Education Opinion

I Am a Reader, Not a Writer

By Donalyn Miller — March 18, 2008 2 min read

It has rained all day. You glass-half-empty types might gnash your teeth over a day of Spring Break wasted, but I have always seen rainy days as an excuse to read. I would like nothing more right now than to curl up in my rabbit-hole, channel my inner Alice, and fall into a book, but I can’t. I am supposed to be writing, writing, writing...

It seems that unleashing my reading zealotry here at Teacher Magazine has attracted some notice. After several gee-I-am-in-over-my-head meetings, I have secured a contract from Jossey-Bass Publishing, a division of Wiley, to write a book about my views towards reading, students, and putting the two together.

Hey, didn’t anyone tell these guys that I am a reader, not a writer?

Chanting the mantra “write what you know,” I can accept that I do know a thing or two about books and inspiring students to read them. But even after teaching writing for six years, I realize that I did not know much about writing before this ride began.

Writing a book is the only activity I can think of that makes grading mountains of students’ essays an appealing alternative.

As Thomas Mann once said, “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Vanity, I suppose, to call myself a writer when we all know that I am just a language arts and social studies teacher in the ‘burbs.

Yes, the book deal is thrilling and surreal. Thanks for reading the blog and helping make this happen. Please forgive me if I whine a little while chained to my laptop today.

Here are some things (OK, my editor has told me that the word “things” is out) I have learned. Let me share some observations--

• Even the most assertive person can have a passive voice when writing.

• You can start a sentence with a conjunction, and end one with a preposition, but “ironic” quotations marks are out.

• Reading Richard Allington, Lucy Calkins, and Janet Allen is even better the second (or third) time.

• Fast food meals and dry cleaning expenses for your family are not deductible.

• Scrutinizing your teaching practices is 30% gratifying and 70% horrifying.

• The word “student” doesn’t have enough synonyms.

• Parents who never sign a report card are all too willing to sign a release for their child to be in your book.

• A writing retreat in the woods is every writer’s fantasy for a reason.

• DEADLINE should always be written in capitals and shouted when spoken.

• Downloading Journey tunes to your iPod and surfing the ‘Net for snappy quotes about reading are not research.

And last,

• Writing a book about teaching is not as fun as doing it.

I suppose this last one, my gentle readers, is the point of the whole “thing.”

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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