#SOL21- Kindergarten Has Become A Gamble

Tuesdays is the day for the Two Writing Teachers post.

It is the time of the school year that I reflect about what has gone well and what I want to change in the fall.

I feel like I have pivoted so many times it has been 3 years rolled into one. I changed teaching positions in January of 2020 and I haven’t had a “normal” school year since I moved to Wisconsin. What is normal anyway? Dealing with children is always a new adventure.

The last month makes me feel split. I teach some students in person and some online. On one of my walks the other day I was thinking about Dr. Richard Allington and his reading research and how I used to teach.

I met Dr Allington and had dinner with him one year at an International Reading Association conference. He is no nonsense and brilliant.

I had modified everything for virtual learning, including my writing instruction and kept feeling like something was missing. My students love writing time and are creative but I was skipping something.

I used to do something called Family Meeting. It was circle time and when I did calendar and all those snippets of standards you need to review every day in order for them to stick. We made patterns and tally marks, etc.

I also read the one of 4-6 read alouds for the day and then we would write a response to the book and I would focus on one skill. Students would then write their own version independently in their own notebooks. It worked well and the kids learned to experiment with writing.

Yesterday I added the group chart back and then had them write. It went smoothly and the feel of writing workshop was productive.

We used It Looked Like Spilt Milk and then wrote a story about what spilt blue paint would look like. Then they set off with their own colors. One had a spider that morphed into something else. Someone else had dancing butterflies.

I don’t have too many days left with the kids and I am trying to test in math and reading. There are some students that only show up on the in person days and some that randomly come to class no matter what mode we are in.

It is a gamble every morning.

I am looking forward to the summer and resting. I need to recharge for the fall. There is uncertainty as to what that is going to look like as no decisions, or discussion, is happening until next month in my corporation.

I will live my writing life this summer and go kayaking and ziplining and walk in the sun. I am going to Disney and celebrating my birthday next month and I am looking forward to it.

I am not certain what is in store for the fall, but I cannot control that right now and I do not have the energy to worry about it.

What are your summer plans?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 24- #StoryadayMay2021

THE PROMPT

I love concept albums, albums in which a singular story is told throughout the tracks. Some are silly, some are deep, but all of them are fascinating. Write the story that comes to you out of this lyric from Eagles’ Desperado album:

“The towns lay out across the dusty plains like graveyards filled with tombstones waiting for the names.”

Fleet Sparrow is the author of this prompt.

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Once again I was up at 3 am.

I also keep thinking it is the 25th so somewhere along the way I lost a day.

Balance is not something that I believe in as a rule. There is scheduling time intentionally and living in the moment. There are non-negotiables in life and writing for me is one of them although I wish my body would respond to being tired with actual sleep.

The day’s story had a surreal tone because of when I wrote it. I lifted one of my own sentences from a flash class I took yesterday hosted by Chestnut Review.

I learned a few months ago the best place for prompts is my own freewriting. I call them the parts that sparkle. It is a concept I include when I teach annotation. In the past, we have only annotated other author’s writing, not our own.

The story today started with my main character leaving suddenly on a trip. It takes an odd turn and the main character ends up talking with an elephant. There is a section that is about a house that resembles a museum. I found out that the museum labels are sometimes called tombstones which was in line with the prompt.

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 23- #StoryadayMay2021

THE PROMPT

Two options today: write a story in the form of a list, OR use this list of words in your story: gallery, contemplated, identity, point, behind, tastes, followed, forty, like, generations.

Julie Duffy is the author of this prompt.

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I love a story that is made from a list and written from a list of random words.

In Meg Pokrass’ Flash Gym class yesterday we used a lot of visuals and lists of words to generate stories. This workshop had no chitchat at all. We dove right in when it was time and wrote for an hour and 20 minutes. Some people read or talked about their pieces at the end which was fascinating.

Today’s STAD story was written early in the morning before sunrise. I suppose it could be argued whether it was still night or morning. What do you consider 3:30am?

An unnamed little boy is the main character in my story and as become obsessed with lemons. I often use the lists of words that are given to me in a prompt in order. I am not certain why. Today I consciously used the words backwards from the list order given. He eats everything lemon he can and then grows up to be a painter. Of course the subject of his art is his beloved citrus.

There is something clean about lemons. I have a memory of lemon lollipops for Mr. L in kindergarten. When I started school there was a program called The Letter People that associated all the letters with a story and a song centered around a personified letter of the alphabet. Mr. M had a munchy mouth and ate everything that started with M of course. Mr. H had horrible hair. We grew grass in a styrofoam cup we decorated with a large H. These experiences have stayed with me all these years. I even use the Letter People with my kindergartners now. They were updated several years ago to make them look more modern but the videos are still available on Youtube for some of the letters. There used to be inflatable letter people that we played with on the carpet I remember as well.

Day 23 anchors: lemons, paintings, unnamed boy

visual: lemon tree in the center

What did you write today?

Do you freewrite as part of your writing practice? Let me know in the comments!

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 22- #StoryadayMay2021

Day 22 Prompt

THE PROMPT

The banging on the cabin’s door is incessant. Your character throws the soufflé into the oven and rushes to open the door. No one is there, but on the floor, they see three antique brass keys and a Tarot card (JUSTICE, MAIDEN OF CUPS, or any other card). Write what happens next.

You can read this prompt and see the picture at storyaday.org

Soleah K. Sadge is the author of this prompt.

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There is so much food that keeps appearing in my stories this month! Today I used the Hansel and Gretel tale for inspiration. In my centered call with Sarah Selecky earlier in the week one of my small groups talked about fairy tales and retellings. It is always recommended to reread the original tale. A couple of weeks ago I read the original The Three Bears tale and discovered it was an old woman in the first publication. I love to be inspired by fairy and folk tales anyway.

[Can I tell you I wish these Centered calls were more often than once a month???]

Today’s story ended up being longer than other days due the nature of the prompt. My main character had to figure out what to do with the keys and what they opened. I used part of my dream from last night in order for my main character to figure out what to do with them.

The tarot card is a tool in my writing practice already. [I am working on a class about how I use these visuals as prompts for my writing…stay tuned] I pull cards everyday and have the deck that is in the photo on the Storyaday website. This morning I pulled three cards as I have been doing for weeks and I pulled the Maiden of Cups! I guess that card really needed to be in my story today.

I am a recovering overthinker and the tarot cards allow me to think around something. I can see the visual and approach an issue in a different way than I normally would. They allow me to surprise myself much like freewriting does.

Keys are a personal icon for me as well so this part of the prompt resonated with me. I have a tattoo on my upper back that incorporates a skeleton key.

Day 22 anchors: 3 keys, white stones, purple fire, doorways

What did you write today?

Do you freewrite as part of your writing practice? I am curious so please comment!

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Fabulous Friday – #StoryadayMay2021

Happy Friday!

Today I am sharing Thursday and Friday’s writing process reflection.

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I inspire others to read, write and converse because curiosity compels them to do so. I provide resources, challenges, and space for people to be inspired.

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The challenge is still going well and I am continually inspired. The fatigue of writing a full story with intention is setting in. It is about this time of the month every May I start to think that I have already come this far I might as well finish!

No one is holding my feet to the fire – it is all internal. Writing is my happy space, always. I love to be immersed within it. I think this is why the idea of an MFA comes up for me. I am in conversation with my friend Nicole from Stop Writing Alone about this very topic. You can check her podcast episode out this week here: https://www.instagram.com/stopwritingalone/

Day 21 Prompt

Write about the boy you see on either side of the reflection.

C. McKane is the author of this prompt.

You can find her at @cmckane on Twitter or at https://cmckane.com. She is a friend and you should check her out!

I combined this prompt with the Sarah Selecky prompt of writing from the POV of darkness so the first part of the story is from the POV of the little boy and the next part is from the shadow’s perspective. The boy wants to get rid of the shadow and feels that the shadow teases him and plays games keeping quiet when he thinks he is gone and then appears again. He tries several approaches to rid himself of the shadow.

He takes some desperate measures in order to get rid of a part of himself.

Anchors: shadow, book, blackened forest, silence

Day 20 PROMPT

Food can trigger visceral memories and strong emotions. Think of your favorite thing to eat and also your least favorite. Today, write a story inspired by food. Maybe your character is at a grocery store, or maybe they’re cooking at home with the kids. Maybe they’ve come across a fruit stand on the side of the road. The item you choose can be of central importance to the story or not. Anything goes!

Windy Lynn Harris is the author of this prompt.

Windy Lynn Harris is the author of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published (Writer’s Digest Books). She’s a prolific writer, a trusted mentor, and a frequent speaker at literary events. Her long list of short stories and personal essays have been published in literary, trade, and women’s magazines across the U.S. and Canada in places like The Literary Review, The Sunlight Press, and Literary Mama, among many other journals.

If you do not have her book you need to order it. It is amazing and was a huge part of me learning HOW to publish. Her podcast on Storyaday that deals with flash fiction is amazing and highly recommended.

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I had trouble with the initial idea for this prompt today. I have written about food several times over the last 19 days. I thumbed through some newer cookbooks that have come onto my radar. Then I used phrases from poems to start new sentences that cobbled together to make an interesting and unusual story.

Day 20 anchors: toast, soft boiled eggs, vinegar

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 19 – #StoryadayMay2021

THE PROMPT

Venture into an unfamiliar thrift shop or antiques market and find an object you’ve never seen before. Even better–one whose function you can only guess! Then, tell a story in which that object plays a key role. Perhaps you can explain how it arrived there; perhaps it’s a lost heirloom or the key to unimaginable power. Or perhaps the object itself isn’t as important as how it brings two strangers together–or sunders a seemingly impenetrable bond.

Michele E. Reisinger is the author of this prompt.

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I wrote my story this morning before work in my notebook. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go when I started writing ,but the story took on a life of its own and it moved along for several pages. I am happy with it overall. The title came out of the last part of the story which was a surprise.

The character moves after losing things and her new downtown has a thrift shop she frequents looking for treasures. On this day, she finds something that unlocks a whole new adventure. A box has a hidden treasure inside.

Day 19 anchors: box, lost things, new town

Visual representation: wooden box with a red velvet

My Sarah Selecky community had a call this evening which was delightful and about wonder. Sarah poses questions we write to and then we share out with partners. It is always a fueling conversation. She recommended 3 books which are on my wish list. The prompts were thought provoking. There is only one call per month and I am glad I was able to make it today. The times and days of the week are rotated month to month in order to allow people from all over the world to attend.

What is something you find to be a wonder?

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 18 – #StoryadayMay2021 Llama Tuesday

THE PROMPT

There is a llama sitting on the seat beside you, drinking coffee. No one else finds this odd. He turns to you, about to speak.

Rin Chupeco is the author of this prompt.

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Many years ago I made a joke about it being Llama Tuesday to see what would happen. To see if people noticed. They did and it became a thing. I wrote an article about it. In fact, the llama comes up in communities I am only associated with now, and not a full participant. You can read the article here.

If you google Llama Tuesday my article comes up at the top of the search.

The prompt is about a llama in an unusual situation although no one around the character seems to think it is odd. It lends itself to a surreal or dream like story. In my story, the main character isn’t sure if it is reality or not. The llama offers my character a tarot card reading because he is learning. The chair next to the llama just happened to be open!

The Sarah Selecky prompt was about something going in circles. I didn’t incorporate this idea into the story but I am still contemplating it. I had fun with this prompt but there is some magic missing from it yet. Maybe it will come to me later.

Day 18 anchors: llama, coffee, conversation, tarot reading, strength, death

Visual representation: llama sitting at a counter with coffee and tarot cards in front of him – coffee and steam in the border

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 17 – #StoryadayMay2021

THE PROMPT

Here’s a prompt from Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem Travel:

. . . there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.

Create a character who cannot wait to leave their town. Why do they want to leave? What or whom will they leave behind? Will the decision to start anew prove to be a good one?

Robin Stein is the author of this prompt.

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I adore the idea of writing on a train. I even wrote several grants trying to have a writing retreat that way. I am thinking of planning a trip for myself this summer. It doesn’t matter the destination really. It is all about the time on the train to write and watch the people and the scenery go by.

I have a story that takes place over the span of 2 hours that I have been rewriting for years now. It is called, 12:34 because I ALWAYS look at the clock at that time, usually daily.

The prompt is about the idea of escape, a common theme in my stories one way or another. Today’s story seems like it about a person’s escape from a demon, however the real escapee is the demon itself. It is a story about appearing to be something that you are not, or trying not to be.

I am not in love with this story if I am honest. I started it and it felt familiar. I search the Google Drive [if you are following along…do you sense a pattern here? Compost piles/documents are helpful people!] I did find a few lines that took the story in a different direction which I liked better.

The real winner from today was a 100 word essay I write in response to Nicole Breit’s email today. I had to play with the word count about 6 times after the initial draft was composed to get exactly 100 words.

Here is the essay:

PAPER DOLLS

Paper dolls do not have knives in their backs. Coworkers paid attention to my clothes and they made me a paper doll to change my outfits every hour.  Another time, Flat Tammy was taken to a writer’s conference. The proof are the posed photos. I made myself paper dolls and used my Bitmoji and scraps from food magazines into collaged outfits I would never wear. Other dolls I made had no face. Today I wear a dress that came from the girls’ section at the store and I am told I look like a doll. If only I was flat.

Day 17 Anchors: demon, ashes, costumes

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 16 – #StoryadayMay2021

THE PROMPT

It’s a sign!

This prompt idea came from an episode of Valley 101, a podcast about Arizona [https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2021/01/18/who-writes-the-highway-signs-in-arizona/4183558001/] This episode was about who writes their funny highway signs, the history of them and what sort of messages they deliver. The idea of constraints appealed to me, often it drives creativity in unexpected directions.

Arizona’s highway sign messages are three lines long, with up to 18 characters per line. You can have commas, spaces, apostrophes, and dashes, which all count toward the 18 character limit. Now 18×3 characters isn’t long to tell a story, but it is long enough to deliver an important message. So the prompt is this:

Your character is in the middle of doing something mundane when they see a message that causes them to change course. The message could be something they see on a highway sign, a sign on the window of a store, a dashboard displayed in an office, or even a text message, but the limit is 18×3 characters and the message causes the character to change what they were doing/going to do.

Janine Griffin is the author of this prompt.

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The ironic part about this prompt today is that I was inspired by a podcast for my story yesterday. [I wrote about it here.] I drove up to the Wisconsin Dells yesterday and these “clever” signs are everywhere and I find them incredibly distracting. They are rampant in Wisconsin. It seems the perfect fit for my story today.

I used some of the actual signs that have been on the road as headings for the parts of my storyline. A character is escaping a relationship and has made a decision to leave finally. The signs are the pieces of the story that help put the pieces together for the reader to reveal what is happening.

I sometimes like a device to pace a story for the reader. I have used the grief framework to pace stories before and I enjoyed that the signs emerged as a similar device. I have also used the 12 Steps to write stories. It is a fun way to experiment with a form and structure.

As far as a productivity and management writing thing I have noticed that I have been charging my laptop and writing until it gets so low on charge that it will die. That seems to be a good chunk of time to get work done!

Day 16 Anchors: Signs, highway, escape, safety, Seattle

Visual Representation: Digital sign, safety cones

What did you write today?

If you would like to read what I reflected on in Day 1 click here. I have blogged about every day of the challenge so feel free to scroll through the posts. Comments are welcome!

Day 2

Day 14

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 15 – #StoryadayMay

THE PROMPT

At the midpoint of May, I want you to write a story where your character is half way between one thing and another — at a transition. This can be literal, emotional, or metaphorical.

Julie Duffy is the author of this prompt.

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The idea of transitions is not a new concept for a story. When I did my morning writing with my coffee on this Saturday morning nothing was coming to mind that excited me to form into a flash piece. The routine was a bit broken this morning and so I went for my walk early.

I listen to the Qwerty podcast hosted by Marion Roach Smith and her guest for the latest episode was Alexandra Stafford who is a food writer. Her mother had a peasant bread recipe that went viral after Alex finally got permission to share it on her blog. It was her mother and Alex’s “party trick.” because it was always so good. I find the idea fascinating that bread can be a party trick. I am well aware of the idea that certain people are known for brining certain foods to a potluck, carry in at work, etc.

Alexandra has a new cookbook out called Bread Toast Crumbs which has recipes that use the remnants of all those homemade loaves of bread. She created it after her freezer was filled with heels and crumbs and misshaped loaves.

I love bread and in fact it is my favorite food. I used to love to cook and try new recipes. There are a few ideas for stories that I have had in the compost pile that have not found the right fit for a story and today they came out! The idea hit me about a character and I wrote notes while on my walk and I wrote it when I came back home. They were ignited by this podcast.

This May, I have found many ideas that have not had the right fit for so long are clicking into place with these prompts. It is a satisfying feeling when ideas find the stories they are supposed to be in.

The draft is more an essay than a story. I will put some kitchen witch magic into it so it will be more fiction and fun. I will keep thinking on it today and make more notes for the next rewrite.

Day 15 Anchors: Spoons, bread, recipe, transition from recipe follower to nourishing kitchen witch

Visual Representation: Bread in the center, bowls in the corners of the card and swirling spoons. Fire and a hearth

What did you write today?

If you would like to read what I reflected on in Day 1 click here. I have blogged about every day of the challenge so feel free to scroll through the posts. Comments are welcome!

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait!