Monday, November 24, 2008

Fall Into Fantasy Fiction Festival Featuring Wayne Thomas Batson!!

We have ONE final author in our Fall Into Fantasy Festival...Wayne Thomas Batson! My son and I were privileged to meet him in October at a book signing, and he is a gracious and gentle giant of a man. He's also excellent at reading aloud--what a voice he has!


Here's a quick Q & A with Wayne Thomas Batson:

How did you involve your students in the process as you wrote this book?

Fifteen years of students from three different Maryland counties and six different middle schools helped to shape The Door Within. They were my sounding board and my encouragers. In 1992, when The Door Within was only a 17 page short story, my 6th graders pestered me to make it longer...until I did. Then, they helped me to know what parts of the story interested them or made a personal connection. The kids seemed to enjoy being able to critique the teacher's work instead of the other way around. And those discussions took the kids into an amazingly sophisticated level of understanding of literature that they would not ordinarily have attained. "Mr. Batson, you need more foreshadowing in that chapter" or "Mr. Batson, I found that allusion to The Hobbit when Aidan said..." or "There's not enough description in this section. I just couldn't see it." These are 10, 11, and 12 year olds analyzing literature and thinking critically. Good stuff! And in the end, as I flirted with a publishing contract, nailed it down, and began the real process of editing, my students were there to share the suspense, excitement, and frustrations. And when my new batch of students comes in this year, I imagine they will exult in the finished product just as I do.

How important is it to get children interested in reading and away from the television set?

My first couple years of teaching, there was a concern that technology would replace the need for literacy. But with the advent and explosion of the Internet, we have entered a new information age where reading skills are perhaps even more important than ever. Kids need to get interested in reading early. All the research shows that early reading aptitude and interest is related to success in later schooling and in the professional world. I'm grateful to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series if for no other reason than for destroying faulty paradigms and interesting kids in reading like never before. 12 years ago, no one thought that kids would want or could even handle an 800 page novel. I actually had a publisher tell me once, "If you are planning to write a book for middle level readers, it better not be more than 150 pages." Kids are a lot more capable than many adults believe. Now more than ever we need to allow them to use their God-given skills to, as Gary Paulsen put it, "Read like a wolf eats."

What do you want the Christian message in The Door Within to convey to readers?

I want the Christian themes and messages in The Door Within to get people to think outside of the routine. So much of people's time is consumed with the daily grind, I want people to stop and consider the big questions like: Why am I here? Is there a purpose for my life? And why do things (even bad things) happen to people? I believe that only Jesus can answer those questions, so if there is anything I can do to plant a seed and get people to ask, then that's what I want to do. I hope The Door Within will open doors in that way.

What is it like being a Christian teacher in the public school system?

Being a Christian teacher in the public school system is awesome! You hear horror stories about people being persecuted or even prosecuted for their faith. That hasn't happened to me, and I hope it won't. Everyone knows I am a Christian and sometimes issues come up with the staff and we talk about them-which is great. It's also nice because in every school I've been in, there has always been at least one other Christian teaching there. I feel like the best way for me to be a light for the Lord in the public school is to just do a great job.
So I work hard. I plan engaging lessons. I make my room a place where kids want to come. In fact, the whole room is decorated like a castle—coats of arms, stone walls, faux swords and shields—the works! I work with my fellow staff members. We get along great. I try to be a dedicated, creative, hard-working teacher, so that someone might ask, "How do you do it?" I feel blessed to have worked in some incredible schools with other amazingly gifted teachers, and marvelous, intelligent children.

Tomorrow, watch for a snippet of his two wonderful series' and a review from my son, Book Kid!

Happy Reading!


1 comment:

ForstRose said...

Wayne's reading from his book was like hearing someone tell the story from their heart it didn't even seem like he was really reading although he had the book open in front of him.

The Motiv8 tour was great fun and all the authors were so personable. I did feel bad that the only venue they could find meant they had to be outdoors here in the wind and rain for their brief stop though.