31, 2015 Enter to win a hardcover copy of A Dozen Cousins (Sterling Children’s Books, February 3, 2015), story by Lori Haskins Houran and illustrations by Sam Usher. One (1) winner receives: A hardcover copy of A Dozen Cousins Age Range: 4-6 Giveaway begins January 31, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends February 28, 2016, […]

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42. The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a hardcover copy of The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money (Harper, February 3, 2015), by Ron Lieber. Giveaway begins January 27, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends February 26, 2016, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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43. A Rose by Any Other Name Can Be...a Heather: Naming Characters

     There are two things about writing that never get any easier for me. . .coming up with a good title and naming characters.  I still have a hard time with titles, but I have developed strategies to give my characters good names.

    I spent most of my pregnancy struggling to come up with just the right name for my daughter, a name that would be all her own. In writing, I do not have the luxury of spending eight months on one character name.

    I believe that name is the single most important aspect of a character. It is usually the first thing a reader learns about him.  The name should reflect the character's personality is some way, however subtle.  Sometimes that is a mysterious process that goes on in the author's head, unexplainable to anyone else.  I do not know how E.B. White decided on Charlotte and Wilbur, but can you imagine them named anything else?  A book called Barbara's Web?  A pig named Bob?  No, somehow Charlotte and Wilbur, along with Fern and Templeton and Mr. Zuckerman are so right, they could not be anything else.

    Since I write historical fiction, I have a second barrier to finding just the right name. My names need to fit the time period.  The characters in Yankee Girl were pretty easy.  The book was about my sixth grade class.  I used names that were popular in 1964, as well as names that were popular in the South.  Jimmy's Stars, which takes place in 1943, was a little more difficult.  I knew that my main character was born in 1932, and would have graduated from high school in 1950. I scoured libraries and second-hand stores for 1949-50 high school annuals. (There were an awful lot of girls named Betty.)

    Contemporary fiction isn't much easier.  Names change as quickly as any other fashion.  Some names scream a particular decade.  I am a baby boomer, and I was usually the only Mary Ann in a class full of Debbies, Karens, Cathys and Sharons.  When I was a middle school teacher in the late 80's, I taught more than a few Farrahs. My friends who had babies about then named them Ashley and Kate (not after the Olsen twins!)  When I had my daughter in 1994, I was the only one in my childbirth class who did not name their child Tyler or Taylor (regardless of sex).

   Then there are adult names. In children's books, they are usually not a central character but occasionally they are.  (Miss Gruen and Reverend Taylor in Yankee Girl come to mind.) How do you name adults?

   Here is a list of sources I have compiled that help me with The Naming Game.

   1.  Baby name books.  These often reflect the popularity (or lack of popularity) of a name, as well as give a cultural origin. (Warning:  I learned not to carry one of these in public unless I wanted to start rumors about a possible new addition to my family.)

   2.  School annuals.  These work for both contemporary and historical fiction.

   3.  School directories, websites, newsletters, newspapers, class lists.  Schools in my neck of the woods generate an enormous amount of student information. If you don't have access to your own personal student, read the school news pages online or in your neighborhood paper/website.

   4.  Obituaries.  Yeah, I know it's kind of morbid, but I have collected a number of "old-timey" names from them.  Around here, they usually include the person's nickname as well.

   5.  Observation.  I live a mile away from the fastest growing immigrant community in the country.  Call me nosy (or a writer), but I notice workers' name tags.  I ask the employee where they are from and how they pronounce their name.  No one has been insulted (yet), and I have collected names I would never have thought of on my own.

    6.  The Social Security Index of Popular Baby Names. This site is unbelievably cool.  It lists the top 200 names for boys and girls for each decade, from 1880 to 2010.  Not only is it searchable by decade, but by each state as well. (Apparently Mary and James were the hot names of my decade.) http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/decades

   What do I do with all these names?  I list them in a notebook, separate from my regular journal. Right now, the 1910 Social Security list is getting a heavy workout from me.  My characters are named.

      Now if I could just think of a title...

     Don't forget about our current book giveaway.  For more information click here.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

 

0 Comments on A Rose by Any Other Name Can Be...a Heather: Naming Characters as of 1/26/2015 12:27:00 PM
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44. Zodiac, by Romina Russell | Book Giveaway

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45. Suspicion, by Alexandra Monir | Book Giveaway

The Children’s Book Review | December 19, 2014 Enter to win a hardcover copy of Suspicion, by Alexandra Monir. Two (2) winners receive: A hardcover copy of Suspicion, by Alexandra Monir. Age Range: 12+ Hardcover: 304 pages Giveaway begins December 19, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends January 18, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST. About Suspicion Publisher’s Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Imogen Rockford […]

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46. If You Were Me and Lived in … Peru: An Introduction to Learning About Other Cultures | Series Giveaway

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47. Hissy Fitz, by Patrick Jennings | Book Giveaway

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48. Candlewick Prize Pack with 6 of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Young Adult Books

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49. An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir | Advanced Reader Copy Giveaway

The Children’s Book Review | January 16 Enter to win an autographed advance reader copy of An Ember in the Ashes (Razorbill, April 28, 2015), by Sabaa Tahir, and a T-shirt. One (1) winner receives  An advanced reader copy of An Ember in the Ashes autographed by Sabaa Tahir. An Ember in the Ashes T-shirt. Age Range: 12 and up Giveaway begins January 16, […]

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50. Guest TeachingAuthor Interview and Book Giveaway with Sherry Shahan

I've enjoyed reading my fellow TeachingAuthor' posts on plotting and planning. That series ended with Esther's post on Monday. Today, I'm presenting a new topic: a guest TeachingAuthor interview and book giveaway! But first, I want to share some updates regarding our blog. The next few months will be a busy time for me due to a variety of personal and professional commitments. (If you live in the Chicago area and you're looking for a writing class, I hope you'll check out my class offerings, including one tomorrow on "Great Beginnings.") So, while I'll continue to work behind the scenes here, I'll be taking a blogging break. And I'm THRILLED to announce that the talented Carla Killough McClafferty will be blogging in my place. If you don't know Carla, do read her bio info on our About Us page. I hope you'll give her a hearty welcome when she makes her debut here three weeks from today.

Now, for today's guest TeachingAuthor interview, let me re-introduce you to Sherry Shahan, author of picture books, easy readers, and novels for middle grade and young adults. You may recall that Sherry contributed a terrific Wednesday Writing Workout back in July. I began that post by saying:

>>Sherry and I first met virtually, when she joined the New Year/New Novel (NYNN) Yahoo group I started back in 2009. I love the photo she sent for today's post--it personifies her willingness to do the tough research sometimes required for the stories she writes. As she says on her website, she has:

 "ridden on horseback into Africa’s Maasailand, hiked through a leech-infested rain forest in Australia, shivered inside a dogsled for the first part of the famed 1,049 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, rode-the-foam on a long-board in Hawaii, and spun around dance floors in Havana, Cuba."   
<<

Sherry's most recent young-adult novel, Skin and Bones (A. Whitman) required a different kind of research, as she shares in her interview below. According to Kirkus Reviews, she did her work well::
"Shahan tackles eating disorders in a fast-paced, contemporary coming-of-age novel. . . A quick read with a worthy message: We are all recovering from something, and the right companions can help you heal. The wrong ones can kill you."

The paperback edition of Skin and Bones will be released in March. Meanwhile, Sherry is generously contributing an autographed copy for a  TeachingAuthors' book giveaway. To enter, see the instructions at the end of this post. First, though, be sure to read the following interview:


Sherry, how did you become a TeachingAuthor?

In the 1980s I lived in a small town and didn’t know anyone who was a writer. I hadn’t even heard of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I heard about a local Writers Conference and signed up. At the end of the workshop focusing on children’s books, I asked the instructor if she’d critique my middle-grade novel manuscript. She agreed. Soon thereafter she told me she’d shared it with her editor (a school book fair publisher). They bought that novel and I worked with them on five more.
Fast forward: After graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts (MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, 2007) I was brimming with enthusiasm about writing. My friends soon tired of discussions of emotional subtext, objective correlatives, polyphonic elements, etc. When I heard that UCLA was seeking teachers for online writing courses I sent the department chair my resumé. I’ve been teaching for them ever since.

What's a common problem that your students have and how do you address it?

It’s simply the overuse of passive verbs—and that’s across the board, no matter what the person’s writing experience. As an exercise, I post a short paragraph that’s riddled with ‘was,’ ‘seems to be,” ‘must have been,’ ‘would,’ ‘had,’ etc. I then ask them to reconstruct the paragraph using active verbs. Happily, writings submitted after the exercise shine with lively, active language.

Back in July you shared a terrific Wednesday Writing Workout with our readers and talked a bit about Skin and Bones. You mentioned then that the novel started out as a short story. What inspired that original story and how did you expand it to a novel?

I had a crazy idea about a love story from the perspective of a teen guy with anorexia, which I set in an Eating Disorders Unit of a hospital. The short story sold right away to a major literary journal. Later, a London publisher included it in their YA anthology, and after that it appeared in their Best of collection. So far the 1,400-word version of Skin and Bones has appeared eight times worldwide.

My agent kept encouraging me to expand the story into a novel. But I wasn’t ready to spend a year (or more) with young people in the throes of a life-threatening illness. I weighed the pros and cons.

Pros:
* The short story would serve as an outline since the basic story arc was in place.
Each character already had a distinctive voice.
The hospital setting was firmly fixed in my mind.
The subject matter had proven itself to be of interest to readers.
Proven ground is attractive to editors and publishers, as long as the topic is approached in a fresh way.

Cons:
* The story would require an additional 60,000 words.
I would have to create additional characters.
Every character would require a convincing backstory.
I would need compelling subplots.
Every scene would require richer subtext.

Well, the "Pros" obviously won out.J We don’t often hear or read of boys having anorexia. How did you go about researching this story? What kind of response has it received from readers and teachers?

My primary research was memoirs about teens with addictions. There were striking similarities between the mindset of say, someone with anorexia or bulimia, and a young person addicted to drugs. Shame and guilt effected both addictions. I wasn’t prepared for the skillful manner in which teens—males and females—manipulated friends, family, and the environment in order to keep their obsession secret.

I’ve been visiting high schools and libraries talking about Skin and Bones and the dangers of eating disorders. Many people have known a male with anorexia. According to N.A.M.E.D. (National Association of Males with Eating Disorders) approximately ten million males in the U.S. suffer with this disease. Sadly, there are too many heart-breaking examples on the Internet.

Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how they might use one of your books in the classroom?

My Alaskan-based adventure novel Ice Island (Random House/Yearling) is used as part of the “IDITA-Read” program, a fun reading race from Anchorage to Nome.

Goal:
Read *1,049 minutes or pages appropriate to student’s reading level.

Procedure:
1.  Explain to the students that they will compete in their own Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Their race will be a reading race.
2.  Each student draws a musher from entries on the Iditarod website (which includes trail maps, mushers’ diaries, etc.). Students try to read faster (pages or minutes) than the distance their musher travels on the trail.
3.  Teachers track each student’s progress on a large map of Alaska by daily visits to the Iditarod website.
4.  Students select their books before the “vet check.” (Dogs are checked before the race to make sure they’re healthy.)  Teachers decide if students’ books are “healthy” (grade/ability level).
5.  As students read their way to each checkpoint, they are responsible for logging in their time and having it checked by a race marshal (teacher or librarian).
6.  Provide prizes or special recognition for those who compete in the reading race.

Materials:
1.  Large map of Alaska with Iditarod Trail & checkpoints clearly marked.
2.  Legend listing distances between checkpoints.
3.  Name pins/tags to mark students’ reading progress on the trail.
4.  Sleds or dogs (felt or construction paper) to mark progress of mushers.
5.  Iditarod “Reading Log” for each student.
6.  Lots of books!

Objectives:
1.  Encourage recreational reading.
2.  Develop an interest in history and geography of Alaska.
3.  Encourage completion of a project.

Wow, what a fun activity! I hope some of our blog followers who are teachers will give it a try and report back to us. Finally, Sherry, what are you working on now?

I’ve just finished a very rough draft of a YA novel that explores the emotional and psychological trauma of abduction. My protagonist is a sixteen year-old girl who’s kidnapped on her way to meet her boyfriend. The kidnapper isn’t someone the readers will suspect.

Sounds like a real thriller, Sherry. Good luck researching that one! And thanks again for today's interview.
Readers, here's your opportunity to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Skin and Bones (A. Whitman). Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options specified. If you choose the "comment" option, share a comment to TODAY'S blog post answering this question: 
What will you do with the book should you win: save it for yourself or give it away?

If your name isn't part of your comment "identity," please include it in your comment for verification purposes. Comments may also be submitted via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com

If the widget doesn't appear for some reason (or you're an email subscriber), use the link below to take you to the entry form.

The giveaway ends on Feb. 6. 
After you've entered, don't forget to check today's Poetry Friday roundup over at A Teaching Life.
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.

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