#Kavanaugh and YA Lit: Reach for “Wrecked”

Are your high school students talking about the #KavanaughConfirmation hearings? They should be. The issues of body autonomy, toxic male culture, drinking (and marijuana use) and how it affects sexual consent are critical to their lives and their futures. If you were to assemble a stack of Young Adult contemporary literature and pulled one out of the stack Jenga-style, you’d be almost guaranteed to find a red Solo cup mentioned. Why? Because alcohol-fueled parties are the reality in the lives of many high school students. That’s not to say that everyone drinks but everyone is affected by the drinking.

Therefore, when your students ask you about the hearings, don’t shy away from the news. Use this critical national current event as a teachable moment and reach for literature. Literature is a discussion starting point that takes the events of the day away from the partisanship and allows students to see a moment in time from various points of view as in the beautifully crafted book Wrecked, by Maria Padian (Algonquin Young Readers).

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Told not by the victim and accused in a college sexual assault allegation, but by their friends Haley and Richard, the reader is both caught in the swirling tempest of heightened emotions and also able to pick apart the threads of each argument that makes the storm. We see the parents, the fictional MacCallum college administration, the campus organizations and each response to the allegations and investigation of the night in question. In her 2016 interview with Book Riot Padian says:

“I want readers to experience Wrecked the way we experience all reports of sexual assault: from the other side of a closed door. I want them to experience the discomfort of thinking they know what happened, then seeing from another point of view and having their assumptions challenged. Repeatedly.”

While Wrecked is set on a college campus it is a crucial read for teens. Says Padian:

“Young people are sexually active long before they reach college. Exposure to issues surrounding consent needs to happen long before they are set loose on a campus! Wrecked dramatizes the transition, from high school to college, when young people are sorting out who they are now that they have left the confines of their childhood homes. It’s a crucial period, and would interest teens on the cusp of that change, as well as those who have recently entered that new world and are currently navigating it.”

Make Wrecked and these other fine books available to your high school students and children. And for the love of all that is holy…these books should be read by girls AND boys.

Two of my other favorite YAs on this topic:

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson

Moxie, Jennifer Mathieau

And eleven others in this Bustle list of YA Books that tackle Sexual Assault and Rape Culture.

And these nonfiction titles:

Good and Mad, Rebecca Traister

Girls and Sex, Peggy Orenstein

Our children are watching and reading. Tell me in the comments what books on this subject made a difference to you.

 

 

Audiofile 2016 Sync Program for Teens Launches Today!

This is the time of year where teens are stretched to breaking. The kids I coach have that crazed look from studying for numerous AP tests in addition to dealing with their school work, sports, and extracurricular activities. My own pair of teens is at school from 7am to 8pm some days, followed by hours of homework, and have a full month of evening spring music performances. Finals are around the corner and every time I remind a teen about the importance of a full night’s sleep I get an eye roll and not-in-this-lifetime scoff. In my opinion teens should take a well-deserved break during summer break.  

BUT…

You’ve seen the lists of required for reading for teens? You’ve heard of the “summer slide?” It seems that there is no rest for the weary.

Enter the Audiofile Magazine and OverDrive App free audiobook program. It makes summer reading fun and free. That’s right, free. Throughout the summer, I get text messages reminding me about the two new audiobooks that are available for the week. One book is usually newer and is paired with an older book. Together, the books explore specific literary themes or content. The titles change every Thursday at 7pm. Here’s a link to explore the titles for the 2016 season.

From the Sync website:

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+. Running May 5th – August 17th 2016, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week (30 titles) – pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. In 2014, 26 titles were given away over 13 weeks. In 2015, 28 titles were given away over 14 weeks.

The OverDrive App is available on many different devices and platforms. There’s information about downloading the app here. Once you download OverDrive, the books go with you everywhere. I found that the books were perfect for summer road trips and even had some driveway moments where no one wanted to stop the book so we sat in the car. The dog got longer walks too.

This week books are VIVIAN APPLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD, by Katie Coyle and THE GREAT TENNESSEE MONKEY TRIAL, by Peter Goodchild.

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See the descriptions and more at the Sync Website, download OverDrive, and sign up for your Sync text messages today!

A tired teen*  will thank you.

*Also recommended for YA Writers, Parents, Teachers, Librarians and any other Young Adult Literature lover. May cause intense focus, inability to complete chores, loss of writing time. Chocolate sometimes eases symptoms. See your library youth media specialist any of these symptoms persist past Labor Day.

 

HigherEd.com Salary Survey

Schmooze with a bunch of writers for a long enough time and you are bound to hear this: “I’m not in it for the money.”

I too, subscribe to that belief. My goal, however, is to be able to write and pay my bills, and buy gifts for my family, and pay for a few writing retreats or travel (research!) opportunities each year. When I dream, I let myself imagine six figure multi-book deals and there’s nothing wrong with putting that out into the universe. Realistically,  I know that even if sweet advances come, they will be inconsistent and unpredictable. There has to be some sort of day job that controls the income.

For many writers, that day job is teaching. Some writers teach K-12, others teach in higher ed. Higheredjobs.com recently published its annual salary survey and I thought I’d share it here for any interested party. If you are working in a Tenure/or Tenure Track position, I’d love to know if these numbers seem accurate. I’d also love to know more about the actual availability of Tenure/Tenure-Track positions. I spend a lot of time on HigherEdJobs.com and on the AWP Jobs Board. If you’ve been on a hiring committee, what makes a candidate stand out? Are positions listed as open really open to the general public? Is there usually an inside candidate?

Happy Writing.

Five Reasons You Should Hire Me to Write the Curriculum Guide for Your New Book!

Many teachers are meeting this week to put last minute touches on their fall curriculum. Some will use the same novels and picture books they’ve used in the past, but some will be on the lookout for new books that will excite their students, shake up their usual plans, and meet Common Core requirements. While teachers enjoy creating their own curriculum, various meetings, new requirements, and weeks of standardized testing often send them looking for prepared activities. When you provide teachers with a Teacher/Reader Guide, they are more likely to buy a class or reading group set of your book to go with it.

Here are five reasons you should hire me to write the curriculum guide for your children’s or young adult book.

  1. I see curriculum creation from both sides of the equation. I have an Masters in Education with a concentration in Teaching and Learning and over twelve years of classroom experience. I have an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts where I focussed on Writing for Children and Young Adults. My novels are under representation and my poetry has been published by national magazines.
  2. I listen well and love collaboration. If you already have a vision for your guide, I’ll listen and give you my honest feedback on how your ideas will work in the classroom. I am an idea person. If you’re not sure what should go into the guide, don’t worry. I love collaboration and will work with you to brainstorm the best guide possible.
  3. I use InDesign, the design industry standard, to create unique, clean, and artistic designs for your guide. With the cooperation of your publisher, I can include design elements and illustrations from your book to create a final document that is consistent for marketing purposes. The final document comes to you as a PDF that anyone can access from a website, that you can send in an email, or that you can print to give away at book signings and class/library visits.
  4. I am a critical reader. One of the most interesting comments I’ve had from clients is that I saw their book as a reader and that they were surprised and excited by the questions I developed. I bring a perspective and distance that is difficult to find for those who’ve been involved in the creation of the book . 
  5. I am experienced. You’ll find testimonials from past clients on my Creative Curriculum page at this website. I’m happy to give you reference contacts as well. Click on the PDF links to see some of the guides I’ve already created. You’ll find my fees & services PDF as well. 

I want to create a guide that gets your book in front of students. Please contact me at annajboll [at] gmail [dot] com. I’d love to speak with you!

Oak Hill Young Writers Inspire

Last night I spoke at the annual awards ceremony and author’s reception for the Oak Hill Young Writers’ Club in Sabattus, Maine. I knew that the event would give me a chance to brush up on my public speaking skills before my award reception Sunday evening. I knew that the event would give me a chance to see what my Creative Bookings clients were experiencing. I knew the event would be my chance to inspire a group of kids who were interested in the thing that I love most.

What I didn’t realize is how much they would inspire me.

The Oak Hill Young Writers’ Club started with a handful of children at a single school and have since grown to one hundred children throughout the the school district. The teachers and volunteers leading the charge are passionate about children and passionate about writing. They see cuts in school budgets year after year and have “band[ed] together to become a foundation of support for [the] children.” Through business and community donations, volunteers, and the kindness of local authors, they have focussed their energy on making writing appealing and cool for students through club meetings, writing contests, and scholarships.

After the speakers, I was honored to watch the attending young authors receive their t-shirts and certificates of participation for the year. The contest winners received their prizes. Their smiles, and the pride on their parent’s faces, lit up the room. In that moment, I was reminded of the pure joy of writing without the expectation of publication or money or awards.

I wish for you all a day of writing without ego.

In Defense of a Liberal Arts Degree

This morning, LinkedIn sent me its “Top News for Anna” aggregation. The topics they tend to send me range from education, to jobs, to publishing. I clicked on the following– Why a BA is Now a Ticket to A Job in a Coffee Shop. The article includes quick research, a few graphs, and some spotty assumptions, but I found the reader comments most interesting.

Readers of the Daily Beast are well-spoken, and they don’t hold back. Comments tend to break down in favor of or against the opinions expressed in the original article– then there are the tangential arguments. The tangent that piqued my interest this morning was STEM education vs. Liberal Arts training.

STEM folks generally argue that the degreed students working as baristas have an English, sociology, or some other humanities-based degree. If they had only spent their loans on getting an engineering or some other tech-based degree they’d have a job. These commenters opine that the reason we hire so many international workers is because well-trained American’s are hard or impossible to find.

I do not doubt the truth of these arguments, but 1) there are many reasons for the underemployment mess we are in and 2) there is value in the liberal arts degree.

I teach adult students English. My classes help them improve their skills so that they can place out of remedial college courses that cost money but do not give them college credits. They each have different dreams and paths. Some hope to leave menial or physically taxing work as they age. Some need a college degree to move up in their current work. Many are middle-aged women whose husbands had affairs, abused them, or decided they were done with marriage. They are looking for gainful employment that will keep them above the poverty line. My students often see college as a path to specific work because these days– that is how college is marketed.

I teach my students how important it is, in an age of text communication, to be able to read and write. I teach them how to read critically, how to question, how to make connections, how to cite their resources. I teach them to discern the thesis of a paper, to engage a reader, to support an argument. I teach them that words matter, that everyone brings something important to a discussion, that the opinion you’ve held forever can and will be challenged. This is the value of education for education sake.

Because of ongoing and high unemployment rates, employers have a pool of applicants that is both deep and wide. They sort and discard resumes for narrow criteria. No masters degree? Out. The wrong BA? Out. Not enough experience? Out. Too much experience? Out. They have no reason to give a chance to someone who doesn’t meet their narrow view of “highly qualified.” I say to them– beware.

The world of work is swiftly changing. The technical degree we need desperately today may be obsolete tomorrow. A liberal arts degree graduates critical and creative thinkers. These workers– no, these humans are life long learners who deftly transfer their knowledge from one field and apply it to another. Hire them to sit with your STEM trained employees, and there is no limit to what can be created. We only succeed as a society when we nurture and value everyone’s gifts and knowledge.

New Teacher/Reader Guide Service AND GIVEAWAY!

You’ve seen them before, the questions that show up at the back of a great novel and give you more insight into the author, the subject, or the craft of the book. The extension activities that teachers use to help plan lessons or meet COMMON CORE standards. Who writes these guides? I do, and I’d love it if you’d spread the word.

First, take a look at the new “Teacher & Reader Guides” page on Creative Chaos.

Next, click on the link below to enter the giveaway. Help me spread the word by commenting below, following me on twitter, tweeting about the giveaway, and following my blog. Each activity increases your chances of winning a free ($500 value) “Silver” level guide for your book. The prize is transferable to a writer/illustrator friend if you haven’t written or illustrated a book recently.

New England is expecting a big storm this weekend. Plenty of time to enter the raffle!

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SSR. A philosophical discussion.

For the uninitiated – those of you who do not teach, or do not have kids in school– SSR stands for Silent Sustained Reading. During a period of 20-30 minutes, everyone in the whole school is supposed to stop everything to read.

My children have always loved to read. They have been known to hole up in their rooms when a favorite book is newly launched and only take water and crackers for sustenance. You can imagine my surprise then when Son #1 told me they “HAD” to do SSR and that he thought it stood for “Sit down, Shut up, and Read.” Oh my heart! In my own independent school classroom, SSR meant kids on bean bags, and under tables devouring books. Quiet conversations about the newest from a certain author, a plot twist they didn’t expect. It was a bibliophile’s bliss.

That’s not what it was for Son #1. In the time of accountability and “no test child left behind,” there are reading logs, and page goals, and write ups, and book talks that he has to conduct with me (which are wonderful) but then he has to write out the book talk. He hated the paperwork. He didn’t turn it in. He didn’t meet expectations. He didn’t get on the honor roll even though he had all A’s in other classes. That’s fine. It’s a natural consequence and I respect that.

However, I still have issues with SSR. Here was my note to the teacher and principal today.

Just a quick philosophical detour. I think it is wonderful that [the junior high] makes student choice reading and adult read alouds a priority in the day. I also believe that the need to assess, log, and write up book talks defeats the essential reason for SSR. To me, SSR is a chance for children to take joy in reading and to see reading modeled and loved by adults. What if the adult leading SSR did a weekly sweep of the class, moving from student to student with a clipboard, asking kids some of the questions on the “book talk” list and for 3 minutes listened to the student talk about the book they are reading? The teacher would know if they are reading narrowly in a genre, rereading (which is to be encouraged to a point), and if they are completing books or not. These mini-meetings challenge students to think deeply and make connections with the text. The adult would connect with the student and gain an intimate understanding of the student’s comprehension strengths/weaknesses. These mini-meetings would also allow the teacher to hear a student’s excitement/boredom and offer other book suggestions. What if the student gave one or two quick book talks during SSR, during the semester, so their classmates could learn about other great books that were out there? I think this would do more to encourage joyful reading than all the page counting, logs, lists, and write ups in the world. They have to do plenty of that stuff in their other classes.

Thoughts?

Four score and seven years ago… Memorization in School

Son #1 has to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address for Social Studies class.

He doesn’t want to. Actually, he’s already memorized paragraphs one and two, it is three that is the doozy.

“Why do I have to memorize this?” he says. “I could understand if I had to explain the meaning of the speech or write an essay on it’s effects on the Civil War. Why memorization?”

I can understand his concern and applaud his assignment suggestions which encourage critical thinking.

I’ll admit that as a teacher I’ve asked children to memorize poetry, or the preamble to the US Constitution. I’m a big fan of Poetry Outloud and part of my motivation (for mandatory student memorization) comes from a romantic notion planted by the Dead Poet’s Society movie (that’s a link to video BTW). I imagine my students theatrically presenting literary moments in history. But there is more. As they memorize, I hope that they internalize the rhythms of the language and the meaning of the piece. It’s true, that in these situations, I spend quite a bit of time dissecting what ever needed to be memorized.

What do you think? Memorization yes or no? Is there something you had to memorize in Middle School that you still know?