Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Last year... At Teacher's Write...

Last year, at writing camp...

I'm really not trying to sound like one of "those" people, who talk about "last year."  Don't you love the kids who say, "Last year, in Mrs. So-in-so's class, we... (fill in the blank)."  It used to bug me as a new teacher, but now I thoughtfully listen, because there is always a peek inside a student's brain as they spout out those words.  I ask them questions, like, "Why do you think she did it like that?" and "What did you like about it?"  It helps me find out more about them as learners during those first few weeks of school, and I always pass along the compliment to last year's teacher.

So, as I was saying... Last year,

I began a young adult novel last summer, and I'm planning to finish a very rough draft by the end of this summer.  The great thing about Teacher's Write is that I get ideas and inspiration, especially through these Tuesday/ Thursday prompts and exercises.  They help me stretch.
I noticed on one of the Facebook wall posts yesterday that one of our members said that she was "late," getting started on Tuesday instead of Monday the 24th.  The post made me smile, because I often felt that way last year.  Like I had to "keep up" or stay on schedule.  Over the course of the summer, though, I found that I could save some excercises for later, or even <gasp!> skip those that didn't speak to me.  And it was ok.  I realized that this was my personal professional development and my own, and I did what worked for me.
I think we as teachers recieve our "assignments" and feel like we have to complete our "homework" in a timely manner.  We are very conscientious that way.  But, it's summer, and I am designing my own learning.  Endurance is important- consistent daily writing is key, but I do it on my own terms and in my own time.

I hope that helps new Teachers Writers who weren't here "Last Year" and it takes some of the pressure off...

So, here is Tuesday's quick write on a Wednesday!  I'm using it as a jump-start for my WIP (work in progress).  On Kate Messner's blog, she suggested that we start with the word "Sometimes" and use sensory details to describe a place or a memory.    I'm going to write using one of my character's voices.

To help, I am brainstorming some words to help me with sensory details.
See: tall trees, green leaves above, vines below, brown soil, tiny mushroom, grey squirrel jumping across two branches, flies, gnats, ant crawling across arm of chair, clearing through the woods, field plowed, my house, neighbors' house on each side, car driving down driveway, grey cloudy sky
Feel: hot, clothed by humidity, wet from rainfall earlier, tickly as ant climbs on me and fly buzzes by my face, relaxed sitting in chair, hidden
Hear: lawnmower, cars driving on road beyond field, kids screaming and splashing in neighbor's pool, mom yelling instructions to kids in yard, birds chirping loudly, branches and leaves swaying, car door slamming and car starting, crunch of my feet on mulch and branches below
Taste: gnat as it flies in my mouth
Smell:  soil, earthy and sweet, wet leaves, decay of old stump
Wonder: what everyone in their houses are thinking right now, what is beyond the clear field, is there another place beyond this one that is more magical


Sometimes I hide in my own special place. It is my Majestigrove.  Tall trees form my green leaf ceiling above, as a single grey squirrel jumps from branch to branch, unaware of my presence on the brown soil below.  Today I find a tiny mushroom peeking through the creeping vines.  I am hot, clothed in humidity as I sit on the ground wet from the early rain.  My leg tickles as a lonely ant climbs up, and I watch him until a fly buzzes by my face.  The bugs don't bother me though; I am relaxed sitting in my magic grove, hidden from the world.  I know that my house and my neighbors' are  just beyond.  I can hear their lawnmowers, moms yelling at screaming kids splashing in pools.  But the birds chirping in the branches above bring me back to the swaying wet leaves, back to the soil, earthy and sweet with decay.
Still I wonder sometimes, what are they thinking, those moms and lawnmowers and children?  Do they know what is beyond their backyards?  Do they know there another place beyond their world that is as magical as this?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hooray! It's FINALLY here! Teachers Write! 2013

Last summer, I dove headfirst into the very first Teachers Write! virtual summer writing camp.  It both took my breath away and energized me at the same time, feeling just like an early morning jump into the pool.  I have been anxiously waiting all year to dive in again, and here we are!
For those of you who aren't familiar with Teachers Write!, here is the link to Kate Messner's blog, where she runs through all of the basics.   It's a quick read- so come right back when you finish...

... So now that you're up to speed, I'm going to swim ahead to today's Mini-Lesson Monday, which is all about Writer's Notebooks.

I have a confession to make.  I LOVE office supply stores!  I was so tempted to buy a brand-new notebook for Teachers Write!, but I restrained myself.  Even though that Easy! button was calling me to browse all of the shiny-brand-new-beautiful-oh-so-cool (Look at Me!  I'm so awesome!) notebooks, I refrained.  Because, quite honestly, I have notebooks, and they are beat-up, but they have ME inside of them.  My thoughts, ideas, dreams, quotes, scribbles, drawings, maps, and everything.  Here are some pictures of my current raggedy notebook:
Not new, but it does have a pink glitter cover, despite the peeling edges...

My scribble-scrabble brain scratches inside.
It is not shiny.  It is not new.  But neither am I.  And that's OK.

If you got a shiny new one, though, I'd love to see it!  I'll live vicariously through you...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Carving out time to write is tough.  Work, kids, husband, with all of our schedules and needs, finding my writing groove has been a challenge.

Enter the #5amwritersclub.

While my progress is slow (sloth-like, actually), taking an hour of my morning to read, reflect, plan, and continue my story has been a refreshing plunge back into the writing world.  I am making progress, with a little support from fellow writers in fuzzy slippers.  And coffee...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

5 am Writers Club

This week, I was up early by chance.  Through habit, I checked Twitter and noticed a hashtag #5amwritersclub.  Curious, I checked the feed, and discovered a group of writers who motivate each other to write early in the morning.  Since the start of the school year, besides the blog I maintain with the boys, my writing has become academic and I haven't figured out how to weave in daily writing.  I began writing a YA novel this summer, and I am finally coming back to it this cold, cold January. It feels so good to reengage.  How exciting that I have found this avenue!  So far, this is my third day in the "club" and I am engaged and excited to write again!  Hello writer me!  It's nice to be back.

Here's today's quick write (copyrighted my me!):

He notices everything.  When I'm happy, he's happy.  Reflections of my sadness and fear appear on his concerned face.  Silent eyes evaluate my day and ask questions without words.  He knows.  I can bring him down with my mood, yet often it is he that lifts me up.  "Hey Beff."  He touches the scar on my face, still bothered by it long after it has healed and forgotten.  It is still a change, a difference noticed.  Memories pushed aside in my head, buried deep, are surfaced with a single look.  A touch.
I often bristle against it, not willing to connect with myself in that way.  Sometimes it is easier to continue with a brave face, to pretend that everything is fine and it is all ok.  But he sees and he knows and he tells me.  Without words.  He keeps me honest.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Letter to Myself

June 1, 2012

Hi Scaredy Cat,
Today your lurking on Twitter has paid off!  You found this little online thing called Teachers Write, didn't you, and you think it is an easy way to play at writing.   It looks like fun and you know that some amazing authors will be participating, too.  How exciting for you!!

While it sounds like great summer fun, let me warn you:

This is only the beginning.

Yes, you start off strong, participating in every mini-lesson and gathering momentum.  You share some of your early writing.  Cool!  You have the opportunity to ask Real Authors their advice about writing. Awesome!  You even share your writing at a pool party live on Spreecast after hours and hours and hours of technical difficulties. (Hours!) You write thousands and thousands of words!  THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS!  Yippee!!

But then you get stuck.  You struggle.  You cry.  You think about giving up.  What you don't realize, though, is that you can't.  I know you are nervous, but I also know your heart.  You have courage and you are just persistent enough, ok stubborn enough- remember those technical difficulties (ACK!) - but I'm trying to give you some encouragement here - so KEEP GOING.

Because at the end of these 10 weeks, there is another beginning.  School is right around the corner, but now you can see other possibilities.  Yes.  You will keep writing.  You will get stuck, and you just might cry, and you will write more.

So as you create your cute little Teachers Write blog with a swirly orange background and a festive font, remember this:  You are a writer.  Yes, you.  Are.

Now write.

You (and Me), your BFF and Worst Critic, all rolled up in a smile.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Campfire Stories 7/25

In Tuesday's (7/24) quick-write prompt from Kate Messner's blog, she asks us to tell a campfire story.

My experience with campfires is vast, as I spent many weeks at sleep-over camp when I was younger, both as a camper and a counselor.  In fact, I met my husband at camp when we were both counselors many, many years ago.  We are both skilled at starting a one-match fire.  In the rain.  With our eyes closed.  Just kidding.

Since we both love campfires, we have built a permanent fire pit in our patio in the back yard.  Our children have subsequently attended multiple weeks at the very same camp we attended as children, and it is so much fun to hear their voices tell the same stories that we heard (and later, as counselors, told) long ago.  It is a great connection that our family shares, and it is fun to compare and contrast our versions of the same tale.

Our camp had been an ice mine a long, long time ago.  On the property, there is a place we called "the gorge" that was essentially a dam where miners would harvest large blocks of ice, back in the days before people owned electric powered refrigerators.  The ice blocks would be cut, loaded onto railroad cars, and distributed throughout the area for sale.  Once electricity became more widespread, however, and the demand for large quantities of ice declined, the mining business dwindled and then disappeared.

We would love to hike to the ice harvesting dam to swim, because the area is wide and deep and filled with cool water.  It was a refreshing reward after a hike on a hot summer afternoon.  On the way back, however, we counselors liked to stop at "The Hermit's shed" for a break at dusk, the perfect time to tell his scary story.  My version is below.
According to legend, there was a man who wouldn't leave the ice mine when the industry shut down.  He had nothing left, no family, no other skills besides ice harvesting and living off the land.  We are sitting in his home, a one-room cabin that he built with his own two hands.  He had started off with hopes of settling here and making a homestead while living off the land, and he would walk to town once a week for supplies.  After the first winter, however, his visits into town became less and less frequent, and he began to mumble to himself without making eye contact with the storekeepers who saw him.  He also began carrying his ice-pick with him everywhere, making it increasingly difficult for the friendly townspeople to approach him, for fear of startling him and becoming skewered like BBQ meat.  His trips stretched from weekly, to monthly, then to random evening surprises- banging on closed shopfront doors until the owners let him in to grab what he needed and go, his long hair covering his eyes and his dirt-streaked beard moving mechanically as he mumbled in a hypnotic trance.
(At this point, our co-counselor would make a low humming, repetitive noise, and the kids would start whispering, "What was that?")
Soon, the hermit (as he had become known) stopped visiting the town altogether.  Despite warnings from other friendly townsfolk, a couple of brave souls decided to take a trip out to the homestead to check on their strange neighbor.  As they approached the house, they were greeted by a variety of vermin, or should I say, vermin hides, strung up on twine to dry across the front yard.  Squirrels, rabbits, even rats were gutted and hung up like bloody laundry.  A variety of sharp, rusted instruments lay scattered across the porch, like an evil game of pick-up sticks.  As they knocked on the creaky, mildewed front door, it swung open.  And RIGHT THERE (counselor pointing to a poor terrified camper) he was laying in a heap in the corner, clutching his ice pick, frozen STIFF, his eyes wide open as if he had seen a terrible beast and died on the SPOT!
Even today, if you listen carefully, you can hear him walking around with his ice pick, Thump, Thump, Thumping around (co-counselor then thumps on the floor, and all of the campers jump and scream on cue.)  And as for the beast he saw, well, that mystery is still unsolved...

Then, we evil counselors would take our frightened campers back to our tents in the dark.

Good times.  I mean, who doesn't like a good ghost story every once in a while?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pick One!

This Monday, I am doing the Monday morning warm-up, courtesy of Jo Knowles.  From her blog:

I picked:  Come away with me.

Come away with me.  Disconnect, empty your angry heart, and walk with me to another place.  Away.  
Far from disappointment and fear, where your eyes can be opened and unburdened by hate and judgement and lies.  Away.  
Step forward and see.   Separate yourself from the rest and their expectations and costumes   and paint.  See yourself For Real.  
Because I know you are in there.  Deep inside the layers of walls and spikes and wire that you have wrapped around yourself, you are there.  I know.  I Know.
Reveal your real self to me.  Come to that place, where it is safe to breathe, clear and clean, a fresh start to begin your true story without the mistakes of your past.

Come away with me.

You'll be Free.

I wrote this today with my main character in mind.  She is very wrapped up in herself and I am having trouble getting into her heart.  She doesn't trust anyone, even me.  I'm hoping she'll let me in soon.