Celebrating Stories (Part 2): A Terrific Tuesday at IRA 2012

Tuesday morning at the International Reading Association started bright and early for me. I don’t usually have trouble jumping out of bed in the morning, but I was especially excited for breakfast. Can you see why?

The theme for the Scholastic Book Clubs breakfast, “My Favorite Teacher,”  made this an easy talk to write because I’ve had so many great teachers who helped make me into a writer. I loved listening to the other authors, too. Mem Fox told us about her teacher who read aloud to them: “”It’s the hearing of the words that’s kept them alive in my mind,” Mem said, and then she read her new picture book aloud as all 550 of us sat spellbound.  My pictures from this breakfast didn’t turn out too well because the ballroom was so big, but here’s a slightly fuzzy Mem Fox speaking. (In real life, she is lovely and smart and funny and not fuzzy at all.)


Author/illustrator Peter Reynolds told the audience how he doodled his way through school and shared the story of the math teacher who noticed his doodling, called him on it, and challenged him to illustrate concepts in his math textbook for the class. I loved this – when teachers connect what they’re teaching to what kids love, so many connections are made.

Rita Williams-Garcia shared a story of her favorite teacher, who was the inspiration for a teacher-character in her upcoming sequel to ONE CRAZY SUMMER.

Then it was my turn.

I snapped this photo to post on Twitter just as Scholastic’s John Mason was introducing me. I’m sure he was thinking, “Hey! Hey!! Put that phone down, will you, and get ready?!”

I talked about four of my favorite teachers (I never was very good at test questions where you were only allowed to choose one answer) who understood what was important about stories and writing and nurtured those passions in me.  And then I shared my poem, “Revolution for the Tested,” because with so many schools slogging through standardized tests this spring, I thought it would be a welcome reminder for teachers fighting to keep sharing stories with students and honoring their voices every day.

A lot of teachers from the breakfast have emailed me to request that poem.  (If you’re one of them, thank you so much for the kind words; you made my day.)  Here is the link to “Revolution for the Tested.”

Right after my talk, my editor Anamika  rushed me off to the convention center for my EYE OF THE STORM signing at Walker Bloomsbury.This is what the IRA Exhibits Hall looks like from the food court above. It’s enormous!

I was sad that I missed James Dashner and Henry Winkler speaking at the Scholastic Book Clubs breakfast but happy to meet fellow Walker/Bloomsbury author Leslie Margolis and connect with writer-friend friend Greg Neri at the exhibit hall.


Here are Beth Eller and Linette Kim, the fantastic school & library folks from Walker-Bloomsbury. Every time I’ve ever seen Beth and Linette at one of these events, they’re smiling, no matter how many boxes they’ve unpacked or how busy their schedules have been.

I got to see author-friend Lisa Schroeder for a few minutes, too!  She stopped by to say hi on her way to the Simon & Schuster booth to sign her gorgeous YA novel, THE DAY BEFORE.

My last scheduled IRA book signing on Tuesday was for REAL REVISION: AUTHORS’ STRATEGIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENT WRITERS  at the Stenhouse booth.  So many of my teacher-friends from Twitter dropped by to chat about writing!

After my morning convention events, I rushed back to the hotel to check out and hop in a car bound for Naperville (Anamika, thank you SO much for bringing lunch!) to spend the afternoon at May Watts Elementary School.

I showed the students my writer’s notebook and asked how many have notebooks of their own. So many hands went up!  This notebook (or one just like it) comes with me everywhere, and it’s where I write down new ideas, thoughts on the book I’m working on, and interesting things that I see or hear in my travels. It’s where I try out ideas for my works-in-progress, make outlines, scribble graphic organizers and character sketches. And it’s where I take notes when I’m doing research…like the day I went to a local marsh and kissed a frog (just like my character, Marty McGuire!)  so that I could describe what it was like in the book.

We talked a lot about writing and reading. Students shared lots of their favorite titles with me, and I jotted them down in my notebook to add to my to-read list.  I signed what felt like a zillion books for some terrific fourth and second graders, many of whom are enthusiastic writers themselves.



I’m always excited when I’m also able to do a school visit on one of my conference trips, and this was just an amazing way to end my time in Chicago.  Thanks, IRA and May Watts Elementary School, for an amazing couple of days around the Windy City!

1 Reply on “Celebrating Stories (Part 2): A Terrific Tuesday at IRA 2012

  1. I’m sorry I didn’t make it to IRA. Looks like it was fantastic (as I would’ve expected).

    Thanks for sharing the info about your visit to the elementary school in Naperville. The students’ enthusiasm for their writer’s notebooks brought a smile to my face.