Thursday, November 23, 2017

Strangers moved to kindness for a rural VA middle school

After I spoke at North Fork Middle School in Quicksburg, VA, on 10/30/17, I was given permission to share a snapshot of their story.

This led to a not-random act of kindness, thanks to Becky Durfee, a friend I've had since grade school. I'll let her tell it:

While mindlessly scanning Facebook, I saw Marc's description of a school district, just two hours from my home, where some of the kids live in houses with dirt floors. He also mentioned that the teachers in that middle school use their own money to bring those kids food on Thanksgiving.
I couldn't get that post out of my head; the image of dirt floors troubled me for days. While driving to work one morning, I decided I would get the name of the contact person Marc used and make a contribution. But then it hit me: I teach large lectures at Virginia Commonwealth University. I have 300 students. If each student donated a quarter—an amount they wouldn't even miss—that would add up to $75, which could easily provide a deserving family with a warm Thanksgiving meal.
The next day, I brought a bucket to class and read Marc's Facebook post to the students. I encouraged them to donate "an amount they wouldn't notice." I applied no pressure. I offered no extra credit. I assured no judgement. I simply allowed students to anonymously drop money into the bucket on their way in or out of class. Two weeks later, I had nearly $300.
However, it was bigger than that. Two of my students brought this situation to the attention of their sororities, who agreed to adopt North Fork Middle School as a cause. They will continue to collect donations in the form of money and supplies, and they have agreed to become pen pals with the kids. Several other students who said they couldn't afford to donate money asked if they could also be pen pals. One student asked if it was okay to be a pen pal to multiple students. Another young man in my class relayed this story to his coworkers, who are in the process of taking up a collection. That endeavor isn't over; the funds raised from that will be used to supply the kids with gifts for Christmas.
The young woman in the upper right below had an event sponsored by her sorority where the price of admission was either a canned good, a toiletry item, a toy, or a school supply for the kids at Quicksburg. I offered to deliver anything she collected for Quicksburg and she said, "I hope you have a big car." 
clockwise from upper left: Daniela Quiroga, Chasity Newsome, 
Peter Kledaras (with Becky), Kiara Porter
When my best friend heard about what my students had done, she decided to adopt a local family for Thanksgiving.
It just keeps growing.
And it started with a simple Facebook post.

Here is the story from the perspective of my contact at the school, and my friend, Melissa Harrell:

Who knew that on October 30, 2017, a visit from Marc Tyler Nobleman would change North Fork Middle School.
During the break between the school day presentations and the evening Literacy Night Event, Marc spent time with myself and a few teachers volunteering for that night. Through conversation Marc learned of the poverty status and hardships many of our students face on a daily basis, and what we as a staff do with our time and personal money to help them. It is not done for publicity, it is done out of love for our students.
Marc shared this story on Facebook. His friend Rebecca Durfee, a professor at VCU, contacted me with wishes to help out. Through that initial contact, we now have VCU "Angels" helping our kids through donations of needed items and becoming pen pals. I told my mom about this wonderful positive experience last week, and she said it best, "God puts people in the right places at the right time."
We are beyond humbled and so appreciative of these students willing to go the extra mile beyond what Professor Durfee first proposed. Thanks to Marc, Rebecca, and the students at VCU for making lives of NFMS students better.

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Teachers eating crickets at NCTE

I covered this in my roundup of a whirlwind of a trip—six states in ten days. But of the many highlights, this 30-minute event was so fun that I had to spin it off into its own post as well:


At my book signing at the National Council of Teachers of English convention, at least ten teachers ate crickets.

Yes, I brought crickets (three flavors: salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, bacon and cheese) to NCTE. 



During my book signing on 11/17/17, I displayed them tastefully in three Starbucks oatmeal cups and offered any teacher who ate one a second free book. (Though turns out we didn't have enough, so we instead offered bragging rights.) My editor Nancy Paulsen was my right-hand woman. 

The inspiration for this promotional dare was the title character in The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra, whose unconventional appetite includes an insect that is even more repellent to the average human: the cucaracha (cockroach).


The hashtag #bugforbook took over Twitter.





A four-part sequence:






This woman agreed to do it...only if I did it with her: 









It was wonderful that one teacher tweeted that he would do anything to get kids reading, and this teacher expressed a similarly wonderful sentiment:



#notreally 

But Nancy and I were pleasantly surprised at how many people were willing. Huge props to these good sports and others we may not have captured.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Six states in ten days: AZ, MA, CT, RI, MO, TN

In mid-November, I ping-ponged between six states to speak at seven venues over ten days. It was supposed to be seven states, but the day before I was scheduled to set out, what was to be the first stop, a young author's festival in Pennsylvania, was canceled.

The rundown:

11/9/17 screening of Batman & Bill at the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conference, Phoenix, AZ
11/10/17 travel day
11/11/17 morning: speak at a B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO) convention, Marlborough, MA
11/11/17 evening: speak to adults at a synagogue (in fact the synagogue where I became a bar mitzvah in 1985, Temple Beth David), Cheshire, CT
11/12/17 morning: speak to kids at the same synagogue
11/13/17 school visit, Providence, RI
11/14/17 school visit, North Dartmouth, MA
11/15/17 travel day
11/16/17 desk day
11/17/17 panel/signing at the National Council of Teachers of English convention, St. Louis, MO
11/18/17 screening of Batman & Bill at the Memphis Fantasy and Comic Convention, Memphis, TN

In sum: librarian conference to Jewish youth group to synagogue to schools to teacher conference to comicon.

The breakdown:

AASL

Getting there was less exhausting than the last time I went.

Before the conference, I was interviewed by Dan Spindle, an ABC affiliate news anchor who earlier in the year had tweeted love for Batman & Bill.


My only commitment at the conference was to introduce the first kidlit conference screening of Batman & Bill, the first documentary based on kidlit, and do a Q&A after. This was a huge honor. Thank you to all who attended, especially for not leaving when you learned there was no popcorn. Here is the room while people were still trickling in:


After the 7:30 pm screening, I met up with fellow kidlitters Jenni Holm and Dan Santat simply to pose for this almost-midnight photo.


BBYO

This organization was the defining experience of my high school years. This was the third time I've had the privilege of speaking at a BBYO event. I love telling the teens that my best friends in BBYO are still my best friends today—and they loved it, too.


synagogue

I was the two-day writer-in-residence for Temple Beth David, the synagogue my family belonged to when I was growing up. Another honor. The one night I was in town happened to coincide with an annual Cheshire fundraiser called Lights of Hope.


It was one of the most peaceful and beautiful public displays I've seen—all the more special because it takes place in my hometown. 

school visit #1: Wheeler School, Providence, RI

This was my third visit to this handsome school; the first two were in 2010, when arose a most curious situation involving the most valuable comic book of all time

I'm on way to becoming a regular! Thank you again, Dana Hahn and Liz MacMillan, for making it happen.

school visit #2: Friends Academy, North Dartmouth, MA

Something happened at this school that caught me (and everyone else there) by surprise and will keep the community buzzing for a while.

After an assembly during which I told the Bill Finger story (culminating in the surprise discovery of Bill's granddaughter Athena Finger and the subsequent fight for credit), a teacher said she can add another twist: Athena was her student...in 1984...at this school! 

with teacher Gayle Balestracci 

Then a second teacher told me she taught Athena (and her sister Alethia). Yet another teacher showed me Athena's photos in archived yearbooks. Hundreds of student-made tiles bedeck the walls of the school (an annual tradition), and we found the one Athena designed many moons ago. My new young friend Beckett escorted me to it.

They sold a lot of books:


And drew a lot of chupacabras:


I'm particularly excited about instances where a nonfiction story I wrote leads to a nonfiction story I'm a firsthand witness to or, similarly, when I'm part of any author-related happening that becomes a story in and of itself.

Thank you again, Janice Griffin, for your efforts to bring me to your wonderful school.

NCTE


At my book signing, at least ten teachers ate crickets.

Yes, I brought crickets (three flavors: salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, bacon and cheese) to NCTE. 


During my book signing on 11/17/17, I displayed them tastefully in three Starbucks oatmeal cups and offered any teacher who ate one a second free book. (Though turns out we didn't have enough, so we instead offered bragging rights.) My editor Nancy Paulsen was my right-hand woman. 

The inspiration for this promotional dare was the title character in The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra, whose unconventional appetite includes an insect that is even more repellent to the average human: the cucaracha (cockroach).

The hashtag #bugforbook took over Twitter.




A four-part sequence:






This woman agreed to do it...only if I did it with her:









It was wonderful that one teacher tweeted that he would do anything to get kids reading, and this teacher expressed a similarly wonderful sentiment:



#notreally 

But Nancy and I were pleasantly surprised at how many people were willing. Huge props to these good sports and others we may not have captured.

But the inciting incident that got me to NCTE was not the prospect of forcing unsuspecting educators to swallow bugs but rather a panel I proposed called "Funny, You Don't Seem Educational!" Its purpose: discuss the educational value of humorous picture books. My partners, my posse, my people: Erica Perl, Audrey Vernick, Tammi Sauer, Liz Garton Scanlon, and Josh Funk. Our moderator: Susannah Richards, who is so tireless I think she was moderating another panel in another room at the same time.

We laughed and we learned from each other.




The only time I've been the tallest except 
when posing (as an adult) with third graders

The evening festivities: back-to-back events hosted by Penguin Young Readers. 

First was a cocktail party with authors and teachers in which teachers had to play "Two Truths and a Lie." Not many guessed my lie:


Answer hint: Dr. Seuss did not have children.

Then a lovely dinner.


The arch, from farthest to closest:

On 11/16/17, I enjoyed dinner with Chris Barton, Jenny Ziegler, Dan Santat, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Lisa Yee (first time meeting in person after being connected online for years), and Christina Soontornvat (first time meeting in person). The restaurant:


When making plans and coming from different hotels, Chris texted "Together or separate, we can all make our way toward Polite Society." I think he may have been talking about more than a restaurant…

comicon

We screened the film, I signed movie posters, and I gave a talk to a receptive audience.


Thank you again to Joe Thordarson and the folks at 901 Comics for your interest and hospitality!

Six states + seven venues + ten days would normally equal 23 hours of sleep needed to recover, but not me. Not this time.

I powered through, in large part thanks to the protein I got from eating two crickets.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...