5 ways to experience back to school

Our authors dive into their childhoods to describe a memorable school experience as you go back to school this fall.

Linda Joy with best friend Lori bus stop first day jr high

                                   Pictured: Author Linda Joy Singleton with best friend Lori                                       at the bus stop on the first day of junior high school.

While starting a new school year could sometimes cause anxiety, especially when my best friend was going to a different school, the one thing that made returning to school fun was my back-to-school shopping day with Mom. I have three siblings so going out with Mom alone was rare. Before school started every year, each of us kids went out individually to buy school supplies and have lunch with Mom. After buying paper, pencils, binders and a new outfit to wear on the first day of school, we’d climb up to the lunch counter at Woolworths and order burgers and fries. I think I enjoyed this special lunch more than getting new clothes. And I’d always end this fun outing with a milk shake for dessert. –Linda Joy Singleton

WhitneyStewart back to school

Pictured: Author Whitney Stewart as a young child

Back to school was always hard for me. I LOVED summer swimming and bike riding. And trips to the penny-candy store. But one thing made back to school fun—BOOK FAIRS! My mom is a big reader too, and she’d let me buy an armload of books at the fair. I could trade them for my allowance. I’d stack my new books on my desk and stare at them, dreaming of the stories I’d discover. I’d smell my books and run my hands over the clean pages. I’ve never lost that love of books—new or old. As long as the teachers let me read, I was a happy girl. –Whitney Stewart 

Nancy Viau ponytail school pic

Pictured: Author Nancy Viau as a child

I couldn’t wait to go back to school every September! I had my pencils sharpened, notebooks labeled, and my Scotch-plaid school bag packed and sitting at the front door by August 1st. I have very fond memories of my metal lunchbox, a favorite back-to-school item. After all, it was also Scotch-plaid like my school bag, and it came with a matching Thermos, which meant my mom trusted me with something that could shatter in an instant if dropped. I carried it like it was a glass goblet. When the first day came, I jumped out of bed the second I was called. I dove into my outfit (skirt, cardigan, knee socks, black and white saddle shoes), and skipped to the bus stop. No one was there, of course. I was always an hour early. That back-to-school enthusiasm never faded in high school or college. Always first in class and last to leave; I never wanted to miss a thing. –Nancy Viau

sarah lynn scheerger in 7th grade

Pictured: Author Sarah Lynn Scheerger in seventh grade

Middle school is a time of change. Changing classes, changing friends, changing bodies, changing “out” for P.E. (ugh.) One special part of my routine did not change. Our English teacher, Mrs. Moore, read out loud to us for the first fifteen minutes of every class period. I had English right after lunch, and I remember sitting in my seat, listening to the shushing sound of the air conditioner, and drinking in the story. It was one of my favorite parts of each day. I particularly remember her reading the book Tuck Everlasting out loud. After she read, she’d pause and ask us what we thought of the story. Good times. –Sarah Lynn Scheerger

Alison Ashley Formento back to school

Pictured: Author Alison Formento in first grade

When I do author visits, one of the throwback photos I share is my first grade school picture. The dress I’m wearing is made from a fabric with an autumn leaf print. I loved this dress because I felt like I was wearing a tree. I loved and still love climbing trees, hiking through a thick forest, and sitting under the shade of a tree to read a book. I was a daydreamer (I still am!) in school, often looking out of the classroom windows. It helped me focus to see the trees behind our school, especially when writing or tackling math problems. It’s no different now. If I gaze at the trees in my yard, or take a nice walk in my local park, I’m always more focused when I sit down to write.  –Alison Formento

What’s your favorite back-to-school memory?

5 ways to experience back to school

Father’s Day: Authors Tell All Part 1

Summer is officially here, and it’s Father’s Day weekend! Some of our authors sent us a photo of themselves and their dad, telling us how each of our authors’ dads have influenced their lives.

Jacqueline Jules and DaddyZapato Power

(Pictured: Author Jacqueline Jules with her father) My father was an immigrant from Switzerland who came to the United States after World War II. He was unmarried, in his early thirties, and jobless when he arrived. Within ten years, he had learned English and was living a comfortable middle-class life with an American wife and two daughters. Whenever I asked my father why he came to America, he would laugh and say that he’d heard the streets were paved with gold. Daddy loved to travel and to garden. He was keenly interested in world affairs and read several newspapers from cover to cover. In his later years, he took great pride in writing letters to the editor of the publications he read. He spent hours typing on an old gray Underwood typewriter. I learned the power and joy of self-expression from watching him. Daddy also taught me perseverance. He passionately believed that goals could be achieved if you kept working toward them. Whenever I get discouraged, I can hear my father’s voice in my head, saying, “Don’t give up.” While he has been gone since 1999, his presence is always felt.


 

Ian Hoffman Fathers Dayjacobs new dress(Pictured: Author Ian Hoffman with his son and his father) My dad’s a science guy (he’s a radiation oncologist & researcher). I’m an arts guy (I’m an architect & author). Although we like to think about very different things, somehow we think alike. That’s the beauty of genetics. My dad taught me the values of method, care, persistence, and curiosity. He didn’t lay it out like that. I just watched him, and learned from his example. I also learned from my dad to get down on the floor and wrestle with my kids. When we were little, he used to do that everyday when he got home from the hospital. Although eventually I would be impressed by my dad the physician and scientist, it’s still the wrestling I cherish most.


 

Robin and Dad in 1958Mystery of the Stolen Dinosaur Bones

(Pictured: Author Robin Koontz with her dad circa 1958) Warren S. Koontz was head of a U.S. Naval Ordinance division, working as a civilian after World War II. We knew little about that, but we did know that my dad had also been a musician. He led a jazz band before the war and traveled around the world. By the time I came along, the youngest of three, my dad didn’t play music anymore other than on his huge hi-fi system. But on my 4th Christmas, Dad gave me a little electric piano. This is the only photo I have of the two of us – he demonstrating me how it’s played and me in a very untypical pose of patiently learning. My dad died when I was 13. But his creative spark lives on in me as both a writer and illustrator. And I also play the guitar!


 

Linda and Dad 7th gradeCurious Cat Spy Club

(Pictured: Author Linda Joy Singleton [7th grade] and her father) Both of my parents have always been extremely supportive of my writing, but Dad went a step further when I was a teen. I wanted to submit my writing but this was before the internet & it wasn’t easy for a teen to learn about the publishing world. My high school didn’t even have a writing class. Only popular kids wrote for the newspaper—and I was shy. Dad was also interested in writing and wanted to learn how to help me, so he took a college writing class. He taught me how to submit my work, use correct query format and research publishers. So I submitted short stories to a teen magazine, and received very encouraging rejection letters. While it would be over a decade before I sold any writing, when I joined a local writing group I recognized the name of one of my other writers—Dad’s college writing teacher. And she congratulated me when I sold my first book.


The Potato Headshappy dad

(Pictured: Author Felicia Sanzari Chernesky with her father, Stephanie, Francesca, & Jennifer circa 1998) My dad was tough on us growing up. I was the oldest child, quiet, studious, serious—big glasses, straight As, extra English classes by choice—you know the type. As he energetically charged my sisters and me to do our academic and personal best, we learned the meaning, value, and reward of hard work, taking personal responsibility, and standing up for your beliefs. I was always hardest on myself, and Dad frequently reminded me, “You’ve got to learn to laugh if you want to survive the hardships of this life.” He meant it. Plus, the man was funny. I think of Dad presiding at the table during Mom’s wonderful Italian meals, us kids listening to stories and eventually participating in passionate family discussions. Everyone was loud and laughing. Always laughing! Dad passed away last November after being seriously ill for many years. His quick wit never dulled. He loved the winter season, and I dedicated Sugar White Snow and Evergreens to him. He’s there in everything I write. I learned the art of storytelling from my father.


Suzanne Slade with dadWith Books and Bricks

(Pictured: Author Suzanne Slade with her father) My dad is a hard worker, and through the years he’s demonstrated that by sticking with something and giving it your best, you can accomplish almost anything (which came in handy during my many “rejection letter” years.) My dad also loves nature and being outside — sailing, biking, kayaking, fishing, and more. I’ve gone with him on many of his adventures, which have inspired several books. So Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! 

 

Father’s Day: Authors Tell All Part 1