Monday, May 17, 2010

Two Villages, One Book---One Happy Author

     The last time I posted I was on my way to Chicago for the One Book Two Villages Program (hence known as OBTV), hosted annually by the Winnetka-Northfield Public Library System. Each year, two thematically related for children, one for adults...are selected for citywide reading in Winnetka and Northfield. This year, my middle grade historical fiction Yankee Girl was chosen as the children's book.

     I was thrilled to have my "first born" book so honored, and doubly so when I learned that the adult selection was Kathryn Stockett's The Help (the first time I have been associated in any way with a New York Times bestseller!)  Not only do both of our books take place in Civil Rights-Era Jackson, Mississippi, but both of us claim Jackson as our hometown. (Kathryn was really born there; I just sort of adopted it.)

       If knowing that your adult counterpart is a bestseller was not intimidating enough, I really felt out-of-my-league when I learned that my predecessors in the program include Laurie Halse Anderson, Pam Munoz Ryan and Deborah Ellis!
Luckily, I didn't come upon that information until after the first day of the program.  By that time I already knew that the readers and librarians of Winnetka-Northfield Public are the best.  I have never had more fun on a multo-day school/library presentation.  Because this program has existed for seven years, the whole three days were smooth, glitch-less and stress free for me.

     I visited two schools, Skokie and Sunset Ridge Schools, where I talked about the Civl Rights Movement, and the background of Yankee Girl. Snaps all around to the teachers and librarians at those two schools who made sure their students read YG before my visit. One of the schools even conducted book discussion groups for YG before I arrived. As a result of the pre-planning, the students were ready to ask me insightful and cogent questions.  When you have been doing school visits as long as I have for YG,
after awhile you know you have been asked every conceivable question. . . twice!  These students questions I had never considered, and found themes and nuances I was unaware of. . .and I wrote the book!

     Many of these students were also present for a Mother-Daughter Book Dicussion and Young Writer's Workshop that took place at the Winnetka Library after school.  By the end of day two, I could remember the names of a dozen kids, because they had attended both programs and at been present for one of the school visits.

     At these library programs, I discovered that not only were these students critical thinkers, they are also fine writers. I suspect this is because they are also fine readers. As part of the writing workshop, we did a freewrite exercise in which the word prompt was "bedtime."  In only five minutes, and without consulting with anyone (or their neighbor's freewrite!), everyone of those dozen or so young writers had a sequence that involved being told to "turn out the lights and stop reading", followed by continuing to read by some "alternative" form lighting . . .flashlight, night light, hallway light, sneaking into a bathroom. Yes, these kids are my kind of kids! (For the record, I was a hallway light reader....hanging as far out of bed as I could to catch the light, but not so far that I couldn't haul myself up at the sound of footsteps.)

     If all this activity were not enough, there was a booksigning and talk at The Book Stall in Winnetka. Not only did I see the same students from the other programs, but for me, there was a special surprise.  The brother of one of my father's FBI partners showed up!  I had never met this man before, but his resemblance to his brother (who I knew very well) was so amazing, I knew exactly who he was before he introduced himself.

     The last event on my agenda was a luncheon with the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood. This time I gave my "adults only" version of the actual events behind YG.  I had a great time; I hope my audience did as well.

      The week was topped off with visits with Chicago writer buddies, including TA's Marti (aka Carmela) and Esther, as well as with last week's author interviewee, April Pulley Sayre.  I arrived back in Atlanta Saturday afternoon, experiencing the same sort of let down you have after a wonderful vacation. Especially since the Atlanta Airport. baggage retrieval and commuter rail were all hour behind schedule. (But then, when aren't they?)

     I would like to thank every single person who made my time in Illinois so special. . .but I don't know all of their names. A big shout out to those school librarians and teachers for spending considerable time discussing YG in advance. A thank you to the folks at the Book Stall, and the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood. Roses all around to everybody at the Winnetka Library (especially Director David Seleb) who became my new BFF's overnight. Most of all, I want to send a truckload of (cyber) roses to the Wonderful Wizard of Winnetka, Head of Youth Services, Bronwyn Parhad who made all of this come to pass. That's Bronwyn with the OBTV display in the library's children's department. Hooray for Bronwyn and Winnetka-Public Library for giving me the best gift a children's writer can receive . . . the opportunity to connect with young readers.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

P.S. Alas, my camera was out-of-commission, so I don't have any of my own pictures to share, but it you go to Winnetka-Northfield's Facebook page
you can see how much fun we had.

     Browym and her PR team also produced this terrific YouTube trailer for the Yankee Girl part of the TVOB. Just enter my name in a video search, and it will come up.


Carmela Martino said...

What a lovely report, Mary Ann. I'm glad they treated you so well in Winnetcka--YANKEE GIRL is a marvelous book.
It was great catching up with you in person!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

I second Marti's comment: it was great catching up with you in person, learning about your writing projects and your swell visit, despite the Yankee-cold temperatures.
Thanks for sharing the photos and the experience.

Patricia J. Weaver said...

It sounded like you had a great time. Love to be with young writers and reads that know what a book is about and are reading for enjoyment not because they're forced to to make a grade.

mary ann rodman said... apologies necessary for the "Yankee cold" air. The day in question I had just finished the adult luncheon and was wrapped in the afterglow of the experience. Again, these adults, mostly moms of the students I had already addressed, had read YANKEE GRIL. It is such a gift to be to talk about your book when the audience has already read it! (An experience that has happened maybe two or three other times in six years!)

Stable Granny--I just finished reading Elizabeth Bluemle's SLJ blog about passionate teaching, and how much passion goes out of the experience when teacher's are required to "teach to the test." I AM passionate about sharing books and writing with students, but it is also good that the topics of my middle grade novels are included in the middle grade curriculum (Civil Rights Era and WWII).)
I have sometimes encountered teachers who were just itching to get bak to class, because the kids weren't "learning" anything" by listening to me (aka..My book wasn't in the bibliography in their social studies book). What made this school visit so special is that the through the efforts and enthusiasm of the teachers and librarians those students were pumped to the max abut YG before I ever set foot in Illinois.
Their excitement encouraged me to give even more in the presentations and Q & A. Those were some smart teachers who saw an opportunity to enrich their curriculum as well as encourage their students to delve deeper into history NOT in the curriculum. Those students were reading on, not because of a test, or extra-credit for reading X number of books for X number of grade points, but because passion for a book or subject can do nothing but build.
There is no review, no award, that will drive a kid to a book faster than the words "My friend said this was the best book ever!"

April Halprin Wayland said...

Yay for Yankee Girl and our very own Mary Ann!!!!!!