2017 August Writing Institute – highlights of the Keynotes

“Why was this Institute so great?” my family asked. It really did feel like the BEST one I’ve attended and this was my 12th Summer Institute so I have many to compare. After reflecting, I think it was the balance of intense learning in my small group sessions with sheer entertainment at the end of each day. “It was because of the daily ending Keynotes! I ended each day listening to amazing storytellers share and all of them did it humbly out of love for teachers. I felt appreciated and so entertained!!”

Tuesday: Author, Katherine Paterson

FullSizeRender 3Favorite Things She Said:
~ This speech is my thank you to all of you teachers. You do the hardest work without much applause.
~ I write to do what the Secret Garden did for me.
~ Rather than events, my stories are the emotional memory of my childhood.
~ Reading books allowed me to eavesdrop on another’s soul.
~ When I was signing books at a prison where inmates had read Gilly, I asked if any had been in foster care. ALL raised their hands.
~ When signing an inmate’s book, he said, “It’s not for me. It’s for my daughter, Angel.”, I knew now her inspiration for naming the main character in Same Stuff As Stars, Angel!

** I closely read Same Stuff As Stars this summer and worked to understand the characters and their motivations. At the end, I pushed myself to write long about possible themes explored in the book. I so enjoyed Katherine Paterson reading aloud from this book during her keynote. If you haven’t read it, DO. If you haven’t seen the movie, The Great Gilly Hopkins, DO. There is a cameo appearance by Mrs. Paterson and Kathy Bates plays a superb Maime Trotter!

Wednesday – Poet and Playwright, Daniel Beaty

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As I watched Daniel perform, I truly felt like I was watching a genius. He performed the beginning of the one-man play he wrote called Emergency where he plays 43 different characters/voices. It is about a slave ship raises out of the Hudson in present day NYC! I was mesmerized as his voice changed from the news announcer to a 74 yr old grandma to a 14 year old girl and her boyfriend. And through all these characters, a strong message came through! If you ever have the chance to see Daniel perform live, do it! Until then, here are some links:

You can view Part 1 here as performed on YouTube

He also is know for this poem Knock-Knock that was made into a picture book.

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Knock-Knock performance on YouTube

Run Black Man Run performance on YouTube

Dance Mama Dance performance on YouTube

Seeing him live was a treat. Hearing his childhood story was inspiring. “I was saved by my 3rd grade teacher who went above and beyond for me. He clearly is the author of his own story and he inspired me to think the same and to believe we can transform pain to power. To learn more about him, go to his website.

Thursday, Storyteller and Author, Carmen Agra Deedy


My favorite quote from her story came right as she, as a 5th grader, was bullied into pulling the fire alarm as a 5th grade class prank. She said, “The first five minutes of sun is awesome.” !!

This was my fourth time hearing Carmen and it was so entertaining. She really knows how to tell a great story!

My notes from seeing her at the 2011 . National Book Festival

My notes when I first discovered Carmen in the summer of 2011 and the link to her TEDtalk

Not part of the Institute but occurring in NYC:

Thursday, Author Kwame Alexander presented his newest book, Solo at Bank Street Auditorium and I sat in the front row as his guitarist, Randy, his co-writer, Mary Hess and he read aloud with music in the background. It was so excellent to listen to him read the poems that tell his newest story and also get a sense of how his personal life is weaved into this story.

When talking about the music in the book, he said he came to love rock and roll in High School. He admitted that he wasn’t very cool. “But the music helped us feel cool.”

He met Mary, his co-writer, three and a half years ago. She is in his writing group. She suggested writing a book set in Kenya at first. Then it became a book about Ghana. They both wrote and wrote. Then, like a puzzle, they put the pieces together.

Randy is a retired English teacher. He asked to come on the Booked book tour. In the evening, they would sit and write songs together! Click HERE to see the music video that goes with the book. 

Because I was part of his Launch Team (receiving the book before its August 1st release, I was invited to his private party. It was held at the Langston Hughes House in Harlem. By evening, my phone was out of power so I have no pictures. But click HERE to see me the next morning return to the house and recite my favorite Langston Hugh poem.

YouTube video  – Kwame about writing SOLO

Kwame’s website

I’ve always thought that writers are ROCK STARS!! This 2017 August Writing Institute allowed me to experience four rock stars!! NO wonder this felt like the BEST TCRWP Institute yet!


One thought on “2017 August Writing Institute – highlights of the Keynotes

  1. I also attended the August 2017 Writing Institute but as a first time participant. It truly was a life changing experience, both on a personal and professional level. The keynote speakers were inspiring and I felt grateful just to share the space with them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Namaste.


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