A New Year and a Newbery Challenge

2018 is here! And now I can finally say: “I have a book coming out this year!”

2018 is bound to be an exciting year for me as I see my novel go out into the world. (October!) I am so grateful to everyone at Jolly Fish for taking a chance on my book and making my dream come true.

I am also happy to say goodbye to 2017.

2017 was probably the most tumultuous year of my life, filled with both extreme highs and lows. I dealt with some serious health problems and lost a family member to cancer, but I also started a new job teaching creative writing (that I love!) and sold my first novel. It has been a year of whirlwind emotions, but I leave it feeling strong and confident.

I also leave it feeling mentally exhausted.

It is time to refill the creative well. For me, there is no better way to inspire myself to write, and to write better, than reading good books. I became a writer because I am at heart a reader. I didn’t read nearly as much in 2017 as I usually do, and my writing suffered for it. I was less productive. I read A LOT of student manuscripts this year, but I didn’t read as many books as I usually do. I’d love to say I was too busy, but I did manage to find time to watch thirteen seasons of Gray’s Anatomy on Netflix…..

So this year, I have a plan.

A couple years ago, I read about Mr. Schu’s Newbery challenge. (You can learn more about it here.) The idea is to read all of the Newbery-winning books in chronological order, starting with the 1922 winner, The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon. Every year, I look forward to reading the Newbery and honor books (and the Printz books as well): many of them remain my favorites. I decided to take the challenge. I started with the 1922 winner, then moved on to the 1923 winner, Hugh Lofting’s The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.

And then I quit.

There were so many books I was looking forward to reading (and rereading) but I felt obligated to plow through these early books first, and they were taking a bit of the fun out of it. I wanted to start reading stories, and instead I was reading a long history book, followed by a novel I didn’t care for. It made the challenge stressful, and that was the last thing I wanted.

This year, I start over. I am going to do the challenge my way. I am still going to make my way through the list, but I am going to read the books in whatever order I want. I am going to see what I can learn about writing from each one. I am going to feel inspired.

I am going to learn.

I am going to grow.

I am going to read.

Here’s to 2018 being the year of good books! First on my list is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I’ve already read it (twice) but I chose it because I am assigning it to my writing students in my spring Writing Children’s Books course (you can find info about that here). This week, I’ll see what writing lessons I can glean from it and post them here.

If you would like to join me in this challenge, the full list of Newbery winners can be found here.

Happy Reading!


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