Weekend update – brief version: I forgot my camera so photos are waiting for various relatives to produce them.
Saturday: PCTELA conference. What the heck is PCTELA? Simply many of the passionate, dedicated English teachers of Pennsylvania gathered in one place at the same time. Thanks to everyone there who made me feel so welcome. It was a wonderful, inspiring day.
(Note – in the hotel where the conference was held, there were FOUR weddings going on. At one point, I saw a priest being dragged up to a room by a distraught mother-type women, trailed by an anxious groom-looking fellow. That made me think only three weddings were actually going to occur.)
Sunday: Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire with two daughters, plus their boyfriends and various buddies. It was the first time I attended a Faire this late in the autumn. The weather was cool and crisp. Made me glad I had on my garb that included a wool shawl. Loved the Tartan Terrors. We had SUCH a fun time…… I really love doing stuff like that with my kids. We had a long drive home that night, but it was worth every mile.
Oh, and last night, I went to my dad’s poetry reading. That was a blast.
The mailbag holds a number of very good questions from a 9th grade English class:
Do Melinda’s parents have an affair? Where have they been the night she is raped? Why is that part of the story?
Yes. Their relationship stinks. That’s why they were out (with other people) the night she was raped. It’s part of the story because it helps to explain why their family is broken, and why they don’t communicate well. When/if you figure this out, a number of other things become clear. It’s all about motivation.
During the rape scene of the book, what is the other smell that Melinda smells on Andy? Some of us thought that it was drugs.
No. I put that in there because this is all new – she’s never had any kind of sexual activity – much less one that is forced. She hardly knows what a guy smells like up close and personal.
Why do you give Melinda grades/especially for non-school subjects?
I was trying to figure out how she saw her own performance in those areas.
Does David ever call Melinda?
You mean after the book? I see them as developing a tight friendship for a year, and then they fall in love when they are juniors.
What happens to Mr. Neck? Does David sue him?
Nope. He will take early retirement, I hope.
What was Melinda like before the rape?
Happy, funny. Hopeful. Naïve and trusting. Sweet. She will get most of those pieces of her back, but not the naive part. And once she deals with what happened to her, she will be much stronger and wiser.
Is there any classic books that have influenced you, or this story?
The work of James Joyce has had a real impact on the way I look at language.
What book would you suggest from classic literature that ninth graders read/study?
Oh, dear – this is a hard question. I’m not sure ninth graders are ready for classic literature. I am a fan of the approach suggested in from Hinton to Hamlet, that pairs thematically-connected works from the canon and contemporary YA literature. The important thing is to find classic literature that speaks to the concern of the reader, a story that will really touch their hearts. If a 9th grader does not feel connected to a book, they will quickly abandon it. That defeats the purpose, don’t you think?
Why did you wait until the end of the book to tell about the rape?
Because I wanted the focus to be on her struggle to find the courage to talk about what she was afraid to talk about. That is the real challenge. If I focused on the rape from the beginning, I was afraid that would get lost.
Why doesn’t Melinda kill Andy with the piece of glass?
She thought about it. (I thought about her doing it.) But that would make her into the same kind of person he was.
That’s all from the class – great work!
Dylan writes:Hello! Speak is my favorite book ever! It was funny and serious at the same time. I hope that I can write a book like that someday.
I have a quick question. In the book, why does Melinda only confront Heather about ditching her, while in the movie she does the self-centered social climber thing? I know it’s not a big difference, but calling somebody a social climber would be hard for somebody who hadn’t spoken a lot in a year.
Because I didn’t write the movie. The screenplay writers made a couple of minor changes and that was one of them. Authors usually have no say in the matter.
And finally, a nice note with no questions:
KT writes: I am curently reading you book Speak, and I would just like to say I love it! I really do! I really love the way it’s written, and the amazing story
line. I really like how you show the emotion and changes that Melinda goes through, and why. It’s a really amazing story. I absolutly love it! I can’t wait to read your other books, too!