Books and Buttercream

I’m a fan of stretching out celebrations as long as possible. Give me a birthday present or slice of cake a day, a week, even a month late, and I’ll be as happy as if I received it on time. Happier, really, because what could be better than making surprises and buttercream last and last?

This year, I got away with stretching one of my very favorite celebrations over two full weeks. February 1 was World Read Aloud Day* and I had a very good problem: more requests for Skype visits than could fit into one school day. With the help of wonderful, flexible librarians and teachers, I was able to say yes to almost all of them.  Each morning I put on my good sweater and sparkly earrings and chatted with students in Canada, Kentucky, Texas, Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, New York…When I Skyped with kids in the Bahamas, I showed them a bowl of Ohio snow!

Still, some people wonder, what’s the value of any school visit? For the writer the answer is obvious: spending time with young readers is a jolt of reality. Sitting alone at a desk all day, our audience can grow dim and abstract.  No way this can happen in a school, where the walls pulse with kids’ energy and curiosity, concerns and confusions,  happiness and vulnerability.  One one Skype visit a fifth grader asked me, “Why do you write for kids instead of grown-ups?” and I said,  “Because! Kids are the most passionate, invested readers on the planet.”  He nodded. Case closed.

What about the value for the students? We writers  hope to convince them they all have stories to tell,  that each of them has a writing voices as unique and special as his or her speaking voice. We try our best to give them tips, to encourage them by sharing how much revision a “professional writer” does, and to empower them to use their imaginations and create their own worlds.

During almost every visit, in person or by Skype, someone asks me, “Did you always want to be an author?” I used to feel bad about having to admit no, and confess how long it took me to find my way. I would wish I was one of those people who knew, from the age of three, that writing was her reason for breathing.

But as time has gone by, I’ve come to feel okay about saying that I didn’t begin to write seriously until I was three of four times their age. I tell them that, as much as I loved to read when I was young, I was certain all writers lived in castles by the sea, cottages covered in roses, or rooms at the top of crooked staircases. Maybe if I’d met a writer when I was your age, I say now–maybe if I’d sat down and eaten pizza with one, or watched one hold her plump orange cat up in front of the camera, or listened to one talk about how many times she heard no before  finally hearing that magic yes–maybe if I’d ever  realized that writers were plain old everyday people, I wouldn’t have taken so long to make the discovery that  I could be one too. And then I tell them how lucky they are, to have such a big head start on me.

*Here’s WRAD’s mission statement. You can find out more at
We think everyone in the world should get to read and write. Every year, on World Read Aloud Day, people all around the globe read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right that belongs to all people.


Tricia’s newest middle grade novel, Cody and the Heart of a Champion, will publish in April.


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Tricia Springstubb
Tricia is the author of many books for middle grade, most recently "Every Single Second" (HarperCollins) and the third book in the Cody series, "Cody and the Rules of Life" (Candlewick Press). A frequent speaker at schools, libraries, and conferences, she lives in Cleveland OH. You can find out more about her and her work at
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  2. I love these points because I absolutely agree. For my students, authors used to be abstract people. To be completely honest, they were to me too until this past year! I’m so grateful to the twitterverse for giving me connections with authors, which I then share with my students! They are so pumped to skype with authors, write to authors, even hear about things authors have tweeted about. That accessibility brings students and authors together, which ultimately makes the craft of writing much less intimidating. Thank you!