Monday, November 29, 2010

A Return Home and Some BIG News


I had the privilege last week of returning to my alma mater last week, which also holds the distinction as The Best School in the History of the Universe: Stonebridge Elementary in Stillwater, MN. Okay--so the school I teach at now, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, is spectaculary awesome, too, but the Stonebridge I remember offered held an annual sleepover every year for 5th and 6th graders. That sounds like an eternally long night to a teacher, of course, but to a kid it was the best. Though it was called a sleepover, we certainly didn't sleep. We played ping pong and knee hockey, scarfed pizza, swizzled Mountain Dew, and STAYED UP ALL NIGHT! Stonebridge Elementary also boasted the world's best place to read--Cube City, an apartment structure for kids outside the library. You could drag a bean bag up to a compartment and get lost in a book. I did this daily, as my teacher watched me fall behind on all my other work.

And on Wednesday, I read Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle to Stonebridge students in the very same gym that hosted so many of my favorite childhood memories. They treated me like royalty, too. They gave me gifts: a storybook just like the one I filled out when I was 5 and 6 years old, a coffee tumbler, and this year's student-designed t-shirt. In the back of the gym sat three of my teachers (all retired now). Two teachers still around introduced me. And of course the students were as smart and curious as Stonebridge students always are. Thank you, Stonebridge. How very special the morning was.

After visiting Stonebridge, I headed over to Lily Lake Elementary School, also in Stillwater. I have friends who went there, and I know it to be a terrific place. The students were wonderful. They asked questions for twenty minutes and had more to ask when we ran out of time. Thank you, too, Lily Lake.

What could be as exciting as two great school visits in my hometown? News from my publisher! I learned today that Cedar Fort (yes, my publisher) will publish and disseminate an Advance Reading Copy (usually referred to as an acronym: ARC) of Skipping Stones at the Center of The Earth. ARCs tend to be black, unedited, and often unillustrated versions of novels created ahead of time for reviewers. Skipping Stones is the novel I've been working on for 6 years, and I'm awfully excited to share it with the world. The real deal should hit bookstore shelves in July or August. More on that later.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dizzy Visits Ascension

Thanks to Ascension Catholic School for inviting me to their Book Festival. Tonight I read the first chapter of Dizzy to some terrific young readers (including my first fan ever, Nia, as well as her younger sister). They listened respectfully (didn't even throw anything at me) and asked great questions.

Responses to my being there ran the gamut. One sixth-grade girl was so nervous to be with a "real, published author" she couldn't talk. I assured her my seventh-grade students know the truth: that I'm as far from a big deal as people come. So that was one end. On the other end, a student who won during the raffle chose a biography of Justin Bieber over Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle. Hey, I can't compete with those bangs.

Thanks, y'all.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

S-P-A All . . . the . . . way!

I'm lucky enough to teach at an incredible school--a place full of supportive, dedicated colleagues and enthusiastic students. I'm reminded of this every day as I plan and execute seventh- and ninth-grade English lesson plans (and one for the geography class I teach, too).

This week, my teaching and writing lives collided in an awfully special way.

I was one of the featured authors at the Lower School's Book Festival. This means I read the first chapter of Dizzy during Monday's assembly and then returned on Tuesday and Wednesday to present to and work with third, fourth, and fifth graders. I did my best to explain where ideas for my stories come from and how we all write most authentically and engagingly when writing about what we know. On Thursday evening, I was on hand to sign books.

The volunteers who organized this year's Book Festival worked awfully hard and put together a great event. Teachers at the Lower School--some of the supportive, dedicated colleagues I referred to earlier--welcomed me into their classrooms. And the kids, predictably, were marvelous. They asked awfully smart questions, and many began writing what will be terrific stories.

Thanks to all of you. You sure made me feel special.

Here's a picture of my wife standing next to the spectacular, bigger-than-life Dizzy Fantastic the kids constructed this fall to hang in the school's living room (yep--that's The Flash in Dizzy's pocket!):