word craft


Summer Blog Series: Janet Tashjian

From Avi: As I did last sum­mer, I’ve invit­ed 13 admired mid­dle grade authors to write for my blog for the next three months. I hope you’ll tune in each Tues­day to see who has answered these three ques­tions. You should have a list of ter­rif­ic books to read and share and read aloud by the end of the sum­mer … along with new authors to follow!

Your favorite book on writing:

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

This ques­tion is a slam-dunk for me. Writ­ing Down the Bones by Natal­ie Gold­berg is the num­ber one book about writ­ing that I rec­om­mend when peo­ple tell me they want to be writ­ers or want to help their stu­dents become bet­ter writers.

Natalie’s life­long train­ing as a Bud­dhist, sit­ting in med­i­ta­tion for hours at a time, is the per­fect metaphor for the stead­fast­ness, focus, and per­sis­tence the act of writ­ing requires. The book’s short chap­ters are filled with anec­dotes and writ­ing prompts in the sim­plest of lan­guage, which is of course the most dif­fi­cult kind of writ­ing to do. When I first start­ed out as a writer, I stud­ied in Natalie’s work­shops many times and always walked away with a clar­i­ty of pur­pose that can only come from putting pen to paper. (I still write all my books in long­hand; Natal­ie does too.) It’s a bulls­eye from a Zen archer, a book that comes along very rarely. If you’re look­ing for a book on craft, this isn’t it. But if you’re look­ing to uncom­pli­cate the writ­ing process and take con­trol of your mon­key mind, this is the book for you.

Reading aloud:

I am a giant fan of read­ing aloud and am con­stant­ly try­ing to cor­ral will­ing par­tic­i­pants into my dai­ly read­ing. (I’m cur­rent­ly mak­ing my way through The Com­plete Calvin and Hobbes, which I rec­om­mend wholeheartedly.)

As far as my own books, it’s a toss-up between Mar­ty Frye, Pri­vate Eye and Han­nah Sharpe Car­toon Detec­tive. Mar­ty Frye is a good one because the main char­ac­ter is a poet detec­tive who makes up rhymes while he solves crimes, so the text usu­al­ly has kids laugh­ing at the character’s absurd cou­plets. Lau­rie Keller’s wacky draw­ings make a fun­ny sto­ry even funnier.

Han­nah Sharpe Car­toon Detec­tive tells the sto­ry of a girl on the autism spec­trum try­ing to han­dle the many curve­balls life throws at her in a day. It’s a good read aloud sim­i­lar­ly because there are fun­ny pic­tures to share — this time by my son, Jake. But it’s also a sto­ry that res­onates with kids — not just those on the spec­trum — about the dai­ly strug­gle to self-reg­u­late. When­ev­er I’ve read this book aloud to kids, the looks of recog­ni­tion and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with Han­nah make me real­ize her sto­ry was an impor­tant — and humor­ous — one to share.

Where do you write most often?

Ethan Long rec­om­mends Han­nah Sharpe, Car­toon Detec­tive: “Han­nah Sharpe is coura­geous, smart, tal­ent­ed, and fun­ny as she nav­i­gates the com­plex­i­ties of the mys­tery at hand, as well as her life on the autism spec­trum. Bra­vo to Janet and Jake Tashjian for mak­ing Han­nah Sharpe a role mod­el not just for the neu­ro­di­verse but for neu­rotyp­i­cals, too.”

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