Friday, November 9, 2012

Please Welcome Spunky Senior Author and Teacher of Teachers, Peggy Williams

Peggy Williams is co-author of the mystery On the Road to Death's Door, writing with Mary Joy Johnson.  She also freelances writing corporate and educational videos, screenplays, magazine feature articles, and her own blogs: Musings of a MadCityWriter and Reflections of a MadCityScribbler.  In her day job, she is a public school teacher in Madison, Wisconsin where she and her husband Mark raised their two children.  She is an ecstatic brand new, first time grandma!  Raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, she considers herself a Yooper by birth, but a Cheesehead by choice.

I started writing when I was in junior high, when a group of my friends and I gathered together to write the next great Beatles movie after A Hard Day's Night and Help came out.  We sat around evenings and weekends brainstorming, writing, and reading what we had just written--and laughing!  There was tons of laughter. Writing was fun.  And it never occurred to me that it might be hard. 
I know differently now. While writing has never been particularly difficult for me, it certainly is work. And it's not always fun.  But perhaps because of that first, early collaborative experience, writing is a part of who I am.
Teaching children to write is also a part of who I am. When I do my job well, my young students invariably think of writing as no more difficult than reading or talking--and they see it as fun and rewarding.  As a kindergarten and then first grade teacher, I have always believed that young children can learn to write even before they learn to read. Sometimes a story is represented in drawings and simple words or even just letters. And sometimes a story that just has to be told can be dictated to a supportive adult. But the process starts early in life.
In my first grade classroom, my favorite time was when a group of children gathered at a side table to plan their chapter books about space exploration or lost wolves or the adventures of the myriad princesses and witches that inhabited their stories.  Understand that a "chapter" might be only a page or two long, but these young students understood that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end and they loved creating their own storybook characters.
Every year, as a class project we would write individual letters to the President of the United States.  Imagine the message these young children got about the power of the written word when that envelope with the seal of the presidency and the return address of the White House came in the school mail bearing a signed photo and a letter of greeting from whomever was in office at the time.
And one time, after a student inadvertently bumped and broke our classroom globe, a letter to the principal from the class explaining what had happened and asking for a new one garnered us a brand new globe with up-to-date country designations. The power of persuasive writing!
Our school is located not far from a nature conservancy, so that we often have visitors on the playground of a rather wild nature. Every year it seems, my first graders would spontaneously take it upon themselves to create posters warning others in the building to "Bewar the wld trkys!" 
And it is amazing to see what six and seven-year olds can produce when encouraged and supported to write free form poetry.  They speak from the heart on a wide range of topics. And interestingly, the opportunity to let go of the conventions of punctuation and paragraphing often allows even those who struggle with other academic challenges to feel successful in voicing their thoughts and feelings through poetry. 
My greatest delight was that the children groaned when writing workshop came to an end each day, and that they often chose to write during their free time.  Social writing sets the environment for this kind of enthusiasm.  Skill is not so important; though I certainly worked to help the children grow in their skills. But publishing is probably the clincher, just as it is with adults.
I found that turning "Show & Tell" into "Read & Share" gave the children a forum for reading aloud their work to an appreciative audience.  Typing their stories, letting them illustrate them, and then stapling or binding them and putting them into our classroom library gave them a sense of accomplishment, just as publishing my book gave me a thrill.  And of course, posting their short work out in the hall shouted to the rest of the school that we were a classroom of writers.
I'm not in the classroom anymore. I provide support to teachers now and focus on larger curriculum issues and teacher training in my building.  But every once in a while I have the opportunity to provide "intervention" in writing to a struggling student or to model a lesson for a younger teacher in a classroom.  That's how I get my kid fix. And that's how I remember that being a writer doesn't have to wait until you are all grown up. 

PEGGY'S BOOK: On The Road to Death's Door
Emily and Stan Remington’s maiden voyage in their newly inherited, second-hand RV goes awry when a body falls off the top of their vehicle. The retired small town police officer and her husband, a retired history professor, find themselves at the center of a murder investigation involving a politician, a corporate executive, and a hippie priest. Emily butts heads with the local sheriff as their search takes them from a backwoods cabin in Wisconsin’s scenic Door County to the Bishop’s Chancery in Madison to an abandoned island in the infamous Death’s Door Straits.  
Left to right, Peggy Williams & Mary Joy Johnson
On the Road to Death's Door is the first in the series by Peggy Williams and Mary Joy Johnson. On the Road to Where the Bells Toll, which takes place in Boston, will be available soon.

On the Road to Death's Door may be purchased through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Musings of a MadCityWriter
Reflections of a MadCityScribbler

Please leave a comment to welcome Peggy Williams to Spunky Senior Authors and Talents.


  1. Welcome to Spunky Senior Authors and Talents, Peggy! You are one busy senior!

    Morgan Mandel

  2. The book sounds great, but I'm still laughing about the "Bewar the wld trkys!" If there's a teacher alive who doesn't have a book's worth of stories to tell, I haven't met him or her yet! As a 7-times Nana, thank you for being one of them.

  3. Thank you, Morgan, for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself to the Spunky Seniors community. I am in the middle of making the tough decision as to whether to retire this year or next. It's the kids that keep me going, but I sure would love more time to write. I'm enjoying reading about all the other Spunky souls!


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