Whew! Summer 2017 could not have arrived soon enough. Spring, for any teacher, is a crazy time, but for me, this spring was particularly nuts. When I think back to the months of March, April and May it gets me exhausted all over again and makes me ridiculously happy to have settled into June, its warm temps, sunshine and wide open days filled with fun, exercise, leisure and working on projects I want to work on.
Two things dominated my schedule this spring. One was the blessing of writing three YA, high-low soccer novels for Lerner. (I’ll get more into those in a future post.) The other was planning for and celebrating the graduation of our daughter Sammie from St. Louis Park High School. As a very proud father, this milestone was one of joy and melancholy as we watched our daughter reach a goal, and reach it with high honors, while at the same time remembering back on the past 18 years of our lives that in some ways seem to have flashed by like a comet. We’re so proud of Sammie and so excited for her future, yet it’s difficult to imagine our home without her. I’m looking forward to seeing where her life’s journey takes her. I hope I can be along for part of the ride!
In addition to writing and being pulled into the buzz of graduation, I spent a little time this spring promoting myself and my books. My first stop landed me at Read Camp MSP, an un-conference that takes place in the north metro and that centers on reading instruction and reading promotion for young people. I was honored to be included on a panel of writers in which we took questions from a moderator and from teachers in attendance. These events are really fun – I’ve done a few similar conferences – because the vibe is low key, I get to interact with committed educators who love books, and I’m able to meet and chat with other authors. This year’s Read Camp MSP panel included, among others, Mary Losure, Abby Cooper, Loretta Ellsworth and the team behind Green Card Youth Voices. I had a great time and I look forward to more events like this.
Spring break this year gave me an opportunity to visit a couple local elementary schools. I didn’t do an entire week of school visits like I did last year to Kansas City, mostly because I needed time to write my soccer novels and because I wanted a chance to put my feet up a bit. But, I did manage to carve from my schedule two days to spend at schools – Elm Creek Elementary in Maple Grove and St. Croix Falls Elementary in Wisconsin. At Elm Creek I did multiple presentations to grade level teams of students in the library. At St. Croix Falls I was the keynote speaker for a writer’s conference that is held annually for the school’s 3rd grade students. In addition to giving an opening address to all students, I taught mini lessons to smaller groups throughout the day. Both events were a blast! I get nervous prior to speaking in front of these large groups of kids, but once I get into my talks I find myself really loving the experience. I continue to craft my presentations and believe that I get a little better each time. I’ve learned the best way to connect with the audience is to make the talks as personal as possible, to let my authentic self shine through and to not be afraid to talk to young people about my failings and insecurities when it comes to writing. Being good at getting up in front of hundreds of kids does not necessarily correlate to being good at the solitary, quiet art of writing, but I do feel like I enjoy both. And… I have lots of room to get better at both as well.
On a personal note, this summer I’ve already done an overnight trip on the Superior Hiking trail. We’ve been up to the cabin a couple of times. I’ve met friends at various patios in town for various types of beverages. I’ve biked a bunch. I paddled down a section of the Minnehaha Creek with some good friends. And I’m on a quest for the best cappuccino in the Twin Cities. So far Black: Coffee and Waffle Bar is the winner. A family trip to DC is in the future as is another camping trip to the beautiful north shore. In between all that, I do intend to put in some writing time. We’ll see where that takes me. I wish you all a fantastic summer. Make it count!