Archive for Uncategorized

A Good Run

Another school year has come to an end, and with it, another ending of sorts: my work as a writing consultant. I have been consulting with schools since 2000, doing trainings, teaching classes, modeling lessons, and providing other professional development activities to teachers. I have done this through our local education service district as well as privately.

During these 18 years I’ve had the pleasure of working with teachers in all 16 school districts in the county—Lane—where I live. I’ve been fortunate to have worked in various states from Vermont to California and in epic towns, from Burlington, home of the International Rotten Sneaker Contest to Victorville, the residence of my cowboy hero, Roy Rogers. On several occasions, I traveled to Buenos Aires to work with teachers at the Lincoln International School. These trips led to great adventures in Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru.

Doing this work has been a blast! I have immensely enjoyed working with people committed to teaching kids. Based on the feedback I’ve gotten over the years, I believe I have added value to their teaching lives and to the lives of their students. That’s very gratifying.

It hasn’t always been a smooth road, though. “Forced trainings,” in which administrators require all teachers to attend, can be problematic. My suggestion has always been to make attendance voluntary. The challenge, however, is that often the people who need it most, won’t show up. Thus, one of the many dilemmas administrators face, and another reason I have never had any interest—zero—in working that gig. My choice: work with
“the willing,” the people who are interested in professional growth.

And, that’s what I’ve been able to do these last few years. I’ve been a part of the STELLAR grant at the University of Oregon, which taught participants visual thinking strategies. I was the writing resource person, accessible to any and all participating. This past year I also worked as a consultant for the Pleasant Hill School District, assisting teachers who wanted to enhance their writing programs. Both experiences combined to make this an ideal conclusion to my consulting days (I’ve even been able to place my professional books and materials with enthusiastic recipients!).

So, what happens now? What’s next on the life agenda? Well, for one, there will be writing. Projects to finish, ideas to develop, words to play with. And, of course, I’ll keep visiting classrooms to share with students the joys and challenges of writing.  But beyond that, who knows. Maybe I’ll do the things retired people do. Travel sounds good. So do photography, painting, and guitar playing. And, I’ll make sure to devote some time to investigating life’s many mysteries, like why people post No Trespassing signs on their homes and why slow drivers speed up when they come to passing lanes.

It’s been a good run. A darn good one. I’m excited to see what happens next.


A good run on the Nile River.

Passage Passes On

Every book has a life, and I am sad to say that another of my books has joined the others that have “passed.” I wrote Passage: A dog’s journey west with Lewis and Clark to share the Corps of Discovery adventure with kids. I wanted to make the book interactive and engaging so I wrote it as an activity book in which readers were asked questions and invited to add to illustrations. Because it was not a “traditional” book, none of the “traditional” publishers I queried were interested.

All the rejections left me in a quandary. Should I try more publishers? Or, should I just let it go and move on to other things? That’s really hard to do when you are invested in a project, but I was at the end of my publisher list.

Fortunately, I explored another option: producing the book myself. Now this was 2002, before CreateSpace and other popular print-on-demand options that are available today. More importantly, it was also before self-publishing had gained the acceptance that it now has.

I had experience working with publishers, having had some 20 books already published. But I was out of my element in the self-publishing world. However, I went for it anyway and proceeded to find an illustrator, designer, and a printer. In order to keep the per-item cost down, I had to have 2,000 books printed, which was quite a blow to my savings account. And that was just the beginning. I then had to sell all the books in order to make my money back and, if possible, earn some money for my efforts.

Fortunately again, it was around the time the nation was commemorating the Lewis and Clark expedition, so there was a lot of interest in the topic. I sold the books to bookstores and museums and Lewis & Clark organizations. I sold class sets of them to teachers. When the Oregon National Guard became interested in the books for their outreach program, we did another press run of 2,000 books!

The books kept selling, and when the inventory of books became low, a small publisher wanted to produce more copies. Well, of course! When their inventory got low they decided not to print more. They gave me the remaining copies and I continued to sell them, the last sales going to Camp Wood in Illinois (where L&C started their journey) and Fort Clatsop in Oregon (the western end of their journey). Fitting, huh?

So now the books are gone (I kept one of each printing as mementos) but the experience of doing this project from idea to sales will remain with me for a long, long time.

The last books headed to Fort Clatsop