Sunday, January 25, 2009

What we learned from our author talk events

We were fortunate enough to welcome two authors of children and young adult literature to TeacherSPACE over the last few months. Paul Langan & Deborah Kogan Ray. Each shared their unique stories of becoming writers (and, for Deborah, an illustrator), what inspires their work, and the messages they hope to share with their readers. Paul talked about how, growing up, he found that writing gave him a "voice" to speak up against injustices and challenges. As an author, he aims to invite urban youth into reading by creating novels that speak of their own experiences, thus, giving a voice to their own lives. His series of novels - the Bluford Series- follows the life and times of urban adolescents and the many choices and challenges they face.

Deborah Kogan Ray came into writing through her love of art and illustration. She talked about how the subjects of her books often come to her in a serendipitous manner - they "speak" to her, and she feels a kinship with the story. Her stories and illustrations often celebrate nature, beauty, creativity, and the complexity of interpersonal relationships and family. Though many of her biographical books are of individuals that are not typically taught about in schools (i.e. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln), the underlying themes of family, overcoming challenges, and finding a "voice" resonate throughout them, and connect strongly with readers of all ages.

As teachers, we learned so much about how inspiration comes, the hard work and research that is involved in writing, and the role of finding and sharing a "voice" through writing. It reminds us to keep finding ways to learn about students driving interests, voices, and support them through providing them with a diverse range of experiences and materials.

Below are some photos from the event:

Deborah Kogan Ray discusses her work

Deborah Kogan Ray - Signing her latest book "Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Loved to Draw"

Paul Langan signing a book for one of his fans

Teachers AND students attended Paul Langan's Talk

To learn more about the authors:
Visit for Deborah Kogan Ray's website
Visit for Townsend Press, which publishes the Bluford Series

Anyone else who were any either of the events an wants to chime with their thoughts- feel free!!

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