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Well, I made it to June. Not quite sure how, but I did.

Funny, when I wrote that May Madness post on April 30, I had no idea the degree of madness that would ensue. But, here we are, on a cold and rainy June 1. Aaaaaahhhhhhh.

The Young Authors Conference at Fairfax went very well. It was an extraordinary amount of work that required an army of volunteers, to whom I am eternally grateful. But we typed, printed and “published” more than 350 books, 285 of which were printed, tediously, double-sided, on my home computer. The kids produced stories that were funny, clever, creative, original, sometimes sad, a little bit crazy and, on occasion, deeply profound.  As one of my typing volunteers commented, “This makes me wish I knew these kids better. There is a lot going on in their minds!”  Indeed, there is.

Yesterday we had a culminating assembly with a local author, to which the students proudly brought their completed books.

A few brave kids got up to read excerpts including this familiar-looking guy, whose teacher challenged him to use non-human characters so his are mitts, bats and one very unhappy baseball:

This 4th grade girl wrote a beautifully moving, fictionalized tribute to her teacher who passed away very unexpectedly in the winter:

And this 1st grader’s pirate story had a battle “that lasted eight hours, which is a reasonable amount of time for a battle:”

I had the chance to get to know a lot of children, the youngest of whom began calling me “Young Author,” as in, “Look, there’s Young Author” on my daily trips through the building. And many of the kids were genuinely excited about the project and seemed eager to write more stories (although one of my favorite — and most honest — About the Author paragraphs said, “This is so-and-so’s first book and he doesn’t plan to write any more”!).

Ultimately I’m glad I did it and very very glad it’s over. There were several times, after late nights of typing up page after page of unpunctuated dialogue, when I said to Mark, “I don’t see how on earth I can possibly get this done. But I am going to get it done.”  And I did. With a ton of help, of course. Thank you to all, especially Amy and Cynthia of Lake Erie Ink, who partnered with me in this madness and surely, more than once, wondered what they’d gotten themselves into.

Now, I will host the Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at school on Tuesday and help out with the 2nd grade picnic that afternoon and then, . . . then it’s summertime!

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On to the next big thing. You may remember that back in the fall, I was wishing I could bring a Young Authors Conference back to the Heights? Well, I can. And I am.

It’ll be on a small scale, not a major district-wide event, but the entire student body at Fairfax School will spend the month of May creating, writing, revising, illustrating and binding their own individual works of fiction. I’ve settled on Journeys as a theme because it’s broad enough that the kids will have a huge range of topics to choose from and yet concrete enough for them to have a good jumping-off point. They could write a completely fantastical tale of a journey to another world, the moon, the bottom of the sea … or could write a realistic story about a typical family vacation or even a field trip. If they’re advanced enough, they could even use the theme metaphorically to write about a journey through something, like childhood or divorce. The fifth grade classes will be taking all they’ve learned about early American history in social studies to write journeys back to Colonial or Revolutionary America, a la The Magic Treehouse books, and an excellent example of cross-curricular teaching and learning.

I’ll give you all the tiny details if you’re interested but, really, this post is a plea for help. I do have a good team of helpers, especially Amy and Cynthia from Lake Erie Ink who, along with me, have each taken two grade levels to work with throughout the process.  But, of course, there are many other ways to get involved, both large and small. I’ll start with the small: The students will be creating their book covers in Art class the old-school way, using wallpaper samples bound over poster board.  If you have access to any old wallpaper, especially in designs that might appeal to children aged 5 through 11, I’ll be happy to take it off your hands.  I’ve been calling around to the local hardware stores but have only gotten a few discontinued books (one of all brown stripes — clearly, why it was discontinued!). I can come to your house and pick stuff up or you can drop them here, so long as I have it all by April 27.

I also need volunteers to help type the student work. The kids will spend several weeks going through the steps of the writing process, brainstorming, drafting, editing, revising, and so on, but, except for some fourth and fifth graders, few are adept enough at typing to do it themselves without an extraordinary time commitment. So I will collect all the final drafts from teachers by Monday, May 21 and that evening, you are cordially invited to a Typing Party at Lake Erie Ink. I know, we’re wild and crazy gals, huh? Let me know if you’re tempted … or if you’re willing to take a few manuscripts home to type on your own time.

If you’re able and willing to work directly with students, I have a wonderful opportunity for you too. During the Revise & Edit stage (Monday, May 14 through Friday, May 18), students will work in pairs to read and critique one another’s drafts. I am coordinating volunteers to go into the classrooms and oversee peer conferences, working with two students at a time as they offer constructive criticism to their partner. I will provide written tips and instructions, as well as a brief training on the process, if you could give an hour (or more) in either the morning or afternoon that week.

So, if your days are long and empty or you’re feeling particularly unfulfilled and have a strong desire to make a difference in the life of a child…, you know where to find me!

First of all, we are pretty set for St. Baldrick’s.  I have three fabulous Registrars — somehow that job was a lot more appealing to people than the Treasurer position. Mark has agreed to serve as Lead Treasurer and I think I have a back-up, but will gladly accept more help in that department.  I need to have my letter to schools approved by St. Baldrick’s and I will start emailing them out next week, so please let me know if you cam bring materials to your child’s school and drum up some interest. And of course, we now need shavees and donations.  Team Braedan is here and Team Austin here.  The sooner people sign up, the more money you’ll raise.

Shifting gears (something I do at least ten times a day): A repost from last January, as I was preparing for my first Writer’s Digest Conference, and always a good reminder:

Packing Perspective

Alright, let’s see if I’m ready.

Cape, tights, superpowers? Check. (Thank you, Chris, for reminding me to pack those.)

Well-worded oral pitch that clocks in at 87 seconds (thanks to some careful revisions) and that makes me giddy with pride? Check.

Well-researched list of agents, ranked according to best match for my work? Check.

Carefully chosen outfits that are both comfortable enough to wear all day and yet appropriately stylish? (Hey, you gotta look good.) Check.

Three-plus years of hard work, hopes and dreams? Che….

Wait a minute. The product of my three-plus years of hard work, hopes and dreams (and blood, sweat and tears) is staying behind. It’s here, this family, this house, this home. Two mostly healthy, mostly happy, remarkably normal children and one super-strong marriage.

Perspective? Check.

 

I figured we better put all this media attention and celebrity to good use.  After years of bemoaning the fact that there wasn’t a good alternative to the very adult event at AJ Rocco’s, I’ve decided to host a St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event specifically aimed at kids and teens.

Mayor Kelly has graciously and enthusiastically offered us the use of the Cleveland Heights Community Center on the afternoon of Sunday, March 11, one week prior to the big event downtown. St. Baldrick’s provides a huge amount of support but, in order for this to be a success, I need YOU.

Here’s the scoop: I need two people who would like to serve as Treasurers. I have a document I can email to you if you’re interested that lays out all your responsibilities.  Almost everything can be done from your home computer leading up to the event and then you’d be responsible for collecting any cash or check donations on the day of the event.  (People are strongly encouraged to donate online prior to the event itself, which eases up the burden on the Treasurers and is the most efficient and cost-effective for St Baldrick’s.)  You would need to complete an FBI background check, but it’s all done online and is a piece of cake (honestly, you just enter in your birth date and social, no fingerprints or anything). I also need a Registrar, who would be responsible for registering shavees prior to and on the day of the event (but I will help out enormously in that regard). Whoever takes that job also needs a background check. The lovely ladies from Cut Studio on Lee have agreed to serve as volunteer head-shavers, so you know you’ll be in good hands.

If you are interested in either of the above roles or just in helping out in general, please let me know and I’ll forward you all the necessary materials. St Baldrick’s has been running these events for twelve years now and they make the process as easy as possible.  I’m sure there will be lots of little jobs in the days leading up to it, including things like baking cookies or buying bottled water. If you have any fabulous ideas about how to make this a fun family-friendly event, I welcome them.  I’m going to reach out to Flower the Clown to see if he’ll donate his time to make balloon animals for the kids (unless someone knows him well and wants to take this on).

I also have letters ready to go out to all the public, private and parochial schools in Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and University Heights.  Children and teens from anywhere in Greater Cleveland are welcome, but I’m starting with a manageable area where I have lots of natural contacts.  If you want a letter to give to your school counselor or PTA or anyone else you think might be good at rounding up shavees, leave a comment here or on Facebook and I’ll forward you a copy.

And of course, the most critical component of the day: we need SHAVEES. We need brave young souls willing to go bald to stand in solidarity with all the children who lose their hair during treatment. I know it is a big commitment (one I am shying away from myself), but kids, and especially teenage boys, are the perfect participants (they’re so much less vain, you know). Feel free to form a team, either from your school, sports team, youth group, neighborhood or even family.  Teams can have as few as two members or as many as you can recruit. Shave in honor of a child battling cancer or choose one off the St Baldrick’s website (Austin, of course, is available to be honored by any and all!).   If you’re a grown-up thinking about shaving, please register at the AJ Rocco’s event on the following Saturday, following the St Patrick’s Day Parade downtown.  That is a fabulous event that raises more than $200,000 and I don’t want to draw anyone away from it (we’ll definitely be there).  But if for some reason, you’re unable to attend that one or if you still fall into the “youth” category (or know someone who does), please consider making this huge and public statement on behalf of kids with cancer.

To register, please click here.

As St Baldrick’s says, it takes all of us to conquer kids’ cancer.

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