Thoughts of a Reader

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It’s just a book.

Stop thinking about it.

I can’t. 

It’s not real.

But it feels real.

Don’t dwell on it.

I can’t help it.

I can’t stop thinking about 

Citra,

Rowan,

and all the Scythes.

You need to read something else.

This is troubling you.

I need to know what happens!

Arghhhh! The third book doesn’t come out until 2019!

I read the premise of the book. I didn’t think it was the book for me. The story line sounded morbid, so I don’t know what possessed me to request it from the library. I thought I’d read a little and discover it wasn’t my cup of tea, so I could abandon it. That didn’t happen. I continued to read, I needed to find out what happened.  I consumed that book in a few days. The book is Scythes by Neal Shusterman. Hungry for more I returned to the library to find I was fourth in line for requesting Thunderhead. Impatiently I waited for other readers to finish. Now I have it. This book will be finished soon. The characters will have to live in my memory until The Toll is published in 2019.

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Creativity Project Explored

This is what I was seeing on blogs, Instagram, Twitter:

Don’t these pictures make you curious? I could not imagine what this was all about. Slowly I gathered clues and tried to make sense of it all, but it didn’t make sense.  The word prompt kept appearing and I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around how creativity and prompt fit together.

I decided to wait until I knew more and placed my trust in Colby Sharp. I knew in my heart that Colby was not a teacher who gave a prompt and expected kids to write. I decided to wait and see, but I did pre-order this book.

Colby did several videos when he got the ARCs. He mentioned trying some of the prompts with his students. I was feeling a little hesitant, even though he said his students loved creating with the prompts.

I am not a fan of prompts. Prompts make me think there isn’t a choice in what to write or how to write. We are right back there being the turkey persuading you not to eat him. When I think back to my days of writing as a student, I don’t ever remember getting a choice in my writing. I remember wishing I could write the story from my pencil’s point of view. That was never an assignment and I only wrote to fulfill the assignments. I didn’t know I could just do it on my own.

The first page I read began with the heading WELCOME TO THE CREATIVITY PROJECT! Here he explained how the project worked. He challenged forty-four authors and illustrators to create a prompt that would get creative juices flowing. These prompts could take any form illustrations, photos, poems, anything that gets one thinking. Once he got the prompts, he sent them out to the authors and illustrators to create. This book contains the prompts (forty-four used and forty-four unused) and the creations from the prompts.

Now, I am understanding that these aren’t your everybody-writes-the-same-story kind of prompts. These are more like prompts for quick writes. I’ve been trying to understand quick writes. Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Linda Rief write about having their students do a lot of quick writes off a prompt. I spent an evening talking with Ruth Ayres about the difference between a prompt and a quick write prompt. She helped me clear the fog that had been clouding my brain on this topic. I wish I knew a different word for quick write prompts.

As I read some of the prompts, then the response, I noted that sometimes the responder didn’t truly follow the prompt, but they made it their own, which is what is asked of the writer in quick writes.

Gary Schmidt is one of the contributors. I have been a fan of his writing ever since I read Orbiting Jupiter. I was curious what he wrote for a prompt. He had a half page of a story started, then Linda Urban finished the  story, but she included an author’s note that I very much appreciated because she explained her thinking on this idea of prompts. These words made all the difference: “. . . I want all the readers and writers who are looking at this anthology to understand that prompts like these are for play. They are for exploring and trying things out and seeing what skills you might have and where you might want to grow.” A few sentences later she said, “The project isn’t called the Perfection Project or the Judgment Project or the Published Authors Can Do No Wrong Project. It is the Creativity Project. I stretched my creativity a little here, to try to finish a short story. I’m going to call that a success. Now, how about you?”

I can see using this book in many ways in the classroom. It can spark an idea. It can be examined comparing the prompt to the response. Perhaps the response could be read, can you figure out what the prompt said? I see mentor texts in these pages. I love the range of writing and illustrations. However, I wish the illustration pages were in color, but I guess that would make the book too expensive.

What a unique concept for a book! Well done Colby Sharp!

 

 

 

A Winner!

All day (March 13), I waited and waited for a new book to arrive. It wasn’t just new to me, it was new to the world. I wrote about it on March 14.

I also got an email newsletter on March 13 from Colby Sharp announcing his book to the world. The subject line was – Holy Smokes! I have a book in the world. What an awesome feeling that must have been to be able to create that subject line. At the bottom of the newsletter there was an announcement:

GIVEAWAY

I’m giving away a copy of The Creativity Project. Just reply to this email and tell me something about a teacher that had an impact on your life. I’ll draw one random winner, and ship them a brand spanking new copy of the book.

Even though I had a book coming, I replied to his email with the name of my French teacher from high school as a teacher who had an impact on my life. I sent the email because that’s what I do if someone offers a book. I had no expectations of winning.

On March 19, I saw another email with the same subject. That’s odd, I thought. I almost deleted it because I thought it was the original, but I didn’t delete it. I opened it and couldn’t believe my eyes when I read:

You won a copy of The Creativity Project. Just let me know where you’d like me to send it. 

Holy smokes, I won! Of course, I immediately sent him my address information. I’m so excited to have this book to gift to someone. Now I just have to decide who to give it too.

 

Anticipating Book Arrival

Hints were dropped about  secret writing for a book. The news that leaked out intrigued me. Authors I love were listed. I still didn’t understand what or how this book would work. Multiple authors and writing prompts? Finally, an announcement, this book would be published and ready for the world in March. Sight unseen, no clue what it really was about, I took a leap of faith.  I pre-ordered the book on September 7.

For months, I have waited impatiently. I went to NCTE and missed the chance to get an ARC of this book. Finally an email – 

 

So all day, I sat at my desk working, but listening for the UPS truck to rumble up my street. I hear an engine,  it is stopping in front of my house!

Eagerly, I meet him at the door. Mr. UPS does not know how long I have waited for this book.

Do you know what book this is? Here it is without the book jacket.

And here it is with the jacket.

I have been a fan of Colby Sharp ever since I saw his YouTube video Mr. Sharp Loves Reading. His passion for books and turning kids on to books is amazing. I can’t wait to read this book and share it with teachers.

An Evening at the Library

Last night I spent the evening at the library but didn’t look at one book. I was there for another reason. It all began with the newspaper on Monday. . .

On Monday, our local paper is usually rather skimpy. I guess all their effort goes into Sunday’s paper, so there is less paper and news on Monday. Usually I skim through reading a bit here and there, but not doing any deep reading.

However this past Monday I glanced at this page and my heart beat a little quicker. Can you see why? No, it’s not about women postmasters.

If you didn’t spot it in the previous picture, I’ll zoom in for you.

Now do you see the one word that quickened my heart? Author!

Then I calmed down and figured it was some author I’ve never read. But I did have memories of going to hear Kevin Henkes a couple of years ago. I read on, my heart beat a little faster. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley? Oh be still my heart! I loved The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won. If at all possible, I was going!

I arrived at the library thirty minutes before the talk was to begin. They were selling her books outside the room. I resisted the temptation to buy a book. The room filled quickly, mostly students clutching one or more books. Watching the students made me smile.

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley talked about her research and decisions she made as she wrote the book (for example: Ada’s disability, location in England). It took about four years to write each book about Ada. It was interesting to learn that she

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley reads from The War That Saved My Life.

rarely gives her books titles. The working title for The War That Saved My Life was Kim’s New Book That Needs a Title. However, she did select the title for The War I Finally Won. She was explaining the book to her daughter and that was the best way to describe the book. That book had nine drafts because she kept rewriting the character Ruth, so she had to move things around as Ruth became more and more interesting to her. Ruth may be a character she develops more in another book. Another interesting tidbit that came out in the discussion was Patricia MacLachlan was Kimberly’s  professor in college.

The evening ended with a long line of students and adults waiting for their copies to be signed. I walked past them thinking of the memory they just made listening to an author talk about writing and wondered if one of them might be a Newbery or Caldecott winner someday.

Day 29: Spine Poetry

Yesterday, Ramona shared a few writing quotes. My favorite one is, “Catch emerging words and begin to guide them into form, or not.” Susan Branch.

Here are some emerging words guided into the form of a spine poem. Thanks, Ramona!

The secret project

in the best interest of students,

59 reasons to write

a river of words,

wondrous words.

Write like this.

Write beside them,

writing toward home.

I received several new professional books last week. As I contemplated which one I would read first, I had an inkling of a spine poem tickling my brain. I added a few titles that were already on my shelf to create the above poem.

Getting teachers inspired to teach writing is a secret project that love to tackle. Often times many are resistant, but eventually they come around and end up say, “This is my favorite thing to teach.” or “Writing is my class’s favorite subject.” Then I smile because I knew it would happen.

Day 9: Kevin Henkes

I have to thank Facebook for my slice today. I was a Facebook hold out for many, many years. The birth of my granddaughter propelled me to making the move and adding Facebook to my life. So it was just happenstance that I saw a post announcing Kevin Henkes would be speaking at our local library last night. My Wednesday evening plans were set. I would attend. Who can resist the author and illustrator of Chrysanthemum or Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse?

As I drove over to the library, I figured the library parking lot would be filled and I would have to return home. What’s that? There are lots of spaces, looks like I’m staying.

Inside the library, a line has started to form at the door. A sign indicates the doors open at 6:30, looks like I’ll be standing here for twenty minutes. While standing in line, the library staff member tells us that people will be dismissed for the book signing by rows, beginning with the front row. Guess where I sat. Smack, dab, front and center. I’m pretty pleased with myself, for now.

The room begins to fill up. The body heat kicks the AC into full blast. Chatter volume slowly rises as seats are taken. Still pretty happy with my position. Looks like we are out of seats. What? You are bringing people to sit on the floor in front of me? Not so pleased with that development.

Finally, Kevin Henkes is introduced! He begins by telling about his childhood. He’s been drawing since he was two. He writes all his books in a notebook, then types them out on a typewriter. He does not have a computer. (Now that’s hard to believe!) He is a two-finger typer and he only has two ribbons left for his typewriter. He’s a bit nervous about that. He’s superstitious and has some quirky routines. He told some of the back story of where he got his ideas. Just as we tell kids, stories are every where, he told us you just have to notice. Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse is the result of watching a six year old girl in an airport with a purse that played music when you opened it. Her dad was not happy about the purse, but she kept sneaking it open to play the music.

Last of all, he did some quick sketches of characters. Here’s Lily –

Now come the moment of truth, will the front rows be dismissed to the book signing first? No, the interloper floor sitters are sent first. Then the staff begins on the rows. As I make my way out, I see the back people making a dash for the signing. Sigh! What’s this long line? Oh, you had the people who didn’t get into the talk get in line for book signing. Sigh!

Another twenty minutes in line, my book is signed and I am on my way out. I try not to make eye contact with the l-o-n-g line of people waiting. Wearily, I make my way to the car. Tired, but happy for the experience.