This winter I had the wonderful opportunity to visit many schools in the Pacific Northwest. There is nothing better for an author than to meet the readers of her books. These students were so engage and thoughtful and really care about our world today. They sang My Country Tis of Thee verse, pretended to turn into a wild animal in Alaska, and debated about a woman’s right to vote. We also talked about life in the Northland during the gold rush, how the children went to a one-room schoolhouse and panned for gold during recess. I loved very minute of it. That’s me wearing my old time suffrage/gold rush hat.
If you are a teacher, and you’re using my books in the classroom, I invite you to download lesson guides and other materials in the Resources section of my website.
Group photo from a past workshop at Hamline University.
I enjoy presenting to students, teachers, librarians, parents, and writers of any age and look forward to the possibility of visiting your school, library, or conference sometime soon. Since my books cover a wide range of reading levels, I can tailor my presentations to the interests of students, grades K-12. I also enjoy giving workshops for teachers, librarians, parents, and college students. Additional school visit information packet is available upon request.
“Collaboration with writers of any age can be very powerful. What we professional writers do is what student writers can do, too – discover our voices, write about what we care about, share our writing, and work on revision.”
Over the summer, I took my latest book on tour to schools and libraries and the feedback from teachers and parents has been overwhelmingly positive. My Country Tis of Thee: How One Song Tells the Story of Civil Rights in America brings together music, history and writing for a cross-disciplinary lesson in civil rights.
“This examination of a well-known piece of music and the activism it inspired makes for a fascinating way to explore history.” – Kirkus Reviews
“An intriguing new take on a beloved patriotic song.” – Booklist
“Murphy revisits pivotal moments – social, political, martial, in which the familiar song was co-opted and re-lyricized as a partisan theme song . . . Will indeed be helpful in connecting readers to songs and recordings.” – BCCB
“So expertly woven together it’ll make your eyes spin, Murphy brings us a meticulously researched, brilliant work of nonfiction elegance. Want to know how to write a picture book work of factual fascinating information for kids? Behold the blueprint right before your eyes.” – Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal
More reviews for My Country Tis Thee can also be found at Rhapsody in Books Weblog, Granite Media and Fourth Musketeer Blog.
Find out how to order the book, and check out the wonderful submissions to My Country Tis of Thee at ClaireRudolfMurphy.com.
I received an exciting new submission from Project PUT: Pick Up Trash, a blog started by Eloise and her mom Emily. They saw their community in Vermont covered with litter and decided to take action by picking up trash together. Together they wrote new lyrics and created a theme song for Project PUT. Eloise and Project PUT received a poster in the mail for this winning submission:
THE PROJECT PUT (Pick Up Trash) THEME SONG:
THIS LAND FOR YOU AND ME
Sing to the Tune of AMERICA: MY COUNTRY ‘TIS OF THEE
Words by Eloise and her mom Emily
This land for you and me
Protect its beauty
With Project PUT.
Pick Up Trash you see
It’s simple as can be
Let’s make nature garbage free
And improve the world.
Read more about this submission and their project over at ProjectPUT.wordpress.com.
A new lyrics contest will take place from September 1st to October 30th, 2014 with winners announced November 1st. Classrooms and choirs are invited to write new lyrics to the tune of My Country ‘Tis of Thee. See the contest guidelines page for more details.
My latest book My Country Tis of Thee: How One Song Tells the Story of Civil Rights, illustrated by Bryan Collier, was released June 3rd, and we held a launch party at Aunties’ Bookstore in Spokane to celebrate.
I read the text accompanied by recordings of the historic new verses by the Eastern Washington University Mixed Choir and the Spokane Area Youth Choirs directed by Kristina Ploeger. Afterwards the crowd sang new lyrics submitted by local students.
One 6th grade student from Madison Elementary, along with her teacher Patty Driscoll and music teacher Dori Nielson, joined me up front when we introduced two new verses her class wrote:
My country ‘tis of thee
Let us be bully-free
No teasing found.
We are not all the same
Stop causing all their pain
Differences are not to blame
Freedom all around.
My country ‘tis of thee
So sad the poverty
God keep them in your sight
Help us relieve their plight
Shelter them for the night.
New hope is found.
We also sang new lyrics written by other elementary students in Spokane. You can read those lyrics on the student submissions’ page and notice that some common themes appear. Today’s students are interested in fighting poverty and protecting the environment, as well as raising awareness about the problem of bullying in schools.
I would love to see new lyrics submitted by students, classrooms, and by you!
Submit a new verse to the My Country ‘Tis of Thee Music Project by using the submissions page. The fall contest will run September 1st – October 30th with books and posters of Aretha Franklin awarded to the best submitted verses.
Thanks to all who attended and sang along. The launch party was a smashing success. Check out the article on the book featured in the Spokesman-Review.
My friend Kelly Milner Halls recently participated in the Writing Process Blog Tour and asked children’s poet laureate Kenn Nesbitt and me to join her on the tour, answering a few questions about our writing process. I invited faculty writer Swati Avashti and alum Tamera Will Wissinger, members of the Hamline University MFAC community, to follow me on this blog tour. Next week you can read about what they are working on and how and why they write what they do.
Blog Tour Links:
Kelly Milner Halls’ writing process
Ken Nesbitt’s writing process
What am I currently working on? I usually have several projects going on, at different stages in the development or revision process. Like the chart that I have shown to students for years during school visits, I write like they do – from prewriting/research through drafting, revising (over and over,) until I have a manuscript ready for publication. Right now I have completed a revision of an historical picture book for older readers set in the transformative year of 1968 and am working on a science book about inventions inspired by nature.
How does my work differ from others in my genre? I believe it’s the depth of my research. I am so passionate to learn everything I can about a person or subject that it can take me a long time to find the best narrative structure for the material. I am also driven to look at the bigger picture, the arc of history as I did in my new book My Country ‘Tis of Thee: How One Song Tells the Story of Civil Rights. The song helped me tell the larger civil rights story by anchoring it with different protest verses to the iconic song.
Why do I write what I write? For many years, I have been passionate about history and the stories of outsiders, Americans who have fought long and hard to ensure equal rights for all in our country. That and a focus on the environment are the engines that drive my work. Every day I get to learn something amazing about history or the world we live in. How lucky am I.
I follow the same process featured on this writing chart used in classrooms. I move from prewriting/research through first draft to many, many revisions until I get a version that is strong enough for an editor to want to publish. I start with an idea and begin the research process with background reading on the topic. Then I begin finding a story behind the facts, new insights or a new structure that can reach out to young readers. This often takes me a long time, perhaps even several years to find the best form for the material. One of my manuscripts currently being reviewed by editors: “This Scarf Has Wings,” started off using a traveling scarf, then letters written by girl narrators from around the world. Now it is a shorter poetic story of girls and scarves around the world that leaves room for illustrations to also tell the story. Teaching in the Hamline MFAC program has given me a greater appreciation for the amazing NF books out there today that use such innovative ways to tell true stories. I am honored to be part of that community of writers.