"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sharing Sharon's Wisdom

It's hard to believe that two weeks have passed since Sharon Creech visited our school. There is still a resounding buzz throughout the school.

Just look at the adjectives the students used to describe the visit:
One of their favorite parts of the presentation was the participatory reading skit. Sharon called up a few students to read from two different sections of The Great Unexpected.

The students were to participate:
Sharon went on to read from The Great Unexpected and share her inspiration for the story, starting with one of the great unexpected events in her own life: winning the Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons.

This visit was far and beyond the best author visit we have ever experienced at our school.  I've spent the last two weeks thinking why this is true.  It's an amazing feat considering it was only the 13th day of the school year and routines and communities are still being established at this point.

Why was it so phenomenal? 

I think it was the recipe!  Take one part amazing author, two parts excited teachers and three parts avid readers (aka students) and voila!  Success.
Seriously, the teachers were amazing.  They all started the year with a Sharon Creech book for their read aloud.  They were flexible and amenable to all my last minute requests and ideas.   The students jumped right on the bandwagon.  Those who were established Sharon Creech readers infected other students with their enthusiasm.  By the fifth day of school there was not a Sharon Creech book to be found in my library (and I had purchased extra copies of all of her books).  The classroom Creech book baskets were quickly being depleted as well.

The week of the visit, each student wrote a question for Sharon.  I read through every question (160 of them!) and chose three from each classroom trying to ensure a breadth and depth of questions and themes.  Here are some of the ones that were chosen:

"Did you like writing in school when you were our age?"

"For Love That Dog, Why did you choose those specific poems?"

"Do you usually get to choose your illustrator?"

"What is your method for coming up with characters for your stories?"

"How do you choose the titles for your books?"

"Do you ever get stuck in the middle of writing a book?"

"What is your favorite part of the writing process?"

"What is the first thing you thought you were going to be when you grew up?"

The real reason.
The real reason is was so special is the master storyteller herself,  Sharon Creech. Like a maestro, she created a symphony of story.  The students were mesmerized, but even better, they were inspired.

Sharing Sharon's Wisdom

This was on a Friday, on Monday, each student reflected on the visit by answering this question, "What is one thing you learned from Sharon Creech that you will bring back and apply to your reading, writing and/or life?"  

"One thing I learned from Sharon was about taking a pause. I sometimes get stuck during my writing and it might help if I take a mini-break."

"One thing I learned from Sharon Creech is if you take a nap and think about characters you can make a better story."

"I learned that if you're having trouble with something take a break (but maybe not in school)."

"If you are stuck, it isn't stuck, you just need to take a break."

"That if you are stuck and you don;t know what to write, then take your min off of the story and go for a walk or take a nap and when you come back or wake up, then you'll probably know what to write."

"One thing I learned from Sharon Creech is that you should pick interesting names to hook the reader on.  In my writing, I will pick funny and interesting names to make the reader not want to stop reading."

"I really like how in the beginning of her stories she really hooks you to the book.  Like in the Great Unexpected.  I want to know why, who and how that boy fell out of the tree.  So now in my writing, I will use this strategy to get readers interested."

"I learned that there were two different types of books, going on a journey and a stranger coming to town."

"Anything as small as a fortune cookie can bring big ideas."

"One thing I learned from Sharon creech is that you should pay attention to life around you and then you might see something that might inspire you and then you can write a really good story that you got from your everyday life."

"What I am going to apply to my writing is that people's personalities can help you think of characters."

"I learned that a story seed can come from anyplace and anywhere."

"I learned from Sharon Creech that I should have a list of characters in a little book, so I can go and look in it if I can't think of any characters."
The Book Signing
The students loved being able to talk with Sharon individually during the book signing.

More Questions
I also invited students to ask a question that was inspired by her visit. Check these out:

"While you are writing books, do you end up feeling what the character is feeling?"

"If you could sell only one of your books, which one would it be?"

"When you were writing Bloomability, how did you decide that Lila was going to be different at the school than when she met Dinne?  Why did you want to change her?"

Check out the comments on the card they made for her:

I created this book spine poem after the visit:

Absolutely Normal Chaos

Hate That Cat
Fishing in the Air
Chasing Redbird,
The Unfinished Angel.

Love That Dog,
Ruby Holler.

The Great Unexpected,
Granny Torelli, Makes Soup
The Castle Corona.



Library Assessment
Here are the major themes that emerged from the responses: be inspired by everyday life experiences, they could be story seeds; persevere -- write, edit, write some more; and, pause during writing - don't think of yourself as being stuck, take a break and come back to it.

I needed some assessment data for the library, so I sent home a quick rubric in two fifth grade and two fourth grade classrooms.  Seventy students responded.

Here are some things I learned:
**62 out of 70 students want to read more of her books because of her visit, and 
**50 students felt this visit was different than other author visits for reasons such as: location - it was in the auditorium as opposed to the library or classroom; book signing - we've never had an author willing to do this before; reading from and talking about primarily one book as opposed to the body of literature; and, mainly that it was about Sharon Creech herself, she was fun, engaging and interesting. Indeed.


  1. I wish I was a student at your school! 'Absolutely Normal Chaos' is my favorite, and quite dog-eared.

    1. It is a favorite here as well! We are all still buzzing around from the visit. It was amazing.

  2. Love This Post! Loved the quotes from kids, the pics, all the info you shared. How did you go about booking her?
    Thanks again for sharing this. I love her books!

    1. Thank you! This is why I love being a library teacher -- being able to hang out at that magical place of reader and story is very special.

  3. Ah, such a day, such a day: one to remember, for sure. Thank you and thanks to all the teachers and students who joined in the enthusiasm! xx Your Author

  4. p. s. Love the Animoto, love those readers ('reeders')!

  5. Hop over to http://mrschureads.blogspot.com to see an interview w/Ms. Reed and my follow-up rave. xx (Jen, can you post that as a link - I can't seem to make my brain do it this morning.)