NCTE Conference

15171266_10211712740280568_8287699116376553829_n.jpgDid you notice that there were NO ENGLISH TEACHERS at school for days and days? That’s because they were all in Atlanta meeting authors and trading the secrets they have come up with for getting YOU to write.

See if you can find me, and authors Chris Crowe, Jon Scieszka,and M.T. Anderson in this photo, along with student teachers about to start teaching in a school near you, and Dr. Joan Kaywell, USF professor and champion of YA literature. Hint: I am not the bald guy.

Summer sure went fast!

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Teachers and students, you are either in school with new back packs, sharp pencils and great lesson plans, or shopping last-minute for school supplies and putting away your flip-flops for the sensible shoes that will let you stay on your feet all day.

I have had a summer of flip-flops, and family, and vegetable gardening, and playing lots and lots of music.

And I finished a new novel which has everything but a title.

It is a YA set in Manhattan and on the Wakulla River in North Florida–and it is incredibly romantic. If only I could come up with the right title. So far the only word floating in my brain is “river,” and that is not enough!

I guess all of us are in the season of homework! Mine is just coming up with that title. It’s harder than it looks.

Italy!

IMG_9922_edited-2My sister said, would you like a free trip to Italy?

I said yes.

Then she made the same offer to my brother, Chris.

He said yes too, so Claudia took us to Italy for twelve days.

We stayed in Vicenza, which is near Venice. We saw snowy mountains, men skulling gondolas around canals, we ate gelato and more pasta than you can shake a stick at (why would you shake a stick at pasta?).

Claudia and I practiced our very bad Italian. My brother only speaks English and German. Fortunately many Italians speak English and German too. Not to mention Italian.

This photo is one of my favorites from the trip. The stone lions are guarding a fountain in Bergamo. I think the dog is pretending to be a lion too.

If your sister ever says, would you like a free trip to Italy? say yes.

The Front Porch Library on TV!

WFSU segment on FPLSo many of the characters I write about begin as real kids in my real neighborhood. I get to know most of them because of The Front Porch Library, the very local kid’s lending library that now fills all of what was my dad’s house until he passed away.

Our Tallahassee public television station, WFSU, did a piece about the library for their “Local Routes” show. Click here to watch the segment and meet some of our kids and volunteers.

Authors in Missouri!

12805856_10153575041653786_7891030413469590644_nTruman State University gathered a fine mess of authors (including me) and then brought in busloads of kids so we could tell them about our best-job-in the world as writers–not to mention John Parra, our one illustrator.

Okay, so who are all these authors?

Back row, left to right: Angela Cervantes author of “Gaby Lost and Found,” a volunteer whose name I forget (so sorry), Mike Graf, who writes beautiful books about the national parks, John Parra, our lone illustrator, me, and Maryrose Wood, author of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.

Front row, left to right: Michelle Houts (Miss Red Shoes) author of “Kammie on First,” Shelley Pearsall, author of “Trouble Don’t Last,” Mary Casanova, who writes “American Girl” books and many others, Gennifer Choldenko, author of the “Al Capone” novels, and Phil Bildner whose latest picture book is “Marvelous Cornelius” set in New Orleans circa Hurricane Katrina.

I wish you all could meet these folks–they put out great books, but they are also funny and boy can they eat a lot of brownies!

Visiting Tampa Prep.

AFogelin-1I have been on the road a lot lately visiting St. Stephens Episcopal School, Shorecrest Prep, Tampa Prep, and Callahan Middle School.

Whew!

I did a ton of workshops and met great students and media specialists everywhere I went.

Carole Holway, the media specialist at Tampa Prep sent me a link to their post about my visit to their school, and here it is.

Click it if you want to see me and a whole bunch of young writers in action!

Something cool from Gilchrist Elementary.

Gilchrist Crane

 

I visit the fourth-graders at Gilchrist Elementary School every year. I load my props (shoes, assorted knickknacks and photos) on a squeaky media cart and travel from room to room encouraging students to create characters and plots, and giving them a taste of what it is like to be an author.

We do a lot more than imagine and talk. I have kids not just describe how a character walks, but have them demonstrate that walk (I had a great gangsta walk from a girl whose character was named J.D. Jordan).

I show the students my own fourth grade diary. You can start writing at any time–even in the fourth grade. And then I always say, “And if you opened this diary I would have to kill you.”

Why would I want them to know how boring I was, or what a rotten speller I used to be?

You may be wondering about that crane photo at the top of this post. What is it? An art project?

See the green in the background? That’s grass. And every spot of color is a Gilchrist student or teacher wearing clothing in carefully-chosen colors.

Yup. You’re looking at a thousand-kid-and-teacher crane. Wow!

 

 

What’s up in the neighborhood?

Neighborhood Dragon Parade.

Goodness, it’s been a while since I put up anything new. Why? Things have been pretty darned busy around the neighborhood where most of my books are set.

On Saturday we had a block party featuring a bike parade. As we see it, no bike parade would be complete without a dragon. Meg, in the white shirt is the creator of the dragon.

While parading, I sometimes held up the head of the dragon, sometimes the middle, and the bikes whizzed all around that slow moving creature.

After, we ate chili cooked by the kids of the Front Porch Library.

Tip for future writers: sometimes your very best characters are inspired by the folks right next door–especially if they are the kind who hang out with dragons.

Back to school.

Matthew at the institute

I hope your summer was great, that you swam a lot, hung out, maybe even read a book or two.

Wonder what writers do in the summer?

I don’t know what those other writers do, but I grew a lot of tomatoes, did projects with the kids in my neighborhood and hung out with the boy in the picture who seems to be inventing the universe. That’s my grandson, Matthew, and today is his first day of kindergarten.

And I sat at this desk and wrote. Writers don’t really get the whole summer off (but that’s okay, we like our jobs). I’m working on a new book–a ghost story, and getting ready to visit schools in Miami and St. Pete, so I guess I’m back at school too.

Teachers, please consider an author visit, either in person or virtual. An author visit makes books come to life. It proves that behind each book is a real person.

My specialty is getting kids excited about writing by doing innovative exercises either orally or in writing workshops.

Check out the details!