From as early as nursery school, Pamela Ehrenberg has shown a writer’s penchant for observing and taking in the world. She grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, graduating from Pikesville High School and moving on to get her BA in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn she met many great writers and friends, many of whom now provide her with wonderful feedback on the drafts of her novels. After undergraduate school, she obtained a Master’s degree in Education from George Washington University. Her coursework there, including adolescent psychology and strategies for teaching reading and writing, has helped make her author visits all the more engaging for kids.
Growing up as an only child, Pamela often imagined having a brother and this inspired her first novel, Cheeseburgers and Other Hazards of Sixth Grade. Pamela taught with Americorps in the Appalachians of western Maryland, which gave her a chance to experience a different culture. The assumptions people made about her for being with Americorps –namely, that she was rural and impoverished– gave her an experience with culture clash and dealing with stereotypes, and doubtless inspired her book Ethan, Suspended. In it, Ethan Oppenheimer is suspended from his hometown school, sent to live with his grandparents and put in a new school where he is the only white kid around. She takes on difficult, real-life issues wonderfully in the novel.
Pamela now lives in Washington, D.C. with her two young children. Her parents live nearby in Baltimore, and their frequent visits to help care for the kids allow Pamela some free time for writing. In her school visits Pamela shares her passion for and experience with the process of writing, as well as the best ways of dealing with new experiences- growing up, finding new things and meeting new people, and facing challenges.
It is so unfair to get suspended for something you did not even really do–not exactly–and the ones who really did it never even get caught! But Ethan soon learns that standing by and letting something bad happen is perhaps as bad as doing it yourself. In the meantime, however, he has been sent into exile–that is, to live with his Jewish grandparents in inner city Washington, D.C., just for awhile until his mother can get things sorted out. But it turns into a longer while because now his parents are separated and may be getting divorced and his sister has gone off to college in California and he is stuck going to Parker Junior High where he will be the ONLY white kid amongst his black and Latino classmates. The only ones who will talk to him are the two black kids who live next door to his grandparents, Felix and Daron, and they tell him to stay away from the Hispanic kids, which he cannot quite do because one of them is his partner on the social studies project about the 1968 riots in D.C. Then there is this cool girl in jazz band who smiles at him, Sharita, and no one back home would ever believe he is frequently tripping over his tongue trying to talk to her. Ethan stumbles into one social land mine after another in this strange new terrain that could not be further from his upscale Philadelphia suburban neighborhood. He learns, too, that discrimination is not just a matter of the law, or of people’s attitudes and behavior, but also a consequence of poverty. He and Sharita devise a way to reach out and help poor children through music that makes him, the jazz band teacher, and even his severe grandparents proud. When the time comes to leave, he is reluctant to go, but takes with him a better understanding of what friendship really means, and a new found appreciation for the meaning of home. This is a good book for middle school boys with some reasonably palatable lessons about personal responsibility and the repercussions of prejudice. 2007, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, $16.00. Ages 10 to 15. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
Tillmon County Fire
Ehrenberg’s latest is a challenging pastiche of stories, each told from a different teenager’s point of view, that chronicle the lead-up to and fallout from an arson incident in a small Appalachian community. With the very first story, readers will think they have it figured out: Aiden, a religious zealot in training, seems to bear all the marks of a potential sociopath. But everything in Tillmon County–and by extension, the world, Ehrenberg seems to suggest–is more complicated. 2009, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, $9.00. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Daniel Kraus (Booklist, Apr. 15, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 16))
After spending years working on a book alone and in the company of other adults, it’s a great privilege for Pamela to work directly with young people. Interactive presentations are available for third through eighth grades:
- Writing with Your Feet invites students to imagine themselves as writers, through an exploration of what goes into writing and publishing novels. The presentation is 45 minutes long and is ideal for groups of 30-75 students.
- Flying without a Chicken Hat encourages children and teens to believe in themselves, set goals, and work toward making their dreams a reality. Examples come from the experiences of a writer, but participants can apply the message to other fields as well. This half-hour presentation is suitable for libraries and community groups of various sizes as well as school audiences.
- BookTalks is an interactive parent workshop to help parents use books to talk with pre-teens about a variety of topics. In this one-hour session, the author draws on her experience as a parent and former junior high teacher to lead parents in discussions and activities designed to get parents and tweens reading and talking together.
- Pamela is also available to present at conferences and workshops for adults, particularly on topics related to writing and education.
Pamela’s fee schedule is as follows:
|DC Public Schools and
DC Charter Schools
| Other schools within 60 miles of Washington DC,
including Baltimore City and Baltimore County
|Out of Town|
|One Presentation||$150||$350||$600 plus travel expenses|
|Two Presentations||$250||$500||$800 plus travel expenses|
|Three Presentations||$400||$750||$1000 plus travel expenses|
|Virtual Visit (over Skype)||$100 anywhere in the world|
To learn more about Pamela and her publications please visit www.pamelaehrenberg.com.