Monday, June 19, 2017

Guest TeachingAuthor Interview and Book Giveaway with Darcy Pattison

Today’s guest TeachingAuthor interview is a nationally known author and writing teacher, Darcy Pattison.  She is the author of fiction and nonfiction picture books, and novels.  Pattison travels all over the country to provide her high acclaimed Novel Revisions Retreats. 

As if that wasn’t enough, here are a few of her accomplishments: 
Storyteller, writing teacher, Queen of Revisions, and founder of Mims House ( publisher, Darcy Pattison has been published in nine languages. Her books, published with Harcourt, Philomel/Penguin, Harpercollins, Arbordale, and Mims House have received recognition for excellence with starred reviews in Kirkus, BCCB and PW. Three nonfiction nature books have been honored as National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade books. The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman (Harcourt) received an Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature Honor Book award, and has been published in a Houghton Mifflin textbook.  She’s the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Award for Individual Artist for her work in children’s literature.

Darcy and I have been friends since the early days of both our careers.  We met when she was the SCBWI Regional Advisor, and since then have supported each other through the ups and downs of building careers as published authors.  We celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and commiserate each other’s disappointments.  I am fortunate to call Darcy my friend. 

Enter for a chance to win Sleepers, Darcy Pattison's new book!  Follow the instructions at the end to enter.       
She has agreed to give away a copy of her brand new novel titled Sleepers.  It is Book 1 in an exciting new trilogy called The Blue Planets World.  Enter the TeachingAuthor book giveaway for a chance to win this excellent book that will be released in July 2017.  Read this interview with Darcy and enter the giveaway at the end. 

Darcy Pattison
Now, here’s Darcy: 

1.     How did you become a TeachingAuthor?

I think I was born a teacher. When I learn new information, my first thought is, “How can I make this easier for a person to learn?”

When I read a book, I think about how I can entice someone to read and enjoy it. How can I set up the story in such a way to make it appealing? Our education system rarely recognizes the importance of reading for pleasure. I want to help kids enjoy the story, first and foremost. What you want is passionate readers, who will jump into discussions because they care about the story and characters. That comes most readily from readers who read for pleasure. That’s the first goal of teaching any book – did the reader enjoy it?
Once they’ve enjoyed a book, students are ready to discuss with passion.

2. What's a common problem/question that your students have and how do you address it?

One problem I see with readers in middle school and high school readers is that they start to self-identify with a particular genre and become unwilling to try other genres. It makes sense in many ways. The task of a middle and high school student is to become their own person. They start the process of deciding for themselves what they like and dislike. When they start to self-identify as a reader of historical fiction, for example, this aligns them with others who have a similar interest. Instead, I keep encouraging students to expand and to read other genres. While I can hardly be convinced to read a war story, I enjoy many other genres and find the variety stimulating. I try to encourage kids to branch out and find at least two or three genres to read.

3. Would you share a favorite writing exercise for our readers?

 When I’m teaching writing with kids, I love to use the Pick and Draw card game (, which was developed by my friend, artist and illustrator Rich Davis.

Students using the Pick and Draw card game created by illustrator Rich Davis. 

The card deck has different colored sets. The first option is the head cards, which present six possible head shapes. After the student draws the head shape they were dealt, though, they must decide on a name. A complete name. With a middle and last names. Specificity is the biggest problem of student writers, so I encourage it at every stage.

Next, they draw a card for a hair shape. Davis is brilliant in his choice of facial features, which create their own excitement. This time, they must write down something that the character wants. For older students, they must write three things the character wants.

We continue this way, alternating drawing a body part (eyes, nose, and ears), with a specific trait of the emerging character.  I usually ask students to tell something about what the character hates and fears, something about the family, and the place where they live.

Quickly, within 30 minutes, students have developed a character that excites them. They know enough about the character to write a story with this plot structure:

This is the story about ______, who more than anything else wants ______, but can’t have it because 1) _________(use a fear) , 2)__________ (encounters something they hate), and 3) __________(use something about the family), UNTIL ____________(How do they solve the problem?)

The one-hour class produces great stories. 

4.  How did you come to write your new science fiction series? Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how they might the books in the classroom? 

My forthcoming science fiction series, The Blue Planets World series, is about the first contact with an alien species. Earth finally hears from space: You only live on land; allow us to live in the seas.

If humans occupied the land, and aliens filled the seas, what would the world be like?

The story began when I was researching the plight of puma (cougars) in Brazil. The pumas live within sight of skyscrapers, in an urban landscape. Scientists are working to create corridors, wild places, which connect one bit of forest to the next. The plight of the puma bothered me for a long time. It seems to me that the environmental questions of the next generation have changed. We used to ask, “How can we preserve habitats for wildlife?”

But we’ve failed badly. Our student’s generation will have to answer this question: “How can we make room for wildlife in an urban environment?”

That led me to the science fiction story of the Blue Planets Worlds series. Beginning in July with Book 1, SLEEPERS, I explore the problems of sharing our world with another species. Science fiction is good at putting social or philosophical problems into a story form.

Ask students to think about a specific environmental problem and try to fictionalize it. Depending on the class, write an outline, a short story, a plot summary or character sketches for their environmental story.

Or, read other science fiction stories and discuss the questions that the writer probes in the story. For example, in Ender’s Game, the author explores the limits of war against another species. Is it right to utterly obliterate them before they kill us?

Thank you, Darcy, for sharing your work with!

Readers, to enter our drawing for a chance to win a copy of Sleepers (Mims House Books), written by Darcy Pattison, use the Rafflecopter widget below. 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 page. If you haven't already "liked" our Facebook page, please do so today! In your comment, tell us what you'd do with the book if you win our giveaway--keep it for yourself or give it to a young reader?

(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.

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA THE WIDGET BELOW. The giveaway ends June 30 and is open to U.S. residents only.

P.S. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here's info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

Carla Killough McClafferty

a Rafflecopter giveaway


JoAnn Early Macken said...

The Blue Planets World series sounds intriguing, and I love the writing exercise. Thank you, Darcy and Carla!

kt giorgio said...

What an interesting concept...can't wait to read it!

Danielle H. said...

I follow Darcy's blog and get writing tips delivered every week to my inbox. I love the extensive research she does for her books and look forward to reading a middle grade book she authored.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thanks for your comments JoAnn, kt, and Danielle. Darcy is an amazing writing teacher and a great writer. I can't wait for the whole series to be available.

April Halprin Wayland said...

I agree with KT ~ What a fascinating concept--wow.

Linda Mitchell said...

As a middle school librarian, I would put this book on the "new" shelf. My students really like to be the first to check out a book from that shelf.

Also, I need to get a set of quick/draw cards! What a fun activity. I'm bookmarking that one. I'm happy to share about the giveaway on facebook and twitter. My go-to social media hang-outs.

lkw1974 said...

Subscribed and entered, thank you