If you’re familiar with my blog, then you should know that I’m a huge Felton Reinstein fan. Of all the books I’ve read, Felton is absolutely one of my favorite characters. Every chance I get, I spread the Felton love and recommend Stupid Fast to readers/non-readers. So it makes sense that I’m also a huge Geoff Herbach fan since he created Felton.
My Sophomore Seminar students have been writing and reading up a storm this school year, so I approached a few authors about sharing some of their advice on revision. I approached Geoff about it, and he gave me three revised versions of the first page of I’m With Stupid, his final book in the Felton series. Besides the fact that it’s awesome to be connected with such talented and generous authors, being provided with the opportunity to see the revision that took place just on that one page was really eye-opening for my students. Thankfully Geoff accepted my request to Skype with my two Sophomore Seminar classes so we could discuss this.
First, I have to give Geoff major kudos. He’s an hour behind us, and it was 8am our time when we started, but he woke up extra early so he could talk with my first and second hours. And he was dealing with a malfunctioning furnace; I think he said it was around 52 degrees in his house at the moment. In February. In Minnesota. He’s a trooper!
Anyway, both hours had a fantastic time talking with Geoff. It was the perfect mix of serious questions about his books, his writing, revision, his life, funny stories, etc. A couple students asked him questions about his covers which sparked an interesting discussion, and we also discussed how he came up with his titles. Some of my aspiring authors asked him questions about getting started and how he works with his editor. My students were really engaged and left class telling me that they want to read his books. Mission accomplished. Plus, each class ended on a goofy note. My 1st hour was showing me some funny music video clips with goats while we waited to start our chat, so we had to show him the videos too. One of my students has an iPad, so she put it in front of the camera and played it for him. My second hour mentioned the Promethean board during our chat (it’s a long story how we reached that point), and one way or another it was decided to draw goofy faces around his face. Geoff cracked us up while we did this; we even turned the camera around so he could see what my student was drawing. We sent him pictures of course
I felt a little guilty using a class period to Skype with Geoff after having so many short weeks due to snow days, but this was an experience that many of my students absolutely loved and will probably remember long after this school year ends. This is why I wish more teachers embraced young adult literature. Students can connect with YA authors online, through email, via Skype, etc. My students can’t Skype with William Golding and ask him questions about Lord of the Flies. My student isn’t going to receive a personalized bookmark with research help for a project from Harper Lee (in reference to the very awesome Sarah Darer Littman who sent a bookmark to one of my students who read Want to Go Private? for her research project about online predators). I’m not saying we should abandon the classics, but including YA literature in our curriculum opens up a lot of doors for our students that the classics can’t. If you ever get the opportunity to Skype with an author, I highly recommend you do so. I’ve Skyped with a few authors and each experience has been rewarding for my students.