The Tragedy of Teaching To Kill A Mockingbird in Middle School

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”

As if on cue, eighteen or so sets of preteen eyes would turn and stare at me, sitting behind them at a desk with a small ballpoint tattoo on the bottom left corner. They were looking for the tears I had promised them. Pulling out a tissue as a white flag of sorts, I conceded, “Every time. I told you, every…single…time.” Satisfied, they all turned their heads back to the television screen and continued watching a story unfold of which they already knew the ending.

middle school and to kill a mockingbird by harper lee To Kill A Mockingbird was a staple of my second semester curriculum as an eighth grade English teacher, which was something I simultaneously loved and hated. The book, by far, was my favorite unit to teach because, you know, that whole “one of the greatest books of all time” thing. I never tired of rereading it, and the rich story and dynamic characters made it a veritable treasure trove for engaging lesson plans and assignments. However, I also felt a particular sadness that the real brilliance of the book was lost on the average eighth grade mind, and I mourned that so many people are probably introduced to this masterpiece way too early to really appreciate it. I mean, these were kids who never failed to derail a class discussion by relating to the most insignificant detail in a story and running with it. Continue reading “The Tragedy of Teaching To Kill A Mockingbird in Middle School”

The Gratitude Novella

I have heard that your level of happiness is directly correlated to how often you show gratitude. Well, I am bound and determined to start off 2015 happy. So much so that this very first post of the year is going to be slathered with gratitude.

Absolute Mayhem by Kelly SuellentropI have much to be thankful for in this past year, but I’m guessing you don’t want to read a novella-length post in which I profess my appreciation for everything from Korean-Mexican fusion food to The Monkees finally playing a gig in St. Louis. So I am going to focus on the biggest thing to happen to me in 2014: the release of my first children’s book, Absolute Mayhem. (Sorry, Monkees. You were a big deal, too. Promise.)

I am still giddy over how well-received the book has been, even in its fledgling first month. And while it does feel like a huge payoff for me and all the work I put into it, an incredible and unexpected byproduct of the book’s success became Continue reading “The Gratitude Novella”

The Mayhem is HERE: The Official Release of Absolute Mayhem

I am vibrating just a bit. Finally, here is the blog post four years in the making. If we want to be technical, it has really been more like twenty-five years in the making. But twenty-one of those years were just spent dreaming…the last four were the ones to see the actual work that made this dream a reality. So let’s stop putting this off any long and get right to it then:

ABSOLUTE MAYHEM IS HERE!

My very first children’s book, Absolute Mayhem, is officially available as of TODAY! And all I can say is that I am kind of excited to go someplace like a doctor’s office where I have to fill out a form, just so I can finally list my occupation as Author, after almost ten years of leaving that space blank. I mean, I can totally do that now. I have a business card that says so.

Absolute Mayhem by Kelly SuellentropIf the space on that form isn’t too small, I can also list myself as an Illustrator. In addition to writing Absolute Mayhem, I also did all of the illustrations, which was hands down THE most enjoyable part of this whole project. I have fallen in love with my characters, the sister and brother duo of Lulu and Milo, almost as much as I love my own children. And I sincerely hope they are able to charm you and your family as well, along with their tag-a-long dog Hippo.

Lulu, Milo, Hippo and I have spent a lot of time together getting them ready to go out on their own. I had a lot less time to prepare them to fly the nest than I do with my own children; then again, they aren’t half as stubborn and don’t distract me from my mission by leaving lots of messes to clean up. I can also erase their mouths if they get sassy. So they have now graduated from the desk of my comfy home office to the big world of KellySuellentrop.com and Amazon, just in time for the holidays!

Please help me spread the word about Absolute Mayhem. To sweeten the deal, I am having a GIVEAWAY! Two people will each win a free autographed copy of the book. You can be entered to win the following ways:

#1 – Visit my giveaway on Rafflecopter HERE for various ways to earn entries.

#2 – If you are a blogger, REBLOG this post.

#3 – Go to either my new AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE or the ARE YOU FINISHED YET FACEBOOK PAGE, find the post announcing Absolute Mayhem’s release on the timeline, and share it. (And go ahead and give those pages a “like” while you’re there, if you haven’t already.)

#4SHARE this blog post using the social media sharing buttons below, and let me know where you shared it in the comment section.

The giveaway will run today until midnight on Sunday, December 7th (Central Time). I will announce the winners on Tuesday, December 9th here on the blog and on my social media outlets.

Of course, you can always purchase your own copy of the book on KellySuellentrop.com and on Amazon. (And after you read the book, I would love for you to leave a customer review over on Amazon!)

In the coming weeks, Absolute Mayhem will be visiting lots of different and awesome places around the internet, and I am really excited about that. So stay tuned! In the meantime, let me just say thank you in advance to all of you who are going to share the book with your friends and families.

It will be pretty nice to have the last four years pay off.

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Shocker: E.L. James Took NONE of My Suggestions

Twitter and Facebook feeds are blowing up. A cure for cancer? Nope. Peace declared in Syria? Uh-uh. Finally an Ikea in St. Louis? There are rumors, but nothing confirmed. No, the breaking news heard ’round the world is that the roles for the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey have been cast. Hear me *squee*…………….Did you hear me?…….oh wait. That’s right. I couldn’t give a whip and chain.

Aside from the fact that I didn’t recognize any of the actors Continue reading “Shocker: E.L. James Took NONE of My Suggestions”

St. Louis Reads Because We Can

It is called vindication. And it reads like the sweet, smooth words of Jane Austen, the biting and truthful wit of Mark Twain, and the timeless universality of William Shakespeare. I should know, because I am from St. Louis: the eighth most literate city in America.

st. louis arch
By StLouisArchMultExpEV-4.72.JPG: Kevin McCoy StLouisArchMultExpEV-1.82.JPG: Kevin McCoy StLouisArchMultExpEV+1.51.JPG: Kevin McCoy StLouisArchMultExpEV+4.09.JPG: Kevin McCoy derivative work: Darxus [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
After ranting about a bogus report that St. Louis was the third most dangerous city in the world (see my post “Lock Your Doors: There Is Danger in The Lou“), I was a little over the moon this morning to hear that my beloved city finally fared well in one of these lists our society seems so enamored with making. And this one is actually legitimate, unlike the one that ranked us among world cities dominated by war and drug cartels. Apparently, a Central Connecticut State University study found St. Louis to rank among the top ten literate cities in America, according to a CNN article.

So we might shoot you, but at least we will be able to read the story when it makes in the papers the next day.

Every English teacher in the city should be proud right now. All those painful book reports we graded, all the groaning we let roll off our backs as we assigned homework chapters and summer reading, all those lessons in sentence diagramming, all the class discussions that resembled pulling teeth and exercises in non-sequitur thoughts more than literary dissection…they have all paid off.

It is nice to see our city rise to the occasion and succeed in an arena inspired by natives such as T.S. Eliot, Kate Chopin, Tennessee Williams, Eugene Field, Marianne Moore, William S. Burroughs, and Maya Angelou, instead of just being known as the home of rappers Nelly and Akon. That is a different kind of literacy, though I am sure we would probably rank pretty high on that list as well. I am going to say that makes us well-rounded.

Now if only we could figure out how to pronounce Gravois, mostaccioli, wash, and fork, I bet we would get bumped to #5 on the list.

We Read Because We Can

It is called vindication. And it reads like the sweet, smooth words of Jane Austen, the biting and truthful wit of Mark Twain, and the timeless universality of William Shakespeare. I should know, because I am from St. Louis: the eighth most literate city in America.

st. louis public library
We dig the library in The Lou

After ranting about a bogus report that St. Louis was the third most dangerous city in the world (see my post “Lock Your Doors: There Is Danger in The Lou“), I was a little over the moon this morning to hear that my beloved city finally fared well in one of these lists our society seems so enamored with making. And this one is actually legitimate, unlike the one that ranked us among world cities dominated by war and drug cartels. Apparently, a Central Connecticut State University study found St. Louis to rank among the top ten literate cities in America, according to a CNN article.

So we might shoot you, but at least we will be able to read the story when it makes in the papers the next day.

Every English teacher in the city should be proud right now. All those painful book reports we graded, all the groaning we let roll off our backs as we assigned homework chapters and summer reading, all those lessons in sentence diagramming, all the class discussions that resembled pulling teeth and exercises in non-sequitur thoughts more than literary dissection…they have all paid off.

It is nice to see our city rise to the occasion and succeed in an arena inspired by natives such as T.S. Eliot, Kate Chopin, Tennessee Williams, Eugene Field, Marianne Moore, William S. Burroughs, and Maya Angelou, instead of just being known as the home of rappers Nelly and Akon. That is a different kind of literacy, though I am sure we would probably rank pretty high on that list as well. I am going to say that makes us well-rounded.

Now if only we could figure out how to pronounce Gravois, mostaccioli, wash, and fork, I bet we would get bumped to #5 on the list.