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Students Attend Plum Creek Literacy Festival

Essex students in Ms. Martha Sunderman’s 7th Grade ELA class attended the Plum Creek Children’s
Literacy Festival at Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska this fall. Students were able to attend
presentations by three of the nineteen authors and illustrators present at the festival. The three chosen
authors were Jerry Pallotta, Roland Smith, and Jennifer Nielsen.

Pallotta’s advice to young writers was to be aware that subject matter is all around them. “I had a dory
when I was younger, so I wrote a story about a dory,” said Pallotta. Pallotta grew up in the Northeast
United States and shared many examples of everyday happenings throughout his life that inspired his

Roland Smith made students repeat the words, “Writing is revision.” He related the fact that his book,
The Captain’s Dog, was actually the 15th draft of the original story, along with several other insights into
the behind the scenes work that goes into writing books. Smith, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, also
shared several stories from his world travels that inspired the adventure novels he writes.

Jennifer Nielsen impressed upon attendees that there are six characteristics of creative people. “The
difference between someone with a great idea and someone with a great product is follow through,”
said Nielsen. Nielsen framed her observations regarding creative people around interesting things that
she learned while researching some of her novels. When the 7th graders returned to Essex they did a
short unit on the Berlin Wall because they were interested to learn more about it after Nielsen
introduced them to the topic.

Ms. Sunderman reflected, “This festival was a wonderful opportunity for our students to meet famous
authors and learn more about the writing process. I’m so grateful that we were able to attend!” Ms.
Sunderman is a graduate of Concordia University and has fond memories of attending the festival while
in college. She is very grateful that her students were able to attend this year. Almost all of the
students agreed that the trip was a lot of fun, they learned a lot, and they would enjoy attending the
festival again in the future!