Monday, February 26, 2018

Be Brave, Be Loud, Be Better

Photo by Cynthia Cotten

It is light, the world is awake
And the great night flees the dawn
That came
A wild light
Casting a somber radiance on the world.
The red is the anger, blood and shame
In the eyes of awakened nations.

--Sandor Petofi, 1848.

Carmela started our discussion with Two Things I Love About Teaching Writing. Esther continued with the many ways she connects with her students and the resources she connects her students to, and April followed with how she likes to perform for her students. stating, “And that's what I like about teaching: the intangible, gloriously wonderful, unpredictableness of it all.”

What I like about teaching are the students. Their hope and courage to face the future. Because students change the world. And this week reflects that certainty of that more than ever. Once again, students march to change the world.

Sandor Petofi was a Hungarian poet and student, whose poem “Nemzeti dal (National Song) inspired the Hungarian war for independence from the Hapsburg Empire in 1848. Over a hundred years later, in 1956,  at the height of the Cold War, his poetry inspired the students of Budapest to demonstrate Soviet-led policies. The students led the way to the collapse of the Soviet-indoctrinated Hungarian People’s Republic .

 Set against the backdrop of economic and social changes sweeping post-Mao China, students led a march in 1989 against Chinese political corruption in a fight for democratic reforms, the freedom of the press and freedom of speech. A million people gathered in Tiananmen Square, facing down military tanks. This iconic David and Goliath-esque photograph reflects the pivotal moment as one student's extraordinary courage ultimately stopped the onslought.

In our own history, more than 4000 school children marched in 1963 through Birmingham, Alabama,  known as the most segregated city in America at the time. The Children’s Crusade became a defiant and defining moment in the Civil Rights Movement. Even as soldiers and police pounced upon the students, jailing as many as 1000 the first day, the students still came out in droves, chanting “Freedom.” The world was watching, and judging, as images of young children march up to snarling police dogs, police club women and use high pressure hoses to sweep the children aside. For more information, see Teaching a People’s History/ Zinn Education Project

Once again, students are changing the world. Poets and students inspire their teachers. They teach us to be brave, and be loud, and be better than we thought we could be. To be better than what we are.

Never Again
(for Emma Gonzalez)

Be brave, be loud,
stand tall, stand proud,
and make your voices heard.
Enough’s enough—
stay strong, stay tough,
and keep on, undeterred.

Ignore those who
discredit you,
who doubt you’ll see success.
To them we say,
“You’ve had your day,
and now we call ‘BS!’”

So, carry on
until you’ve won.
Reform is overdue.
Shrug off those hacks—
we’ve got your backs.

We stand, we march with you.

--©Cynthia Cotten  2018. All rights reserved. 

Bobbi Miller

Friday, February 23, 2018

The #1 Best Thing About Teaching

Howdy Campers and Happy Poetry Friday! (links to PF, to my poem, and to my autographed Passover book are below)

Shhh!  Come sneak into the TeachingAuthors' Teacher's Lounge and eavesdrop as we consider what we like most about being teachers.

Carmela started us out with Two Things I Love About Teaching Writing, Esther continues our theme with the many ways she connects with her students and the resources she connects her students to, and today I'm up to bat.
First, may I say that this is a somber (and an important) time to think about teachers. And students. And about how much we as a people value them. I had originally planned to post a funny poem about revision and how scary it can be, but the images were inappropriate at this time in our country.
Okay. Here's what I like about teaching:.

I like to perform.

But I particularly like when I am most authentic, when I forget myself, when my light reaches theirs.

drawing © 2018 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

by April Halprin Wayland

At the end of class she says,

"Write something you want,

something about yourself you want to change,

or something you worry about."

Heads down, pens flying, we write.

I use my purple ink pen.

Then we all look up at her,


"Now," she says,

standing by the windows in shiny black heels,

"rip it into a thousand pieces and throw it away."

Someone gasps.

"Don't share

what you wrote

with anyone."

Our eyes widen.

"That's right: this idea is yours.

To think about. To live.

Not to post on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat.

Not to tell a soul."

We ceremonially


our revelations

to bits.

We file

out of class

in silence;

in shock.

I can't tell you what I wrote. I won't.

But I can say that it's

written in purple ink

inside me.

poem © 2018 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

Here's what I wrote to fellow TeachingAuthor Esther Hershenhorn one night:

Just home from teaching. I was really dreading tonight's class... Revision is a hard topic to get through--how much work it takes to revise and rewrite. But it turned out to be a gloriously wonderful class... So I guess I'm a teacher after all.
It may have been the best class I've taught in years.  Funny how that happens.

And that's what I like about teaching: the intangible, gloriously wonderful, unpredictableness of it all.

Thank you for hosting PF today, Liz at

And one more thing...Passover is March 30-April 7th this year, so...

...if you're looking for AUTOGRAPHED copies of my picture book, More Than Enough ~ A Passover Story (Reviewed in the New York Times!) call the fabulous folks at my local independent bookstore, {pages} a bookstore, 310-318-0900 to pre-pay (+tax & shipping) and specify who it’s for. Gift wrapping available on request.

Or buy at it your local independent book store!

(If there are no indies near you, that’s another story. Then by all means buy it here.)

posted with hope for teachers and students everywhere by April Halprin Wayland with help from Dropsy, a particularly contemplative goldfish in our pond.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Only Connect: One TeachingAuthor’s Mantra

What do I   best about teaching?

Like Carmela, I, too, love learning alongside my students and watching them grow and bloom as writers.
I love putting forth and sharing my Journey, so students can learn from my travels and shorten theirs.
I especially love making learning easier, because it can never be easy when it comes to learning how to write for children.  To me the nouns “facilitator” and “teacher” are synonymous.
Best of all, though?
I love my role as “Connector-in-Chief,” believing firmly as I do in MARY POPPINS author P.L. Travers’ advice to “only connect.”

Pamela Travers borrowed the famous epigraph from E.M. Forster’s HOWARD’S END for a Library of Congress address. The words underscored her belief that we must connect with our worlds, with each other and with ourselves if our stories are to connect with our readers. “Only connect” took its rightful place in the world of children’s books when Sheila Egoff borrowed Travers’ theme to title her collection on children’s literature readings.

I delight in connecting my students and the writers I coach to their Children’s Book World.
To fellow writers and classmates,
     the residents, including the gatekeepers,
     the professional communities, in Real Space and online,
     the publications,
     the markets.
As for the existing body of children’s literature, I adore gifting a writer and or class with a relevant book or author or publisher or illustrator, with a genre, a format, a possibility.
Our world is there, welcoming and accessible, a bounty of rich resources.

I delight in connecting writers to STORY, to its construct, its elements, and the how-to’s of its telling to its readers, so they can make sure their stories’ parts are working harmoniously.
It’s my pleasure to share whatever helps my students hone their storytelling.

Connecting my writers to their stories, though – the ones they’re telling their readers and the writer’s story they’re living, gladdens me immeasurably.  Offering writers ways to probe and discover  the heart of their stories as well as continue their Journeys – no matter the hardships, no matter the rejection - is both my ultimate challenge and joy.

If I do my Connector-in-Chief job right,
“Oh!” my writers will respond,
“Wow!” they’ll remark.
Their stories will get told.
Sparks will fly and electrify.

Seeing and feeling those sparks to any of the above, that’s what keeps me keepin’ on,  grateful and honored to be doing what I love and loving what I do.

Happy connecting and learning!

Esther Hershenhorn

How could I write about connecting and NOT share any connections?!
Click here to receive PW’s 2 Children’s Book issues at an SCBWI-member discount.
Click here to learn about Kwame Alexander’s new imprint Versify.
Click here to read Linda Ashman’s PictureBookBuilders post on what makes a successful read-aloud rhyming picture book.
Is it too late to start writing after 50? Click here for the answer.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Two Things I Love about Teaching Writing

Today, I kick off a new series of posts in which we TeachingAuthors share some of our favorite things about teaching. I love teaching! As a girl, I dreamed of growing up to be either a teacher or a writer, so I'm thrilled to be doing both. I could share a long list of the aspects of teaching that I enjoy, but in the interest of time, I'll limit it to two:

1) Learning alongside my students

I love learning, too. Teaching allows me to and expand my own learning. Even when I teach the same course I've taught before, I still manage to learn something new. In part, it's because I'm always looking for ways to make my classes better and more interesting. But it's also because I learn from my students, about the writing process as well as the craft of writing. Last fall, I blogged about Two Things My Students Have Taught Me, but there are many more.

2) Watching my students grow and succeed as writers

I love nurturing other writers. I believe we each have our own stories to tell and I enjoy helping writers find the voice to tell those stories. I have the privilege of teaching all sorts of writers, from nine-year-olds in my summer writing camps to retired adults in my Adult Continuing Education classes.  Unfortunately, I don't have any photos to share from my writing camps, but here's one from a writing workshop I taught as part of a school visit:

Students come to me with a variety of goals, whether it's simply to have fun, to get better at the writing craft, or to see their work published. I'm thrilled to facilitate the process of meeting those goals and celebrate with them when they do. One of the great things about having this blog, is that I can share some of those Student Success Stories with you, our blog readers. So far, we TeachingAuthors have shared twenty of our Student Success Stories here. I look forward to reading and sharing many more.

Speaking of teaching, I'm offering my Adult Continuing Education class in Writing for Children and Teens again this Spring at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL, Wednesdays, 7—9 p.m., April 18-May 23, 2018. See my website for details

I'm looking forward to reading my fellow TeachingAuthors' posts about what they love about teaching writing. I hope some of you, our readers, will share what you enjoy, too, whether you teach writing in a traditional classroom, on school visits, or elsewhere.

Don't forget to visit this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Check It Out.

And remember to always Write with Joy!

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Spring Read Aloud

I don’t get the chance to read aloud to students very often.  But for a few years running I participated in a program that was part of the Arkansas Literary Festival where students from rural areas were bused into Little Rock for a read aloud the event at the Governor’s Mansion. 

Readers had a set amount of time to read to their groups, then the group moved on to another reader.  It didn’t matter much which book I read to them.  Since my own books are too long to read in their entirety, sometimes I’d show them photos from the book and read the captions.  Then I’d move on to read nonfiction picture books to them. 

Like in any group of students, some were engrossed in each book and hung on every word and others were squirming around.  But I hope in those few moments each of them captured a sweet memory of reading books on a beautiful spring day. 

Carla Killough McClafferty

Friday, February 9, 2018

It’s Not Just Reading Aloud—It’s a Performance

(Ignore the above byline. This post is by Mary Ann Rodman.)

No one ever read to me until was in the Third Grade. Since I taught myself to read well before kindergarten, my parents thought reading to me was a waste of their time. I’m sure they thought they were strengthening my skills.

Apparently that was a popular philosophy in early childhood education at the time. I do not remember a single teacher in grades K-2 having a “story time.” However the students were encouraged to read their favorite books to the class, which could be pretty excruciating. I dislike Winnie the Pooh to this day because of Margaret in second grade who read ALL the Winnie books to us. Badly.

How wonderful it was when my third-grade teacher, Mrs. O’Neill, announced that first day, “I like to read a little every day after lunch. Settles the stomach, you know?” Mrs. O’Neill read us ALL the Mary Poppins books. She made Mary P come to life exactly the way I imagined P.L. Travers saw her.  (Two years later, when I saw Julie Andrews dripping sweetness and light on the screen, all I could think was “This isn’t the way Mrs. O’Neill made her sound.”

I know there were other books that year, to “settle our stomachs after lunch,” but the one I remember best was A Dog on Barkham Street by Mary Stolz. There were an awful lot of nine-year-old boys who suddenly had “something in my eye” during the last pages. I was thrilled to learn on my next library trip there was a companion novel, The Bully of Barkham Street; the same story told from the POV of the first book’s antagonist.  That was the first time that the saying  “there are two sides to every story” made sense to me.

Fifth grade we moved to Mississippi. Miss Parnell seemed to be at least a hundred years old, and taught in the same school her entire career. She most definitely believed in LONG reading breaks after lunch.  I had to listen closely to decipher her thicker-than-sorghum accent. I’d check out whatever book she was currently reading at the public library so I could follow along. (A true Mississippi accent has a way of turning one-syllable words into three or four syllables.) I wasn’t terribly enamored with her book choices, which I suspect had never changed the whole time she taught.

However, Miss Parnell had a writer friend name Miss Welty who had lived on her street for years and years. Miss Welty gave Miss Parnell a copy of her new (and only children’s book) The Shoe Bird. I often nodded off in those warm afternoons in my un-air-conditioned classroom. As for Miss Welty’s book, I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. It was about a parrot who lived in a shoe store, and somehow birds from all over showed up for a free pair of shoes.  Even then I wasn’t a fan of “talking critter” books.

Fast forward a few years and I realized that “Miss Welty” was Eudora Welty who eventually won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award. The Shoe Bird had only one printing. I believe Miss Parnell donated the book to the school library. Those first (and only) original editions must be worth a fortune. In fact-checking this post, I discovered that Welty wrote the book to fulfill a contractual obligation and because she “needed a new roof on house.” Such are the inspirations of a writer. (It also got pretty bad reviews, proving that a master of the American short story can sometimes hit a clunker.)

What are my own favorite read-alouds?  For the picture book crowd, my go-to is Bootsie Barker Bites by Barbara Bottner (say THAT fast three times!) The old drama major in me tends to act stories, rather than simply read them. This is a two character story, the bratty bully Bootsie who terrorizes the nameless main character.  The two girls are forever having “forced play dates” because their mothers are friends. I have a different voice for each girl. I love doing Bootsie, who sometimes pretends she has brought her pet dinosaur, Charlene with her. Of course, Charlene threatens to eat our main character. Love doing Charlene’s roar!

For the elementary ages, the age at which I most appreciated being read to, I like One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman. It’s an immigrant tale, told through the letters a little girl, Anais, writes to her grandmother who still lives in her village in an unnamed French-speaking African country. I can just hear Anais’ voice trying to explain the strange and sometimes troubling aspects of her new home in Boston.

And for the middle-schoolers, for whom a book can never be too gross or disgusting, I would share Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright.  The title of this non-fiction pretty well sums up the book except for one thing; it’s funny! Wright knows she’s treading in some dangerous territory.  She takes the “Euww Factor” way down with her tongue-in-cheek descriptions of ancient remedies and “scientific” thought. I’ve had the flu for two weeks, and this was the only thing that made me laugh.

Well, there you have it folks . . .  my personal history of reading aloud. Bon app├ętit!

By Mary Ann Rodman

P.S. from Carmela: If you like judging a book by its cover, I invite you to vote in the Houston Bay Area RWA Judge A Book By Its Cover (JABBIC) Readers' Choice contest. You'll find the cover of my historical romance Playing by Heart in the Young Adult Category.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Mighty Read Alouds!

We at Teaching Authors are celebrating #WorldReadAloudDay! April read aloud to her dog (in PJs!)

I thought you might be interesting in a few treasures I found this week.

One of my favorite sites, A Mighty Girl “… embraces the value of reading aloud for all of its practical merits, but just as importantly for introducing high-quality Mighty Girl literature into the lives of children everywhere. With that in mind, we've expanded our Read Aloud Collection to include 212 high-quality books all starring smart, confident, and courageous Mighty Girl characters. The featured stories are perfect for reading aloud with older elementary-aged children or as independent reading for kids." To browse their special feature on “212 Read Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls,” visit here. No doubt you will see a few familiar titles, including my own Big River’s Daughter!

For younger children, you’ll  discover hundreds of girl-empowering picture books in their "Picture Book Collection" here 

More helpful read aloud lists include these treasures:

Read Aloud Revival  is “… a community of parents just like you who know that when our kids are grown and gone, they won’t likely mind that their childhood included dishes piled in the sink, that we never ever reached the bottom of the laundry basket.”  

Nourishing My Scholar offers another intriguing list. The site is managed by homeschooling manager Erica, and “…is filled with information to help you explore a child led education while making meaningful connections with your children.” 

Sarah Anderson is a high school English teacher, offering a special list for the older reader at YA Love. Says Mrs. Anderson, “My students loved it and often asked me to read “just one more chapter.”  Since then I’m much more comfortable reading books where characters swear, but I make sure to choose books that aren’t over the top in that category.  It sometimes shocks my students to hear me read those parts, but we have a conversation about why that language is in the book and how we won’t be using that language in class.”

A.J. O’Connell at Book Riot offers ten reasons why reading aloud can be a fun a winter tradition, stating, “Children’s books are important, of course, but we’ve found that reading a book the whole family likes meets needs we didn’t realize we had.”

Reading aloud is a transforming power. Says Pam Allyn

“Literacy is an act of power and freedom. It is why slaves in our wrenching and painful U.S. history were forbidden to learn to read and write, and why young girls living in repressive societies today are kept out of the classroom. When children realize the power of narrative, they begin to dismantle patriarchy, racism, and oppression. In a true democratic society, every child has these tools of literacy to both absorb the stories of the world and to tell his or her own.”

What are your favorite stories to read aloud?

Bobbi Miller 

Friday, February 2, 2018


Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday!  (Can you tell I had no idea what to title this post?)

Guess what? February 1st was #WorldReadAloudDay, and we TeachingAuthors are celebrating all week long!

Carmela's post started us out, Esther reads poetry aloud to her grandson via Skype with glee, and now it's my turn!

This is going to be a quick post, as my To Do list is sky high (raise your hand if you can relate), so here's me with the book I'm currently
reading aloud to my dog Eli, in my favorite flannels:

photo by Gary Wayland

If you can't read the title, it's our very own Carmela Martino's marvelous historical novel, Playing By Heart. Her sumptuous descriptions of life in 18th century Milan have me right there, in teen composer Emilia Salvini's music room. 

Eli and I agree: her book's delicious!

I searched and searched my poem files for poems about reading aloud. I tried to write one, too, about a mama mountain lion reading aloud to her cubs. But it was too syrupy sweet and I don't think I want it wandering around as internet corn...I know you understand.  So here's one I wrote for an anthology in 2009 that hasn't come out yet (if it ever does):

by April Halprin Wayland

I stand on our couch
closing windows,
pulling down shades,
shutting out shouting streets.

Wheels, squeals and dust driven past
Those constant distant drums outside
are gone.

Inside I sit close to Mom.
I lay my head against her.
Listen to her heart
Listen to the words.

Listen to the whisper
of each

poem (c) 2018 April Halprin Wayland all rights reserved.

(If you'd like another poem on listening, here's one I wrote for World Read Aloud Day in 2016--this one is about not listening to your inner critic as you write--click here).

Lots of love to Friday Poets, all!

Thank you, Donna, at MainelyWrite for hosting Poetry Friday!

posted by April Halprin Wayland, Eli, the eight or nine 10-cent goldfish (all grown-up), and the five red-eared slider turtles in her pond, all very fine listeners.