They are trying to ban SPEAK…. again

I need your help.

This fall, I’ve had a record-number of requests from high school teachers who are using SPEAK in their classrooms, and who are facing formal challenges to have the book removed. People are trying very hard to ban SPEAK. I have information that I share with these teachers (much of it is already on my website), but a couple of them have asked for more.

Specifically, they want to know that they are not alone. So I am going to start a list of school districts in which SPEAK is being taught and post it to my website.

This is where you come in. Please comment here and/or email commentsATwriterladyDOTcom to let me know if SPEAK is being taught at your school. If you are a teacher and would like to share what you do with the book, how your students have responded to it, and how it works in the larger scope of creating literate, intelligent young adults, I would be very grateful. If you are a student – what did you think of the book being taught in the classroom? How did it compare with the other books in your curriculum?

Can you help me out, please? Speak up!

2 nights, 2 authors, 1 teacher

I live a dull life and I like it that way. My evenings are the tamest imaginable. After dinner, I sit around and read, talk to BH, maybe watch a little football, or a movie we’ve rented from Netflix. BH and I sometimes take turns poking each other with forks in order to stay awake long enough to talk to one of the three magnificent daughters after 9 pm, so they won’t get charged for the cell phone minutes. Once we’re off the phone we crash. (In our defense, we wake up early.)

But the last two nights?

Hold on to your dentures, granny. We have been wild and crazy fools. There have been teachers and authors to meet!

A ducky eat bunny world

There is an interesting debate about the merits (or lack of them) of membership in SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) over at Fuse# 8 Production. (Thanks to Read Roger for the link.)

If you are a writer for kids/teens, read through the various arguments. They are interesting.

My opinion? I would not be published if it hadn’t been for SCBWI. Plain and simple.

I joined in 1992. I had some experience as a journalist and a burning desire to write for children, but no idea how to go about it. I went to the first conference organized by the SE PA regional chapter (and the dynamic duo of Sue Campbell Bartoletti and Lisa Rowe Fraustino) and started my slow learning curve. For years I attended conferences and slowly began to learn how to improve the quality of my writing, and how to submit my manuscripts and behave as a professional when my work was eventually published. Both of the editors that I now work with consistently were people I first met at SCBWI conferences. (They cheerfully rejected my work for years when it was sub-par.) SCBWI gave me the tools I needed to forge my dream of being an author into reality.

(Please note the time line for anyone who is looking for an overnight success: started writing: 1992. First picture book published: 1996. First picture book out of print: 1998. First novel published: 1999. Still working very, very hard to learn how to write better.)

I agree with the posters who point out that SCBWI doesn’t offer as much for published writers as for people new to the field, but I still keep paying my dues and feel deeply connected to the group. If you want to write for kids and teens, do yourself a favor and join today.

Other opinions?

Why so many writers run

Note to self: if the temperature is below 50 degrees, and the race is next to a lake, and the wind is blowing, wear tights under the shorts. Or better yet, your warm black leggings.

The race on Saturday went….. well, it was a lot like writing. First, I was apprehensive because of the cold. Second, the weather (see above). But BH was running with me, and I’ve been working on getting in shape for four months now, and not every race is going to be great, but you show up anyway, because at the very least, the discipline is good for you.

The Dog Who Always Beats Me wasn’t there, which bummed me out, but there were dozens of runners who I had never seen before, and I knew I would be entertained watching them pull away from me at lightning speed. So – boom it was 8 am and the Oswego Pumpkin 5K Race was on.

I clocked the first mile at a very decent pace. And then we started running against the wind. I kept repeating the same song over and over on my iPod: The Can-Can song from Moulin Rouge. Miles 2 & 3 were ungodly cold. I even shouted at the weather a couple of times. (Most of the runners were at the finish drinking hot chocolate at that point, so nobody heard me.)

So I was coughing, slow, freezing, lonely, …. and blissfully happy. Because I was doing it. I was working my body, dragging it up the hills, grinning like a fool. My time compared to anyone else’s was meaningless. My time compared to my other times meant even less. All that mattered was that in that moment, I ran, I sweated, I worked, I enjoyed the bliss. That’s how the writing goes for me, too. The ugly days, the days when I know I will throw out everything I wrote, are every bit as important as the magical days when the Muse takes over the keyboard. Because you can’t have one without the other, so you need to learn how to enjoy them all.

What I did NOT enjoy was the the cheeseball guy who was supposed to tell me to take a left into the tunnel so I could get to the finish line. He let me run straight by him. When I got to the next race volunteer, she directed me to take a right. I checked my time and questioned her – “Are you sure I’m supposed to go this way? I thought I’d be to the finish line by now.” “Oh,” she said. “That’s for people running the 5k. If you’re running the 21K, you take this right.” “But I AM RUNNING (OK, shuffling) THE 5K,” I gasped.

Long silence…. “Oh,” she finally said. “Then you want to turn around and run back to that cheeseball guy who will point you to the tunnel.”

I was too tired to slap anyone, so off I ran. The detour turned a 5K into a 6K, but I needed the exercise, so it was all good.

Detours help you learn what you’re made of, on the page or on the road.