Mary Jo Fresch and I have been at work on a book for classroom teachers for quite some time and have finally arrived at a point where we need to work with some teachers who can provide samples of student writing to go in the book. The target audience is grades 3-6 and the subject is about how to help students prepare to write before they start writing. There are a number of good books in the market about finding ideas, drafting, revising, etc. but few give appropriate space to the importance of researching the subject before writing the first word.
Between us we have a list of teachers to turn to for input and we recently sent them an outline of classroom activities they can try with their students and submit the results for our book. Some of them responded to an earlier call for help so we have their comments and samples in hand. One problem we encounter in situations like this is that teachers plan their year in advance and few of them can rearrange their lessons to accommodate folks outside their classrooms. Our deadline to complete this book is the end of this month. Obviously we won’t hit it, but we need to keep moving.
So this is a call for teachers who like the idea of having their names and samples of their students’ work in a Scholastic book and are in a position to work with us on a quick turnaround basis. If you know of other teachers who might have an interest, please share this with them and urge them to get in touch. We’ll gladly forward an outline of the book with specific activities that we’d like to include. We won’t overload anyone. No teacher should need to tackle more than one or two of them.
I learned yesterday that an artist has been chosen and is already at work on one of my upcoming picture books. I placed the story last September so this is record time. Don’t know the pub date yet but all systems point toward an early release rather than a late one. I love it when that happens!
Another proposal is going to committee next week or the one following so I have my fingers crossed for that one too. It only includes three poems so if they take it I still need to write the manuscript.
I’m trying to decide whether to attend story time in the Burton Barr Library in Phoenix when I’m there. I let them know I was coming several months ago but the first librarian blew me off entirely. Another eventually took over and provided a time and date when I might come by to see my sidewalk when children will be there for story time. Now I can’t get her to respond to what typical age spread and number they usually draw. I’ll be four hours away in Bisbee the night before and don’t relish getting up early enough to make a 10:00 a.m. session if the kids are crawlers and babies in buggies. I’m leaning toward sleeping in and getting to the library later in the day to take a few pictures of the sidewalk.
I will be visiting Ken Slesarik’s school so that will be a highlight. And I’ll be greatly disappointed if I don’t get to see Patricia Hermes. I have other friends in the area and would love to see everyone but I won’t be there many days and will have the pleasure of being with Sandy, Robin, and Jeff.
Later in the day I heard from one of those long lost editors regarding the book with Mary Jo Fresch. I won’t have time to do much tweaking before I get away but it turns out we won’t have all that much to do anyway so I felt better about that.
The new year seems to be off and running. It’s high time. We only have 360 days left!
So far I’ve named my new wagon, with your help (It’s officially BENTLEY. Thank you, Sneed Niederriter), submitted one manuscript, one book proposal, and worked with Mary Jo Fresch to submit a presentation proposal for NCTE in November.
Today I hope to concentrate on another book idea. I’m working on this project with Sandy Asher and we’re in the very early stage of trading ideas and reactions.
I’ll start by making a list of potential subject matter based on a theme and fiddle with that until some sense of it emerges clearly enough that I can draft a poem or two to share with Sandy. This one might or might not get off the ground but you have to start somewhere and this is usually how it works for me.
I don’t know what the rest of this week (today and Friday) will hold, but so far so good.
Good day at hand. This morning I think I can finish going through the first complete draft of the Teacher Resource book I’m doing with Mary Jo Fresch and get it off to our editor at Scholastic.
I’m having lunch with a dear friend and gifted actor, director, and writer, Herman Johansen, who is in town from Los Angeles. He used to live here and has family nearby. The “skirt” is invited, as we refer to Sandy. It’s always great to see Herman and catch up on his news. http://hermanjohansen.com . There’s a chance he’ll spend the weekend with us. Years ago Herman created a wonderful video for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) when I was on that board. Sandy Asher wrote a moving dramatic reading about kids who are neglected and abused and Herman used it as a springboard to make the video. That’s how we first met.
This afternoon I’ll get back to a new poetry manuscript I started several months ago. The proposal is with an editor but I feel an itch to add more poems. All in all, a day to look forward to.
As I think about my Monday morning visit with students at McBride Elementary School I wonder what they will ask me. As anyone who does this sort of thing knows, most questions from young children reflect off-the-top curiosity. Where do you get your ideas? How long does it take to write a book? How many more books are you going to write? Do you write joke books? Do you have any children?
The questions need to be answered, of course, although the trick is to work in more useful information as we go along so that the teacher has more to go on later than the number and ages of my daughter and son.
Now and then, though, I get pleasantly surprised when I receive more original, thoughtful questions that show me the teachers have been working ahead of time with their students and their students have been paying attention. Those are the best visits because they’re not only fun but also provide young writers with specific tips to help strengthen their own efforts.
Here are a few questions I received recently from Susan Hutchens, an outstanding teacher whom many of us know, from students I’ve never met. Susan shared a book of mine, NOW YOU SEE THEM, NOW YOU DON’T, talked about the author and what goes into writing books, and sent me pages of wonderful questions. For example:
How did you figure out that you should write a nonfiction poem?
What was your preparation for this book?
What other animals did you learn about? Why did you choose to write about these animals?
Can you possibly think about poems that can also help you with learning?
Did you read a lot of books when you wanted to write books?
Have you been to all the places (in the book)?
How can you find that many words describing the animal that rhyme?
These are only a few of many excellent questions. They’re the kind that every visiting author and illustrator hope to get. Some of the questions are assured of going into the book I’m writing with Mary Jo Fresch. Yay for your kids and you, Susan!