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Conquering Content Vocabulary…and a lifelong goal!

This.  Is.  So.  Cool.

There is a book listed on Amazon….that I wrote.  Like, you can go to right now and type in “Tornetto”…and something will actually pop up!


It’s called, “Conquering Content Vocabulary,” and it’s an instructional strategies book about teaching content specific vocabulary outside of the ELA classroom.  Not gonna lie.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been this proud of myself!

One of my current 7th graders came to me the other day and said, “I want to write a book.  You just did that, right?”

I said yes.

He looked at me excitedly and asked, “How?”

I’ve wanted to be a published author ever since I can remember, and I definitely saw a little bit of myself in his face that day.  I gave him some cliche advice about editing his manuscript carefully and submitting to lots of publishers.  But deep down, he got me thinking about everything I’ve learned about writing over the years…and what I really should have said if I had had the time to think about it.

  1. Be prepared for the long haul.  Publishing a book takes a LONG TIME.  If you can’t commit to a long term project, writing a book is NOT for you.
  2. Don’t wait until you have something to say…but don’t expect to get published until you do.  I’ve been writing since…well since I learned how!  But it wasn’t until I developed an expertise and some experience as a teacher that I had something I was truly passionate enough about to follow through.  
  3. Write in a style and voice that you love; Don’t try to be something you aren’t.  I always thought I would love to write dramatic young adult novels…turns out that shorter, humorous-but-helpful non-fiction is my absolute love!  Don’t beat yourself up if you find your prefered writing style isn’t what you thought it would be.
  4. But don’t be afraid to love more than one style!  Over the years, in addition to discovering how much I love to write non-fiction, I’ve also discovered that I love to write children’s books.  They seem totally different…but the wit, humor, and the challenge of “saying a lot with a little” are what draw me to both writing genres.  If I had never been brave enough to try, I would never have known.
  5. Create a system for taking notes and citing sources.  Stick to it.  This isn’t just the middle school teacher in me covering my bases….seriously.  No publisher will even look at you if you don’t know how to give credit, cite sources, and research.  If you don’t want to spend half of your time trying to remember where you wrote down that quote you wanted to use, stick to your system.
  6. Be patient.  Did I mention that publishing a book takes FOREVER?  
  7. Get feedback from people you trust to tell you the truth.  This is the most important thing you can do to improve your writing.  Being open to really hearing those people critique your writing will be way harder than you think.  Do it anyway.
  8. When all else fails – stop.  Walk away.  For days at a time if necessary.  It’s okay.
  9. Read it out loud.  I don’t care how weird you feel.  Before I submitted my final manuscript I sat in a corner of Panera for 3 hours and read my entire manuscript (quietly) aloud to myself.  I may have confused a few strangers…but I caught DOZENS of errors and made LOTS of improvements.  
  10. Take the chance.  Send in that sample chapter.  Write that book proposal.  Email that editor.  Just do it.  Click send before you talk yourself out of it.  You’ll never know if you don’t try!  (But be prepared to wait after you click send.  It took Scholastic two years to express an interest in my manuscript.  Like I said…patience!)

Oh…and last but not least…

11.  When you have been wrestling with a certain phrase or paragraph for hours…and you think you finally figured it out…and all you need to do it keep those perfect words in your head long enough to get them typed out…that’s when your kids will need their umpteenth cup of apple juice of the day.  It’s science.

I guess that last one might not apply to my seventh grade student…but…it needed to be said.  

Anyway, at the risk of sounding like I’m accepting an Emmy, I really am so thankful for the opportunity to share my teaching experience with others in this book!  My editor, Maria Chang, at Scholastic was amazing to work with, and I’m so excited to have had such a positive first experience in the world of publishing.  Here it is! If you teach middle school or know someone who does…I hope you check it out!  


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