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From 2003 to 2007 I attended the ALAN Workshop, which is a two-day affair where up to 80 Young Adult Literature Authors give talks, sign books and make themselves available to converse with the 500 teachers and librarians who attend. I looked forward to the ALAN Workshop every year for two reasons.

1. The participants bring home a large quantity of some of the best of the year’s Young Adult Literature provided by publishers. As a teacher, I added these books to my Classroom Library.ALAN Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That’s me on my treadmill desk where I’ve done a lot of writing over the years.

 

 

2. As a writer, it provided inspiration for me to keep plugging away at my own young adult novel manuscripts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flash forward eight years and countless rewrites of several manuscripts, and the publication of Surviving Bear Island, and I got an invitation to speak at the conference that provided endless books for my students and ongoing inspiration for me as a writer.

 

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DSCN7094 I was on the Debut Author Panel at the 2015 ALAN Workshop. I was both nervous and excited in the days leading up to the Conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But arriving at the Conference and being among all these people who love Young Adult Literature, some new acquaintances and some old friends, I really felt like I had come full-circle, that I had come home as a writer and a teacher after an eight year journey.

 

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Meeting Christine Taylor Butler, author of The Lost Tribes, and another Move Books Author.

Reuniting with Daria Plumb, an amazing Alternative Education Teacher and ALAN President.

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Reuniting with Kelly Sassi, former Fairbanks Teacher who is now a Professor of English and Education in North Dakota. Meeting her son, Max, for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, thanks ALAN for providing a supportive home for writers, teachers, and librarians to return to year after year. We may not all make it there every year, but just knowing that its there, carrying the torch of keeping relevant books in the hands of teens, is reassuring.

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Talking with Terrill Sullivan, Bayshore Elementary School Librarian after the reading.

Talking with Terrill Sullivan, Bayshore Elementary School Librarian after the reading.

I had a great time reading from Surviving Bear Island and then signing books at the Alaska State Literacy Association’s Annual Conference.

Other presenters included:

SteveLayneSteven Layne–author of In Defense of Read-Aloud.

 

 

 

2696aClaire Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan–authors of Assessment in Perspective, Focusing on the Reader behind the Numbers.

 

 

 

 

photoLori DiGisi–International Literacy Association Board Member and English Language Arts Department Head at Fuller Middle School in Farmingham, Massachusetts.

 

 

 

richardson1Lisa Richardson–Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Alaska Southeast.

 

 

 

It was great to hang out with educators across the state who are passionate about Literacy. The Golden Heart Literacy Council and the Alaska State Literacy Association did a wonderful job of putting together a meaningful, interesting, and friendly conference.

Signing a copy of Surviving Bear Island for Tammy Mulligan. She and Claire went kayaking in Prince William Sound before coming to the Conference.

Signing a copy of Surviving Bear Island for Tammy Mulligan. She and Claire went kayaking in Prince William Sound before coming to the Conference.

10887107_593638450768945_837515248378900968_oThanks for stopping by.

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I was totally surprised this week when I got this letter in the mail regarding Surviving Bear Island. I feel fortunate to have a Representative who supports education and the arts.

Kawasaki letter SBI copy

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I’m happy to announce that Surviving Bear Island is now being used in two Children’s Literature Courses (one graduate and one undergraduate) at the University of Alaska Southeast. vert-colorA big thanks to the University of Alaska Southeast for adopting Surviving Bear Island for their courses.

10887107_593638450768945_837515248378900968_o   Amazon

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Indie Bound

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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PGreci and PDahlmeyer copy

A couple days ago, I did my first Surviving Bear Island school visits. I visited two schools where I was student back in the 70’s, John Marshall and Andrew Jackson Intermediate Schools for grades five to eight.

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I felt very taken care of at both schools. The visits were set up on really short notice and the school staff did a fantastic job of being prepared. And the kids were just awesome and full of questions about writing and about Alaska.

paul reading at marshall

Later that day, I got my first letter from a student who had read my book.

The next night I went out to dinner with my high school English Teacher and signed books for him and for the school library.

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If you’d like to schedule a school visit or book signing check out my schedule and contact information by clicking here.

Surviving Bear Island comes out March 25th. Look for it in bookstores or order online now at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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On the 25th I’ll be celebrating the release of Surviving Bear Island and will be giving away ten copies of my book!! One of them could be yours!!

I hope you’ll stop by then for a chance to win!!!

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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.

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I eat up books set in my geographic region: Alaska and the Circumpolar North.

These recent reads are both young adult novels.

From the backcover of The Trap by John Smelcer: Seventeen-year-old Johnny Least Weasel knows that his grandfather, Albert, is a stubborn old man and won’t stop checking his own traplines even though other men his age stopped doing so years ago. But Albert Least-Weasel has been running traplines in the Alaskan wilderness alone for the past sixty years. Nothing has ever gone wrong on the trail he knows so well. When Albert doesn’t come back from checking his traps one day, and with the temperature steadily plummeting, Johnny must decide quickly whether to trust his grandfather or his own instincts.

From the jackflap of Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick: In an isolated cabin in an Arctic wilderness, 14-year-old Sig is alone with a corpse: his father, who has fallen through the ice on the lake outside and frozen to death only hours earlier. Then, out of the Arctic darkness, comes a stranger: a terrifying giant of a man claiming that Sig’s father owes him a share of a horde of stolen gold–and threatens awful violence if Sig doesn’t reveal the gold’s whereabouts.

Both of these stories take place over the course of just a few days where well-developed characters drive relentless plots. And, the clencher for me in terms of what separates good from great–they both make full use of the setting in haunting and beautiful ways.

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