Skip to main content

#AuthorApril: C is for Campbell Bartoletti...Susan, That Is

Dear Kim,

#AuthorApril is off to a solid start. Think we can keep it up for all of our A to Z Challenge?

C is for Susan Campbell Bartoletti


Letter C brings us one of our favorite Pennsylvania authors, Ms. Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Kim, I know you will agree that Susan is one hell of a writer. Her work has received dozens of awards and honors, including a Newbery Honor, NCTE Orbis Pictus Awards for Nonfiction, the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction, the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, Sibert Medal, and many more. Beyond the awards, Susan pushes to tell the truth about our history while writing for children. She says, "By nature, human beings search for ways to make sense and meaning out of their lives and their world. One way that we make meaning is through the telling of our stories. Stories connect us, teach us, and warn us never to forget." Ms. Campbell Bartoletti's work layers rich storytelling, impeccable research, and humanity into each page of text, even in the darkest of historical topics.


2006 Newbery Honor, Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow
Some may be lucky enough to know that Susan is as gifted a teacher of writing as she is a writer. In 2014 we asked Susan to join us at the SCBWI Pocono Retreat for writers and illustrators. Susan gave many memorable talks at that weekend's events. One that stays close to mind was her talk of muses.

Susan with fellow presenters at 2014 SCBWI Pocono Conference.


Susan had the task that weekend of making her fellow writers mine for ideas. One exercise had us make pages of lists. List of objects found in our car. List of bad habits. List of things you don't like about yourself. Lists of places, people, events that you remember. We obeyed and left the session with hundreds and hundreds of words: people, places, habits, events.

At a session later that day she had us follow up on our lists. "Write about one event that you remember. Reach down inside yourself. The only rule is you must repeat 'I remember' within your writing." We got to work. A teacher in her bones, Susan walked the room and helped move us along in our writing.


In the end I wrote:

I remember being too loud on her steps- Her landlord would be out any minute to shake his fist and hush us.

I remember knocking- Meg checked the doorknob- unlocked- go right in.

I remember the bag of apples- her stomach hurt that morning and we brought back a gift. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," I called.

I remember the apples tumbling over themselves when I dropped the bag at her feet- all trying, like me, to get away.

I remember seeing my first dead body. My mother.

I remember the wail of sirens- the high scream coming nearer- nearer- nearer until they all blared hot on my wet face.

I remember my mother dancing to Kenny Rogers, pulling a brush through my hair, whispering "I love you". Every moment came rushing back.

I remember that night too often for the 22 years that have swept in since. When I hear a song. When those first few cold nights creep up in October. Whenever I hear sirens- even in the far, far distance. I remember.



I wish I had poems from other conferees to share because she pulled out an I Remember from each participant. She's just that kind of teacher.

I get to spend a week with Susan this summer at the Foundation's Summer Camp. Kim, I cannot wait to learn more about writing from this master.

Happy #AuthorApril.
Much Love,
Alison

Popular posts from this blog

The Querying Writer: Part II

Dear Kim,


Remember that letter I sent you way back in October? (You remember October-- back when all things seemed possible.) 





The letter, COMP TITLES and THE QUERYING WRITER, shared details from our Novel Nuts & Bolts class with Empire Literary Agent Carrie Howland. (I may have referred to her as "agent-extraordinaire" in another post.)

Though today's post will be my third about Carrie, it is titled "Part II" because my querying journey seems sequel worthy.







I started looking for an agent soon after you and I met at the NYC SCBWI conference in 2012. I had nice feedback from an agent at a conference and sent him my work. His response was kind (which I've found most responses from agents to be.) But my writing wasn’t ready. The novel he saw was the first I’d ever finished. I wasn't ready.

I swallowed that little voice that said, SEND! SEND! SEND! for two more years until I entered #PitchWars-- Brenda Drake’s crash course in pitching. In the years between t…

School Visit Recap: Assemblies to Workshops, and the CONVERSATIONS in between

Dear Kim (and friends),

This morning I put away my rainbow superhero mask, gold top hat, and banana-on-a-stick. Few things are sadder than closing your banana-on-a-stick into a dark closet. But, I guess it will rise again next month for my next school visit.

Oh, you thought my collection was somehow Halloween related? No, no. Just part of the workshop portion of my school visits. For the past two weeks I had the privilege of speaking to, and then with, students from one of our nearby districts.



Dwight Smith, the founder of My Special Word, joined me for the assembly portion of the event. We were able to share with the children Dwight's vision for the program, as well as my process for writing the books for him.

There was music. Lots of it.
Some singing. (Would you expect any less?)
And shouting! (Mostly the kids, but I got a few words in too.)



We met with over 800 kids during the assemblies and got a sense for how the school district planned to use My Special Word. I'll say,
w…

BOOK REVIEW: Starr Fall & BOOK RELEASE: Once & Forever

Dear Alison,

Goodbye January, Hello February! Last week, I let everyone peak in my drawers.  Today, I'm opening my inbox. Well, not literally. You DO NOT want to see my inbox--though I do try to keep all the accounts very tidy--sometimes the emails get a bit, what's the word I'm looking for? Expansive. My favorite emails are from fans. I LOVE them. They make me all warm and fuzzy. Seriously, touch my arm...

See? Warm and Fuzzy. Oh, wait those are my doggies;)

While, I ADORE the fan mail (I DO, I REALLY DO) I would LOVE them even more if they were added as a review to AMAZON and GOODREADS. For instance, look at some of these reviews:


Must Read!!!, January 31, 2017 By  Kelly

This review is from: Starr Fall: Book One of the Starr Fall Series (Kindle Edition) Purchased this book for my 14 year old daughter who is NOT a fan of reading for pleasure or at all for that matter. Well, the book immediately grabbed her attention. In her words..."I can't put this book down. I ne…