Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Everything I've Learned About Interesting Nonfiction, Kids, Writing, and Life from I.N.K.

My sons went to a Quaker school, and every time they left meeting for worship they sang, As we leave this friendly place, and that's the song that's going through my head right now. I spent about half an hour trying to find a recording for you, but I can't.* I need a (Quaker) librarian to help me. (See below re librarians.)

I.N.K. has been a great place to hang around these past few years. I've learned so much from all of the other writers, from the teachers and librarians who've commented, and from writing my own posts.

So I thought I'd share with you some--no, not everything, of course--of what I've learned and give you some places to visit in the absence of I.N.K. Though I hope Linda will keep the blog up so people can dip into the archives.

1.Nobody knows kids like teachers. Stating the obvious, but I'm amazed by how much teachers know about children, about human nature, about different kinds of learning,  about what works and what doesn't. One of my favorite blogs is There's A Book For That, written by a woman who must be one of the best teachers ever. Carrie Gelson teaches a class made up of 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders in Vancouver. She's a great fan of nonfiction, of books, and, clearly, of children. I kind of want to pretend I'm 9 and go sit in her class.

2.Nobody knows books and research like librarians. Soapbox time. Every time I visit a school I am bowled over by how much librarians know. Which book to put in which kids' hands. Better than any Amazon formula, "If you liked Those Rebels John and Tom, you will probably like A Home for Mr. Emerson and  Handel, Who Knew What He Liked."  Ditto independent booksellers!

And whenever I need research help, no amount of futzing around on the internet will be better than asking a librarian. One hour of futzing around on the internet is worth 270 seconds with a librarian. There's nobody like a librarian and there's nobody like Betsy Bird. Visit her blog Fuse8 whenever you can. You won't be sorry! And there are so many more. In fact, HERE is a compendium of the best librarian blogs!

3. Nobody knows writing like authors.  Except when we're stalled or stuck or terrified. Then we go read what other authors have to say. I'm sort of addicted to the Paris Review interviews. If you go here you'll see Geoff Dyer saying all kinds of interesting things about nonfiction and how one can bend it and still have it be nonfiction! I've talked about John McPhee's interview before on I.N.K. in a piece I wrote about letting content dictate form. I intend to be addicted to the DRAFT column in the New York Times as soon as I'm done with my W.I.P. Check it out. It's a wealth of information--writers writing about writing.

4. There's nothing like having friends who do what you do. There are so many great authors on I.N.K. Great people. Having this blog has been like having a nation-wide support group. Teachers have the faculty room. Librarians have the water cooler. Writers can get lonely. Thanks to all you I.N.K. folks for hanging around the virtual coffee machine with me. Someone please pass the cookies. And while you're at it, please add to my list of what you've learned, and where we should hang out next.

*Ok, I found a recording. It's a real school singing it, and it's rough, but it brought a tear to my eye.

Here you go: As We Leave This Friendly Place.



Alicia said...

Loved this post -- It's true that I.N.K. helps make me feel connected to other writers. Librarians and teachers are great resources. They also tend to be very giving of their time and expertise. Thanks for the sources and links you shared!

Sue Macy said...

It's true that connecting with other authors has been one of the loveliest unintended consequences of writing for I.N.K. I really appreciate the connections that I've made. So thank you, Linda. [Maybe everybody's last post for I.N.K. should be titled "Thank You, Linda."] Ditto for teachers and librarians. Next to my mother, they are my most loyal fans and supporters.

Susan Kuklin said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto, Deb, Alicia, and Sue. I feel every word you've written. Thank you librarians and teachers. Thanks Deb for this post and the first-rate links. And to INK friends/colleagues it's a pleasure learning from and sharing ideas with you. Linda has created a true nonfiction community.

Deborah Heiligman said...

Absolutely I should have titled this, THANK YOU, LINDA! For those of you who don't know, it was LINDA SALZMAN, a teacher and writer, who started this blog. She brought us all together and kept the show running for (how many?) years. THANK YOU, LINDA!

It is so great to have writer friends. Wilbur knew that. I am blessed with so many Charlottes!

Barbara Kerley said...

Great post as always, Deb. Thank you for so many, over the years :)

Susan Kuklin said...

After facebooking and tweeting this blog, I've received a number of comments about how sorry readers/FBers/tweeters are that INK will stop posting. Sweet. Bittersweet.

Thanks everyone - especially Linda.

Pamela Jane said...

Thanks so much for this post and links, Deb. I've loved your articles, humor, and resources!

Tina Cho said...

Very true! Good post. So this blog is disappearing? :(

Carrie Gelson said...

Many thank yous for this lovely mention Deborah. I am so sad that this blog is not going to continue. It's one I read frequently.