a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


SLICE OF LIFE Tuesdays are hosted by Two Writing Teachers

The highlight of my week: Skype with R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder.  

This is the first time we have attempted such a large-scale skype.  Usually, we operate on a small group or single classroom level.  There is something so powerful in watching students gather in front of the big screen to connect with an author. 

Picture an auditorium packed full of 6th graders who have all read Wonder and fallen in love with Auggie.  Add in a single class of 8th graders who believe in the power of story and appreciate the opportunity to “crash the party.”

When R.J. Palacio appeared on the screen, the excitement in the room was palpable.  

Student: What is your next book going to be about?

Palacio*: I can tell you what it will not be…it will not be a sequel to Wonder. 

A groan of disappointment unites the audience.  200 voices suddenly become one giant sigh of despair.  Although we can all understand Palacio’s explanation that some books are meant to have sequels and some books are meant to stand alone—and we agree that Auggie’s story is the kind of story that is meant to stand proudly alone—we can’t help but feel a sense of loss when the door is closed to another opportunity to connect with Auggie and friends. 

Student: Were you ever bullied?

Palacio*: Not that I can remember in particular.  I remember much more clearly the people who chose to be kind to me.  I remember those people who went out of their way to show kindness.

The entire room sits up a little straighter in their seats.  I can do that.  I can choose kind.  I can go out of my way to show kindness towards others.  I can be remembered too.

[What a far cry this message is from the message of Jodee Blanco, author of Please Stop Laughing at Me, who visited our school a couple months ago.  Blanco’s message, in essence was: bullying damages people; if you have been bullied, you are damaged; this damage lasts forever and may even prevent you from having successful future relationships.] 

Choose kind.  It’s a simple message, though not always so simple when it comes to putting those words into practice.  Choose kind.  That’s the message 200 students walked out of the auditorium carrying in their hearts on Monday.  That’s message that I carry in mine. 

*Please note that these statements are a paraphrased version of Palacio’s exact words.  I did not take an audio recording of the skype, so I am capturing the essence of her message from memory here.


  1. So cool! What an amazing experience for the kids and staff! I love the message the students walked away with. Can I say, I'm jealous. :-)

  2. Wonderful to hear about, Christy. I too loved the more positive message she left you with, & hope the students did too.

  3. What a great experience for those kids (and teachers too). I love the Choose Kind/Be Kind message she sends out into the world.

  4. Okay, the jealous machine is up and running...but do you mind if I share the interview. I need to start my day today with the reminder to 'choose kind'. Love nanc XO

  5. Such an interesting comparison of messages. You and I share the same reaction: Dammit, I am NOT damaged for life. I can choose kind. And I DO choose kind. I've just started "Wonder"...I received the pass-along copy. Soon as I'm done, I'll sign my name and send it along to some other kid. So very glad this went well. :-)

  6. Oh wowza, that is amazing. I could see this play out in my head. What an incredible opportunity for all those students and staff that experienced it. I sort of imagined the air in the room changing as students continued to feel inspired by the message of Auggie and R.J. Palacio. Positive, life changing, kind seeking air.
    The photo image of you both is also very very cool.

  7. Awesome. Just. Awesome. I have finally convinced my fellow sixth grade teachers to begin the year with Wonder, as a way to have a sense of being a reading community from the very beginning of the year. It would be so wonderful to have a Skype session with the author after! And good for your 8th. graders who went along for the ride and benefited from the experience!

  8. Gosh I hate it when I get behind in my reading I miss so much. What an awesome experience for your students to have. Is it hard to get an author to Skype with you? I too love the message that it's the kindness that matters. How terrible that the other speaker may have left the kids with a feeling they are damaged goods...so sad and untrue.