Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ann Cannon

One of my responsibilities this year is to chair the Writing Festival Committee. We had a committee meeting of which I informed said committee more than two weeks prior. I gave little reminder notes and even put a small treat in their boxes the day before. I received zero emails indicating that someone might have been unable to show. One person attended and the meeting ended shortly, due to a serious lack of warm bodies. I must reschedule the meeting and hope for something better. Am watching for the wind to come back into my sails. Oh well, last year's chair held no meetings whatsoever and nothing bad happened to her, so I don't feel any real pressure about it at this point.

I decided to take matters into my own hands. I chose to invite a Utah author to visit our school. Ann Cannon is someone with whom I had exchanged emails over a year ago--I had responded to one of the newspaper articles she wrote (FYI, she's a regular columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune). At that time she gave me a phone number. In late September, I decided to give her a call. Ann is warm and easy-going. She is real. She gave me her criteria, straight up. Love that about a person. All of it.

Monday was the day! In preparation, I had visited public libraries in three different cities and shopped at a Barnes & Noble to get my hands on as many of her books as possible. The woman writes such a range! Next I set about reading her books and ended up being more impressed than before. I also began reading her books aloud to my students. My personal favorite is Charlotte's Rose which is, of course, being my favorite, historical fiction.

Allow me to give a shout out to our PTA for financing the whole extravaganza. It was my first time writing a grant for the PTA to fund something. I'm so glad they thought it was a good cause. I must give another shout to the Media Specialist. She volunteered the use of her libary and came up with a light blue table cloth for the book display. She also changed the schedule for a couple of other teachers in order to organize Ann's visit. Speaking of schedules, my team leader let me know that the first times I had set up wouldn't work (thank you for catching my mistakes)! Other teammates visited Ann's website to help prepare for the big event. It takes a village to host an author.

Ann spoke to our entire fifth grade in two sessions. She led the children through a writing exercise to help them learn how to create a character for stories. It was more than worthwhile and fun for all of us. Not only did she teach the children, she also modeled excellent teaching for the teachers. She's a natural. The kids were really pumped about what they had accomplished. We thanked her at the end and gave her a gift basket which included the traditional school t-shirt so she could be one of us. Who wouldn't want to be a Dragon?

One of my students asked Ann this question, "Is there anyone willing to publish an almost-eleven-year-old's book?" I wondered how Ann would respond. Ann doesn't know that this girl started her book in third grade and just finished it last week. She doesn't know what a voracious reader this girl is. Ann gave her an answer, straight up. She said, "No." And then she explained why. She told the girl she needed a few more years of practice. She related it to being a Little League baseball player. You might be really, really good in Little League, but no one is going to look at you seriously until you've had a lot more practice and have grown up a bit. I want to cheer out loud when understanding adults are so kind and positive and truthful with ten year olds. They can see through a bluff better than most. Ann doesn't bluff.

Ann graciously remarked on her blog that she doesn't remember a better school visit. Let me just say that I've never seen a visiting author work so personally with a group of fifth graders. She had them listening and laughing. She had them asking questions and sharing ideas.

She had them writing. And they loved it.

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