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Monday’s Interview with Linda Bryan Sabin

Technical difficulties this morning, readers. Thank you for your patience.

We’ve come back to Monday, readers, and today begins a new week of interviews for your viewing. Our exciting guest for today is none other than Linda Bryan Sabin: writer, speaker, educator, inspiration. Please join me in welcoming her to the visitor’s chair.                                                                              
 Claudsy: It’s so good to have you here considering your schedule. You have such a unique resume, Linda. Could you give us a quick rundown of what you do?

Linda: I’ve been an independent consultant to education and a trainer for corporate leadership for most of my career. I started my career as an elementary teacher but moved on to the corporate training arena in the 1980’s.

I’ve always been a teacher and a writer, …I’m at my best when I’m teaching…either adults or children. When my contract ended last Spring, I decided I would take the summer off and publish one of my children’s stories. It has been an exciting few months, and because I am doing what I love, it’s been really enjoyable.
 
Claudsy: You’ve read hundreds of books as a teacher. What do you think is lacking in many of today’s popular books, or is there anything lacking? What would you add to/subtract from recent children’s books?

Linda: Since I write simple picture books, I will address this question in that category. What I believe is missing, is vibrant language, stories that give readers a new perspective on the ordinary, and exceptional rhyme. There are few authors who really “do rhyme well.” Of course the all time best was Dr. Seuss. I also love the work of Mary Ann Hoberman, current Children’s Poet Laureate.

…all of my books address this. While there is a place for age appropriate language, I do not dumb down books for children. I use fun, imaginative, multi-syllable words carefully chosen to expand a child’s love of words and reading. My rhyme is alliterative and expressive and all of my stories have a “read out loud” quality.

What I add in Peeking Kitty books are two special sections for parents. Let’s Talk About the Book page… created to help parents initiate real conversations with their children…provides simple questions for parents to ask their child. This encourages discovery, learning and better one-to-one connections. The Words I Heard – A list of vocabulary words and definitions.
 
Claudsy: As a consultant to educators, what do you feel is the greatest asset to teaching effectively today?

Linda: I believe that if schools could really harness the power of the internet and associated technology for use in the classroom we could transform education. The difficulty is of course the lack of funds, especially in low income districts. CISCO systems 21st Century schools initiative is doing an amazing job of changing pedagogy in public education and we need more of it.

But, I think it is essential that along with use of technology we focus on teaching children how to think. We risk the perpetuation of data in data out…without any assimilation of that information into knowledge. Students need to know what they know, and process it in the context of something real in order for real learning to happen.

Good teachers know how to spark inquiry and tap imagination… know how to facilitate learning so that the “ah ha” moments come from the students. Unfortunately, with the constraints of standardized tests and proscriptive curriculum imbedded in public schools today, real learning is rare.
 
Claudsy: I’ve heard more than one teacher express that opinion. What types of groups call you in as a presenter and how do you prepare for such talks?

Linda: As you know, I am a new author, so I am just beginning to get bookings. Pre schools, elementary school library programs and some independent book stores are the most recent. To prepare… I ask the typical questions any…who is my audience, how many will I speak two, what is the time frame, environment and other logistics. I also try to add one element to my presentation that is special to the organization.

Claudsy: Could you give us a short explanation as to what you do as corporate trainer and why companies feel they need your services?

Linda: I primarily provide leadership and team building sessions. Of course, with the present economy, few companies are paying for in-house training… (and) are choosing to deliver employee training via webinars,.. there are fewer opportunities for personal, classroom instruction… I (also) offer my services as a moderator and meeting facilitator, mostly to non-profit organizations. Again, the work in this area is not as abundant as in the past.
 
Claudsy: Since education is one of your primary arenas of work, if you could change any one facet of the American educational structure, what would it be and why?

Linda: There is so much that needs to change and I have to admit…the process is so slow. The bureaucracy of the system is the main problem, so if I could do anything I would change that first.

Being an advocate for school reform for many years, I believe the best teaching occurs in schools where teachers and administrators have full autonomy and control. If I could change anything, I would eliminate the nightmarish bureaucracy of school districts and run all public schools using the charter school model, where each school maintains it’s own budget.

Secondly and as important, I would reassess the standardized testing model currently in use throughout the country. While I believe standards are essential for accountability and equal opportunity, I think we find teachers constrained by the standards and tests and so, find that teachers are teaching to the test which means students do not really learn in a lasting way.

Claudsy: Do you enjoy writing as much now as you did when you started? Why?

Linda: I love writing and I don’t really work at the writing aspect that much. My ideas just come and off I go. The hard part is in the fine tuning, publishing and the most challenging of all promotion and sales. I think I enjoy it as much as I always have, because when I am working on a book, I am working from a place of heart…from my passion and there is nothing better than doing what you love.

Claudsy: You have a new book, “The Sound Snatcher”. I love that title, by the way. Why did you write it?

Linda: …I just get an inspiration and the story writes itself. For The Sound Snatcher, the inspiration came out of a course at the University of Utah on writing for children. In the first session, we all selected a single word out of a “hat” and were given 15 minutes to come up with a story idea based on that word. My word was SOUND.

I went out into the hall. It was a night class so it was dark and quiet. I could hear the clock ticking and the rain falling outside. Then the janitor came round the corner with a huge and noisy vacuum and all other sound vanished…I wrote the entire story in those 15 minutes.

I decided it was “reader worthy,” because I think many children are afraid of the vacuum and other things that make loud noises. As in all my stories, it is about a change of perception…it is not a story about a vacuum cleaner gobbling up things….but instead gobbling up sound… a fun twist.
 
Claudsy: Wow! Good idea, too. If I’m not mistaken, you do personal book tours. What’s the longest trip you’ve had to make for one and how did it pay off for you as a writer?

Linda: Well yes, I do tours but as a new author and my own publicist (independent publisher). It’s difficult to find opportunities to tour. The first month the book was out, I spent two weeks in Salt Lake City Utah , where I grew up, as I had some connections there. I set up readings at preschools, retirement communities and a few independent bookstores.

I’m still awaiting the “pay off”. In the beginning it is all about getting out there and getting noticed. Truthfully, this is much more difficult and challenging than I had anticipated. Although authors who have book contracts with traditional publishers and agents tell me they are responsible for most of their promotional activities too. All I can say is that it pays to be an optimist and have a firm conviction to believe in yourself and your dream.
 
Claudsy: But, how do you manage to juggle so many responsibilities (i.e. family, personal appearances, teaching, writing, business, etc.)?

Linda: Well, since I don’t have children that helps with the balance. I also have a very supportive husband who encourages me to do whatever I need and want to do. I have to say (it’s) essential for me to stay balanced spiritually. I begin each day with meditation and prayer to get in the mindset of going with the flow. When I have a consulting contract, I work on books evenings and weekends.

I am a super type A person and the busier I am, the more I can do and the better I do it. My biggest problem comes when I don’t stay balanced and focused. Then I become apathetic or complacent. I have learned from experience, to avoid getting to that place, as “digging” out is a huge waste of time and energy.

Now in my fifties I believe even more firmly that life is short and we have to live in the moment, one day at a time with as much intensity, passion and focus as we can muster. Currently, without any income from consulting, my biggest challenge is to stay motivated to self promote and look for opportunities.

Claudsy: Thank you so much for your candid talk with us today, Linda. I must admit that I have difficulty envisioning you as having motivation trouble at any time. You’ve given us all hope to meet that challenge. You’re a marvelous guest. 
 
Short Personal Biography:

Linda Bryan Sabin, born teacher and writer, is a high energy personality. with a passion for words and the spoken language. She began her career as an elementary school teacher but moved onto the corporate arena in the 1980’s. Linda worked in Silicon Valley as an instructor, course developer, technical writer and project manager. She returned to education in the late 1980’s as a corporate liaison for high school career academy programs and has worked as an independent consultant for school reform and professional development and corporate training for the last 20 years. She lives in California with her and two pet children (one dog, one cat).
 
You can find more on Linda at her website: http://peekingkitty.com/

Tomorrow I will extend this interview with a discussion of Linda’s personal mission and how she, as a writer and educator, works to accomplish that goal. There is much to be learned by all regarding how to take on such a topic and where to take it. I hope everyone will join me then. On Wednesday, I’ll be sitting down with Peg Finley, children’s writer. Take care all.

A bientot,

Claudsy

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  1. January 26, 2010 at 11:33 am

    just a note to say thank you and to check on comments.Linda

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