Wednesday, October 5, 2016

School Visit: Islander Middle School (Mercer Island, WA)

Ramona with fall flowers!
Life as a children's poet can take one to unexpected places... like Seattle, for instance! Please see my previous post about my first day's adventures. Today's post will be devoted to my time with book-loving, oh-so-generous Ramona who lives on Mercer Island. Read Ramona's post about it at her blog Pleasures from the Page.

First of all, Mercer Island actually IS an island. You cross a bridge over Lake Washington to get there. And it just feels different than Seattle. Small, quaint. Like everyone knows everyone. And one thing I learned: everyone really does know Ramona. Because She. Is. Awesome.

Our first visitors at the Meet-n-Greet.
Thank you for coming!
The first place Ramona took me was to Island Books. This little indie bookstore has that warm, homey feel, and the children's department was awash in titles on my TBR list. We picked up copies of FRESH DELICIOUS and DON'T FEED THE BOY to take to a little meet-n-greet Ramona set up. And I do mean Ramona set it up: home-baked goods, check! Bottled water, check! Flowers from Pike Place Market, check!

...a table runner and everything!

We set up at Islander Middle School library, and I was delighted as a few folks meandered in to talk books and poetry and kids and grandkids. What fun. And Ramona's toffee bars? Delish.

Mercer Island sunset. Aaahhh....
That evening Ramona and I chased a sunset by popping in at a few of Mercer Island's "pocket" parks. (Ramona does this all the time.) We shared a lovely meal and pictures, so many pictures! I felt right at home.

The next morning we headed to Islander Middle School for two assemblies with 6th graders and a visit with Ramona's book club.

Islander Middle School is BRAND NEW. In fact, I got to be the guinea pig for the A/V equipment in the gym! Thanks to a great tech crew (hi, Keith!), everything went smoothly. Students and teachers were an attentive audience, and asked great questions about my adventures in writing. Here is a link to some of the student responses about the visit (on Padlet) here and here.

But the best part was talking with about 20 students who make up the book club Ramona runs (did I mention Ramona is RETIRED? Yep. She's one of those passionate educators who cannot stop!). Many of them had read my books, so they were able to ask more in-depth questions. We discussed things about being a writer, like, what to do when you want to give up; how to keep going; how to FINISH a story. These kids are thoughtful readers and eager learners -- my favorite kind of people to be around.

Many thanks to Ramona especially, and all the amazing teachers and staff (Patty, especially), and co-principals MaryJo Budzius & Aaron Miller. I loved meeting so many enthusiastic educators. What a great place to learn!

I hated to say goodbye to Ramona. I wanted to pack her in my suitcase and take her home with me. (I do live closer to new grandson Teddy, after all!) I was thrilled when our paths crossed again at Poetry Camp... where she kind of saved my life. And I will save THAT story for my next post!


  1. So glad for the day we spent together! It was lovely to have you visit our school and share your writing adventures with our 6th graders. But the best part for me was all the time I had to get to know you better. And to see that the life of a writer can be hectic and challenging (those calls from your editors in the middle of an already busy day). Thanks for being a writer who is willing to support our young writers. One of the students at book club told me yesterday that she's writing 15 minutes a day!

  2. This is delightful and inspiring. I want to be Ramona when I grow up. (And Irene, too, that would be a grand life.) I would love to have a book club for kids, a poetry-themed one maybe. Great idea. But grandmahood has called and keeps me so busy. It takes 10 hours of in car time to get back and forth and that adds up. But she is only young once. I love your post (again) Irene and am now off to read the links, especially the padlet of kids' comments. I love that one of the girls already wrote for 15 min. at home. When I taught a true writing workshop my kids loved to write and became crafters of language. I think writing is a very powerful opportunity for children especially when they can do "real" writing as opposed to the formulaic formats demanded in order to practice to do well on tests. But of course there is students loved writing poems. A big virtual hello and hug to you, Irene. Janet F. aka Janet Clare on fb

  3. Terrific! Lucky you and lucky Ramona!

  4. I can't even stand how happy the thought of this visit makes every way. May I please have a turn with Ramona and her students and the toffee bars and you in my suitcase here in WNY? Fall leaves are really lovely right now... xxx

  5. So cool, Irene! Mercer Island seems like Heaven on Earth. One day I'll visit there and find Ramona because she seems like the nicest person on this poetic earth!


Your thoughts?