Learning from students

If I ever needed motivation to pick up a book I thought I’d NEVER be interested in, I now have a new one. After 6th grade J recommended the Young Sherlock Holmes series (by Andrew Lane) to me, I decided to read his favorite one just to have a point of connection with him. But oh-my-gravy, guess what? I love it! The action scenes keep me hooked and the historical connections have provided me with MANY examples to share with students when referring to our Reader/Thinker strategies. I’m hooked. And of course, J is a little giddy that HE was the one to rec it. 

Then today when I was looking over the Spring IndieNext list, guess what I found? Apparently (which I hadn’t noticed until I saw the list and looked at the copyright info for the book in my hands), the series was first published overseas and is just now being brought to the US. Lucky you! And lucky me too. Because now I can be giddy that I’m the one to rec it to you. 

Well, apart from the whole IndieNext list pick, anyway. 🙂

Also, my sweet friend, Kim Marcus, made the list to with her awesome novel debut EXPOSED. Those Indiebound people are smart cookies, don’t you think? And Kim is even smarter with this gripping novel in verse. 

More later on all the fun and celebration my friends (and strangers) have doled out for me over the release of MINI RACER (my latest picture book ill. by Bridget Strevens-Marzo) this past week . . .

Interview Alert

 An interview with yours truly just went live here. But really, you’re going to want to click that link because there’s a day’s worth of clickability right there on Christie Wright Wild’s site. Maybe I’m the only one who’s easily distracted and gets lost because I click from link to link and look up random bits of information I run across, but my advice is to leave yourself some bread crumbs along the way. You might forget next week’s doctor’s appt. 

Looking Back 2010

I’m loving all these retrospectives and it’s made me go back and think about this past year in my life. I tend not to do that. Think back. It makes me see all the missed opportunities or times when I could have accomplished more, if I’d just done it. But this was a big year in our lives and when I look back, I’m willing to give myself a little grace and also, I’m really really proud of and grateful for some of the things that were accomplished.  


January was spent in a blur of emotion. We were still in the US for what was supposed to be a six month sabbatical. Then my 41 year old husband had a heart attack three days before the beginning of 2010 and we were spinning with shock almost through the whole month. I did several school visits to share ME WITH YOU at schools, a couple of poetry workshops, and took a four day trip to NYC with one of my dearest friends in the world  . We met with editors, saw our agents, and ate some really great food. It was renewing. 


More school author visits, family visits, doctor’s appointments, kids basketball practices and games, and homework. I do not remember writing in February. 

Had hand surgery. Made significant strides on my middle grade novel thanks to the encouragement of writing friends.

School visits, coffee with writing friends, continued working on novel (slowly) and took a trip to NYC with my hubby for a church conference. Saw WICKED and had a backstage tour. Ate with Bobby Flay. Took long walks in Central Park. Renewed again.

School visits, family visits, NE SCBWI Spring Conference in MA. Flew to Vermont, rode down with  . Remembered (through many conversations with Linda) why I wanted to write a novel. Felt filled up to overflowing. 

Had gallbladder surgery. Applied for a job teaching at the American School in Belo Horizonte in order to have a way to provide for our kids’ education once we returned to Brazil. Moved back to Brazil. 

Got the job, began working as the Librarian and Creative Writing Teacher at The American School of Belo Horizonte. Feel right at home.

Writing Lesson plans, settling into working full-time, helping my children adjust to a new school. Overwhelmed, a bit.

Husband in America for three weeks. Buckle down and tell myself if I don’t finish the novel I never will. Finished the novel. Promptly decided a whole thread would need to be removed when I revise it.

Quick weekend trip to America for dear friend’s wedding. Began to research Masters programs related to Reading and Writing Instruction. Hosted a massively wonderful Thanksgiving Day lunch with 39 people. Ate too much. 


Sang at a wedding. Entered school break. Created a book trailer for my forthcoming picture book, MINI RACER. Realized I had a small window of opportunity to revise my novel. Began revising. Cut 5,000 words. Added 2,000 new ones. Continuing to revise. Will spend New Year’s Day (or part of it) writing. Go back to work on January 3rd. Doubt I’ll be finished revising by then but will do as much as I possibly can. 

Here’s to 2011. I welcome you with hopeful arms. 

This week’s gem

Elementary school K, speaking as if he were letting me in on a "secret":

Ms. Kristy, did you know that you are a "fake blonde"?  Because I can see the darker places at the top of your head. 

Putting aside that even with highlights no one would consider me a "blonde," I pretended to have no idea what he was talking about. 🙂


Storytelling (a late Poetry Friday post)

Most of you know I have been working at an international school as the creative writing teacher and the librarian. Although it’s been pretty much a perfect fit for me, so much about this job has caused me to stretch in my abilities. I do not consider myself a performer (those of you who remember me from middle and high school are laughing now, because you think of me as a drama queen) but in this job I have had to revert back to some long dormant skills of performing and entertaining. 

I have not enjoyed it. 

To be clear, it is only *that* part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed. I’ve loved the rest, but having to perform and entertain makes me insecure and it makes me realize how much I rely on external affirmation. And it’s sort of kinda a terrible thing to feel like you’re relying on others’ approval. And yet, I want to do a good job, so it’s a catch-22. 

This past Friday, for our Children’s Day celebration at school, I had to dress up as a character (cowgirl for the younger set, spooky witch for the older set) and tell stories for 15 minutes to each group. I was terrified. It is one thing to hold a book and sit in a circle and tell a story to children. It is entirely another to perform those stories for them. I barely ate anything at lunch because I was afraid I’d throw up. 

Thankfully, it went very well, though I’m not sure I’ll feel any better the next time I have to do it. (I’m still hoping there won’t be a next time!)

I spent some time this morning trying to put what I felt into poetry, my favorite way of reflecting:

Telling Stories

I told stories the other day
to children sitting patiently on blue
carpet, waiting to be entertained, wanting
me to mesmerize them. God, what pressure, I
thought and wished it were all over with –

the storytelling, not life in general, though at that moment
I wasn’t feeling picky.

I spoke of ghosts and ghouls,
cowboys, robbers and chickens, hoping the
children would laugh their wise little belly
laughs and their eyes would shine effortless.
God, I thought, I MUST be good, for children
are not easily lied to, their wide-eyed
innocence runs deep with doubt.
The crinkles in their noses say, Prove
yourself to me. Make me believe your silly
little words.

And so I spoke my silly little words, telling
tall tales as if they were truth, magicking
my own doubts into belief, trickstering
insecurity through bravado. And it worked.
The children laughed until it was all over with –

at the stories thankfully, not at me, though at that moment
I wasn’t feeling picky.

— Kristy Dempsey (2010, all rights reserved)

Speak Loudly

I’m joining the chorus by singing the same verse others have sung before me, because they said it as well or better than I ever could. I am a sincere fallible Christian, a sometimes-doubting-Thomas who on my best days struggles to articulate this faith that redeems this life for me and on my worst days wishes I could knock some ranting, raving blockhead-in-the-sand who claims to be a Christian off his soapbox. 

If you haven’t heard yet, Wesley Scroggins, a college professor in Missouri, has called for SPEAK to be banned. SPEAK is an honest raw novel full of Truth and Story that depicts a character who chooses not to speak after she is raped. She keeps quiet about what happened to her.

I need to be careful. I don’t want to imply that I believe Mr. Scroggins is not the Christian he claims he is. It’s not my judgement to make. And if Mr. Scroggins sincerely feels led by God and His word to make this call for banning, who am I to stand in his way? BUT I would caution him that a million and one misguided, perverted and abusive things have been done in the name of God. Are those abusive things done in the name of God reason enough for me to abandon my sincere desire to follow God and His word? Do those abusive acts done in the name of religion actually glorify God or my faith, just because someone says their intent was to glorify God? No they do not, just as a book portraying an abusive act of rape does not glorify sex just because someone says it does.

Frankly it’s perverted thinking to even imply that a depiction of rape glorifies sex.


We cannot be motivated to action by what we have fashioned as truth in our minds. We cannot create God in our own image. We cannot hide Truth. We have to Speak. Loudly. And we have to Love even more Loudly. Because rape happens. Abuse happens. And Jesus would not have been ranting and raving about the sex. He would have quietly had his arm around a hurting girl, showing her True Love and Acceptance in the face of her shame and insecurity. (In fact, he DID just that in John 4:7-24 for the Woman at the Well.)

My favorite quote from the posts I’ve read so far on this subject comes from Veronica Roth:

"Do you want your kids to understand just how beautiful the grace of God is? Then they have to understand how crappy the world is. It’s not just ‘a good idea.’ It’s necessary."

Visual and Verbal

 I keep a commonplace book/journal that holds thoughts, quotes and the occasional drawing. 

(Stop laughing, those of you who know I cannot draw a straight line.) (Seriously. I mean it. You’re distracting me from telling my story.)

Anyway, I’ve been trying to paint, just to stretch myself, and for each thing I paint I write a poem. Again, a disclaimer. I am not an artist. But something about taking time to focus on something long enough to paint it lights my desire to use words to describe it. So I’m stretching myself. It’s good for me. (It might be good for you, too, this mix of the visual and the verbal?)

I like the way things with words turn out better than the things with paint. But I keep on. And I wanted to share with you the most recent entry. Here is the painting:

Here is the poem:

Do spotted hens
lay speckled eggs
that nest between
their spindly legs?

And do those chicks
have spots that match
the speckled eggs
from which they hatch?

And do their moms,
those spotted hens,
grow dizzy when
a hatch begins

and spots begin
to blur and mix
into a bunch
of scrambled chicks?

–Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

In other news, I am loving my job as a librarian and creative writing teacher and feel like I am reaching in all the ways I need to. But I’d love to know how you all feel you’re stretching too. I need to be reminded I’m not in this yoga class alone. 🙂