Today I received word from my publisher, Maupin House, that Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8
was named as a finalist in this year's Distinguished Achievement Awards given by the Association of Educational Publishers. What was the first thing I did after hearing this exciting news? I went digging to find out who the folks are who granted me this award. Here is what I found:
According to their website, they are a "national, nonprofit professional organization for educational publishers and content developers." The organization started in 1895 as a university-supported institution, most recently on the campus of Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. In the "it's a small world department," as a teenager I attended a fine arts camp (I focused on creative writing--what else?) at Rowan University—which at that time was named Glassboro State Teachers College.
AEP is a group of approximately 400 publishers who submit their books to judges who are "selected from a pool of educational publishing professionals (writers, editors, designers, educators, product developers, and marketing directors)." I looked at the judge's evaluation form and was pretty impressed with the rigorous assessment used to evaluate the educational books. Each year the Distinguished Achievement Award identifies superior educational products in four categories: Curriculum, Periodicals, Professional Development, and Technology Innovations. Teaching the Story is under "Professional Development" and one of four finalists in the subcategory of Differentiated Instruction.
For those of you who aren't in the educational field, you may wonder what the term "Differentiated Instruction" means. Here is AEP's definition from their website: "Products that are designed to take into account students' varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning, and interests. They provide a model or process to aid in teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class."
I can't honestly say that when I conceived the ideas behind Teaching the Story, I thought it would be a book used by students at many different levels. All I thought about was that writing a story is something that many students are naturally drawn to and that the task stretches students' imaginations. As I tell teachers who attend my writing workshops, when students write a story they practice all of the skills necessary for expository writing—it's just a lot more fun. But, since narrative writing is taught in upper elementary through middle school, my editors and I decided that the book needed to be flexible. It had to be designed in such a way that a teacher in any of these grades could pick it up and use it in her particular classroom and address the needs of students with divergent interests and abilities. Many hair-pulling hours went into figuring out how we might successfully pull this off—apparently the judges at AEP thought we did.
I am pleased and honored at this recognition, but am also fully aware that it would not have been possible without diligent coaching and editing by my editors at Maupin House. Kudos goes to them for having two other titles honored in this year's AEP line-up: Writing Intervention Kit for High School by Nancy Dean, and Learning Through Writing Series: Authentic Writing Activities for the Content Areas: Grades 3, 4, and 5 by Kathleen Kopp.