The Backstory: Annie Lynn
I am thrilled to welcome the fabulous songwriter, Annie Lynn to The Backstory. Annie is a creative and positive light who has been connecting with the kidlit community over the last several years. Read on to learn all about how Annie found her way into the writing community, her latest projects, and how her work can support picture books and classroom lessons.
Hi Annie and thank you so much for joining us. I am so happy that through the wonder of Twitter we have connected and I can’t wait to share all of the wonderful work you do with the kidlit community.
To get us started, could you give us the backstory on how you became an educational songwriter?
My backstory is an easy progression from Elementary Education degree & teaching to becoming a paralegal, then a parent, then a parent working in the school district, and as a result, my main field of music was determined, Educational Songwriting.
Thanks for sharing that. Could you tell us a bit more about how you became involved in the world of children’s literature?
When I was in 2nd grade, my school music teacher put on Copeland’s Billy The Kid. We had also read a story about him. She put on the part where there was a shootout or battle, lots of tympani, and she asked us to write about what was happening based on what we were hearing. That assignment, that day, sitting in the cafeteria with my classmates, I couldn’t write fast enough! This excitement and feeling of listening to music then writing words to go with it, words that described a scene was magical for me.
I didn’t remember that feeling until 4 years ago when I picked up a PB that screamed “I AM ALSO A SONG….DUH!”. And I wrote that song. It was addictive and SO much fun paying tribute to a funny story. As I delved deeper into PBs I found rhythmic words that captivated me and stories that were NF based but full of fun lessons and ideas. Then the songs came. Without warning, without asking……they just started creating themselves in my head. Fortunately, during this time, I was speaking with many fantastic Authors and Illustrators, and a handful of them agreed with me….they had it in them to write song lyrics and co-create a song to go with their book. One Author already knew they were a songwriter! I didn’t expect to become so enamored with Kidlit, and even more surprisingly, of Kidlitart, which made music fly into my mind and become interpreted into sound... an unhostile takeover.
Having that feeling from second grade return must have been such a wonderful moment. I admire how you have taken that spark of inspiration and grown it into the songs and partnerships that are now benefiting so many children.
What is your goal or hope for how these songs will be used?
My hope is to help those people working in kidlit to explore pairing a song with many books whose main takeaway reflects the song. The song doesn’t have to be ABOUT the actual storybook but does need to contain the main message.
For the last 3 years we have accepted kidlit commissions with the goal of adding a Music activity to the Teacher Guides that go with many published books. These guides are phenomenal; so much work & guidance goes into them, and I do think that activity-based supplements will cement the book and useful facts into readers’ minds. I am determined to help put The Arts back into learning anywhere I can.
What valuable resources! Many educators, including myself, want to infuse their lessons with music or the arts, but we don't know where to start. Guides such as these solve that problem.
Can you tell us about a partnership you have had with a kidlit creator?
Author/Librarian Jolene Gutiérrez & I won each other in last year’s Fall Writing Frenzy. We recognized right away that the book she & illustrator Heather Bell published with Clearfork Media (Mac and Cheese and the Personal Space Invader) was one of a group of books coming out around the same time, that all involved the topic of body autonomy.
We wrote a song that was about the topic of her book, personal space. We also felt that we wanted to support and promote other kidlit books that were and are being published on the topic of body autonomy (B.A.) We included several examples in the song, so that this song could be paired nicely with other B.A. books.
Jolene is one of the many gems of the kidlit community. I love her books! It sounds like the two of you had a wonderful working relationship and how fabulous that this all transpired as a result of a Fall Writing Frenzy pairing. Seems pretty serendipitous to me.
Where can parents or teachers find songs to pair with the content their children are learning?
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Teachers Pay Teachers or Songs for Teaching, but this is where educators and parents can go to find these matching songs. Many are free to teachers.
I also want to suggest that there are a TON of other songwriters on both TpT and http://SongsForTeaching.com, NOT just me. $10 tops can get you an entire lesson plan, music, karaoke, lyrics, and practice videos. A big time deal for teachers!
I will be sure to spread the word about these resources to my teacher friends. So much learning and increased retention of content can be accomplished through songs and knowing where to find them is a big part of the battle.
What projects are you currently working on?
Right now, I’m actively gathering the books I’m going to use as “Mentor Texts” for Storystorm 2022: The Musical Edition. I have a few “Permissions Dept.” letters to send out to Publishers to get clearance to write directly about a book character. So far so good.
I continue to write both Educational songs as well as kidlit songs, which, in addition to being part of a book’s Teacher Guide, are also perfect for book trailers & sometimes radio. I’m always delighted to hear from Educators, Parents, Students & Kidlit Creators. I get very excited when I read a book and realize that I have a song (or I know of someone else who has one) that perfectly pairs and supports it.
I’m also trying to write two theme songs for existing Graphic Novels, as well as a few instrumentals that would sound great as a soundtrack in a GN. I took several classes on GNs & feel excited to try something new.
Wow, you sound busy! I love the multiple ways you are finding to use songs with kidlit. I especially love the idea of having them accompany book trailers. So fun!
Can you tell us more about StoryStorm: The Musical Edition?
Storystorm: The Musical Edition is based on Tara Lazar’s rigorous yet non-judgmental 30 Day idea generating/writing event during the month of January. This is my third year paying tribute and learning, along with the writing community. Much of the advice given by writers on how to construct a story directly applies to songwriting. It’s making me a better writer I think.
The first year I picked books l really enjoyed and tried to write a short ditty for each. I got hung up on not plagiarizing and I didn’t feel organized in my approach. I am used to working with MY material. HOW can I write better than the actual author without using direct sentences? Also, not every book needs a song. (Yes, I actually said that, lol). Two did need them though and became commissions.
For StoryStorm ‘21: The Musical Edition I took a different approach. I was at the point in January ‘21, where I had been focusing on STEAM books and songs, as well as attending many Non-Fiction workshops. I wanted to try to get back to my education roots. I also was more organized in my approach. Instead of writing a song directly for one book, I followed good advice…why not write my own song, based on the THEME and hoped for takeaway!? This way, the song could be used with more than one book, and by more than one author. One more commission also was formed during that Storystorm. The biggest problem with STEAM songs was and still is, knowing what facts to keep & what to cull? What if I am responsible for “Fake Data” or leave a step out? What if most of it has to remain in the song? How long can a song BE and still remain fun to sing & effective in data uptake (& hopeful retention). I sought out some History and Science Authors & Teachers for guidance, and also received several offers to proof the subject before I record the song. I am especially grateful for that.
And how about StoryStorm 22’?
This year for StoryStorm, I got permission from several authors to work with (around) their words. I’m still using many NF bios and STEAM books, grouping them into topics for songs. I will also still follow the model I now prefer…writing about a theme that matches the story, not about the actual story. This practice lends itself especially well to Social Emotional Learning books.
Topics like Kindness, Persistence, Acceptance, Honesty, “Failing Forward,” environmental action & social justice will be at least 50% of the themes I’ll be exploring.
These are all amazing topics. The songs generated about them will be so welcome and useful in classrooms everywhere.
A little birdie told me about a new project kicking off in the new year, involving one of my favorite members of the kidlit community. Could you tell us a little bit about this?
We just accepted a new kidlit commission for a video interview show & also a possible podcast. The program(s) will feature interviews with Authors and Illustrators of Picture Books, and discuss their use along with music in the classroom. The right kind of host is needed for a show like this, someone who wears lots of hats, both in Kidlit, & Music Education, and the new host is none other than Teacher/Author Tonnye Fletcher! The show starts the first quarter of 2022. We are enjoying co-creation and highly recommend it.
That sounds absolutely fabulous and I am so excited for Tonnye. If you are hoping to learn more about this new venture, check out Tonnye’s blog post about it, here, https://www.tonnyefletcher.com/snippets-bits-of-life-blog/pb-jamz
Readers, if you want to know more about Annie or hear some of her songs, please visit her website, https://annielynn.net/home.. And be sure to follow Annie on Twitter @AnnieLynn215 to stay up-to-date with her latest songwriting happenings.
Annie, thank you again for joining us. It was an absolute pleasure chatting with you and getting to know all about the amazing work you are doing for kids, teachers, and authors.
Annie Lynn is generously giving away one copy of her cd "No Time For Hate & Other School Songs" to a teacher.
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ABOUT ANNIE LYNN
Annie Lynn, President and Chief Composer at AnnieBirdd Music, LLC, began writing songs when she was 14 years old, while acting in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” with the Germantown Theater Guild in Philadelphia. Asked to write “a nature song” by the show’s director, Annie wrote “Listen,” and the song and the show were subsequently filmed and shown on CBS. “I remember being this excited 14 year old kid, so psyched that the first song I had ever written was on TV,” Annie reflects now. “If someone had told me that 30 years later, I’d be recording that song with my own child, I would have laughed! Now I have whole communities of school-aged children singing my own choruses back at me, and it really is a great feeling….”
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew’s background of being surrounded by children, both at work and at home, has been a treasure trove of inspiration.
A nature lover, Andrew can be found exploring the woods of Massachusetts with his wife and three kids.
While often witty and imaginative, Andrew’s stories can also delve into the more serious and emotional topics that children can experience.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary