Friday, March 15, 2013

Magnificent Michelle Markel is today's Guest Teaching Author--and YOU can win her new book!

Howdy, Campers and Happy Poetry Friday!  (Scroll to the end to find out who's hosting today.)

I have the incredibly cool job of announcing the winner of Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger; read the inspiring interview by Carmela here.  The lucky winner is...debut author and blogger Peggy Eddleman--yay, Peggy!

And if that isn't exciting enough, we have ANOTHER book giveaway contest beginning today, you lucky dogs!  Entry deadline is March 27th.  Details below.

Today I'm excited to introduce you to a dear friend and fab author, teacher and blogger, Michelle Markel.

Michelle's an avid fan and author of picture books, with a soft spot for biographies. Her titles include Dreamer From the Village: The Story of Marc Chagall, and The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, one of Booklist’s ten best children’s art books of 2012, and a New York Public Library Best Book for Reading and Sharing.   Michelle is one of my fellow instructors at UCLA Extension’s Writers Program,  and one of my colleagues in the Children’s Authors Network. She makes her home in California's San Fernando Valley, about forty miles from the ocean, where she claims her thoughts often drift.

All of Michelle's books are original, beautifully written, and impeccably researched.  Her latest book, and one you will surely want to win, is Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909, which received four (!!!!) starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild selection.  It's the inspiring true story of Clara Lemlich, a young immigrant woman who led the biggest strike of women workers in U.S. history in that time.  All this IN A PICTURE BOOK!  
So, did you become a Teaching Author?

When my kids were in school, for fun and spare change, I taught poetry classes to children and young adults.  As my career progressed, I began teaching adults what I knew about writing children's books and getting them published. I found it to be vastly rewarding. (A little secret is that instructors constantly learn things too). My favorite part of teaching has always been the writing prompts. (You've got lots of terrific ones on this website!)  Nothing beats a front row seat to a burst of creativity, especially when the creator is surprised at what she's made.
Thanks for your complimenting our writing prompts!  What's a common problem your students have and how do you address it?

Many students have problems writing for the picture book audience. They may use irony, abstractions, introspection, a sense of maturity, complex sentences, and cultural references unfamiliar to a young child. They need more exposure to picture book language, and practice on how to read mindfully- which is part of their homework. In class we look at passages from children's books for all different age levels. I ask the students to find what the texts have in common, and how they differ. I discuss the psychological and emotional stages of childhood development. I write awful passages and ask them to correct it, whole group. During workshops we talk about writing that seems too grown up.

I need to take your class, Michelle!  Would you share a favorite writing exercise for our readers?.Character and conflict often get the most attention in writing classes. But sometimes the most original and heartfelt writing is inspired by exercises on setting. People have strong feelings and a multitude of sensory memories about places where they've grown up, spent a lot of time, or visited. I was drawn to write about Henri Rousseau in large part because of my love of Paris...

...where I lived while pursuing a BA in French, which later led to an MA, and a visit with my husband and daughter.

One of my most successful prompts is: 

Write about two different characters who are placed into a new setting--the desert, the mountains, anywhere.  One passage will be from the POV of a character who loves it, and the other from a character who hates it.

This is an opportunity to practice characterization, use of imagery in creating setting, and mood.

The results are often poignant and/or humorous.

Can you share a story about writing or publishing?

I thought my manuscript for Brave Girl might be my toughest one to sell. It's the story of Clara Lemlich, a fearless labor organizer who led garment workers on a long, difficult strike during the winter of 1909.  The text was undoubtedly dramatic, but on the other hand, it was gritty, and there hadn't been many picture books published about injustice in the workplace, and none about this woman in particular.

Sometimes you just feel the call--and there's no turning back. I felt that Clara’s heroism--her return to the picket lines after multiple arrests and broken ribs--deserved to be recognized. I tried to capture her fiery spirit in the writing. 

Ironically, this manuscript helped me get an agent and not long after, a contract with one of my all-time favorite publishers. I'm fortunate that Melissa Sweet so sensitively brought the story to life, and I'm thrilled that it has been well received by the critics. 

Can you see why I'm a firm believer in taking risks, and writing with passion? 

Absolutely!  Thanks for tackling such an important topic and congratulations on those FOUR starred reviews: School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus and Publishers Weekly--wowza!

Thank you so much for sitting down for a cuppa tea with our readers and for offering an autographed copy of Brave Girl for our book giveaway, Michelle!

"This book has fighting spirit in spades--
 you go, Clara!”--Booklist
(starred review) 
And now Children, as promised, here's your chance to win an autographed copy of Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Balzer and Bray).

You must follow our TeachingAuthors blog to enter our drawing
. If you're not already a follower, you can sign up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.

There are two ways to enter:
1) by a comment posted below
2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.

Either way, to qualify, you must:
a) give us your first and last name AND
b) tell us how you follow us AND
c) tell us if you'll keep the book for yourself or give it to someone special.

If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com).

Contest open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. Entry deadline is 11 pm (CST) Wednesday, March 27, 2013. Winners will be announced Friday, March 29.  Good luck to all!

And now...take a few minutes and try Michelle's writing prompt before you go.  You'll be glad you did.

Poetry Friday is hiding today!  It's at Ms Mac's blog, Check it Out, where she gifts us with a BEAUTIFUL poem by J. Patrick Lewis about Martin Luther King.  Wow.  Thanks for hosting, Jone!

...and do hop over to the 2nd Annual March Madness Poetry Tournament to watch your favorite "authletes" flex their poetic muscles and vote for your favorite poems!



Carmela Martino said...

Welcome, Michelle. And wow--FOUR starred reviews. Congratulations! Wish I could enter for a chance to win a copy of BRAVE GIRL. :-)

Janet Wong said...

What a great lesson to new writers--or for any of us who get tangled up in too much thinking about "marketability"--that BRAVE GIRL (which most people would consider a "hard sell") ended up being the manuscript that helped you get your agent, a contract with a favorite publisher, and an award-winnng illustrator. It's such a gorgeous and important book!

Patricia said...

I love Michelle's Rousseau book and would surely love to own, read, and see the Clara book. I'm going to Goodreads and Amazon to review Rousseau and give it 5 stars (as boldly requested by our agent-in-common, but so far, no problem;-)

Sandy Brehl said...

What a terrific interview, and the exercises are excellent. I follow by email feed, sbrehlhce(at)yahoo(dot)com, and I'd share the book with teaching friends as well as featuring it in my PB workshops for teachers. I also featured it in a recent post and reviewed it on Goodreads, but used a library copy for that. It's absolutely incredible!
Thanks for a great interview.

Deborah Holt Williams said...

I was so glad to see that your book did get published! I was told recently that no one would touch my fictional story about a brave girl who rescues a dog in a hurricane, because it's too dangerous. Your book gives me hope that publishers just might! If I were lucky enought to win your book, I would keep it but use it in my tutoring--I work with Spanish-speaking adults to help them learn English.

Carl Scott said...

I really like the idea behind this book and others like it, it's such a great way to get historical figures into the minds of kids.
If I won the book I'd give it to my friend Laurie who teaches English to Spanish-speaking children. She would be very happy to use it in her classes which are 100% privately funded by donation.
My full name is Carl Scott and I follow this blog by email at carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx.
Thanks for the interview and the giveaway.

creatingcuriouskids said...

I have been eying the UCLA Writer's Program for a couple of years. I write nonfiction (mostly science and nature) and wondered how many instructors had nonfiction experience. Knowing Michelle is on staff is great news! Congrats on your new book, Michelle. I have been hearing lots about it in nonfiction circles.

Kirsten Larson
following via email at klarson13 [at] roadrunner [dot] com

I would keep this book for myself to study as a mentor text. I would graciously let my kids read it though.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Janet, Patricia, Sandy, Carl and Kirsten, and Deborah(howdy, fellow #MMPoetry2013 playmate!)...good luck in the contest!

And doesn't Michelle inspire us all to be that much braver in our writing?

maypop said...

I'm a new blog follower via

I think I'd keep the book because I'd love to share it with my students each year, especially during Women's History Month.

Margaret Simon said...

I love hearing about the process and the ideas for writing children's books. I'm anxious to get my hands on this one as I teach a number of gifted girls. I am always looking for strong real women for them to learn about and look up to. Thanks for writing and being persistent about getting published. What an inspiration!

Linda at teacherdance said...

I took my class to NYC a few years ago & we studied the labor problems of that period & visited the site of the Shirtwaist Factory. It's terrific you've told Clara's story, another heroine during that time when women weren't supposed to speak up! If I won, I'd donate the book to my school library. I follow on Google Connect. Linda Baie--lindab414 at gmail dot com
Thanks for the opportunity & the post about all of Michelle's books!

Gohar Hamo said...

First time blogger, life time feminist. Looking forward to getting a copy I can read to my two little girls and my 5th grade class.

Nancy Person said...

I have been a fan of Michelle Markel's books for many years. I've used several in my classroom and have given them as gifts to my nieces. She is an amazing educator and her books reach children of all ages. Can't wait to get a copy of "Brave Girl!"

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Susan Berger at Pen and Ink
Michelle's Book sounds wonderful. I would probably at some point give away the book to my granddaughter, but not before all of us Inkies read it.

We also have a giveawy this week. Hop on over.