An interview with Elana K. Arnold!

Sometimes you meet a character and you just cannot say goodbye... Bat from A Boy Called Bat was one of those characters for me. Saying goodbye to him was just not okay. I needed more Bat! I wanted to know more! Thank goodness Bat and the Waiting Game comes out on March 27th! I'm here to say, the second book featuring Bat is just as good as the the first. You don't want to miss this one! Also... if you are as big a fan of Bat as I am, you will want to read on for some really good news about an upcoming book ...
In anticipation of the new release, we asked Elana a few questions that she so graciously answered. Read on to find out more about this talented author that created one of my favorite fictional characters! 

TWR: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book? 

Elana: I began writing when I was eight or so, but I didn’t write a complete novel until 2011. It’s a young adult novel called Sacred. The relationship between a girl and her horse is central; writing about human/animal friendships is one of my particular loves.

TWR: Where did you get the idea for Bat’s character? 

Elana: My brother has an initial name—that is, his name is Z Anton Kuczynski, and we call him by his initials, ZAK. I wanted a character with a name like this, and I wanted to include my dad’s name, Alexander. As soon as I knew that, the name—Bixby Alexander Tam—came to me, and as soon as I knew he was a boy called BAT, other parts of his character came to me, as well.

TWR: What is your writing process like?

Elana: I tend to write a first draft in a season—about ten to fourteen weeks—and then revise after stepping away for a month or so. This isn’t always true, but it’s what I aim for. If a book takes too long to write, I feel that I begin to lose the strands, or get sort of distant from the book’s texture. Once I’m about three quarters of the way through the first draft, I get very excited about writing the ending (by then I usually know what the ending will be), so I feel a great wonderful rush of energy that propels me through. In revision, I think about the book I’ve created and what I’ve learned through the process of writing; I consider what the book I’ve made is “about” thematically (something I never begin writing with any concept of), and then I look for “threads” of that thematic truth and consider ways I can reach into the book, as if with a crochet hook, and pull those threads up to the surface so that the reader feels what I feel. 

TWR: What challenges do you face when writing?

Elana: I write everywhere. Right now, I’m sitting on the floor outside my daughter’s dance class. This morning, I wrote in bed, surrounded by pets and pillows. One challenge for me is to focus on the exact task in front of me rather than allowing the other things I could be doing to creep in and take over my thought process. “Blinders on,” I tell myself, and sometimes I cup my hands, blinder-like, around my face so that all I can see are the words on my screen. It helps!

TWR: What would you be if you weren’t a writer?

Elana: I think I’d be a good film director, or perhaps a professional matchmaker.

TWR: Are you working on a new book?

Elana: Always! I am working on revising the third and final (I think!) BAT book, and I just finished edits of my next young adult novel, Damsel. I’ve also got a first draft of my next-next YA completed, and I’m excited to chat with my editor about it. And, I’ve got an idea for another middle grade novel and an adult novel, as well.

TWR: What middle-grade books do you love? 

Elana: I love Kelly Barnhill’s books, especially The Girl Who Drank the Moon and The Witch’s Boy. I love Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy. I love Tracey Baptiste’s wonderfully scary The Jumbies. I love this year’s Newbery winner Hello, Universe. I love Orphan Island. 

TWR: What book did you love when you were 8-12 years old?

Elana: Harriet the Spy, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Bridge to Terabithia, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, A Wrinkle in Time, Bunnicula…the books I read as a middle grader are probably, more than anything else, the books that made me the person and the writer I am now. Middle grade books are my absolutely favorite books to read.

We can't wait to hear what you think of Bat and the Waiting Game! Let us know what you think in the comments below! 

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Hi, everyone! Are you on Spring Break yet? My district has their break a little early this year, so I'm currently enjoying reading as many books as I can in addition to packing because we move at the end of the month. If you're on break, I hope you are enjoying it. If you're not on break, it will be here soon!

Here's what we are reading this week! I've included my own comments below each photo, including the genre.

Happy reading!

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  • Thunderhead, the second book in a new trilogy from Neal Shusterman is phenomenal! It is Young Adult, so definitely preview it if you are a middle grade teacher. 
  • Aren't we all excited for The Wild Robot Escapes? I know several teachers in my building are excited to receive it over break and read it while they are off! 

 Image result for tyler johnson was here

  • I recently learned about this YA novel while browsing Goodreads yesterday and then when I saw Haley reading it, I knew the universe was telling me something. Have you ever had those books that just seem to pop up everywhere? This book is about a boy that goes missing and his twin brother sets out to find him. What his brother, Marvin finds is chilling and is a story that has shown up in our news too many times. Grab a copy of this for students that crave more books like The Hate U Give and Dear Martin.

Image result for the wild robot escapesImage result for the great alone
  • Confession: I do not have The Wild Robot Escapes in my hands RIGHT NOW. *However* I have been tracking my Amazon pre-order and it's looking good... my plan is to begin reading it as SOON AS it arrives on my doorstep. Please cross your fingers that the USPS is on top of their game tomorrow! 
  • The Great Alone is not young adult or middle grade, it is an adult fiction story. Which, you may or may not be interested in at all. One of my reading goals this year is to read at least one adult novel per month and considering it is March and I have not begun that goal yet... I'm not doing too well. Oops! Well, nevertheless, this has been a good novel to start out with. I'm about 40% through it and fully invested in the story. I would recommend it so far! 

Have a great week, everyone! 

Fifth Grade Featured Favorites

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Hello, happy reader friends! It's Monday and we are excited to share what we are reading this week! 

I am working today, but it is one of those rare (yet amazing) work days, so no kids. Next week we have conferences so I am working on report cards and prepping for next week! 

If you are off work today or teaching, I hope your day includes some fun reading! Have a great week! 

 Image result for dumplin julie murphyImage result for you are a badass

(confession: I don't have You are a Badass listed on my Goodreads account as reading because .... that title! Ha!)

Image result for waiting for augustaImage result for ghost boys book

(so jealous of Ghost Boys - it sounds ahhhhh-mazing!)

Image result for truly devious bookSay You'll Remember Me

(I just went and read the synopsis for Say You'll Remember Me because I hadn't heard of it before and it sounds soooooo good!)

Have a great week! 

The True Meaning of a Book

I walked into the library to hand in the books for the last time at my middle school. I saw two of my close guy friends sitting on the couch as I looked up to say goodbye, tears from the both of them filled their eyes and I was completely taken aback. I'll never forget when one of my friends looked at me and said, "Cassie, I am so sorry it came to this. Please know that we don't want you to leave. It's stupid, they're stupid. Don't listen to the things that they say. Please. We don't want you to move." I gave him a hug, said my goodbyes and walked towards the front office. 

I had had enough. My family had had enough. My mom was allowing me to withdrawal from the school district I had grown up in to move somewhere where I knew no one, all in part to avoiding the "mean girls", their families, and the constant drama that followed. I wish I had kept a journal of the day-to-day interactions that occurred between myself and the "popular group." It wasn't as though we weren't friends, but when you didn't just follow the ring leader and do as she said or said as she did, well, you were a target. I looked at myself as everyone's friend. I wanted to be the mediator, and I remember trying to insert myself into the popular crowd to help "fix things," but then once my services were done being needed there was also something to make fun of me about. 

Here I am in 6th grade. 

My favorite TV star - Hillary Duff aka Lizzie McGuire. If you remember Lizzie, you remember her as her own self, she fixed her hair crazy, she wore crazy outfits, she was just different. I loved that. That was what I felt like I was. I enjoyed doing what I liked, dressing how I liked. I loved school. I loved reading. I loved writing. I also loved sports. I made sure I was friends with more boys than girls, because they just didn't put up with junk. They made sure that our time hanging out was just hanging out, having a good time, playing games, sports, watching movies, not drama or talking about other people. That's what I enjoyed. Which also made it hard for this "group" of girls because when they had a crush on one of the boys, who did they come to? Me. Then when they were dating, I was all of a sudden trying to "take" their boyfriend. It was all ridiculous. It got to the point of parents of this group coming to my mother's work, confronting her at her job (as a school librarian), all because of who I was "dating" in 8th grade (which, let's be real, what was dating in 8th grade - phone calls and my parents taking me to the movie theatre) was who the ringleader wanted to be dating. There were times I should've kept my mouth shut, I was caught in the middle of drama trying to just make everyone be friends, but in the end, I know that my behavior was not wrong. I know that all I wanted was for everyone to love everyone. 
I was really depressed. 
I was crying all the time. 
I would leave basketball practice which was 3rd period and run to my mom's library at the school next door. 
I didn't want to go to school. 
I didn't want to be in the hallway with these people. 
I drowned myself in writing, and reading. 

It wasn't until I read Stargirl by Jerry Spinneli did I really feel like it was okay. 
It was okay to be who I wanted to be. 
It was okay to dress how I wanted to dress. 
It was okay to not be with the in crowd because I would have that small tight knit group of people who would always have my back. 

When I say I was depressed, y'all, it was to a point that even my parents didn't truly understand. I didn't think I deserved anything or anyone. I cried, a lot. I carried Stargirl's story around in my heart for years after that. I still moved. Which was the best decision my parents could have ever agreed to. 

As a young adult I grew up knowing there were going to be other me's out there. Other Stargirl's who needed to be told or reminded it's okay to be different. 
It's okay to not follow the crowd or;
it's okay if you aren't raised by young parents, but your grandparents, but as long as you are happy and you figure out who you are and love that, you will be okay.

I wanted to help those other Stargirl's of the world and teaching was a calling I had always had. Reading was something I always wanted to share with others and I knew I could do that by becoming an educator, by creating those relationships with students that I remember having with a handful of my teachers, and by continuing and sharing my reading life.
I read because it changed my life. 
I keep a copy of Stargirl on my desk at school to remind me of who I was, who I am, and who I need to be for my students. 

There's a book out there for every single person. As an educator, please find those students who need those mirrors, who need those stories to know that they are okay just the way that they are. Middle grades are tricky. Kids are discovering who they are and who they aren't. Reading takes you places, it helps you to see others, but more importantly it helps you to see yourself, and that yourself is the best you can possibly be. 

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