Reading Matters blog

Reading Matters

Doug Wilhelm is a full-time writer and an independent publisher in Weybridge, Vemont. His 13 novels for young adults include The Revealers (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), which has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools; its sequel, True Shoes (Long Stride Books, 2012), and Doug's newest book, The Prince of Denial (Long Stride, 2013).

On cyberbullying: the best online resources for teachers

This week I started working with a small team of educators and issue specialists to develop a curriculum-resource package that will enable middle schools to address cyberbullying, and meet reading/literacy standards — plus technology-integration standards — by reading and discussing all or parts of True Shoes. Cyberbullying is such an urgent issue, and Shoes, the new sequel to my widely used YA novel The Revealers, opens up this tough issue in a suspenseful ensemble story that both young readers and school professionals are responding to very strongly.

I’ve learned so much in working with schools nationwide that have employed The Revealers to both address bullying and engage students in reading and responding to literature. Our new project grows out of that: we’ll offer, here on this site in the coming weeks, an integrated curriculum package that middle-school teachers can easily adopt or adapt to get kids talking about the issues that True Shoes raises. The story centers on cyberbullying — it also deals with multicultural issues, domestic violence, and the ways both cruel and creative that young people are using networked technology. We’ll make pieces of our package useful not just to language-arts teachers, but also to those who teach social studies and tech integration.

I’ve started this project by searching out what good, useful resources on cyberbullying are already out there on the Web. Here’s the best of what I’ve found so far:
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A school's new twist on Tolerance Day

Each year I drive up to northern New Hampshire to visit the Lancaster School for Tolerance Day, an unusual project led by language-arts teacher Deborah Fogg, who was her state’s 2009 Teacher of the Year. What Deb and her colleagues put together works so well that it’s worth sharing — especially this year, when Tolerance Day had a new twist.
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Did you have to write about THAT?

Like The Revealers, True Shoes is a realistic novel for young adults — and that means it deals with some stuff that can be a bit uncomfortably ... realistic. Especially for parents. I’m a parent and I know; we want to protect our kids in a complicated, often scary world. As a writer, when an adult asks, “Why did you have to put that in your book?”, here is my response.
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A teacher and a student review True Shoes

Just posted on Amazon.com's True Shoes page, this Customer Review from a middle-school teacher and one of her students in Michigan:

I loved True Shoes, the much anticipated sequel to The Revealers. The characters from The Revealers deal with cyber bullying. The reader is immediately drawn into the main character's life and the anticipation of the payback from the royalty group. Needing to know about the paybacks keeps the reader riveted. The answers to so many questions about Richie Tucker, Elliot and Catalina, the characters in The Revealers, made this book REALISTIC.

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Hey! Relationships with real people!

I’ve been thinking how, as you bring a novel to completion, you are (at least, I am) very much involved in relationship with your characters — and now, with the book out and my attention shifting to offering it and letting people know about True Shoes, I get to return to relationships with real people.
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My boy, our tree, and me

I tend to write one of those holiday letters each year. A few years ago, in 2007, I wrote about the very last Christmas that my son, then 21, and I would decorate our tree just us together. The letter seemed to mean something to a lot of people who read it, and I've sometimes shared it again since then. This year I thought I'd share it with you. It comes with my very best wishes for a nice little holiday break, and the very happiest of holidays with people you love.
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Incident in a Ninth-Grade Classroom

Yesterday I was in a school in upstate New York that I visit every year — it’s a middle/high school, and in one particular period I was talking with a roomful of ninth graders about True Shoes. Those students has read The Revealers last year, as the school’s eighth graders do every fall. I introduced the sequel by describing how it grew out of many conversations I’ve had with middle schoolers, on school visits around the country — and how, in so many of those exchanges, as we discussed the cruelties that are so common in middle school, kids told me about the spreading of rumors by text message.

Sometimes when I’m talking with a group of young people, the energies in the room will swing in a particular direction. That happened here.
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How it feels when your book (okay, this book) is published

If you have a book that’s about to be published, as the date approaches you have a swirling mix of emotions. Anticipation, excitement, fear, anxiety ... I’m sure it’s different for each writer, even for each book. This time, because I was publishing True Shoes independently — meaning that I was responsible for every single aspect of it — I had a new major emotion in the mix. Obsession.

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On “indie” publishing: the good feeling of making a thing

It’s Sunday and I just finished unpacking, signing, and repacking in smaller boxes 100 advance proof copies of True Shoes. I’m going to give those copies away this Friday, in New Hampshire, at a New England League of Middle Schools anti-bullying conference where I’ll be (thanks, NELMS) one of the presenters. Because this new book is an independent publication (in essence, I’ve created my own publishing company), this means I will go on handling actual books — ordering and receiving them, boxing them up for bulk purchasers, hauling copies to schools where I do author visits.

I like this! Usually when you write a book, someone else handles the physicality of its publication. The writer rarely deals with the actual printed product, except maybe to give away a few copies and sign some more (if you’re lucky and someone wants you to). Taking over the publication process has meant I’ve had the very satisfying experience of assembling and working with a really professional team — illustrator Sarah-Lee Terrat, graphic designer Tim Newcomb, and print-and-distribution service CreateSpace. This has been a lot of work, but it has also been the most fun I’ve ever had in the book-making business. That’s because I didn’t just make the words; this time, I got to work right at the center of making the thing.
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Here's a scene from True Shoes

Here's a brief scene from True Shoes. Early in the story, Richie has shown up unexpectedly at Russell's house one evening. Richie of course punched Russell out a couple of times in The Revealers — and now Russell has a new reason to be nervous about him. I won't say why, but it's there. Here's what happens:

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