Sunday, June 12, 2011
Visit with Loren Long
I'm embarrassed to tell you how long ago the visit Loren Long made to our school occurred (ok, it was the beginning of May). Between getting ready for my knee surgery, getting ready for end of year items before the end of the year, and now, after surgery, having the attention span of a gnat, I find it hard to concentrate for any length of time. This doesn't bode well for article writing, preparations for a workshop this summer, knitting projects, or advance planning for next year. And it especially doesn't bode well for blog writing. Besides exercising, icing, and resting, the only thing I seem to be able to sustain for a period of time is reading -- whew!!
But, back to the point, I would like to very belatedly share the wonderful visit our school had with Loren Long.
Loren was actually scheduled to come on a day that became a snow day for us this past winter - tough weather. We were so delighted when he was willing to reschedule from his original date in February to a date in May.
What we all came to realize is that Loren Long is both a talented artist and a talented writer. One of the things he shared that really stuck with me is that he likes to think of his books as films, and he is the director - he gets to decide what will happen and how it will happen. He continued to model smart thinking as a writer/illustrator. He gave an example of how when writing Otis, he first thought about the main character and how to develop him. Then, he brought in secondary characters. After that he likes to develop setting, and his setting allows him to set "mood" for his readers right away. Finally, he thinks about the events that comprise the beginning, middle, and end of the story.
I loved the quote he borrowed from Stephen King: "There is no such thing as writing, but rewriting."
He also shared a little about the honor he felt when he was asked to illustrate Of They I Sing by President Obama. He shared how much he rose in his own sons' estimation when President Obama shared that he knew Loren Long's books. The kids at our school got a kick out of it when he said we could address him as Loren Long, "Illustrator in Chief."
All these thoughts Loren shared are why we're so very fortunate to be able to host authors and illustrators at our school. They help de-mystify the process of writing and creating, and share it at a level that is meaningful for the students. I took so much from Loren Long's session and applied it in both our reading workshop and writing workshop focus lessons.
The other rich piece of having an author visit is the learning and preparation that happens before the author even gets there. We were able to share so many of Loren Long's books, and then students could respond to them in a way they wanted. One of my favorite things that happened before the visit was a class who wrote a book like Of Thee I Sing, with heroes that matched specific parts. This pre-visit thinking and work really helps enrich the visit, and the students feel so connected to the author and/or illustrator.
A huge thanks to Loren Long for being so willing to share of himself and his creative process with our students. Another huge thanks for all the conversations he had with teachers during his "down times" that enriched their creative processes as well.