Author Spotlight Series · teacher-as-writer · writer's notebook

Doing More to Inspire

Be sure to leave a comment after you read Dana Kramaroff’s post for a chance to win a copy of her forthcoming middle-grade novel.

A number of years ago, while rushing (like usual) to get my students to special, a colleague walked by me with a book in hand. “Dana, I thought you would like this one for your classroom library!” I gratefully took it and called out, “Thank you!” After getting my students safely into the art room, I turned the book in my hand and saw that it was a middle grade book with a Jewish character.

I stood there processing it. I am Jewish so there’s that connection, of course, but I could not make sense of why the teacher’s class of non-Jewish kiddos should be robbed of reading a book about someone who is Jewish. This teacher had not meant to cause harm but it solidified the idea that many people believe you should read books about characters that live similar realities as your own and isn’t that the truth in 2023?

What we as educators know to be true is that authors write books to share their experiences so their readers can grasp what is not understood, what is not possible, and what realities exist other than their own. So when I set out to write THE DO MORE CLUB in 2019, I wanted to share the experience of what is hard about being Jewish in today’s current climate.

My daily reality, that year, involved turning off the news every time I heard about the incredible amount of outright antisemitism Jewish people were facing. Then in 2020, when spiritual services went to Zoom during the Pandemic, my own synagogue was Zoom-bombed by Nazis who flashed swastikas and yelled disturbing words to those watching making my friends feel unsafe.

In my main character Josh’s world, hiding his Jewishness is what feels safe. But when someone graffities Swastikas on the outside walls of his middle school, Josh is determined to stop hiding and to ‘do more.’ He sets out to repair the world to spread kindness so hate can’t win.

THE DO MORE CLUB is meant to be a call to action to put small acts of kindness into the world with the idea that we might not be able to change the whole world but maybe we can change our own little corner of it. It is a book for ALL readers, and it is especially for any student who feels they have to hide who they are. Sadly, there are too many to count.

The things that motivate me, to push through writing heavy content, are also what motivate so many of my students.  I value the habits that energize my process, the tricks I use to keep going, and the ways in which I help myself when writing is difficult. Here are some that work for my students and I:

  • Use pens of any color and style! Writer’s Notebooks are not about perfection so writing in pen, even if I have to cross something out, simply demonstrates that the writing process is messy and that’s okay! (If you prefer, colorful erasable pens are also an option!)
  • Infuse writer’s notebooks with color, texture, design, and interactive elements! Your neighbors, relatives, and the parents/guardians of your students probably have a collection of old scrapbook supplies. Scrapbooking stopped being such a big thing somewhere between 2005-2010 and there are many, many people who had that hobby and then gave it up. People have boxes and boxes of this stuff just collecting dust in their basements. Yard sales are your friend! Make space for these materials to be out in your classroom and encourage yourself and your students to play with them. I have also asked for donations of unused greeting cards, envelopes, adding machine tape, fun pads of paper for notes and lists, unused recipe cards, and so much more. These items are taking up space in junk drawers and in teacher desks around the world!
  • Be kind to yourself. Some days I can write a little and some days I can write a lot. Our students are the same way. It is hard staring at an empty page or screen and to not know how to start or what words to put down. Be patient with yourself and your student writers. I try to celebrate when I write 200 words in a sitting or 1000 words in a sitting. I have been known to take to Twitter and to share about how many words I wrote. It feels good to shout it to the world! Invite your students to count and share, privately, how many words they wrote in a day. Add them up and celebrate all the words written! Post it outside your classroom so everyone can see! We wrote __ words today! (Or this week!)
  • Try writing in verse! I wrote THE DO MORE CLUB in verse because writing in this form felt like therapy – quite literally my heart pouring out onto the page. Writing in verse is also very freeing. Don’t save poetry until April. My students wrote one of their personal narratives in verse, this year. They loved it and their words were beautiful.
  • Remember that there are six traits of writing. The trait of conventions and organization are two sixths of the traits. Allow yourself and your students to get ideas and voice out first and the rest will follow. If we are most concerned with perfect conventions and organization as we write and most concerned with conventions and organization as they write then we and our students learn that what we spend the most time on in our teaching and conferences about writing, must be what we value the most about writing. There is danger to that and can create inflexibility in ourselves and classes of students that absolutely hate writing. I have found that some of the best examples of voice in student writing are the ones that don’t have an ounce of correct conventions or organization! Sometimes you must pause to see that your most talented writers are not always the ones whose paper looks perfect.
  • Don’t forget that even authors who are published, have a team who help them revise and edit. Our critique partners, our agent, our editor, and a copywriter or two all put eyes on what goes out into the world. This may be an unpopular opinion to some but I strongly believe that our students do not have to be responsible for getting every convention or organization element correct in order to publish.
  • Keep track of your progress with stickers. I am a sticker geek and like most of our students, I am highly motivated by them! I have kept track on calendars with the plan to sit and write each day and I have used a more laid back weekly system. It is very satisfying to see my progress and I feel the need to push on to earn that sticker!

If you are inspired to read THE DO MORE CLUB, you may preorder it from your local indie and all major booksellers. It will be released on August 29th and I cannot wait for you to meet Josh, his friends, and to see how repairing the world may not rid it of all hate but it certainly heals. I also hope you feel inspired to explore your own writing journey, to give your students many chances to shine, and to raid the junk drawers of every person you know!

Dana Kramaroff

Dana Kramaroff is a mom of three, an elementary school teacher of readers and writers, an advisory board member and teacher-leader with the West Chester Writing Project, and the author of THE DO MORE CLUB coming out August 29, 2023 with Penguin Random House – Rocky Pond Books and a forthcoming book in 2025. She would love to connect with you!


  • This giveaway is for a copy of THE DO MORE CLUB by Dana Kramaroff. Many thanks to Penguin Random House for donating a copy of the book to one of our commenters. 
  • For a chance to win this copy of THE DO MORE CLUB, please leave a comment about this post by Saturday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Stacey Shubitz will use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose name she will announce at the bottom of this post, by Thursday, May 4. You must have a U.S.A or Canada mailing address to enter the giveaway.
    • Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so she can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.
  • If you are the book winner, Stacey will email you the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – KRAMAROFF. Please respond to Stacey’s e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Comments are now closed.

Congratulations to Linda Szakmary who will win a copy of Dana’s book.

6 thoughts on “Doing More to Inspire

  1. Such inspiring ideas for any writer! I think I could be motivated by giving myself a sticker. I am inspired by all that you are able to accomplish!


  2. Thank you for sharing with us!! I really like this – “authors write books to share their experiences so their readers can grasp what is not understood, what is not possible, and what realities exist other than their own. “


  3. I love this line: “your most talented writers are not always the ones whose paper looks perfect”. Such an important reminder! As someone who is Jewish, I’m always excited to find other books with Jewish characters that aren’t just about the Holocaust. I will look forward to reading your book!


  4. I am so excited to get my hands on this book! We need books like this in our classrooms. So excited to read it and place it in my classroom library.


  5. Windows, mirrors, sliding glass doors. Yes – we need to read about others if we are ever going to build empathy and community.


  6. Dana, I am so excited for you! I remember when you would work on this “work of heart” during Time to Write, and to see it come to be is quite inspiring to all of us! I can’t wait to read it!


Comments are closed.