I contributed a short essay to a book published this month that encourages teachers to use trade books in mathematics instruction. I wrote about how I conceived of, wrote, photographed, and designed Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.
Titled Mathematical Literacy in the Middle and High School Grades: A Modern Approach to Sparking Student Interest, it was written by Dr. Faith Wallace and Mary Anna Evans and published by Pearson. (ISBN: 9780132180979)
My essay appears in a box in Chapter 5, titled “Picture Books: Where Math, Text, and Illustrations Collide.”
The authors contacted me in the summer of 2010, a few months after Growing Patterns was published and asked me to contribute. I am thrilled to be included in this book. The inside cover includes a chart showing how teachers can use material and activities in the book to meet Common Core standards for grades 6-12.
It’s particularly satisfying to have this book come out a month after I co-presented a workshop on Visualizing Math Stories at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference.
I was awarded a fellowship in the literary arts by the Mississippi Arts Commission. With my fellowship, an award of $3,900, I am charged with creating new work. Earlier this year, I described the process the Commission uses to evaluate fellowship applications. You can read about it here. I very much appreciate the help of Diane Williams, the MAC program director with oversight of the literary arts programs. I also appreciate the panelists.
The Work-in-Progress that I submitted for evaluation is tentatively titled “Not White.” It is a coming-of-age memoir.
In addition to the fellowship, I applied to be included in the MAC’s rosters of Artists and Teaching Artists. This will be my second three-year stint on the roster of Artists (for the literary arts) and the first stint with the Teaching Artists. In addition to Diane, who helped with the roster process, I also thank Kim Whitt, the program director with oversight of the teaching artist roster.
The final piece of good news is that all my struggling earlier this year with my Picture Book Work-in-Progress is really bearing fruit. I’m nearly ready to send it out into the world — again. Wish me luck!
Here’s a leaf I saw on the tip of an Island north of Seattle. Even with expanses of water, I am drawn to veins in a leaf.
Earlier this year, I submitted three applications to the Mississippi Arts Commission. One was for a fellowship in the literary arts. This year’s literary fellowship categories were creative nonfiction, playwriting and screenwriting. My submission was in the creative nonfiction category.
Last week, I sat in the room while an independent review panel discussed this year’s eight fellowship applications. Before the meeting, each panelist had read for each application a 15-20 page work sample and an artist’s statement (with all identifying information removed).
Besides me, two other applicants came to listen to the panel.
The panelists were identified by name cards on the conference table. I knew two of them from their work in the arts community. Two others were new to me.
It was very strange to listen to my writing being talked about in that setting. Because my work-in-progress is a memoir, the panelists did at least have the luxury of using the pronoun “she” when they wanted to speak about the author, namely, me. From the discussion, I learned that other applicants’ work samples ranged from a literary cookbook to a play to newspaper column-style family reminiscences.
I kept imagining that the panelists could tell it was my work they were discussing. I was sure it showed on my face. All three of us observers took notes during the entire discussion, but I wrote more assiduously when they were discussing my work.
It was interesting to hear how the opinions of the panelists were in some cases diametrically opposed. “Unique and interesting” versus “Didn’t see the originality.”
Though it was a strange experience, I think all artists should take any opportunity to listen in on this kind of discussion. Perhaps most importantly, the process allows you to see how effective (or not) you are at conveying your goals and at displaying the expertise to carry out those goals. For example, in at least one case, a writer, in his/her artistic statement, proposed a biography, but the work samples were unrelated to the biography project.
At the end of a brief discussion, panelists were asked to give each application a series of numerical scores, based on certain criteria (originality and vision of the work; technical skill and mastery of the artistic discipline).
Observers were not allowed to see scores. We were asked to leave before the panel had its final discussion. In my past experience with arts commission panels (when I wrote project grants for schools and nonprofit organizations), this final discussion is where the panel’s ultimate preferences are revealed. (Observers used to be able to stay in the room for these discussions. I’m not sure when/why the change was made.)
I will have to wait until July to learn whether I will get a fellowship. The panel’s recommendations go to the Mississsippi Arts Commission‘s governing board, which meets in June.
The Not-Blind Part
The other two applications I submitted to the arts commission this year were for its artist rosters. I have been on the artist roster for the literary arts for three years and it was time for me to re-apply. In addition, I applied for the first time to join the teaching artist roster.
My application to be included on the artist roster for the literary arts went for review to the same panel that reviewed the fellowship applications. In this case, however, the panelists knew my name, saw my resume, my marketing materials, my work samples, and a list of the presentations and signings I’ve done in the last three years. I could tell from the comments by panelists that all of them supported my application to be on the roster.
The story was largely the same for the teaching artist application, though it went before a different panel. During the discussion, several panelists said they wished they had more information on which to base their recommendation. Some suggested the application requirements should be amended to include examples of student work. I would have loved to have shared my students’ work. You can see some of it here and here.
Another interesting aspect of the discussion was something I’ve struggled with over my years of trying to make the most of the resources available from the Mississippi Arts Commission. In order to apply for individual support (fellowship or grant) or to appear on rosters, an applicant must chose a particular art form. So, though I am equal parts writer and photographer in the creation of nonfiction picture books for children, I must choose for the purposes of each application whether to apply as a literary artist (writer) or as a visual artist (photographer). The rules about work samples make it hard to show my picture book work — because I am limited to typed manuscript pages on the literary arts side and photographs on the visual arts side.
I wonder if the panelists are allowed to and/or encouraged to look at the online materials of the applicants for rosters. I have so much information available on my website and on this blog that could have filled in some of the information panelists seemed to be seeking.
Have any of you blog readers experienced a similar “blind” review process? What was it like?
My semiannual royalty statement came this week and it included an entry I didn’t understand. When I checked on it, I found out that Boyds Mills Press has contracted with a company in China that wishes to publish Wolfsnail in the Chinese market. In this pay period, I received a modest advance against (hoped for) future royalties. This will be interesting. I hope I will see a Chinese copy someday.
Speaking of the royalty statement, I am pleased with the fact that both books continue to sell. After nearly a year on the market, Growing Patterns remains well behind Wolfsnail in lifetime sales, but, if Amazon’s numbers from book scan (in Author Central data – NOT sales rank) are to be believed, Growing Patterns is outselling Wolfsnail this Spring.
More Thank You Notes
When I was California earlier this year, I visited Liz Woodward’s fourth grade class at the International Community School. You can read about the visit here. These are some of the thank you notes I got from the students.
“Thank you for teaching us about the wolfsnails. Thank you for expeachly teaching us the Fibonacci numbers. They come from nature. Thank you for giving me advice for writing a book. Althoo I’m not the greatest neat writer I want this thank you letter to touch your heart.”
It did, Hector.