…in a galaxy far, far away…
(Just kidding. It was last September in Washington, D.C., but you *had* to know that was coming, right?)
I attended the National Book Festival on the mall with a few students and their grown ups. I was most excited to see Shannon Hale and Kate Di Camillo (fortunately, so were my students!) and thanks to the delays on Metro’s red line that morning, we arrived just in time to see a panel discussion at the Children’s Pavilion…that included both Shannon Hale and Kate Di Camillo…and six or seven other authors, most of whom I’d never heard of before. The whole time the moderator was introducing people, this guy John Something-or-other was holding up their books behind them, goofing off, and generally being hilarious. None of them seemed to mind, and the friendly, teasing interaction between all these authors was really fun to observe.
So we got to the end of the row of authors (on backless, wooden stools—I can only imagine how uncomfortable they must have been) and John Something-or-other got up at the podium and introduced… The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.
Sounds gory, huh? It’s not. An exquisite corpse, John told us, is an old art term. Seeing as how I enjoy art talk about as much as I’d enjoy a ten mile jog barefoot on a treadmill resembling a moving bed of nails, I’d never heard of it before. Fortunately, John explained. Basically, it’s when artists take their individual pieces and smush them together to form a whole project, sculpture, etc. (To read more, try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exquisite_corpse)
Well, what does that have to do with a whole slew of children’s writers most of whom are not also illustrators? In this particular case, a whole slew of children’s author’s are writing a round robin.
(Incidentally, I found out later, an exquisite corpse is also a writing game that I’ve played without knowing its name.)
The Exquisite Corpse is hosted on www.read.gov and will update every other Friday for a year. John Something-or-other, who wrote the first chapter, proceeded to read it aloud at the panel discussion, and may I just say? HILARIOUS. Bizarre and silly humor is right up my alley. The other authors there couldn’t say enough about it. Several of them joked(?) that Katherine Paterson bullied them into participating, but they were all so enthusiastic, you could really feel the excitement brewing among the audience—overwhelmingly kids. I couldn’t wait to share it with my fifth grade class.
As soon as I got home that evening, I fired up my old laptop (the one with a missing i key and a fussy space bar that’s now hibernating beneath my bed and functioning as an extra hard drive for my pretty new Dell) and went straight to read.gov to reread chapter one. I discovered that John Something-or-other was actually Jon Scieszka (*facepalm*) whom I have adored since I was in elementary school when he published “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.” I’d just never heard his last name pronounced before (and don’t ask me how it sounds, because I *still* can’t say it correctly!)
Anyhow, the following Monday, I shared the first chapter with my fifth graders. They were instantly hooked. Every two weeks since then, we’ve read the update. I relish the GROANS that fill the room when we reach the end of each chapter.
Music to an aspiring author’s ears.
P.S. You’d think I’d come up with a better metaphor, but hey, I’m still aspiring. ;)