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Teacher Turns Writer

May 14, 2012

Patricia Reilly Giff always begins her day writing. “It’s like breathing to me,” she says. The author, who has penned more than 60 books including Storyteller, R My Name is Rachel, and the Polk Street School series, didn’t begin writing full-time until later in her life. For two decades, she was busy being a reading teacher.

“I loved teaching. It was my world,” Giff says. But she also had a strong desire to write. So one day she told her husband, “I’ve always wanted to write a book and now I shall.” And just like that, Giff was on her way to fulfilling her dream to write books that say “ordinary people are special.” She admits it wasn’t a smooth beginning. “I’d write 25 words and throw them out. But after a while, it became a little easier.”

Giff says that many of her ideas are inspired from her teaching experience. “I had worked with so many children who had terrible problems and I wanted to make them laugh,” she says. “I want the children to bubble up with laughter or to cry over my books. I want to picture them under a cherry tree or at the library with my book in their hands. But more, I want to see them reading in the classroom. I want to see children in solitude at their desks, reading, absorbing, lost in a book.”

When Giff visits schools and libraries to talk to children, she reveals a surprising secret about writing. “I don’t think it takes talent to write,” she says. “I have no special talent, you know. I never took a writing course before I began to write.” The secret is to “read every day. Write every day…even if it’s only 10 minutes! Don’t stop. That’s what makes a writer.”

Find out more about Patricia Reilly Giff’s writing secrets on The Studio.