Friday, July 26, 2019

How I Became A Teaching Author

I was a shy kid who grew up in an Air Force family. My shyness made it hard to make new friends. When you move during the middle of the school year, friendships are already established. Breaking in was torture for me. Thank goodness, I have a sister who is one year older than me. We spent hours in libraries. We loved books and still do along with a younger sister and brother.

A year ago, we decided to form a reading club. As quickly as that idea popped up, it fizzled. We have such divergent taste, we couldn’t decide on a book to start our first meeting. Luckily, I have my kid lit friends and critique buddies.

Before I began writing books for young readers, I taught middle school mathematics. I thought I’d always teach math. Two of my mother’s sisters were teachers. It was tradition.

But . . . I happened to see a flyer in my local library about a class for those who wanted to write magazine articles. It sounded intriguing, so I signed up and began a new career. I sold a few articles. Then I saw a newspaper article inviting people to a Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) meeting. I found my true calling and longtime friendships—writing books for young readers.

I’ve published over 20 books. It was a long and winding path, but I’m where I belong. I write both fiction and nonfiction. BLOCK PARTY is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

One of my passions is picture book biographies. I love reading them and writing them. I especially love learning about people with an “I didn’t know that” factor. That definitely was the case with TINY STITCHES – THE LIFE OF MEDICAL PIONEER VIVIEN THOMAS (Lee & Low Books). A friend saw the movie Something the Lord Made (the story of Vivian Thomas) and told me to watch it. She encouraged me to write about him. It took a few years, but I did it. It won a NAACP Award. Accepting my award was one of the proudest moments of my writing career.

This fall, Capstone will publish my second picture book biography, ONA JUDGE OUTWITS THE WASHINGTONS – AN ENSLAVED WOMAN FIGHTS FOR FREEDOM. I don’t have a release date for my third one, PLANTING PEACE – THE STORY OF WANGARI MAATHAI (Wayland-Hachette Children’s Group).

I love visiting schools and sharing my writing life and writing tips with students. Recently, I presented workshops at Oklahoma State University and Rochester University in Rochester, Michigan. On behalf of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, I teach an ongoing writing class at the YMCA Lincoln Park Senior Center in my hometown of Oklahoma City. The ladies are so prolific with so many life stories to tell that we published a book, TREASURES (Doodle and Peck).

During visits to upper elementary and middle school students, I often share my nonfiction science book MAKERS AND TAKERS—FOOD WEBS IN THE OCEANS (Rourke). I lead them in understanding, my book is not all that different from their essays.

I will continue to read all sorts of books and write as I begin working with the amazing TeachingAuthors and I hope to hear from readers too.

Posted by Gwendolyn Hooks


Carmela Martino said...

Welcome to the team, Gwendolyn! I look forward to reading your two forthcoming biographies. And how fun that you teach an ongoing writing class--I'm sure their stories are real TREASURES!

Jill said...

Wonderful to see you here, Gwendolyn! Looking forward to your posts. :)


Bobbi Miller said...

Hi Gwendolyn, and I'm so excited that you've joined us! I can't wait to hear all about your adventures!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Gwendolyn, I'm so glad you've climbed into the TeachingAuthors' tree house! (At least that's what I call it).

I loved learning how you stumbled upon your career path (don't most of us stumble upon ours?). One of your sentences that resonated with me was: "I lead them in understanding, my book is not all that different from their essays," which is the hallmark of a mature teacher, in my humble opinion.


Esther Hershenhorn said...

Welcome, Gwendolyn, to TeachingAuthors!

I am - one - author who hopes to learn lots from your Writer's Journey, your books and all you share.

Our Readers are lucky to have you!

Mary Ann Rodman said...

Welcome to the party, Gwendolyn. It sounds like we had a similar "road to becoming a Teaching Author." I look forward to your posts, but right now I need to get my hands on a copy of Block Party! Mary Ann Rodman

Gwendolyn Hooks said...

Thank you for the warm welcome. I look forward to writing with you and learning from you. I glanced outside a few minutes ago. There's a light rain in Oklahoma City, but not enough to keep a neighbor and their friends from packing a pontoon boat with ice chests and fishing poles. All I can think is "WHERE ARE THEY GOING THAT RAIN?" Hmm. A book title?

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

I'm so happy you took my spot on this TA blog. It has been a pleasure to know you through the years and now you will be a pleasure to all who read your wise words on this blog. Congratulations on all your success!

Gwendolyn Hooks said...

Carla, I'm thrilled you invited me to be a part of this dynamic group of authors. Now, I just have to find "wise words" for my upcoming posts!