Manchester Writes


7th and 8th graders get ready to write with guest writer Caragh O’Brien at Manchester High School, Thursday, May 12, 2016.

My visit to Manchester High School was full of happy and thoughtful moments. Working with students from the high school and nearby Illing Middle School, I talked a bit about my process, answered questions about my novels and publishing, and led workshops where students wrote for ten minutes and shared their work afterward. 

Writing fiction in a low-stakes, open-ended way with just the nudge of a new… Continue reading

Summer Homework Comes Due

BoatWe understand the principle of the math packet. Kids do a bit of algebra over the summer so they keep their math brains engaged and start up Algebra II with all gears running. It’s a nice idea, in principle. In reality, it’s something else, and my heart goes out to families facing the end-of-summer homework crunch.

The first problem is that some kids, (like upcoming tenth graders, who last had Algebra I a year ago, in eighth grade, before an intervening year of geometry), aren’t refreshing; they have to re-learn… Continue reading

A Long-Distance Visit to Topeka

Seaman High School Library Book Club

Seaman High School Library Book Club

A Skype visit took me to the Seaman High School Library in Topeka where I had a chance to talk with Marian Sweany’s most excellent book group this morning.  The seven lively students were full of insights and questions about the Birthmarked series.  It was cool to hear their observations about the reversal of the power dynamics between men and women in the first two books, and they seemed to think a fourth book is in order so they can see… Continue reading

The Teachers vs. the Bean Counters

It’s a horror story.  I keep talking to teacher friends who are being crushed by the new system of legislature-mandated teacher evaluations here in CT.  They don’t talk about it publicly because they’re too exhausted and time-starved to peep, and besides, if you speak up from within the system, you sound like a whiner or an incompetent.  Teachers are already scared and demoralized, if not actually crying (and some are).  They’ve already been told point blank that by the end of the evaluations, no teacher will… Continue reading

Stealth Reading in School

Ms. O'Brien, Room 204

One of my favorite things about teaching was Independent Reading.  No matter what grade I was teaching, or which level, whether it was regular English or Creative Writing or Intro to Journalism and Broadcasting, we would stop for half an hour every Friday to read in silence. The students would bring books of their own choice and we’d just kick back. The only thing you’d hear was pages turning.  Sometimes we’d get to the end of our thirty minutes and take a vote to… Continue reading

How to be Popular

One of the popular kids invited me to a summer afternoon party at a country club, and despite misgivings, I decided to go.  My mom took me shopping on purpose to find an outfit: pale green shorts and a patterned top that matched.  This was her idea of what counted for well-dressed and appropriate for the occasion, and I trusted her because A. I had zero fashion sense of my own, and B. I wanted to fit in.

My mom dropped me off outside the club.  Sounds… Continue reading