Rock Stars



Rock Stars- #sol June 28, 2016

Have you ever seen one of your heroes in the wild? What would you do if you did? Seeing people you admire from a distance may make you wonder when you see them up close.

Last week I had the thrill of attending the Teachers College June Writing Institute, an experience that will stay with me forever. The week was filled with small moments- most of which I am still processing. One of our end of day keynotes was the author Jack Gantos. I have read some of his books and was excited to “meet” him, from my seat in the front row of the auditorium, knowing that I would not exchange words with him, but would see him up close and absorb his words.


Jack Gantos showed us where he writes every day and noted those who wrote there before him.


According to friends who have heard him speak before most of what he said was what they had already heard from school visits, but to me, it was all brand new. What struck me most was his explanation of his writing routines. He has a schedule that he follows every day (and I LOVE that he considers his reading time his candy and reminds us not to save reading for when we are too tired). As it turns out he writes quite close to where I would soon be going to visit my mom.

Last night my son, my mom, and two of their friends were headed to a neighborhood block party anniversary celebration of a local restaurant’s 10th anniversary. The restaurant, Orinoco, serves tasty Latin American cuisine and we were enjoying each pass by of trays of delicious food, when I saw a familiar face, Jack Gantos, was just walking up. One of the men with us was a former teacher and once I told him some of Jack’s titles he knew the name, but to everyone else in our small group he was as stranger. My son laughed, “You recognize authors the way most normal people would recognize Tom Brady or another sports star.” After reassuring him that I AM normal he amended his thoughts to say, “Well, maybe a few other people would if they actually looked at book blurbs or whatever.”

What he said made me think. I think one of my main jobs as a teacher is to help students believe that authors are rock stars and that as authors of their own stories themselves they are rock stars too. I love that my students have made connections to various authors (live in author visits, virtually via Skypes, tweets, reading websites, etc.) and I want them to recognize authors they encounter in the wild. I am excited that one of my students will travel to nErDcamp to spend a night at the junior version to connect with authors and illustrators (we may be the only ones there from Malaysia, but how exciting for us!). I want my students to want to glean all they can from poring over words as they are written. I want them to know that we are all writers together. As I sit in Starbucks writing I wonder who the authors are sitting near me.

Did I rush up to Jack Gantos and talk to him? No, but I admired him from afar as a writer in the wild and I was proud that he was seen.

3 thoughts on “Rock Stars

  1. Jennifer Laffin

    Your son is so wise in recognizing that we recognize authors like the rock stars they are! Last week at the All Write conference in Indiana, I had the lucky pleasure to learn from Linda Urban, Ralph Fletcher and Jeff Anderson — three of my own idols. It was pure heaven!!

  2. Tara Smith

    Authors are rock stars – so much of our teaching lives depend on fostering that idea in the kids we teach. I loved following your TC tweets, Erika – thanks for sharing what you learned.

  3. elsie

    An author gets my pulse to beat just a bit faster, more than say an actor might. When I was fortunate enough to attend the national IRA (now ILA) conference, they handed out a Map to the Stars brochure. It told you were the authors would be signing books. How fun to spot Gantos living like a mere mortal! Would you have known him if you hadn’t seen him at TC? How cool to be able to attend nErDcamp! There should be a prize for the person traveling the farthest. You would win. Enjoy!


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