#IWSG December

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!

December 2 question – Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why? The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia,Sylvia Ney,Liesbet @ Roaming AboutCathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre!

There are two seasons of writing for me that I have recognized. NICOLE GULOTTA talks about seasons of writing in her book Wild Words. My seasons are creation and revision. I will create until I pile up enough words that I feel that I have to do something with it. It is a system based on feeling.

I am inspired all the time but I have set up my writing life for me to be open to ideas to flow to me. Lines get added to the everything notebook and the notes app all the time. I feel like I have a writing antennae that is always on alert. I read and use other’s words to fuel my own. The children I come in contact during the week also get my brain moving because they see patterns others don’t. I also seek out poems. My inbox is also set up for me to be productive. I subscribe to poem of the day newsletters so there is always quality items to read there. Yesterday I got the alert that my issue of The Paris Review was ready to download and was thrilled to read in-between obligations.

At first I thought deadlines made me more productive but it is the routines I have set up in my writing practice. I decided to write every day. I decided I will post to my blog every Tuesday and the first Wednesday of the new month. So I do.

I have a writing community I am responsible to so I write and produce when I need to share. This has made me a better writer for sure.

Last summer I had an ideal writing schedule set up. I would write, walk, nap and then write again. The move and the pandemic required me to adjust this schedule. I am now back in a new routine where I am writing over 2750 words a day across the projects and I am happy and moving in the right direction!

Avoidance of I #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 31 days left in 2020 which means I have 31 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 31 days?

I sit in my living room getting prepared to go to the building to work by the light of the Christmas tree.

Yesterday I had a writing conversation with a friend and we were talking about craft. I read a piece yesterday that started too many sentences that began with “I”. It was distracting and took me out of the piece.

All the years I have taught, I have loved to teach writing. I am sure it had something to do with the fact that deep down I want to be a full time writer but that was not an acceptable career choice in my family. I figured that teaching writing was the next best thing.

Teaching kindergarteners to write is a amazing because they have little prior experience.

One of the things I do is avoid having my K student write sentences that begin with “I”. What ends up happening is that later when they are writing more you get pages of “I” statements.

I like dogs.

I like to swim.

I love my mom.

It sounds all the same.

Sentence fluency is something I start with so that is the skill that becomes the habit and not the list of I statements that I would have to try to break later. As often as we can, our shared writing sentences begin with any other word.

Yesterday we learned the sight word GO so the sentences we wrote were:

We go camping. and

We go outside.

Details now are in the illustrations where lots of academic feedback is given. I have also taught them how to give feedback to each other. They discuss what they are writing outloud and then cues are picked up by other students.

In my live class you will often hear: “W. said he is adding a sun. I think that is a good idea and am adding one too.”

or

“I like the way A. added details to his butterfly. I am adding some to mine. He reminded me.”

Of course, one of my favorite questions is: Is it time for writing YET?

What have you noticed about teaching writing this year? I would love to hear in the comments.

High/Low/Learn #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 38 days left in 2020 which means I have 38 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 38 days?

One of my obsessions lately has been journaling prompts. I even found a couple of podcasts dedicated to journaling. On an episode of Writing Your Best Self I heard a writer talk about logging the high of the day, the low and what you have learned.

I follow this method similarly with my energy challenge that comes from the author of The Third Door. I log what fueled my energy, what drained it and what I learned from those observations.

I was reminded of a protocol I learned at the EL Education conference last year in October called HIGH/LOW/BUFFALO. In this version, you share a high and a low and something completely out of left field! Some people need some prodding in order to be silly sometimes. It helps to get to know people in a hurry.

My day of working from home has just started but here is mine so far (Subject to change by the evening)

High: Wellness of my family and it snowed!

Low: I was woken up early by loud vehicles driving by

Buffalo: I learned today that pickled carrots are a thing and I am writing about them!

What are yours?

I would love to hear in the comments!

Inspiration from Everywhere #SOL20

Come join me and other teacher writers at the Two Writing Teachers blog. Every Tuesday teachers blog a slice of their life and others comment. It is a wonderful community.

One of my favorite questions is, “What inspires you?”

Here in Wisconsin, there are hints of November. I am in the midst of NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) and getting ready for Thanksgiving. The weather however is warmer than it was in the spring. It has been over 70 degrees here over the last couple of days.

I am feeling a bit rebellious about it. I should not be wearing a t-shirt and shorts to walk. I will have to use this feeling and details in a story this week.

This week in class we are utilizing the website Mystery Science. The kids really like these videos, as do I, because they are interesting and we always learn something new.

Yesterday we watched a video about poisonous plants. We learned about the Manchineel tree that can kill you. We saw trees that had grown around signs, benches, motorcycles, and bikes. Not only did it ignite lots of conversation from my 5 year olds it fueled our writing as well. The students wrote in their journals what a tree would “eat”.

One little one kept saying, “That is terrifying!” I write down their comments all day long. I have to go back through my teaching notebook and log them all in a document. The kid speak alone is gold.

The video even inspired my writing. For one of the daily prompts I needed to write a story from the POV of something that normally doesn’t have one. I wrote from the perspective of this tree with the warning label.

What has inspired you that was surprising lately? I would love to hear in the comments.

#IWSG November

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!

November 4 question – Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write.

Why do you write what you write?


The awesome co-hosts for the November 4 posting of the IWSG are Jemi Fraser,Kim Lajevardi,L.G Keltner,Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria!

I have asked myself this question many times and it has been asked of me.

The short answer is I am compelled to write. I write stories of hope and being lost. I write about darkness and every day magic. I write what I hope to see in the world.

I write to be a better teacher of writing now because I desperately wanted a writing instructor as a child, and honestly, and as adult now I wish for the same thing. I seek out my own teachers of course. I also believe this is why I am obsessed with MFA programs. There is a lovely podcast where an MFA student interviews other students from various programs. They talk about writing and craft and then about the program itself. It is an escape I look forward to every time a new episode comes out.

With my writing, I hope to have an impact on others. So many author’s stories have stuck with me and I come back to them over and over. I want one of my stories to be as influential to someone else.

Being a writer helps me pay closer attention. I am always looking for things to write down on my lists of 10. I am listening to conversations and the way children phrase things. I write down what they think is funny.

Lately, I have felt like I want to be immersed in language. To read and write and talk about the process. I am trying to construct my life in this fashion. There are interruptions of course – sometimes from my own thoughts.

Interacting with my writing community is one of the daily delights! It is a close second to the writing itself. I learn from these people who are the best friends I have and most I have never met in person. It is a blessing that does not go unnoticed in my writing life.

For now my plan is to show up to the page every day. I write, I learn, I read, I submit, I publish.

It is a good process.

Tuesday Slice of Life #SOL

I woke up this morning wanted to be a hermit.

I would have preferred to go back to sleep for a bit and then snuggle with my words and blankets.

But that wasn’t possible today.

I have been examining what fuels my energy and what depletes it.

The last couple of days have been busy. There was a trip to Chicago and the museum. There was a Halloween party and an obstacle course. There were delicious dinners.

Yesterday was a full school day and then I was home for less than hour and had to leave again.

By the time I got home I was Exhausted – yes, with a capital E.

I slept hard and didn’t move all night except in my dreams.

Many of the things I did over these days are ones I love but it can still be draining. This is a conundrum I still try to unravel.

What fueled your energy today?

What depleted your energy?

What did that teach you?

Need Some Inspiration?

A List and Some Thoughts for You Today

One of my favorite short story authors is Amber Sparks. She posted today on social media her book was on this list from Bustle.

Normally, I scroll through and only click on one or two selections but there was something about this list that drew me in.

I put 5 of the collections on my holds list from the library. I already have read Amber’s book (which I HIGHLY recommend). Another one I have checked out from the library right now and am currently reading:

Another one of the collections is from Nicole Krauss who is a fantastic novel writer. Her sentences are beautiful. The overall description of the short story collection didn’t grab me but my knowledge of her writing style is enough for me to check it out.

Other thoughts:

Short stories are great if your time or attention is clipped since you can hold the whole story in your head at once.

They are great models if you are a writer for how to get a beginning, middle, and end in a short space.

Because the form requires words to not be wasted usually there are gems of lines to take out for quote lists and writing prompts.

Happy Reading!

Writing Retreat Day

Today is a treat for me…writing retreat day at home!

Photo by Kate Trifo on Pexels.com

Today I will write 2750 words in preparation for NANOWRIMO and the Million Words IN a YEAR challenge.

Today I will walk (likely in the rain).

Today I will host a write in and chat with my friends.

Today I will nap (if I feel like it).

Today I will write in different areas of the house.

I have a list of projects I want to come back to. One of which is a story set in New Orleans based on my trip there. I have prompts to schedule and posts to make for my short story intensive.

I have my white noise soundtrack going of a fireplace.

Today I will look through my new LEX magazine that came in the mail yesterday and write a letter.

Today I will read Nancy Stohlman’s new flash fiction book that I finally got in the mail yesterday!

I will make scrambled eggs and toast and enjoy every bite.

I may even dance around the house.

What will you write and delight in today?

Short Story Show and Tell

A Look at Craft Focusing on One Short Story

I have a list of stories I return to that I use as models for writing. One I love is Amber Spark’s Thirteen Ways to Destroy a Painting from her collection The Unfinished World. You can listen to the story here.

Amber is one of the short story writers I follow closely. In interviews she talks about how she takes old fairy tales and puts a modern spin on them which I admire.  Her most recent collection is magical and I highly recommend it. 

One of the many aspects I love about this story is that the title draws me in because of the use of the number. There is something seductive about numbers, especially thirteen. There is much debate about the luck of thirteen. The structure of the story also follows a numbered sequence. The story is told with a time traveler attempting to destroy a painting that stubbornly keeps reappearing in her own time. 

Another element that is a takeaway for my own writing is how she uses the repeated element of an object. In this case it is the painting. The painting is an anchor in the story and is referred to in each numbered section. Each iteration of the painting shows the title changes and the size depending on how the time travelers actions affected the painting. These are small details that contribute to the pacing of the story. You keep reading to find out what happens to the painting next. 

As you read, you wonder if she will succeed and destroy the painting eventually. Your brain also knows there are thirteen iterations and then some conclusion will occur.  There is also perseverance as a theme in this story. She doesn’t try to just destroy this painting three times (Magic 3 in fairy tales often) it is 13. There is a stubbornness there from the time traveler which we wonder about throughout the reading.

Time travel is always an element I am drawn to but I have seen it done well and done horribly in short stories and in novels. Satisfying time travel is hard to pull off. Time travel requires a relationship with magic for the author and the reader.

This story also reminds me of the connection between the writing practice we do and how that eventually emerges in a finished piece. Kathy Fish teaches an exercise in her flash fiction classes where you take a scene and write it three different ways. This story shows how an author can do this and make it a published story. This idea also reminds me of an earlier exercise in the course with the I don’t remember prompt and how a similar list shows up in Tobias Wolff’s Bullet to the Brain. I have learned to pick out some of these freewriting elements and how they show up in published pieces.

The characters are identified by their labels in this story, not by name. The names do not matter in this story and gives the reader a bit of distance. The painting itself falls into this category for me as well. The descriptions of the people are tight and pack a lot in a few sentences. For instance: 

He is so young, the artist, a white smooth face in the dark of his walk-up. She supposes this will be easy-from the empty, hungry tilt of his face, to the stooped posture from painting under this sloped attic roof.

The artist looks at her aghast but defiant. The artist knows his way around this kind of truth.

Another pacing technique I noticed is shown in section seven through ten. As the reader is moving through the destruction attempts, this section is written in two sentence bursts with repeated phrasing. This reiterates that the painting still exists and you can feel the frustration of the time traveler’s efforts.

Seven: The time traveler sets fire to the unfinished painting. The painting is still there.

Eight: The time traveler pours acid on the unfinished painting. The painting is still there.

Sparks is a short story writer that achieves a satisfying ending sometimes with unanswered questions which is a reason I read this type of story in the first place. Kelly Link is another author that does the same. Link is more blatant in her “unfinished” endings and has been unapologetic about it.

Thirteen Ways is a story I feel is satisfying but also has sticking power.  When I first read this story I kept coming back to it. I felt a connection to these characters and the frustration from both sides.

I appreciate the style Sparks writes in and underline many of her sentences.

Here is a sentence I love from section Thirteen:

She was more in love with life than with him-she’d never have believed how black and long the days could stretch over her, mean and empty, like shadows in the winter.

I would love to hear your impressions of this story and lines that popped out to you. This is a piece I have used to teach short story to my middle school students along with Neil Gaiman’s Click Clack Rattle Bag. 

I hope you enjoyed it and found something in it for your own writing.

Need a writing prompt today?

I am sending out a writing prompt for the last 100 days of 2020!

Here is today’s:

If you like this prompt come join my Patreon and have them delivered to your inbox every day!

#IWSG October

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!

October 7 question – When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like? The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett,Beth Camp,Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!

It is interesting to. me that this is the question posed for this month’s ISWG because it has been on mind.

I was doing an exercise examing the big negative energy depleters in my life and the idea of my “paycheck” work vs “fun” work came up. By day, I am a teacher and I love the aspects of the students and the actual teaching. The skills I have acquired through this career serves me well in all the other areas. I am a professonal writer.

I have been obsessed with the idea of an MFA for quite a while. I waver back and forth about how I feel about it in the vein of “do I need it”. I don’t and I know it. But what I do need is immersion in reading and writing and the community tied to those two things.

The shelter in place time allowed me to sustain a writers schedule. Now I have my schedule dictated to me and the transition has been tough.

A friend pointed out to me I have an MFA in experience and self guided study. I have created a community of trusted writers.

There is no choosing your cohort when you attend an MFA program. You have no idea if you are going to mesh creatively with these people.

I have attempted to find a place where all my writing needs are met and cannot seem to find the perfect fit. I think maybe that means I have to create my own!

I am modeling my working writer career after Nina LaCour right now and have been binge listening to all the podcasts she has been on and her own. She does a nice job of unpacking her own process. She also is an emotional writer which is an area I am currently working on.