Patti Lee Gauch's Concluding Thoughts: Have Your Own Standard of Excellence

During Patti Lee Gauch’s talk at the Highlights Foundation workshop, “Books that Rise Above,” Patti reminds us that we’re educating children’s taste. To be successful, we must first develop our own.
Read the Most Excellent Works
To illustrate her point, Patti scattered on a big, round table some of her favorite books. That is, as many as she could carry from her home, to her car, to the workshop. Mind you, these aren’t brand new books. They are dog-eared and worn from being cherished and loved. She doesn’t bring all of her favorites. That would take up a library. But what she does do is name as many of the books that rise above all others as she could squeeze in during our short time together. The other presenters listed as many of their favorites as they could, too. I jotted down most of the titles and/or authors that they mentioned. The list holds few surprises. The authors who are listed are indeed treasured and some of the best loved. And of course, not every “book that rises above” could be mentioned in the space of one week end. So many of our favorites are left out; perhaps because they are givens, such as Dr. Seuss books or books by Lois Lowry, two of my personal favorites. In the book list that I compiled, I have cross-checked the proper spellings, titles, and author’s names, mostly through; and I included small tidbits of information the presenters mentioned about the books. For a copy of the book list, please leave a comment and I will look up your contact information and send it to you.
Our Taste Makes Us                                                                
Patti explains that taste grows exponentially from everything we touch, see, read and hear. We draw from our taste:

      ©   Scenes that take reader to an emotional place

©      Powerful language
©      Profound snatches of narration
©   Turn of phrase that is critical
©    Slant that is critical
      ©      A climax that catches your breath

What Moves Patti

A peek inside Patti's heart, which she so openly shared with us, reveals a deep-seated love of literature and what it has done for her. Patti's emotions are confirmed by great literature. Who isn't blown away by the splendid characters in Dickens' Great Expectations, who are wrought with feeling.

Patti believes in the discovery of wisdom in a book. In learning something new. Why write if our work doesn’t contain wisdom? Killer Angels by Ken Sherer is a good book to read with problem kids. Splendid characterization. Action goes right to a battle in the beginning. A book with this kind of power can make kids readers. A book that has a great deal of meaning for her, Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War, was the first book from the list that I read when I got home from the workshop. Patti summarized that Chocolate War is about a school with a wicked undercurrent; the power of the book is that it unleashes shock. Reader is left with Jerry's sick feeling that he knew what he had become. That he allowed Archie to influence him enough to lower his standards. Another life-changer is Ursala Gwinan's The Wizard of Earthsea. It helped give Patti permission to see her shadow. A book must go far enough; the example Patti gives is The Nigger of the 'Narcissus': A Tale of the Sea (1897) by Joseph Conrad. Author must go to the well and write from the inside out, not the outside in. Author must be all you are. Author must be transcendent.

Patti's final thoughts to take to heart: Dare to disturb the universe. Don't be a writer who leaves the genuine idea behind.

For past posts in this series, please visit:

Part One: Two Ways to Hook and Keep Your Reader
Part Two: Nouns Need to be Concrete and Appear More than Once
Part Three: Tent Pole Structure
Part Four: Leonard Marcus: Maurice Sendak, Storyteller and Artist
Part Five: Leonard Marcus: Let the Wild Rumpus Start
Part Six: Behind the Scenes with Deborah Heiligman
Part Seven: Deborah Heiligman's Casual Scream
Part Eight: On the Same Page with Betsy Bird

Thanks for reading this series.

Next month: Cluttered Desk Leads Writer Astray

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Publishing credits include seven biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; Pockets; Hopscotch; and true stories told to her by police officers about children in distress receiving teddy bears, which she fictionalized for her column, "Teddy Bear Corner," for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Newsletter, Dayton, Ohio. Follow Linda on Facebook. 

Labels: Highlights Foundation, children's writing workshop


Kathleen Moulton said...

Linda, I liked Patti's quote: " Dare to disturb the universe. Don't be a writer who leaves the genuine idea behind."

So much in those few words!

Thanks for your article.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

I really need the time to go back over all the posts in this inspirational series. I would love a copy of the book list, please, Linda, and have already noted a couple of suggestions from this post that I had not known about. Many thanks,

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great post. I would love the book list. Thanks!

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, I agree, great post. I too would love the book list. This was a information packed series. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

Linda Wilson said...

Terrific! Thanks for your encouragement about the series. This is my first experience with blogging. I was glad I could share my workshop notes while I made a start. I want to thank you, Karen, for all your help and encouragement. I learned the ropes from you, and love your (our) blog. I will send the book list ASAP. Just got home from an extended trip and as soon as I can I will send it. I do hope the sage advice I learned and passed on will help you.

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, it's my pleasure. And, thank you for all the information you bring to WOTM and its readers.

Linda Wilson said...

Hi Annie, I wasn't able to find your email address. I just sent the book list as an attachment to Karen and Mary Jo. If you wouldn't mind emailing Karen about it, I'll ask her to send it to you. Thanks!

Kristi Holl said...

Loved the article! Thank you. And I'd love to have the reading list as well.

Irene Roth said...

Hi Linda,

I loved your article. And I would love to have the reading list. What a great resource it will be.

Thank you for a GREAT article!
Irene Roth

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