A few years ago, I read the book Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks. I loved the book and emailed the author via Goodreads. I asked him a few questions that stayed on my mind after reading the last page. To my delight, Matthew Dicks wrote back a detailed response! He described how he was certain he finished the book, but the next morning, when he woke up, the very last page just poured out of him, changing (in my opinion) the tone and spirit of the book, making it feel, to me, deeply hopeful. This written exchange with Matthew Dicks allowed me to know more about the book, decisions he made, and his willingness to share his process helped me understand the book in a new way. I never forgot the book or the conversation. I felt like I had the inside scoop and loved learning more about choices he made while writing a powerful story.
Growing up, I loved to read but I never imagined that authors were real people, like you and me, who drink coffee, pick up their dry cleaning, brush their teeth. To me, they were far removed, faceless, perfect people. I never thought about their writing process or where they got their inspiration or how any of that might help me grow as a writer. We are so incredibly lucky to live in a time where authors are just a tweet away, willing to interact and share with teachers and students. Author Jess Keating has put together a video series called “Write with Jess” to give insider tips to kids about writing. My third graders loved her book, Pink is for Blobfish, and I am eager to show them her videos since they are hooked on her books! (We even made Valentines for the blob fish).
Authors are rockstars in my classroom. My students are always so excited to read a book and then send a tweet to the author and get a response! During the Global Read Aloud this year, it was a gift to have Lynda Mullaly Hunt share so much about Ally from Fish in a Tree and how she came up with the story. It added rich layers of meaning to hear Lynda talk about the characters and even read aloud some of the chapters! It also showed students how writers get ideas from times in their lives and people they know. This past November, Lynda Mullaly Hunt and other amazing authors were part of Nerd Camp Long Island. One of my students came to the book signing and met Lynda. The other students were so impressed when they saw his autographed book and photograph with Lynda, who we’d been watching via her website.
Moments like that drive home the point that reading and writing are not just things we do at school, but “life work” as my friend, JoEllen McCarthy passionately says. JoEllen McCarthy is a literacy consultant and one of the organizers of NerdCamp LI, in addition to being The Educator Collaborative’s Book Ambassador. JoEllen has joined forces with author Gae Polisner and teacher Kristen Picone, both also on the Nerd Camp LI planning team, to create #KidLitPalooza. Last year, Gae Polisner organized #Authorpalooza to connect children’s and YA authors with students. #KidLitPalooza expands upon that idea of connecting kids with authors. Students from grades 3-8 in Long Island schools were invited to participate in this event, which takes place today at Old Bethpage Elementary School. Students will be able to select the session they want to attend, and workshops will be run by the authors and illustrators, including Gae Polisner, Kat Yeh, Tracey Baptiste, Alan Katz, Selene Castovilla, Lauren Magaziner, Bonnie Grubman, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Stacy Mozer, Nina Mansfield, Joe McGee, Sarah Darer Littman, Kelly Light, Rebecca Behrens, and Todd Strasser. Participating students were encouraged to bring their writer’s notebooks with them and their questions for the authors! Later in the day, there will also be a read aloud where authors will select a section of their book to read for just one minute. Students will have the opportunity to buy books, meet the authors and have their books signed.
I am so excited to participate in #KidLitPalooza and grateful that an event like this exists for students! How powerful to see that authors are real people, to learn where they get their ideas, and to get an inside peek into the books they write. An event like this builds joy around reading and also around writing, allowing students to see possibilities for themselves as writers, too.
Inspired by Besty’s live blogging last year from the All Write Conference, I’m going to attempt to update this post with pictures and quotes from #KidLitPalooza during the morning! I hope to share all I’m learning and experiencing with my friends here at Two Writing Teachers. Stay tuned for more inspiration from #KidLitPalooza! Tomorrow starts the Two Writing Teachers Author Spotlight Series, where we turn the blog over to authors who will share reflections and revelations about their own writing processes! Getting to know authors as people helps all of us, kids and teachers alike, to see that maybe, just maybe, we could be authors, too.
I am here!! So excited to start the day!
Selene Castrovilla talking about her passion for learning about the American Revolution.
Author Joe McGee shares a book for all the zombie lovers!
Alan Katz son David performing one of Alan’s poems/songs!
One of my students in charge of the bell during the 60 second reads!
Such a great day here! Can’t wait to share with my students on Monday.