Three #amwriting #writingprocess reminders from the Olympics. (Obrigada, Brasil!)

 

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Confession: While I’m incredibly inspired by each Olympic athlete, my current personal best is an occasional sprint to the fridge between competitions. Thus, I hereby justify my Olympic-binge-watching by offering three #writingprocess take-aways. #amwriting reminders too. Dive in.

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  1. When I teach the WRITING PROCESS, I neglect one of the hardest parts: The WAITING PROCESS. Like an athlete’s Olympic journey, our writing steps from brainstorming to revision are key, but the WAITING. Yeesh. You’ve submitted your work. You’ve put yourself out there. And now you have to believe. As young writers work through the PROCESS, let them know that authors wait. A lot. Part of an author’s WRITING PROCESS is waiting for response from critique partners, Beta readers, agents, and editors–way before the final PUBLISHING step. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes you don’t receive a response at all. This is GOOD NEWS, teacher pals! The perfect answer to those students who ask, “Have you corrected our papers yet?” After all, our job as teachers is to prepare students for the real world, yes? Obrigada (Thank you) USA gymnastic All-Around medalists, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman for the reminder that waiting is a huge part of the process. (And CONGRATS!)
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2. USA superstars, gymnast Gabby Douglas and swimmer Missy Franklin (Remember London?) deserve medals for cheering their teammates while battling that evil green monster, ENVY and the relentless media. NO PRESSURE.

So often students see A grades and 100% as gold medals. Highlighting the gold in the work of emerging writers, sharing an excerpt from their work with the class, builds much needed confidence. I also add it to our Moments of Magic butcher paper on the wall. Pure gold.

I’d love to say I always view the well-deserved publishing success of author/illustrator friends as another medal for TEAM #Literacy. Admittedly, that green monster stalks us all, but Dearest authors and students (teachers too!):

The SUCCESS of others is NOT your FAILURE.

We all have MOMENTS OF MAGIC. Celebrate those. Obrigada Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin. You rock. 
IMG_31093. I almost wrote off “veteran” swimmers Michael Phelps and Nathan Adrian —and what about Oksana Chusovitina, the 41-year-old vaulter from Uzbekistan who competed in her SEVENTH Olympics? Well guess what world, I was WRONG. And oh-so-happily so! Kudos to all.

This Phelps-Adrian-Chusovitina lesson applies to the #kidlit world, for the fabulously talented young authors and illustrators, as well as “veterans” like me. As Penguin senior editor Stacey Barney reminded us at the #LA16SCBWI Summer Conference: “Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.” (Teaching too, my friends.)

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A special shout out to the amazing International Schools in Brazil where these photos were taken.

Happy Beck-to-School to all.

Obrigada Brasil! Tchau. My DVR calls…

 

You’re my Liebster! 11 questions about lobsters, books, and blogs.

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Any FRIENDS fans out there, my #kidlit pals?

When I was nominated by JEN Garrett over at LexicalCreations for the LIEBSTER AWARD, 

THIS IS WHERE MY BRAIN WENT.

As it turns out, LOBSTERS and LIEBSTERS share a few key points.

Liebster Award

On FRIENDS, Ross tells Rachel she’s his lobster because–according to Phoebe–lobsters mate for life.

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The LIEBSTER is an award fellow bloggers bestow on blogs that they believe deserve more visitors.

We want you to hang with us for life.

So, uh, welcome to my #kidlit tank, FRIENDS.

If I’ve nominated you, be sure to check out my questions for you below.

As for me, —hear-ye, hear-ye–…I graciously accept this awesome LIEBSTER honor by answering the following

11 Burning Questions that Jen sent:

1. Do you follow many blogs? Why or why not?

Erin: I love bloggers: Class Blogs, Authors, Librarians, Book Reviewers. I follow a bunch on Twitter. Thus I read the blogs they post in their Twitter feed. I’ve tried to follow and/or reply to numerous blogs but usually that requires several hoops such as:

  • signing into my own blog
  • remembering my lengthy, convoluted (aka secure) password, and
  • completing a math problem to prove I’m not a robot.

Honestly, I think the robot would be quicker at the math problems…so how can they really tell?

 2. What ways do you have on your blog for people to follow you?

Erin: Check out the handy widgets WAY UP in the right hand corner there —–>  Which reminds me I need to add a link for Instagram. 

FOLLOW.FOLLOW.FOLLOW.

3. Where (on your blog) do you have ways to follow you? Near the top, to the right, or somewhere else?  Besides the widgets, the same options are at the bottom of every post.

FOLLOW.FOLLOW.FOLLOW.

4. How do you interact with your followers?

Erin: I reply to any and all comments on my blog. (Except for the ones who want me to wire my long lost best friend gobs of money to an undisclosed offshore account because LLBF has left the country on a spur of the minute global adventure… Yeah, right, buddy. ) Sometimes we move the conversation to email or Twitter. Sometimes these are requests for Skypes and/or school visits which I LOVE LOVE LOVE. 

Skype with Miss Zapp's 2nds

5. Do you worry about building your brand? Why or why not?

Erin: I don’t “worry” about my brand, really. It’s fun to connect with teachers, librarians, readers, publishers, editors, and other authors & illustrators. I am Erin Dealey on ALL social media. (The only place that’s hard to find is my Facebook page, WRITE NOW! AN OCCASIONAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF AUTHOR ERIN DEALEY, FOLLOW.FOLLOW.FOLLOW–This was my very first foray into the land of BRAND. My suggestions for newbies:

  • Find the social media that works for you, and concentrate on that.
  • Make sure whatever you choose goes by YOUR NAME–not some cutesy Instagrammy moniker no one will recognize.

6. Do you participate in blog hops? If so, what about the hop attracts you?

Erin: Blogs are a great way to get to know cool authors. And I love a tempting GIVEAWAY.

Here’s a recent blog tour celebrating author Holly Schindler’s YA launch for SPARK.

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7. Have you ever participated in a virtual blog tour, or had one for your books?

Erin: I’ve participated in #ArmchairBEA. Haven’t had one for any of my books, yet, but I’m open to any and all suggestions.

I spend more time blogging about author pals and their books, or sharing LESSON PLANS for teachers. (I’ve shared these on PINTEREST too.)

8. What is a blog post you’ve read recently and why?

Erin: I loved Do Your Best Writing: Kick Down the Bumpers over at #TwoWritingTeachers, an Author Spotlight by Julie Falatko, author of the delightful  SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK).   

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9. What is the last book you’ve read and did you enjoy it?

Erin: My recent reads include THE 14TH GOLDFISH (Jenni Holm); CICI RENO #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker (Kristina Springer); A MONSTER CALLS (Patrick Ness); TOWERS FALLING (Jewell Parker Rhodes); and MS. BIXBY’S LAST DAY (John David Anderson).

You can check out my reviews and such here on GOODREADS.

My WANT TO READs: UNIDENTIFIED SUBURBAN OBJECT (Mike Jung)

and RUBY LEE AND ME (Shannon Hitchcock)

My IN-CASE-YOU-MISSED-IT READS: UP TO THIS POINT (Jennifer Longo)

and THE ONE THING (Marci Lynn Curtis.)

10. What is your favorite breakfast?

Erin: My husband makes THE BEST poached eggs. Of course I will never turn down PIZZA –morning, noon, or night…

11. Which question type do you prefer to answer: a “Would you rather…” or a “What if…”?

Erin: I’m a “What if…” kind of gal.It’s what authors do every day, isn’t it?

But enough about  me—(There are at least 11 random facts about me in the answers above–Or check me out on social media.)

WHAT IF I’ve nominated you for a LIEBSTER? 

(This means you: Julie FalatkoHolly SchindlerJen LongoMike Jung, Shannon Hitchcock.)

WHAT NOW?

The LIEBSTER Rules:

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award and you choose to accept it, please write a blog post about the Liebster Award in which you:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog in your post.
  2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”.
  3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
  4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
  5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. [Some claim that this is a flexible rule, so I’m ignoring it. In fact, I was nominated by someone who doesn’t qualify. 😉 ]
  6. Create a new list of questions for the nominees to answer.
  7. List these rules in your post (copy and paste from here). Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
  8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

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Exactly what I thought.

TAG-Julie Falatko 

Holly Schindler 

Jen Longo 

Mike Jung

Shannon Hitchcock

YOU’RE MY LIEBSTERS!

Here are your QUESTIONS from ERIN DEALEY:

  1. Which comes first? Instagram? Twitter? FB? Snapchat? Tumblr? Your blog? *_________ Other
  2. Where can I find the latest blog post about your book?
  3. Are you connected with BOOK REVIEW bloggers? If so, which ones?
  4. Which character in your book(s) is the most like you? (Why?) 
  5. What’s the farthest you’ve traveled for a school visit? How did they contact you? (via blog/web site? email? agent? twitter? etc.) 
  6. Do you have a favorite TEACHER or LIBRARIAN or CLASS blog? Where can we find it?
  7. If I visited your office, would I find any favorite quotes on your wall or desk? Please share one of them.
  8. Do you make playlists for your books? Before or after? Can you share a link?
  9. Any advice for authors wanting to put together a blog tour for their next books?
  10. Which author do you Fan-Geek over? What would you ask him/her if you could? 
  11. What question do you WISH I’d asked you? (Please answer it here.)

Looking forward to reading your posts.

LIEBSTERS for life!

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Poetry for ALL–3 easy activities for #NationalPoetryMonth

Another lesson plan? Fear not! As a teacher, I know the

LAST THING YOU NEED IS MORE TO DO. 

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Thus, dear fabulous teachers, I present to you 3 activities you can use TOMORROW–with minimal prep– for #NationalPoetryMonth or those days you need just a little something extra to GET KIDS EXCITED ABOUT WORDS!

  1. FIRST LINE/LAST LINE Poem 

  • Minimal prep: ZERO. Read these easy instructions and try one before you share with the class.
  • Begin with a motto, theme from your Literature unit, line from a play or book, (appropriate) song lyrics.*

*This becomes the First line of your poem. 

Your poem then uses the last word or words of each line.

Line by line, the poem grows.

Grows until you are finished.

Finish your poem with words from your First line.

First line / Last line poems write themselves !

Note: The poems can be a long as you want. I usually tell my students to try for 8-10 lines total, but really it’s up to you.

 

2. POETRY JAM:  Begin the morning with a poem. Seriously this takes five minutes–depending on the length of the poem you choose, and if your students beg for more…

  • Minimal prep: Pick a poem or a rhymed picture book to share with the class. I’m sure you have your own favorites. If not–check out poems by Jack Prelutsky or my friend Rebecca Kai Dotlitch. 
  • For older kids–read a poem a day of one of 2015 Newbery Medal recipient Kwame Alexander’s novels in verse:THE CROSSOVER or his newly released BOOKED. (Congrats Kwame!)
2p_THE CROSSOVER jacket.indd  Booked Dust of Eden
  • What to do: No, this is not just a read-aloud by you. Line by line, you–the teacher– (or a selected student) reads the poem selection aloud with expression. *After each line, the class repeats whatever was just said.

Example using another variation: try a Tongue Twister: ; )

Whether the Weather is cold. Or whether the weather is hot. (class repeats)

We’ll be together whatever the weather (class repeats)

Whether we like it or not! (class repeats)

That’s it. Zero prep, once again, really. And why would you TAKE THE TIME to do this? It gets the words in the mouths of your students. Words they might not ordinarily use. They feel the rhythm. You’re sharing awesome poetry, but not in a way that students can easily tune out. They have to LISTEN

          3. POKER POEMS –(Tell the older kids this is Five Card Stud and they’ll get it right away!)

  • Materials needed: old business cards. *I have recycled my own, my mother-in-law’s, my husband’s–It doesn’t matter as long as one side is blank.
  • Minimal prep: Building your deck
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  1. The next time your class reads a story or chapter together, have them pick out the words that zing. (Or email me and I’ll send you my Poker Poems starter list so you can make the deck(s) yourself…)
  2. Write each word on the blank side of the business cards. One per card.

Playing/writing Poker Poems: Groups of 5-6–one deck per group

  • Choose a dealer –one for each group.
  • Dealer deals 5 cards FACE DOWN to each player, as well as herself.
  • When you say “Go,” players turn their cards over.  The object is to make a “sentence” using all 5 cards. Note: Sentences do NOT have to make sense. 
  • Example: The five cards I got were moonlight, fragile, message, echo, and shattered.
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  • You may add suffixes, prefixes, and as many extra words as you wish.
  • Write your sentence on your paper.

My sample “sentence” (Eventually you can have them write it as a poem.) =

The echo of the moonlight shattered the fragile message. OR–in poem format:

The echo of the moonlight

shattered

the fragile message.

  • For Round Two, players may get rid of any or all 5 words, and the Dealer will deal the same amount of new ones, so the players have five cards as before. Proceed as above, making a new sentence out of the words on your cards.  Write it down.
  • Repeat for Round Three,  and more if you have time!
  • Add to the decks any time your students find a cool word in a story. Builds #Fluency!

Happy writing–and teaching–my friends. I love sharing these activities and more at writing workshops and Teacher Inservices–and on Pinterest (Erin Dealey)– and they work with all ages. If you try any of them, I would love to hear from you. Send student writing via my Contact Erin info on my web site–or find me on Twitter or Instagram @erindealey.

 

We, too, are America–a play for #BlackHistoryMonth.

Need something new for #BlackHistoryMonth? A history unit? #Diversity? Because #BlackLivesMatter? As a theater teacher, I write plays for my students to perform when I can’t find what I need. And because I know how busy you are, I thought I’d share this one. (Free PDF download below) 

WE, TOO, ARE AMERICA–a tribute for Black History Month, was written for a class of any color–or MANY COLORS–to perform as an assembly or class project. (I promise you, it’s very easy to produce.)

Sojourner Truth

Students will read about and portray twenty-five African-Americans who have helped shape America.  

I’ve attached the pdf here: We, too, are America –a tribute to Black History

Production Notes:

Cast: Flexible cast.  30 speaking parts–5 narrators, 25 “masks”.  Some roles may be combined.

Properties/Costumes:

Masks:  Hand held masks– enlarged photos of actual historical figures with name printed clearly in large bold letters so audience can read it.  (Laminate; attach a paint stick as handle–at neck. Optional: Back side of mask can have the character’s lines on it.)

Variation:  Masks with names only, printed clearly in large bold letters so audience can read it. Combine with power point showing photos of actual historical figures.

Simple costume pieces/props may be added for specific characters, such as hat and purse for Rosa Parks, school books for Elizabeth Eckford, etc.  Others may be imagined or pantomimed.

Sound: (Optional) “Military” drums, kettle drum.

Suggested Songs*: “We Shall Overcome,” “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” “O Freedom,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.  *Others may certainly be used instead.

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Poem: I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes.

Happy February, dear Teachers. I hope you’ll take the time to share these amazing Americans and their contributions with your students.

If you perform the play–take a pic and send it my way via twitter @ErinDealey or my web site.

Most of all, THANK YOU for all you do for your students.

 

Interview with a Hamster: Humphrey & Betty Birney

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A certain HAMSTER took over my blog while I was interviewing my writer pal, BETTY BIRNEY.

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Don’t believe me? Read on…

It started out innocently enough with a few questions for Betty:

(Check out the full bio of this Emmy/Children’s Choice/Humanitas award winner on her web site.)

Q 1. Where did Humphrey get his name? 

Betty Birney: “Right here:”

Betty Birney Humphrey street“My parents grew up on Humphrey Street in St. Louis two houses away from each other and were best friends from the age of nine, so it’s an important place with extremely warm memories of my childhood.”

 Q 2. Which of the following quotes best describes your path as an author? (or your revision process?) 

a. “Sometimes you have to look-look-look to find the perfect book.”                                          SECRETS ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY

b. “I don’t know what color I’ll be when I come back.”                                                            ADVENTURE ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY

c. “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never been in a dark room with a mosquito.”          Betty Birney

d. “My imagination’s flying!” IMAGINATION ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY

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BB: “d. Humphrey’s latest book, IMAGINATION ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY, is really all about the writing process. This little rhyme Humphrey writes in his notebook sums up my path and my revision process. Just keep trying over and over again.”

I tried and tried again

and then I  kept on trying

And now I am so happy:

My imagination’s flying!

Q 3. Did you base Room 26, Longfellow School on any school in particular?  Reavis perhaps?

BB: “I think most writers picture something familiar when they write. Reavis School, which I attended, is in my mind when I write about Humphrey, even though it doesn’t exist anymore. However, I am aware of how things have changed over the years (desks vs tables, for instance).”

Q 4. Since you also write for television, can you tell us how this process compares to that of writing children’s books? 

BB: “On the one hand, there’s little difference. A story is a story and there are many ways to tell it. Print or TV: you’re still telling a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

“That being said, there are lots of differences. The challenges in writing for television or film is the fact that it’s difficult (and awkward) to get directly into a character’s head. Characters can only reveal what they’re thinking by stating it out loud to another character, using voice-over or talking to themselves (something I dislike in film and consider amateurish). Everything is action. The action can’t stop for explanation or backstory. Film and TV are also made up of connected scenes and each scene has a beginning, a middle and an end. I still talk of writing books in terms of scenes. People tell me that my books read like a movie.

“I still find television easier to write than literary fiction because there are great shortcuts: a cut, a dissolve – the passage of time doesn’t have to be stated out loud. It’s easier in a book to make great leaps of time and place. I love writing both mediums and they present different challenges. For television, the ultimate challenge is the length. Because a show is a very specific length, a script can’t be one page too long or too short. It doesn’t work. However, once you write a lot of television, you learn to have the sense of where you are in the story and how much time you have left and you adjust as you write, which is a fascinating process.”

 

GREAT ANSWERS, RIGHT?

BUT THEN, I BEGAN TO NOTICE A PATTERN…

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Q 5. What was the most surprising fact or discovery you’ve made while writing this series?

BB: “I have learned a lot about hamsters from research and from fans. In the first book, I said they were nocturnal, which is what my research told me. It turns out they are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. The funny thing is, I get up at the crack of dawn and get an energy burst late in the afternoon. So I think I’m crepuscular, too!

Q 6.  Which character is most like you? Lower-your-voice AJ? Speak-up Sayeh? Mrs. Brisbane, Mrs. Wright, Garth, Seth, Humphrey? (Or another?)

“Without a doubt, Humphrey is more like me than any character I’ve ever written. He’s curious, excitable, a dreamer and he likes to help other people (he’s much better at it than I ever was). And we both write our thoughts and ideas in a notebook. Little known fact: Humphrey loves crunchy raw veggies and so do I.”

ARE YOU CATCHING THE CLUES HERE, READERS?

Q 7. Given that Humphrey has tried his paw at poetry for the Valentine’s Day Festival, and I notice you mention that he took over writing the World of Humphrey books after book #3, do you think he’ll ever write his memoirs? If so, what might he “tell all” about?

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BB: “Since he is very young at the start of THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY and he grows in understanding throughout the series, I think the According to Humphrey books are his memoirs. And he does tell all, including his inner conflicts and deepest feelings. He’s one honest hamster.

Q 8. What would you like readers to know–about you? HUMPHREY? Life?

BB: “Many people already know this but I don’t have a hamster and have never had a hamster. But I don’t need to own a hamster to write the Humphrey books, because

I AM A HAMSTER.

Really!”

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WHAT??????

BB: “I may not look like one, but in order for me to write the books from Humphrey’s point of view, I’ve had to learn to think, act, feel and write like a hamster. And when I am writing one of the Humphrey books, I really do feel like a little hamster. Sometimes when I’m writing one of Humphrey’s big adventures outside of his cage, I feel really tired, as if I were a tiny hamster doing big things.”

READERS–DO YOU THINK HUMPHREY HAS BEEN ANSWERING MY QUESTIONS ALL ALONG????

Q 9. HUMPHREY books are celebrating their eleventh year in print (Congrats!), not only in the U.S. but the U.K, as well as translations in Polish, Spanish, and Dutch. Are there any other countries your books have landed?

BB (OR POSSIBLY HUMPHREY…):

“Germany, Hungary and soon in Vietnam and mainland China. And in the UK and the U.S., there’s a new-ish series of HUMPHREY’S TINY TALES, which are shorter, illustrated chapter books:

Creepy Crawly Cover

Unlike the According to Humphrey books, they don’t follow in order and that was a nice break for me. There are three out now in the U.S. and two more coming next year.”

Q 10. Since it’s November and almost Thanksgiving, what are you and/or HUMPHREY thankful for this year? 

BB: “I will always be grateful to my editor, Susan Kochan, for publishing the first book and sticking with Humphrey and me. I am eternally grateful to Humphrey’s loyal, fun-loving, enthusiastic fans and to the teachers and librarians who have introduced their students to the series.

HUMPHREY (Come on–We KNOW it’s you!) “Teachers and librarians are the people who supported the books in the beginning and continue to support them today, so all I can say is:

THANKS-THANKS-THANKS!”

HAPPY THANKSGIVING DEAR READERS!

Both Betty Birney and I agree with Humphrey’s wish for you:

“I hope they all get an extra piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top!”