Monday, September 23, 2013

Busy Teen Readers, Write Four Reviews

School as been in full swing for a month and a half, and new books have been pouring in from the publishers. The students have been ecstatic with the new arrivals. Here are four reviews of the newest works from some established authors: open here to read the teen's reviews

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Authors Han and Vivian Tell Tales of Friendship and Collaboration

On Thursday at 9AM, the sophomores and juniors gathered in the common area to hear how authors Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian became friends, writing buddies and eventually collaborators. They met and became friends when they attended the New School in New York City where they studied writing for children. One of their teachers was editor and author, David Levithan. I thought that was way cool. 

When they began their writing careers, both were living in New York. They would meet at a coffee shop, write and trade pages for critiquing. They knew that having an objective reader was key to becoming better writers. Then Siobhan moved to Pittsburgh to teach and write, but they remained friends. They believe that they have different strengths with Jenny excelling in character development and Siobhan at telling a story. They decided it would be fun to work on something to together to play on their strengths and the Burn for Burn series was born. 

They spent years developing the concept together and planned from the onset that it would be a trilogy that had hints in the first two books of what was to come in the finale. I asked them why the characters were so unlikable in the first book, and they explained that yes their characters have flaws, but what the reader perceives about the characters in the first book will change as the story unfolds in the subsequent novels. The books are told from the perspective of three characters. Both Jenny and Siobhan had a hand in each character's story. The reader does not get the feel that two very different authors wrote the books--the works are very cohesive. 

One of the most interesting stories that they told was about the book covers. Usually, authors have very little say on the cover art. Sometimes the author does not even have veto power. In this case, three models were hired to portray the main characters, and a house was rented in the Hamptons on Long Island, NY, and both authors were invited to help make their books come to life. Pictures were taken for all three covers at the same photo shoot. 

One of the students asked them if they ever had any disagreements while writing together. They laughed and said that yes that certainly does happen. Then they told the story of how they disagreed about the outcome of a fight between two of the characters. They began to argue with each other from the point of view of the character that they were defending. Luckily, that was resolved, and they figured out a way to do the scene and not lose the integrity of each character's personality. 

The day ended with two juniors interviewing the authors. They are going to write an article for the October 2nd edition of SLJTeen. You can visit this blog later to find a link to their article. 

Thanks goes to Judith Lafitte at Octavia Books in New Orleans and publishers, Simon & Schuster, for sharing these fun-loving authors with my students. You can find lots more pictures of the event on the library website here. Open here to watch a video where Jenny and Siobhan talk about how they met and give more details about their book. The series has its own Tumblr page, find it here

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lots of YA Authors Visit Town

Lauren Myracle and Michael Buckley with their newest books, and the Loud Librarian on the right

Ya Authors: Lauren Myracle, Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Take a Video Tour of the New PFTSTA Library

There are still some details left to be completed in the new library, but it has been open and running full speed for the last few weeks. There have been author visits, classes taught, books checked out, studying done, and meetings held among the many activities held in the space since the library first opened on August 22nd. On Thursday there will be the first faculty meeting ever held in the school's library. 

I created this video so you could see the space for yourself. The president of Bookmarked gives you the grand tour. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Two Amazing Authors in One Week

Susan Cooper is on the right 
Students pose with Walter Dean Myers on the screen

PFTSTA hit the jackpot this week, when Susan Cooper visited the 6th and 7th grade students to talk about her newest work, Ghost Hawk, and Walter Dean Myers skyped with members of the high school book group and other interested high school students. Both Walter and Susan have been in the writing biz for a long time. Both of them see no retirement in their futures as they love writing and plan to keep at it for as long as possible.

Susan's newest book is set on and near the island where she lives in Massachusetts. She says that the island hasn't changed much since the ice age. Europeans have been in America for only 400 years, and the Native Americans have been living in the area for thousands of years. When the Europeans first arrived, there was more friendship between the two groups, but by the late 1600s there was an horrific war. She wanted to explore why this might have happened, and what would life be like if there was a friendship between two characters from each side. Susan came to us courtesy of her publisher, Margaret K. McElderry Books and Simon and Schuster, as well as local bookstore, Octavia Books of New Orleans.

Eighteen months ago, I received word that I had won a skype visit with the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Walter Dean Myers. At the time, I was pleased, but I didn't really think that September 11, 2013 would ever arrive. It did. I invited all the members of the high school book group as well as any other high school students who were interested to join us. There were about 30 students who attended the skype. Walter was gracious and funny and seemed to know just what to say to entertain the students. He explained that he loves writing so much that it never feels like a job to him. One of the students asked what motivates him everyday, and he said that he is as motivated to write as you would be motivated to eat ice cream. He has a writing routine that he follows diligently. Even when he travels to London at the end of this month for five weeks, he plans to write his five pages a day from 5AM until 9AM. Then he will wake up his wife and go see the sights. He tries to see as much theater as possible when he is there along with visiting friends and the sightseeing. He emphasized the importance of finding something that you love to do. 

The new Promothean Board has a great sound system, we could hear the author loud and clear
You can find more pictures of both events on the library website here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Two Teen Mega-Fans Write Reviews of New Books

In the September 4th edition of SLJTeen, two teens write about authors that they adore. Fred got to meet Gina Damico, author of Rogue, when she visited PFTSTA in the fall of 2012. He was jumping up and down all over the library when the third book in her series arrived. You can read his review to see if it met his expectations. Destiny loooooooves Rainbow Rowell, and she eagerly grabbed Fangirl when she saw the ARC in one of the boxes from the publishers. Read her review to find out if her love affair with all books by Rowell continues. Paris writes about After Eden by Helen Douglas. You can find all three reviews right here

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Haddix and McMann Energized the 6th and 7th Grade Students

The happy librarian is in the middle flanked by Haddix on the left and McMann on the right 
On September 3rd which was the Tuesday that we returned from the Labor Day holiday, we had the first author event ever in the new library. For this event, we were lucky to score two authors, Margaret Peterson Haddix and Lisa McMann. They are touring together because the newest books in their series came out the same day, Risked and Island of Fire respectively. It happened that their visit to our school was their first stop on this tour. The two authors have toured together before, so they were very comfortable with speaking together. I think that we hit the jackpot. The kids were thrilled with them and have been clamoring to check out their books ever since they left us. 

Margaret began with a book trailer. Then she explained how her book Among the Hidden was not suppose to be a series, but readers kept asking her what happened to Luke that she decided to continue the story with six more books which became the Shadow Children series. She got the initial idea for this series when she and her husband were deciding to have a third child, which she didn't, but this discussion of the third child was the premise of the series. When she finished this series, readers kept asking her what her next book was going to be. She was stumped and when her family went on a two week vacation, she fell asleep in the airplane. She woke up confused not remembering where she was. This got her to thinking about some children not knowing where they were, and so her Missing series began. The sixth graders have been reading Among the Hidden in English over the last several years, so we had a lot of Haddix fans in the audience. 

McMann also had a book trailer to share. I thought it was interesting that she too got inspiration from her children for her books. Her two children were very involved in the arts in their school in Arizona. One day they came home with a letter explaining how the arts programs were going to be eliminated due to budget cuts. Her kids were extremely disappointed. This gave her the idea for a world where the kids who are creative and artistic are unwanted and are put to death. Her series which is also the name of the first book, The Unwanteds, tells of a group of artistic kids who were saved but must live in hiding because they were deemed unwanted. When she began this series, she didn't know how to write about magic. Her own children helped her design the rules for the magic in the books including the paintbrush that could be used to turn yourself invisible or the paperclips that could be used as weapons. 

7th graders
Both authors encouraged the students to write their own stories and take the time to express their creativity through writing. We want to thank, Judith and Tom at Octavia Books  as well as Simon and Schuster Publishers for helping to bring these authors to our school. You can find lots more pictures of this event on the PFTSTA library website here

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Summer Award Finally Makes it to District Website

Lisa and I won our awards from ISTE in June, but we were just recently acknowledged on the website for the Jefferson Parish Public Schools. You can read all about it here.

All the 2013 ISTE award winners are pictured here with the president, Kecia Ray, standing in front.
You can find me standing on the second row, second from the right.

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