I hadn’t meant to stop blogging, but time became a premium commodity this winter as I worked to finish my first book. My priorities became my family, my teaching, and the book. So when I turned over the manuscript last week to Stenhouse Publishers, it was such an incredible feeling of relief and exhilaration. I have always believed in Donald Graves’ advice that teachers of writing should be teachers who write, but this experience was more enlightening than I could have ever imagined. My empathy for writers has grown exponentially and my appreciation for good writing and talented authors has soared. I cannot look at a piece of writing the same way again. Each book, article, or text I have read recently presents itself with layers to explore. I savor word choice, contemplate the turn of a phrase, marvel at the organization, wonder what was edited out, and imagine the writer during those moments of creation.
I watch the students in our classrooms engaging with the writing process and feel compassion for their struggles and joy for their successes in deeper ways. I listen more openly to their thoughts about the process and their ideas with a genuine desire to understand before “teaching”. I am much more sensitive to how feedback might resonate with a writer. They pour a piece of themselves onto that paper and want it to be loved ‘as is’.
But I also know the satisfaction that revision can bring to a writer. It’s a bit like sculpting a piece of stone. Each time we revisit and rework the piece it has the potential to reveal something new and more refined-sometimes things we could not anticipate. Feedback from others (editor, colleagues, friends) is like precision tools that helps chisel and polish the work toward its final form. I want our students to experience that satisfying sense of accomplishment by embracing revision rather than dreading it. This process has helped me contemplate these possibilities more sensitively.
So for the dozen and a half people who read my blog, I am back in the saddle! Happy to “think aloud” each week on topics that are dear to my heart and my teaching. I am also thrilled to have time to get back to another of my most favorite activities…READING!
What’s On My Book Radar?
Finishing my book was like ending a second full-time job, giving me time to devour some books! Two that have been on my bed stand for months were finally read and LOVED!
Jennifer Nielsen (The False Prince trilogy) has created another hero we can follow- Nic Calva, a slave in the mines of Rome in her latest tale Mark of the Thief. She starts us off with an amazing escape and keeps us on the edge of our seat throughout. Nielsen is a master at creating characters who overcome impossible odds and her writing always includes twists and turns that I do not anticipate. This series will be a hit for kids who love adventure, mythology, and smart writing!
Liesl Shurtliff is a gifted reteller. She takes stories so familiar that we cannot imagine anything more could entice us, and spins a tale that is incredibly engaging. Her first book Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin gave us a different perspective on a much maligned character and her new book Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk offers us an equally imaginative version of a classic tale. The land at the top of this beanstalk will surprise you, as will getting to meet Jack’s family and neighbors.
Put these two titles on your summer reading list and you will have some ‘happy hours’ as you vacation to these distant lands.