Pay No Attention to the Teenagers behind the Curtain


Huge thanks to Mrs. Markham and her students at Accelerated Learning Center for reading my novel, All Different Kinds of Free.

Teenagers have always been a mystery to me (even when I was a teenager and especially when I was a parent of teenagers). So when a local high school English teacher contacted me to say she was teaching my historical novel in her class and would love to have me speak to her students, I was both massively thrilled and a tiny bit terrified. The visit was last week, and I’m happy to report I had nothing to fear.

The students and faculty at Accelerated Learning Center in Phoenix are amazing. Mrs. Markham created a unique lesson plan and assignments to go along with the group reading of All Different Kinds of Free. As just one example, she had students write a personal essay from the point of view of one of the characters in the book. The papers were posted on the wall, and it was interesting for me to see whose minds the students chose to explore. Some chose main characters (Margaret, Jim, Edward Prigg), while others chose secondary characters (such as Mill Green Justice of the Peace Thomas Henderson). The perspectives portrayed in the papers were insightful and creative (and sometimes hilarious, as Justice Henderson declared in one, “The nerve of some people. God, I need a drink.” I loved it.).

I’m relieved to say no one nodded off while I shared my writing background and inspiration for the novel. The students were attentive and engaged, and they asked a lot of unique questions about writing, researching, publishing and freelancing. The hour we spent together flew by too quickly. While teenagers will probably always be a mystery to me, they are no longer so intimidating thanks to the remarkable students at ALC.  I can’t wait to go back next year, if they’ll have me again.

3 thoughts on “Pay No Attention to the Teenagers behind the Curtain

  1. I loved the discussions about literature with my high school students. Some of the rest–the bureaucracy and discipline stuff not so much–but there’s few things as fun as getting teenagers thinking and engaged and watching as the fire lights. Your book is a perfect novel for a classroom. How clever of this teacher to select it and bravo that her school made that work.

  2. Jessica

    Thanks so much, Judith! It’s a charter school, so the teachers have a lot of flexibility and freedom to adapt the curriculum to fit their students’ needs. It’s a great school.

  3. Corrine Markham

    We can’t thank you enough, Mrs. McCann, for coming to our class. We loved All Different Kinds of Free so much, and learned so much from it! I know you said not to expect it, but we are still crossing our fingers for a sequel!

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