Writing Poem

Yesterday, two amazing 7th graders visited and assisted me in my writing classroom. Their school district had the day off from school and they chose to spend the day with me. We had met as a “writing club”over the summer a few times and I was happy to have them visit.

They really made my day when they presented me with a gift to thank me for spending time with them. Along with a journal, a gorgeous handmade card and a B&N gift card, they presented me with this amazing poem:

If there’s one thing that’s true about writing
It’s the simple fact that it’s hard.
To come up with an idea,
And write it down,
And keep persevering
Through ups and through downs
To revise and edit
And edit some more,
It stops being fun 
And ends up a chore.
But if you have a lot of time,
And a natural tendency
To phrase and write and rhyme
And a big old computer
And a whole lot of ink,
This should be enough.
It should, don’t you think?
But wait a second,
You can’t start just yet,
You need something more – the most important
But the hardest to get.
A mentor to help you
Through bad times and good,
To compliment or critique you
For what you shouldn’t do and should,
To recommend resources
To help you on your way…
Thank you, Mrs. Donnelly,
For being this every day.
written by Caitlin
Grade 7, McLean, VA

As I reread this poem, I thought how I am only able to help Caitlin and other students to write because TCRWP became MY MENTOR when I attended my first Writing Institute during the Summer of 2008. In 18 days I’ll be back in NYC to attend their October Reunion Saturday and I can’t wait to learn even more from the smartest writing teachers ever. 


Thank you, TCRWP,
For being this, my mentor, every day.

2014 National Book Festival Highlights

As I headed to the new inside venue for the National Book Festival on Saturday, I knew I was there when I saw this very large sign on the side of the Convention Center in DC!!

Here are some of my highlight:
KATE DICAMILLA: Her tips for budding-authors include spending lots of time reading, making a deal about how to do the work of a writer (for her, the deal was to write 2 pages a day), and to pay attention to everything. Notice the world and write down what you see in a notebook.

BILLY COLLINS: I knew Billy Collins was our Nations Poet Laureate and I thought he mostly wrote for adults so I went to listen to him in the Children’s Room and found out he has a children’s picture book! A panel of people spoke  – Billy, the head of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, the illustrator and the book publishers. It was explained that on the 25th Anniversary of the Center for the Book, Billy wrote an 18 line poem about a boy, a boat, and a book. Then it was suggested that this poem should be a picture book. Now it is, called Voyage! The poem points out the magic of transformation that occurs when we read. Billy reminded us that Emily DIckenson said it best: “There is no frigate like a book.” If you don’t know Billy Collins’ work, I recommend his TED talk. I also love his poem about turning 70, called Cheerios.

Rita Williams-Garcia: She is known for her HF YA novel called One Crazy Summer. She started out by saying she learned at an early age the importance of letters because her mom sang her the ABCs in such a way that the letters seems to jump. Tanks to illustrators, she could “read” books at age 2. During her childhood, she loved making up stories. She would write 500 words/day and pay her older sister $.25 to use the typewriter to type up her stories. “It never occurred to me to become an author – I was one! she said she thought growing up. Her newest novel, Gone Crazy comes out in October.

Jack Gantos – I learned SO much from him!! He handwrites all his stories. He spends lots of time sketching out the places where his stories occur and then writes about what he sketches. After hearing him speak, I really want to read his Joey series.

Tim Tingle – I learned SO much from this author, as well! He is a Choctaw Indian and a storyteller. He now devotes his time to gathering Indian stories and sharing them. I bought 2 of his books: How I Became a Ghost and Walking the Choctaw Road. He said the two things you need to be an author are 1) to READ lots and 2) to know Shakespeare! (He reminded me that I really need to spend time reading and understanding Shakespeare because I never really have done this). He ended by saying you can tell a person traveling is a book lover if they have 2 books with them – the one they are reading and one to read when that is done – because their worst nightmare is to not have a book to read!

Jacqueline Woodson – I had pre-ordered Brown Girl Dreamer and it arrived at my house on Thursday and I finished it Friday night and brought it to see if she’d sign it. She was sitting 3 rows in front of me just before starting her talk so I went and asked and she kindly signed the book for me saving me from waiting in line! She explained that after her grandmother dies and then her mother died suddenly after that, she wanted to write a memoir. She felt there would be a point where there would be no one to ask about earlier times. She talked to her aunt in Ohio and her cousins in SC. Her memoir includes “all my details that made me Jacqueline WOodson, the writer. Her tips for being a writer: Follow Katherine Paterson’s advise and spend BIC time – butt in the chair time! Spend time reading the genre you are writing. It helps her to read her writing out loud.

Judith Viorst – She said she started writing poems in the 2nd grade, using sharpened pencils and sending them into magazines but only got rejections. FInally, in her 30s, she got published! Now, at age 83, she has two new books out – an Alexander book and another called Two Boys Boo. She told the audience all about the movie coming out in October based on Alexander. Jennifer Garner plays her in the movie! Her advise for writers is: Be serious about writing and write every day. Read lots to know all the different ways a story can go and all the topics that stories can be. An audience member called her one of the Wise Woman of our Culture and asked her what helps her be wise. She humbly thanked this audience member and said: Books help me, Poetry helps me, my group of women I regularly have met with for the past 30 years help me. “Everything I bump into in my life helps me be wise.”

Eric Litwin – author and singer of the Pete the Cat books had the room moving and singing during his session, the last I attended! His website is a must see! Go to view all his books, especially his newest about the nut family! And also to hear his songs!! Great for any age! I try to follow Pete’s motto when something goes wrong – not to cry and instead, keep singing along because it is “all good”!!!

If you missed the Book Festival, check soon at www.loc.gov to see videos from the day, as all the presentations were filmed and many will be posted to the Library of Congress website.