I've seen some pictures of really fun book projects based on The Kindling, but I think this is the first actual fan art I've seen. I thought it was so good I wanted to post it.
When people hear about this book, the first question I usually get is, "What in the world is a penumbra?"
We assigned one of our leading creative teams here at bradenbell.com to come up with an answer for people. Our graphic artists, linguists, IT guys and musicians all worked round the clock to bring you the following trailer. Hopefully, at the end of it, you'll know what a penumbra is.
Now that we are only about 8 weeks away from the release of Penumbras, I thought it might be fun to do a meme each week as we count down. Maybe I'll think of a really cool contest at some point to do in conjunction with these. Or maybe I won't.
But I think I'll post them anyway!
This is actually one of my favorite moments in the book and it is my very favorite pictures from the photo shoot. The actress did a great job, but the lighting and everything is perfect. Especially given the whole idea of penumbras--which are vague, shadowy areas. I love the shadows. The photographer really caught this moment from the book.
I learned, or rather re-learned, a couple of important lessons about working with adolescents recently and I've been thinking about them quite often.
The other day, I received a wonderful, detailed three-page thank-you letter from a student in which she very sweetly detailed the things she and other students appreciated. (Incidentally, this was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me and I relished every word! But that's a different story).
Besides being really wonderful on a personal level, this also gave me the opportunity to get some insight into the kinds of things that adolescents value and appreciate.
As I read and re-read this letter, I was fascinated by something. Almost everything she thought significant enough to mention was something that most adults would probably consider to be on the smaller, less-significant side of what a teacher does for students. In fact, I was a little surprised by the things that she remembered and noted.
This dear student didn't mention the big, life-changing sort of thing. Rather, she mentioned things like buying the students pizza at the end of a long dress rehearsal, or keeping a cabinet of snacks they can access during after-school rehearsals. Calling them silly nicknames or just being cheerful. Being patient and not angry when someone makes a mistake--even a big one. Laughing along with them at things they think are funny
Of all the things she listed, there was only one thing that an adult would have considered to be terribly serious or significant.
That's the first lesson. When I teach kids, I am going into their territory, trying to get them to follow me to mine. I'm not one of these romantics about kids--I don't think they are superior to adults and I don't think the world would be better if we acted like kids. I think our job is to lead them to adulthood.
That being said, we have to start where they are. We have to respect what is important to them and we have to try to speak their language, so to speak (not literally. Nothing is worse than an adult who tries to use cool teen vernacular. In fact, I do this as a way to annoy my daughter. It's so grating)
The second lesson I learn comes from looking for the common pattern in all these things she mentioned. I see a few things, and they teach me a great deal.
There is a line Dickens wrote in A Christmas Carol that I really like. Scrooge, seeing his first employer says, "He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil."
It occurred to me that adolescents spend their lives in a situation where they are always the subordinate. They are (and should be!) under the direction of adults--parents, teachers, coaches.
But when I think of how completely we adults control their world, I consider the quote from Dickens. We, the adults, have tremendous power to make their lives happy or unhappy. I find that quite sobering and need to remember that. It is so easy to snap when I'm in a bad mood or to act irrationally. And being human, this will happen. And sometimes I think it needs to, honestly. But it makes me consider very carefully whether I make them happy or unhappy when they are under my authority.
I think perhaps that is why this student, and presumably, her peers, responded so much to these ostensibly little things. I suspect that getting pizza made them feel cared for and valued--that they were important. I don't know that they really sense that a lot. They may hear it, but I'm not sure how often we model that they really are important.
Third lesson: I also really believe that most adults (myself included) do not fully realize just how much adolescents value fun, nor how important fun can be.
There is an old quote that one hears often about children and play: "The work of childhood is play." The idea is that children learn what they need to learn by engaging in play, that they develop in important ways by playing--physically, socially, emotionally, cognitively and so on.
I am coming to believe that the work adolescents is fun. I'm serious about that. I believe that in many ways, adolescents learn and develop by having fun. Adolescents are under so many pressures--social, physical, academic--and I think fun helps relax that pressure temporarily. I really believe it is the language they speak.
This reminds me that if I really want them to learn something deeply, to remember something, that I need to make it fun.
I believe that some day my students will also realize that I taught them some bigger, more serious things. I've certainly been trying to do that.
But this letter reminded me that when I'm trying to teach adolescents, when I want to reach them, I need to meet them on their terms--and those terms involve fun, snacks, and laughter. And if I meet them there, they might listen to me when I want to speak. And I would do well not to minimize the things that get me on their ground as trivial.
So, today the younger offspring and I spent much of the day working on the newest addition here at Mockingbird Cottage--a tire swing!
It's really fun. And so far, the modified (read: messed up) bowline that I invented seems to be holding.
I have always been fascinated by the dedication inside of a book. To whom does the author dedicate the pages that follow? Whenever I read them, I feel like I am seeing glimpses of a whole different story and it fascinates me.
I guess because I like reading them so much, I think a long, long time about the dedications in my books. While there are many, many people to whom I owe thanks, there were two specific groups of people that really stood out to me as being critical to this book--either because they did something that had direct impact on the book, or because they had a direct impact on me.
My stage managers are miracles. In my current job, I have directed 18 plays. In each of them, a small team of 7th and 8th graders have been the stage managers. They have consistently taken one of the most daunting jobs I can imagine and performed with aplomb and efficiency. I can't say a lot more about why they are integral to this particular story, but after you read it, you will understand. And I hope they will understand just how much they mean to me. The stage managers over the last three years have had particular influence both on this series of books and on me.
As far as the Class of 2013, I have posted before about some highlights. They have been, quite simply, remarkable. Without knowing it, they actually changed the plot of this book. They also changed me in good ways. A part of me wishes I could retire after this year because I'm not sure how a year gets better than this. I can't imagine a better group of kids and I will miss them keenly when they graduate in two weeks!
To celebrate the impending release of Penumbras I'm going to start a pre-0rder sale. For only $9.99 (plus s/h) you can order this book. That's everything--and it's still cheaper than Amazon's basic price. Behold the glory of the Free Market--you pay less, but I make more! And, if you want, I'll be happy to sign/personalize your copy (just make sure to let me know in the notes.
The book is being released 0n July 9th--I'll order and ship them out as soon as they come in!
You can find out more about the book and read a sample chapter here.