Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 5, 2012

Authors Night at Greenfield Middle School

About forty enthusiastic students and many parents showed up at Greenfield Middle School last night, ready to listen and write. Language Arts teacher Ashley Fitzroy introduced three of us as people who live nearby and who write pretty much as the students do, a notion we all developed.  Ellen Feld passed around equipment used for riding and grooming horses, then asked why they thought she was showing them these things, and pointing out the uses of different kinds of bridles. She spoke about the need for authentic details, so that people reading her books about horses would believe she knew what she was talking about. And that as the owner of nine horses, she’s writing about something she loves, always a good idea.

Heidi E.Y. Stemple read two poems, then while discussing the writing process asked questions that brought out how students’ creative lives  are much like ours. She mentioned that inspiration can come from anywhere, pointing out that I chose to write about India for Aani and the Treehuggers, and Ellen Feld draws from her horses for books such as Blackjack: Dreaming of a Morgan Horse. Sometimes inspiration is close to home, she said, revealing that she was the little girl in Owl Moon, written by her mother, Jane Yolen, and that her dancer daughter was part of the inspiration for her to write The Barefoot Book of Ballet Stories.

Here are Ellen, me, and Heidi, framed by two of our ever-so-saavy hosts: librarian Gary Rutger and language arts teacher Ashley Fitzroy.

It was great to be in a middle school and talk about using the five senses, channeling my own beloved sixth grade teacher, Mr. Cotter, who liked to say, “One picture is worth ten thousand words.” He told us this was an ancient Asian saying, but when I googled it, discovered it may have been written by an advertising guy, who made up the Asian part to give it more zing. If you prefer, go with W.C. Williams’s “No idea but in things.” It’s pictures I try to raise in reader’s minds. When I asked these students to be wary of the abstract, Ms. Fitzroy, fishing for her seventh graders to supply the term they’d learned, told them to think of cement.

“Concrete nouns!”

It was a wonderful night, even though the authors, some dedicated staff, and Tim from the World Eye Bookshop lingered long enough in the library to miss the refreshments the PTO offered in the hall. I got to read a few cool stories students wrote and shake a few hands of those whose books may one day be stacked on the Author’s Day table. (and thanks to Ellen, they’ll also know about the math that goes into creating a book’s spine!)



  1. Loved this. And I can’t tell you how many happy hours we spent at World Eye when we were at Eaglebrook! Glad it’s still there.

  2. Hi, Robin, It was a great night, made particularly lovely by seeing a former student so clearly beloved by her students. And, yes, yay for World Eye! Moved to Main Street since you were there, I expect, but in a spot even slightly larger. We’re all grateful it is there.

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