Monday, June 27, 2016

Happy 10th Birthday, First Grade Stinks! (Join Our Giveaway Celebration)

I've celebrated the 10th anniversary of one of my books (blessedly, still in print) each spring/summer for the past two years.  In 2014, it was Yankee Girl (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). 2015 marked ten years for My Best Friend (Viking). This Wednesday, June 29th, First Grade Stinks! (Peachtree) hits the Big Ten milestone.

How I write and sell my books baffles me. Mysterious forces seem to gather when the time is "right." Here is the story behind the story of First Grade Stinks!

Lily, off to her first day of First Grade
My daughter Lily loved, loved, loved kindergarten. She adored art (her favorite subject), recess (tied with art), and "student chores" (watering plants, handing out paper.) Her classroom was a carnival of color;  bean bag chairs for "share time," multicolored "learning" rug, plus bird and hornet's nests, seed pods, African violets, rocks, shells and other please-touch-me items. Soaring over it all, a Chinese dragon kite dangled from the ceiling.

Lily was a happy kindergartner.  She had no reason to believe that first grade would be any different. If I had used my head, I might have warned her.  

I didn't.

Off Lily went that first day, toting her new red-blue-and-yellow backpack. She sang along with Destiny's Child on the radio. At school, she swaggered through the doors. She had this.

At 2:30, a different little girl dragged herself to the car. She shrugged off her backpack as if it contained the weight of the world, and hauled herself up into her safety seat.  Destiny's Child still sang on the radio, but they sang alone.  Dead silence from the backseat. If Lily wasn't in a talking mood, I'd have to wait until she was.

At home, she slouched out of the car and up the walk.  I opened the door and went in, Lily behind me.  Slam!  We don't slam doors in our house.  Ever.  I turned to see my daughter, back to the door, sliding to the floor.

"That's it," she shouted. "I'm never going back. Ever, ever, ever. I hate First Grade.  First Grade stinks!"

Even as my Mom Brain lined up the words to tell Lily that she had to go back tomorrow and every day for the next twelve years, my Writer Brain thought, "First Grade stinks! What a great title for a picture book!"

As I listened to Lily's recital of grievances, I realized that at that the heart of it was First Grade is different.

There's a story there I thought.

Every day that year, Lily came home with yet another complaint.  There was only one recess, not enough art, the kindergarteners had first lunch and took all the chocolate ice cream.

I wrote it all down.

Lily survived First Grade, but just barely. I learned that her teacher was about to retire, due to ill health.  All Lily knew was this:  first grade is different.

With Lily's on-the-spot reportage, my book slowly took shape.

Now for those mysterious forces . . .

Mysterious occurrence number one. I submitted FGS to be critiqued at a writer's conference in Wisconsin.  The editor who read it, loved it, and wanted a copy when we got home.  Turned out she was from Peachtree Publishers and lived fifteen miles away from me.  I doubt we would've found each other had we not gone to that Wisconsin conference.

Serendipitous occurrence--My fairy godmother/art director at Peachtree paired my words with Beth Spiegel's art. Beth found humor and detail with her illustrations that I hadn't noticed when writing. She is still one of my favorite illustrators.

Personal note--The original manuscript had only four named characters; Hayley and her best friend, Ryan, and the two teachers, Ms Lacey and Ms Grey.  The rest of the characters had "names" like "Boy in Red Sweater" and "Girl with Cornrows."  The day the book was to be typeset, my editor called, minutes before I was to meet Lily at the bus stop.

"I need names for these characters," said my editor. "Real ones. Not Boy-in-A- Sweater.  Call me back in half an hour.

Those characters had descriptions instead of names; I stink at choosing names.  Back then, I used baby name books for that purpose. (Now I use websites.) I didn't have time to thumb through a couple of books. I had a half an hour. My creativity's wheels spun in the mud as I trudged up to the bus stop.

The bus squealed to a stop. Thunk-thunk. The doors opened. I was still churning possible names as part of my brain automatically tallied the kids coming down the bus steps.  Kirk. Erica.  Sasha.  

Hey, those are names!  Chanting the chain of names, so I would remember them.  I called my editor as soon as I hit the front door.  Those first kids off the bus were thrilled they were "in a book."  The kids who got off after the first five, complained "how-come-we're-not-in-your-book?" (Answer: You should've gotten off first!") Most of those "kids" have now graduated from college...and they still gripe about not "making the book."

Join me in celebrating First Grade Stinks' 10th anniversary.  Please enter our Book Giveaway--details below.  I will be giving away a signed, hardcover first edition trade hardcover.  This edition is no longer available.

Here's the giveaway info:

Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win an autographed First Edition copy of First Grade Stinks! (Peachtree). You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options.

If you choose option 2, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY'S blog post below or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook pageIf you haven't already "liked" our Facebook page, please do so today! 

(If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.)

Email subscribers: if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.

The giveaway ends July 15 and is open to U.S. residents only.

Please note: the TeachingAuthors team will begin our summer blogging break this Friday. Our posts will resume on Monday, July, 18. We plan to be able to announce the winner in that post.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 24, 2016

1 Poem, 1 Picture Book, 1 Audio Book, 1 Adult Book

Howdy Campers! Happy Poetry Friday and Happy Summer Reading!

JoAnn starts off this round with Summer Reading and an Unfinished Poem, offering a terrific reading list and more. Mary Ann continues with Summer Reading--for Kids Who Hate Reading, Carmela gives us 7 Summer Reading Suggestions for Young Readers, and Bobbi brings us Summertime Adventures!

Summer--a splendid time to loll in the shade and read, your back against a tree.  Today's post will be short so you can pour yourself a lemonade and go read outside.

photo from pixabay

Today I offer you one guilty pleasure, one picture book, one audio book, and one poem.

My guilty pleasure is a summer page turner by David Baldacci called Absolute Power. Baldacci is a muscular writer; from the very first page I know I'm in secure hands and we're off on a breathtaking adventure.

I just read the inspiring picture book, Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead by Michelle Markel, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Balzer and Bray).

“Smart and snappy…as inspiring as it is delightful.”-Booklist (starred review)

“Both for fun and education…go-girl power and a good read.”-Kirkus

“Concisely outlines Clinton’s journey from activist to First Lad of Arkansas and on to Washington, D.C….Pham’s (the Freckleface Strawberry series) watercolors are steeped in period detail.”-Publishers Weekly

"focuses on the mostly male political world Clinton had to navigate to get where she is...a lighthearted and cheering girl-power approach."-Washington Post

I'm also listening to a fantastic audio book, Most Dangerous—Daniel Ellsberg and The Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook).

This book was a Finalist for the 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature, a National Book Award Finalist, and was selected for the 2016 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People List. It received starred reviews in Kirkus, PW, Booklist, Voya, School Library Journal, Horn Book, and BCCB. (Wow!)

“Lively, detailed prose rooted in a tremendous amount of research, fully documented. . . Easily the best study of the Vietnam War available for teen readers.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Sheinkin has done again what he does so well: condense mountains of research into a concise, accessible, and riveting account of history. . . [This book] will keep readers racing forward.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Thoroughly researched, thoughtfully produced, and beautifully written . . . a timely and extraordinary addition to every library." ―School & Library Journal, starred review

"Young people in the United States are growing up in a vastly changed world, one where endless war and all-pervasive surveillance is a matter of course. 'Most Dangerous' will help them understand how it has become so."―The New york Times Book Review

A poem for Poetry Friday (originally posted May 2013):

by April Halprin Wayland

What's the title?
Can't remember.

And the plot?
It was so tender…

Why is this your favorite book?
It lit a spark, it fanned an ember…

The book was in her skin, her cells,
she turned each page and oh! the smell…

At every page
I looked and listened,

every kitten on a mission,
delicately, in pastel.

It was drawn and it was written
to cast a purring lifetime spell.

What's the title?
Can't remember.

And the plot?
It was so tender…

Why is this your favorite book?
It lit a spark, it fanned an ember…

poem (c) by April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

Thank you Diane, of Random Noodling for this week's Poetry Friday Round-up!

posted by April Halprin Wayland on the road in Northern California with love

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summertime Adventures!

Summer is the perfect time for a new adventure. At Teaching Authors, we’ve been sharing our favorite summer adventures. Mary Ann offered wonderful ideas for reluctant readers.

Carmela discusses the power of writing camps.

JoAnn gives us a lovely Unfinished Poem about her favorite summer adventures in the backyard. 

As a writer, I take advantage of the summer to dive into my research, tracing the footsteps of my characters as they lived. In writing Girls of Gettysburg, I traveled to Gettysburg several times, walking the length and width of the battlefield to recreate the lives and times of my characters. You can read more about that adventure, traveling to Gettysburg, here

Summer is a ripe time for traveling. Visiting the homes of your favorite authors can be a grand adventure. Such adventures can bring a deeper understanding of  your favorite characters, and their creators. You are literally (all puns intended) entering the world where  they lived.  Among my favorites, the Mark Twain house. You can just hear the indomitable Becky Thatcher thrash Tom Sawyer and his friend Huck for their misadventures. And Louisa May Alcott’s house, in Concord MA, is the perfect home for the strong -willed and creative Jo March and her sisters, as they put on their plays. Emily Dickenson's Museum includes the house, and the enchanted gardens, where the poet lived and wrote. There are so many I have yet to explore! Let me know about your favorite author's home in the comments below! Joy Lanzendorfer at Mental Floss gives a wonderful top ten list of historical author’s homes to visit.   

As you can imagine, historical fiction is also my favorite genre, and summer is the perfect time to catch up on my reading. You may remember my discussion (here) on the (rather) complicated definition of historical fiction. I used Doctor Who, the quintessential adventurer, to help explain it:  “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause and effect…but actually, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff.” Perhaps the same thing can be said of plot and the historical fiction. Reading historical fiction is like traveling through time and space, where “… we might see anything. We could find new worlds, terrifying monsters, impossible things. And if you come with me... nothing will ever be the same again!”

Where can you find the best historical fiction? Legendary editor and author Anita Silvey offers many titles, including audio books, on her blog, Children’s Book Almanac

Children’s Editor Extraordinaire Harold Underdown lists the winners of the Scott O’Dell Award on his site, The Purple Crayon

Another great list is by the authors of Bookworm For Kids, a resource blog for teachers, parents, grandparents, and all others interested in encouraging children to love reading.

Happy Summertime Adventures!

Photo Credit: Mark Twain House

 Bobbi Miller

Friday, June 17, 2016

7 Summer Reading Suggestions from Young Readers

Ah, if only I could be twelve years old again.

On second thought, I take that back. I don't really want to re-live junior high. What I do want is to be able to have summers off again, as I did when I was twelve. Even though I had lots of chores and was responsible for my younger brother and sister, at age twelve I had time to READ, READ, READ all summer long.
Photo credit: Spirit-Fire via / CC BY
In contrast, lately I haven't even been able to keep up with the 1-2 books per month our Not for Kids Only Book Club (sponsored by Anderson's Bookshops) reads. So there's no way I could come up with an extensive reading list like the one Mary Ann shared on Monday.

One of the things keeping me busy is teaching. This week, I have the pleasure of teaching a camp called "Promising Young Writers" for 11-14 year-olds at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Illinois. Since I haven't been reading enough lately to come up with my own summer reading recommendations, I decided to ask my students for theirs. Here are seven of the titles they suggested, in alphabetical order:
  • The Anybodies series by N.E. Bode (HarperTrophy)
  • Divergent series by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books)
  • Half Upon a Time trilogy by James Riley (Aladdin)
  • Icebreaker (first in a trilogy) by Lian Tanner (Feiwel & Friends)
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs (Quirk Books)
  • Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus (Amulet Books)
  • The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial Books)

The only book I've read on this list is Divergent, which was one of our Book Club picks. The War that Saved My Life has been on my To-Read list for ages. It, too, was a Book Club pick. I hope to get to it soon.

How about you, Readers? Do you have any summer reading recommendations? 

And if you're looking for more suggestions, check out the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) Summer Reading Lists or the School Library Journal Article "12 Tween Titles to Add to Your Summer Reading Lists."

Don't forget--it's Poetry Friday. This week's round-up is over at Carol's Corner.

Happy writing, and READING!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer Reading--for Kids who Hate Reading

Summertime--and the living is reading. (Sorry George Gershwin.) Summer for me has always been about reading. All those school-free hours when I binge read until my mother threw me out of the house.
How I spent my summer vacations...

OK, I'm a self-admitted bookaholic. There are still some kids out there who woof down every book in their path. Then there are the "reluctant" readers, the ones for whom the term "pleasure reading" has no meaning. Some have a learning disability (my own daughter is one of them), but some just find reading tedious and boring. Big hunks of text, undiluted by any sort of illustration send them into a semi-stupor. There is always something more interesting to do, usually involving a TV or gaming device. I found this prevalent among my own Young Author's workshop kids.

For years, all I could so was model reading by always having a children's book to read myself during lunch and breaks. (You can't ask a student to do something you don't do yourself.)

Now I have a better suggestion for the I-Hate-to-Read-Kids.  Graphic novels. (Not to be confused with manga novels which are genre unto themselves,) Books that are long on pictures and short on words. I think of them as literary comic books. My own daughter is dyslexic. Presented with pages of unillustrated text, she struggles. Illustrations give her visual clues as to what the words say. (She has always done well in history because the textbooks are heavily illustrated.)

The graphic format looks like a comic book, but it reads like a novel. They are action heavy, and fairly straightforward in plot. The text comes in small "thought balloons" or panel captions. I fell in love with the genre when I read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, an adult graphic that was a National Book Circle Award finalist in 2006. (The Tony Award-winning show that is still on Broadway.) Since then I have scarfed down many graphics, both for adults and kids. Here is a starter list by age and interest level that I have read and loved. (Understand that my recommendations are purely) subjective.)

Young Adult--Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. A Siebert Honor book last year for non-fiction.

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir--Maggie Thrash.  Summer camp.  First love. A true vacation read.

Nimona-Noelle Stevenson--This National Book Award finalist features a strong female character (who happens to be a shapeshifter) in the print version of this webcomic, a combination of medieval culture and modern science/technology.

March: Books One and Two--John Lewis. Congressman Lewis relates his involvement in the pivotal moments of the Civl Rights Movement (Freedom Rider, Selma March, The March on Washington) Book Three will be out this August.

The Shadow Hero--Gene Luen Yang, Sunny Lieu--The return of a real 40's Chinese superhero (which lasted all of five issues.) If you love superheroes, check out the Green Turtle!

In Real Life--Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang. Taking place in the world of gaming, this book also manages to be about social justice and forming personal values.

Middle school--Anything by Raina Teigemeier. Drama is my favorite (I've mentioned it here before), Sisters and Smile are equally good. Teigemeier is doing graphic versions of the old Baby Sitters Club series for the chapter book crowd. (I haven't read them.) Amazon says she has another middle school appropriate novel, Ghosts, coming out in September.  I've pre-ordered mine!

The Dumbest Idea Ever!--Jimmy Gownley. This memoir is similar in tone to Teigemeier's books.

 Roller Girl--Victoria Jamieson. This was my favorite graphic of last summer. It was a 2015 Newbery Honor book, and named to more "best books" lists than I care to list. Especially for people looking for strong female characters and sports-themed books for girls

Sunny Side Up--Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. These siblings are so prolific I can scarcely keep up with them!  Good stuff, all the way.

El Deafo--Cece Bell. Another Newbury Honor winner! The author's own story (often funny) about growing up deaf in a hearing world.

The Secret Coders series--Gene Luen Yung, Mike Holm.  These coders are of the computer variety. Those looking for multicultural inclusive books...this is one of them.

Any graphic by Brian Selznick. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (a Caldecott winner), Wonderstruck, The Marvels--they're all terrific. Don't let the thickness of the books scare you!

Into the Volcano--Don Wood.  A hiking trip turns deadly when brothers Sumo and Duffy become trapped in a lava tube---and the volcano is erupting!

Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities--Jason Shiga. This is a super coaster ride of a choose-your-own- adventure. Jimmy meets mad scientist and chooses from time-travel, mind-reading or doomsday machines. What does Jimmy choose, and what happens then?  That's up to the reader!

Middle grade--Flora & Ulysses--Kate DiCamillo, K.G.Campbell--This was the 2014 Newbery winner.  Case closed!

The Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust--Loic Dauvillier. I know. A graphic about the Holocaust? For younger readers? Trust me, I wouldn't recommend if it weren't an outstanding piece of fiction, gentle, poetic and completely age appropriate.

The Hereville series--Barry Deutsch. Another strong female character, a modern day Orthodox Jewish girl, 11-year-old Minka, in a fantasy world that is grounded by the real world. Fun and unusual!

The Lost Boy--Greg Ruth. Creepy, scary, action-packed and ultimately satisfying,

The Monster on the Hill series--Rob Harrell. Consider this the fantasy equivalent of the next entry on this list.

The Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney are considered graphics, although they are not set up in the classic panel style. I hardly need to "recommend" these since every kids I know has read at least one, but in case you are the one adult in this country who hasn't read it is.

Chapter book The Babymouse and Squish! series --Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

The Bird and Squirrel series--James Burke

The Amelia Rules series--Jimmy Gownley. Although Amelia stars in this series, her friends are both male and female, members of G.A.S.P. (Gathering of Awesome Superpals.) Another strong female character.

My Summers in Bluffton--Matt Phelan. What would happen if a small-town boy in 1908 had met the vaudevillian-soon-to-be-silent-movie-comedian Buster Keaton?  Incorporates so much of Keaton's real-life that it almost reads like non-fiction.  But it isn't.

Nathan Hales' Hazardous Tales series--Nathan Hale--These non-fiction tales from American history, presented in an easy-to-swallow, and frequently funny, format. Some of the events covered are the Alamo, the historical Nathan Hale, the Underground Railroad and the Battle of the Ironclads. So far there are six titles...and I'm eagerly awaiting the next one. Especially for the reluctant history student.

These are only a handful of the many terrific titles out there--serious, funny, exciting, thoughtful. Check out the graphic goes down like melting ice cream on a summer day.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Friday, June 10, 2016

Summer Reading and an Unfinished Poem

Summer snuck up on me this year, as it often does in Wisconsin. Cool weather, late snowstorm, cool weather, frost warnings, wham! Everything’s green and growing out of control. I’m tempted to give up on the flower beds, and it’s barely June.

Here’s most of a poem about one of my favorite things to do in summer:

Summer Reading 
On a blanket in the backyard,
Up on a branch in a wide old tree,
Tucked in a tent beneath the stars, or
Sailing on the sea,
In a gently rocking hammock,
Everywhere I go, I always bring a book with me!

Somehow, I can’t seem to find a line beginning with D that works. (You noticed that it’s an acrostic, right?) So I made a list of D words: down, diving, dining, daring, doing, and so on.

That unfinished line also needs to rhyme with tree, sea, and me. So I made a list of rhyming words: bumblebee, knee, wee, free, tea. I consulted a rhyming dictionary: chickadee, glee, canopy, scenery, fernery, memory, meadowy, and shadowy, among many others, some hilariously unfitting. I tried starting over with a different end rhyme and came back to this one.

Perhaps I have painted myself into a corner. I’ll go outside to think. Offer a suggestion in the comments if you like.

Looking for a book to read? You’re in luck! The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has just released its massive Summer Reading List 2016. The list is divided into 15 author/illustrator geographical regions plus Spanish/bilingual books. Within grade level divisions, titles are listed in alphabetical order. With 130 pages of members’ books listed, the list could keep the hungriest reader happy way beyond summer.

Lin Oliver, SCBWI Executive Director, explains the project in a video. You can download or browse the whole list.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at Carol Varsalona’s Beyond Literacy Link. Happy reading!

JoAnn Early Macken

Monday, June 6, 2016

Examples of Revision in Process

      Revision. That has been the topic for the last few weeks. I like revision because every change I make to my manuscript makes it stronger. 

      My fellow TA’s have covered the topic of revision from a lot of different angles. I thought it might be of interest to show you what is “behind the curtain” so to speak in my revision process. To do this, I’m sharing a small section from the book I’m writing now titled BURIED LIVES, which is about George Washington’s slaves. 
      So this is how it will work: I'm showing you the rough draft, then my thoughts on how I should revise it, then the revision of the rough draft. Now when I say this is a rough draft, I really mean it. For me the first rough draft is for getting the facts down in some kind of logical order. In my rough drafts, I’m not trying to write a beautiful passage, I’m just trying to get the bare bones down on paper-well the screen at least.

      So here goes...
William Lee was with his master when General Washington rode away from Mount Vernon to attend the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  In the sweltering heat of Philadelphia’s long hot summer, state delegates argued and argued over what would become the United States Constitution.   Washington was elected president of the Convention.  No doubt William Lee stood near his master the entire time. 
During their time in Philadelphia, Washington ordered Will several things including a soap powder puff, black silk handkerchief, and a new pair of breeches.  Twice Washington gave Lee cash.  
To keep their discussions secret, all the windows were kept closed so no one could overhear.


Earlier in the manuscript I developed that Will and Washington were both excellent horsemen.  Here I needed an active verb when the left Mount Vernon. 

I wanted the reader to know Will had a black handkerchief before they find out about the heat. 

I mentioned exactly when and where they were because the building-and the room-can be seen via website still today.  (I’m always thinking about how a great teacher could use my book.)

I wanted to show the authority Washington was given at this event.  I mentioned his chair because it is a great detail and the chair still exists.  I don’t know for sure, but maybe I could use the photo of the room or the chair in the book.   

In this brief section, I’m setting the scene for the Constitutional Convention and the fact that William Lee was there with his master, George Washington. 

 Will mounted his horse to follow his master again.  This time they headed for the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.  Washington bought Will several items while they were in the city including a soap powder puff, black silk handkerchief, and a new pair of breeches.  Twice Washington gave him cash. 
Once the delegates were gathered at the Pennsylvania State House (later called Independence Hall) they chose George Washington to act as the president over the discussions.  He sat at a raised table in the front of the room in a mahogany armchair that had a gilded rising sun design at the top. 
In the sweltering heat of Philadelphia’s long hot summer of 1787, the battle over the U.S. Constitution began.  The windows of the Assembly Room were closed so no one could overhear what was said.   


I am actively at work on this manuscript and will revise the text many, many times.   This revision above is only the first step after the rough draft.   By the time the book is published, this section will not be what you see here.  Each section of the text is affected by everything that comes before it and everything that comes after it.  In the final version this section will blend in with the story of the life of William Lee, George Washington’s enslaved valet.      

Revision is where the text becomes alive with nuance and voice and passion.

Carla Killough McClafferty

Revision is like building a sand castle.  You start with nothing and make changes until you're finished.
Images from 

Friday, June 3, 2016

REVISION Without (too much) Blood

Howdy, Campers!

Happy Poetry Friday!  My poem's below, as is the link to this week's PF host...and a link to a Poetry Camp for Grown-ups!

I'm the caboose on this TeachingAuthors train; this round we're discussing After the First Draft: Revision.Mary Ann starts us off with Congratulations! It's a First Draft!, JoAnn continues with Spring--and Revision--in the Air, Bobbi inspires (actually, each of these inspires...) with Facing The Words, Carmela continues with 3 Revision Tools for Seeing the Big Picture. 'Tis my turn.

*   *   *

I just wrapped another class, and it's like semi-sweet chocolate:
...I'm eager to get back to my own projects, and I'm sorry to disconnect from these complicated, wonderful humans I've gotten to know over six tightly-packed weeks.

And like so many of you, I learn from every student.

One student in particular from this class, Mary Mahon (who gave me permission to use her name), has taught me how to take criticism. No matter what I threw at her in written critiques, no matter what the class said in group critiques, this woman took in everything without defensiveness, without slumping in her chair, without the shadow of a cloud crossing her face.

Each week.

Every story.

Last night, I took a new picture book in to my critique group.  This is usually my suck-in-my-breath time. My oh-I'm-just-fine time.

Cut! my group said. Cut the last part!  And, Why are these two characters even here? Kill them off! And, No--that's not where it should end...this is where it should end!

Last night, though, I did not shrink. I did not sag. I did not feel crushed or cornered or less-than.  I didn't feel like my critique group had their gloved hands inside my stomach and were re-arranging my guts.

Okay, the simile may be just a tad over-the-top...
my critique group is kinder than this.
I felt like an adult. I heard my student saying brightly, "I learn from all your comments!"

...I learned from all their comments.

This is revelatory. This is spectacular. I am a walking miracle (no sutures!)

by April Halprin Wayland

I have been chiseling 

     By year
          By year.

But rewriting 
this story 

I'm catching perfect waves,
racing my bike down hills,
riding shooting stars!
poem © 2016 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

So, hopefully, reading about how my student changed me will help you. Some of us need to see and hear how others take in things differently. How they walk lightly.

Can you channel my student's voice as you work on that next draft? Maybe you'll hear content, not censure; new ideas, not attacks.

And me? I can't wait to kill off two of my characters.
Now fly over to Check it Out, where MsMac is hosting Poetry Friday...

...then check out this one-day Poetry Camp for Grown-ups...
and's 4th annual Revision Week,
in which Deborah Halverson asks five best-selling writers
to weigh-in on revision....

check out Laurie Purdie Salas' reflections on revision here

Posted by April Halprin Wayland...shown working on her second draft