Author Visit

After a summer of reading and discussing True Shoes by Doug Wilhelm, the day of our author visit finally arrived.  Our first surprise.  He was soooo tall! (6’10”) Doug allowed the students to ask 3 questions about his height.  Of course, one question was whether or not he played basketball. IMG_0510IMG_0536

After addressing his height, Doug  spoke to us about books.  He told us how a book needs the reader to put their own experiences and ideas into what they are reading to make the book come alive. He also told us that what we think is important. “We matter.”

After giving us some information about his background and how he came to write YA books for middle school students, he talked about the process of writing “True Shoes.”   True Shoes” came about because students wanted more of the characters introduced in the book, “The Revealers.”  Everywhere he spoke, students asked if there would be a sequel.

One of our LMS students asked how long it took to write the book.  He said it took approximately 2 years from idea to research to finished book.  He told us he spent a lot of time in the library to complete his research.  Another question asked was whether Doug kept a writer’s notebook.  He “proudly” waved his writer’s notebook in the air explaining he had two notebooks. LMS students take note!

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If you’d like to know more about Mr. Wilhelm and his books, you can visit Doug’s website.

 

 

Doug’s Answers

Over the summer many LMS students had questions for Doug Wilhelm, the author of True Shoes our summer reading book.  Doug graciously answered many of the questions via the guest post below.  If your questions weren’t answered here, you will get the chance to ask Mr. Wilhelm personally when he visits  LMS on September 26th.

Doug’s Answers

Some interesting questions have been posted for me here by Steven Z, James A, Michael B, Chris C, Hector S, Vic O, Jazmin G, Yadirar, and David G. I appreciate the interest you guys are taking in True Shoes and in my work! I’ll have a chance to answer all questions in more detail when I visit LMS on Sept. 26 — but for now, here are some brief responses.

 Several of you asked are about inspiration. “What inspired you to become an author,” and “What or who inspired you to write this book?” Other books and authors — and teachers — got me started on this path. I wrote recently on my blog, Reading Matters, about the teacher who helped me start writing just by the atmosphere he created in class. If you’d like to read that story, which tells what I was like at this age — which was, basically, pretty weird — go to:

 http://www.dougwilhelm.com/reading-matters-blog

 Scroll down to “A young teacher, an awkward kid, and the turning of a key.” (Above that on the blog, you’ll also see something I wrote about the conversation we’ve had here, this summer.)

 What inspired me to write True Shoes was middle schoolers who read The Revealers, the book to which Shoes is a sequel, a followup story. A lot of schools have read and discussed The Revealers, and as I visited many of those schools in recent years, I talked with kids, paid attention to kids, asked them questions whenever I got the chance. I think you matter! And I know that this time in your life is both very challenging, often really hard, and incredibly important. To try to write realistic stories that might mean something to you at this time of crucial change, struggle, and search in your life is a great challenge — and a serious inspiration.

 Steven asked about how I come up with details, and James asked if this book is based on anyone I know. The answers to those are also in my school visits. I try to observe real kids, and ask them questions when I can. The characters in True Shoes are pretty much all inspired by middle schoolers I’ve met, things they’ve talked about, details I’ve noticed (and often written in my pocket notebook).

 Michael and David asked about curse words. I think the job of a realistic fiction writer is to be honest. If I’m not honest, the story will strike readers as lame, and it will have no value. Harsh language, harsh behavior … these are part of being a middle schooler. I’m not saying these things are good or bad; I’m not passing judgment, I’m just trying to tell a decent honest story. I respect you as readers: I believe you’re capable of making your own choices. The best thing a good story can do is give you experiences that might help you see more clearly, more openly. But it can only do that if it’s honest.

 Chris asked if I went through bullying. Oh yes I did — in middle school. I was incredibly awkward, I didn’t know how to fit in, and I probably tried to hard. I was amazingly skinny and funny looking and I had a high, squeaky voice; other kids often found me annoying. Most days were nightmares. When I come to LMS, you’ll see … well, you’ll see that I grew into myself. 

And that’s the key thing: we all change! Middle schoolers tend to think that this is their final reality: if I’m awkward now, or heavy or short or funny looking or not that popular, this is how I’ll always be. But this is a time of tremendous change — it’s not your final reality at all. So hang in with it, and build on the positive relationships you do have, or that you can find.

 Hector asks, “Will you start a new book with totally different characters?” In fact, I’ve finished one. My new book, The Prince of Denial, comes out about 10 days after my LMS visit. I’ll bring a copy or two to show you. It’s also a realistic young-adult novel, but with totally different characters, a different story completely.

 Vic suggests a sequel to True Shoes. This is a possibility! I’ve been walking around with a few ideas for one. The key will be how well True Shoes does. If the book sells well and builds a strong audience, there will be a demand for a sequel. If it doesn’t, it will be hard for me to justify writing a third book — because Shoes is itself a sequel. It developed because there was a lot of demand for it, from kids who read The Revealers. I personally think there SHOULD be a third book, and as Vic says, we should find out what happens to Cam, along with Richie, Bethany, and everyone else. I hope I get the chance to come back to them once more.

 If you would like to make a real difference for True Shoes, and help it reach more readers, there’s a powerful way to do that: post a brief Customer Review on Amazon.com. People really read those! You don’t have to buy anything, just create an Amazon account if you don’t already have one. To post a review, go to the True Shoes page on Amazon.com:

 http://www.amazon.com/True-Shoes-Doug-Wilhelm/dp/0615561780/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322587422&sr=8-1

 Scroll down the Customer Reviews, and click on “Write a customer review.” If you look at the Amazon sales rank for this book, you’ll see that it’s not very high right now. Your review can make a difference!

 Jazmin asked, “How do you make your book amazing and interesting?” Well, thanks. I wish there was a simple answer to that question — but if there were, every novel would be the same. To me, what’s most important is to develop characters that readers will connect with and care about, and to write a strong story — one that pulls you in and keeps you reading. I think a good story is a place where you want to be, to hang out, to be with these people and find out what happens. A good book is one that, when you finish it, you kind of wish you hadn’t. But every good story is unique in its own way, just like every person is a little different from anyone else.

 Yadirar asked how I felt as I finished writing True Shoes. Most books take years to write, and when you finish one and it’s about to be published, you feel a complex mix of things. You feel excited and sort of satisfied, because you’ve worked really really hard for a long time to develop the story, solve the problems, and make everything as good as you can. But at the same time, you feel nervous and worried and a little scared, because now the book is going to come out — in public! Will anyone READ it? Will anyone like it? Will it be successful?

 I’ve had one book, The Revealers, become successful, and several others go completely the other way. So this is an excited-but-nervous time. You want to be hopeful, but you don’t want to be TOO hopeful.

 I’ll see you guys on Sept. 26! Enjoy the last days of your vacation. Please think of more good questions, and hold onto them for when we meet and talk in person.

 best,

Doug

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Relationships

Whew!  With the start of school only a few days away, the comments are coming in very quickly.  I must have read over 100 comments in the last few days.

Most of you talk about Cam and Turner and the prank which then led to other incidents or drama as you have been calling it.  In your comments you talk about what happened to Cam, the basketball game,  the videotaped set-up and the project Bethany, Turner and Russell worked on. You mentioned Cat, Lauren, Bethany, Russell and Jon.  Yet there hasn’t been much talk about Richie. That is, until tonight when I read this comment from Aleyshka:

“While reading the book I just wanted to scream at the characters for their decisions. For example when Richie hit Cat my mouth dropped, and then she still wanted to be with him. Crazy!! I think that was one out of the many moments of frustration but over all I love this book!!! I”

Until Aleyshka posted her comment no one mentioned anything about Richie and Cat and their relationship or even much about Richie himself.

I wonder.  Why do you think Cat never let Richie come to her house but was OK with Russell going there?  Why do you think Cat hid her friendship with Russell? Do you think Cat and Richie had a healthy relationship before Richie hit Cat?  If you were friends with someone in a relationship like Cat’s what would you say to your friend?  Would you like to see Mr. Wilhelm write a book with Richie and Cat as the main characters? Why?

See you soon.  Don’t forget to keep checking this blog for library news and news about Mr. Wilhelm’s visit.

Update on Library Renovation

On Monday, I attended a training session at LMS and took the opportunity to go upstairs to see what the library looks like. It is BEAUTIFUL!!!  I can’t wait for school to start so that you can see it too.

Here is what you will see when you walk in.  At the counters, you can use and/ or charge your computer. On the left are the three small group activity rooms and the bright green on the wall is our green screen.IMG_0475

Here is another view of the counter from the bookcase side.IMG_0484

The stage/performance area where we’ll have speakers, poets, authors.IMG_0481

The book area where we’ll have our print books.IMG_0474

Here are a few more pictures.

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The construction is finished.  The room is just missing the furniture which will arrive shortly and YOU!!!

To Text or Not to Text

I have been reading your comments concerning pranks and I’m really impressed with how thoughtful you have been.  Most of you agree that it is not OK to prank someone if it is hurtful to them. No one said it was OK to put up the video on YouTube.

Many times actions have reactions and that is the case with the novel True Shoes.  The prank caused another incident. Lauren may have been embarrassed by the prank, but she was not content to let it go.  In turn, she sets up Cam and Turner and sends out a text message with a nasty rumor about them. As the Parkland Middle School students forward the message to one another, it spreads quickly throughout the school. With the availability of technology today it is easy to get a message out to many people in a short amount of time.

In the story, the message was an untrue rumor. Do you think it is appropriate to spread something you know is not true? Have you had an experience when a text message spread quickly from one person to another? Can you think of a time when it is OK to spread something by text message or social media?

FYI:  In many of your comments, you have asked Doug Wilhelm to write a third book.  Well, I have great news!  Doug has written a new book called The Prince of Denial. I have a copy of the book and am reading it right now.  I will tell you about it when I am finished.

 

Based On A Book

For a change of pace, I thought I’d mention some new movies that are coming out that have been based on books.

Out today, August 7th is “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” based on the book of the same name”.

Although Percy Jackson’s school year had been quiet, all was not well at Camp Half-Blood, Percy’s home.. Percy discovers that the magical borders around Camp Half-Blood are not protecting the camp as they should and Camp Half-Blood is in danger of being attacked by demons and monsters. The only way to protect his home and restore its borders is to find the Golden Fleece and the only ones who can undertake this task are Percy and his friends. To save their home, they accept this quest to find the mythical Golden Fleece and venture through the sea of monsters battling terrifying sea creatures and zombies.

The first Percy Jackson movie was criticized because it was so different than the book. This one is supposed to be more like the book. If you have a chance to see the movie, let us know what you thought of it.

Another movie coming out later this month on August 21st is Cassandra Clare’s “ The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.” PG-13

An ordinary NYC teenager, Clary Fray, discovers that she is really a Shadowhunter, a series of half-angel warriors locked in an ancient battle to free the world from demons. When her mother disappears, Clary joins forces with other Shadowhunters who introduce her to Downworld, an alternate NYC, filled with demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures.

Both of these books are available at the Passaic Public library. They will also  be available in the LMS library in the fall when we reopen.

Enjoy!

Pranks

For almost a month you have been reading and commenting here about True Shoes. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments and I’m really happy that almost everyone who has responded has enjoyed the book even if you started out unhappy about summer reading.

It was a difficult decision to find a book for everyone. I had to find something that both boys and girls would like, that would appeal to reluctant readers as well as avid readers, and that would be a great story. That’s not easy. I decided to look for something that would be a good, realistic story as well as give us ideas to think about and discuss. I read a number of books this past spring and fortunately found True Shoes. I knew immediately that it would be a great book for us to discuss.

So… since many of you have read the book already, let’s talk.

In the beginning of True Shoes, two of Russell’s friends prepare to pull a prank on a not-so-nice girl in their class. They put a hole in a plastic juice bottle and film the girl’s attempt to drink while blue juice dribbles down her blouse. Of course, she was a mess and the incident was captured on video. Is it OK to pull a prank on someone? What about if the person you are pranking is mean to everyone? Is it OK then?

Turner and Cam take the prank one step further. Turner posts the video on YouTube. The video instantly goes viral and almost everyone at school watches it the same day it was posted. Does putting the video on YouTube make the prank worse? Cameras on your phones make it really easy to take video and YouTube and other video sites make it easy to post video. Should you post a video to make fun of one of your classmates?

I’d really like to know what you think.

More from Author Doug Wilhelm

Students,
Mr. Wilhelm has sent us another message and has answered some of your questions/comments about the new cover.

Hi,
Thanks for the comments and questions, and for your responses to the new cover! I thought I’d respond to a couple of the questions, and also say how the new cover came to be.

Before bringing out True Shoes, I created my own publishing company, Long Stride Books; before that my books were published by big New York City publishers. I had gotten frustrated dealing with these companies, which keep getting bigger and swallowing each other up — so I went independent, which a lot of writers are doing these days. That meant I now had to do everything — including market the book and develop the cover!

For the first cover of True Shoes, I hired an artist to do a realistic drawing of a middle schooler’s locker. I thought that would draw readers in, because it would show that we’re paying attention to your real lives. But I found that most kids thought, “So? It’s a locker — we see those every day.” It wasn’t that interesting, I found out. So I knew I had to learn more. The cover is critical! It can make or break a book, especially for middle-school reaaders.

On visits to middle schools around the country last year, whenever I got the chance I asked kids about book covers. We’d look at various books and I would say, “Do you like this? What about that?” It was really interesting, and the idea I developed, from the feedback kids gave me, was that because True Shoes is a realistic novel, the cover should show that. It should show a real kid — a photograph of a real kid.

The cover should also show, if possible, that the story deals with networked connectedness — and that’s hard to do! But we looked through many many stock photos online — those are are photographs online that you can pay to use, so you don’t have to hire a professional photographer and so forth. We finally found the image that now appears on the new cover, with the guy who’s plugged into his phone and also has on red Converse All-Stars — just like the shoes in the book. I thought the boy looked just like he could be in the story, and I thought he looked kind of thoughtful, kind of moody, kind of cool but also like a real kid — not a model, or a movie star or whatever.

Then the new phrase, “For when you have to choose,” which did not appear on the earlier cover … well, I just thought that up. A lot of books have a short phrase like that on the cover. The idea, with both the image and the words, is to draw the reader in — to make you want to open the book, to be interested in finding out more. That’s really the whole job of the cover, along with giving you the title and the author’s name.

Some of you have asked why I wrote this book, and why I write for middle schoolers. The book is a sequel to an earlier novel, The Revealers, which deals with bullying and gets read by middle schools all over the country — even in other countries too. As I visited a lot of those schools in recent years, kids often asked for a sequel. They even demanded one!

At first I didn’t have any good ideas for a sequel — but as I talked with kids about how bullying has been migrating to the Internet and cell phones, into what’s often called cyberbullying, I began to get some ideas. In fact, almost all the ideas for the story came out of conversations and observations in middle schools around the U.S.

As to why I write for you, it’s because, first of all, a lot of you are excellent readers. Also, middle school is a critical time in everyone’s life. This is the transition time between being a kid and being a young adult; it’s a time of great change, confusion, intensity, pressure, and search. If you can write a book that really connects with a young reader in this crucial time, and really means something to them, that can be a book that that person never ever forgets. Many many adults can tell you about the book they read in middle school that they’ll never forget — I can tell you about a couple. I want to write that book for you.

Whether I succeed or not with True Shoes, or with The Revealers or any of my other books, is totally up to you — to each person who reads one. But that’s what I’m trying to do.

Stay cool, and keep reading!
Doug
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Progress at LMS Library

A few days ago, I went to LMS to work on a project I had started. Of course, I couldn’t leave without looking at the library. What I saw has me really excited for next fall. The Chromebook counter and bookcase is nearly finished and so is the circulation desk. The green screen wall is painted and is just waiting for us to shoot videos and the performance stage area is looking good.

Here are some pictures so you can see what has me so excited.
Below is the bookcase/counter unit. The side you see in the picture is the bookcase and the counter is on the other side. You will be able to bring your Chromebooks in, sit at a stool at the counter and work. Library books will go on the shelves with more shelving coming.
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This is the circulation desk where you will check out your books.
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And this is the stage performance area:IMG_0442

I can’t wait until the library is finished. I can’t wait to see what we can create in this beautiful new room!