Jack Gantos is the Newbery/Newbery Honor/Scott O’Dell/National Book Award author of over fifty-five books for young readers from the “Rotten Ralph” picture books, collections of upper elementary/middle-school “Jack Henry” short stories, and award-winning “Joey Pigza” and “Norvelt” novels, as well as young adult books including “Hole in my Life”—a Printz and Sibert award-winning memoir.
WRITING PRESENTATION DESCRIPTIONS AND GOALS
a) Picture Book
b) Writer's Journal/Short Story
c) Upper Elementary/Middle Grade Novel
d)Young Adult Novels
e) Young Adult Memoirs
A) PICTURE BOOK WORKSHOP
In my Picture Book Writing Work-shop I address young writers on my beginning as a young writer. I stress such points as: journal writing, reading, drawing and positive creative writing habits. Depending on the age group, I may show pictures of my early rejected books, and explain how each is flawed. I show a second round of pictures and point out successful elements of great books by a wide range of authors and illustrators, and I read a Rotten Ralph book.
The greater part of my workshop for a group or individual would centers on "how to" create a new picture book. I explain how to first organize a professional sixteen-page picture book from the beginning, middle and end. We discuss the creation of characters. Then we discuss the location or setting of the book, and then tackle the theme or problem/situation. From there we work on writing the plot, keeping in mind how the action must advance, in the proper sequence, with our understanding of the characters along with the theme. Once we have created the plot we then work toward the crisis of the book. Then we examine the character's feelings and work to find an ending that satisfies the story problem and theme. Throughout this process I help the students/writers refine their ideas, so we link creation with organization to produce a well-structured story. Afterward, I stress the importance of rewriting the manuscript, and the essential relationship between writing good books and reading good books.
b) WRITING RADAR: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories by Jack Gantos
WRITING RADAR is a book on how to write books--mostly short stories. I have published five books of short stories, Jack Adrift, Jack on The Tracks, Heads or Tails, Jack's New Power and Jack's Black Book, which are stories I've taken from my early journals. In this presentation I focus on journal writing: How to Get Started, How to Use the Journal as a Creative Writing Notebook, and How to Get Organized. I focus on how to gather story subjects and stress that the best stories are from personal experience. I explain how to construct stories covering all the basic literary elements: character, setting, problem, theme, action, climax, and resolution. Rather than read directly from my books, I project a map of my neighborhood and tell the stories by showing where and how the events took place so I can reveal the point of inspiration, and then how the story was fleshed out.
It is my goal to inspire writers of all ages to be observant of the world around them and craft their personal observations and experiences into meaningful literature.
C) UPPER ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE GRADE NOVELS
I have also published five "JOEY PIGZA" novels--a compassionate family saga centering on the main character of Joey Pigza--a boy with ADHD and a big heart and soul. The first was a National Book Award Nominee, the second received a Newbery Honor. The third was an American Library Association reading pick. The fourth was released to all starred reviews, as was the fifth and final volume. I also work these books into my presentations with the appropriate age groups with the goal of pointing out writing style, character details, novel structure and character arc from the beginning—middle—to the end.
DEAD END IN NORVELT and FROM NORVELT TO NOWHWERE: These two novels are best read by strong upper elementary and middle school readers and are filled with a good deal of history/questioning history, and family, community and world morals, values and ethics-—and of course, humor. The book also contains all the major elements of writing: Characters, Setting, Problem, Action, Crisis, Resolution and the all-important double ending—a Physical and Emotional ending. DEAD END IN NORVELT received the John Newbery Award for 2012. The sequel carries on where the first let off and continues to examine history and literature in our daily lives.
D) Young Adult Novels
I speak to high school writers regarding my Young Adult titles: DESIRE LINES and THE LOVE CURSE OF THE RUMBAUGHS. With High school students my goal is to get them to see the ‘big picture’ when it comes to understanding ‘Personal Narrative’ and the various forms of writing, the elements of writing within the forms, the range of writing which they should now be attempting to achieve, and the books they should be reading to support the development of their writing style—and writing content, both physical and emotional.
E) Young Adult/Adult Memoirs
THE TROUBLE IN ME predates HOLE IN MY LIFE and explores just when and how I began to make decisions for myself which were self-destructive. It explores self-identity, and the self-loathing I had as a teen which led me to abandon my better values and ethics and attempt to transform myself into an entirely different person. Instead of ‘finding’ myself I preferred to ‘invent’ myself which led to a downward spiral of trouble which is written about in HOLE IN MY LIFE , my teen prison memoir, which received a Pritz Honor and a Sibert Honor. This volume is also listed as an adult book given the subject matter.
I have worked with teachers and students throughout the country and overseas in over a thousand schools. I have creative writing and literature presentations designed to meet the needs of all interests and grade levels. I provide hands-on Teacher In-Service instruction specifically designed for a creative writing and literature curriculum. For a visit to your school or conference please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my webpage at JackGantos.com.