Kate Messner Talks about Sugar and Ice

I am thrilled to be interviewing Kate Messner today!  Her latest middle grade novel, Sugar and Ice, will be released this week and it is absolutely wonderful! I already passed my ARC on to my 6th grade sister because I just know that she will adore it as much as I did. (Look for my review later this week!)

Right now, I am so happy to introduce Kate!  She is an amazing writer, teacher, and mom, which leaves me in awe.

 

So Kate, when did you decide that you wanted to be a writer? And once you did decide, how did you get into a routine of writing daily?


I’ve always been a writer, since I could hold a pencil. When I was in elementary school and junior high, I did a lot of creative writing, but as I got older and had more homework, I put that writing mostly on hold. It was after I was a mom and teacher that I really rediscovered the stories I’d loved as a kid and started writing for myself again.

When I started working on my first book, I wasn’t really in a good routine; I’d write in fits and starts, stealing a few hours on a weekend and then not getting back to the project for weeks. However, as my kids got a little older, I got better at setting aside time for writing each night, which is what I do now.

 

What is it like to be a writer and a full-time teacher and a mom? How do you do it all?

Actually, I find that my writing, teaching, and mothering lives complement each other beautifully! When I have to take a research trip, whether it’s up the road to Montreal or across the country, the whole family usually comes, and we make a bigger trip out of it.

As an English teacher, I find that being a writer lends a sense of credibility and vulnerability to the job. I think I tend to empathize much better with my students when I have to go home and revise myself at the end of the school day! And of course, it affords us lots of opportunities to talk about craft, since I share my editors’ revision notes and my own struggles with writing with my kids.

 

When you first got the idea for Sugar and Ice, what came first? Did Claire come to you as a character, or was the concept/plot the first thing?

To be totally honest, this book kind of happened by accident. My daughter had signed up for a basic skills skating camp in Lake Placid, and I was going to drop her off and head for the coffee shop across the street to revise my other book, THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. I’d apparently missed the small print in the registration materials, though, and didn’t realize that when I signed the girl up for skating camp, I had also signed myself up for a skater-mom education program.

For the first fifteen minutes, I kept trying to devise ways to escape…but then I really started listening to the experts who gave presentations. Thousand dollar skate blades? Really? And then there was the sports psychologist who really captured my imagination with her stories of how she works with skaters to keep the sport healthy amid all the competition. What a perfect world for a book for kids! I was sold…and started taking notes that afternoon.

Claire came to me later on, as I was wondering what kind of kid might have the most difficulty adjusting to that fast-paced, competitive skating lifestyle. I thought it would be interesting to take a girl from a small-town maple farm and see how she managed in a world of mean girls on ice.

 

I know you are also working on a teacher resource book that focuses on revision. What have you learned about revision that you did not know before by focusing so much on the topic?

Enough to write a whole book! Honestly, this project was one of the best things I’ve ever done, not only in terms of the actual book, which I love, but because I learned so much that I can use in my teaching and writing lives. I interviewed more than forty authors about their revision processes and learned that while our goals are the same, everyone has their own little tricks and pet strategies that make the revision road an easier one to travel.

I added about a million tricks to my own revision toolbox as I worked on this book. It features lots of the strategies I used when I was revising SUGAR AND ICE and THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z, and it also includes lots of tips from other authors, all adapted in ways that can be used in the classroom. The title is REAL REVISION: AUTHORS’ STRATEGIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENT WRITERS, and it’ s due out from Stenhouse this spring.

 

What is your favorite go-to snack when you are writing?

Oh, that’s easy. Chocolate. Always chocolate.

 

You are also a 7th grade teacher.  What book are you recommending to your students right now? Alternately, what book(s) are they just devouring?

I just got back from the NCTE/ALAN conference with two boxes of books for my kids, and they’ve descended on them like vultures. There’s a big wait-list for dystopian titles like MATCHED by Ally Condie and the ARC of DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth, due out in May. Kids are also loving the books I had signed to them by Wendy Mass and Lisa Yee.

My students are also loving GIRL, STOLEN by April Henry, OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper, TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord, ALABAMA MOON and DIRT ROAD HOME by Watt Key, THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy, HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford, NEED by Carrie Jones, HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly, MAGIC UNDER GLASS by Jackie Dolamore, and sports books by Tim Green and Mike Lupica.

And of course, some of the books I can’t quite manage to put into the classroom library until I’ve had a chance to read them! I just finished an ARC of Gayle Forman’s WHERE SHE WENT tonight (amazing!) and started reading an ARC of Jenny Moss’s TAKING OFF, set around the time of the Challenger disaster (also amazing so far!).

 

Wow!  Those are some amazing books.  And like you, I held back my copy of WHERE SHE WENT so that I could read it first.  It’s one of the perks of being the teacher!  Don’t worry, though- I already passed it on to a voracious reader. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by, Kate!  It’s been a pleasure hosting you!

 

Want a personalized, signed copy of SUGAR AND ICE?

The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a SUGAR AND ICE launch party from 3-5 pm on Saturday, December 11th, so please consider this your invitation if you live in the area! If you can’t make it but would still like a signed, personalized copy, just give the bookstore a call at (518) 523-2950 by December 10th. They’ll take your order, have Kate sign your book after the event, and ship it out to you in plenty of time for the holidays.

Sugar and Ice

Junior Library Guild Selection

Winter 2010-2011 Kids IndieNext List

Amazon Best Books for December 2010

 

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s maple farm. But all that changes when Claire is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity- a scholarship to train with the elite skaters in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire soon realizes that her sweet dream-come-true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want her to fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

Interview with J&P Voelkel

A few weeks ago I reviewed J&P Voelkel’s The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld.  I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to booktalk it this fall.  In the meantime, I was thrilled when presented with the opportunity to interview Jon and Pamela, the husband and wife team behind the book.  There are very few books out there about Mesoamerica, and even fewer for teens and tweens.  I can’t wait to get this one in the hands of my readers.  I also can’t wait to share with them the fascinating interview below.

Hello!  Welcome to the blog and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.  As a huge fan of Meso-American culture, I was thrilled to read MIDDLEWORLD. I became interested in Mesoamerica when I began studying monarch butterflies and I share as much as I can with my students each year. How did you become interested in the Mayans?

First of all, we’re honored to meet another Mesoamerican fan! It’s an exciting time to be studying the Maya, because the archaeologists are making new discoveries all the time. There are still thousands of sites to be excavated in Central America, so we always hope that one of the students we meet on our school visits will decide to become an archaeologist and make the biggest Maya discovery of all time!  As to how we became interested, Jon grew up in Latin America and remembers his first visit to some ruins, when he was eight or nine.  I went to school in England where Mesoamerica was never mentioned, so I knew nothing about the Maya until we started on the book.  In fact, when Jon wrote the first draft, the pyramids were just a cool background to a jungle adventure story.  I think we both had a vague idea that the Maya had died out centuries ago.  As we began to research the book and realize the depth of our ignorance, we wanted to learn more and more about this fascinating civilization.  We were also inspired by a chance meeting with a group of Maya teenagers at a site in Guatemala.  They were so excited that children in North America would be reading about their culture, we realized that we owed it to them to get the facts right.

How did you research the mythology and culture in the book? How long did it take you to draft the first book, including research?

First of all we read every book we could lay our hands on.  Then we realized that a lot of the books were out of date and read the new crop of books. A big breakthrough came when Jon did a course at Harvard on reading and writing Maya glyphs.  Through that he met a very cool professor named Dr Marc Zender who agreed to check all our facts for us.  In all, Book 1 probably took about four years to write.  We must have written twenty drafts. Since we began, we’ve made several trips down to Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, where we’ve talked to contemporary Maya people, canoed underground rivers, tracked howler monkeys, explored cave systems and visited about 30 Maya sites – so far!


Was the research difficult? I know that when I look for mythology and information to share with my students, it can be difficult to find sources of information. When I do find it, it tends to be in Spanish or a Mesoamerican language. Do you speak Spanish or any of the Mesoamerican languages?

As we’re sure you’ve found in your own research, what makes it difficult is that there’s so much misinformation about the Maya.  The archaeologists have only been able to read the Maya glyphs with any accuracy for the last 30 years – which means that much of what was written before is guesswork and often completely wrong.  The internet is also abuzz with nonsense.  Because the Maya were shrouded in mystery for so long, it seems like people have felt free to project their own perspectives onto them. The only way we’ve found to be sure of using current information is to connect with the archaeologists who are working in the field right now.  We attend lectures and seminars to hear the latest news before it’s published. A great source of information is the annual Maya at the Playa conference in Florida.  And yes, Jon grew up speaking Spanish, so that’s extremely helpful – particularly on our travels in Central America.  Incidentally, we’ve put much of what we’ve learned on a cross-curricular lesson plan CD – free to teachers from www.jaguarstones.com

What’s it like to write as a duo?


Good question!  We used to take it in turns to each write a draft, but these days Pamela does most of the writing and Jon does most of the illustrating. The best thing about working together (and probably the worst thing for our kids) is that we can discuss the plot seven days a week.  We both know the characters so well, they’re like members of the family.  Where other writers have to argue with the voices in their own heads, I get to argue with a real, live person!  Sometimes the arguments get quite heated, but we never settle until we’ve agreed on an outcome we can both believe in one hundred per cent.  I think working as a duo makes the book more exciting because we try to surprise each other by inserting more and more twists and turns into the plot.  I would also say that Jon is more action-oriented while I worry more about the characters’ feelings, so it’s a good balance.

Via Twitter, I saw that you were at ALA this year. What was the best part of being there?

ALA was amazing, a booklover’s dream.  To be surrounded by piles of books and people talking about books was heaven.  Two memorable events were signing our books at the Egmont booth and going out for a huge Mexican dinner with a dozen delightful librarians.  But the best thing of all was that our 13-year-old daughter got to meet her favorite author, Laurie Halse Anderson. LHA sat right down on the floor and chatted with her like an old friend.  It was a life-changing moment.

What is your favorite snack to eat while you are writing?


Pamela eats sweet potato chips; Jon drinks soda and crunches on the ice.

That does sound delicious.  And like Jon, I love to crunch the ice after drinking my Pepsi.  Thanks again for stopping by and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

N. D. Wilson Blog Tour- Life Cycle of a Writer

I am thrilled to be a part of N.D. Wilson’s blog tour for the final book in his exciting series, The 100 Cupboards.  The first book, 100 Cupboards: Book 1 (The 100 Cupboards), is the current book club selection for Al Roker’s Book Club for Kids. The final book in the series, The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards, was released last month. The whole series is great and N.D. Wilson is a phenomenal writer. I absolutely loved Leepike Ridge, which I read a few years ago. (Check out my  review for more thoughts.)

Today, N.D. Wilson stops by TheReadingZone to share some of his thoughts on writing.  I can’t wait to share this with my students!  (And anyone who knows me is aware that I love metaphors that deal with insects and metamorphosis!)




Writers are like insects. We hatch in kindergarten—learning to read. And as our reading level climbs, we enter into some form of larval stage, consuming everything in front of us. Place a stack of fresh leaves in front of a globulous caterpillar and you have the perfect picture of the young writer. A young writer is a young reader—someone who will devour virtually anything. At this point, gatekeepers are necessary. It’s up to teachers, librarians, and parents to make sure that the books consumed are actually healthy (and helpful). Like any other form of consumption, not everything is good for you. A lot of kids with appetites for stories end up stuck in some form of literary junk food, a place with a never ending supply, where it’s easy to grow lazy and narrow in their tastes. Of course, when teachers are dealing with kids who hate eating at all, junk food is a great place to start. The flavors are simple and appealing. But those are different kids and different problem. We’re talking about young hungry, hungry caterpillars. The devourers. Bottomless pits. Throw anything at them and they’ll bring it back tomorrow, finished. (The first time I ever stayed up all night, I think I was in sixth grade, reading a book. And it was a terrible book, too.)

The first great change finally comes. The young writer’s belly is bulging. They become picky. Or they should. We are corpulent. We are full, and our parents and teachers and librarians panic. What happened to the appetite? Where has it gone? Has the reader died? Lazing bloated on the sofa, we complain of our boredom, we push books away untasted. We’ve seen this little thing with the dragon before. Funke did it first. Or at least second. This happens at different ages. I started doing this in the fifth grade. For others, it comes sooner. And I know people who didn’t get picky until college.

We have become pupae. Wrap us in a cocoon of old favorites. Actually, bring me mere selections of my old favorites. Give us some space—a little breather. And then make us work again, but differently. At this point, the young writer’s greatest strength—that which needs to be developed—is distaste. They need the ability to loath a character, a plot, a concept. If they are ever going to be left completely in the driver’s seat of a narrative, they need to develop a connoisseur’s palate for literary finesse and a quick sneer for literary folly. Make them read, but encourage them when they throw a paperback across the room. Question them. Force them to develop. Make them justify their own dislike. Help them learn to tear down stories. And, of course, in that context, the discovery of a story that pleases is sweet relief. But don’t let it sail by untested either. What was better about that book? Why did it resonate? What was more believable about it than the poor hurled paperback? The boredom fades. Sitting in judgment, the discovery of talent and failure, and the contrast of characters is interesting. Until it too, becomes easy.

And now it’s time for a dose of humility.

Make them fix stories. You don’t like My Side of the Mountain? The Egypt Game? Fine. Fix them. Make them better. Force the young writer out of the destructive phase and into positive construction. And don’t just pat them on the back and smile at every proposal. Turn their critical eyes onto their own ideas. Self-regulating creativity is a must. Judge them by their own finicky judgments.

Of course, throughout all of this, the hope is that these kids are learning the basics of craft as well. The mechanics of a sentence, a paragraph, metaphor, simile, etc. But those do not make a writer. Those are tools in a builder’s hands, and they’re terrific. But the builder needs visions. The builder needs imagination, creativity, sharp critical teeth, and the ability to weigh (and discard) ideas.

For me, the critical process kicked off as a result of my father. He pushed me when I moaned about my school reading. He was fine with my constant return to favorite passages from Lewis and Tolkien, but at that phase, it was just as important to read things that I hated—so long as the hatred could be justified.

My entrance into high school brought new desires. Forget fixing other people’s stories. I wanted my own. Prose craft became the order of the day, and lots of parental encouragement (and red ink criticism). I had sharp enough eyes to know that I wasn’t any good (when compared to my favorite authors—and I truly couldn’t think of any way to describe firelight without using the word dancing). That struggle to communicate kept me going. I read more poetry. I disciplined myself by writing (bad) poetry. I focused on many, many short exercises, especially sketching real scenes and events, and trying to reproduce conversations I stole in public. (The beauty of sketching the real is that it’s easier to tell when you’ve gotten it wrong.) I read more and more broadly. All the way through college and then grad school, I focused on short, refined prose. Finally, having popped out the other end of my formal education, I began tackling novels. And here I am.

All of this is autobiographical. I have no way of asserting this as the universal path to becoming a writer. But I have a nagging belief that my own experience is hardly unique, and many’s the time that I’ve listened to the grief of parents who believe their middle school reader has passed on—bored, listless, critical . . . pupating.

I’m no beautiful butterfly. A lunar moth, maybe (if I flatter myself). But I’d like to be a dragon fly. I want mosquitoes to fear me.

The book trailer for The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards:

Be sure to check out N.D. Wilson on the rest of his blog tour!

2/8 Shadow Hunters

2/9 Books4YourKids

2/10 Here!

2/11 Eva’s Book Addiction

2/12 Becky’s Book Reviews

2/12 Fireside Musings

N.D. Wilson’s website is great- be sure to check it out!




Mark Overmeyer Answers Your Questions about Assessment!

Today Mark Overmeyer, author of What Student Writing Teaches Us: Formative Assessment in the Writing Workshop stops by to answer your questions!

Do you have any suggestions on how to maintain balance with conventions and other areas of writing based on assessments? I know focusing too heavily on conventions will negatively affect their other areas of writing (even if they are already demonstrating strengths in the other areas), but I would also like for them to get a better grasp on the conventions expectations for 7th grade.

This is a very good, and important, question.

Yes, you are correct: it is true that focusing too heavily on conventions can negatively impact writing performance. Ironically, a complete focus on teaching grammar out of context can actually cause students to decrease their achievement in grammar and in writing quality.

More information about the research on grammar instruction can be found in several sources, including George Hillocks’ Teaching Writing As Reflective Practice: Integrating Theories and Constance Weaver’s Teaching Grammar in Context.
You are in luck, however.

There are two great resources that are practical and full of ideas you can implement right away: Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer’s Workshop and Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson. Jeff has created classroom-tested, grammar-in-context ideas for upper elementary, middle, and high school students. The best part? The lessons and ideas are organized so that you can easily access which skill you want students to work on (e.g., sentence fragment corrections, subject verb agreement, correct use of commas, correct use of capitalization, etc.).

I know many teachers who have used Jeff’s ideas, and I have used them myself. Jeff believes we can help our students to become better writers while they internalize conventions if we ask them to notice what is right about well crafted sentences. Instead of using sentence correction exercises, Jeff suggests we display well-written sentences that feature a skill we want students to work on, and then ask the students what they notice about the craft and the mechanics that make the sentence correct. It is an inquiry based approach to teaching grammar (rather than an error-correction approach), and it works.

 

I will be moving from 40-some odd students this year to close to 120 next year. What is your advice for managing writing assessment for a group this large? (in middle school).

 
This is such a challenge. You have so much to think about when you teach this many students, and it is so easy to become overwhelmed.

My first piece of advice is to carefully plan your instruction with some built in places for you to read short samples of student work for very specific purposes.
Let me try to explain what I mean by walking through a suggested framework based on a specific unit of study.

I will choose personal narrative as a genre study just because it is so common across grade levels. If this explanation does not provide enough specific suggestions for your context, do not hesitate to let me know and I will walk through a different genre.

When I teach any genre, I want to know first if student is able to make meaning in this genre. (I owe a tremendous debt to Carl Anderson and his book Assessing Writers for many of the ideas that follow).

So, if I want to know if students can make meaning in the genre of personal narrative, I will ask them to respond to a series of quick writes that require them to narrate and describe situations they have experienced:

 

  • Tell about a time you were afraid (or happy, or proud, or…)
  • Describe your favorite place (or food, or season, or holiday, or video game, or sport…)

These are just ideas- anything that you can use to motivate students to write for five or ten minutes will work. When you collect these short samples, you can begin to see if students can make meaning in this genre – we must narrate and describe (among other things) when we tell stories about our lives, so I want to know very early on if students can do the work of writers who create personal narratives.

I would also expose students early on to mentor texts representative of the genre study. The quick writes provide a kind of practice in the parts of the genre, while a study of mentor texts provides an opportunity to provide clarity about what students will be writing. For more specific guidance on using mentor texts in a genre study, see Katie Wood Ray’s Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop, and for using mentor texts in nonfiction writing, see Dorfman and Cappelli’s Nonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing Through Children’s Literature, K-8 – my new favorite book.

So the beginning of each unit involves quick writes, which can be assessed quite easily. I can also assess students as they study mentor texts, particularly if I ask them to try their hand at mimicking the crafts they notice in these texts.

These short writing pieces will be worth only a few points each, but they will allow me to predict the future success of the unit.

Students can begin to draft longer pieces as they develop an awareness of the features of the genre. You can develop a list of these features together based on what you notice as you read like writers.

As soon as students begin drafting, you are in great danger of becoming overwhelmed by the paper load. My advice is to read each draft for very specific purposes, and to ask students to revise drafts based on what you notice they need to work on. Keep a positive attitude by first admiring what they are doing well, and then looking for teaching points. When you discover teaching points all students can benefit from, then you have an idea for a mini lesson. When you discover teaching points a few students can benefit from, you have ideas for small group work or you have conference topics.

One typical reason I read early drafts is to just establish if students understand the structure or organization of the genre. In keeping with personal narrative example, I first read drafts to see if they can keep ideas focused while using a narrative flow. If they get stuck in describing every insignificant detail, I can work with them on keeping the narrative moving. If they jump from event to event and develop a list-like story, then I can work with them on slowing down the moment.

The last section of my book provides some more detail about this topic of reading student writing for singular purposes.

I hope this provides you with enough to think about… please let me know if it helps!

Visit the other stops on Mark’s blog tour:
June 23: http://creativeliteracy.blogspot.com
June 29: http://teachingthatsticks.blogspot.com
July 1: http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com

And, you can enter a contest!
Contest details
In his new book Mark discusses how a writing prompt that might seem limiting actually helps students focus their writing. He talks about a second-grade classroom where students were excited to write about the following topic: “Your baby brother is inside the house and you are locked out and need to figure out a way to get back in.”

Your challenge is to write a quick, piece in 500 words or less for that prompt. Mark will select the winner, who will receive a free, signed copy of What Student Writing Teaches Us: Formative Assessment in the Writing Workshop . Submit your entries by July 15 to zmcmullin@stenhouse.com. The best entries will be posted on the Stenhouse blog and website.

Mark Overmeyer Answers Your Questions About Assessment

Right now, you can read What Student Writing Teaches Us: Formative Assessment in the Writing Workshop on the Stenhouse website for FREE! What a fantastic way to start the summer. Even better? Mark Overmeyer will be answering your questions here on June 25th! So get reading and come back to this post to ask Mark your questions about formative assessment.
Leave your questions in the comments here and I will get them to Mark.  He will post the answers to your questions here on June 25th!

 

(Don’t leave me hanging….I need some questions!)

Summer Blog Blast Tour

I have been slacking, I admit it.  But the Summer Blog Blast Tour is going on right now and there are some phenomenal interviews!

Here is the list of this week’s interviews, from Chasing Ray. Chasing Ray will be updating the post with direct links to the interviews each day!

Monday, May 18th
Andrew Mueller at Chasing Ray
Kekla Magoon at Fuse #8
Carrie Jones at Writing and Ruminating
Amber Benson at Bildungsroman
Greg van Eekhout at Shaken & Stirred
Tuesday, May 19th

Maya Ganesan at Miss Erin
Sherri Winston at Finding Wonderland
Amber Benson at lectitans
Carolyn Hennesy at Little Willow
Jo Knowles at Hip Writer Mama

Wednesday, May 20th

Barbara O’Conner at Mother Reader
James Kennedy at Fuse Number 8
Maggie Stiefvater at Writing & Ruminating
Rosemary Clement-Moore at Little Willow
Jo Knowles at lectitans
Melissa Wyatt at Chasing Ray

Thursday, May 21st

Siobhan Vivian at Miss Erin
Alma Alexander at Finding Wonderland
Laurel Snyder at Shaken & Stirred
Cindy Pon at The Ya Ya Yas
Thalia Chaltas at Little Willow

Friday May 22nd

Jenny Davidson at Chasing Ray
Rebecca Stead at Fuse Number 8
Ryan Mecum at Writing and Ruminating
Lauren Myracle at Little Willow
Kristin Cashore at Hip Writer Mama

 

Be sure to check it out!

Walter Dean Myers and Dope Sick

The Learning First Alliance has posted a great interview with author Walter Dean Myers about his upcoming book Dope Sick and about how best to help young people who get on the wrong track.   The book was inspired by the time he has spent with young men in juvenile detention centers, discussing how they ended up where they were.  This quote from the article broke my heart:

I’ve spoken to so many of these young men. I had a very sad experience recently. I spoke to a kid in an elementary school and told him about a book I was working on. Then, three years later, I met the same kid in a juvenile detention facility and he asked me if I had finished the book. Very sad.

Myers also discusses what he thinks schools can do to reach out to students, especially those who are slipping through the cracks.  I fully support his vision of involving students in books, rather than just reading them, answering a few questions, and moving on.

PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: As you reach out to kids who begin to see their own experience in your life and begin to take hope from it, do you have a sense of what schools can do to help impart the same kind of messages? Either specifically through your Second Chance Initiative, or more generally?

MYERS: One of the things I would like to see is what I saw at the Harlem Children’s Zone—that is, the schools bringing in parents. Have parents come in and discuss some of these ideas with the children.

[Schools can] have open forums on books, rather than [have students] just read a book and then go back and answer questions about it.

Allow the kids to challenge books. I love it when someone challenges my book and will perhaps bring me in, and I’ll have to defend the book. That’s great, because that gives me an opportunity to go there, talk to these kids, and let them know. I say, “Listen. This is how I went about writing this book. This is what I meant to do. This is what I felt like I should be doing. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work, but this is how I did it.” At that point I’m humanizing the process for the kids.

The entire interview has been posted on their website, Public School Insights, which celebrates what is working in public schools and aims to enrich the national conversation about public education.

And there’s more!  Want a preview of Dope Sick before it is released on 2/10? The first three chapters are now available for download on AdLit.org. And wait, it gets even better! The entire book will be available online at harperteen.com from February 10-24.

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