Ms. Swartz visited the 6th grade classrooms this week to talk to students about the writing process, poetry, and her inspiration for the book.
Twelve- year-old Molly Nathan, the main character in Finding Perfect, is a very different person at home with her older sister and younger brother than she is with her BFF Hannah. That’s because she has a secret: Molly counts by 4s, sharpens her pencils, cleans, and organizes her glass figurine collection compulsively. She has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). According to the International OCD Institute over 500,000 children have some form of the disease (for reference, this is approximately the same number as kids who have diabetes). Ms. Swartz worked with a pediatric specialist to insure that the details of Molly’s symptoms and behaviors were accurate. "But most of the work behind the writing," Ms. Swartz told the class, "was getting to know her characters – Molly, her family, and friends."
A Slam Poetry Contest is an important part of Molly’s story. As part of her student workshop, Ms. Swartz had students write and share their own poetry. In the question and answer portion, students asked Ms. Swartz about the writing process. They were very surprised to hear that it took her eight years to write and revise, and revise, and revise, her book before it was finally published.
Teachers Dylan Gallegos and Diana Blazar capitalized on the themes found in Finding Perfect with an activity called the Unfolding Identity Project. Students built a paper fortune-teller on which were written words and phrases reflecting each identity layer, such as the person you are on social media, the person you are with your family, and the person you are when alone. The difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us generated a great deal of discussion.
After the Q&A, Ms. Swartz autographed books, pencils and rulers. “Once a kid asked me to sign his forehead, so I make it clear that I will sign anything except body parts,” she said.