Author Event Highlights: Veronica Roth & Phoebe North

Earlier this week, I took my eldest daughter to hear Veronica Roth (Divergent trilogy) & Phoebe North (Starglass) in conversation at one of our favorite independent bookstores – Schuler Books (@SchulerBooks). Here are some highlights:

It was amazing to see this many people in a small space (500 tickets all sold out!) because of excitement about books, reading, and authors. We talked with some people who had driven for more than 5 hours from Cincinnati, Ohio and heard of someone else who had come from Kentucky.

Seated tickets sold out in 14 minutes. This is standing room only crew...

Seated tickets sold out in 14 minutes. This is standing room only crew…

On their own characters:

Phoebe: I loved Tris. I loved that she is complicated and seemed like a real teenager. She was challenging sometimes to read but that’s what I liked about her.

Veronica (re. the relationship between Tris & Four): It was a rule for me that neither character would derive strength from the other

On “strong female characters”:

Veronica: Male characters get to be all of these different adjectives, and we think women characters should be the same thing.

Phoebe: I think it’s important to think about what we mean by strong. We can have physically strong, like Tris. But we can also have complex and real – that is strong too.

On anxiety and writing

Veronica: I find it problematic that in general if something is wrong with you “below the neck” that it’s acceptable to get help and go a doctor. But if something is “above the neck” like anxiety or depression, people are just supposed to suck it up. That’s wrong. These are things that can be about brain chemicals and it’s important to get help, from a doctor or counselor or therapist.

Phoebe: Therapy is like ‘leveling up’ in life instead of a video game.

On writing:

Veronica: It’s important to have people to work with that think differently than you do when sharing writing. It means that you have disagreements, but it also means it helps you think more deeply.

Phoebe: At the beginning I was I used to fly by the seat of my pants. I thought I should try to be more of a planner/plotter. Then I tried it, wrote 500 pages, and it was awful. Now I just do it the way that works for me.

Veronica: I have a different process for each book. I don’t know if I’ll ever have one process that works for every book. Sometimes you don’t have a process. Anything that helps you write is what you should do to write.

Thanks to Schuler Books for hosting. Whitney and the entire staff was amazing as always.
Thanks to Harper Collins – for every ticket sold at each of the events, they donated a new book to First Books.
Thanks to Veronica & Phoebe for coming to Lansing and sharing your time and selves with us. 

Schuler Books
website: http://www.schulerbooks.com/
twitter: @SchulerBooks

Phoebe North
website: http://www.phoebenorth.com/
twitter: @phoebenorth

Veronica Roth
website: http://www.veronicarothbooks.com/
twitter: @VeronicaRoth

 

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Stuck – a #nerdultion/slice of life post

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Click on the image above to head over to the blog “Two Writing Teachers” for more Slice of Life posts….

Today I feel stuck. This is dissertation work time, I have a meeting with my advisor in 2 hours and I feel stuck. So I’m going to try writing here.

One of things that I’m struggling with in this kind of writing is that I need to write to figure out what I’m thinking versus “showing what I know”. It’s something that I ask the students in my children’s literature course to do each semester. Some of them really struggle with it – they believe that if they have to write a “paper” and submit it to me (the teacher) that they need to show me what they know. I want for them to use their written responses as a way to figure out what they think and why they think it.

My dissertation needs to be a combination of both, with some stories and references in there for clarity and support. And it is oh-so-hard for me sometimes. I have this notion that I should be showing what I know, that this is in some way going to “prove” that I have earned the label of Ph.D..

I keep feeling this need to defend my work – to defend why I am doing the sort of dissertation that I am (theoretical/humanities) and to defend why it matters. But what I need to do is make the case and then DO the writing – and let that speak for itself. And not everyone will agree with me or even choose to engage with what I’m thinking. But that doesn’t matter. So I’m going to turn off my inner critic now – she needs a nap anyways – and go do some writing…

Philosophy of Childhood and Children’s Literature (nerdlution #2)

Dissertation progress update:

  • reread feedback on Chapter 2 so I’d know where to start with revisions
  • revised 2 paragraphs that needed help and added a new paragraph
  • wrote a story to integrate into chapter 2 (or another chapter, not sure yet)
  • had a conversation with a friend about part of my framework

About that last one, what exactly IS a theoretical framework anyways?!?! This has been one of the most complex aspects of academic writing for me to wrap my brain around. In the case of my dissertation, the way I’m thinking of it (thanks to my advisor) is as the “lenses” that I’m using to read, view, sift, and filter as I read and write.

One of the lenses is Gareth MatthewsPhilosophy of Childhood (not the same thing as philosophy for children). What I’ve been talking about and rewriting is the section that explains what exactly it is and why I’m using it in this study. This second part is tricky for me because it is perfectly clear in my head – but doesn’t always come out on paper the same way.

Ultimately Matthews is important for me because my study is focusing on the ways that children’s literature is thought about, studied, and conceptualized across the disciplines of education, library science and english. In my study I use the terms “literacy, libraries, and literature”. Specifically, I want to analyze interdisciplinary ways of thinking about children’s literature as a way to provide a broader way to prepare preservice teachers to think about children’s literature in elementary classrooms.

So why Matthews? He provides a lens that frames children not from a deficit or developmental perspective, but from a “show me what you can do” perspective. This is important because of the implied child reader of children’s literature, as well as because of the assumed (and explicitly taught) developmental perspectives of teacher education.

Dissertation plan for Monday:

  • finish revisions on Matthews section
  • make plan for revisions on Rancière section (the other half of my framework)

 

Jumping in to #nerdlution

Last week, the idea for #nerdlution was born out of a twitter conversation – as many fabulous ideas have been. If you want to know more, check out this post over on Christopher Lehman’s blog.

I’m joining in. I am going to write my dissertation. Every day. It’s important that I use the verb WRITE. Sometimes I think that I need to reread things – which I may need to do, or I may be using as a reason not to write. It is ok for me to reread things, but I also will WRITE.

I am going to use my blog to get myself in the mindset for the day. This is a version of something that author Linda Urban (@lindaurbanbooks) shared at an NCTE session about the writing process. So each day I will write a post about the following:

  • what I accomplished the day before as a word count
  • something that is inspiring for me
  • what I am going to write about on that day
  • Other ponderings that I want to keep track of, but can’t write about yet.

Once again, I am grateful to my @nerdybookclub tribe for their fabulous ideas and virtual cheering. Being part of this tribe means more than I can say.

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Photo Journal: Writing Retreat #1

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This gallery contains 12 photos.

This week, I headed to my parents house in northern Michigan for my own personal writing retreat. I’m so very grateful to my husband and daughters for their moral and very tangible time support so that I can complete my … Continue reading

A taste of delicious storytelling

I’m in the car right now reading Kathi Appelt’s new book The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. This is storytelling that gives me goosebumps. Here is a taste for you…

Hogs like to hide out along creek beds, where they lay low in the underbrush so that no one can see their sneaky selves. Like our raccoons, they’re also nocturnal, using the cover if darkness to mask their dastardly deeds.
They usually travel in family groups called sounders. Isn’t that a great word? “Sounders”? We just love that.
But do we love Buzzie and Clydine and the Farrow Gang?
Friends, their is nothing to love there.
Nothing.

Now – back to reading…

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A Crooked Kind of Perfect

This book has been sitting on my tbr pile for quite a while now. I read Hound Dog True last year (based on my friend Colby Sharp’s gushing about it, yes he gushed) and loved it. Urban is clearly a gifted storyteller, particularly when it comes to character and voice.

I sat down last evening with my daughters for “family reading time” and decided it was time to read A Crooked Kind of Perfect. I finished it before going to sleep and am still thinking about it today, right now even. I love books that stay with me like that – make me want to go back, reread them, mull over the language, and think about what it is that made me respond this way.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect hits home with me personally in a variety of ways – but I think perhaps one of the reasons I haven’t read it yet is because I needed to read it this week. I’m going to defend my practicum study this thursday. I’ve been working on it for far longer than I thought I would due to a variety of reasons (like breaking my arm). It had gotten to a point where every time I looked at it all I could see was the “crooked” – the holes, and time that felt wasted, and paper that hadn’t been defended. It seemed like I would never finish it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quit my ph.d. program in the past two years – just so I wouldn’t have to deal with finishing it.

The chapters in the middle of the book where Zoe decides to quit were so spot on. The way that the sentence length shortens, she blocks out all possibilities, and is just sure that quitting is the only way to go.

Quitting

It is no big deal that I am quitting.
It isn’t.
It really isn’t.
It’s not like quitting the piano.
That would be a tragedy. (p. 84)

What I love about this is that it’s ok for Zoe to quit. She does it for a few pages. Her parents don’t chastise her or push her, they just sit with her, and let her quit. And eventually there is a key change, and she decides not to quit. My husband, writing group and friends have done this for me with my practicum. They have watched me struggle, and listened, and pushed at just the right times. But ultimately I am the one that decided not to quit.

Perfectionism is rampant in our society. It is something that is presented in movies, television shows, the news, books, and each other; often in ways that we aren’t even aware of. We judge each other harshly and don’t stop to acknowledge that there is more to life than first place, a gold medal, or the most money.

Here is a book that celebrates hard work, at something that wasn’t exactly the way Zoe imagines, but that turns out to be about more than being a prodigy, more than getting applause for a performance. It is realistic in so many fabulous possible ways.

Zoe’s mom works hard, she misses some of her daughters events – but Zoe doesn’t hate her for it.

Zoe’s dad lives with OCD, or at least symptoms similar to it. He does not “struggle” with his issues, he lives with them. He is a father who loves not only his daughter and wife, but extends it to another child who needs a positive adult presence in his life.

Zoe deals with friend problems, something not uncommon for middle school aged children. But those problems do not define her, she feels yucky about them and moves on. Just like she does with quitting. This is a book about real people, living real lives.

So this thursday, I will defend my practicum (I might wear multi-colored toe socks). It will not be perfect – because such a thing does not exist. It will however be mine and it will be done and I will move forward with my dissertation and finish. That will by my crooked kind of perfect. I think we’ll get a cake and some Vernor’s to celebrate.