Every summer I wish I was ten again, the perfect age for the perfect season. At that age I was at the height of my childhood powers. And as a reader, books couldn’t be thrust into my hands fast enough.
Every morning I’d eat a bowl of Rice Krispies, with my book at the table (my mother wouldn’t let me do this at supper, though I often kept my library book open on the seat of the next chair).… more
When I do school visits, the students treat me like a superhero. The time with them is exhilarating, and it would take a much more hardened heart than mine to resist the curiosity and imagination these young people exhibit. But my classroom days also leave me bone-deep exhausted. One afternoon, midway through a weeklong residency, I lay down in my front yard when I arrived back home, too tired to tackle the Mount Everest that had replaced my front steps.… more
by Lynne JonellI just met a woman who lived through horrifying emotional abuse as a child.
I had been told about her history some years before; but when I met the woman, we didn’t mention it. We talked instead about books, a subject of common interest, and teaching, her passion.
I made an effort to forget what I knew about her past; it was awful enough for her to have lived through it without my thinking about it while we talked, like a bystander at a crime scene who keeps casting surreptitious glances at the pooling blood beneath a blanket-covered mound.… more
by Virginia Euwer Wolff
For years I’ve taken primitive comfort in Gustave Flaubert’s mid-nineteenth century remark in a letter to a friend: “Last week I spent five days writing one page.”
And Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac reminded us (Dec. 12, 2014) that Flaubert often put in a comma one day and took it out the next. Yes, sure, fine, yeah, we all do that, and we can tell the keyboard, or the cat, whoever keeps us company, that in these insertions and deletions we’re honoring Flaubert and the noble tradition.… more
A year of school visits has just concluded, but I can’t unpack quite yet. I’ll soon head out on a book tour to support the release of my latest titles. The questions I get when I meet readers depend on the book — whether it’s a new release I’m promoting or an older book a class has read and discussed.… more
by Elizabeth Verdick
I spent the month of April reading children’s fiction featuring characters with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). April was Autism Awareness Month, but that wasn’t my only motivation. I love children’s literature, I have written nonfiction about ASD, and I’m raising a son who’s on the autism spectrum. I wondered, Which middle-grade stories could I hand him, saying, “I think you’ll really like this”?… more
by Marion Dane Bauer
[I]f you are interested in the neurological impact of reading, the journal Brain Connectivity published a paper “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain.” Basically, reading novels increases connectivity, stimulates the front temporal cortex and increases activity in areas of the brain associated with empathy and muscle memory. [Read the whole article.] … more
by Jen Bryant
I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with the word “inspiration.” On the one hand, I acknowledge the illusive, inexplicable aspect of the writing process that I can’t control, when the lines, paragraphs, pages seem to flow from somewhere outside of myself, knitting together almost seamlessly. On the other hand (and this is the much, much heavier hand) I believe that good writing — like all good art — comes from conscious effort, commitment, and lots of trial and error.… more
by Liza Ketchum
This week, while I prepared for a talk at AWP (Association of Writing Programs) on writing non-fiction biographies for kids, I thought about how I enjoy researching both nonfiction and fiction titles. Yet a gulf often separates the two genres. In my local library, you turn right at the top of the stairs for the nonfiction stacks and left to peruse the novels.… more
Every parent, teacher, and librarian wants children to read. The reasons they wish for this are endlessly varied, ranging from educational skills, entertainment, to learning a lesson. Sometimes, however, we need ask, what is it about reading that children like?
I’ve come to believe the answer lies in the different way kids and adults read books. When adults read a book, they encounter a situation, a character, a detail, which enables them to say, “That’s something I have experienced.”… more
by Melissa Stewart
Narrative nonfiction. The words have a nice ring to them, don’t they?
Expository nonfiction? Not so much.
Rhymes with gory, purgatory, derogatory, lavatory. Gesh, it’s no wonder expository nonfiction gets a bad rap. And yet, plenty of great nonfiction for kids is expository. Its main purpose is to explain, describe, or inform.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a golden moment for expository nonfiction because, in recent years, it’s gone through an exciting transformation.… more
In Absolutely Truly, my new middle grade mystery set in a bookshop in the fictional town of Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire, a first edition of Charlotte’s Web goes missing. There’s a reason this particular book features so prominently in the story — it’s a nod to my literary hero, E. B. White.
E.B. White and I go way back.… more
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