3-2-1 Creative Sparks

3 Podcasts

The Secret Library Podcast

The new season started today and Caroline’s theme is the Nourished Writer. You can check out the podcast on most podcast catchers. You can click here for more information.

I always feel like I get deep advice and conversation from this podcast. It is one that I do not miss. I knew the new season was starting and kept thinking yesterday was Thursday because of it!

Keeping A Notebook

Nina LaCour is amazing. You need to listen to her podcast just to listen to her voice. It has a dream like quality that takes me to another place.

Her podcast is intermittent. During the pandemic she shared writing prompts and her feelings about the isolation with a spin off called Shelter In Place. She is real and honest. Another podcast I never miss an episode of.

The last couple are celebrating the publication of her new book, Watch Over Me, which is a ghost story. She read an excerpt and then talks about how she wrote that section and where the inspiration came from. It makes my writer heart so happy!

MFA Writers

I have been obsessed lately with MFA programs. This podcast is an interview format. An MFA student is asked questions about their writing and their program. How it works and details about workshops and boundaries pertaining to the individual program.

2 Writing Prompts

Set a timer for ten minutes. Let you pen move and do not censor yourself.

1 Book

Cait Flanders is an author that has a style of writing that is also magical. Her new book came out Tuesday and I am already a couple chapters in. I pre-ordered this book which is not something I do often.

Adventures in Opting Out cover by Amanda Sandlin

Wellness Wednesday

Self care is something I do not do well.

As a coach, I try to help people remember the ways they can take care of themselves. Hopefully, this will remind me! Several years ago I had mini 15 minute initial meetings with everyone in my school and asked them what was most important to them at that moment and how did they treat themselves. They were good questions to ask.

My self care looks like this:

I fast and exercise every day. I start my day with the morning routine that fuels and fulfills me. I learn something every day.

How do you take care of yourself? I would love to know.

Writing Prompt and an Announcement

Starting on September 23rd if you join my Patreon community you will receive a daily prompt for 100 days like the one above. We have a Slack community as well so you can join other writers.

September 23rd starts a special time period – the last 100 days of 2020! Can you believe it???

The last 100 days is the perfect time to give yourself a challenge. You can join mine or create your own. I would love to hear what you plan to do.

Last year I vowed to do one yoga pose a day for the remaining 100 days of 2019. A friend wrote 100 word essays. The possibilities are endless. You could answer the same morning and evening questions. I follow Karissa Kouchis who is a national trainer for Tony Robbins. She has challenged herself to answer the same morning and evening questions for the next 30+ days for a training. I have been answering them in my journal as well.

What questions would propel you into a new reality if you committed to them for 100 days? One of the exercises in Tony Robbins Personal Power class is to construct questions you ask yourself every day. I have a list in my Google Keep Notes.

Here are the questions I am using right now from KK:

Morning:

  1. What are you most happy about in your life right now? How does that make you feel?
  2. What am I most proud of right now? How does that make me feel?
  3. What am I most committed to right now? How does that make me feel?

Do you see a pattern here?

Evening:

  1. What have I been given today?
  2. What have I given to others?
  3. What have I learned today?
  4. How has today added to the quality of the overall investment in my life?

Happy writing! Happy reflecting!

I would love to hear your ideas for the last 100 days. It is a perfect time for a self imposed challenge!

Weekend Coffee Share

A Cup of Coffee and a Conversation

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Welcome to the holiday weekend! I love the photo above. It makes me smile today. Do you have favorite photos? Are they on your phone or somewhere else? Do you look at them often?

I am having my regular black coffee. What would you like today? I have a pitcher of ice water as well. Let’s use the pitcher I inherited from my Oma. She used to make iced tea in it long ago. The kids use it for cherry Kool-Aid now!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I shared some stories about growing up in my newsletter this week. If you want in on the inner circle secrets you can sign up here. I also talk about the red thread of fate and how that applies to my friendships.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I used two notebooks this week – both black. I have a notebook with thin pages that works perfectly with my fountain pen in the mornings. I keep that one at home. It is part of my daily writing routine. I have a smaller black notebook I write in the rest of the day. I guess I have an at home notebook and a going out notebook!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am writing fiction every day by combining the Storyaday prompt for the challenge in September and the Sarah Selecky Daily prompt. I like the challenge of combining them and the process lends itself to unique and weird stories which I love to read and write. Most of the those stories have gone into the little black notebook.

If we were having coffee I would tell you my writing intensive started this week. I posted my first assignment and did my reading reflection. I received some lovely comments about what I posted so that was motivating. It is a piece I can expand. We used the prompt “I don’t remember” which is one Natalie Goldberg writes about as well.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I had a conversation with two people this week about how I write so much! I am working on a workshop about this topic. Unpacking my process around writing has been an interesting process and more difficult than I think it should be! I welcome any questions you have about my process or what you would want to know. Leave them in the comments or email me at tammybreitweiser@gmail.com.

If we were having coffee I would tell you it was a full moon this week! The energy felt like it shifted for sure. With the school schedule getting more robust this week the energy was different too. I had the new adventure of making contact with my kindergarten parents and students. We did our virtual open house which was fun! Cats visited the screen as happens in this time! Next week starts live instruction and everyone is excited. All of my kids are adorable and I am learning about their favorite songs, things to do and unique things about them.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am trying to find a boxing class near me. It is something that keeps coming up in my writing about an activity I want to try. We are going kayaking again this weekend. The weather is supposed to be nice. I walked several times this week and several were 10 milers. I have found fasting is easier when I am at work. I am busy and there is no food there.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am working on my 100 writing prompts. I plan to share one writing prompt a day for the last 100 days of 2020! I am so excited for this project.

What is the most important thing about your week? I want to hear all about it!

#IWSG September

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

September 2 question – If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?
The awesome co-hosts for the September 2 posting of the IWSG are PJ Colando,J Lenni Dorner,Deniz Bevan,Kim Lajevardi,Natalie Aguirre, and Louise – Fundy Blue!

The schedule feels new for the month of September. In the Northern Hemisphere it is time for school. Labor Day marks the beginning of time that feels different. Summer days fade and all the color seems different. Nature begins to shift.

The day for me always begins with writing and coffee. Sometimes it is 15 minutes of writing and gulping down hot liquid because now I am bound by the clock more than my natural rhythms. Today it is more than two hours because I am up early. Lots of words and coffee both.

My initial instinct for this question are my go to favorite authors. Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link start the list. I am not sure I could sit with them and talk writing and not be intimidated. I am sure they are lovely people. I have seen them both speak. One of the best times I have seen Neil speak is with a video call with V.E. Schwab. The mutual admiration was adorable.

I have tried to locate all the talks Kelly has given online. I hope one day to travel to her bookstore in the East.

Another author I would like to sit down with is Amber Sparks. In these pandemic times I have been able to hear her speak on several panels about writing. I admire her writing and her style. Sitting across a table talking about how stories get onto the page would be thrilling.

In all honesty, sitting down with any writer who writes and talking about technique and how words get on the page is thrilling to me. I love that conversation almost as much as the writing itself.

For my writing class I have to prepare a short story show and tell. This title is perfect for September, isn’t it? I take a favorite story and examine the craft. How it is put together from my perspective. I am looking forward to this exercise. Taking time to look at a story line by line is like having a conversation with the piece itself. There is no way to know what the exact intent is of the author but I can have this experience with the story. It is a different type of experience I can sink into.

As an educator, one of the reasons I like to hear authors speak is to get the nugget about writing the story no one knows. It is why I love podcasts. I heard David Shannon, the children’s author speak many years ago and learned he always puts his little white Scottie dog somewhere in the illustrations of his books. When I told my students this information there was a “Where’s Waldo?” hunt for the little dog. It is fun and makes you feel like you are in an inner circle of writers.

The inner circle is a great place to be.

Happy Writing!

I would love to hear what your favorite short story is….

Weekend Coffee Share

A Cup of Coffee and a Conversation

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Welcome back to the weekend!

This has been a long week for me. It is the most I have been out of the house since March and it feels weird. I know that really doesn’t need to be said. It is an often expressed sentiment. I have learned I do prefer to be at home. I like the flexibility of being able to go to school in order to get materials or teach certain lessons.

What are you going to have today during our chat? I will have my normal black coffee. I have cream and sugar if you like. The coffee is hot! I am so glad you joined me for our chat today. I look forward to our time together on the weekends.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I went back to work on Monday. It was a day to work in my classroom. We are in person at the building but are only allowed to be without masks alone in our classroom with the door closed. The kids are attending virtually starting on September 8th. I struggle with the emotions surrounding this return. On one hand, I am glad to be back to a “normal” schedule but there are rules that I do not understand. Tuesday I was on Zoom all day. Literally. It doesn’t make sense to me why I have to be in the building when I was in a Zoom meeting for 7.5 hours. I can get a modified schedule but it has to be pre-approved and COVID related. Wednesday was a work day as well. Honestly, I cannot even remember what I did that day. I know I took down decorations from the last teacher. I put up learning target icons and threw a lot away. At the staff meeting we were told we are not allowed to have any personal furniture in the room. The earliest we will have students is the beginning of November.

There has been little conversation about what the virtual school day will look like. It seems every time we ask it is a slightly different answer. I am used to pivoting and am trying not to worry about what I do not know. I am choosing to deal with the new details as they present themselves.

I also have to go back to my question: How does this serve me? I can hyper focus on work and not get distracted. I have all my materials in one place. I will keep thinking on this path.

It is also confusing because on some of the days the meetings did not start until 8, but then I was required to be at school til 4pm. This was not clearly indicated and on two of those days I was there at 7:30 a.m. I am glad I only live 10 minutes away from my building but with all the change this is another irritant.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I started my day with the normal routine of writing and coffee first. This helps me start the day the right way for me.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I walked several times this week, but had to do it after school. It was hot this week. Dinners were the latest they have been all year as well.

If we were having coffee I would tell you it seems like a lot happened this week but there isn’t much to write about. I feel like the life that fueled me this week was after the afternoon hit 3:30 or later.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I started my Story Intensive class this week. We did introductions within the small class of 8. There were a masterclass for us to listen to and some lessons on freewriting. I will post my week 1 assignment later today.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I was on a celebration call for my Write Free class from Caroline Donahue. It was such a wonderful class and I recommend anything she does. She is offering the class again. She also does IG lives every Friday morning which are worth the time to tune in.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I received three letters this week! I was so excited to get happy mail.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I was a bit more vulnerable newsletter. I know I need to tell more of my story and why I do what I do. I was asked again this weekend, “How do you get so much writing done?” I plan to examine this idea and others more in depth in my newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can here.

How was your week?

What inspired you?

Until our next coffee share! Be safe!

Getting Coffee

A Poem

person pouring latte in mug

I see two baby deer
Going for a run.
I wonder if they are training for a 
5K or
Half marathon.

My affirmation of positivity
Smells of salt and hot sauce,
Cheese on my porterhouse –
The whiff of an interaction
With a stranger.


Mist floats over the grass hills 
Holding the story.
Attention snaps back with,
“You have the same hair as my daughter”

The cup burns
The slow ordinary 
Explosion of life
Into my palm,
Retorted with
“I really like your shirt. It is so pretty.”

Can We Talk?

How Verbalization Can Help Us All Be Better Writers

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Last summer I was honored to attend a literacy conference where Cornelious Minor spoke. I took copious notes and was able to have many conversations with colleagues in the evening. That is the advantage of being at a multiple day conference – you can chat with your tribe about what you learned that day and move forward with plans for the schools.

Over the last 25 years as an educator and attendee of conferences, I have learned to synthesize my notes at the end of the day. I read back through them and fill in the gaps of half written sentences and ideas. I fill out more of the story that was shared I want to remember as an example for teaching later. I also make checklists of action items, things to further research, and people I need to talk to.

I learned Minor also takes notes in a real notebook and carries it around with him all the time when he does workshops. He is full of stories of living in New York and of students and teachers he has worked with. He had to scan all his old notebooks recently because the paper journals were taking too much room in their small NY apartment.

This conference was full of personal connections for me as well. Not only did I have the advantage of having great friends with me to confer with but also a consultant we had worked with for years. I also was able to meet someone in person from Twitter and a connection from a reading board we both had served on at different times. Overall it was three days of connection and learning.

I reflect on this experience this morning and wonder when this will happen again – if ever.

Another way I synthesize info is to skeleton plan a workshop before I even leave. I think about if I were teaching this material to others when I return to where ever I am going what would my spin on this look like. Since the beginning of my career I have paid attention to the nuts and bolts of how presentations are deployed. How did the presenter get everyone engaged? What questions did they ask? Did they do an ice breaker? How did they get people to talk? How did they build relationships? I compare these ideas to my own style and make notes about how it would look for me.

If I am taking a plane I always write and make action plans in my notebooks on the way home. There is something about being away that has a magic spell quality to it. When the wheels touch down at the home airport you have to return to the normal schedule. You fall back into natural tendencies and routine and don’t always use the new learning.

When I started teaching I also made a pact with myself that if I took time to be out of the classroom, I would make sure to use one thing the day I returned.

I do love to give presentations. I have had to move to a virtual world which bring its own complications, but I know how to pivot!

Writing matters.

It gives us tools to deal with struggle. Everyone has experiences and something to say. We have all been broken in some way or another. This applies to us (teachers, or friends of teachers) as writers and our students.

Writing gives us power over our struggle. A way to deal with it and reframe. To try out ways to tell it to other people. It is a powerful device of possibility.

As teachers we create what I call the “greenhouse effect”. We set up all the circumstances for students to have learning experiences with the most amount of obstacles out of the way. This is why we have huge classroom libraries, and over plan. Sometimes we do this too well. The goal is for students to have productive struggle in a balance as to not create frustration and shut down. A certain amount of struggle is needed for learning and retention.

Exercise:

Take out a notebook and a pen or your laptop. Set the timer for 7 minutes. Write whatever comes to mind on the topic of:

Possibility and Power – What do these words conjure up for you?

Do not censor yourself. Just write what comes. Keep your pen moving no matter what comes out.

Ok, the timer went off! You can stop. What did you notice about your thoughts are centered around these two ideas? How does that translate to your classroom?

Verbalization

When we are teaching, one of the most powerful questions we can ask is, “What do you think?” and then wait for the answer. When I have asked this question to students I get the blank stare and many times this statement: “No one has ever asked me that before.”

“What do you think?” is a question we need to be posing more often in order to give them writing practice. We ask students to write a genre after giving only one or two models many times. This is simply not fair. Verbalization can allow practice 9-10 times before writing which gives them a much better opportunity to write a higher quality piece with more confidence.

Talking before writing helps students know what they want to write down. It takes practice to figure out what we want to say. (How many drafts of that email to your principal did you write?)

The person who is doing the talking is the one that is doing the learning. Think about the last time you were in your real life classroom. (I know…go WAY back…) who was doing the talking? In my coaching experience, I would venture to guess you will say the teacher unless you teach a curriculum like EL education where student talk is built in. This is a by product of feeling like there is never enough time. Teachers need to “cover” material for students to be exposed. The worst feeling in the world is to not get to a concept which we know is tested on the high stakes exam and feeling like we didn’t even give our students an opportunity to answer even in a minimal way.

A strategy to get them talking is to use what interests them. This can range from Pokemon to zombie ants. Get them excited and engaged and use that talk to your advantage.

Exercise:

Look at your phone and find a picture that is meaningful to you. If you were to share with someone why it was meaningful, what is the story you would tell?

Storyboards

What is a Storyboard? | Storyboard Template | Storyboard Maker

Another way I have encouraged talk before writing in my classroom is to use an idea I learned from Linda Rief. A simple storyboard of 3-6 boxes is a powerful tool for talk. I have students think of an exciting or an embarrassing story to tell their classmates. I set the timer for 5 minutes and have them sketch and stick figure out the story within the 3-6 boxes. Minimal words are used here. There is a limit of 2 words per box.

Then the student tells the story, using their storyboard to a classmate. The listener gives feedback to what they enjoyed about the story and asks questions about where they are confused.

After three rounds of this practice with different partners the students write their story. The amount of detail and flow to the stories after this exercise works wonders.

How could you provide more opportunities for talk before writing in your classroom? I would love to hear about them in the comments!

How To List Your Way to Better Teaching

What Lists to Keep to Move Your Instruction Forward

7 Reasons to Actually Start Using Google Keep | PCMag

I am a list keeper.

There is satisfacton in making a checklist and completing the list.

I keep lists in my paper planner and also in my Google Keep app. Keep is on my phone and also provides a checkbox option. I can also transfer any note to a Google Doc. New learning from the last two weeks is that I can share a note with another person. This means personal notes I can share with my teacher gmail account so I have access and edit ability for everything.

For teaching , I toggle back and forth between my planner and what I call the “Rose Binder”. The rose binder is the place I put all the important things. It is where I keep student data before it ends up in the spreadsheet, lists, papers I need to not lose in the abyss of my desk, etc. Why rose binder? The binder I use has a clear sleeve for the cover where I add pictures I like. Many years ago I found a picture of a bouquet of roses from Victoria Magazine which I placed in the front. Voila!

Lists calm my mind because I know important actions have been captured and I do not have to use brain power to repeat things to myself. Lists keep me sane.

For me, my teacher lists ensure I do not lose or forget anything. With as many decisions that need to be made moment to moment this simple tool keeps me focused and on track.

Where To Keep Your Lists

  1. In the back of your paper planner (I use the Passion Planner)
  2. Important Paper Binder (My Rose Binder)
  3. Post it notes (that you adhere to the paper planner or the binder)

Teacher Lists I Keep

  1. Favorite quotes
    1. For writing instruction
    2. Motivation
    3. For articles
  2. Education article ideas to write
  3. Things to Remember for the Next School year
    1. I add to this list all year – this is where the lightbulb moments for changes to a lesson get logged, the resources you want to add later to a unit, materials you need to make or find, systems to begin, things to let go of, etc.
  4. Things to Buy for my Classroom
  5. Picture Books I need
    1. I buy a lot from thrift stores and Goodwill
    2. Borrow from Library
  6. DMO for school
  7. Printing jobs
  8. Project Ideas to Do with Students
    1. Current ones for me: mini gardens using toilet paper rolls, Kindness project, Books for me to write for kids, and Books for the World

Other Lists I Keep

  1. Random notes
  2. To do for the day
  3. Topic lists to research
  4. Lists of 10 impressions I have noticed within the day
  5. Short Story ideas
  6. Delights
  7. Articles to read later
  8. Places to publish
  9. Funny phrases the kids say
  10. Anything I want to remember
  11. DMO (see below)

D.M.O

I keep a list called the DMO – Daily Method of Operation. This is the list you keep that is the minimum for you to have a successful day that comes from Tony Robbins. One thing I have learned recently is that success is subjective. I will also tell you I have been thinking a lot about fulfillment vs achievement.

What is my DMO list you ask?

  1. water
  2. walk
  3. mantra
  4. connection
  5. fasting

What are Your Lists?

What are the most important lists you keep? I would love to hear in the comments!

IWSG August

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be.”
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

I have always been a writer but through my narrow writer experience I thought I had to write a novel. I had tried many times before finally figuring out flash and short stories were my favorite medium. I finally listened to the right podcast and found my tribe!

This summer the phrase, “Truth is always the best story.” keeps coming up. It has surfaced so many times I know to pay attention. As a fiction writer many of the stories I write are based in truth with the reality skewed a little. The characters feel my feelings similar to spaces I have been in. The settings are places I have been with the details changed to bend to my will. Why is it always the places we have been (and not currently in) are so much easier to write?

One of the reasons I love short stories is because I am able to play with the form. I have written stories in the form of job postings, mad libs, and recipes. I have written Twitter length stories and ones comprised of random sentences over time. No writing is wasted I have learned and many lines I have come back to that have marinated over time.

I never get bored writing or reading short stories.

There is magic in an author taking a story and weaving magic in a few 100 words. I have many models of great writing and I study them. I do not read in the same way anymore. There is pleasure but always intention to learn something new now.

One of my favorite things about writing is that it surprises me. I swear by freewriting for everything. If I do not know what I am thinking about a situation in my life I freewrite. It opens my eyes and helps me get out of my own way. I have learned to write and let it flow without censoring. Often a line or a word will appear on the page without conscious thought and it is a delight! When a description comes out in a unique way or a memory is triggered it is a delightful writing sessions. There are also those moments where I write a short piece and know I have another one that will go with it perfectly in the drive.

Short stories have a sense of mystery and uncertainty. Kelly Link is the master of short stories that do not answer all your questions. You are left wondering. A great short story is the one that stays with me and I keep wrangling with it to figure it out in a satisfying way.

As a writer this is part of my service to my readers – to make them think and feel something different than before they read my piece. I am always striving to do it better.