The Distance to Home, Jenn Bishop's book, celebrated its book birthday on June 28, 2016. In this story a family is trying to form a new sense of normal after the death of their oldest daughter and Quinnen's sister. Baseball is integral to Quinnen's sense of who she. Will her love of this game help her when she needs it the most?
On July 12, 2016 Abby Cooper's title Sticks & Stones was released into the world. Magic blends with reality in this story of Elyse, a twelve-year-old girl with an unusual condition. When people call her names or speak about her, those words appear on her arms and legs. Middle school is tricky as it is. How will Elyse navigate through the school year?
The more you know about these two authors and their books, the more you will want their titles on your TBR (to-be-read) piles or, in my case; you'll be moving them to the top. Both Jenn Bishop and Abby Cooper have worked as a librarian which, in my humble opinion, is pretty great. Today they shine the spotlight on teachers who made a difference in their writing lives.
Looking back on the teachers who inspired us---
a back to school giveaway with Abby Cooper and Jenn Bishop
I first saw my name in print when I was eight years old. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Huntley, had submitted a poem I'd written to an anthology of work by young writers, and it had been accepted.
I couldn't believe it. Me? Published? I'd always liked to write, but I never expected anything like this would happen. But Mrs. Huntley expected it. She believed in it. When I entered third grade and proclaimed that I wanted to be an author, she didn't laugh or give me one of those "okaaay" kinds of looks or anything else. Instead, she gave me a journal and asked me to write in it every day. She read books like Frindle, the one that turned me into a reader. She gave choices. We could show what we learned in all kinds of ways. Presenting, drawing, writing, interpretive dance, you name it. She supported, she nurtured, she encouraged. And she took all of it a step further, and she made things happen.
The best part of being published (besides, you know, being published), was realizing what you could do if you believed in someone or something the way Mrs. Huntley believed in me. I wondered what could happen if I believed in myself and my writing that same way. Now, almost twenty years later, with the publication of Sticks & Stones, I know.
And now, straight out of the Anthology of Poetry by Young American, 1998 edition, a poem by eight-year-old Abby:
Rosemary Jane, I do complain
You always watch TV
And never pay attention to me
Your gym teacher says
When you should be listening to him
You are watching the basketball rim.
The principal says when he asks you to talk,
You just pretend you have chicken pox.
Oh, Rosemary Jane, you always watch that darn TV
And never look at me.
Oh, Rosemary Jane, did I tell you about the farm?
The farmer said you caused so much harm.
Oh, Rosemary Jane, I do complain.
As a thirteen-year-old, I loved babysitting, especially reading to the kids. They knew that if I was putting them to bed, there'd be some serious bedtime reading. My favorite was Jon Sciezka's Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and I'd need a glass of water to get through the whole thing, but every time it was worth it. So when my seventh grade English teacher Mrs. Haggerty announced a writing contest where the prize was to visit the elementary school and read to the kids, I was game. Plus, it felt like the kind of thing, a real author did.
Now, I'd never met a real author before, but I was always a stickler for realism. That meant my book had to have Library of Congress cataloging sub-headings, a copyright date, an actual NYC-based publisher, author bio, etc. The contest didn't say your book had to be a part of a preexisting series, but I decided mine was and adhered to the form of the American Girl books. Each character had a Changes For... book, so mine was Changes For Hannah. Each American Girl book had ten chapters, so mine had ten chapters. It is entirely possible that I thought Pleasant Company might offer to buy my book, publish it, and make a doll of Hannah. (What can I say? I was entrepreneurial.)
I probably don't have to say it, but none of the other kids in my grade took the contest nearly as seriously, and I was among those chosen to read to the elementary students. Mrs. Haggerty's kind notes on all my work---even when it was clear I had "borrowed" plotlines from my favorite books---and encouragement bolstered my sometimes iffy middle school ego. Importantly, she taught me that successful writing has a target audience, something I've always tried to keep in the front of my mind as a writer for children.
As a special thank-you to the incredible teachers and librarians who inspire future authors every day, three winners will receive a signed copy of
The Distance to Home and Sticks & Stones.
Enter by Thursday, September 8, 2016.