March 15 – Fan Letter to Judith Viorst

I have another blog that I started back in 2011 –   where I post my thoughts about reading and writing.

Looking back through it, I have celebrated the many times I have heard authors speak. Living just outside Washington, D.C., I attend the Annual National Book Festival and I wrote about it here and here and here.

AND I celebrated new books by my favorite authors like here with Eric Carle and here with Sarah Weeks and here with Kathryn Erskine and here with Ralph Fletcher and here with Ralph and The One and Only Ivan and here with Candice Fleming.

AND I honored favorite authors who die like here – Maurice Sendak and here – E.L. Konigsburg.

To me, authors are like rock stars! I am amazed by their writing talent. They can place words in such order to transport me to other places, times, perspectives and they keep me thinking, questioning, pondering, and trying to live better. Writers change my world and as a writing teacher, I constantly am sharing authors’ writing as mentor text for my students. Today I wrote this letter as a fan letter to one of my favorite children’s writers and poets – Judith Viorst.

Dear Mrs. Viorst,
I am a new teacher at Janney ES but not new to teaching as I started teaching Kindergarten in 1986. Your first Alexander book came out 7 years before and it was one of the first books I bought for my classroom library. I’d read it aloud to my students, we’d all laugh, and then all easily wrote about their worst or best day, inspired by your writing. As a new teacher, I appreciated having you in my classroom through your books.

Seven years later, I took my daughters, age 6 and 3 to a free lecture at the Library of Congress while on my spring break in April. You were one of the speakers, as was Niki Grimes and student writers from DCPS. That day, as my littlest sat on my lap and her sister next to us in the beautiful Library of Congress building, we realize you as a poet. Our favorite poem you shared that day was Sad Underwear! A parent of one of my students worked at C-SPAN at the time and got me the VCR tape of the event. For the following 7 years, I showed you to my students each April as we celebrated National Poetry Month and you, again, inspired my students to write stunning poetry.

I began teaching 5th grade writing at Janney ES the week before the 2014 National Book Festival. I told my new students that I was attending this event and if they were free on Saturday, they should too. “So many great authors and poets will be there. I planned to go hear Judith Viorst.” When I said this, a child said, “That’s Isaac’s grandma.” “Really?” I replied. “Yes, and she’s my grandma’s friend,” Avey said. “Really?” I guess I knew you lived in Washington, D.C. and that your grandkids go to a school. I just never thought about where. As your fan, I love that I am teaching at the school where some of your grandkids attend school!

Last week, the 4th and 5th grade students at Janney participated in state testing and as teachers, we did not moderate our homeroom students but instead, switched. This switch gave me the the pleasure of meeting Isaac and being his 4th grade teacher last Wed – Fri and again this Monday and Tuesday. Last Firday was Idol Spirit Day at Janney. The kids came dressed as someone they look up to or idolize. During our Morning Meeting, Isaac mentioned his idol is a guitarist, a few kids dressed as their moms and dads, a few as sports fan for both soccer and baseball and I wore my t-shirt from Columbia’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. I told the class I go there each summer to learn how to teach writing better. Later, after testing for the day ended and I was helping Isaac with a math problem, I told him, “You know, I could have dressed up as your grandma today. I do look up to her as she helps me to write poetry.” Hearing this, a big smile came across his face.

As I end my fan letter to you, I’d like to invite you to come to Janney ES to speak to the 4th and 5th grade writers. ANYTIME! I am not sure if your schedule allows for you to do school visits. However,  I know the time would be worthwhile to the students at Janney, just as sharing your books and poems have been for me these past twenty-some years as a teacher. Feel free to email me at or send a note back via Isaac.

Thank you for considering this invitation and thank you for mentoring me through your writing to be a better teacher.
Your fan,

Sally Donnelly
5th Grade Writing Teacher
Janney ES

I hope she is able to visit my school and speak to my students. But either way, I’m glad I took the time to write her a fan letter. Writers really are rock stars!!

7 thoughts on “March 15 – Fan Letter to Judith Viorst

  1. BethMooreTCRWP says:

    What a wonderful idea! I love how you recount memories of her — what a neat experience it will be for her to read this. I know I would love it if somebody wrote a letter like this to me!


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