Tag Archives: Sarah Albee

Beyond Thankful

Since it is the eve of Thanksgiving and there are so many other tasks demanding my attention, my blog this week will be a simple gratitude journal.  I cannot possibly list all that I am thankful for, so I will focus on my time at NCTE in Minneapolis this past week.

I am thankful…


…That I could bring a colleague.  Andrea made this experience so rich and meaningful.  I am lucky that I have such great teachers to collaborate with. I love my job, and the teachers who make it so rewarding.



…That I had a “dream team” for my panel presentation on Close Writing.

They each brought incredible insights to their close writing process and showed us that there is no “ONE RIGHT WAY” to be a writer.  Thank you to Sarah Albee, Linda Urban, Lester Laminack, Kate Messner, and Selene Castrovilla.  Andrea and I learned so much from you all.

…That I got to meet the authors who have touched my life so profoundly.

Katherine Applegate brought me to tears with the story of The One and Only Ivan and her latest incredible book Crenshaw. Kate DiCamillo has brought a bit of magic to every story she’s written. I have been a fan since Because of Winn Dixie and haven’t stopped loving her work.  Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the most compassionate author I know and can call friend. Her books One for the Murphys and Fish in a Tree are must-reads for every teacher.  They allow us to see our students in profound ways -and now that I know how much they reflect the heart of this author, they are even more special. And Cynthia Lord is a true gift to kid lit lovers.  Her books Rules, Touch Blue, Half a Chance and  A Handful of Stars bring the stories of ordinary children with very real problems to life for our students in ways that help them know they are not alone-that someone understands.


…That I got a chance to connect with those Nerdy Book Club peeps

that feed my soul (and my Amazon cart!) with their passion for kid lit.  Colby Sharp, John Schumacher (Mr. Schu), and Donalyn Miller (the Book Whisperer) have so much energy and knowledge.  It was truly infectious!

…That I learned from some amazing authors and educators at panels and

roundtables.  I tried to take photos, and notes, and sketches as fast and furious as I could at times, and at other times I just ‘absorbed’ the experience and savored the moment.

…and finally I am incredibly thankful for the people at Stenhouse who helped me put my ideas into a book that will be out next month.

To say it was a surreal experience would be the understatement of my life. When I saw the lineup of authors to meet and chat at the Stenhouse booth I was blown away.   I am mindful of the quote,

“To those whom much is given, much is expected.”

I will strive to give back to the degree that I am given, to be humbled and grateful by the experiences I am fortunate to have, and to remember to thank those who have been a light in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

What’s On My Book Radar?



I was able to get the most recent “True Story” fairy tale adventure from Liesl Shurtliff.  RED: The True Story of Red Riding Hood.  This fantastical tale was my companion for the plane ride home.  I love the twists and turns of re-imagined fairy tales-Liesl has a wonderful way of bringing fresh insights to old and familiar tales.  Look for this book April of 2016!


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

Why We Need Snow Days

As I write this, we are deep in the midst of the Blizzard of 2015.  Everything from New York toIMG_4162 Maine seems to be shut down and waiting it out.  Our ever dependable mail and ferry service have even waived the white flag of surrender to this storm.  Since we have yet to experience our first snow day in my district, we were all excited when the call was made a day ahead of the storm. I’ve enjoyed checking in on social media to see how my friends and colleagues are spending this day off from the usual routine. Though a blizzard is nothing to take lightly and can be quite dangerous, the mood that I’ve seen has been distinctly upbeat and even giddy!

So why do we get so excited about snow days? A break from our usual routines can awaken us to new possibilities. It can remind us there is a different way of life outside of our classroom walls each day.  I can share a few that I’ve heard and experienced for myself. Maybe you can add to the conversation with your own reasons!

  • We can remember and relive the simple joy and excitement of our childhood days.
  • We can sleep through the alarm if we want or wake early to enjoy even more free time.
  • We can sit down to eat a breakfast that doesn’t need to be wrapped or packed.
  • We can see what are pets are up to when we are usually at work!
  • We can eat lunch and go to the bathroom when we want to!
  • We can stay in our jammies, skip the makeup and ignore the hairbrush… yup, appreciate our natural beauty!
  • We can surround ourselves with books and experience new lives and worlds.
  • We start to appreciate our own children’s teachers a bit more each hour!
  • We can increase our sense of guilt and jealousy when we catch up on Pinterest.
  • We can grade that pile of papers that’s been haunting us for too long.
  • We can repeatedly explain to our non-teacher friends that we really aren’t being paid for a day off.
  • We can pay bills, balance our checkbooks and organize files just for the fun of it!
  • We can take a nap!
  • We can watch a movie during the day without falling asleep.IMG_4164
  • We can binge-watch a tv series we never thought we’d have time for.
  • We can clean up our homes that are often flooded with the clutter of our busy lives.
  • We can take a bath in the middle of the day!
  • We can listen to music that isn’t cataloged as a sing-a-long.
  • We can shovel, make snow angels, ski, snowshoe or sled like a kid again.
  • We can drink hot cocoa and cover it with marshmallows or whipped cream!
  • We can join a twitter chat we’ve never tried before and follow people we never knew existed!
  • We can cuddle with our pets or snuggle with our kids and be totally present in the moment!
  • We can work on our blog and not feel like we should be doing 5 other things instead.

IMG_4169The gist of the snow day happiness is that we feel like we’ve been given the precious gift of time.  It’s okay to do any, all, or none of these things and not worry that we are falling behind.  When the world gives us pause, we feel less stress that it’s passing us by.  We are reminded to live in the moment because we are no longer on auto pilot. We feel a bit more rejuvenated and rested.  We have refilled our wells so that when we return to our classrooms we have more to give. So embrace those snow days whenever they come your way, I mean, what’s the alternative?

 What’s On My Book Radar?

I met Sarah Albee at our latest nErDcampNNE.  She is an incredible nonfiction writer who basically tells the history of the world with some unique perspectives. Have you ever thought about how bugs, poison or poop have shaped our history?  Well, Sarah has and her humorous writing style will have you laughing as you learn how POOP (yes, I said “POOP”) played such an important role in the development of modern civilization. If you think nonfiction is dry and boring…race to your local bookstore or library and check out Poop Happened!


Check out her book trailer here:

Here are some great snow day books:



The Proposal

So I just sent off my proposal for NCTE 15.  I mean, who doesn’t want to be in Minneapolis in November!? It’s hard thinking about where I might be professionally 11 months from now and what might be relevant for other educators at that time.  I’ve been immersed the past year on my writing work with teachers and so it only seemed natural that I would be ready to share this collaborative venture with others. So with great anticipation I hit the “submit” button.IMG_2481

Leap of Faith

When I was a relatively new teacher, my principal asked me if I would like to go to a national conference.  Attending NCTM in New Orleans was a life changing event.  I know the power of that experience shaped who I am today.  I am anxious to share that opportunity with other teachers. Without even knowing if our district would fund this,  I asked two ‘new’ teachers to join me in the NCTE venture.  They have worked so closely with me over the past year; willing to be coached, to collaborate, and to let me try out lessons with their classes. I know that being engaged with other educators at a national level will transform their teaching in a similar way that mine was-they are like sponges soaking up new knowledge.  I have faith that if I plan it, they will come!  We are going to make this happen!

I also took a leap of faith in asking several authors that I admire to join us on the panel.  I thought the worse that could happen would be a curt, “no” or a non response.  To my delight, most of them were eager to join the panel.  Their expertise on our topic will be invaluable to participants, and their range of experience, preferred genre and audience will make for a rich discussion.   From picture books to nonfiction to YA, these authors are truly experts in their field.  So thank you Lester Laminack, Kate Messner, Linda Urban, Sarah Albee and Selene Castrovilla for graciously joining these teachers from Maine.  We’ll know in May if the proposal is accepted.  I have faith!

So, forgive me for a shortened post this week.  I am revised and edited-out!! I am excited and exhausted.  I am anxious and hopeful.  I’m off to do more writing and to write about that writing!  If the proposal becomes a reality-you’ll all be some of the first to know!  Until then I’ll keep writing, keep working with teachers on writing, and keep our kiddos writing.  I guess that’s a pretty big hint to the topic of the session.  More details in May -when we get that acceptance letter!


What’s On My Book Radar?

9780545700276_xlgThis week Cynthia Lord sent me an ARC of her newest book A Handful of Stars , coming in May of this year.  To say I was excited is a complete understatement.  If you are a Cynthia Lord fan, I am convinced you will fall in love with this book.  She knows how to create characters that readers truly care about, develop stories that reflect real life experiences and leave you feeling more compassionate and caring for the struggles of others.  I won’t give much away since this isn’t out yet, but I’ll just say that when it hits the shelves you will want to grab a copy!


Safeguarding Democracy

IMG_2363 Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. –Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sometimes as teachers, I think it is important to step back and think more existentially about what we are doing in schools.  Why do we do what we do?  Why does it matter? On a personal level, we are improving lives one child at a time.  On a global level, we are safeguarding our democracy.

IMG_2470That thinking really hit home with me today as I began my NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Annual Conference here in Washington D.C.  My colleague and I took a tour of the nation’s capital; a three hour excursion to visit our treasured monuments and memorials.  Some were inspiring, some were sobering, all were deeply meaningful.  Each represented the lives and accomplishments of Americans that were not born great, but rose to greatness.  Their acts created, defended or extended democracy to the citizens of America.  My job as a teacher, is to honor their acts and to ensure the way of life they worked so hard to define as American.

“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”-Thomas Jefferson

I felt an enormous sense of responsibility as a teacher today, wandering around these monuments.  This country is depending upon us to educate our children who will grow to create, interpret and defend our laws.  They are depending on us to perpetuate the ideals of a free and democratic society, to question authority and solve problems with tenacity and ingenuity.

IMG_2424As I attend the conference sessions this week, and then go back into my schools, I want to carry that sense of responsibility with me.  I want to keep the big picture in mind as I am knee-deep in the muck and mire of tedious ‘non-education’ aspects to working in schools. I want to reflect on it as I prioritize where my energy and attention will go when teaching.  I want to remember WHY it is important to teach critical thinking skills, and WHY I want our students to question what wIMG_2454e say and teach.

So I will endeavor to look beyond picking up some tips for classroom instruction.  I will celebrate the task and responsibility for educating our young citizens with some of the best and brightest in the country.  I will rededicate my efforts to creating an informed citizenry that will grow to take the reins of our democracy for generations to come. As I look around at this conference,   I am surrounded by those who take this responsibility as seriously as I do and strive to create engaged, active and educated young citizens, ready to take the reins one day.   I am confident we are in good hands!


What’s On My Book Radar?

One of the best sessions I attended at NCTE 14 was how authors themselves use mentor texts when they write.  Featured here:

Varian Johnson: The Great Greene Heist, Linda Urban: The Center of Everything,  Laurel Snyder: Seven Stories Up, Kate Messner: Manhunt, Sarah Albee: Bugged: How Insects Changed History, Erin Dionne: Ollie and the Science of Treasure Hunting

IMG_2634When you hear an author talk about their process and the thinking behind the words, you can’t help but become intrigued and anxious to get your hands on the books! I can’t wait to get these books on my bed stand for some night time reading!! These are definitely on my radar now!