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Live From #KidLitPalooza!

kid lit

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.

Tyler and me nerd camp
One of my third graders posed with me at Nerd Camp LI! We both met Lynda Mullaly Hunt!
me and lynda
It was such a thrill to meet the award-winning author of Fish in a Tree, Lynda Mullaly Hunt.


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!

One of my third graders all set to write with a new journal!

The lovely organizers JoEllen McCarthy, Gae Polisner and Kristen Picone

@SEM_Dalers representing!

JoEllen sharing Mo Willems’ Thank You Book to open #Kidlitpalooza

Gae Polisner discussing the plot of her book The Summer of Letting Go

Selene Castrovilla talking about her passion for learning about the American Revolution.

Author Kat Yeh sharing about The Truth About Twinkie Pie

Author Joe McGee shares a book for all the zombie lovers!

Lauren Magaziner will be sharing a workshop on character development!

Nina Mansfield sharing her mystery!

Alan Katz making us all laugh!

Rebecca Behrens sharing about The Summer of Lost and Found

Todd Strasser appealing to the science fiction lovers!

Nora Raleigh Baskin tells us writing saved her! “Writing is the most powerful thing you can do.”

Bonnie Grubman discussing How Do You Get A Mouse to Smile

Kelly Light is an author and illustrator and calls herself a “draw-ther”

Stacy Mozer sharing about her character!

Sarah Darer Littman telling us she’s “actually very funny in real life.”

Joe McGee talking about heroes and villains. Participants are creating a heroine, Esmeralda!

I’m about to write with these authors!

Writing exercise, answering questions about your character.

Kelly Light sharing her illustration of a wooly mammoth.

My third grade students learning to illustrate from Kelly Light.

Bonnie Grubman talking about the importance of using senses in your writing. Also shares how she sometimes begins with an idea about how a book with ends and then writes the other parts!

Alan Katz describing how his son inspires him to write and also offers helpful feedback.

Alan Katz son David performing one of Alan’s poems/songs!

Bonnie Grubman sharing the challenge of rhyming books!

Some of my fantastic third graders talking with Joe McGee about villains!

Talking about the books that make us keep reading! Authors Rebecca Behrens, Kat Yeh, and Sarah Darer Littman

Kat Yeh says, “No matter what you write, you should read picture books.”

Writing Workshop for middle school students with Gae Polisner, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Todd Strasser, and Nina Mansfield

Old Bethpage Elementary School is filled with inspiration to read and write! What a wonderful school to host this event.

Teacher Lauren McKnight, one of my colleagues, working on a writing piece. Teachers who write are so important!

Students sharing their character and book ideas!

Getting ready for 60 second read around!

Kelly Light sharing one of my third grade class’ favorites, Louise Loves Art

One of my students in charge of the bell during the 60 second reads!

Answering kids’ questions about finding inspiration and creating titles!

One of my third graders started writing about Kelly Light and shared her story with her! Wow!

Such a great day here! Can’t wait to share with my students on Monday.

8 thoughts on “Live From #KidLitPalooza! Leave a comment

  1. Thrilled to see that my answer to your question was helpful! I’m a fifth grade teacher in addition to a writer. I’ve been teaching elementary school for 18 years, so any time I can help a teacher, it’s even better. Much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

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