Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Authors Week

This was a really fun week that I have hardly any pictures of! When I planned this, I was remembering the "Young Author's Conference" that we used to have when I was in Elementary School. You had to write and illustrate (and put together) your own book in order to be eligible. Once you had done that, you had the privilege of attending the all-day conference (while everyone else was slaving away in their regular classes!). You got to read/tell about your book to everyone else, and then there were writing workshops and guest authors, and you got to eat your lunch in the faculty room, and best of all there were donuts or some other refreshments at the end of the day! I remember it very fondly, as you can tell, and I wanted to find some way we could have a similarly fun experience with the writing process, start to finish. 

We did spend some time on basic story structure, but I also wanted to study some different authors' lives, so I read quite a few (meant-for-adults) biographies of children's book authors that we like. I picked the best ones (some were very depressing, and/or shocking---like Lewis Carroll! Goodness!) to summarize for the kids, and then we also found several shorter, meant-for-children biographies that I read to them. Nothing really stellar. "Biographies for children," as a genre, is clearly in need of some new talent. The ones I found were either cloyingly insipid ("Young Ted never did well in school, but once he just believed in himself he was stunningly successful!") or achingly dull ("After many years at Punch, an English Literary Magazine, Arthur became interested in theater criticism . . .").

Every day we worked on some new aspect of writing their stories. Daisy and Malachi insisted on being included, so they dictated their stories to me and I wrote them down. (Daisy is surprisingly attached to her book. She gets it out and pores over it, even by herself, every day, and loves to have it read to her.) 

By the end of the week (after much work---copying the final drafts took the most time, and I ended up typing the last few pages for even Abe and Seb, since I decided the point of this was not handwriting technique, though they did get several hours' worth of that), we were ready to bind our books! This was very, very exciting for the children. But when we went to the Kinko's/FedEx copy store, the guy told us it would be $19 to laminate and bind (simple spiral binding) ONE BOOK. What?!? We went to Stevenson's in Provo the next day instead, and did all four books for under $9, so let that be a lesson to you! :)
In order for us to have the full, Young-Author-y experience I was envisioning, however, our week needed a GUEST AUTHOR. Luckily, I had one in mind: our friend Kristen Randle. I had read some of her books when I was in high school, but I rediscovered her as an adult and liked her newer books even better (and even did a bit of editing for her). Best of all, I knew she was a fascinating person to talk to, and good with children. And she graciously agreed to come be our GUEST AUTHOR. Hooray!

And she was SO good. Warm and funny and down-to-earth. She taught the children all about the history of books---bookbinding---publication---the printing process---and a bunch of other things---and she helped them create a character and the bare bones of a plot which we were supposed to continue working on later. (And we will---though we haven't yet.) We were SO enthralled by her.
And of course, we had a delicious AUTHORS LUNCH, with fancy luncheon-type foods which we only have on special occasions and which the children helped me prepare: vegetable bars and artichoke dip and homemade hot cocoa in the crockpot.  So that made us all feel very fancy. All in all, it was a lovely week!

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