Hob-nobbing with my brother wizards.

September 29, 2013 § 5 Comments

Author on the road.When asked why he is taking off in that balloon, the Wizard of Oz replies, “Why, to confer, converse and otherwise hob-nob with my brother wizards.”

And that’s what I did last week, although “brother” is misleading, as most in the field of English and reading education are female.

The wizards of the Florida Reading Association gathered in Orlando, at a sprawling resort called Rosen’s Shingle Creek, which did its best to convince us we were not in Kansas anymore.

Which was good.

Teachers spend their working lives in Kansas, struggling against tight budgets, standardized tests administered to non-standardized kids, seventeen minute lunches and no bathroom breaks.

Teachers suffer over and love the children in their care. If English is their field, they try to pass on the thing that brought them into the profession in the first place; the fervent belief that the written word can save—or create a life worth living.

I was one of a raft of authors in attendance. Authors live in Kansas too, although it is one with longer lunches and bathroom breaks, plus a view out a window that joins the everyday with any world that can be imagined.

Still, we work at a lonely job that is, on an average day, murky and filled with self-doubt.

Teachers and authors, we came together to bolster each other, commiserate, complain, laugh–and eat everything on the buffet.

Many arrived with an empty suitcase, anticipating free posters, books and handouts. I watched teachers struggle with the heavy bags slung on their shoulders as they continued to scavenge the show floor where I sat at my publisher’s booth talking up my books, but more often listening to the ebb and flow of conversation.

My own suitcase was full of the props I would use in my presentation on creative writing. Aside from a few business cards, I carried home very little extra in my bag–but I did come home with something that added no weight–in fact it lightened my load.

I don’t write flashy, sensational stories for young readers, the kind that will go viral. But the teachers of FRA affirmed, I write stories that can save or create a life. I returned to my work knowing that when I send those stories out into the world they are in good hands. Hands that will pass those stories along.

Thanks to reading association teachers, the kids of Kansas–and Florida–are reading my books.

Note: When writing I wear the most tragically worn out clothing imaginable. When passing myself off as an author I always wear brightly colored tights. If I look down and see a blinding flash of color I know, I’m on!

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§ 5 Responses to Hob-nobbing with my brother wizards.

  • ammaponders says:

    How wonderful for teachers and authors to meet! It sounds like it was affirming for you, too. Win-win, huh?


  • craig reeder says:

    and you’ll never know how far and wide your ripples extend, but with books like Crossing Jordan influencing the way kids think about race, and how about that international prize for Social Justice you got for Summer on the Moon, i’d say you have already changed the world for a better place, ……..and those ripples just keep on going like that Energizer Bunny……


  • Glad to hear you had such a good conference. Kudos and more kudos to you. I expect they will continue coming for a long time. What you write is important.


  • Debbie Moore says:

    I am teaching a unit on Oz right now and have a classroom filled with the story – in one corner is a pool of green with the witch’s hat on top and a caption next to a burnt broom saying “I’m melting!”. There is a yellow brick paper road leading to the reading area and many other exciting items to remind us we are not in Kansas anymore!
    The most wonderful thing about sharing your books with my daughter Mackenzie is that it was NOT flashy or sensational – it was real life and to the point. The deaf struggling reader has so much difficulty with double meaning words and high level conversations that it is a joy to realize I found my wizard to open the door to reading for my girl! They say Wizards don’t really exist, but I know of one – not in Emerald City but in Tallahassee! As I tell Mackenzie – as Glenda told Dorothy – “You have always had the Power”. Write on, my dear wizard!


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