Sunday, May 20, 2012

Letters to the Living and the Dead. The Angel Potatoes Write Writers.

Part of the Revolution is the kids choose a book by an author who is still alive and who made it to the American Library Association's Best Fiction for Young Adults List.
I reserved the right to add to the BFYA for Revolutionary purposes, because some amazing books did not get on the ALA radar.
Because we are piloting the Revolution this year, some kids did not get a chance to choose and read a book.
I will not go into the politics behind this at the moment; suffice to say that I said that for this year kids could use a book they read for a class.
Part of the Revolution is writing to the author, because when someone writes a book that moves you or stays with you it is, I think, a kind and wondrous thing to send those thoughts back to the writer. I tell the kids that writers are busy writing, and they may not get a response, and the most important thing is honoring the story and the wordsmith and the experience.
I do not grade these letters.
I do just check them off as complete.
I do ask the kids to let me see the letters, because I delight in their voices. A kid always has the right to say, "No, it's personal" and choose not to share their letter or their response.
But it's funny--they like to share.
Holy tomato, when a kid gets a response, and shares it, we celebrate. I stop whatever we are doing, and we make a lot of noise, and kids crowd around the lucky recipient's monitor.
Sometimes we dance.
At least, I do.
So here are some excerpts from letters the kids have written.
One student wrote to Michael Grant, author of BZRK.
"I selected BZRK for the project and loved it. It was the first book I had really been interested in ever since I got into high school. I've had not time to read because of all the homework so I was thrilled when I heard we go to pick a book of our choice for the assignment. BZRK was an amazingly great masterpiece."
Another student wrote to Ilsa Bick, author of Ashes.
"A few years ago I read every awesome book that I could find and then after that I lost my interest in books. But when I heard your book had zombies and EMPs, I was intrigued. But when I finally read it I was just so in love with the book that I am looking for more of your amazing books. You sparked my interest in reading again. Thank you."
And I wish I could show you all the look on my student's face when he saw a note from Ilsa Bick in his inbox. Child shines shines shines.
One of my boys read Tom Sawyer and wrote to Mark Twain.
"The only reason I ever picked up your book is because my Grandpa told me that every boy should read your book. So I decided to read it and I'm very glad I did. You demonstrated the adventures of growing up as a boy and how tough and how much pressure there is growing up."
The student did not realize that Mark Twain was dead. I told him that I will find his descendants and get it to them. Because if you knew that one of your relatives made a difference to someone, wouldn't you want to hear about it?
And the world is a strange place. Maybe Mr. Twain will write back. You never know.
The kids also made posters for the book they read, and these are very cool. I will post some when I get their permission.
We start on book trailers this week.
Before I go, though, I want to thank every author who has ever taken the time to read something from a kid and taken even more time to write back.
You have rocked worlds.
Thank you.


  1. Just a little note: It is Ilsa Bick, not Blick.

    1. Thank you, Charles. It is kind of you to point this out. As the daughter of an art teacher, my default setting is "blick," as in art supplies. Ms. Bick has been an awesome supporter and it grieves me that I misspelled her name. I have since remedied this.

  2. Also, I know how the Angel Potatoes feel getting responses. When I first sent out a friend request to an author on Facebook and it was accepted, I'm pretty sure I did a little happy dance of my own. Not to mention when I interviewed Andrew Smith for my Psychology class. Oh, I also did a happy dance when two authors posted a birthday message on my Facebook Wall.

    1. I know! I feel the same way. I get such a thrill hearing back from authors. It will never get old. And, my friend, I am always pleased to hear from you. Thank you for your trenchant insights.

  3. The Angel Potatoes rock my world. This, and all the open bar parties I get invited to, are the BEST things about being a word hack.

    1. You have given so much joy. I can't wait for you to meet them. I hope all the open bar parties have the good stuff. NO WINE.

  4. I don't know if you saw my "I" post during A to Z, but I'm pretty sure that Twain has done some time travelling. He was buds with Tesla, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if Tesla invented a time machine. Anyway, I wouldn't be at all surprised.

    And just to say it, I would positively write back to any letter I received.

    1. Andrew! I will pursue your books! The kids would love to hear from you!

  5. What a great idea for a school project. I bet the authors were delighted. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I love this idea! So wonderful. I've tried to get my son to write to a couple of authors he enjoys, but to no avail yet.