Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Giveaway and Guest TeachingAuthor Interview with Patricia Reilly Giff

Lucky us!
Newbery Honor Medalist and TeachingAuthor Patricia Reilly Giff chose TeachingAuthors as her last August Blog Tour Stop.
She’s been out and about in the Virtual World sharing news of her early chapter book series for readers ages 6 through 9, Zigzag Kids, which kicks off this month with its first two titles, Number One Kid and Big Whopper.
And lucky me!
I’m the TeachingAuthor who interviewed her.

In many ways, I’m paying Kindness forward.
Patricia Reilly Giff taught me. As I traveled my oh, so long Writer's Plotline, learning my craft, honing my craft, I read her books - first as a reader, then next as a writer, over and over and over again. Today I share them with my writing students, young and young-at-heart.

Most of us know Patricia Reilly Giff as an author.  Her award-winning books include The Pictures of Hollis Woods and Lily’s Crossing. The Polk Street Kids series sat on many of our shelves, at home, in the library, in the classroom.
But I bet most of us didn't know Patricia Reilly Giff was and is a teacher still.
She taught school before she wrote, at P.S. 136 – St. Albans, New York, and on Long Island, in various districts.
And, she currently teaches Writing for Children to adults at her Fairfield, CT bookstore, The Dinosaur’s Paw. Her current class, she brags, holds five students whose books are being published this year.

In the Zigzag Kids series, Patricia Reilly Giff again creates a world and kids readers will instantly recognize: the Afterschool Center at the Zelda A. Zigzag Elementary School and the eleven wonderfully-unique students who stop by every day. Though wonderfully-unique, the five girls and six boys deal with all-too-common, universal problems. As in her Polk Street Kids series titles, Real Life becomes easily-readable – and instantly fun.

Read on to learn how this teacher became a writer, how she jump-starts her writing and what writing means to Patricia Reilly Giff. And be sure to check out the related Writing Workout at the end of this post.

And don't forget to enter our Book Giveaway Drawing by 11 pm CST, Monday, August 30!
Random House has generously donated TWO two-book sets (Number One Kid and Big Whopper) to giveaway to two lucky TeachingAuthors readers, one a classroom teacher, the other
either a writer or librarian or home-schooling parent or parent/grandparent.
Note the Entry Rules at the end of this post.

In the words of Patricia Reilly Giff.....
It’s not a far jump from teaching reading for twenty years, to teaching writing…and I’ve been doing that for twenty years now, too.
How easy it is to teach those two subjects---lifelong passions both.
In 1990, our family opened a children’s book-store, The Dinosaur’s Paw, and people began to drop in to ask tentative questions about writing their own books. Two minutes later, it seemed, my son Jimmy, who runs me as well as the bookstore, had chairs out, the coffee pot going, and there I was (and still am)…reading manuscripts, and assuring writers that if I could do it, anyone could. I believe that firmly.
The problem is that writing, by its very nature, is different from most other skills.
It’s not like reading, or cooking, or tailoring a suit.
No matter what we write, we reveal ourselves: our longings, our beliefs, our fears.
How terrible then to take a chance on rejection.
So doesn’t it follow that we have to believe in ourselves, that what we say has value, too?
Patricia Reilly Giff continues...

I’m asked often about journals and writing exercises.
But from the moment I told my husband Jim I was going to write a book, he was waiting. I had no time for exercises. I went to the library, opened the first page of ten children’s books and Ah!--This is what they do.
I tell my students this, kids and old ones: take a person, put him in a place, and give him a problem.
And there you go, diving into that world, worrying about the problem, and at last---
…into the hands of the waiting husband… and fingers crossed, to the rest of the world.

Even after all the books I’ve written, I still feel fragile about my writing.
My husband reads my books first. (If I wrote the dictionary, he’d say, “What a wonderful plot.”)
I think of this most especially in children’s writing. I tell teachers, “Find something, find anything, to praise. There’s always something.” (One boy told me his teacher loves his question marks. “Curly, you know.”)

Finally, Patricia Reilly Giff writes...

It’s a wonderful world this writing life---the long term teaching and even the short school visits. The questions get right to the point: how old am I, how much money do I make, did I come in a limo? And the letters: Dear Patricia Reilly Giff, I need to write a book. Please send me information fast. P.S. I won’t steal your ideas. What a teaching opportunity!

We're grateful to be The Last Stop on Patricia Reilly Giff's August Blog Tour.
Be sure to check out her all-new Teacher Talk blog.
And read more about the Zigzag Kids here.
Enjoy discovering Patricia Reilly Giff's newest characters in this award-winning TeachingAuthor's newest series.

Esther Hershenhorn

Book Giveaway Drawing Entry Rules

1.You must post a comment to today's blog post identifying yourself as a Classroom Teacher - OR - either a writer, librarian, home-schooling parent or parent/grandparent.  It's that easy!

2.You must include contact information. If you are not a blogger, or your email address is not accessible from your online profile, you must provide a valid email address in your comment. Entries without contact information will be disqualified. Note: the TeachingAuthors cannot prevent spammers from accessing email addresses posted within comments, so feel free to disguise your address by spelling out portions, such as the [at] and [dot].

3.You must post your comment by 11 pm (CST) Monday, August 30, 2010. (The winner will be announced on Wednesday, September 1.)

4.You must have a mailing address in the United States.

5.If you win, you automatically grant us permission to identify you as a winner on our TeachingAuthors website.

Writing Workout

 The Random House Educators Guide that accompanies The ZigZag Kids series titles offers both classroom and afterschool activities.

 Here are two that are especially perfect for Back-to-School.

• In Number One Kid, Mitchell is nervous because he is the new kid at Zelda A. Zigzag School. Have students make a welcome kit for new students.
Suggest that they include a welcome letter, something about the school, a school map, a description of Afternoon Center activities, items like an eraser, pencil, etc.

• Challenge students to make a list of rules for the Afternoon Center that doesn’t include the word "don’t." (e.g., instead of saying “Don’t run,” say “Walk”) Divide the class into small groups and assign each group one rule.
Ask them to find a creative way to present the rule to the class. They may sing it, act it, or draw it.


Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford said...

I can't wait to get these books for my daughter, who just started kindergarten today. Thanks for the wonderful interview!

Carmela Martino said...

Congratulations on the new series, Patricia. It looks like lots of fun.

Clara Gillow Clark said...

Delighted to see beloved children's author, Patricia Reilly Giff, featured on your blog. She's one of my all time favorite authors! If it weren't for Pat's encouragement, I probably would not be an author myself. Thank you, Pat!

CONGRATULATIONS on your new series!

Susan said...

I always loved Patricia's books for those readers who were newly ready for a chapter book. My own daughter loved the Polk Street School series. Lily's Crossing is still sitting on the shelves in her room as one of her favorites.
I would love to win the books to add to the library I am organizing at Hesed House or for the children I work with at GiGi's Playhouse.

Susan Gibbs

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your wise encouragement! I have enjoyed so many of your books. You make writing for children sound so easy and more importantly so worthwhile. I can’t wait to read your new series. I have one question. When you go to school visits–do you arrive in a limo?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this inspiring interview. I am both a parent and a writer. As a former literacy teacher, I read to my children before they were born and every day since. As a result, they both LOVE to read and the more they can identify with the characters, the better. Patricia's new series sounds like something my kids won't want to put down which is the true test of a great story. I hope to win one of the sets so that I may share your stories with my kids and they can share them with me. akhertz at aol dot com

Margo Dill said...

What a great interview, Eshter and Patricia! I am a big fan and would love these two books for my personal library as a writer. I love the question mark comment from the teacher to the student--when I taught full time, I can remember saying things like that! :)


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, ladies. I'm dropping in to say thanks to Carmela for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you guys!

Have a great school year!

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on encouraging young writers. I will definitely check into this series as a bridge for younger readers to Lilly's Crossing, since we use it every year in our 5th grade class.

Theresa Orand
Librarian, Holy Family Catholic School

Rena Jones said...

Great interview and good luck on the new series. I'm a writer and a homeschool mom. :)

Deiter said...

I love this: "No matter what we write, we reveal ourselves." As genre writers we may feel that the subject matter is distant enough from ourselves that we aren't obligated to reveal ourselves. Authenticity always comes from the truth, even good advertising copywriters know this. (Even if it's not your truth; it has to be somebody's.)

Nice work, Esther!

Irene Latham said...

I'm a big fan of Ms. Giff's... a writer and parent. If I were to win this set, I would donate it to a second grade teacher who is also a Giff fan AND has been an amazing supporter of my writing career. irene at irenelatham dot com

Shannon said...

These sound like such nice books. I'm a parent and I have been looking for books that aren't filled will potty language and rudeness.

tiredwkids at live dot com

Sarah Stevenson said...

Lovely post! Thank you. I read many of the Polk St. Kids books when I was growing up, and loved them. This brought back memories, and was really inspiring, too.

Dianne said...

Love this! I have many of the Polk St. Kids books in my classroom and look forward to sharing Zigzag Kids books with my students, as well. I remember hearing Patricia speak at a California Reading Association conference years ago. It's a treat to hear that she's now teaching writing at her bookstore. I had no idea. What an inspiration!

Bluerose said...

I'm a mom(future homeschool mom, hopefully), and aunt to 5 boys and a girl. I love giving books as birthday and Christmas gifts, so I'm always on the lookout!! :)
bluerosesheart at yahoo dot com

W.R. Miller said...

Thanks for sharing your insights, Patricia. Inspiring. May you continue to be successful.

W. R. Miller, writer
pdc99 at sbcglobal dot net

meremade said...

I am a writing instructor, parent, and writer! I'd love to share these books with my kids! They look great!

I'm also conducting a free book giveaway (for the grownups) on my site:

Anonymous said...

I would love to win these to use in my elementary classroom. I think my students would enjoy reading these books. Thanks


Pat Zietlow Miller said...

I'd love to share these with my daughter's school and perhaps have a kid review them for my blog.

Thank you for offering the contest.

Pat Zietlow Miller

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

Thanks for sharing these inspiring words from Patricia Reilly Giff. I'm a writer, teacher, and parent, too -- and would love to share these books with my own kids. Also very much looking forward to another Giff book coming out this fall, for older kids: Storyteller. Fingers crossed!

cbrothman said...

Great interview and in sight. I am a teacher and would love to share your books with my class and with my school.

phxbne said...

parent -thanks!
michelejdaley at gmail dot com

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing the great interview! I would love to have these books for my girls, one just started kindergarten and one just started 1st grade. I am a mom, and a writer. Thanks for the inspiration! Heather
hdburton1 at gmail dot com

Mozi Esme said...

Homeschooling mom here! I'd love to add this to our library...

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Peggy Archer said...

wow, two of my favorite people--Esther and Patricia Reilly Giff--here together! I'd love to add these books to my booksheves! I'm a childrne's author.