Friday, November 2, 2012

Author Lynn Plourde

Lynn Plourde is the award-winning author of some of my all-time favorite picture books. She creates lovable characters and writes sentences that scream to be read aloud. 

I'm honored Lynn agreed to finish my sentence starters. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Lynn! 

If I visited your school or library we’d kick things off with a celebration of writing—I’m an author, but so are ALL YOUR STUDENTS. I let them know that I used to be a kindergarten, second, fourth grade author just like them. I like to start with an assembly in which I share books interactively on slides and then turn one of my books into a play with props with select students acting out parts (except the Grandma in Pigs in the Mud is a staff member—usually a male staff member, like you, Mr. Schu—which delights the gym full of students to no end =)!
After the celebratory assembly, then I turn into “teaching author” mode . . . I visit with classes of students and share writing mini-lessons using my books as models. And so, with kindergarten classes I might teach them to write “copycat stories” modeled after my Dino Pets books, or with Gr. 4 classes I might teach them to write “character stories” based on my Mrs. Shepherd books, or with Gr. 6 classes I might teach them to write a “graphic novel scene” based on the graphic novel Lost Trail that I co-authored. I walk classes through each step of the target writing lesson; we often brainstorm a group story together; and then I leave an organizer with teachers so they can follow-up after my visit and have students try that kind of writing. 
The purpose of my author visits is to get kids excited about books, authors, reading, and writing—especially THEIR OWN WRITING!
I always tell aspiring writers if you want to write, then you have to read, read, read—and then read some more. If you want to write good stories, then you have to fill yourself up with good stories first. I also suggest that aspiring writers pay attention to the kinds of books they most enjoy reading. If you’re always reading mysteries, poetry, nonfiction, etc., that’s what you are drawn to and may be the kind of writing you’d do best. I also teach young authors that an IDEA is NOT a story. After you get an idea, you still have to PLAN what will happen in your story (A plan is a map for a story)—don’t skip the planning part or your story will get lost! 

My writing blog is called MAKE WRITING VISIBLE  And I believe that if we want to help students to be better writers, then we DO have to make writing more visible. So much of writing happens in our brains and is INvisible . . . an idea pops into our heads, a character comes to life, we get an “aha” moment for the perfect ending, etc. But how did those happen? The more we can talk about the process of writing within a classroom, the better. We need to encourage our students to use meta-learning and have conversations about how/why they wrote what they wrote. 
My writing blog also has a VIDEO component to it—where I talk and model some aspects of writing—such as getting ideas, imaginative brainstorming, writing strong nouns and verbs My original intent was for teachers to view these videos, but teachers have told me they show the videos directly to their STUDENTS. So now when I tape new videos, I speak directly to students (and ham it up a bit =). Then teachers can follow-up and use the handouts I include in the blogs with their students. My blog is my way of sharing an author’s advice on teaching writing—in a fun, practical, visual way.
When I was a speech-language therapist I LOVED my job. In my first career, I worked with kids who were deaf, with Down Syndrome, who were nonverbal, and more! Communication may be our most important human function—and it was my job to help kids communicate better. I believe oral language—listening and speaking—is the foundation of all learning. We can’t expect our kids to be good readers, writers, mathers, social studiers without first of all being good listeners and speakers.
Being a speech-language therapist also led me to my writing career. I wrote ten instructional books for teachers filled with oral language ideas. And I’ve been told many times that my first career “shows up” in my second career as a kids book author—that my books play with sounds and words, boost vocabulary, concepts, and language development. 

Donn Fendler is a living legend and my friend. How lucky am I? Very! Donn is 86 years young now, and 73+ years ago he was lost as a twelve-year-old New York boy on Maine’s Mt. Katahdin and the wilderness around it for NINE DAYS—alone! His story Lost on a Mountain in Maine was originally published back in 1939. I was fortunate to work with Donn and illustrator Ben Bishop on a new graphic novel version of his story, Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness  which was published in 2011. Since then, I’ve been doing book events with Donn and he’s like a rock star—everyone loves meeting him and hearing his incredible survival story, which has been compared to Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet—except it’s TRUE!

Mrs. Shepherd’s class represents everything I LOVE about schools. And I DO love schools. I loved them as a kid, when I worked in them as a speech-language therapist, and now when I visit them as an author. My second grade teacher’s name really was Mrs. Shepherd, and I love that name—a teacher leads her/his flock of students. Mrs. Shepherd symbolizes all the great teachers out there. She’s patient, kind, encouraging, and lets each student shine in his or her own way.  And shine those students do! 

Drew A. Blank ‘s forgetfulness saves the day in Pajama Day—as does Ima Kindanozee’s inquisitiveness in Science Fair Day, and Dewey Booker’s bookishness in Book Fair Day, and all of Mrs. Shepherd’s other students in the other books. 

Thor Wickstrom’s illustrations in this series perfectly capture the silliness of these stories.
Maine is my “heart home.” I’ve always lived in Maine and would never live anywhere else, but it’s bigger than that. Maine is a part of me. Its seasonal beauty leaves me in awe. Maine people are no-nonsense, sturdy and steady, hard-working and friendly enough to nod whether they’re seeing you for the first time or the thousandth time; and they have the best senses-of-humor—so wry and dry—you’re never quite sure whether they’re pulling your leg or not.
Maine inspires me as an author—not just with topics such as the seasons, dumps, moose, and more, but also with its writing-for-children literary heritage. Maine, my state, can claim Rachel Field—the first woman to win the Newbery Medal, E.B. White who wrote Charlotte’s Web on his saltwater Maine farm, Robert McCloskey—the first person to win a Caldecott Medal twice, as well as Margaret Wise Brown, Barbara Cooney, Lois Lowry, Kathryn Lasky, and Cynthia Voigt. They may not have always lived in Maine, but they each chose Maine for a time and Maine became woven into their writers’ hearts and stories.

Reading is essential—like breathing. What’s the use in a day without reading? I am eternally grateful to all the places I’ve traveled, people I’ve met, and problems I’ve seen solved—through reading!
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about Wazzup? Waznew? I’ll tell you what’s new, Mr. Schu. I just got in the mail the f&g’s (fold and gather copy) of my next book You’re Wearing THAT to School?! which comes out in June of 2013, and I can’t wait. 

Tee-hee-giggle-schmiggle! Tiny the mouse and Penelope the hippo are best friends. Tiny started school last year and has all kinds of advice for Penelope who will be starting kindergarten—advice about what to wear, what to pack for a lunch, what to bring for show-and-tell. But Penelope wants to march to the beat of her own hippo drummer. Sue Cornelison the illustrator has created such funny, fabulous characters! There are even some “Hippo Happy” first-day-of-school tips in the back of the book. I can’t wait until kids get to see the book. In this strange business, you deliver your “book baby”—after years of labor and publishing steps—and you’re so excited to see that baby, but then you still have to put a bag over the baby and keep it hidden from others until your “official” due date. But I got permission to give you a sneak peek at my next “book baby” ; )!

I am giving away one copy of Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from November 2 to 11:59 p.m on November 6. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. :)  

Borrow Lynn's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much, John, for the interview, and sharing a copy of LOST TRAIL =)!