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Pay It Forward: Teachers/librarians that Inspired You
Hi guys! For those who didn't catch our Monday and Tuesday posts this week, we are doing a week of paying forward the many blessings we at Pub(lishing) Crawl have had. A week of talking about who and what we're grateful for—and a week of giving back. This all came about after we heard about a book called Poison by Bridget Zinn. We are all so incredibly inspired and moved by her story—and by what her husband is doing for her—that we just had to participate. For those of you who haven't heard about Bridget or her book, she was a librarian and writer who finally reached her dream of publication. But she passed away last year without getting to see her book release. Her final, beautiful tweet to the world was, "Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect." Many of us here at Pub(lishing) Crawl cried and cried after reading Bridget's story—and we all realized how very, very blessed we are. We thought the best way to count our blessings would be to give some back. But first, a bit about Bridget's book Poison:
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she's the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom's future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend. But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart...misses. Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king's army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she's not alone. She's armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can't stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
If you want to help spread the word, please head here for more information or simply tweet/Facebook/whatever about it. POISON released yesterday and is now available wherever books are sold. [hr] So without further ado, in today's post, we're giving our thanks to our past teachers and/or librarians who have inspired us and shaped us to become who we are today. These are people who rocked our worlds.
I've had a lot of fantastic English teachers, to be honest. It's hard to pick a particular one that sparked my love of reading, because I became a huge reader very early. If we want to go way back, though, in first grade, there was a lady who wasn't exactly my teacher, but I think she was supposed to be the remedial helper for kids who struggled with reading. I'm not sure...that was my six-year-old understanding of things, anyhow. Anyway, I remember her because she was completely lovely, and she was only supposed to call kids out of class who showed trouble reading via some sort of scoring they did, so they could work privately together. I didn't technically meet the requirements for "needing extra help," but she and I were friendly, and she used to call me in sometimes just so we could read together and talk. I was only at the school for a year, but we wrote letters to each other (real post letters!) for a short time after I moved away. But seven-year-olds are very flaky letter writers, so.... :P [hr]
Funnily enough, I never had an English teacher get me particularly interested in books...I already was interested. BUT...I did have a math teacher named Mr. Wing who was amazing. It was my worst subject, and he didn't let me give up. We met after school, and he would make the math fun. It was 8th grade, so we were learning Algebra. I am still pretty good at Algebra over any other math subjects. He also was the coach for the football team, so he obviously had a way of inspiring people. There weren't enough teachers like him. Cool guy. [hr]
Two teachers from my high school years come to mine. I loved every single classic we read in tenth grade English and I think most of this was due to my amazing teacher. He had a way of making everything fun, even the tests. Yes, the tests. He turned them into puzzles and games and twisted even essay questions on their head. I specifically remember an essay question regarding Lord of the Flies that went something like, "If the boys on the island had been voted off Survivor-style (this was back when Survivor was new and HUGE on TV) who would have won and why?" This teacher, simply put, made reading and learning FUN. He passed away last year and I really wish I would have had the chance to tell him how much he impacted me as a reader and lover of stories. The other was my creative writing teacher my senior year of high school. She started each and every class with a five minute writing exercise, almost always with props--pick a postcard from this stack and write about the location, grab an article of clothing from this bag, and write about the character wearing it, etc. I can't even put into words how much this woman influenced my writing and creativity. She was such an inspiration and was one of the first people I emailed when I sold my debut. (Yup, we've stayed in touch loosely over the years.) [hr]
Ahh, this one is hard! Of course, the teacher who put WAIT TILL HELEN COMES in my hands was a huge influence. She read my first bit of writing (a shameless copy of WTHC). But the librarians at my first middle school -- they were something special. They recommended books, discussed them with me, and encouraged me to think about books in ways I never had before. They also provided a safe place for a shy girl to spend her mornings. [hr]
When I was in 8th grade, I had a wonderful English teacher who gave us an assignment I loved so much I still remember it! Well, I remember it because I loved it and it broke my heart. See, the assignment was to write a short story set against an event in history. Another requirement was that we include a quote from some piece of writing that was written at the same time in history. I remember that I wrote something set against the Civil War and my quote was from Emily Dickenson. I was SO EXCITED about this project I could hardly wait to turn it in (though I no longer remember what the story itself was about, I remember that I was really proud of it.) My teacher was really great—she was super supportive and told me how well-written it was, but then she was forced to break it to me… the Emily Dickenson poem I quoted in the piece may have been written at the time of my story, but it wasn’t published for years after. This CRUSHED me! Despite this inconsistency, my teacher gave me tons of encouragement and suggested that if I worked on it and made some changes, she would do what she could to help me get it published! This teacher was the first person to EVER suggest that I could write something good enough for publication. I don’t know what eventually happened – we moved onto the next unit I guess – but it doesn’t matter. I will never forget this early belief in me and in my potential as a writer. [hr]
My sixth grade humanities teacher was a former Marine (and a ginger). He was totally strict and a little terrifying, but he had us write real research papers over the course of the semester. I think I did mine on the cave paintings at Lascaux. It wasn't "fun" exactly, but it turned out to be an amazing foundation for every bit of academic work that came later. [hr]
S. Jae-Jones (JJ)
I didn't exactly have just one English teacher who inspired me because I was ALREADY a voracious reader and at the top of my literary criticism game, but I had one who changed the way I looked at literature forever. He was my junior year English teacher. He was the first person to make English (for the lack of a better word) "sexy" to me. He didn't teach, at least, not as I had experienced it until then. He talked at us for the entire 50 minutes. He started with a theme/topic in the book and rambled on various tangents (I learned so much about history and linguistics and pretty much everything in the world from him) before somehow magically bringing it all together by the end. A lot of students hated this style of teaching (although it was awfully similar to the style of teaching I got in my college courses a few years later) because you couldn't be "tested" on anything. The only thing that mattered in his class was that you read the book, that you had an opinion about said book, and that you could back up your opinion about said book with solid analytical writing. I was a good student (inherently good at finding the right knack of getting good grades with the minimum amount of work), but this was the first time I was not only good at a subject, but passionate about it. All good teachers understand, as Hector from Alan Bennett's The History Boys says, that the passing down of knowledge is an inherently erotic thing. I was alive and stimulated about books in a way that I hadn't been before, and it was refreshing. I CARED now, whereas before I had only cared insofar as it might affect my GPA; moreover, if a subject made me think and work hard for said A, I resented it. (I was That Kid.) But he was the first to open my mind to passion about literature, and that passion eventually began to spill over in other aspects of my life, including subjects I found difficult (biology). (Needless to say, I was utterly infatuated with him. It didn't matter he was 51 when I was 16—I was smitten. Oh yes, I was That Girl.) [hr]
That's a tough one. I honestly can't name a single librarian that ever made an impact on me, but since my 4th grade teacher introduced me to The Phantom Tollbooth, I'd give her a lot of credit. It's the books she read to us that I remember most vividly, and made me hungry for more books. I remember a readathon in grade 3 that I participated in, and I remember reading a lot of books for it, but I think it was more motivated by a desire to win than anything else. :-) [hr]
When I was in primary school I had a wonderful library teacher called Mrs. Amiet. She brought in amazing authors to speak to us, always had time to recommend books and talk them over, and loved doing new things to get us excited about reading. I remember her reading us a picture book wrapped in brown paper and having us imagine the illustrations, then unmasking it so we could compare our vision with that of the illustrator. She introduced me to some of my favourite books, and I loved her library! In grade six, I had Mrs. Rundas. She got us into a camp at a writing retreat called Dromkeen, but we'd already spent our camp budget for the year! She wrote to our parents and explained what a great opportunity it was--they volunteered to supervise and sent along food to reheat for meals. We met authors, talked books, and I was bitten HARD by the bug. When we got home we wrote and bound our own books. It was the start of my journey! [hr]
I know I've talked about two librarians who both really inspired me: Zena Gibson and Beth Lunsford. They both introduced me to science fiction and fantasy (as did Mrs. Gibson's daughter, my childhood best friend) as well as some great classic literature. I wouldn't be the reader I am without these women. But I also wouldn't be the writer I am if not for Bette Chesser. She was my English teacher in 5th and 6th grade, and she taught us things SO far ahead of our "age group" that it's crazy to look at in hindsight. We read Macbeth when we were 10--and not once did it seem strange. She treated us like the intelligent people we were, and our age never factored into the challenges she set for us. I learned how to use English to express myself on a grammatical level as well as on a creative level. Because of her, I was never afraid of a book "too big" or "too classic". I was never afraid to write a paper or a poem. That kind of education is priceless, and I have no doubt it's why I am a writer today. :) [hr]
In eighth grade, we had a very willowy young English teacher who would always spend the first 15 minutes of class reading a chapter to us. She was a GREAT reader—very expressive, with a really pretty voice. She read us Christopher Pike books, I think, and I remember that everyone in the class, even the ones who weren't much into reading, ALWAYS arrived on time, eager to hear the next chapter of whatever book we were on. And every day when she finished, there would be an audible sigh of disappointment as we had to wait until the next day to break the cliffhanger. Many of us would just lose patience and run off to check out the books for ourselves in the library. Man, I loved her so much! I really think she instilled the love of reading in quite a few reluctant readers. [hr] And those are some of the amazing people that have inspired us here at PubCrawl. We're curious to hear if you guys have any stories about inspiring teachers and/or librarians, or educators in general. And lastly but certainly not leastly, in honor of POISON and Bridget Zinn, we're running a giveaway of THE FOREST FOR THE TREES by Betsy Lerner, a fantastic and inspirational book about the craft of writing and publishing. Enter via Rafflecopter below! a Rafflecopter giveaway [hr] Bridget Zinn's first YA novel, POISON, releases this week from Hyperion! Bridget died from cancer in May 2011 at the age of 33, but now—nearly four years to the day from her diagnosis—her novel is at last reaching readers. On her behalf, her friends and family (and now us! Total strangers!) want to celebrate her accomplishment and help get her book into the hands of readers. Please help us spread the word about POISON and give thanks for all our many blessings.