Indies First 2014, this Saturday!

Indie's first logo
 
For the holiday 2014 season, bestselling author Neil Gaiman and musician-author Amanda Palmer called upon their fellow authors to get behind Indies First and “volunteer” at bookstores on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 29).
I couldn’t choose just one independent bookstore to hang out in (we’re lucky to have so many to choose from where I live!), so I’ll be doing two shifts:

I’ll be signing copies of BE A CHANGEMAKER and recommending a few of my other favorites, and I’ll be in great company with many other local authors and illustrators. So, if you’re in the area, please stop by and say, “Hi!”
If you’re not in the area, be sure to check out the interactive Indies First map to find a participating store near you!
 

Quote: "You are the changemakers and the change."

Monique Coleman quote

Monique Coleman quote
Photo Credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net

Quoted in BE A CHANGEMAKER, chapter 1, from a speech given at We Day Seattle on March 27, 2013, attended by the author. Visit Monique Coleman’s official web page for more information about her speaking and humanitarian activities.

Fan mail: a teacher email about Be a Changemaker

I recently received this email from a middle-school teacher:

I wanted to let you know that one of my students has taken your book to heart.  He’s been carrying it with him for six weeks, and he is in the process of trying to start a nature club at school.  He is a super hard worker, and a wonderful, bright, sensitive 12-year-old boy–the type who might really make a dent in some of this world’s problems. He is passionate about this endeavor, but he doesn’t feel that he’s being taken seriously: adults are assuming he’s not going to work hard enough, he feels like things aren’t moving fast enough, and he’s disheartened. Still, he recently cited your book to me, saying, “She says sometimes it can take forever, and then sometimes things happen out of the blue,” so your words matter to him.

In the rush and hurry of getting through my inbox, this message brought me to a full stop. I’ve always said that I will feel like I’ve achieved success when I hear from one reader that my work mattered to them. Though not directly from the reader himself, this message from such a caring, dedicated, clearly amazing teacher on her student’s behalf feels every bit as wonderful. Reading this email was an even grander “first” for me than seeing my name in print for the first time, or holding the final book in my hands, or signing stacks of books at an event. This was a real connection with a young reader, a potential shift in the trajectory of this young man’s life that might not have occurred without my work. It’s both humbling and validating.
I have no doubt in the world that this student is indeed the type who might really make a dent in some of this world’s problems. It worries me, though, that even with this supportive teacher clearly on his side, he stills that one of the obstacles he faces is other adults assuming he’s not going to work hard enough. I mean really, what have we got to lose, adults? If they encourage him and he later quits, there’s no harm done: He feels valued and respected, he learns something about himself, and things go back to the way there were before. If they encourage him and he succeeds, the outcome really isn’t all that different: He feels valued and respected, he learns something about himself, and things get a little bit better.
I know that I’ve been guilty of similar reactions with my own children and their ideas. I’ve been too quick to point out what challenges I see and the reasons why their ideas might not be perfectly feasible. I questioned their long-term commitment to the projects they proposed. What I thought was helpful realism, however, wasn’t really that helpful at all. Indeed, what if my “realism” was actually cynicism, and maybe their “fantasies” could have actually worked? We’ll never know, because countless times I’ve inadvertently stopped them in their tracks before they even got started, all in the name of thinking things through and not embarking on something they couldn’t finish.
I think many of us (adults, especially, but kids, too) have become so goal-oriented that we don’t want to do or support anything that doesn’t seem very likely to succeed. We’re overly focused on the results, when so many of the potential benefits come from the process itself. We don’t want to waste time on something that might fail, but we forget that we learn by making mistakes.
If I’d focused on the likelihood of ever getting an email like this one, I would probably never have stuck with the process of honing my craft, revising my drafts, putting myself out there, etc. But if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I wouldn’t have received an email from a teacher that brought me to tears.
I’m going to try to do better for my own kids and other young people I interact with, and I hope you’ll commit to trying to support the young changemakers in your life as well. Let’s value their ideas and intentions for what they are, and let go of our expectations or concerns over the results. I have no doubt that, given the right encouragement, they are all the types who might really make a dent in some of this world’s problems. And we need each and every one of them to try.

Changemakers in the classroom

I’ve been hugely gratified by the responses I’ve gotten from teachers around the country about using BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS in their classrooms. The very first of these was a lovely 8th-grade ELA teacher from a private Catholic school in Louisiana. She reached out to me before the book was even released, and let me tell you, her enthusiasm was a much-appreciated soothing balm for all of my pre-release jitters!
She is using the book for her students’ “20% projects,” an idea adapted from the corporate world where companies allow employees to spend 20% of their time working on a pet project that interests them. They’ll be using the books throughout the school year to choose self-directed projects and bring them to life. Isn’t that exciting? I sure think so!

8th graders in class 1 with their new books
8th graders in class 1 with their new books

As part of her curriculum, she was able to purchase a copy of the book for each and every one of the students, and she even got them personalized! It was a huge pile of books for me to sign, and such an incredible honor for me to write each student’s name in his or her own book.
8th graders in class 1 with their new books
8th graders in class 2 with their new books

These pictures are from the day she handed the books out to all of the students. I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I do!
The students also watched a video I made for them to help kick off their project. I posted about that video earlier this week. Check it out here if you missed it.
I can’t wait to hear about these students’ ideas and follow their progress throughout the school year. I’ll post updates here as I get them so you can follow along, too.
I love hearing about young people using the book, whether on their own or through a class or other organization, so if you’re using (or thinking about using) BE A CHANGEMAKER on your own or with your students, scouts, children, youth group, etc., please let me know! My email address is at the bottom of this page, or you can reach out on my Facebook author page or on Twitter.

Be a Changemaker introduction video

To my delight, I’ve had several teachers contact me about speaking to their students at the kickoff of a unit using Be a Changemaker in their classrooms. While I’m always thrilled to do a quick, live Skype call if the timing and permissions work out, so far it’s been easier for everyone if there’s a pre-made video that they can just have preloaded and ready to go.
So, here’s an informal “hello” video that anyone can use to introduce me and my how-to book for teens, Be a Changemaker. Enjoy!

Author event: the Stratos Oktoberfest open house

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being the special guest at an incredible event, Stratos Product Development‘s annual company open house. The company is mentioned on page 138 of my book Be a Changemaker, because they were one of the original funders of Edward Jiang’s StudentRND venture, which I profiled in chapter 12.
Stratos Oktoberfest banner
As you can see, this year’s theme was Oktoberfest, and they went all out with decorations, food, beverages, and even a polka band!
polka band
It’s too bad I didn’t get a chance to dance, but I was having too much fun talking with Stratos employees and guests.
photo of author talking with attendee
I was warmly welcomed, and folks seemed pretty excited about Be a Changemaker, too.
attendees with Be a Changemaker
At one point, a storm picked up and we had to (quickly!) move everything inside, but that just made it easier to mingle.
mingling with attendees inside
And as attendees left for the evening, there were piles and piles of books for them to take home, all of which I signed and, if desired, personalized (yes, my hand was tired!).
stacks of Be a Changemaker books
What a wonderful evening! I left feeling thoroughly impressed with everyone I had talked to–and with the company itself for bringing them all together.
I’m ever so grateful to Stratos Product Development for including me. They’re the perfect example of a for-profit business that is committed to doing good in the world, and it was such an honor to participate.
Click here to check out all of the great photos from the event, and here to see what this totally awesome company is all about.

Tales from my first book launch party

decorations

Two of the worst possible things that could happen to a book event in Seattle happened on the day of the Be a Changemaker launch party: one of our major bridges was closed for construction, and the sun was shining! Still, an amazing number of ultra-dedicated friends and intrepid fans braved the traffic nightmare and willingly (or perhaps begrudgingly) sacrificed one of the last sunny Sundays we are likely to have for months. And I am oh-so-grateful to each and every one of them for it!

decorations
Look at the pretty decorations!
I started with a brief thank you. I could have gone on for hours thanking everyone who played a part in this book, but I decided to spare those in attendance and kept the list as short as possible.
presentation
Here I am giving my presentation.
Then I gave a short reading from one of the In My Experience sidebars in the book. I started getting choked up and didn’t want to break down into ugly cry in front of all those people, so I cut it shorter than I had intended. Run away!
Josie Gillett for YUP
One of the inspiring teens presenting her organization.
My favorite part was when four local teens, whose organizations are among those featured in the book, presented a bit about what they do and where their groups are headed. They were all great speakers and held the audience in rapt attention.
signing closeup
I signed some books.
Then, it was time to sign books! I was so afraid I would spell someone’s name wrong, I even asked on the easy ones that I knew for sure I knew how to spell.
signing line zoomed out
I signed a lot of books!
By the end, though, my eyes were starting to cross. I hadn’t made any mistakes, so I let my guard down. One of the very last people in line is one of my dearest friends, whose name happens to be EXACTLY THE SAME AS MINE. Yes, you guessed it: I spelled it wrong. Fortunately, she has a good sense of humor, so we’ll probably be laughing about it for years to come.
Many heartfelt thanks to everyone who came and to Secret Garden Book Shop for hosting. I’m generally not much of a party person, and I really dislike being the center of attention. (Those giant posters of my face were a surprise from my hubby… eek!) But every moment of that launch event was a treat, and the experience is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

The BE A CHANGEMAKER Blog Tour

Be a Changemaker cover

Be a Changemaker coverI’ve been surprised and honored to be included on a plethora of fantastic blogs as part of a blog tour to help launch Be a Changemaker into the world. There are guest posts written by me on a variety of topics related to the book, as well as interviews, reviews, quotes, and, yes–book giveaways! Be sure to check out all of the tour stops, and please give these lovely bloggers some love, won’t you?
Here’s what has already been posted:

9/8/2014
Review, author interview, giveaway
9/9/2014
Review, guest post, giveaway
9/10/2014
Reviews, teaching tools, guest post, giveaway
9/11/2014
Review, resources lists
9/12/2014
Review
9/12/2014
Guest post
9/13/2014
Review, giveaway

 
And here’s what is still to come:

9/15/2014
Review, giveaway
9/16/2014
Review, giveaway
9/17/2014
Author interview, giveaway
9/18/2014
Guest post, giveaway
9/19/2014
Author interview, giveaway
9/20/2014
Guest post, giveaway

Blue Slip Media logo
 
This incredible lineup has been assembled and managed by the lovely ladies at Blue Slip Media. Thank you, Sarah and Barbara!

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