I LOVE To Read! (I lv 2 Txt!)

Some schools are already gearing up for

I LOVE to READ month, which is January or February, depending on who you talk to, OR March if you celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday (March 2nd) by READING ACROSS AMERICA. And I'll be doing my part with school visits from Sacramento to Southern CA. : )  Which in turn got me thinking about the fact that what we READ is WRITING, and while some kids say they don't have time to read, and hate to write, I bet they love to TEXT….

Erin --6th grade Admittedly, when I took this photo (Yes, this is me in 4th, 5th, or 6th grade?) a text meant textbook, which meant reading at your desk and probably answering a bunch of borrrring questions about it after. Nothing like the 13 year old girl in Orange County who sent 14,528 texts in one month! (** HEY!!!–It must have been I LOVE to TEXT Month! lol!) Folks have estimated this equals 484 text messages a DAY while she's awake. Hmmmm….no time to READ, you say? Here's my theory: TEXTING IS POPULAR BECAUSE IT'S SOCIAL. When I was 12, (Yes, I actually remember…) reading was a great escape, but it was something you did in a quiet corner–or at your desk. That is UNTIL my 6th grade teacher (Thank you Mr. Markey!) decided I should go down the hall to the kindergarten once a week and read to them and BINGO, READING was suddenly SOCIAL! Sitting in a chair with all those adoring kinders at my feet (an added plus) and making books come alive for them was magical for all of us. It also got me hooked on reading. YES, I know most teachers have had to cut out all of the fun stuff to make sure NO child is left behind. (Don't get me started on this topic!) BUT….in celebration of I LOVE to READ month, let's make reading a social event.   Cross-age buddies 3  

HOW? Pair up your sixth graders (or 4th or 5th) with a class from the lower grades. Week one, have them meet and talk about their interests, maybe even go to the library to pick out a picture book together. Why Picture Book? Even if they won't admit it, the big kids still love them and some may have never been read to when they were younger. The younger kids may be advanced readers but picture books are short enough so they can be read in one Library Visit,(After all we can't miss too much "Instructional time!") even by some of your ELL kids. Plus, and I don't just mean Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox or Little Bo Peep Can't Get To Sleep, picture books these days are awesome!

Week two, have the older kids pick out the book. Week three, the younger kids pick out the book and the two take turns reading it aloud together. I've paired up my middle grades students with elementary kids. I've taken high schoolers back to Kindergarten and second grade. They not only read to their buddies but wrote their own picture books for them based on the younger student's interests. And providing opportunities for older students to feel like POSITIVE role models is PRICELESS!   PS  I LV 2 TXT 2 ; )

Yes, Virginia…

CSLA poster session 

I've had the pleasure of hanging out with librarians and reading teachers lately, at the California School Library Association conference SCHOOL LIBRARIES MAKE CONNECTIONS in Sacramento and last night at the Sacramento Area Reading Association's Mad Hatter's Tea Party. People who love words as much as I do. Who share their love of books with young readers everywhere. I can't thank them enough. Long ago, one such person let me–a 6th grader–go down the hall once a week to read to the kindergarteners. Talk about connections! Books were no longer just my private escape. Reading aloud to the kinders was a rewarding communal experience. : ) One that I think of every time I do a school visit.

How to thank them? LoriLimElissaHadenGuest The list is too long…Jane Ritter, Penny Kastanis, Joanne Arellanes, Lori Lim (in photo R with author Elissa Haden guest), Janet Melikian, Norma Vance, Mary Helen Fischer, Julie Africa, Lorraine Littlejohn, Sandy Pattison, Wendy Chason, Sharon Hallberg …and countless others. How to thank them?

  • Share some of the theater games and writing activities that build fluency and fun in the classroom. (Yes, it's still allowed!) Provide a list of affordable school visits from authors &illustrators! (Yes, it's possible!) If you missed the CSLA conference and want the handouts, contact me through my web site: www.erindealey.com and I'll get them to you. 
  • Spread the word about a fabulous funding opportunity: 

    SCBWI’s Amber Brown Fund Grant: See http://www.scbwi.org/awards.htm  

    “Any school with the desire and commitment to enrich their curriculum with a guest author or illustrator is eligible to apply. However, this grant is primarily focused on bringing an author or illustrator to a school that cannot or has not been able to afford this privilege.”  Applications may be submitted between November 1st and December 31st.

  • Remind them how much they are appreciated.  Especially in these tough times. Last night at SARA, I sang them my fractured semi-autobiographical holiday carol, Deck the Walls with Mashed Potatoes, gave them an excerpt of my first published work, The Christmas Wrap Rap (Plays Magazine), and reminded all of the letter newsman Francis P. Church wrote to a little 8 year old girl named Virginia. The words are just as relevant today, as budgets are frozen and winter darkness surrounds us. And and I've only altered it a bit: 



    Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.  Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Librarian. SHe exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Librarians. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Librarians! You might as well not believe in books! Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view thebeauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Books! No Librarians? Thank God! They live, and theylive forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, they will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

 GennJayErinLisLynnKarenBob  Happy Holidays to all.

(Author Brunch: L to R) Gennifer Choldenko, Jay Asher, Erin Dealey, Elissa Haden Guest, Lynn Hazen, Karen Beaumont, and Bob Barner.

Novels and Editors and Bears, oh MY!

Granlibakken 3 Granlibakken 5 


came early this year, or so it seemed, with the brisk mornings and chilly nights at SCBWI Nevada's September NOVEL IMMERSION weekend at Granlibakken, near Lake Tahoe.

Yes, this pb author stepped out of the box! I'm currently working on a 4th grade boy series (thinking positively here) inspired by my librarian pals at school visits to Rocklin Unified School District last year. Also in the works, a middle grades novel and a YA, both of which have taken what seems like centuries! Definitely a different learning curve from picture books. : ) 

 Mountains of thanks go to Co-RA's Suzanne Morgan Williams (Look for Suzy's novel  Bull Rider –Margaret K. Mc Elderry/Simon & Schuster) and Ellen Hopkins (think NEW YORK Times Bestseller CRANK) and their committee, who put this wonderful event together–in the middle of their OWN busy writing lives!    Santopolo

Highlights included two very knowledgeable editors, Nancy Conescu from Little, Brown (above right), and Jill Santopolo ( above left) from the relatively new Harper Collins imprint, Balzer and Bray. Speaking of busy, Jill "moonlights" as a middle grades author, herself, now that her first Alec Flint Super Sleuth mg novel, THE NINA,THE PINTA, AND THE VANISHING TREASURE was released with Orchard Books/Scholastic last July. Jill asked participants, "How well do you understand your character? Can you predict how she/he would act in situations NOT in your novel?" Other tips: Does the Antagonist have something good about them? Are your minor characters stereotypes? And my favorite: CONFLICT IS NOT OPTIONAL.  Author Heidi Ayarbe, who read a riveting excerpt from her upcoming YA novel FREEZE FRAME, edited by Santopolo, called herself "Arc-impaired" and credits Jill as her "Raider of the Lost Plot." : )

And seriously folks, if Little, Brown editor  Nancy Conescu doesn't write a book soon on her hillarious household tips, I will be truly disappointed. She had us laughing so hard at breakfast, my abs hurt for days. And yet, make no mistake, this editor really knows her stuff. Recent tiles include the Prophecy of the Sisters series by Michelle Zink (Spring 2009) and the Vampirates series by Justin Somper. Conescu agrees character voice is key. In a hardcover series, book one is treated as a stand-alone, book two–the sequel, and book three launches the series. Conescu is looking for distinctive, break-out voices and authors who will keep growing in the future. In addition, may I add that she is now quite well-educated in the various techniques of scaring away those not-so-LITTLE, BROWN bears….Granlibakken 7 (So THAT's what pots and pans are for!)

Granlibakken 4

Granlibakken 6More wonderful authors included (L to R next to Ellen Hopkins: Terri Farley, Lynda Sandoval, Susan Hart Lindquist, and (in photo at right with my writing pal Linda Joy Singleton (check out Linda's Dead Girl Walking. A perfect Halloween read!), Terry Trueman (Stuck in Neutral ). But hey, if I'm gonna keep up will all of these talented authors, I'd better get back to my manuscripts! Happy writing! 

What Did You Do This Summer?

Rafting 2

MEXICO!!! 305 Back to school always seemed to include a prompt from my English teacher about "What I Did During Summer Vacation."  True confession: I have been known to give my own high school students the same assignment.

So here's a photo essay of my summer fun, starting with Zip-lining in Mexico, a huge lesson in letting go. This is something I can use when I send manuscripts off to publishers (or kids off to college!). I'm learning to turn those moments when the world has you dangling in mid-air into What-the-Heck moments and enjoy the ride!

Rafting 3 Which brings me to whitewater rafting on the American River in June.  (I'm  the second blue hat on the right near our trusty river guide.)  Another writing lesson: Keep paddling through the rapids and the slows–to get where you want to be. And what a rush when you finish that chapter or scene, or make it through Troublemaker!

Mammoth parade1Mammoth parade2

Speaking of trouble…4th of July found me INSIDE AN ELEPHANT pushing water balloon "poop" out of the rear end in the annual Mammoth (no pun intended) 4th of July parade.  Get this: the mammoth (ie elephant) was so mammoth (ie large) we had to lower the top part to get under the telephone lines as we paraded through Mammoth (ie Mammoth Lakes, CA). Is there a metaphor for writing in this scenario too? Tossing the "poop" was liberating–like trimming the excess "poop" from my manuscript. But enough about that… 

Slip n slide1

On to two wonderful weeks at Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp where I head the Theater Dept. each summer. Second session we had fun with Shakespeare (no that's not an oxymoron) and first session with physical movement and clown noses. (Don't judge a person until you walk a mile in his shoes–or his nose!)  AND I took a flying leap on the Slip & Slide for the first time EVER! Talk about TRUST. Makes me think about the times I took a flying leap and sent manuscripts out.  And what a thrill to conquer those fears of rejection–or possible bruised bones on the slip & slide : )  I am happy to say I sailed through both.

Next flying leap: dropping our college freshman off at the dorms this August. Wish me luck!

Bo Peep and Goldie in ALASKA

Alaska_048 Alaska Gateway Schools rock! I had such a wonderful time at their Young Author Conference! Alaska_5

Did I mention that the school district is twice the size of New Hampshire? Our eager young authors, grades 3-8, came from all over: Dot Lake, Tok, Tanacross, Katie John School in Mentasta Lake, Walter Northway School, and Tetlin. By the end of the conference, all had written sloppy copies (yay!) and final drafts of their own books of original poems. Hopefully I will be able to share some of the poems in my next blog. But let’s back up a bit…

Alaska_001 Wednesday: The flight from CA to Fairbanks included two stops, and a seat mate on pain meds (too many…) who would have passed out in the middle of the SeaTac airport if I hadn’t flagged down an attendant and propped her up in one of those mini-trams to get her to her connecting flight. (Nice woman. NEVER mix alcohol with pain meds…). The highlight: an amazing sunset at 10:20 pm (11:20 pm, CA time, on my Elmo watch.) off the left wing of the plane. Ink black sky off to the right at the same time!

When I landed in Fairbanks snow flurries had just begun, which was perfect because when I think of  Alaska, I think SNOW. I was expecting COLD too but 28 degrees in Alaska felt warmer than 40 degrees in California. Seriously. And I NEVER expected to ask people to turn the heat down! (Maybe they’d cranked it up for the CA woman…)

Thursday Morning 6:45am: Met Rich, my fabulous "chauffeur," (who subs as a bus driver, school cook, tour guide, and from what I can tell, mentor/parent) in the lobby the next morning. Made sure I knew his last name ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to go up to strange men and ask, "Are you Rich?" !!!! For the visual, he showed up in a regular cotton t-shirt and jeans–no jackAlaska_008et, mittens, hat, gloves–nada. Impressive.

Alaska_028_2 On our three hour ride to Tok, we passed through North Pole–smart folks built a post office there–and I had Santa send my nephew a post card to make sure he was eating his dinner and being a good big brother.    

Alaska_014 Alaska_016 Saw miles of Pipeline sending oil (146 degrees!)  to the "lower 48."

And voila! The sAlaska_042un came out as we headed up the Alcan Highway to Tok.Alaska_035_2  Alaska_042_2

Check out these mountains! Isn’t it amazing where books will take you? Ifelt so blessed!

Thursday afternoon I did an assembly in Tok for the K-2 kids and then we headed to Dot Lake to meet the young authors! Alaska_033 (Side note: The kids go out to play at recess even when the temp is below zero here. Teachers make sure they all have hats, mittens, jackets, etc. before they head outside! In winter, when they’re down to a few hours of sunlight, those hours are during the school day, so they don’t have to play in the dark.)  Northern_lights

Kicked off the Young Author Conference with a keynote, a little elbow tag, and some ice breakers before heading back to my hotel in Tok for the night. [My other option, sleeping on the gym floor with the kids–been there, done that. : )  ] Rode back with a Alaska_066 couple of our authors and "Pink" and I had a contest to see who had more items of their favorite color.(Mine:green. Pink’s: guess.)

I was hoping to get a glimpse of Aurora Borealis but the sky was overcast both nights. (Bought this post card instead. Doesn’t look real, does it?) Guess I’ll have to come back to see it another time!

Alaska_068 Friday: Didn’t see a moose either (I’d heard tales of dodging moose on the highway.) but we did come across crazy caribou on our way back to Dot Lake for the conference. (Actually, the caribou came across us.) TheAlaska_069se gangly dudes look like someone put togetAlaska_070her random body parts from moose, deer, and possibly the brain of a squirrel…(Check out the middle one who couldn’t make up his mind which way to go after two of his buddies went one way and one went the other.)

The halls of Dot Lake School were decorated with posters by Tanacross teacher Bonnie and her Alaska_054 talented students–Alaska_055 Alaska_056 clever takes on nursery rhyme characters–in honor of Goldie and Bo Peep! Aren’t these fun?Alaska_1 (Click on thumbnail to get a larger view.)

The Alaska Gateway Young Author Conference was a fabulous way to encourage young writers. Alaska_3(And there were some good ones!) Four other teachers and I taught poetry workshops and the kids rotated through each. We wrote poker poems  and 1st line/last line poems in mine. At the end of the conference, each writer went home with a conference t-shirt, photo button of their group, medal, certificate, their original book of poems, and big smiles! An added plus–they made new friends from the otMoose_2her schools!

Congrats to the teachers and all who organized this successful event. You are making such a difference in the lives of your students!   It was an experience they’ll never forget–and I won’t either! Even if the only moose I saw was on this postcard  : )

Friday after the conference, my "chauffeur" and his wife drove me back to Fairbanks, retracing our Alaska_039_2 route through North Pole, and past rivers beginning to thaw from the long winter. Alaska_040_2

An Alaskan tourist web site call Tok, "The coldest inhabited town in Alaska, with the warmest friendliest people."  They got the second part right anyway.

I had a 1:30 AM red-eye to catch Saturday morning so I passed the time Friday night at the Fairbanks airport working on my middle grades manuscript. Met a guy from Oahu, and another who was flying to Okinawa, slept 3 hours (I think) on the plane (1:30-4:30 am) then stretched out for two more in the Sea-Tac airport (6:30-8:30 am) before my flight home. would you believe I came home to 90 degree weather?  Crazy! There’s no place like home. And you know what? There’s no place like Alaska!