Friday, September 27, 2013

A Book Giveaway, A Waterfall, an Author wearing a Crown and Poetry Friday!

Howdy Campers and happy Poetry Friday!

See the end of this post for a link to the Poetry Friday round-up at Amy LV's and for info on our Book Giveaway.

Today we're celebrating author Alexis O'Neill's newest book with Book Giveaway! Hark!  Here comes Alexis now:

Yes, that's Alexis wearing the crown--and she deserves it as the author of THE RECESS QUEEN (Scholastic), THE WORST BEST FRIEND (Scholastic), LOUD EMILY (Simon and Schuster), ESTELA'S SWAP (Lee & Low) and her newest offspring, THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS: Homan Walsh And The First Niagara Suspension Bridge (Calkins Creek). She's also written fiction and nonfiction for Cricket, Spider, Cobblestone, Calliope, Faces, and Odyssey

I've known Alexis since Janet Wong founded the Children's Authors Network (CAN!) during the classical era of the children's literature movement.
 This is where the Children's Authors Network
meetings were held in the early days

Alexis is an absolutely amazing teacher.  In one memorable workshop, she taught CAN! authors how to create and present teacher inservices.  It was an extraordinary presentation and it formed how I respond and present to teachers to this day.

Alexis has golden credentials in the field of education: she's a former elementary teacher with a Ph.D. in teacher education, she's an instructor for the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program, a museum education consultant, a Regional Advisor for SCBWI in California, and a contributor to the SCBWI Bulletin, writing her column, “The Truth About School Visits.” Her blog,, offers practical advice to published authors and illustrators who are trying to navigate the world of public appearances.

This August, she was named SCBWI Member of the Year --and though it was a complete surprise to her (though to no one else), she sang a sea shanty as she accepted the award.

Because that's who Alexis is--generous, original and dramatic.  It's as if her goal is always to bring the classroom, the auditorium, fellow authors--whoever is around--together.  As if she is a shepherd and we are the community she's teaching and keeping safe.
 This is Alexis, keeping us safe.

Her new book, THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS: HOMAN WALSH AND THE FIRST NIAGARA SUSPENSION BRIDGE (Calkins Creek, September 2013) tells the true, dramatic story of how an ordinary boy earned an extraordinary place in history, using his kite to lay the first line for the first suspension bridge at Niagara Falls in the winter of 1848.  Watch this 1:42 minute book trailer for a taste of the book:

So, Alexis, how did you become a TeachingAuthor?

I’ve been a TeachingAuthor all my life! As a kid, I convinced my dad to hang a blackboard in the garage and persuaded the neighborhood kids to sit in my “class.” After school, I wrote (and sold) a neighborhood newspaper which I composed on my mom’s portable typewriter. As a grown up, I’ve taught elementary school students, teacher education candidates, and, as a published author, writers.

What's a common problem/question that teachers or students have and how do you address it?

Students of all ages are so afraid of being “wrong.” My advice to them is to just play with words! Don’t worry about what other people think of your work. Can’t find a word? Make it up! Or make a mark to come back to that spot later. Just mess around, and in that mess, you might find the seed of an idea that can sprout into a full-blown piece of writing that you will want to share later on. To address this problem when we do writing exercises, I tell students up front that no one will collect their writing – and that they can decide when and what they will share with the group.

 Author Alexis O'Neill picking one lucky student ~

Was there a moment in your life when you knew you were a writer?

The moment I knew I was a writer was when my sixth grade teacher read my report on Ireland out loud to the class. Instead of a dry, factual presentation, I had “pretended,” in my narrative, to be a tour guide who was taking the whole class with her on a trip. First, I was surprised that he read it out loud, then I was really surprised when, at recess, my classmates came up to me and said how much they liked what I had written. That’s when a big light bulb went on over my head. “Wow! I can write for an audience, and not just for my teacher!” I thought.

From that moment on, I made all of my reports as creative as possible. For example, my report on the Alamo was told from the point of view of the only survivor (there were none in reality, but that didn’t stop me.) Now I know I was writing historical fiction. But I kept doing this, and teachers kept reading my work out loud in my classes. The birth of a writer – writing for an audience and not just for a grade from my teachers!

And finally, since it's Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere, do you have an original poem you'd like to share with our readers?

by Alexis O'Neill

I am thunder and roar
I am rain and river
Green and white magnificence.
You try to tame me
and you fail.
In barrel and boat
I spin you,
plunge you
crush you,
drown you.
A filmy fairy curtain?
Not I!
A lacy veil?
Not I!
I gnaw at rock
bite through cliffs
claw the very bed
across which I race
Out of my way!
I am the great Niagara

poem © 2013 Alexis O’Neill.  All rights reserved

Wow--what a powerful waterfall of words! Thank you for stopping by and thank you for offering our readers a chance to win a copy of your new book (details below), Alexis!

Author Alexis O'Neill making magic
Here's a peek at Alexis's touring schedule for A Kite that Bridged Two NationsBe sure to visit her at, follow her on Twitter, and friend her on FaceBook.                                                   
And now, for the Book Giveaway details:

We use Rafflecopter. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, you may want to read their info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and/or the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

To enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of
The Kite That Bridged Two Nations log into Rafflecopter below (via either Facebook or an email address). You'll see that we've provided three different options for entering the giveaway--you can pick one or up to all three. The more options you choose, the greater your chances of winning. While we haven't made it a requirement for entering, we hope that everyone will WANT to subscribe to the TeachingAuthors blog. We give you several ways of doing so in the sidebar, for example, via email, Facebook Networked Blogs, Jacketflap, Bloglovin', etc.

If you're already a TeachingAuthors subscriber, you need only click on the first option below and tell us how you follow our blog, which will give you THREE entries in the giveaway! (If you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter giveaway link below to enter.)

As it says in the "Terms and Conditions," this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. You must be 18 or older to enter. And please note: email addresses will only be used to contact winners. The giveaway will run from now through October 9, 2013.

If you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, happy Amy LV of the Poetry Farm, for hosting PF today.
Posted by April Halprin Wayland with help from the Link Fairy.


Author Amok said...

Good morning, April! I met Alexis at an SCBWI conference years ago. She's a joy to be around, and that shows in this interview! Looking forward to checking out her book. What a great topic.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Wow, April, this post is chockers! I suspected by the post's title it would be filled with good stuff... it certainly didn't disappoint. Thank you for introducing me to Alexis! I am enchanted by the trailer of her new book and humbled by the Great Falls depicted in her poem.

GatheringBooks said...

Hi there April, thank you for sharing this detailed interview with Alexis. I confess I haven't read any of her books yet, but your interview just makes me want to grab one of her books right away. I love teaching authors and her advice for kids to just make a mess and to find the seeds of ideas from there. Lovely! :)

jama said...

After reading this post, I can see why Alexis should always wear that crown. What a multi-talented dynamo!

Enjoyed her poem and hearing about her new book. :)

Carl Scott said...

Thanks for the informative post and the great giveaway. Yet another piece of history of which I was unaware. I think the kids will really enjoy this one, thanks!

Linda B said...

Wow, what a lot of accomplishments by Alexis. Niagara Falls has a fascinating history, so I'm sure this new book will be good. Thanks!

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for this great interview, April and Alexis, and for sharing the poem. I especially liked these lines:
>>I gnaw at rock
bite through cliffs
claw the very bed
across which I race
I'm looking forward to reading the book!

Kathryn Hunley said...

Way to go Alexis! I look forward to reading the book.
Kathryn Hunley

Amy LV said...

We live but 30 minutes from Niagara Falls, and this poem is true true true! So perfect. I can't wait to get the book, and man I wish I was in a class taught by Alexis too. Thank you for this rich post! said...

What a very fun, vibrant and accomplished person. That poem is fabulous! Thanks April and Alexis.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Thankk you for this wonderful interview - and for sharing both the book trailer (I must have tis book!), and the poem, which I can't wait to share with my students.

Margaret Simon said...

Wonderful post! I want to win this giveaway! My colleagues and I are leading 6th grade students in a year long enrichment project and this year's theme is bridges. We have been discussing metaphorical bridges as well as actual bridges. This book would be a great bridge for that purpose! Count me in!

BJ Lee said...

Thank you for introducing me to the dynamic Alexis. Love the Niagara Falls poem and history!

Andrea Page said...

It was nice to "meet" Alexis...I've always loved the story of Homan Walsh and Niagara Falls! The text and the illustrations are lovely.

I enjoy the variety of information on Teaching Authors. Thanks for sharing :)

kt giorgio said...

Excited to read this nonfiction!

Ruth said...

So true about water! It's one of the strongest forces on earth! I like the poem.

Anonymous said...

I am so looking forward to reading this book. I've been working on a historical MS myself and could definitely use this as a mentor text. Alexis is so kind to beginning writers. I remember her asking me, "What are you working on?" when she signed RECESS QUEEN for me. When she found out I write nonfiction, she gave me lots of great information. Kirsten Larson