The Eastern Penn Points Cafe is delighted to open its doors to our very own Assistant Regional Advisor, the lovely and lively Alison Green Myers. Alison wears many hats around Eastern PA: SCBWI staff member, writer, teacher, literacy specialist, professional speaker, mommy….and she has a special opportunity for YOU coming up at the Highlights Foundation, too.
So sit back, relax, and get to know Alison!
Lindsay: Hi there, Alison, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe. As we settle into our comfy booth, what will you have to drink?
Alison: Coffee. Heck, it’s summer; make it a tall iced coffee!
Lindsay: And a munchie?
Alison: I wouldn’t say no to a slice of that chocolate ganache cake, care to share?
Lindsay: Absolutely. They’ve got a whole chocolate ganache back there with our names on it. But I’ll take some milk.
So, I know you’re on the faculty for the upcoming Picture Book Academy Workshop at the Highlights Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about the workshop, and who should think about attending?
Alison: At the heart of the Picture Book Academy is the appreciation for visual literacy. Teachers and librarians, as well as children’s book authors and illustrators will discover new ways to use picture books for increased critical thinking, comprehension, writing, and student engagement. We are thrilled to have such an amazing line-up of faculty and special guests for the weekend, including author/illustrators Floyd Cooper and Lori Nichols. The 2015 chair of the Caldecott Medal Committee, children’s literature professor, Junko Yokota as well as public library advocate and teacher, Laura Beltchenko who will round out the faculty for the event.
Participants will dissect hundreds (that’s right, hundreds) of picture books and even snag a few to take home. Those who join us for the teacher track will work to design activities for their classrooms and those who join us for the illustrator/author track will work alongside Lori and Floyd preparing work for submission. In one of my presentations we will be using an egg and a matchbox alongside our picture books. Curious? I hope so.
To encourage our SCBWI members to come out for the Picture Book Academy this fall the Highlights Foundation is offering a special $100 discount for our Eastern PA members. Enter the code EPA2015 when applying. The Foundation is also offering a special discount for Pennsylvania teachers and librarians. When applying to the workshop receive an additional $100 off with the code PBA2015. And I believe there is an early bird discount for those folks who register by August 31. (Whoa!)
Lindsay: As an educator, what is one picture book you LOVE to teach?
Alison: Did you say one? Seriously? One? Depends on the grade and the time of year and ONE million other things so how about one new book that I can’t wait to use in the new school year? I Don’t Want to Be a Frog written by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt. The words are predictable enough to hook my pre-K kiddos and the illustrations pop with tons of white space. The story follows a little frog who wants to be anything but a slimy, wet, bug-eater. I can’t wait to have a group of children lean into the pictures to tell me what our frog-friend is thinking/wishing/hoping, and the same for his frank (and funny) father. Along the way a hungry wolf joins the cast and hits the readers with a surprise ending. It is the perfect book to introduce Visual Thinking Strategies to my kiddos, and then follow up with a shared writing activity about being happy with who we are, just like our friend the frog. I can’t wait to get this one in front of an audience.
Lindsay: If you could write a recipe for the most delicious and nutritious picture book everrr, what would the ingredients be?
- Simple text balanced with rich language
- Words that sound as good as they look
- Page turns that bring emotion: anticipation, joy, sorrow, wonder
- A character to love
- A sense of mischief
- And ART that fits like a glove and enhances the text by bringing our character(s) to life
Lindsay: As a mom, what’s a picture book that makes your heart sing?
Alison: We are in the middle of a full-on Elephant and Piggie obsession at our house. Gerald and Piggie come alive through simple text and clean illustrations highlighting the genius that is Mr. Mo Willems. Every time Gerald’s expression shows his affection for Piggie my little guy lets out a sigh and snuggles in closer to me.
In the latest Elephant and Piggie, I Will Take a Nap there is an illustration showing (not telling) Piggie’s napping pal: a stuffed animal Gerald. Gerald’s face gushes in the next illustration and my son just melts. A big thanks to Mr. Willems for illustrating in such a heartfelt way that my son can’t help but join in on the love.
Lindsay: Speaking of singing, if you had a theme song for your writing life, what would it be?
Alison: BRUISES by Train…Get back to me in a month 🙂
Lindsay: We will! So, your writing life has a different flavor from your teaching life. Can you tell us about what you’re working on now?
Alison: I’m working on a series right now called SIN. It’s set in an all-girls Catholic high school where evil lurks behind each classroom door. I’d never considered writing a series before, but I’ve fallen pretty hard for the girls at the center of this story. I’ve finished book one and now can’t wait to see how the girls tackle their last two years of high school and the remaining sins they must confront.
Lindsay: What’s your favorite recent YA read?
Alison: The YA market has been so good to us this year. My favorite read of the summer was Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I’m all for the sarcastic lovable hero and Simon delivers. Albertalli creates a whole cast of memorable characters—I couldn’t love Simon’s family more! She balances humor with heartbreak and her writing is just so damn smart.
Lindsay: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Alison: “Just keep writing.” When work is out on submission, write. When you are falling into the social media black hole, claw yourself back out and write. When work and family and real life tries to take over, carve, with a paring knife if need be, time to write. Writers must write.
Lindsay: I’m off to the knife drawer. Thanks for joining us, Alison, AND for all you do for the Eastern PA SCBWI! We’re lucky to have you!
Alison: Thank you, Lindsay!
p.s. You can check out Alison’s blog here!