I placed a letter in the mail today. A letter for a very special man--the real life Mr. Cross and the inspiration for Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken. I've included the letter below but removed certain names for privacy sake. It felt right to me that my reading audience know just what this book, and more important, this teacher means to me.
August 16, 2009
Dear Mr. *******,
It’s been almost two decades since you’ve seen my face, but I hope you remember me. I was a member of your 6th grade class during the 1991-1992 school year at ********* Elementary School. Maybe you recall “movie snacks”, your flying glasses, or Ted’s dead pets (and two shirts)? This letter has many purposes, but the main one is to communicate how you influenced my life seventeen years ago.
I’ve always enjoyed school but never to the level I did during my year in your classroom. Believe me, it wasn’t just the reptiles. Your passion for reading, your wealth of knowledge, and the range of experiences you offered us changed my perception of learning forever. You unknowingly modeled the teacher I would later strive to become.
I now teach fifth-grade in Central Bucks School District in Doylestown, PA. I also hold a Masters degree in Leadership and Liberal Studies from Duquesne University. To this day, my class’ first read aloud book is Interstellar Pig by William Sleator and I, like you did, strive to offer unique experiences for my students that change their perception of learning forever.
On top of my teaching career, I’ve become a published author with the release of my first novel, O.Y.L., in the fall of 2008. Which brings me to my reason for writing. I attended a writing workshop as a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group in the winter of 2008. The presenter, Ann Russek, titled the workshop “Tator Tots and Technique.” She explored the many ways writers can bring their childhood school experiences to life. A seed for a story arose after multiple writing exercises. That seed, now titled Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken, will become a published reality in the summer of 2010 through P.M. Moon Publishers.
The story is about you. In fact, it’s about all the characters in our room that year, including our scaly friends. Fiction weaves the story, but the real experience you provided is responsible for the manuscript construction. It’s my dedication to a phenomenal teacher.
I could say so much more, but I’ll keep this letter brief. My hope is that you will permit me to dedicate the book to you and perhaps accept an invitation to Pennsylvania for the book release party when the time comes (FYI…I’m thinking of holding it at the Reptile House of the Philadelphia Zoo J). In the meantime, please feel free to contact me and be on the lookout for www.micedonttastelikechicken.com.