Authors, Authors

Author-Go-Round: Connie Peck

coverConnie is the author of some of my very favorite horse books for Young Adults. Welcome, Connie!

Thank you for inviting me to your blog. I’m Connie Peck and the stories I write are loosely based on a pony I owned when I was young. Do horses really talk? Can a rider actually understand the thoughts of a horse? You betcha! Every animal communicates. They signal danger and good food, play and even anger or irritation. They even communicate with other species. How do you know what they are saying? By watching and listening. You know what your dog or cat is thinking – at least most of the time, and they seem to know what you’re going to say even before you say it.

I always know what my horse is thinking by the tilt of his ears or the angle of his head. His eye changes ever so slightly to tell me different things, and when his muscles tighten, I know what he’s thinking about doinghorse. And my horse understands me in the very same way. Of course we speak verbally as well. I know his whinny when he wants food, or just wants company, and he knows when I call him or whistle that it’s time to go for a ride – or get a snack.

I learned all this from my pony, Midnight, when I was only eleven years old. That pony actually considered himself to be the trainer of our partnership.

A while back I visited a fourth grade class and we discussed writing books. They couldn’t wait to ask me all sorts of questions. Here are some of my favorites.

  1. How did you make up so many stories?

I write about things I that happened to me, or things I would like to happen. Sometimes I daydream and pretend I’m someone else and make up things to do. When you start by writing about things in your own life, your imagination starts to grow. Then making up new stories gets easier.

  1. Do you ever get tired when you are writing a book?

While I’m writing a real good part of the book and I’m so into it that I lose track of time, I can sit at my desk for hours and not even know it. I’m not a bit tired or hungry or thirsty even. But when I do stop to think about something I just wrote, or I have to stop and think about what’s going to happen next, I might lean back in my chair, and then I think I broke myself in half! I try to stand up and stretch my legs and I’m so stiff I can hardly move. But I didn’t think I was getting tired at all when I was ‘In the Zone’.

  1. Are you famous?

It depends on what you mean by famous?

“Like on TV where everyone knows you.”

Well, my children know me, and my grandchildren know me pretty well. And my mom, all my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews know me, as well as all my aunts and uncles and cousins. And now you know me. So I guess that makes me sort of famous. Besides, I had an interview on a radio station one time.

“Wow, you are famous!”

  1. Are you a millionaire? ‘Cause everyone who writes a book must be rich.

(I tried not to giggle) If you mean really rich, I can say I’m the richest person I know because of my family and friends, and because I live in America where I can choose my own life. But if you want to know if I have enough money to pay my bills, not yet. In fact, none of the authors I know are rich. (They were really surprised and a little disappointed)

  1. I’m afraid of horses and I don’t really like them, but I like cats. Can you write a book about cats?

I write what I know and love and that’s mostly horses. I don’t know a lot about cats, but I have a couple of cats and they can be funny. You can write a great book about cats if you start writing about what your cat does. You can even make up an adventure for you and your kitty. Maybe someday you will be famous. (That got them excited)

I started my latest book, Belt Buckles and Tiaras, not long after this classroom visit. It is a new line in The Black Pony adventures. Annie and Midnight first met Savannah in the first book when they went to the playday. Annie got to know Savannah a little better in the second book, Midnight and the Racehorse. But Savannah wanted to share her own story and tell how Annie helped her out, just by being a friend.

Sixteen year old Savannah Conway has it all, wealth, beauty, and the finest horses on a ranch in Phoenix. But what is the cost? Her movie-star mother has plans to see her winning every beauty pageant she can find. Right up to Miss America.

When her own dreams of training and showing horses clash with her mother’s plans, Savannah feels betrayed, trapped in a life mapped out for her since birth. But when she meets Annie Beck, a plain girl with an exceptional black pony, doors to another way of life begin to open. A life filled with real friends and freedom of choice.

Can Savannah break her mother’s heart and shatter their dreams for a shot at the title of Miss America just for a fling in the country? Is a compromise possible so she can meet Annie’s friends – and James, who rides the golden dun?

You can find BELT BUCKLES AND TIARAS on Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/nwkpw2v) and the rest of my books on my Author Page 

Please visit me at http://conniepeck.wordpress.com and check out Midnight’s blog, too.

And don’t forget to visit these fabulous authors, also on this tour. Write a comment on something you find interesting.

Feb 8 Nina Day Gerard www.ninadaygerard.com

Feb 15, Miracle Austin www.miracleaustin.com

Eve Connelly. Website www.eveconnelly.wordpress.com

Tracy Lawson. Website www.tracylawsonbooks.com

Linda Ulleseit, Flying Horse books and more, website: www.ulleseit.wordpress.com

About Reading

Novel Madness!

It’s that time again. March Madness for basketball, and Novel Madness in my classroom. The students whittled down a long list to come up with their top 16 favorite novels. Students will write persuasive speeches to convince their classmates to vote for their book. By Easter, we’ll have a winner–stay tuned!

Round One:

Wonder by R. J. Palacio vs. The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien vs. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan vs. Holes by Louis Sachar

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli vs. Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan vs. BFG by Roald Dahl

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling vs. Diary of a  Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Ghost Files by Apryl Baker vs. Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell

Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart vs. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 

There are some old favorites here that come up every year, but as usual there are some new ones, too. Which is your favorite? Round One ends Friday and I will post the results of all these matchups then.

About Reading

Book Lover Problems

book

Lists like this exist in a lot of places on the Internet, but these problems speak to the true heart of any book lover so I’d like to share my top ten book lover problems.

1. When you finish a book and have to wait a year  (or longer) for the sequel. As an author, I appreciate the difficulty of cranking out more than one novel a year, but as a reader I want them to appear more frequently–maybe monthly? weekly?

2. When someone says you read too much. Who are they to decide on ‘too much’? Do they play too many video games or spend too much time on sports? Obviously, ‘too much time’ is an irrelevant notion to a true lover of books.

3. When you forget to eat or sleep because a book is so good. Or you do fall asleep and dream yourself into the story. Ah, exquisite torture!

4. When someone interrupts your reading. I remember one of the Harry Potter books that was released on my birthday. I received the book as a gift, but also uninterrupted time to read it. I curled on the couch and lost myself for twelve hours. Bliss.

5. When someone asks you to pick your favorite book and you can’t pick just one. My students are always asking for my favorite book. I can say I love historical fiction and fantasy, but once I start remembering great books the titles spill from me. Choosing one just seems unfair to the rest of them.

6. When someon tells you they don’t like to read. My first reaction is, “Oh, we’ll change THAT by the end of the year!” And we usually do. If not, I am truly saddened.

7. When your favorite character dies. In one book, it’s unexpected, but if you’ve followed a character through a series then that character’s death is a blow.

8. When someone spoils the ending of a book. Sure, I’ll continue to read it anyway, but something special is missing if I already know how it’s going to go. I don’t tell you the score of the game you recorded, do I?

9. When you lend someone a book and get it back in terrible condition or not al all. As a teacher, I lend books every day. I see students laying them face down on the desk or stuffing them inside it. Covers get rumpled and torn. I don’t mind well-loved usage, but neglect gets me angry. Even worse is if it’s not returned at all. It’s not unusual for me to lose 100 books a year out of my classroom library.

10. When a book makes you cry in public and everyone thinks you’re crazy. One of the books I sometimes read aloud to my class is Where the Red Fern Grows. I have a big note on it: Don’t read chapter 19 aloud! That is the chapter where the boy’s beloved dogs die, and I simply can’t read it without crying. Every time.

That’s my top ten. Which resonated with you? Do you have any other book lover problems? feel free to share in comments!

About Reading

September 26: Red Letter Day

YA Blogfest GenresFIRST,

my novel IN THE WINDS OF DANGER is featured today on My Crazy Corner! Check it out as well as all the other YA books on the Blogfest!

SECOND,

my novella, WINGS OVER TREMEIRCHSON, is free on Kindle today! Download it now through Monday for free. Tell your friends!

THIRD,

today is my thirty-second wedding anniversary! Happy anniversary to my amazing and supportive husband.

About Reading

Free on Kindle!

WOT CoverHappy release day! My flying horse novella, a prequel to my trilogy, is now available for Kindle! This weekend, Thursday through Monday, it will be a free download. Get it then!

Wings Over Tremeirchson on Amazon

About Reading

Evidence in the Text

readerAs California begins the process of adopting the federal Common Core Standards, teachers are required to examine their teaching. The Common Core, as I understand it so far, focuses on teaching content in a deeper way. Students will be required to think critically, be creative, collaborate, and communicate. Much of this we already do.

In my district this year, we are focusing students on providing evidence from the text for their conclusions. In my Reading Workshop, students write letters to me once a week about what they are reading. They are required to respond to my last letter to them, summarize oh so briefly the section they read this week, and fill one page of thoughts about their thinking–supported with evidence from the text.

Here is an example of a student letter (even cooler because it’s about my novel!):

Dear Mrs. Ulleseit,

Thank you for complimenting me on last week’s letter. I really did try to include all the points you covered in class. You make it so easy because you read us so many books.

This week I continued reading In the Winds of Danger by Linda Ulleseit. In this section, Nia has an encounter with Jenett, pregnant wife of the barn leader.

Early on, the text says, “With her snarkiest tone, Nia asked, ‘Having a bad morning, Jenett?'” This tells me that Nia is upset with Jenett. When I use a snarky tone with my mother, it’s usually because she’s not letting me do something I want to do. I love and respect her, but I am upset with her. Since Jenett is the wife of Nia’s barn leader, Nia probably respects her. In this section, however, Jenett is spying on her and acting weird. Nia is self-conscious and ends up being snarky.

Showing how different Nia is with Jenett than other characters, there are more friendly interactions with Gregory and Ana. When Nia is in the tavern, she approaches Ana and politely asks to join her. Ana agrees, and the text says, “Ana sounded delighted.” Clearly Ana likes Nia. Later in the chapter, when Jenett stalks off after a confrontation with Nia, Geoffrey asks Nia if she’s okay. A bit later, he leaves her some flowers and a nice note. These are things boys do if they like you, which Geoffrey wouldn’t if Nia wasn’t nice to him.

I predict Nia and Geoffrey will work together to start a new barn that will dominate the Aerial Games. The text has already said that Nia will lead. It’s only a matter of who she will work for. I think she will work for Geoffrey.

Sincerely,

(Susie Student)

 

This student referred to the text and quoted it in a couple of places. Nice job! Bring on the Common Core. My students are ready!

About Reading, Teaching Reading

Food for Thought

animated_book02At the end of the last school year, I had my fifth and sixth grade students write a letter to me telling about their experience with Reader’s Workshop in my class during the year. Here are some of their comments.

“Reading used to be a chore for me. Now reading is like a game, a mystery, and a fun way to make the impossible possible.”

“Reading is now a hobby I do. When there’s extra time I like to sit back, relax, and start reading a good book.”

“Reading Workshop is an awesome experience and every class should do it.”

My reading knowledge has changed since our first reading lesson. Letters helped me think deeper into reading, which is synthesizing. Now I create pictures and movies in my head while reading.”

“This has made me a better reader because now I know what to think about while I read amazing books.”

“Before I had Reading Workshop lessons, reading was torture to me. I didn’t like it. I hated it. But after a year of Reading Workshop, reading is on my ‘to do’ list.”

“I’m not good at writing or reading out loud, but reading inside my head and understanding what I’m reading is something that I’m proud of.”

Isn’t that a teacher’s dream, to inspire students like that? The school year has just begun, and there haven’t been any real challenges yet for my new students, but later when it gets hard I can read those quotes and smile.

About Reading, Teaching Reading

Reader’s Workshop for the First Time

book turning pages_animatedI’ve taught Reader’s Workshop for two years. I am no expert, but I know it’s the right way for me to teach reading to my students. This year I have a combination class of fifth and sixth grade students. None of them are struggling readers, but not all of them like it.

On the first day of school, I collected the Practice Books that go with the Reading textbook and put them away on a shelf. I told them they would choose their own books to read. They could choose the stories in the Reading textbook if they wanted, but there would be no worksheets and no tests. They didn’t know me yet, so they just stared.

On the second day, I held up a picture book and asked if any of them had read it. We’re upper graders, their smirks told me. We haven’t read picture books in years. What a shame. I read them Mrs. Brooks Loves Books (and I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner. Their smirks turned to rapt attention and smiles. I asked them to respond in their Reading Notebooks. They could summarize the book, but I really wanted them to tell me what emotion it evoked, to connect somehow to it. They wrote in total silence for three minutes–their responses had more words than the book itself!

On the third day, I read another picture book. We talked about how to choose books, and I told them we would not be stressing out about Accelerated Reader levels or points. I just wanted them to enjoy reading. They chose books and read in total silence for forty minutes. They didn’t want to put the books away, but it was time for lunch. One student begged with me to be able to take the book she was reading to lunch. I smiled inside and told her that was just fine. (It was even more special that the book she had chosen was an anthology of student novels from a past class.)

As they walked out of the classroom on their way to lunch, I overheard two students discussing reading in animated voices. “This is going to be great!” one said. “Reading is more fun than ever,” the other one responded.

I, too, had a smile on my face when I walked to lunch. This is going to be a terrific year.

About Reading

Coming Soon!

cressThe newest book in the Lunar Chronicles comes out in February 2014. Waiting is so hard!

The first book, Cinder, was utterly amazing. I infected a whole class with delight over the book based on Cinderelle in the future.

the second book, Scarlet, introduced new characters. While it wasn’t as compelling as Cinder, it did whet my appetite for the next two books.

Today Marissa Meyer, the author of the Lunar Chronicles, announced that the first chapter of Cress will be released early next week. Hopefully it will be enough to tide me over until February!

Follow Marissa Meyer’s updates on her Facebook page.

About Reading, Teaching Reading

Why Should We Read Fantasy?

 

book turning pages_animatedFirst posted on The Crazy Corner blog, here it is in its original form.

Not every child will go on to invent something like the iPhone, but they all will make their own way through life, and fantasy can teach them the skills to make the right choices. Bruno Bettelheim, in his 1975 book The Uses of Enchantment, says, “Although the events which occur in fairy tales are often unusual and most improbable, they are always presented as ordinary, something that could happen to you or me or the person next door when out on a walk in the woods. Even the most remarkable encounters are related in casual, everyday ways in fairy tales.” From these encounters, children learn to deal with similar experiences in their own lives. From Harry Potter, children learn perseverance. You can vanquish the bad guy if you hang in there and keep trying. From Percy Jackson, they learn the value of working together as a team. Both series show the value of friendship, and how to deal with the ups and downs of those relationships.

Very learned scholars have debated the issue of reading fantasy, both for adults and for children. At the very least, if a young person enjoys reading fantasy they are reading. By doing so they improve their knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and sentence structure as well as reading comprehension. As a parent and a teacher, if my child enjoys doing something that benefits them, I will make sure they have the opportunity to continue doing so.