Monday, February 28, 2011

Tim Green Author Interview!

    Last weekend I was thrilled to attend Anderson's Bookshop's Children's Literature Breakfast.  The first time I attended this event was two years ago when I got to meet Meg Cabot, Sharon Draper, Peter Yarrow, and Stephen Kellogg.  It is such a unique event because the authors are amongst all the people attending the event and sit at the tables and do author chats.
Tim signing my copy of Football Genius
     When we got there, we found a table right in front and you can imagine my absolute awe when I saw that Tim Green was sitting at our table.  I was so excited to be able to talk to him about his books.  I had just recently finished listening to Football Genius and had loved it.  Not to mention, we're huge football fans at our house, so it was very cool to meet an ex-NFL player who is now a writer.
Me and Tim Green
       After talking to Tim Green and then listening to him speak about his books and his passion for encouraging kids to read, I am beyond ecstatic to interview him here and share it with you.


TMT: Many authors contend that to be a great author you have to be a reader. Do you agree or disagree? And, why or why not?

Tim Green: I agree absolutely. I think that first of all, to be a writer, the prerequisite is that you have to love to read. If you love to read you will be reading all the time. It helps you when you are writing to be exposed to other writers’ work for ideas- not to plagiarize but just to see different techniques and be exposed to different ways of doing things. 

TMT: To whom or what would you accredit to fostering your lifelong love of reading/writing?
Tim Green: Definitely my parents, for sure. They were both voracious readers and my mom was a school teacher so it was also very important to her that I become a reader. They didn’t just talk about it, they also read themselves, constantly. That is just the house I grew up in. 
TMT: As a parent, what did you do that was successful in encouraging your kids to read?

Tim Green: I actually read more to my kids than I was read to when I was young. I read to my kids. My kids see me reading. I also find that my boys need more prompting to read than my girls. My daughters seem to just keep going at a real fast pace. My boys, I tend to need to nudge them and to give them books to read. That’s why the sports thing is such an important opportunity for boys because, mine anyway - and not all boys love sports - but mine are passionate about sports. When they know they can read something that has something to do about life inside sports, they are hungry for that. 
 Football GeniusFootball HeroFootball Champ: A Football Genius NovelThe Big Time: A Football Genius Novel
TMT: Can you describe what makes an ideal reading spot for you?

Tim Green: In the summertime, down on my dock, at the end of the dock on a chair. I love sitting in the sun and being out right on the water and just reading a book.

TMT: What about your ideal writing environment?  

Tim Green: I have a great place to write. I have a library that looks out over the lake.  I have a huge window in front of my desk and off to one side is a fireplace and the other side is a wall of books. It’s a great place. I love it. 

TMT: Do you set goals for yourself as a writer - for example, to finish so many pages in a day, to write for so many minutes/hours a day?

Tim Green: Pretty much, I know how long I have to write a book and I just start writing. Right now I’m writing a book every 6 months. I just start and I don’t really give myself specific goals until I get about 1 or 2 months from my deadline. Because of football season and coaching, this time I wasn’t as far as I normally am, so I think in 4 ½ months I only had about 120 pages. I knew in 6 weeks I had to write about another 100-120 pages. So I just said I got 6 weeks, I need to write 20 pages a week, and then I did.  I don’t really push myself until I have a deadline that’s looming. I really write at a pretty leisurely pace.  I like that, being able to go along and let it develop and not push it too hard.

TMT: What makes your books for kids unique:

Tim Green: I feel like I’m able to shine a light on a world that is incredibly interesting and violent and fightening and heart-warming.  I think it is such a rich, rich backdrop and I’m the only one who’s doing this...I think that’s the thing that I am most proud of about my own work, that I am able to shine a light on a place that no one else is so that it’s sports but it digs so much deeper than any sports books that are out there.
     In Baseball Great the main character, who is a kid, is confronted with the issue of using performance drugs or not. Everyone has an opinion about performance drugs. Everyone involved with sports understands what they can do good or bad, but I don’t think any writer has ever really understood it as an athlete. I was confronted with that issue and the stakes for me were incredibly high. I knew what they could do to my game; it wasn’t only I’ll get bigger, faster, stronger. I could make millions of dollars more. It wasn’t maybe, I knew I could. I was on the cusp and the one thing I really lacked as a player was size for my position. I knew I was only a pill away from going from 250 to 280 and I knew what it would mean for me to not do that.  
     My perspective on that is so different from anyone else's, to feel that incredible draw but at the same time have this moral compass inside me. For me, with that kind of issue, it wasn’t a matter of that’s the wrong thing, it was a matter of, 'Oh my God, if I did this, this is what would happen'.  Part of me was saying, 'Everyone else is, why wouldn’t you?' And another part was saying, because it’s wrong and you don’t want to do that and have cheated to get there. 
     When I take on that issue, even though it’s baseball, it’s an issue that had such an impact on a decision in my life.  It had far-reaching effects on me and my entire life. When I examine it, it’s not, 'It’s wrong or bad', or 'Everyone does it'. It’s right down the middle and it makes it very real. 
 Baseball GreatRivals: A Baseball Great Novel (Baseball Greats)
TMT: How would you finish the sentence, “Reading is…”?

Tim Green: Reading is something that makes your life better in every way.

TMT: What about, “Writing is…”?

Tim Green: Writing to me is the most pleasurable form of creation I can imagine outside of my own kids.  

Me and Tim Green
I would like to thank Tim Green for being so willing to let me interview him!!!  It was one of the most enjoyable chats I've had with an author.  His book Rivals: A Baseball Great Novel, was recently released on paperback on February 22nd and the third book in his baseball series, Best of the Best: A Baseball Great Novel will be published on March 22nd.  Check back in a few weeks for my reviews!           

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Bit of Me(me) 2/26/11

I feel like I'm learning about myself by doing There's a Book's A Bit of Me(me) every week.  It's making me think about myself to be able to blog and tell you about myself.

This week's question is:
What would your 
dream job be?

I've been thinking about this one all morning...it's trickier than I thought it would be.  My first thought was that I love what I'm doing.  I love my job.  This year I especially love teaching because my students are really reading.  It's so much fun to talk to them about books and share my love of reading with them.  But at the same time, there are definitely other jobs I think it would be fun to try at some point in my life or wish I could have.  I'm thinking some of these I'll try my hand at when my kids get older and I can maybe have a summer job.  The third is just a complete dream job...  Here are the top three that have come to mind this morning:

1. Starbucks Barista - I'm not sure why this seems like so much fun to me, but if I could, I think I would want to work at Starbucks and be an awesome barista.  First of all, I love Starbucks.  I love the atmosphere, it's relaxing and calm to me.  I also love people.  I would love interacting with people while making their drinks.  Now, I do have to admit that I'm a little bit scared of having to figure out how to make all the fancy drinks, but at the same time I love challenges so I think it would be fun to be doing something so hands-on.  My only fear is that I would grow to dislike Starbucks once it was a job instead of a getaway for me.

2. Yoga Instructor - So I just recently started doing yoga this week and I'm completely in love with it.  I would love to do yoga all day and help people get their poses right.  Technically, this might apply to different kinds of exercise because I love sharing my ideas with people and motivating people to do their best.  Speaking of relaxing, wouldn't this just be the best way to work but be relaxed?  Love it.

3. Meg-Cabot-esque Author - I love Meg Cabot's energy, I love her books, I love her fun attitude about life.  If I could write a book, I think it would turn out like one of the The Princess Diaries or All-American Girl.  If I could go on a book tour or to book signings, I would so dress up and hope to be all-around cute like Meg Cabot.  I would love to stay home and write books...and then still be a mom when my kids get home from daycare/school.  I would Tweet my fans and go to pajama-party-book-releases.  It would be grand.  
 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jumpstart the World


Some controversy over Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book Jumpstart the World was brought to my attention by Danielle from There’s a Book.  From the information that I have read online, I’m not even sure I can understand fully what’s going on between Catherine Ryan Hyde and her sister nor do I feel that I can pass judgment as to whom is more justified in the argument.  What I can do is remark on my thoughts about the book from the perspective of a teacher and a reader and about writing in general.

First of all, having recently read the book, I can say I thought it was such a well-written book.  Hyde does a good job of capturing the main character’s spirit.  Personally, I don’t feel like it’s easy to portray a teenager who comes across as being so real.  It’s amazing how this book can address topics I myself have never experienced before but at the same time explore feelings that I would venture to say every teenager has had to cope with: identity, independence, parents, friends, love.  Through these topics, Hyde is able to address the topic of people who are transgender. 

To be completely honest, to my knowledge, I have never met someone who is transgender.  My knowledge of transgender comes from an episode of Oprah, seriously.  I do believe it is a topic that deserves more attention, simply from the perspective of a person living in a world that I hope is one that recognizes different people and accepts them.  By having a transgender character in her book, Hyde is making her reader’s more aware of people who are transgender.  I believe this awareness can lead to learning more and knowing more can lead to understanding and acceptance.  I applaud her for incorporating a character who is transgender into her book while still making the book so real and accessible to readers.

On the idea of writing, it seems that the issue between the author and her sister is that the sister feels that this book isn’t Hyde’s story to tell.  I’m not sure how much of the character named Frank does portray Hyde’s sister nor do I know how much of the story parallels her life but I do feel that any writer has the freedom to write about what he or she wants to write about. I’ve heard various authors say that it’s a good idea as an author to write about what you know.  It makes sense that if you are going to write about a topic, then you should have a good grasp of that topic.  Having said that, I’ve also heard authors talk about the amount of research that went into writing a book.  For example, Sharon Draper explained that it took her ten years to research and prepare for her to write Copper Sun.  People who write historical fiction especially need to know enough about the time period or the person whom they are writing about if they are to write a book that is true to the time period and that represents that time period or character.  Should Catherine Ryan Hyde have an understanding of individuals who are transgender in order to write a fairly accurate account?  I think so.  Does it mean that she has to be a transgender person in order to qualify to write a book with a character who is transgender?  I don't think so.  Truly this is something the author will have to address on a personal level with her family member who is upset.  What's most important to me is spreading the word about this book. 

I feel like I have to say, "I am a reader-teacher-book-blogger, I speak for the books!"  While I do talk mainly about books, I feel like this particular book deserves to be read apart from all the discussion going on about the behind-the-scenes issues.  If I had read this book without having read anything from the sites that Danielle lists on her post I would have thought it was a great book that brings awareness to people who are transgender.  What I admire even more about it is that while it addresses this topic, the main character learns a lot about herself and grows a lot throughout the book.  This book could easily be offered to an 8th grader or older student.  If you haven't read it, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Have you heard of this book?  Have you read it?  Have you read all the commentary surrounding it now?  Does it change your perspective?  What do you think about the book (all the controversy aside)?

 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Library Thursday Blog Hop 2/24

I love Library Thursday!  I'm glad Lazy Girl Reads hosts this blog hop.  It's fun to be able to share what I've checked out from the library and to see what other people are reading.  I was able to restrain myself a little yesterday when I went.  I was focused.  I had three books on hold for me and then grabbed a Babymouse and Lulu and the Brontosaurus.  I was hoping to take a picture but I didn't end up going until after the baby was asleep so by then it was dark and it was snowing like crazy.  Hopefully next week I'll have a pic of my library!  Here are my books for the week:
 I'm so excited to read Across the Universe because I have heard so many great reviews from my Twitter friends.   

Today I'm also celebrating Library Lover's month (not like February is almost over or anything...).  I looked at some library shirts online but none of them were exciting to me so I decided to make my own! 
I painted it first and then embroidered little green beads around the middle heart. It's hard to tell. 
 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor




A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor

I'm excited to be part of the Tribute Books' blog tour for A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor by Robert Pielke!  Abraham Lincoln has always been such an interesting historic figure to me.  When I heard this book was about a time traveler who goes back in time to enlist the help of President Lincoln I knew it would be a book I would like.  I was not disappointed!  Here's my review of this great book!

Title: A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor  
Author: Robert G. Pielke  
Publisher: Altered Dimensions
Publication Date: 2010 
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction and Science Fiction/Novel 
Summary: Edward Blair has been sent back in time to meet with President Lincoln and convince him to request a truce in the war in order for the Union Army and the Confederate Army to work together to combat alien life forms that have been sent back in time as well.  The fate of the future is in Blair's hands - will he be able to convince them in time? 
What I Think: This book is an interesting blend of historical fiction and science fiction.  I'm not sure I have read a book like this ever before which makes it that much more intriguing.  Time travel has always been my superhero power of choice.  If I could zip from one place to another or even from one time to another I wouldn't hesitate for a second.  In this book, Blair not only time travels, but he ends up conferring with Lincoln and other well-known historical figures from the Civil War era.  I don't consider myself a history expert by any means, but I recognized the various people and events in this book.
     There will be a sequel to this book and I am anxious to find out what happens next.  The end of this book is a definite cliff-hanger a la The Maze Runner by James Dashner.
Read Together: 7 - 12 
Read Alone: 7 - 12 
Read With: Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson and other Civil War/Lincoln nonfiction or historical fiction (I've read Manhunt but not many others about this time period...); The Maze Runner (trilogy) by James Dashner; Ender's Game and others by Orson Scott Card
Snatch of Text: 
"'You said you were form Baltimore, Mr. Blair?'
'Yes.'
'You were born there, correct?'
'Yes.'
'What was the date of your birth?'
'I presume you mean the year?'
'I do.'
Blair took a deep breath and looked into Lincoln's eyes.  'When I first met you on the train fourteen years ago, I was forty years old.'  He swallowed hard and tried to keep his voice from shaking.  'I am now, still, forty years old, sir.  I was born in the city of Baltimore in the year 2163 A.D.  On July fourth, to be exact.' (p. 43)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Inferences, Asking Questions, Making Predictions, Making Connections, Visualizing
Writing Strategies to Practice: Narrative, Expository, Descriptive 
Writing Prompts: Draw a picture of a futuristic item, like Blair's weapon, and then write a paragraph to describe it; read the paragraph to a peer and see if he or she can draw the item without seeing your drawing.   
Topics Covered: History - Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg; Time Travel; Aliens; Communication; Family  
Translated to Spanish: No

*This book was given to me by the publisher to be part of their blog tour.  This in no way influenced my review of this book.
 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary SchoolTitle: The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School     
Author: Candace Fleming
Publisher: Schwartz and Wade   
Publication Date: 2007
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel   
Summary: Funny stories about a class of fourth graders and their teacher at Aesop Elementary school.   
What I Think: I wasn't sure what I thought when I started reading about this naughty class of 4th graders...but as I continued reading they grew on me.  In a way this book reminded me of Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, but definitely for an older student and a little more serious.  What I enjoyed about this book was that each chapter ended with a moral which outlined what a character learned in the chapter.  My favorite chapter was "The Spelling Goddess" and I definitely think that chapter and others could even be read as short stories apart from the rest of the book if you wanted to.  As a teacher, I enjoyed the character Mr. Jupiter, who is the teacher for the fourth grade class.  He has a funky sense of humor that was a fun element of the book. 
Read Together: 4 - 6 
Read Alone: 4 - 7 
Read With: Sideways Stories from Wayside School and others in the series by Louis Sachar; No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman; The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger; Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen; The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies; fables - by Aesop or others
Snatch of Text: "She felt like a scoop of vanilla ice cream on a hot summer's day-all sweet and drippy." p. 15   
Reading Strategies to Practice: Author's Purpose, Visualizing, Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Characteristics of Folk Literature - Fables   
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Simile   
Writing Prompts: Think about a time in your life when you learned a lesson - write about that time and state the moral of the story at the end.    
Topics Covered: Friends, School, Honesty, Bullying, Being Yourself, Library - Dewey Decimal, Folk Literature - Fables, Morals, Truth   
Translated to Spanish: No
 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast 2011

This morning, although it was Saturday, I happily woke up at my usual weekday wake up time to get on the road to Anderson Bookshop's Children's Literature Breakfast.  It was about a 45 minute drive but thankfully there wasn't any snow today!  The last time I went was two years ago when I was so sick and the roads were incredibly bad because of all the snow.
@100scopenotes @mindi_r @akgal68 @mentortexts(me!) @mrschureads
My friend, Kathy, and I talked books on the way and then when we got there I saw my Twitter friend, Mr. Schu, the second we walked in the door.  I've never met him but I recognized him instantly!  I met some blogger friends in the fall, but this was my first time meeting up with Twitter friends who I consider to be my beloved PLN (see above!).  Twitter does a great job of bringing people together even though we're far apart.  It's a strange feeling to "meet" people you chat with all the time and who know you even though you've never met in real life but exciting at the same time.  I'm sad we didn't get more time to chat, but the authors who spoke at this event were all excellent.

It's an exhilarating feeling to meet an author and to hear about his or her process, what inspires his or her books, or about their passion for books and reading.  As a parent and teacher, I truly recommend looking for author book signings your kids or students can attend because it does bring a new perspective to books.  Here are the authors I met this morning:
 Me and Tim Green - author of Football Genius and others
 Me and Mark Teague - 
author and illustrator of Dear Mrs. La Rue: Letters From Obedience School and others
 Me and Trent Reedy - author of Words In The Dust
Me and Kathryn Lansky - author of The Capture (Guardians of Ga'hoole, Book 1) and others

I'm still reeling from all the excitement of being with book friends and meeting some fantastic authors today.  It makes me sad that I live close to Anderson's but too far away to go more often.  

Have you read any of these authors' books?  Do you have a favorite?  What authors have you met or wish you could meet?