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.

Muslim Author’s Book Named Among ‘100 Greatest Children’s Books’ of the Last 100 Years by New York Public Library

I was so happy to see this wonderful news that I want to share it with all of you. Rukhsana Khan’s book BIG RED LOLLIPOP  is on the New York Public Library’s Children’s Books 2012: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list. She is the first Muslim author of Pakistani origin to be named on the list. Quoting directly from their press release, NYPL stated that all books on the list have “withstood the test of time at the New York Public Library or are on their way to becoming new classics.”

Ms. Khan receiving the Golden Kite Award. Photo from her website.

Rukhsana Khan is originally Pakistani and learned English as a second language. Her prolific writing and huge success has seen BIG RED LOLLIPOP scoop up a string of coveted awards. The book has been voted America’s ‘best picture book’ twice (The Charlotte Zolotow and the Golden Kite) – now, the New York Public Library has named it as one of the ‘100 greatest children’s books’ in the last 100 years. 

 

In BIG RED LOLLIPOP, Rubina has been invited to her first birthday party, and her mother, Ami, insists that she bring her little sister along. Rubina is mortified, but she can’t convince Ami that you just don’t bring your younger sister to your friend’s party. So both girls go, and not only does Sana demand to win every game, but after the party she steals Rubina’s prized party favor, a red lollipop. What’s a fed-up big sister to do?
Rukhsana Khan’s clever story and Sophie Blackall’s irresistible illustrations make for a powerful combination in this fresh and surprising picture book.

“…It’s an ending worthy of a novella, and once again signals that Khan is one of the most original voices working in picture books today.”
-Publisher’s Weekly Starred review of BIG RED LOLLIPOP

Learning English as a second language has been no bar to Rukhsana Khan’s success. Khan arrived in North America as a child from Pakistan and now, her writing career sees her visit over eighty schools a year across North America, make countless presentations and shatter cultural barriers through a string of awards.

As the author explains, her book is already beloved by many families around the world.

“It’s wonderful to see it listed alongside other classics such as ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ and ‘Charlotte’s Web’.” says Khan. “At a time when the world is becoming increasingly polarized, stories like ‘Big Red Lollipop’ tap into universal themes and are crucial to forging a smooth path toward the growing diversity of the North American landscape. As a practicing Muslim, the road hasn’t been easy. I have done my best to battle xenophobia and terrorist stereotypes with wit and humor. I have also worked diligently to create inroads to cross cultural dialogue and understanding.”

While this particular children’s book has helped Khan further build her name, she frequently tours the world to discuss her other works ranging from gritty teen novels on suicide, Afghanistan and issues of parental abandonment. 

“It’s not just about writing – but about sharing my work with others and using the stories to open up a series of vital dialogues. I’ve also recently launched a free literary resource for educators as part of my popular YouTube channel,” she adds.

With such a unique bibliography and passion for her work, interested readers are invited to visit Khan’s official website for more information: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com

I was lucky to see Rukhsana Khan accept her SCBWI 2011 Golden Kite Award at the New York SCBWI Conference for her book BIG RED LOLLIPOP. I’ve never seen an author as ebullient as Ms. Khan.  She told us the true story that inspired the book. Her love and joy were contagious. Congratulations to Ms. Khan and the others on the New York Public Library’s Children’s Books 2012: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list.

 

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?

National Day on Writing A Success for Maine Students

Friday, October 19th marked the NCTE National Day on Writing. Technically, Senate resolution 565 commemorates October 20th, but for many of us, every day is writing day and that is our wish for the rest of the world as long as they don’t try to publish and create more competition for me.

Yesterday I caught up with a wonderful librarian friend of mine, Heather Perkinson, who was all aglow with the results of her Day on Writing events. “[The event] showed students that writing is not just something that you do alone. You can do it together and it’s fun. They liked being able to play,” Heather said. Her enthusiasm was contagious and so I am excited to pass on her success for both educators and writers. Perhaps through her wonderful activities, your students can find fun in writing. If you are a writer, maybe it will remind you to take time to play.

Heather’s excitement came from her creation of the GHS Inkspot, a series of live (as opposed to web-based) stations in her HS library where, over the course of the day, many of her school’s ELA classes found fun in writing. The Inkspot link (above) gives plenty of resources to go with the stations, but the stations themselves need some introduction too.

List making: Heather cut notebook paper in half vertically and let the students make lists. The could follow these list prompts or makes their own.

(I’ll add here this site of found grocery lists that certainly contain story starters for a variety of characters. *Not always appropriate for children.*)

Journaling: With 12×12 scrapbook paper, Heather made two front and back covers for journals and gave them out to students who sat right down and started to fill them with writing. See example pictured on GHS Inkspot.

Neologisms: If you’ve ever coined a word, you know what a neologism is. Students taking part in Inkspot created new definitions for some of Lizzie Skurnick’s words and coined some words of their own.

Poster stickies: Oversized stickies on the library wall became the gallery of favorite student quotes, words (wasabi is my personal favorite), authors, and song lyrics.

Flash Fiction: Character, setting, conflict, human experience. Nuff said. (See Heather’s links at GHS Inkspot.

Exquisite Corpse: What Day on Writing would be complete without an Exquisite Corpse station. This parlor game allows collaborators to add to a drawing or story, or reinterpret a series of sentences. Sometimes the writer knows what comes before and sometimes they don’t. At the library, Heather used a chartpad with a cloth covering that moved down the board as others participated.

In addition to these activity stations, the school literary and art magazine staffed a table where they answered questions about submission guidelines, had examples of past issues, and brought their submission box. If a student didn’t have submission ready to go, they could fill out a submission pledge!

As a new hire at this school, many of the English teachers didn’t know what to expect from Heather’s Day on Writing.  “I should have let people know farther ahead. It’s so hard for the teachers to change their schedule,” she said. Still, GHS Inkspot showed that her events are worth planning around. She is looking forward to serving more of the students with future events.

Five on Friday

1. Deadlines approacheth. I’m working on a difficult revision of a picture book with civil rights information. Questions such as how to be developmentally appropriate, not be preachy, and show not tell are swirling around my computer today. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been writing for children these always seem to be the crucial questions.  Also working on my picture book presentation for the VCFA July residency.

2. My second triathlon is on Sunday morning. The experience of the first has taken away some of my pre-race jitters so I’m mostly excited. I’ve decided that triathlons are sort of like child birth. You forget the pain after you enjoy the emotional high of the finish line.

3. Good news on the job front! I’ll be teaching an integrated 5/6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies class at The Friends School of Portland coming September. The four morning a week schedule should be perfect for completing my VCFA critical thesis. (You can remind me I said this when I’m pulling out my hair in November.) LL Bean has also hired me to a retail sales job at their camping department. Stop by if you’re in Maine this summer and I’ll show you some tents!

4. My son was part of a Civil War reenactment this week. I have to say, it was a little uncomfortable watching our children in this romanticized version of war especially when we are in a war right now. We need to ask our children to contemplate the effectiveness and cost of battle to reach political ends. By teaching war do we beget more war or preclude it? What is worth fighting for?

5. Again, with the Civil War… I always felt that my understanding of this atrocious loss of life was always distilled to the lowest common denominator. "The good north was fighting to free the slaves from the bad south." As I’ve gotten older and done some study of my own, I find that the facts are much more nuanced than that. Why do we persist in teaching this distilled version?

PS: if you see me on facebook this weekend, tell me to get back to work.

Monday Thoughts

Sometimes when I think I have nothing to say, I actually have so much to say that I don’t know where to start. 

My sons have had very little writing in their new school. Everything seems very test driven and rote. They seem to scratch the surface of topics without diving in long enough to really swim in the information or let it soak in their hair. You need this soaking so that the new knowledge can leak out of you drip by drip by drip into assignments certainly, but into your everyday life. The new knowledge needs to be secured to other pieces of information that you already have at your retrieval to stick for good (or at least a good long time).

Writing about what you know requires us to look the information square on and realize what we do NOT know. Where the questions and holes in our information lie. Then, an assignment needs to provide time to fill in those holes. My eldest is dealing with a good writing assignment that has come with little support writing support and even less time spent on research skills. Had I given this assignment, it would take a good month to complete in a classroom and it would include numerous exemplars, group writing time, peer and adult conferences. Maybe I should go back to teaching.

Conference registration goes live online on January 24th. Will we be ready. I sure hope so. The site was in testing phase last week and all the Regional Advisors weighed in with their comments. There is much to work on. I’m a little nervous but know everything will work out fine.

The family is headed to Maine this weekend. I won’t be able to see everyone but hope to see a few people. The kids want to see friends. We are gathering all our bundling clothes and snow pants and the kids are so excited to make snow angels. Me too!
 
My parents are off to sunshine and warmth in their annual pilgrimage to Puerto Rico. "Glub-glub Mom!" That’s "Have fun, Mom!" in scuba. (That’s Mom on the left.)
 

Cows. I’ve been thinking in cow for the last couple of months and now I’m busy drawing them. I wake up thinking of cows. Now it is time to leave the computer and go draw.