“Every book has got a piece of me in it”: A Visit with Joan Bauer

On Monday, April 7th, 100 sixth graders, their teachers, and I were honored to spend an hour with Joan Bauer. How wonderful it was to be a stop on her “tour of Illinois,” celebrating two consecutive years of Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award nominations for Close to Famous (2014) and Almost Home (2015).

I had heard from many others that Joan is a wonderful speaker and a gracious guest–and, of course, I believed them. How could the author of books like Hope Was Here and Stand Tall be anything but? And then she arrived and I met her and I was just blown away by what a genuine, warm, and all-around lovely person she is.

IMG_7055Here is Joan shaking each students’ hand as they walk in the door–even before she had a chance to put down her bags 🙂

What a lovely way to begin our visit!


When we got rolling, Joan not only gave us insight into her books and her writing process, but also shared so much of herself with us. And she drew so much deep thinking out of the students, too–creating a character “out of thin air” with them, asking them what it means to find yourself, asking them what courage is, and more.

IMG_7070Joan moved around the room, connecting with her audience and looking individuals in the eye to speak directly to them. She really cared about each and every one of us.

Joan said so many amazing things that I only got to write down a fraction of them. Here are some of my favorites:

I think I came out of the womb saying, ‘OK, where are the books?’ I was ready.”

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just have a spray for the mean people in life?”

“Poetry is like crystallized emotion, and it can help you say things you can’t say any other way.”

“Life is very much a series of choices. It’s who we decide we’re going to be.”

“The best advice I’ve ever received is to be myself and to spend time understanding what that means.”

About her characters: “I think of them as my kids. I think that I’m their mother.”

On writing: “You know more about writing than you think you do.” and “Write when you feel like it, and write when you don’t.”

I could go on and on (and on) because there really aren’t enough words to describe what a special experience it was for everyone in the room–one that I know the students, teachers, and I will cherish and think about for many years to come.

This morning a girl came in and asked me for Joan’s email address. She explained that she wanted to write her because of something she said. That sixth grader wants to maintain the connection we made with Joan that day.

Me, too.



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