My New School

Reasons to Keep the Second Best Shots

Deciding whether to save non-optimal images is something all photographers face. Back in the days when photographs were captured on rolls of film, it was a no-brainer to keep the negatives at the very least. Nowadays, it is tempting to delete the images we don’t immediately recognize as good ones. After all, high quality digital images take up a lot of space on hard drives. Here’s yet another reason to reconsider hitting the delete button. Yesterday I shared an image from a PTA meeting about 40 years ago. In the “best image” many faces are obscured. When I consider the sequence of images, however, I can identify many more people. You can see what I mean.
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Singing at a PTA meeting in the early 70s

My mother and I are working slowly but surely toward getting her 40 plus years of negatives organized, and a selection of them scanned. We got a big batch of scanned images back recently, and I finally had time to take a close look. Here’s a fun one. This was taken shortly after we moved to Mississippi, probably in 1973. My classmates and I are in the Richardson Primary School cafeteria, performing at a PTA meeting.


I happen also to be in the midst of helping plan a party celebrating the 30th anniversary of our graduation from Port Gibson High School. I have a feeling we’ll get some laughs from these old photographs. I see our class president Morise Duffin and Stephani Barnes, Tabatha Martin, Sheila Dorsey, Tamara Henderson, Joe Wilson, Patrick Mackey, Sonya Chapman. Other angles in other shots give me Pearl Smith and Dejuan Griffin. Help me with some of the other identifications, classmates.

Letter From First Grade Teacher

Here’s another fun letter I found while going through my files. It is written by the teacher who taught me first grade in Evanston, IL, at Dewey Elementary School. She was writing after I (with my mother’s help, no doubt) sent her some sugar cane for her class in the year after I moved to Mississippi.
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Late in the letter, she asks if I still write stories and poems. My reading lately has been full of questions about how our childhood experiences shape us and to what extent we are destined to become who we become. (Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon and The Philosophical Baby by Alison Gopnik) It does make me wonder how much I was bound to be a writer and how much I became one because I was so encouraged in my writing from so early. Guess, it’s the usual answer. Both.

A Letter From Mississippi 1973

I have been going through more of my boxes of letters, and found this gem. It was with a bundle of letters I received from Sarah J., my best friend from early elementary school in Evanston, IL. Some years later, her mother gave me this letter that I wrote to Sarah J. It appears to be the first letter I wrote after moving to Mississippi. I was in second grade.
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In one version of a work-in-progress titled “My New School,” my character Beth writes this letter back to her school friends in Chicago.
To Mrs. Armour’s Class at Dewey Elementary School:
I like my new school. This is my friend Franny. We play “Miss Mary Mack” at recess. I am learning to play new games and do hair.
Your friend, Beth

My Sister’s Latest Scholarly Article

My sister, Emilye, spent the academic year in Atlanta (instead of Rochester, NY). One of the happy consequences was that we got to see her more than we usually do. We also got to see early drafts of one of this year’s projects, an article on school desegregation for the Oral History Review.

My Mom and I gave her our impressions of the early drafts, and helped her track down some information. Now, I have the published version. It is titled “White Privilege, Black Burden: Lost Opportunities and Deceptive Narratives in School Desegregation in Claiborne County, Mississippi”.

Emilye, who teaches history at Geneseo College, said I can distribute it to people who are interested. Please send me an email if you want a .pdf copy.
Em, Mom, and MeEmilye and Patty Crosby, Sarah C. Campbell.

Good News All Around

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.



Mom’s photographs of me in Evanston

I am helping my mother organize negatives and photographs from her entire career as a photographer. From the first rolls she took for a photography class to her transition to digital photography, we find ourselves with a room full of notebooks, file boxes, envelopes, albums, etc. Here are a few of me from the years we lived in Evanston, Illinois. I was in first grade for these, I think. It was before 1973 anyway.

Sarah with school friends

Sarah reading early

Sarah in class at Dewey

Kindle Cover

I am stewing about my work-in-progress. I heard back from one of my trusted readers and the news wasn’t all good. I need to do some hard thinking about this story and how I want to tell it. I’m past figuring out “if” I want to tell it and I’m pretty sure it can be a picture book, but I am going to try a few things before I’m ready to let it go out again. One of the things I need to do is get really analytical about it. I need to dummy it. I need to take it back down to brass tacks. So, what did I do today, you ask? I high-tailed it up to my sewing room.

Kindle Cover SewingI got a Kindle for my birthday. My husband, the giver of this wonderful gift, almost immediately appropriated it for his use.

I decided he needed a cover for my Kindle so I spent a few hours today making one.

I’ve had this piece of patchwork in the sewing room for a long time. I finally found a good use for it.

The strap around it is leftover from a hemming project for my mom. The cardboard inside came from a freebie legal pad cover.

open kindle cover sewingLots of re-purposing going on. Now, I’ll just have to break it to Richard and I’ll be reading some books on my Kindle. I hope he lets me borrow the cover.

I’m glad I went outside to take these photographs because it is a gorgeous day. I noticed a beautiful butterfly in our butterfly garden. It looked for all the world like a Monarch, but I can’t be sure.

Growing Patterns Selected for Outstanding Science Trade Book List

Growing Patterns CoverGreat news! Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature has been selected to the Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 for 2011, a cooperative project of the National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council. The 2011 list is here, and you can see this page for lists from past years.

I am grateful to the committee members for their consideration. Science teachers, environmental educators, and librarians use these lists as they develop curricula and build collections.

In other news, I sold two more photographs to Highlights High Five, a magazine for 2- to 6-year olds. I can’t show you the photographs now, but I will when they appear in the magazine.

I am just about ready to send the new manuscript out into the world again. I have gotten a lot of good feedback from writing colleagues, librarians, reading friends, and family members. I revised accordingly. I’ll keep you posted.