Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Turn Your Great Ideas into a Great ASCD Book

I have never shared this publicly on my blog, but I have a big dream of publishing a book.  If you follow my twitter conversations on the Wednesday night #educoach chat, then you could probably guess what I'd like to write about (and have been working on for quite some time now with Shira Leibowitz and Kathy Perret).
This is why I chose to attend the #ASCD13 session on "How to turn your great ideas into a great ASCD book" led by ASCD editors Genny Ostertag and Stefani Roth and by authors Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey. This was the perfect session for a writer to attend and I especially enjoyed hearing Fisher and Frey's stories on writing (I LOVE learning about authors!)

If you'd like to write, but maybe not a whole book Eric Vandenheuvel attended the ASCD session on publishing an article. HERE are the notes he took in that session (Thank you Eric!)

Here are my notes from this session:

What do you want to write about most?
Do: choose a relevant topic that meets a need in the field that you have expertise/experience to share. ASCD gives priority to topics that include  educating the whole child (their mission) and will look for this in a proposal.

What's your hook?
What really differentiates your content, what makes it special/different. What makes people think "that's a problem I have and I can solve it." Think of a spine supporting everything in it, provides a backbone for all the material. Make sure you have a fresh angle. 

Don't: give a gimmick or try to hard (ex: abc's list or sending with a teddy bear)

Who is your audience? who is your writing for? What outcomes will they be looking for? You must connect with your readers and offer solutions to their problems.  What keeps them up at night? Don't tell them it's for everyone.  If you say everyone will love it, then you likely haven't thought of your audience.

Competition--do you research to know your competition. What has been done already and why was it done? If there's nothing on it, it may be a reason. Don't assume your idea is original. Google your title, google under publishers. 

Starting April 15, ASCD will be accepting proposals in an online portal that will allow you to track your manuscript's progress.   Proposal guidelines are at When you send in your proposal don't skim on sample material. They'd rather see the whole manuscript than just one chapter. They are important for the review team. They need to get to know you on the page. More is better than less.  

What do editors want? Top 5 qualities:
1. Original-What is original about your piece? Give fresh information.  Don't state the obvious (no lit review). 
2.  Research based-evidence based, make sure it is scalable/sustainable. Don't labor over methodology. Good example: new Principal Evaluation book by James Stronge. Not every book has to be that research-based. Could just have one chapter that includes the research and then move on to be practical. Don't just say "We know from research" and not cite anything.  
3. Practical- Provide guidance as specific as you can so people know, but don't be too academic. It needs to be readable. 
4. Specific-Offer helpful ideas, show what they look like in real classrooms/schools, don't over-generalizes so much that readers can't specify to their situations. If you can't figure out to apply to your school while you're reading, you'll stop reading. A great example is How to Create and use Rubrics.
5. Conversational-ensure your text is engaging, succinct, easy to navigate, be accessible, be yourself. An editor can help you add research, but they can't make it super conversational and give you need to do that. Don't include a lot of jargon or over-complicated language. Don't try to impress people with crazy big words. Don't be over-personal "I'm so great, I'm the best..."  Great example: How to Create a Culture of Achievement by Fisher and Frey.

DeClutter--make sure that other people can see themselves using it. Put forth the how-to. 

Do talk to published authors! Dont' stalk them!! (They must not be on authors on twitter don't mind the stalking and have become great resources!)

Frey and Fisher sharing their writing tips
Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey shared their writing experiences and tips:
If you get a contract from a publisher-whatever date you negotiate...HIT IT! When they say your manuscript will come in on 11/15, that means they have lined up editors and the rest of the team for that date.  If you don't hit it, they will not want you for future books.  Add 3 months to what you say you can do and then ask the editor for that date and then hit it. If something comes up, tell them immediately so they can try to change it. They do NOT like it if you miss a deadline.

Fisher said (about their published books), "None of these are our titles! The marketing department gets the title and the cover...none of them were in our minds. Let it go, don't make the exact title/cover your concern. The marketing department knows what they're doing.  I don't even bother anymore...I just give a general "here's what the book is about" for the title."
Processes to write-everyone develops their own. Nancy writes in an office at Doug's house, because  his house is bigger and she won't get distracted by knowing what laundry needs to be washed!  They have 2 desks in one office to talk to each other to parcel out what they will each write about.  Planning process-they cover the back of the office door with sticky notes to sort based on those sticky notes.  Then they  put on individual sticky notes a shorthand about the point/tool and then easily move/sort ideas into chapters.  Gives a good visual for conversations.  

Other publishers-know who they are and who best fits your ideas. 

 Write about what you know. Look closely at your context/experiences, this is what you are expert in. Listen to what people ask of you, pay attention to the patterns that emerge in those questions. That's the idea that you need-if they're seeking you out about something, it means they can't find it out somewhere else and it means you're an expert in. 

Books are all about the same size. Do not write a thick book for ASCD. Aim for 50,000 words. If you're at 45,000 in chapter 3 you're writing too much. If you hit 60,000 it won't be thrown out, but you don't want it to be too long.  People want short chapters to read. They're busy and want to read small chunks in one sitting. If it's too long, they'll stop. 

When you send a proposal, do not send your first chapter--if you wrote it first, it won't be your best chapter. It's likely very general and probably won't show your conversational tone and practical examples.  Write the meat first and THEN write the 1st chapter. Otherwise you end up saying everything you want to say in the first chapter!

Nancy keeps a writer's notebook to jot down good ideas.  You don't want to lose your thoughts in busy lives. Keep track of super funny quotes too!!  Keep those little stories that could possibly be used.  
If you've been in education for a number of years, you have a book inside of you!  It's just that some people take the time to sit down and do it. Your butt in a chair...that's how you write a book!  Part of the writing process is like being a brick layer of words.  There's a level of discipline to keeping yourself from being distracted.  Schedule time to write. Treat it like a meeting. Schedule it just like a conference or something else that's important. Keep it as a promise to yourself. If you can't do that, how can you keep a promise to someone else.  

 Create a goal for each day, ex "today I will write this idea."  "Today I want to finish___" and then stop.  This will help you pace yourself better to finish the book.  You will get fatigued and get frustrated if you try to write for 8 hours a day.  Nancy writes notes about what they talked about so she can look back if they haven't written them yet.  You will paralyze yourself if you keep going back to reread what you've already written. Leave yourself a note to know where to start tomorrow and get going again.  

Doug said that staring at a blank page intimidates him so he opens a chapter from a previous book and writes notes on the top of the page and then copy/pastes it to where he's's all a psychological thing for him!  Nancy-puts down a quote or a scenario to get something on the page. She may not keep it, but it gets the flow going.

Their first book started as a conversation in the car.  Her first chapter took 4 weeks to write---laboriously.  Now she writes fast.  It was hard for her emotionally to see the edits/revisions come back, because it's like your own child.  She's learned to become detached from that.  When you get your first book out, ask the publisher for a copy of the cover to frame on your feels good to look at it. 

And have you ever wondered how ASCD chooses their member books? (The free one you get with your membership?) It must weigh less than 1 pound!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Freeman Hrabowski at #ASCD13

I knew while hearing Freeman Hrabowski speak at #ASCD13 that his speech would be the one I include in my next Monday Musings post for my staff.  He had such a powerful message that I had to share with them. Here is a cross-posting from my staff memo blog:

This weekend I got to attend the national ASCD conference in Chicago. I was fortunate to have the chance to attend it with a Press Pass, which got me in for free, but I just had to tweet/blog a lot about that (definitely something I am good at!)  I already have several posts up with more to come. If you're interested you can find them on my professional blog at 

One of the great speakers I heard at this conference was Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.  Hrabowski's story began as a young boy when he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and he has continued his passion to change the story for children and minorities.  He has led his University to change the story for minorities in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

 Hrabowski spoke about  matching high expectations along with the importance of building community among students, helping faculty retool teaching to start where students are and emphasizing collaboration among students, and building trust so that students are comfortable asking for help.  The one skill he wants every student going to college with is the ability to ask good questions.

Some other "nuggets" of wisdom I quickly typed during his presentation include:

  • We must empower children to speak for themselves.
  • Excellence is never an accident, it is a result of sincere effort.
  • Choice, not chance determines your destiny.
  • Many students that would be the first generation to pursue college need to see others do it first. We need to share our stories with them of our struggles and how we got to where we are. We need to share stories of others so they can believe it is possible.
  • It is not cheating when people work together (talked about cooperative learning).
  • We want our children to be passionate about learning.
  • Even when a child loses parents, if there is a teacher who cares, that child will rise to the occasion.
  • Some of our students go through hell. Give them structure and let them know you care about them.
Hrabowksi ended with the powerful quote from Mahatma Gahndi:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, 
Your thoughts become your words, 
Your words become your actions, 
Your actions become your habits, 
Your habits become your values, 
Your values become your destiny.”

While our school population isn't as diverse as the schools he spoke of, I couldn't help but listen to him, thinking of many of our students' needs and the backgrounds they come from.  Each of you play such an important role in the lives of our students; many of you providing the only structure, kindness, understanding and expectations that they have each day (several of you also providing clothes and snacks). Then you for all that you do for our students each and every day! 

#ASCD13 Storified Twitter Feed

Whether you were following the #ASCD13 twitterfeed from your couch at home, or there in person and following tweets from other sessions you also wanted to attend, there were many great tweets to learn from. Thankfully, Brad Currie "storified" the tweets each day so I decided to put them here in case I want to find them again.  Over the past few years, I have found myself looking back at older blog posts that I wrote and use them for my learning and reflection so I thought this would be a great place to put the storified tweets from #ASCD13.

Here's the #ASCD13 recap for 3/16/13

Here's the #ASCD13 recap for 3/17/13

Connecting with great educators at #ASCD13

This is the first of several posts I'll be writing to share about my awesome learning at the #ASCD13 conference in Chicago.  Of all the conferences I have ever attended, ASCD was definitely the best for 2 reasons:
1. I met almost all of my favorite "Tweeps" from my Twitter PLN in real life, which allowed me to have awesome conversations all day long.
2. There is such a huge variety of learning sessions to attend (over 400) that include top notch educators from around the country (i.e. Will Richardson, Regie Routman, Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, Eric Sheninger, Jay McTighe, Jane Pollock, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, the list go on...).
In fact my only complaint at #ASCD13 is that there are too many awesome sessions to choose from that I had some really difficult decisions to make each hour of the day!!

I have previously written numerous posts on the power of Twitter, like:
ASCD: Building a Professional Learning Network to Save you from Admin Island
Is Social Media Taking Away from Personalization and Relationships?
Using Twitter for 24/7 Professional Development

I felt sorry for some of the educators I saw at #ASCD13 that attended alone and sat by themselves in sessions and break times. I also drove there alone, however, was surrounded by educators that I connect with everyday on Twitter. I feel so connected to them that it was like connecting with old friends at my high school reunion and then continuing to have great conversations all day long no matter which session I attended.  My day started out by having breakfast with Eric Sheninger in the Press room and the day continued to get better!

I was pleased to hear Twitter recommended as a powerful tool by almost every speaker of the day, as a source for great learning. My favorite tweets on this topic:

So now, I just have to share pictures of meeting my PLN in person. Can you guess the Tweep? (for those of you not on Twitter, Tweep is the term for a connected "friend" on Twitter).

Saturday, March 16, 2013

#ASCD13 Post: Turn the Battleship on a Dime: Keys to Initiating Sustainable Change

One of the great sessions I attended at #ASCD13 was on sustainable change led by the great Eric Sheninger, or else known as @NMHS_Principal. Eric was a phenomenal speaker and I took copious notes in his session (that includes many audience responses) as follows:

Why Change? We need to, because the world has changed, it is fundamentally different, we are in a globally connected world. How can we say we are preparing our kids to be successful to do what they want to do if we don't allow them to use the tools that eveyrone else uses to be successful?

Why doesn't change work?
It is done to people, no buy-in, don't support the rpocess, always changing from one thing to the next, we give up before the learning curve is experienced, overwelmed by number of things to change.

Why has it failed in your school?
It goes against tradition, people are not given a chance to fail or take risks

Why is change so hard? People are so comfortable bc they are not challenged to think differently. Status quo, if it isn't broke why fixt it, this too shall pass.

Why is change so hard?
Fear, void of leadership, no vision, lack of knowledge

Why is change so hard?
Instability, too many initiatives at once, resistance, one size fits all initiatives.

It's difficult to transition a school or district if it doesn't make sense.

It's important to identify the obstacles
1. This is too hard
Change is not easy. Requires work, risk-taking, learnign from mistakes, and committemtn, no fear of failure. "The price of change is measured by our will and courage, our persistence, in the face of difficulty." -Peter Block

2. I don't have time for this
-most common excuse
-in a profession focused on making a difference in the life of a child. "I don't find the time to learn and get better. I make the time to learn and get better."

3. Lack of Collaboration
We already know who on our staff don't want to collaborate. How do we get them to intrinsically want to change, becuase they might be better for kids. We can't go to a one-size fits all approach.

4. Directives and Mandates
"You can't force committemnt, what you can do....You nudge a little here, insprie a little there, and provide a role model. Your primary influence is the environment you create" -Peter Senge

5. Hierarchy in Schools
Result-inflexible, lack of freedom/autonomy to take risks, ideas are squashed

6. No Support
Time, resources, money, pd, etc.

7. Fear of change
How do we as colleagues, administrators help each other overcome fear and get others to want to change?

8. The Resistance (Naysayers and antagonists)

9. Poor professional development

10. Frivolous purchases
It is the beahviors/practices that make the purchases relevant and applicable.

"When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there." Zig Zigler

Change begins with us. "You must be the change you want to see in the world." ~Gandhi

If you are doing something because you got a grant, can it be sustained? If not, then why are you doing it?

Change often fails if there's not shared vision, or communication of the vision.

"Let the teachers decide what they need to get better." @NMHS_Principal

The Sustainable Changes that have been made at Eric's School:
grading (7 criteria to fail kids)
teaching and learning web2.0
independet open courseware study
professional growth period
AP culture
social media

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Getting excited for the ASCD 2013 Conference!!!

Image from ASCD Conference Page

ASCD is one of my go-to sources for ongoing personal PD through the monthly Educational Leadership  and the numerous books published each year.  For years I have wanted to attend the annual ASCD conference and this year I finally get to, because it is going to be in Chicago (just a 2 1/2 hour drive for me).  While this conference has 3 days packed of amazing sessions to be offered, those that cannot attend can follow the twitter hashtag #ASCD13 or even attend virtually.  I will only be able to go on Saturday, but will be following #ASCD13 on the other days.  

If you're planning to attend, make sure to download the app MyASCD2013 for a handy schedule and planning tool. I found it super easy to browse the schedule by time or speaker and simply "star" sessions I was interested in to narrow down my choices (from 400) down to a handful in each time slot. Here's what it looks like so far:
Sorry, but the screenshot doesn't make it legible to read in the image.
The #ASCD13 conversation has already started on Twitter as we narrow down our choices:

To which my response is...

In addition to the great learning at #ASCD13 I am looking forward to meeting some of the folks in my Twitter PLN for the first time or reconnecting again.  These folks include (but are not limited to): @KathyPerret @NMHS_Principal @Joe_Mazza @DrSpikeCook @tomwhitby and my #WIAmigos: @twhitford @leah_whit @ErinKohl @Joesanfelippofc   You'll be able to find me in my #WIAmigos t-shirt

Writer's Block

Here is another cross-post from my staff memo blog that will post tomorrow morning for my "Monday Musings."

Writer's Block

While having a mental block of not feeling like I have anything worthy of sharing with you all in a Monday Musings post (because I've spent my weekend in a book entirely for pleasure, not thinking of anything school-related) it made me think about our students having writers block, not knowing what they should write about. This immediately led my thoughts to modeling writing for our students in an authentic way, which I learned from Regie Routman. (Unfortunately for the students I taught it was after I already moved into the principal role).

When I taught writing, I modeled the writing process for my students; however, I modeled how to write a piece that I had already previously planned out before.  I had completely gone through the writing process on my own, wrote my piece and then recreated the process in front of them so there was no authentic modeling or thinking out loud of writers actually do as they are trying to think of what to write.  How can our students learn to get through a writing struggle if it is never modeled for them?  In the book Writing Essentials, Regie Routman says, "One of the most powerful ways for students to grow as writers is to watch you write--to observe you plan, think, compose, revise, and edit right in front of them, pretty much off the cuff. Very few of us just write down page after flowing page. Students need to see and hear our in-the-head thinking as we change our mind, 'mess up,' make adjustments, do everything 'real writers' do." (page. 45).

So, how can you help model for students that may have writers block? This comes from constantly modeling for them and sharing yourself as a writer with them.  Start with a story...tell students a story that you want to write about.  On page 25, Reige writes to pick a story that:

  • Is easy for students to relate to.

  • Is appropriate to share with students.

  • Is important to me.

  • Lets students know more about me.

  • Allows me to take some risks.

  • Tell students the story you have chosen. Routman writes, "saying the story outloud engages the students, lets me clarify my thinking, and reinforces the importance of conversation before writing."  Then take that story and model writing it in front of your students.  Write the story just as lively as you told it: include the details, descriptive words, or recreate the conversations you told.

    As you model this process for students throughout the year, they will continue to make the connection between reading and writing...writing is a way to tell stories for others to read.  They will learn how to use events from their lives or use what they are reading to inspire them to write.

    Have you written in front of your students before without having planned it? If not...try it. Take the plunge and share your writing struggle with students.

    (Please note-this post took me about 10 minutes...I opened it only having the idea of writing about writers block and helping our students.  I did not take time to thoroughly plan it out, I just wrote as if I was talking about it.  If I were doing in this in the classroom I would then tell students that I will need to go back to revise/edit later, but this was to just get my ideas out).