Friend Request an Author by Margaret Simon
As the school year begins, I am hearing warnings from administrators about Facebook, warnings about posting student pictures and becoming friends with students and parents. I understand that the warnings and the fears, but I use Facebook to connect with other teachers and authors. On my Facebook feed, I see posts from Peter Reynolds, Donalyn Miller, Sharon Creech, Kate DiCamillo, Cynthia Lord, and more. I’ve never had an author turn down a friend request.
This summer I decided to focus my reading life on middle grade novels. I teach elementary gifted students. I had read Donalyn Miller’s books and wanted to become a Book Whisperer, a better reading coach for my students.
One of the authors I discovered was Cynthia Lord. I read three of her books; Rules, Touch Blue, and Half a Chance. I loved each one of them. I enjoyed Cynthia’s style. In Rules, she framed each chapter with rules her character created for her autistic brother. In Touch Blue, she used different superstitions to title each chapter. And in Half a Chance, the photography challenge frames the story. As an author and as a reader, these devices appealed to me.
I decided to look up Cynthia Lord on Facebook. She responded to my friend request. I tagged her in a blog post I wrote about her books. She left a comment. I felt so special.
In Half a Chance, Cynthia Lord takes me loon watching on a lake in New Hampshire. Loons do not live where I live. Her Facebook posts often highlight pictures of Maine where she lives. Her posts are personal. I feel like I know her.
Even though there are negative aspects to social media, the connections students can make with authors is changing, for the better. My students use Kidblog.org to create blog posts about their reading. I started following Sharon Creech on Facebook and subscribed to her blog. When one of my students wrote a touching response to her book Walk Two Moons, I sent her a message asking her to comment. She did. That student felt special too.
I appreciate authors who are willing to share their lives with us. They become real to us. My students and I feel we can be authors, too.
Last year, my students and I skyped with Greg Pincus and Caroline Starr Rose. Both of these authors generously offered free Skype visits on their blogs. Actually seeing an author in his/her own living space with the dog and the stacks of books in the background also makes us feel we know them personally.
I encourage you to look for your favorite authors on Facebook, on blogs, and on Twitter. You can feel special, too.
Margaret Simon is a Mississippi native who married into a Louisiana life. She lives on the Bayou Teche in New Iberia, Louisiana with her husband, Jeff. Their now empty nest once housed three daughters, Maggie, Katherine, and Martha. Margaret has been an elementary school teacher for 28 years, most recently teaching gifted students in Iberia Parish. She has published poems in the journal The Aurorean, and wrote a chapter about teaching poetry to young children for Women on Poetry published in 2012 by McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers. Border Press published her collection of poems with her father’s Christmas card art, Illuminate in fall of 2013. Blessen, a novel for young readers, was published in April 2012, also by Border Press. In her teaching profession, she has a Masters degree in Gifted Education and certification by the National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards. Margaret writes a blog regularly at http://reflectionsontheteche.wordpress.com.