Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The History We Don't Always Know


While researching my own novel, MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG, at Delta State University's Chinese Heritage collection, I heard a lot about this story. 

This new book is just out today!

Here's a bit from the publisher's description:

A generation before Brown v. Board of Education struck down America’s “separate but equal” doctrine, one Chinese family and an eccentric Mississippi lawyer fought for desegregation in one of the greatest legal battles never told.

On September 15, 1924, Martha Lum and her older sister Berda were barred from attending middle school in Rosedale, Mississippi. The girls were Chinese American and considered by the school to be “colored”; the school was for whites. This event would lead to the first US Supreme Court case to challenge the constitutionality of racial segregation in Southern public schools, an astonishing thirty years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The Kirkus review is HERE.

An AMAZON link is HERE.

It's a really fascinating story that happened in Bolivar County, Mississippi. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Carnegie Libraries

"A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people.  It is a never failing spring in the desert."
                                                               Andrew Carnegie

I love the stories about Carnegie libraries across the country.

You can CLICK HERE to read a bit of the history.

Or HERE FOR A FASCINATING STORY about the secret apartments at the New York Public Library's branches, funded by Andrew Carnegie. 

I grew up near Clarksdale, MS, where a Carnegie Library is still used as a library.

There's a beautiful Carnegie Library in downtown St. Petersburg, a library I frequent occasionally.

If you'd like to visit some of these libraries, there's a state-by-state list HERE.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Do you follow the It's Monday What Are You Reading blogs?

If not, here's the story. 
I'm going to quote Alyson Beecher here because she says it perfectly:

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys.  Jen Vincent ofTeach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right just might discover your next “must-read” book!

I wish I were better at keeping up with my own reading. I usually have at least two kids' books and one something-else going at the same time. Because I've been traveling, I've also read a couple of airplane books, sadly not worth mentioning. 

Also, I have a library book due tomorrow, which inspired this post. I was going to zip through it this afternoon and blog about it. But I'm not going to talk about that book, which seems to have garnered excellent reviews but fell apart for me 3/4 of the way through.

What I finished last night and LOVED SO MUCH. Sorry, can't help hollering. 

I happened to be at a Highlights UNWorkshop with Meg last month where she received a very special honor and a scholarship in her name. What a treat to sit around the breakfast table (lunch, dinner- Hey, it was Highlights! We eat a lot!) and talk about how she came to write this story.

The good people at Highlights gave everybody a copy of Meg's new book. Honestly, I thought I'd send it to a lovely friend, a teacher in her first job, in New York. Perfect match. I'll still pass along my autographed copy. But I'm so glad I read it first. 

What a book. Mine is now filled with stickie notes! 
Things that will make me think hard about my own writing. 
I adore how she weaves in historical details in. Son of Sam- I'd almost forgotten that. And the great NYC Black-out. The way she makes readers feel their characters' worries and fears- brilliant.

The music, food, lingo. All those fabulous things that don't really matter if you don't get them. It might not even matter if Meg had chosen to leave them out. But they so enrich this book!

I'm delighted to know that BURN BABY BURN has just been long-listed for the National Book Awards. Well deserved. 

I turned the last page of the book this morning, reading the interesting Author's Note. What a truly inspiring read for a writer. As I'm sure it will be for its intended Young and New Adult audiences.

Here's hoping your weekend reading was every bit as good as this book.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thank you!

Thank you to those of you who've taken the time to post a review of my new book to Amazon, Goodreads, your blogs, etc. 
Authors REALLY appreciate this. 

I was truly delighted to read this thoughtful Amazon review.
Thank you, Jeu Foon:

September 9, 2016
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just finished reading "Making Friends with Billy Wong".
My opinion ... Outstanding! Five out of five stars! Here's why ...
(1) Augusta Scattergood got many details of the 50's just right, even down to the then used term "funny books",
(2) her depiction of Chinese life in grocery stores was accurately expressed through Billy's prose (a very nice change of pace writing-wise!),
(3) I wouldn't mind reading even more about the same summer from each boys' individual perspective (two very interesting characters!), 
(4) I really like that the author used Arkansas as the setting, instead of Mississippi. Mississippi Chinese were and still are a very close-knit group, from having attended Chinese-only schools together, and are well-documented. But the many more scattered and more-isolated Chinese kids in Arkansas (like me) had to attend white schools alone and navigate a difficult daily life between and within both black and white societies (as the author so perfectly describes through Billy Wong’s own writings),
(5) Bottom line: this is a very well-told and unique story about the bonds of friendship grown through shared experiences, both good and bad. I truly enjoyed reading this story of Azalea's summer and I expect others will too. 
Thank you, Augusta Scattergood, for writing it. Outstanding! - Jeu Foon (Forrest City, Arkansas 1949 – 1967)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Writing Advice from #TrueFriends, Part 3

You might wonder what on earth would four writers do for four days together.

Do they actually write? Or do they have a gabfest, long walks, fabulous meals and the occasional glass of wine? 

In my limited but excellent experience, all of those things are part of a writing retreat. When Kirby Larson invited us to be a part of her writing world, Barbara O'Connor and I flew in from the East Coast. Susan Hill Long met us at the airport. And off we went to our own cocoon where we worked very hard.

At some previously scheduled point in our writing days, we gathered and talked about our manuscripts. We were at different places in our writing. Kirby and Barbara had a ton of books under their author belts. Sue had quite a few herself as well as experience working in publishing. True confessions, I suspect I had the most to learn. And I soaked in every single word of advice.

On our first retreat, we sent chapters around in advance for critiquing. So Sue put her sharp editor's pen to work. I can't speak for the others, but in my case, I suspect she had to work hard.  Many red marks= super suggestions.

Susan Hill Long, finally, perfectly made me understand what a scene is. 
And how important it is to write in scenes. Okay, I knew that part already. And instinctively, I think many writers do. We probably see our stories in scenes, even if we don't realize it. 
But making it happen is hard work!

Here are her words, verbatim, from her helpful Advice from a True Friend.  Thanks, Sue!

This is important: in a scene, something happens.  
Yes, sometimes we need to set up a quick bridge to get from one thing that happens, one event, to another. And sometimes we need to make time pass. For one reason or another, sometimes the story calls for summary in order to keep moving forward. 

But when we want the reader to notice, to slow down and experience the event with the character, we write a scene. 

From Sandra Scofield's excellent and highly recommended resource THE SCENE BOOK: A Primer for the Fiction Writer, I learned that each scene should have a sort of pivot that I can put my finger on, a point where something changes. The story moves forward, or the reader's understanding of the character deepens, or the plot twists. Especially once I have a down-and-dirty draft in hand, I can look at each scene and ask, How does this scene matter to my story?

 There must have been magic in that ocean air.  
Four books appeared this year. 
We organized a Second Annual Writing Retreat. 
And now we're excited to be a part of NCTE in Atlanta in November, where we'll be on a panel together and talk about how this could work in your world.

 (To read advice from Kirby and Barbara, click back through my previous #TrueFriends blogpost.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

True Friends

Have you been following along with all the #TrueFriends fun?

You can CLICK HERE to get to a google doc with everything in one place!
(All four of us talking about friends in our books, for example.)

FYI- Hurry and enter! The Giveaway of lots of books and a Skype session ends in November.

There's even a FRIEND CATCHER.
(Much better than any of those other "catchers" you may remember!)

You know the definition of a True (writer) Friend?

Someone who takes the time during her book launch party to buy your book and post the photo on Facebook and Twitter.

Barbara O'Connor's holding up my new book at her own Malaprops Bookstore party.

Barbara has given me so many writing tips, it's hard to know which to choose.
I have an entire legal pad scribbled with advice she gave me when she first read GLORY BE.
Now, that's a True Friend.

If you don't already follow her blog, you may want to CLICK OVER THERE and read all her Writing Tip Tuesday past posts.

HERE is one of my favorite things she shared (and there are many).

"... pay attention to the extraordinary in the ordinary - to notice the small things around us that the average observer might not notice or note to memory.

And when you notice those small things, WRITE THEM DOWN."

Read Kirby Larson's writing advice from last week right here.
Susan Hill Long's advice will be next.

I hope you all have #TrueFriends to encourage you on your journeys!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Advice from a True Friend

If you've been hanging around social media lately, maybe you noticed our #TRUEFRIENDS posts.

There are four of us connected writers, who are not only friends, but also writing-advice-givers-sharers-and-takers.

 Here we are at our first annual Writing Retreat, where we became fast, #TrueFriends.

Wisdom from writer friends goes deep into my heart (and if I'm lucky, possibly my brain).

This from Kirby Larson is something I'll take with me to think about as I hide at a Highlights UNWorkshop this week. She said it when we worked together at a Whole Novel Workshop there a couple of years ago.

"Facts are as beautiful as flowers but they need a garden in which to grow... But if a fact doesn't serve a useful purpose, it doesn't belong."

She went on to cite Catherine Called Birdy as a strong example of this.
And she told us that authors must know their characters, know what they'd think, like, do before we can decide where- or if!- those facts belong.

I love weaving tidbits into novels. I love reading fabulous facts. But they shouldn't intrude on good writing. Which Kirby Larson's books have, in spades.

If you're planning to be at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in November in Atlanta, you can hear more about our books, our friendship, our writing styles, and how we connected. As we make our way toward NCTE in November, I'll share more writing wisdom from my other #TrueFriends, Barbara O'Connor and Susan Hill Long.

For now, here's the link to our really great giveaway.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My True Friends

Today was a big day. 
My third historical fiction middle-grade novel launched out into the world. Okay, the fanfare was mostly via tweets and posts, but I did sign a bunch of books that are easily available from the great LEMURIA BOOKS in Jackson, Mississippi.

Oh and I ate cake.
(Well, sorta.)

So, you can now order MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG from your usual sources. 
Or request it from your public library. Or BUY it for your school libraries.

All of that by itself would be swell.

But another fun way I get to share this book news is telling you about my #TrueFriends.

Kirby Larson, Barbara O'Connor, and Susan Hill Long
writers extraordinaire! 

The four of us gathered to write and critique and re-gathered to do more of the same at Kirby's wonderful writing retreat. Now we talk to each other nonstop via email and texts and even- gasp!- the occasional phone call or Skype/ Facetime chat.

See, we really are the truest of TRUE FRIENDS.

And guess what! We're giving away our books! Lots of books! And a Skype visit!  


If you'd like to see us, live and in person, talking about books on youtube and hear fun writing prompts for your students, check out our video.

Click here to subscribe and get to know all four of us.
(not to mention, see our picture along with Winston the Wonder Dog. Go ahead, you know you want to.)

And here I am, chatting away about my friends, my book, and writing.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What's It All About?

 When you're tagged in a post titled "NOT AS EXPECTED," you fear the worst.

Then you read the first few sentences and swoon. Or blush. Or smile for the rest of the day, maybe all three.

If I need to think about the true meaning of my new book, I'll refer back to this fabulous blogpost about it.

Does it get any better than a highly-regarded, fabulously well-read librarian saying this about your books?

"Books written by Augusta Scattergood make us feel like we've come home, regardless of our age. Her characters could be our neighbors, best friends or family members. Their joys and concerns become our joys and concerns not only during the story but resonating long after the final word is read."  

(image from my newly-designed website, HERE)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Counting Down the Days

It's such fun to share a new book with the world.

It's even more fun when I have special writer friends to spread the news.

(left to right, Kirby Larson, Winston the Wonder Dog, Sue Long, me, Barbara O'Connor)

AND it's tons of fun when the four who started this journey together all have books appearing in the same year. 

Two of us, my friend Barbara O'Connor and I have books appearing on the VERY SAME DAY.

(Although, rumor has it-- sorry, Barbara-- that there may be some early copies for sale at the fabulous MISSISSIPPI BOOK FESTIVAL, a Literary Lawn Party, next weekend!)

Click HERE for Barbara's excellent post about how we four friends connected.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Middle Grade Gets Real

Everybody knows that middle-grade readers deal with all sorts of drama. Some true, some imagined, but all very real to them.

These four fabulous authors have teamed together to talk about their books, using the hashtag

Here they are and here are their books.

·      Shannon Wiersbitzky—WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER (Alzheimer’s)
·      Kathleen Burkinshaw – THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM, (Hiroshima)
·      Joyce Moyer Hostetter—COMFORT, (War Trauma)
·      Kerry O’Malley Cerra—JUST A DROP OF WATER, (9/11)

I've read three of these books and look forward to reading the others.

Give them a look, buy them for your library, reach out to the authors.

They created this excellent bibliography filled with books on every topic middle-grade readers care about. The real stuff.

It's posted here on the Pragmatic Mom blog, and shared lots of places.

And check out the NCTE blog next week. 
Rumor has it, there's a super BOOK giveaway!

(#MGGetsReal giveaway (open to educators) will be kicked off on August 16 at the NCTE blog.  Please do enter for a set of five books on tough topics.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

All Rise for the Honorable

No doubt those of us who read a lot of books have our favorites. This is one of mine.

I read middle-grade novels like they're going out of style, fast and furiously most of the time. And true confessions, sometimes I forget them just as quickly, even the ones I liked a lot.


I loved this book. It's funny. It's smart. It's complicated. 
It's so very kid-friendly.

(I also loved Leslie Connor's previous book, WAITING FOR NORMAL. I listened to that one, something I don't do often enough, and didn't want my car trips or my walks to end.)

When I read THIS ARTICLE in last week's Washington Post, it reminded me of Perry and his mom.

Yes, Leslie Connor created her story. It's fiction. But she did a lot of reading about incarcerated moms.
Kimberly Hricko's newspaper piece last week made me think about how little we truly know about what really happens. 
The backstories behind the news. 
The layers of stories in people's lives.

Also making me think how hard it is to write multi-layered characters. 
And Leslie Connor sure nailed it with ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK. I am in awe. I am about to read the book again to see if I can figure out how she does it.

Don't take my word for it. Check out what everybody else said.
“With complex, memorable characters, a situation that demands sympathy, and a story that’s shown, not just told, this is fresh and affecting. Well-crafted, warm, and wonderful.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Rich characterizations give the novel its big heart: Jessica, Big Ed, and the other Blue River inmates are nuanced, vivid characters whose stories of perseverance after tragedy embody the novel’s themes of redemption, hope, and community. This beautifully written work will send readers’ spirits soaring.” (School Library Journal (starred review)

Every so often, a novel comes along to remind us of that what we hope is true, is true: that understanding is stronger than what seems to be justice, that kindness is deeper and fuller than anger, and that goodness can heal brokenness. This is one of those novels.” (Newbery Honor-winning author Gary D. Schmidt)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Thank you, Goodreads

While I'm not sure I ever thought I'd type those words, today I'm feeling very appreciative of the lovely people at GOODREADS.

When there's a lot of hate thrown at your book, or at least extreme dislike (my grandmother taught me not to use that word hate but I was allowed to say I disliked something extremely), it's hard to appreciate the good words on Goodreads.

But when your book isn't out yet and you're wondering what people will think about it, believe me, teachers and librarians like the ones who've posted reviews there now really make my day.

You can click RIGHT HERE to read a few. 
While you're there, there's a giveaway running for at least a few more days!

I'll share some of the nicest things they've said. I'm blushing with delight.

From Holly:
I love summer stories, stories of days gone by, and stories of childhood filled with ordinary problems against a back drop of history - Scattergood is an expert at all these elements, and this book has them all. 

And Emily:
I absolutely loved this book! The heart of the story is friends come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Give people who are different than you a chance, and you might have more in common than you think!  

And Scott:
Azalea learns about being careful about jumping to conclusions. She also learns that everyone in a family is different and every family is different. 

Okay, I'll stop before my head gets too big. 

Yes, every book isn't for every reader and I know there will be some who don't love MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG. That's okay. I get that. 
But I can't thank those of you enough who moseyed over to Goodreads or wrote on your blogs or will write on Amazon. It means a lot.

 (Here's another post I wrote (kind of) about GOODREADS.)


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mary Ward Brown

One thing I love about a rainy day and a screened porch in an old house is finding old magazines-SMITHSONIAN, July-August 2014 (hey, that's not so old!). 
Here's the link to the piece I'm reading in the rain:

Mary Ward Brown died a few years ago, well into her 90s.
She didn't begin to write until she was past 60.
Or at least she didn't publish her stories until then.  
Click here to read her obituary.

I was introduced to this amazing writer years ago when my friend Ivy gifted me with Mary Ward Brown's short stories. I've read them many times.

In the Smithsonian article, "Soul of the South,"  Paul Theroux mentions her memoir,

Which I've never read but think I'll order right now.

For the next rainy Sunday afternoon in my life.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG. Many, many versions...

In case anyone thinks a book springs fully-formed from an author's head, let me say that's not my experience. Most of my writer friends go through many drafts, many versions, and tons of edits before an editor ever sees a word of what they've written.

While writing/ revising/ editing, I use a terrific software program called SCRIVENER.
Read a few of my thoughts on Scrivener here.

Today, while pulling together a few things for my soon-to-be updated website,
I found this page. 
One of my early drafts of my soon-to-be-published book, MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG. 
(Coming in just over a month!)

First of all, I almost fell off my chair reading the date.
And then I almost fell off again.

What on earth could I possibly have been thinking? UFO's?

You know that writing advice that says "What's the worst thing that could happen to your character? Write that!"

Well, a lot of things could have happened. And, thankfully, didn't. 
Aren't you glad I didn't have Azalea and Billy chasing after a UFO?


Monday, July 11, 2016

Quaker Motto Calendar

Okay, folks. It's that time of year.

These lovely, inspirational little calendars can now be ordered for 2017.

Here's an order form:

CLICK HERE for a bit about the history of the calendars, from a previous blogpost.

Please note the email address if you have questions. Or you can contact me via this blog and I'll forward the email to my sister-in-law, Marion Ballard, calendar maker extraordinaire. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Thought for the Day

(Totally copied from my friend KIRBY LARSON's wonderful blog, because I'm carrying a lot of books around with me and thinking about gardens and proverbs. Funny how things connect, isn't it?)

"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket."

Chinese proverb

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Have a Super Summer!

I am in awe of two teachers who pulled off one of my best ever Skype Q&A sessions on their LAST DAY OF SCHOOL.
(Okay, officially it was Facetime, not Skype, but it worked equally well, if not better than Skype...)

Their students were literally out the door! I mean, who would even attempt this? Two super teachers from Syracuse, that's who.

These same teachers from Jamesville-DeWitt Middle School were the first Skype visit I ever had, way back in spring, 2012. They've shared GLORY BE with their sixth graders and we've Skyped ever since. What a treat.

Today the questions were serious, funny, thoughtful, and challenging. I'm still thinking about the boy who asked if I could change places with one of my characters, what would I do differently. 
Or whether I saw the "times" as the antagonist/ villain. 
And how about that age-old question, asked by every writer: How do you know when your book is finished?  

(See below for more of the questions, just emailed to me.)

I suspect these kids are great readers and I hope they (and their fabulous teachers) and ALL you amazing teachers and librarians out there have a summer filled with books, friends, and maybe even time to write.

(When they asked what I would recommend for their summer reading, I just happened to have these books on the table right next to my computer!)


After reading Glory Be, I felt that Emma kind of replaced the mom role to Glory.  Did you mean to do that?
What gave you the idea to make JT so mean? 
What made you decide to bring fact and history into your book instead of having it all fiction?
Have you written any other books?
How did Frankie's back story come to life or Who inspired Frankie's back story?
How do you know when your story is the way you want it? 
In the process of making your book how did you give (develop) Glory's personality?
Why did you choose July 4th as Glory's birthday?
How do you organize yourself for your book?
Were you a big fan, like Glory, of the Beatles, Elvis and Nancy Drew?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Margaret and Me

You know when you meet somebody and have an instant connection? That's how I felt when I met Margaret Simon. Yes, we're both Mississippians and writers, two things that drew us together. And we have a bunch of "do-you-know" friends, as do all Southerners. 

But she's also a great reader and an amazing teacher. So when she asked if I'd answer a few questions about writing my new book, I jumped at the chance. 

HERE WE ARE, chatting away! 
(Click that link to read the interview.)




Saturday, June 11, 2016

Kate Messner and The Seventh Wish

If you haven't tuned in to the book challenge of Kate Messner's new book, CLICK HERE to read what she has to say.

If you'd like to read a short, honest review, recently posted on the Barnes & Noble site, here it is.

 I'd like to add my two-cents worth. First of all, as a former librarian, I know how tricky book selection can be. You have a limited amount of funds. You want to buy books your students and teachers will check out and use, or books they need for many reasons. Books you can in all honesty recommend, either from your personal reading or professional reviews. There are all kinds of reasons not to buy every single book that has a good review, even several starred reviews.

But I have a lot of trouble understanding why this book and Kate's author visit wouldn't be allowed into ANY school.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say I know Kate Messner.
I've met her in person at events our (shared, but not for this book) publisher has sponsored.
This summer I'm even taking part in her amazing initiative, TEACHERS WRITE.

But long ago I decided never to recommend a book I haven't read. Or at least carefully skimmed and read about. I'll "share" others' opinions/ booklists/tweets and posts with a comment that I'm looking forward to reading this book or I've heard great things. But I'd never review a book or rave about it or even blog about something I haven't actually read. No matter WHO writes it.

So yesterday, I read THE SEVENTH WISH.

If you're still with me, let me say I'm highly recommending this book.
I'm planning to buy it for at least one middle-grade reader I know. I think she'll enjoy it for many reasons, as I did. The story has wonderful layers, from Irish dancing to friendships and a humorous hint of a boy-girl crush which turns into friendship. A magical talking fish.
There's even ice fishing!
But none of those storylines are what got THE SEVENTH WISH banned from a school.
And this is where I have trouble with book selection.

There is absolutely nothing in Charlie and her sister's relationship that didn't ring true.
There is absolutely nothing, as far as I could tell, that wasn't validated by Kate's extensive research on drug addiction.
I know from personal, sad experience how families struggle with these issues. Young readers who need this book will take away a lot of truth. Nothing good comes from not talking about an addiction. If libraries and librarians are the places and people we hope kids come to for information and support and safety, THE SEVENTH WISH--and books like this-- are what they need to find there.

Today Kate shared the update on this issue and I recommend that all of us CLICK OVER TO HER POST and read about the conversation she's having with the librarian and principal at the school which cancelled her visit.
As I said before, I totally understand the difficulties of "book selection" and I applaud the open dialog between authors and schools that this situation requires.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

More Letters

As the school year draws to a close, my mailbox fills with wonderful messages, mostly from students who've read GLORY BE as part of their curriculum. Some illustrate their letters, some hope I'll write back, some are obviously part of an assignment.

But mostly what they're saying truly comes from their hearts and funny minds.

Two from today's batch:

"My favorite part of the story was when Glory hid in the back of the car and went with Robbie and Jesslyn. She was sneaky. Like I usually am."

"I think overall that was one of the best books I've read in a while and trust me I have read alot of books."

Way to make my day, kids!

When they illustrate scenes that make me think I have possibly written my descriptions well enough to show what's really happening, this reminds me always to add the details.

Five senses, fellow writers! And don't forget the sunshine!


Speaking of scenes: 
Good info for writers, including a new (to me- don't you love learning new editing words?) term: 
Soft Hiatus... Though I find fewer books use any kind of asterisk in the finished book, right?

"Visually, in a manuscript a new scene is usually signified by the start of a chapter, by a break of four lines (called a soft hiatus) between the last paragraph of one scene and the first paragraph of the next one, or sometimes by a symbol such as an asterisk, to let the reader know that time has passed."

Monday, May 30, 2016

Katherine Paterson

I think I could devote many posts to Katherine Paterson quotes.
In fact I have. (Type her name into my blog's search box, and you'll see what I mean.)

I was reminded of this just now when I saw Caroline Starr Rose's beautiful blog with another inspirational quote.

I'll wait while you click over there because it's not only inspirational to read, it's lovely to look at.

 This is one of my personal favorites:
"I think you tell your story and then the reader gets to decide what he or she will learn from your story. And if they don't want to learn anything from it, that's their choice."

- Katherine Paterson
from an NPR interview

And this:  Before the gates of excellence, the gods have placed sweat. –

She's always been a writing hero to me and to many others.
I have so many scribbled notes from things I've read and heard her say.

Now I need a beautiful picture to inspire us this weekend.
How about these- sunset on the Mississippi river- from my last visit "home."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Studying a Book

I'll admit to worrying when young readers are asked to over-analyze literature. 
When I was a school librarian, I loved book discussions and exuberant exchanges of ideas between students. But as far as delving too deeply into theme or word meanings, I admit to being a little on poet Billy Collins's side here.

CLICK HERE if you're not sure what he has to say about that.

But then something happened. Several schools in Washington state adopted the "Read Side by Side" curriculum, which includes my middle-grade novel, GLORY BE. Other places and classes used my books for read-alouds, book groups, and all sorts of discussions.

And I started getting letters from readers. Many asked thoughtful questions. Some were downright funny, in a very good way.

These two are about food.
If they only knew how many references I edited out over the years. 
The writer of the second letter would have really been hungry!

But there are a lot of serious questions, which make me realize my book is helping these young readers navigate new territory. 
This makes me very proud.

Some send illustrations.

And then you get a photo from a class that's read your book. 
Santa could not have brought a better gift.

And another from the letter-writers. (I sent them bookmarks along with my answer.)


In case anybody's still reading (and I know it's a long post), I'm going to quote an email from one teacher who'd used Read Side-by-Side, and my book:

The books that we read throughout the year as part of this curriculum all revolve around the issue of power.  We started the year reading Poppy by Avi, then read The War with Grandpa written by David Kimmel Smith, Martin Luther King, Jr. by Rob Lloyd Jones, your book Glory Be and finally Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  All of the books are slightly above grade level which is why they are read alouds, but the kids all have their own copies.  During reading time, we stop and take notes about characters and character traits based on evidence from the text and inferences from the text, we make predictions based on evidence, talk about the problems the characters encounter in the book, the setting, and relate the story to outside readings. 

The jump from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” between 2nd and 3rd grades is a big one.  I’ve loved how through this curriculum and fabulous books like yours, my students have learned to love reading and the beautiful subtleties of weaving a wonderful story like Glory Be.  When we read the part about Laura’s sock being found at the public pool, some of the students naturally thought she trashed the locker room.  We went back to our character lists and character traits lists and asked ourselves, “Does what we know about Laura so far support that thought that she trashed the locker room?  If not, how would someone have gotten her sock?”  When we looked back to the kickball scene and reread the part about J.T. nodding to Frankie, it was electric in the classroom!  We all had goosebumps realizing the beauty of that subtle hint and the depth of your writing.

This is why we keep writing, isn't it. 
For that moment one student or a whole classroom might get goosebumps. 
I know the feeling. It's very hard to write those moments. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on writing goosebump moments. 
Or reading them with your students.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Thank you, Skype!

One of the fun things I've done this year is to Skype with more classrooms than ever. Perhaps it all started with World Read Aloud Day. Scholastic also supported some of my Skype sessions. But somehow, this school year, I connected with more smart kids and their teachers and librarians than ever before.

Check out the trailers these fifth graders at Pioneer Middle School in Yorkshire, NY, made. It's an amazing class project, and I thank Mrs. Rice and her smart kids for all their hard work. They'd read GLORY BE as a class, and you can tell they spent a lot of time, energy, and love on this.

I'm so proud of them!
One of my favorite comments? "Charming like Jesslyn's charm bracelet."
And such strong verbs- I suspect there are more than a few budding writers in Mrs. Rice's class. Not to mention film makers!

Finding images that fit perfectly with their words = what a super learning experience.

Here's the link, again,  to watch their trailers:

Here we are, Skyping!

Thank you, Mrs. Rice, her fifth graders, and Maria Muhlbauer their super librarian who set it all up.

And thank you for the lovely note that arrived in my mail today!