Guest Post: Patricia Reilly Giff on Zigzag Kids

By Patricia Reilly Giff

I love to hear my daughter Laura laugh. We’re at Mario’s Restaurant on a Friday night, all of us, and she’s talking about teaching at the school’s afternoon center.

I’m smiling, more because of the sound of her laughter than what she says.

My grandson Jimmy also works at the center, and the two of them tell one story after another. There’s the ballroom dancing contest with a boy wearing a tie over his tee shirt. There’s a choir, a bus for swimming, string cheese snacks, and—

I sit up straight, dinner forgotten. There’s that sudden recognition: this belongs to me.

I reach for my napkin, for Laura’s, for my husband Jim’s. I scrawl words that I may not even be able to read later. But it doesn’t make any difference.

George Nicholson, my agent, suggests, “Call it the Zigzag Afternoon Center.”

I stop in at Laura’s school to see where it all happens. Nothing’s changed since my teaching days. Not the look of the school, not the kids, not even the smell of leftover lunch.

And so I begin. No plot, no plan. Just a few words: Mitchell McCabe looked up at the classroom clock. Were the hands moving? Maybe not. School would never be over.

It’s almost a return to my Polk Street School series (Random House). The difference is that Polk Street centered on the school day; Zigzag takes place after school where so much is going on at once.

The vocabulary is easy; the sentences are short. Writing for this age is like wrapping myself in my warm robe on a winter day.

It’s different from writing one of my novels where the character development and plot are more involved, more intricate. Here, I just have to meet my characters, Mitchell and Destiny, Yolanda, Charlie, and the others.

They’re transparent. I just have to follow them along wherever they go. It’s almost as if they’re telling me, “Hey, over here. Take a look at what we’re doing.”

Really, I could write about the Zigzag Afternoon Center forever.

ZigZag Kids Blog Tour

Aug. 10 Cynsations

Aug. 11 Random Acts of Reading

Aug. 12 Where the Best Books Are!

Aug. 13 Shelf Elf

Aug. 14 Mundie Moms

Aug. 15 The Children’s Book Review

Aug. 16 Chicken Spaghetti

Aug. 17 Patricia Reilly Giff

(two additional dates outside of the tour):

Aug. 25

Sept. 7

Cynsational Notes

Patricia Reilly Giff is the author of the Polk Street School books and the Polka Dot Private Eye books, and a two-time recipient of the Newbery Honor for Lily’s Crossing (Delacorte, 1997) and Pictures of Hollis Woods (Wendy Lamb, 2002).