Today’s post is part of a #SharpSchu trifecta. Be sure to visit Mr. Schu’s blog to see the cover of Jenni’s next novel, and visit Nerdy Book Club to see Jenni’s 5,4,3,2,1 interview.
I have become completely obsessed with the idea that if I study the childhood of today’s children’s literature authors, that I will be able to find a handful of things that they have in common that led them to becoming successful writers. I want to take my findings and apply them to my third grade classroom.
My dream is that this turns into my cranking out a bunch of kid lit authors.
I know that not every student that I teach dreams of growing up to become a successful author, but I’d like them to have that opportunity if it is something they desire. You see, my job as a writing teachers is to make my writers the best writers they can become. The best writers I know write books like When You Reach Me, Holes, Turtle In Paradise, The Center of Everything, and Hattie Big Sky. I want to create these types of writers.
If my focus is to create little Common Core machines, I haven’t done my job. Check that: I haven’t done the job that I aspire to do. I don’t think any of the authors I talk to will say that they are a successful writer because their teacher taught them standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3c (Use temporal words and phrases to signal event order.)
My plan is this. I am going to talk with every author that will listen, and I’m going to ask them what things did their teachers, their parents, their friends, their librarians do that contributed to them becoming a successful writer. My questions will change and evolve as I begin to figure out my little idea, but by golly- I am going to do everything I can to see where this idea takes me and my students.
My journey officially started last weekend when many little ideas came together to form this idea. I’ve been brainstorming frantically the last week, and the idea won’t seem to leave the front of my brain.
I’m ready to talk to an author about my idea. The lovely and talented Jennifer L. Holm has agreed to be my first victim.
Ms. Holm, thanks for joining me today. If you could identify three things from your childhood that led to your writing career, what things would you pick?
Jennifer L. Holm’s response:
I think the defining thing about my childhood was being raised with boys. (No, it wasn’t the stinky soccer socks that made me become a writer, although, believe me, there were plenty of those lying around.)
I’m the middle child of five – the other four were all brothers. Being the only girl had its advantages. I never had to share a bedroom, and no bunk beds for me (I got a nice canopy bed). But the main thing was that my parents raised me as one of the boys. I did everything they did—ran around in the woods, climbed trees, built forts, played endless rounds of D&D. Because of this I never doubted that I could do whatever boys could do.
The other part was work—yes, work. My parents both came from very little money and they had to work very hard to get where they were. It was expected that all of us kids would have after-school-type jobs from a young age. I started babysitting other people’s children when I was twelve. I worked all through high school and college. Besides the obvious advantage of making money, and learning how to manage money, there is nothing that inspires creativity like the mind-numbing act of having to fold walls of sweaters and jeans. I worked at the Gap in high school. (The employee discount did rock.) So, I expected from a young age that I was going to have to work, and work hard. And I was grateful for opportunities. My first job out of college was as a lowly secretary answering the phone and, believe me, I was the happiest secretary in New York City because someone gave me the chance to prove myself.
Finally, I think the idea of there being a “world out there” beyond the borders of my small town in Pennsylvania helped me to dream. My eldest brother joined the Navy when I was still a kid and he was stationed in cool and exotic places like Alaska and Scotland. I loved getting postcards from him (and toys, of course). It opened up a whole new world to me. In a way, I believe that’s what writing is: imagining yourself in a new and different world.
It’s me again (Colby). Wow! Isn’t crazy to see the things that impacted a young Jennifer L. Holm. Now I’m off to think about how these experiences that helped turn out a 3 time Newbery winning author can be applied in my classroom with my students, and at home with my children. I can’t give my students all brothers, but I believe that what she said about her seeing the idea that a “world out there” exists, and the importance of hard work are things that I can continue to show my students and my own children.
Thanks for stopping by, Jenni!