Monday, March 18, 2013

Connecting Kids and Authors

I love books and I love the authors who write them. I still remember the first time Sharon Creech "Liked" something I had written on Facebook, I jumped up and down because she's one of my heroes. Just today the amazing Judy Blume replied to a tweet and I had to tell everyone I know. This last week, one of my students was retweeted by Lisa Yee. When the student told me about this she said, "She's the woman who wrote the books that defined the part of my life when I was too awkward to function." Interacting with authors can be very empowering, but it can create hard feelings.

Recently, I saw an author post something on Twitter about students writing to her with questions that were already available on the web. It wasn't an author that I have ever interacted with before, but decided to jump in to suggest that kids are merely looking for a connection and, although the questions have been answered, it's a place to start connecting for the kids. I received a reply from what I assume was another author with a somewhat snarky response to what I had written.

So, that's been rolling around in my head for a few days and I decided to try to write a post to help clear things up and maybe help teachers and students to navigate this situation. I asked some of my author friends to offer advice and have included that.

Before I start, let me tell you that virtually every author I have interacted with online has been nothing but warm, kind and amazing. Some have created Celebridots and I love them most of all. They are people just like you and me, busy with their 'job' and lives.

Advice for students interested in connecting with authors:

  • Check the author's website to see what questions have already been answered. Encourage kids to be creative and ask thoughtful questions.
  • If students are emailing, have them "be brief and limit the email to 1 or 2 questions" was advice from Sharon Creech 
  • Don't expect an instant reply, authors can receive between 10-700 emails a day and are busy creating new books.
  • Remember there are lots of fans and only one author. You might not always get a reply.
  • Many authors have blogs, search those out. I think author blogs may be one of the most motivating and inspiring things available for young writers.
  • If you are using USPS mail: enclose SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).
  • "Don't ask for help with your homework." was advice from S.E. Hinton, author of "The Outsiders" (Can you imagine kids do that???)
  • I've heard of teachers giving assignments to write/email an author. This seems like a ill-advised to me. Perhaps save those interactions for authors that the student really wants to know more about and have a greater connection with. On this subject, S.E. Hinton said, "It is very unfair to an author to make them responsible for a student's grade. That should between the student & the teacher." She is so right!
Advice for authors connecting with students:

  • If the answer to the students question is already on your website, could you kindly send them there?
  • Remember that kids want a connection with you because they love your work and the simple question might be all they are able to come up with on a cognitive level.
  • Know that all of us teacher types are watching you and admiring you more than you can know for the place to have in a kid's life.

Here are authors and illustrators I have in my network. Click on their names to go to their website. I've learned so much about the writing process from them, maybe if you start following them and check out their blogs, you can pass that on to students. Follow them on Twitter and learn all about their latest projects and get sneak peeks of things to come:

Sharon Creech @ciaobellacreech
Ame Dyckman @amedyckman
Peter H Reynolds @peterhreynolds
Kristin Tubb @ktubb
Katherine Applegate @kaaauthor
Debbie Ridpath Ohi @inkyelbows
Zachariah OHora @zachariahohora
Tom Angleberger @Origami Yoda
CeCe Bell @cecebellbooks
Michael Grant @thefayz
Augusta Scattergood @ARScattergood
Courtney Stevens @Quartland
Lisa Yee @LisaYee1
Stephen McCranie @stephenmccranie
Jarrett J. Krosoczka @studioJJK
Judy Blume @judyblume
Barney Saltzberg @BSaltzberg
Margo Sorenson @ipapaverison
Michele Robinson @MicheRobinson
Chris Barton @bartography
Lauren Castillo @studiocastillo
Lynne Plourde @LynnPlourde
Florence Minor @minorart
Wendell Minor @wendellminor
Bethanie Murguia @aquapup
Deborah Underwood @underwoodwriter
Eric Wight @Eric_Wight
S.E. Hinton @se4realhinton
Katie Davis @katiedavisburps
Susan Verde @susanverde
Erica S. Perl @ericaperl
Anita Silvey @anitasilvey
Beverly McClure @beverlymcclure