Tuesday, September 24, 2013

School Stories

This week I am working on the most fun assignment ever.

A dear friend, Mark West, who is an inveterate entrepreneur for all things children's literature, has agreed to edit a new publication targeted toward teachers and librarians called RISE: A Children's Literature Journal. He's asked me to contribute an essay on school stories for the inaugural issue, due out in December, as I love school stories and have written so many myself over the past decades.

What a delicious project this is, ever step of it!

Step one: canvassing school story suggestions on Facebook and a children's literature listserv. Ideas poured in, ranging from class British boarding school stories to recent picture books series such as the Miss Fox series by Eileen Spinelli and the Miss Malarkey series by Judy Finchler and Kevin O'Malley, as well as now-classic contemporary stories like Frindle by Andrew Clements and Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos.

Step two: going to the public library and carrying home as many of these books as I could find on the shelves. Each time one was already checked out (which happened quite often for some of these extremely popular titles), I had a pang of disappointment followed by some reasonable relief. My piece is 1500 words! I don't have time or space to read and discuss a hundred books!

Step three (in progress): read, read, read, read, read. Sunday afternoon and evening I tore through Not-So-Weird Emma, Best Friend Emma, and EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken by Sally Warner, as well as The Report Card and Troublemaker by Andrew Clements, after dispatching a dozen picture books. Today I'm going to read Witch Week by Diane Wynne Jones, which came up over and over again on the solicited suggestions, as well re-reading a few titles plucked from my own bulging bookshelves.

Step four (Thursday's goal): write the essay!

I love every single thing about this project. I have an excuse for lots of conversations with fellow children's book lovers, I'm reading a lot of books I've been meaning to read for a long time but never got around to until now, I feel busy and important with an actual writing assignment with its attendant deadline (bliss), and I even have the opportunity to promote my own books, as Mark told me I should talk about the school story from the writer's point of view as well.

Off to read!