Tried out my new Explorer’s Vest at a library visit in Thetford, VT yesterday. A highlight of the visit was the kid who brought his binoculars!
Coming in September!
The Second Expeditioners Adventure …
The Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton’s Lair
Kit, Zander, and M. K. West are settling into their new lives as students at the Academy for the Exploratory Sciences when Kit finds another mysterious map left for him by their father, the brilliant, famous — and presumed dead — explorer Alexander West. Why did Alexander leave the maps behind, and why are government agents so determined to seize them? What is really going on in a mysterious and unknown stretch of the Caribbean, famous for its violent storms and shipwrecks? And what is the huge contraption M. K. is building in her workshop? As two world powers come to the brink of war, Kit must find a deadly hidden island and unlock its secrets, hoping he has the courage to follow the trail of maps, wherever it may lead.
Guess what crafty project I’m working on today?
Author and readers
It sounds strange, but when I started writing kids’ books, I didn’t really think about the fact that in order to promote them I would get to spend a lot of time talking about writing and reading with … kids.
Ever since The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon was published, I’ve had the privilege of talking about it – and about a lot of other things – in schools and libraries. These visits have given me a profound appreciation for the adults on the literacy frontlines, the librarians who throw book-themed parties and know just the book to press into a reluctant reader’s hands, the teachers who read aloud to their classes at the end of the day, despite the fact that there’s always too much to do, the principals who wear terrible ties or grow beards and cut them when their students reach a reading goal.
Most of all I just love talking with the kids.
I love their questions — “How long did it take you to write a book?” “How old are you?” and “Do you have a dog?” My all-time favorite question came from a kid at a Vermont elementary school who asked me, “How does it feel to have written the Harry Potter books?” He was really disappointed when he discovered that I wasn’t J.K. Rowling.
I love telling them about how uncertain and painful and unpleasant it is to try to write a book. I love telling them how exciting and joyful and thrilling it is to try to write a book. I love telling them that my first drafts are terrible and that I’m terrified that if I die suddenly, my family might open up my first drafts on my laptop and show them to someone. I love telling them that it isn’t until draft number four that I start to love the writing, the job of shaping sentences and building backstories and personalities for my characters.
When you’re a kid, it feels like nobody in your life is ever giving you the full story. The adult world hangs out there like a gray mist on a distant field, just out of reach, hard to see through. I think one of the reasons I became an obsessive reader of fiction when I was 9 or so was that good books felt like windows into that grown-up world, a way to visit it, gawk at the scenery and head home again at the end of the day.
There are lots of good reasons to get young people excited about books and reading. Kids who love stories and books are much more likely to put in the time and hard work it takes to become fluent readers. Kids who think of reading as fun and as an integral part of life are poised to become good writers and deep thinkers.
But lately, I’ve started to think that the whole purpose of authors talking to kids about writing lies in our ability to demystify the process. I tell them about how when I start a book, I have no idea what I’m doing, that I usually want to quit a hundred times before I’m done, that it’s hard, that it isn’t always fun, but that there are moments of pure magic, when the story swims into focus and I can hear my characters’ voices.
I can always feel a collective sense of relief settle over the room when I lay bare my struggles at the computer.
During a recent school visit, the sixth graders were asking me about the writing process and a boy who’d been pretty quiet raised his hand.
“Do you ever get to a point,” he asked. “Where you just don’t really have any idea what comes next?” He looked tired. He was asking about writing, but I think he was asking about life too.
“Oh yeah. All the time,” I told him, nodding as vigorously as I could to show him he wasn’t alone.
“That happens to everybody.”
This is one of the greatest presents I’ve gotten in a long time. My friend Remy made these amazing wool felted doll versions of Zander, Kit, and M.K. Thank you, Remy. I love them!
Look at this great Halloween costume! This is Theo from California dressed up as Kit West. Thanks, Theo. I love it!
I’m very excited to announce that the Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon is a nominee for the 2014-15 Texas Bluebonnet Award. Thanks, Texas! We are so honored be among the nominees.
SS Taylor’s The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon is a fantastic YA novel that manages to hearken back to the golden age of kid-detective novels while still telling a thoroughly contemporary story.
Video on Today: Middle school teacher Jessica Lahey and psychologist Jennifer Hartstein discuss the “summer slide”: kids losing months of learning over the summer. They share tips and book suggestions to get your kids reading this summer so they’ll do better when they return to school.
This is Alexander. Katherine Roy and I spoke at his school recently and he surprised us by dressing up as Kit! His Expeditioners gear is really well-done. Look at those utilities and arm bands. Thanks, Alexander. It was a pleasure to meet you!