Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Giveaway! Guest Teaching Author & Poet extraordinaire, Nikki Grimes!

Howdy, Campers--Happy Poetry Friday!

Teaching Authors is pleased to welcome New York Times bestselling author and Guest Teaching Author, Nikki Grimes.  
Nikki is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book, What is Goodbye?, the novels Jazmin’s Notebook, Dark Sons, and The Road to Paris (Coretta Scott King Author Honor Books). Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown books, Nikki lives in Corona, California. [California rules!]

Nikki's accumulated more honors, and has written more books and more articles than we have space to list, but it's too interesting not to mention that she's also a performing artist, a fine artist, a fiber artist, a jeweler and she says, she's a Jane-of-all-Trades.

I've known Nikki for a long time and have always been moved by her unfailing generosity.   Today, she's offering our readers the chance to win an autographed copy of her wonderful novel-in-poems, Planet Middle Schoolfrom Bloomsbury USA, hot off the press Sept. 13th! To enter the drawing, see the instructions at the very-very-very end of this post.
This slender book tells the story of a young tomboy, confused and blooming, in her own true voice.

From the flap copy
For twelve years, Joylin Johnson's life has been just fine, thank you very much. A game of basketball with the boys—especially her friend Jake—was all it took to put a smile on her face. Baggy jeans, T-shirt, and hair in a ponytail were easy choices. Then suddenly the world seemed to turn upside down, and everything changed at once. Her best girl friend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem all wrong. Jake is acting weird, and basketball isn't the same. And worst of all, there is this guy, Santiago, who appears from . . . where? What lengths will Joy go to—and whom will she become—to attract his attention?
In short poems that perfectly capture the crazy feelings of adolescence and first crushes, award-winning author Nikki Grimes has crafted a delightful, often hilarious, heart-tugging story.
Congratulations on the publication of your gazillionth book, Nikki!  Tell us how you became a TeachingAuthor.
Nikki Grimes: I don't think of myself as a Teaching/Author, so I'm not quite sure how to answer that.  My first teaching experience was in college, as a T.A., and I hadn't yet published a book, though I had published in literary journals, magazines, and a few anthologies, at that point.

You may not think of yourself as a Teaching Author, but every time you do a school event or speak to teachers you certainly are.  I urge you to acknowledge the teacher within! Besides, your first teaching experience was as a T.A, which stands for Teaching Author, duh!

As further proof that you are, indeed, a TeachingAuthor, what's a common problem/question students have and how do you address it?
Nikki Grimes: I'm frequently asked how one can know when a story is finished.  My answer: I know my story is done when I find myself making changes that are no longer improvements.

Would you share a favorite writing exercise for our readers?
Nikki Grimes: Poetry benefits from the full engagement of the senses. To that end, I offer an exercise in word play:
  • Choose one of the following words:  Bell  Shower  Bullet  Blanket  Pen
  • Now, close your eyes and consider the object that word represents. 
  • Does that word have a shape? A sound?  Does it have a color?  What does it do, or what can you do with it? Does it have a taste?  How does it feel?
  • Answer each question that applies to the word you have chosen.  Write a simple, single sentence responding to each question.
  • Once you've assembled all your answers, arrange the information into a poem.  For example: I once chose the word Ball. 
It is round, rubber.
It bounces.
It makes a smacking sound.
I can throw, hold, or catch it.
It feels smooth.

From this basic description, I formed a small story-poem.

Ball is a round, rubber word.
It fits inside my palm.
I play with it outside,
bounce it on the sidewalk.
When it hits the ground,
it makes a smacking sound.
My cupped hand waits for it
to come back home.

It always help to model this exercise for students.  Additionally, as a tool for relaxation, consider playing soft music in the background as students work.

What one piece of advice do you have for teachers?
Nikki Grimes: Rhyme seems to be everyone's default, when it comes to poetry.  I never allow the use of it during my workshops.  Focus instead on metaphor and simile.    Emphasize the idea of painting a picture with words.  That is a truer understanding of the heart of poetry, I think. If students grasp the use of metaphor and simile, all of their writing will be greatly enhanced.

Share a meaninful book signing story with us.
Nikki Grimes: My most memorable signing was at my first major literary conference.  I was scheduled to sign for one hour, following my presentation.  However, by the time the signing was to commence, none of the booksellers in the exhibit hall had any of my titles left for my audience to purchase.  A few actually bought anthologies that included my work, just so they could bring something to me to sign.  As a result, I sat there at that table, drumming my fingers, anxiously waiting for someone, anyone, to step forward with a book for me to sign.  It was very embarrassing.  Oh, and did I mention?   I was seated next to JANE YOLEN, who had a line out the door!

Nowadays, whenever I sit next to a new author, and I see them looking longingly at the line in front of my signing table, I tell them that story so they can relax a little.  "It will get better," I tell them. And, once they've heard my story, they believe it.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Nikki--and good luck to all our readers who enter to win Planet Middle School (see below to enter)!

Watch this two minute video of Nikki on Teen Read Week:

If you can't get enough Nikki, read the Teacher's Guide to Planet Middle School, catch the trailer for her new novel A GIRL NAMED MISTER, check out her blog, NIKKI SOUNDS OFF, and follow her on Facebook!
This week, Poetry Friday is hosted
by Anastasia Suen, at Picture Book of the Day ~
Thanks for hosting, Anastasia!
Happy PF!

Before entering our contest, please read our Book Giveaway Guidelines. Then, for a chance to win an autographed paperback copy of Planet Middle School, answer the following question:  Why do you want to win this book?

And--SURPRISE!--we're offering a bonus for this giveaway: if you answer one additional question, you'll get an extra entry in this contest--woo-woo!  The bonus question is: What would you like to read more of at (or is there something we've never offered that you'd like to see here)? 

You can either post your comments to today's blog post or email comments to teachingauthors at gmail dot com with "Contest" in the subject line. To qualify, your entry must be posted or received by 11 p.m. Friday, September 30, 2011 (Central Standard Time). The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and announced by 11 p.m., Saturday, October 1, 2011


Author Amok said...

My daughter is a new middle schooler. I can't wait to pick up this book for her. Thanks for the interview.

Anastasia Suen said...

Great interview! Thanks for participating in Poetry Friday this week!

:-) Anastasia

GatheringBooks said...

What a beautiful interview. I have to confess that I have not read any of Nikki Grimes' works yet - which I now think I have to remedy STAT - she appears so multi-talented and such a versatile artist.

Among the things that she has mentioned, this is what struck me - when she discussed disallowing rhyming in her workshops:
"Emphasize the idea of painting a picture with words. That is a truer understanding of the heart of poetry, I think."

This captures how I feel as well about poetry. This is such an enriching post.

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

Thanks for this great interview, April. I love Nikki's writing exercise. I may share it with my critique group this weekend.

I'd love to win Planet Middle School because the moment I read the title, it transported me back to childhood, when school really seemed like an complete universe.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks for posting this, Anastasia!

And g'luck to Laura (on behalf of your new middle schooler, Myra (I absolutely agree about rhyming...I think especially for young writers, it can take them off track), and Megan Frances (Oh, really was a complete universe then...)!

Tara said...

That was a wonderful video clip - something about Nikki's voice is just so soothing and engaging.
I'd love to win Planet Middle School because I live in a planet middle school - as a sixth grade teacher. It's hard to find poets and poems that truly "get" this tumultuous age, and I'd love for my kids to have a chance to do so with Nikki's newest book.
What would I like to see more of? Interviews and videos - to know more about the writing life.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Tara ~ Thanks so much for asking for more interviews and videos--very helpful. And may the luckiest contestant win!

Renee G said...

I would love to win this book so that I could share it with my nephew that is struggling at a new middle school.

Stephanie M said...

I have enjoyed some of her other works. I would also like to add it to my classroom library. Thanks for the giveaway.

smccar1 at hotmail dot com

April Halprin Wayland said...

Renee--whether or not you win, there are lots of life-changing or just diverting middle school books out there for your nephew--I hope you'll ask a teen librarian or bookseller for suggestions based on his interests. He's lucky to have you in his corner.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Stephanie, here's to building your classroom library--thanks for stopping by!

Melissa Taylor said...

I really loved reading Nikki Grime's favorite writing activity and her personal stories! Keep 'em coming!

Unknown said...

Hi, When I entered middle school I sometimes felt as though someone had drop me off in OZ and I wanted to go home.

I would like this book because my niece is in middle school and this would be a great book for her to read.

If possible, one interview I'd like to read is from a publisher or publishers.

Thanks, Pam Matar

April Halprin Wayland said...

Melissa--thanks for the vote to keep more writing activities and personal stories! And Pam--since we're TeachingAuthors, our plan has always been to interview only other authors who teach...perhaps we'll see if there's a way we can tie in a publisher to our theme. Thanks for the suggestion.

Beth MacKinney said...

I love the title of her book! : )

jan godown annino said...

This poetry exercise will be a spark for my poetry group.
And having just returned from a book festival where no one was in my signing line (so that means I had no line at all) at the author's table, I love & am lifted by Nikki's tenderness to other writers.

I'm not entering to win because I read the posts of individuals who have specific young people or schools where it seems this wonderful middle school new relese is tendended best to go.

As for suggestions on future topics, this may have already been covered but it might be fun to see a series of posts on the connection between the other arts & writing. As Nikki said, she puts soft music in the background of her workshops. So posts linking our world of wrting & some of the visual arts.
One of my favorite inspirational books that boosts my writing process is by the amazingly talented & legendary dancer/choreographer, Twyla Tharpe: THE CREATIVE HABIT. (I am always learning much from other disciplines.) In this book, she talks about how Maurice Sendak is part of her support system.

Many thanks to Teaching Authors for fascintating & supportive posts.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Jan ~ yours may be one of the most generous comments we've gotten--ever! Thanks especially for your topic suggestion--that'll give us something to chew on!

Sandy Brehl said...

Why would I want to win this book by Nikki Grimes? Think Wizard of Oz...Because, because, because, because, because *hold the note* Because of the wonderful things she does! Everything she does is a long time fave of mine- how can this book be any less?
I'll read, then share with every MS relative and friend, then recommend (I have no doubt) in my workshops.
As for more topics to include:
Have I missed it, or how about sharing some specific examples of ways crit partners have noted things on your work that "turned you around" or opened your eyes to what you were really writing.
Lots say they want crit groups, but heisitate because they don't know what a crit team does- to your work, and for your writing.
And keep up the great interviews.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Sandy ~ Thanks for the song and the laugh! And especially thanks for your suggestion about to share more explicitly on how our critique groups work...great idea.