The Unexpected Joy of Teaching

picture-booksI’d long thought I’d like to try teaching. I’d always loved leading workshops and running critique groups, and I’d gotten my MFA in writing for Children and Young Adults in the hope that it would aid me down that path. But life gets in the way.

Then, a year ago, life took an abrupt turn. Spontaneous retirement! It was time to find new joys. A friend was feeling pulled in too many directions and suggested I take over teaching her Picture Book Intensive class on I contacted the founder and we talked for a while–about the class and about another passion of mine-(and his it turned out), news and teaching kids how to read it! In the end, we decided to give it a go.

I began with the Picture Book Intensive, then added a class in Writing Nonfiction for Children and Adults.

Now, I find myself nearing the end of my first nonfiction class and feeling wistful. It’s been such a great experience working with these gifted writers. I imagine I’ve learned as much from them as they have from me. And what I’m discovering is, that’s one of the great joys of teaching!

I’ll be saying goodbye to these amazing students on Wednesday, May 9, at the same time I’m saying hello to a new group of picture book writers. The bittersweet joy of teaching! I will be following my students careers with delight, and a certain amount of pride.

I’m so grateful to all of them for trusting me with their words and their aspirations. It’s such a gift! Thank you!

* * *

And speaking of picture books, I was delighted to learn that my book, Seed Magic,illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb, was selected for the Atlanta Mayor’s Summer Reading Club! Such an honor! And thanks to Peachtree Publishers for rushing enough copies to print to make it possible!

You never know what sort of life your books will take on, and it is such a joy to see them out in the world and in the hands of readers. Fourteen thousand readers, in this case!

I wrote Seed Magic when I was living in an old factory town in Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh.

Every day I’d walk to work at the library and I’d pass a small gray house with no yard to speak of but a foot of dirt on one side between the pavement and the foundation.

Every year, someone–I never saw who–planted a row of marigolds along that strip. It was the only bit of color in that neighborhood on the back side of town where concrete and blacktop surrounded every structure. That little garden sparked in me a deeper understanding of how important beauty is to we humans. And I wondered, what do you do if you live in a city and you don’t have even that little strip of ground? You “plant” seeds elsewhere is what you do. You grow a different kind of garden! It’s magic!



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