Tag Archives: Close Writing

My ILA16 Dream Team

Close Writing Book JacketNext weekend is the International Literacy Association (ILA) 2016 Conference. This week, I am gearing up for it. As a self-declared literacy nerd, these conferences are more  like Carnival! Spending time with other educators and authors feeds my soul! I learn so much and fill my teaching toolkit so deeply. Now I am also able to share my passion with others as I present at these conferences as well.

I’ve coalesced a panel that ‘oozes’ passion for writing! They are my ILA16 Dream Team! Our session: Close Writing: Fostering Relationships Between Writers and their Writing will be Sunday morning, July 10 (10:30-11:30) in room 109 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. If you are attending ILA16, I invite you to join us.  If you aren’t I encourage you to check out my team of panelists and if you haven’t read their books, you need to. I guarantee that you are in for such a treat!!

Meet my ILA16 Dream Team

Caroline Eldridge

I am incredibly lucky to work with so many gifted teachers. Caroline Eldridge is a 2nd grade teacher who is truly a Close Writing mentor for her students.  She and I collaborated a great deal this year as we were working on our National Board Certification and striving to lift her writers to new heights.  We’ll be sharing video clips of Close Writing approaches we have used in her classroom and she’ll share some of her insights on creating a culture of more purposeful writers.

Jennifer Jacobson

Jennifer Jacobson does it all. She is a writer, teacher, educational consultant, editor, and fantastic speaker. I learned so much from her book No More, “I’m Done!” that helped shape my thinking about what it means to be an independent writer. I have been captivated by her novels Small As An Elephant and Paper Things that deal with tough subjects (abandonment and homelessness) with compassion and honesty. They are beautifully written and need to be experienced! Her Andy Shane series books are must-haves for early chapter book readers. Jennifer knows first-hand the challenges teachers face as they try to support young writers. She seeks to empower teachers and writers to overcome those challenges and she walks the talk!

Cynthia Lord

Cynthia Lord has been my hero since she penned her first book (and one of my all-time favorites) Rules.  This fellow Mainer has a heart of gold and a head full of beautiful stories.  When you hear her speak you will be enchanted by her soft spoken voice that conveys such fervor for writing. Her books for middle grade readers: Touch BlueHalf a Chance, and A Handful of Stars, will touch you deeply and leave footprints of those characters on your heart. She has an incredible gift for taking small moments and crafting the most meaningful stories and vivid characters. But she can also make you laugh and cheer with her Hot Rod Hamster series of picture books and early readers or encourage young readers to volunteer with her new Shelter Pet Squad series. She is truly a close writer who taps into the stories around her and cultivates a garden from their seeds.

Lynda Mulally Hunt


Lynda Mullaly Hunt is a former teacher who has found a calling as a brilliant writer. Her first two novels need to be in the library of every middle grade classroom. One For the Murphys introduced us to Carley Connors who entered the foster care system feeling hopeless and emerged feeling loved. She broke our hearts and put them back together with greater empathy and compassion. Lynda followed that with Fish in a Tree ,where we met Ally Nickerson whose dyslexia made this bright and creative student feel stupid. I can’t imagine a classroom in this country that doesn’t have an Ally, and Lynda has made it safer for those kiddos to ask for help and easier for teachers and peers to be more empathetic and supportive. Lynda has a gift for creating characters that make us reflect on who we want to be as people and challenges us to be someone’s hero.  Her books have won more awards than I can list on this blog, but the Schneider Family Award from the ALA that she just won pretty much sums up her brilliance and compassion.

So that is my dream team. I could spend a week listening to and learning from these people, but we only have an hour. I hope many of you can join us, and I hope that I will have future opportunities to collaborate with these amazing Close Writers!  If you won’t be at ILA16 I encourage you to check out the works of these authors and be inspired by the power of their words.

What’s On My Book Radar?

26875689nine, ten: A September 11 Story 15 years after that beautifully blue day, several fantastic authors have penned novels exploring Sept. 11. This amazing book by Nora Raleigh Baskin introduces us to 4 children and the varied lives they lived as Americans in the 48 hours leading up to the day that would change us all forever. For those readers who know a lot about the events of Sept. 11th the foreshadowing and references will grip you. For those readers who know very little about 9/11 this book will provide a context for the human story beyond the headlines and facts. Baskin is careful when she considers her audience and doesn’t overwhelm them with horrific details, but she shines a light on the tragedy and the implications for Americans as the world around us changed on that day.Read this book. Share this story. Learn from our history.


What’s a Blogstitute?

Yesterday was the last day of classes in my school district. It is always so satisfying to bring closure to work, to reflect on its effectiveness, and to contemplate new possibilities.  This past week has also seen the graduation from high school of my daughter, Bailey. So this weekend we celebrate her with  a graduation party, as well as my sister’s birthday, our town’s River Festival, and then Father’s Day for my wonderful hubby.

Also this week, I am featured in Stenhouse Publisher’s Summer Blogstitute series. What’s a Blogstitute? Think of it as free summer PD that you can visit and revisit at your convenience and pace. Stenhouse offers a series of blogs on a variety of topics by authors such as: Katie Egan Cunningham, Jake Wizner, Lynne Dorfman and Diane Dougherty, Linda Dacey, Lucy West, Erik Palmer, Ralph Fletcher, Kate Roth and Joan Dabrowski, Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, Stacey Shubitz (oh, and me).

I felt incredibly honored to be asked. So many wonderful authors have contributed over the years to this tradition. Because I have been asked so often, “What’s the best way to get started with Close Writing?” I decided to focus my blog on answering that question.  There’s no ONE right way, (as that is one of the tenets of my book!) but I share what worked best for me and my teachers in this Blogstitute post. So as I busily prep for this weekend of celebrations, I invite you to read my blog post for this week by clicking below.  And then make sure you check out the other Blogstitute posts this summer! If you add a comment to the post and/or tweet out using #Blogstitute16 you can be entered to win a stack of new Stenhouse books!

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 6.55.01 AMWhat’s On My Book Radar?

I just finished my 100th book for the school year.  I had set a challenge of reading 40 chapter books this year and without a book to write, I found I had time to read a LOT more!  The 100th was fantastic!  It’s one of those books I can’t believe I hadn’t read yet and so glad I did.  In  fact, it got me thinking that this summer I want to go back and find those books that have been on my TBR list that just haven’t gotten to the top of the pile yet!

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 8.26.42 AMLIAR AND SPY by Rebecca Stead is about a 12 year old boy named Georges (named after artist Georges Seurat)whose family must sell their home and move into an apartment.  He meets a strange boy named Safer who appears to be a loner and a spy! Safer starts asking more and more of Georges, who begins to wonder if Safer is really a friend.  As always, there is more to a story than what we first observe.  Stead is a beautiful writer who can capture the essence of situation so perfectly.  I’m glad I ended my school year of reading on such a high note.  Check out this fantastic middle grade novel!


Manuscript Mentors

IMG_1908As I was finishing up the last of the proofreading and edits of my manuscript for Stenhouse (Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6) I solicited some ideas on Facebook from my author friends: “Calling on all my writer friends for any advice on final edits of a manuscript. Any tips on what works for you would be welcome as I venture into new waters here.”
I hoped to get a response or two.  I was a little overwhelmed with the wonderful advice from so many authors I look up to!

Lynda Mullaly Hunt Set a day aside and read the entire thing out loud. You hear things you don’t hear when he read silently. Good luck!

Franki Sibberson By final edits, I’ve learned that I need to let go and know I can’t do everything I want to do in one piece of writing (even though it is a BIG piece of writing!). So I work to make what I’ve already said the best that it can be instead of thinking of all the things I didn’t say and trying to add those in. If that helps at all!

Cynthia Lord Change the font and print a copy. It will look different enough that your eye will read every word again–if it looks familiar your eyes sometimes read what you think it says, not exactly what it does.

Charlotte Agell I love the Cynthia tip. Different fonts make me THINK differently. They are like the clothing of my words – punk, staid, all-purpose, snazzy…

Lester Laminack I find it helpful to put it aside and write a summary/note to myself what I hope the reader leaves with. Then I read the whole thing with that in mind.

Jennifer Richard O’Grady I tackle the smaller edits, the easier things first. That gives my brain more time to chew on the bigger questions. From time to time stop and savor the moment. Your dedication got you to this stage!

Sarah Albee Do a find/replace for words you suspect you use too much. I’ve horrified myself with this exercise, finding I use certain words way too often. Also search-and-destroy too many semicolons, or whatever your personal perils may be!

Kate Messner When I review copy edits, I take a blank piece of paper to cover up everything beneath the line I’m reading – helps me to slow down. Also, read aloud.

Donalyn Miller Appreciate all of the great advice here. I take a close look at really long sentences to decide if they make sense or need to be revised/shortened for clarity.

Maria Padian Hunt down adverbs. Wherever possible, replace them with stronger verbs that don’t need modifying, or give the character a physical gesture that conveys the meaning you’re after. Same with the verb “to be.”

Lynn Plourde My agent taught me this trick . . . you can delete “that” most of the time (i.e. I didn’t know that she lived in town . . . I didn’t know she lived in town). Btw, since I’m at the final edit stage on my MG novel–I’m savoring all this advice you’re getting, Paula!

Gae Polisner The biggest help is to put it away for a month or three and read it fresh then, but very few of us have the luxury or patience to do so.

Melissa Stewart Highlight your verbs in a different color and make sure ewach one is as strong and precise as it can possibly be.

Meg Frazer Blakemore Give yourself breaks and walk around, even if it’s just around your house.

David Lopez Read it backwards in a mirror, turn around three times and then set it on fire. Laugh with glee.

Ammi-Joan Paquette So many great comments here already! I would just add that it’s not easy, taking the plunge to “let go” and launch your baby out in the world. It’s helpful to remember that you have been diligent, and thoughtful, and thorough–you’ve done your best, and it’s GOOD. That’s why you’ve gotten this far. Once you give it that final read, and make any last changes that jump out, let it go with confidence. It’s ready to fly!

I wanted to save (and savor) their sage advice, not only for thisIMG_2205 project but for all writing moving forward.  They didn’t have to respond, but their passion for writing is so evident when they rush in to support another writing.  And so I am feeling thankful today. Thankful that the final proofread manuscript was sent back to Stenhouse, thankful for those amazing people who work there that will turn my words into a book, and thankful for all those authors who were willing to mentor me on my journey. It has truly taken a village to raise this ‘baby’!

What’s On My Book Radar?

23604418I am so excited that our recent school book fair had Kate Messner’s latest Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome. This copy is sitting by my bedstand waiting for me to finish this blog, log off, and pick it up!  I think this is such a fun and informative series.  I know the painstakingly careful research Kate does for her books, so I know I will learn something new with each of Ranger’s adventures.  If you haven’t discovered this series yet for yourselves, I encourage you to grab a copy of this and Rescue on the Oregon Trail