Today is Read Across America Day, a celebration of reading on Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Some students in my class will truly read across America in a Skype reading session with students in Madison, Wisconsin and Portland, Maine. The high point for me was yesterday when I took my last period class to hear Rosanne Parry talk about her writing life.
I first met Rosanne when her first book, The Heart of a Shepherd, came out. Her dad came by the school to drop off some copies of her book and let me know she had attended our school when she was young. A published alumnus, I thought, we must get her in! And so we did.
I saw her around at bookish functions and at school board meetings where she lobbied hard on behalf of school librarians. I am now at a new school and Rosanne has just published her fourth book, Turn of the Tide. When I heard she was coming, I jumped at the opportunity to take my class.
She started off by telling the stories that inspired each of her novels.She told of a college trip to Eastern Oregon where you left you key in the car’s ignition in case someone came by and needed it. She told of her experiences teaching in the Olympic Peninsula at a school operated by the Quinault Indian Nation and of the history of whale fishing among the Makah.
She talked about the difficulty of navigating the Columbia River Bar. She held the rapt attention of the students as she retold the story of an American army captain visiting with Russian soldiers in the former East Germany, after the Berlin Wall fell. I’m sure they were all visualizing naked Russian men running down the street wearing each other’s prosthetics. I was most touched at how she teared up when she described the hardships these men had suffered during the Siege of Stalingrad.
She truly showed the students how a slice of life can be an inspiration for their writing.