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Okay, the semester is almost over. In my seven-student class (two girls and five boys, all sophomores and juniors) here’s what they chose to read for independent reading time.

My class is an ELL (English Language Learners) class comprised of students with roots in Micronesia, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and a few villages in rural Alaska. Some have been in this country their entire lives and some have just arrived a few months ago.

Anyone who reads books in a second language is a reading superhero.

We had 15 to 20 minutes of in-class reading time two or three times a week, and students had the option of taking their books home to read as well. The girls often took their books home; the boys did not.

This is pretty much the OPPOSITE of what I do in my classroom where kids can sit or lay on the floor during reading time if they please.

I did not require them to do any writing assignments in relation to their independent reading, or read a certain number of pages. I allowed them to stop reading a book if they wanted to just like us adults do. It was a no-strings-attached approach. For more details about my ideas regarding fostering reading in the classroom see this post.

I had a wide selection of young adult fiction and other books for my students to choose from. They were also allowed to bring books from home or the library.

In no particular order, these are books my students enjoyed and finished, or are about to finish.

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Last Chance Texaco by Brent Hartinger

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Cut by Patricia McCormick

Trapped by Michael Northrop

Pinned by Alfred Martino

Wrestling Sturbridge by Rich Wallace

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

Raiders Night by Robert Lipstyte

Right Behind You by Gail Giles

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Popular by Alissa Grosso

Cheating Death: Amazing Survival stories from Alaska by Larry Kaniut

Someone to Love Me by Anne E. Schraff and Paul Langan

As you can see from the list above, my students tended to gravitate toward contemporary, realistic stories.

Winter Light and a Winner

Crisp air at forty below.

Congrats to Patricia O’Brien!! Random.org chose her as the winner of the Become gift package.

Thanks for stopping by. And, stay warm!!

Become, a young adult novel by Ali Cross  officially comes out tomorrow but it is available now in both digital and print form.

Cover copy for Become:

Sixteen-year old Desolation Black wants nothing more than to stay in Hell where it’s cold and lonely and totally predictable. Instead, she’s sent back to Earth where she must face the evil she despises and the good she always feared.

When Desi is forced to embrace her inner demon, she assumes her choice has been made—that she has no hope of being anything other than what her father, Lucifer, has created her to be. What she doesn’t count on, is finding a reason to change—something she’s never had before—a friend.

And, a little bit about Ali before we start our interview:

Ali Cross is the sensei of the Writer's Dojo where she holds a black belt in awesome. She lives in Utah with her kickin' husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, two sumo dogs and four zen turtles.

Ali. Thanks for joining us today. Where did the idea for Become originate?

Sometimes I like to play the “what if” game and see what stories I can come up with from random ideas. I’ve written a few books that way and BECOME was the first!

As a writer myself, I’m always curious about this: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I first started writing in the fall of 2002—a story born from my Dungeons & Dragon days.  My husband started his first book the same day as me, and we both finished  those books on New Year’s Eve 2003. Best New Year’s Eve ever!

Okay, so you’ve been at this for a while now. Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you outline, or just write, or do you use a combination of both?

I wrote most of my books off the cuff. I’d have a concept, title, character names and a general idea of where to go … and yeah, I think that’s why it took me so long to finish.  Now I work a little differently. I’m a huge fan of the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet—I’ll “beat” out a story, but from there, I’ll pants it. I like to have a good feel for where the story’s going, but I give myself the freedom to go where I need to go, too. So I’m a combo writer, I think. Anything to get ‘er done!

Blake Snyder was a talented person. I feel fortunate to have taken a workshop with him. You decided to self-publish Become. Can you tell us a little about your experience with self-publishing and what made you decide to go that route with Become?

I would have loved to find an agent to represent BECOME, and let me tell you, I sure did try! I was rejected 103 times, 32 times in the full, three times from one agent, and I got one agent offer. Plus, BECOME was contracted with a small publisher for a while, too. I believed there was something of value in my story, but I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to make it in the traditional route.

The choices were, shelve it and maybe someday query it again, or self-publish. When I had the chance to release with the other awesome girls in my “tour”, it seemed like maybe BECOME’s time had finally come!

Very cool, Ali. I’m looking forward to reading Become!! :-) My copy is already on my I-Pad.  Thanks for joining us today.

Ali is giving away a copy of Become, a signed bookmark, a key chain and a hand-knotted heart bracelet–all to one lucky winner.

Leave a comment before midnight (East Coast time) November 16th for a chance to win.

I took this photo last year.

But last night,

I saw fresh tracks in the driveway.

I’ve been doing a little experimenting with a video camera for a class I’m taking. My first video is posted over at Project Mayhem. It’s a little on the silly side.

Happy Halloween!!!

This photo, taken this in some small town outside of Milan, exemplifies the feel of Nightshade City for me. I read Nightshade City while I was in Italy and since Hilary’s writing has an old-world style  to it, reading it amongst buildings several hundred years old really added to the immediacy of the story. I’m pretty sure I saw Billycan’s shadow darken the window above.

And the winner of both Nightshade City and The White Assassin–I used a random number generator to choose–is Natalie Bahm.

Oh, Natalie. Where art thou? Come hither and collect your prize!!

The White Assassin
Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles
by Hilary Wagner

The White Assassin
Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles
by Hilary Wagner

Publisher: Holiday House

Pub Date: October 11th, 2011
ISBN: 9780823423330

Ages: 9 up

Official Website: www.nightshadecity.com

Blog: www.hilarywagner.blogspot.com

Okay people, here’s my take on both The White Assassin and Nightshade City (that’s book one of The Nightshade Chronicles): Hilary Wagner has created this super cool world that has a sort-of old-world Gothic feel to it. She’s populated this world with some incredibly memorable characters and woven a complex and well-layered plot.

Plus, even if you don’t read much fantasy, like me, you’ll connect with these characters because what they are going through is very human.

And man, does she know how to write a villain!! I’ll stop now because I don’t want any spoilers slipping out.

Here’s the cover copy for THE WHITE ASSASSIN:

Book II in the Nightshade Chronicles begins three years after Juniper and his rebel band of rats liberate the Catacombs and defeat their oppressors.

A sense of peace has settled over Nightshade City, but it is a false one. Billycan, the white assassin, has been found. Deep in the southern swamps, he now rules a primitive horde of savage swamp rats eager to overrun Nightshade City and claim it for their king. With the help of an ancient colony of bats and an uneasy alliance with the swamp snakes, Juniper and his Council set out to thwart Billycan’s plans. When an old secret is revealed—one so shocking it shakes both Billycan and Juniper to the core—the fate of Nightshade City and the life of Juniper’s only son depend on Juniper’s decision: should he help his mortal enemy? The past resurfaces with devastating impact in this exciting sequel to Nightshade City, a dark tale of intrigue, deception, and betrayal.

Nightshade City, Book I of the Nightshade Chronicles is a CBC Best Book of 2011 and a Crystal Kite finalist.

So, here’s the deal. I’m giving away a set. That’s right.  A copy of Nightshade City and a signed ARC of The White Assassin to one person. Comment below by Midnight EST Wednesday October 26th for a chance to win. And, I’d be grateful if you helped spread the word about these books and this giveaway. Thanks :-) :-) :-)

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