Ends & Odds & All Sorts of Crazy Good Times

I’m headed off across the wild tundra for three days of school visits in the vast, icy wasteland of Westchester, NY. You’ll have to find somewhere else to kill your valuable time. And to that end, I thought I’d offer some help:

* This year, I’ve teamed up with the fabulous Kerri McPhail at Children’s Authors’ Ally. Kerri helps coordinate author visits for me and many others. So if you are interested in an author visit, from me or perhaps somebody even better (!), follow the link and Kerri will work hard to meet the needs of your school and your students.

* To be perfectly honest, I’ve never read anything Nicole Krauss, but I enjoyed the description of her creative process. Here’s the first few opening lines from her brief essay, “On Doubt,” originally featured at Cory Doctorow’s great site, Boing Boing:

I begin my novels without ideas. I don’t have a plot, or themes, or a sense of the book’s form. Often I don’t even have a specific character in mind. I begin with a single sentence of no great importance; it almost certainly will be thrown away later. To that sentence I add another, and then another. A little riff emerges. If it’s going well–and it’s hard for me to say exactly what going well means, beyond the writing feeling authentic enough not to require immediate erasure–I’ll continue this sort of aimless unspooling.

The message I get from those words, and from Nicole, is basically: Just start writing. And let the writing itself lead the way. I’m not saying she’s right or wrong, or even right for me, just that I liked her message. For me, it’s easy to get stuck in the beginning, when I’m not sure what I’m doing next. Nicole’s approach sounds liberating. And again: There are no rules.

* I wish I had a baby to dress up this Halloween. Gallagher, anyone?

No? How about a chicken . . . inhabited by an alien? Cute, right?

* Canadian icon Gordon Pinsent reads excepts from the new book by author Justin Bieber. “Yes, I wore a white shirt. Yes, I got spaghetti.”

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* A personal library kit . . . made just for kids.

* Thank you, Reading Junky, for this nice review of Justin Fisher Declares War!

Author James Preller describes fifth grade to a tee in JUSTIN FISHER DECLARES WAR!  Every class has a Justin, and at some point, every class begins to object to the disruption caused by a chronic goof-off.  Preller’s novel offers excellent read-a-loud potential with ample opportunity for discussion about behavior and its consequences.  I’ll definitely be recommending this one to both students and teachers in middle grade classrooms.

* There’s something addictive and pure about looking at all these Thermos lunchboxes through the years.

* In the right classroom, with the right teacher, I think this could make a challenging writing exercise — narrating videos for the visually impaired. As Shana describes it:

I write and do voiceover narration for a company that audio-describes TV. It enriches the viewing experience for the blind in the same way that closed-captioning helps the hearing impaired.

The descriptive video writer’s job is to describe the unspoken action in the scene without distracting the viewer from the story, or stepping on the actors’ lines. It’s almost like rewriting a screenplay without the dialogue; I’m describing what’s going on in between that dialogue.

Be sure to use the link to view the brief samples of her work. Thanks, as always, to Whitney at Pop Candy for the link.

* I can’t read this stuff, but maybe you can stand it.

* Does your school kill creativity? Sir Ken Robinson suspects that it might.

* LASTLY, I still need your help. I need many, many more photos of men reading books for my upcoming FATHER’S READ blog.  I’ve gotten some great shots so far, of all sorts, but I need more. This small, worthy cause can’t work without your help.

Please submit your photos via email to: Jamespreller@aol.com with the subject heading, FATHERS READ.

Here’s a lovely one from my pal Nan, of her husband Stephen:

2 comments

  1. Maria says:

    In the right classroom, with the right teacher, I think this could make a challenging writing exercise — narrating videos for the visually impaired. What a wonderful idea for writing workshop-think I will have to try this!! Think about how the rich the description would have to be-

  2. jimmy says:

    Maria, let me know how it works out. I specialize in having ideas where other people do all the work — just ask my wife!

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