Weekend Coffee Share – Hunter Moon

A cup of coffee and a conversation!

The weather finally cooled off in the middle of a rain storm! Here is hoping it stays that way. The fuzzy warm red blanket is on the bed now. It is a great time of year. It was also a full moon last night called Hunter’s Moon! I cannot say I am hunting anything except words for the page.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I made apple slices this weekend from the fruit we picked at the orchard last weekend. They are like flat apple pie with icing and delicious. The house smelled so good when they were baking.

If we were having coffee I would tell you this week was full. There were a couple days at work that got rearranged and not by me. I always handle it better when I am the one changing it but I have to roll with it.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I had a great day Tuesday at a training sponsored by the Indiana Department of Education. It was a day full of math rich tasks and was super fun. I spent the day with a teacher I am working with this year and we were able to chat in a more personal way. We laughed and had a nice lunch too.

You can read the rest of this post here.


English to English Translation #writingprompt

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What will you write today?

Try a writing prompt called ENGLISH TO ENGLISH

You can read the post here.

Short Story Club

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Yesterday I hosted the introductory meeting of the Short Story Club for my 7th graders. It is a small group that is focusing on deep conversation about stories and time to write in response to them. After listening to Daniel Bauer’s School Leadership Series podcast I may have them name themselves. I would be curious where their minds would go as a label.

I handed out a copy of the Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. Sandra is an interesting author who attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, but did not have a pleasant experience. She also sometimes calls her stories, “buttons”.

Many of the students had read this story previously so this was a revisit. I asked them to read it through the lens of a writer. I wanted them to pay attention and notice particular things for them to purposefully use later.

  • What pops out to you in feelings from reading this selection?
  • What lines do you notice that you like or wish you had written?
  • What craft moves is the author using that you would like to try?
  • What aspects of your own life does the story remind you of?

I allowed them to annotate on their copy, and I followed suit with mine.

The discussion then followed after reading time, focusing on the above questions.

Noticings from students:

  • The details. It was noticed and remarked that the story has the structure of being taken apart and then put together again with added details.
  • The metaphors. There were trite metaphors used referring to onions and rings inside a tree trunk in paragraph 3. These examples caused quite strong opinions. There were mixed feelings about using familiar metaphors as opposed to new ones. The unfamiliar seemed to unsettle several writers. They said a mix of familiar and unfamiliar was the perfect mix for them as readers. They also remarked that unsettling new metaphors were best in stories where you were trying to conjure those feelings – like in a scary story.
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I also asked them to share what they would write (if we had time). If they were to give themselves a prompt based on the story. What did it inspire them to write?

The responses were a mix of expected and not. Milestone ages were one topic for several students but not traditional in my eyes. One student talked about being old enough to ride his moped to school (15 1/2 years old). Quinceaneras at 15 were also discussed.

Not feeling the age you are was a common writing topic as well.

For next time I gave them a longer piece to read and mark with the same noticings: The Doormakers Will Make No Doors .

I also gave them the poem, Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye.

We will use these pieces to write the next time we meet. A companion poem I like to use with the Eleven story is Billy Collin’s On Turning Ten poem.

I am always looking for great short stories! Is there a suggestion you have for me? Leave the title in the comments and I would appreciate it.

Mentor Text Monday

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Today’s Mentor Text is a picture book from Jacqueline Woodson.

Image result for this is the rope

This is the summary from Google Books:
The story of one family’s journey north during the great Migration starts with a little girl in South Carolina who finds a rope under a tree one summer. She has no idea the rope will become part of her family’s history. But for three generations, that rope is passed down, used for everything from jump rope games to tying suitcases onto the car for the big move north to New York City, and even for a family reunion where that first little girl is now a grandmother.

After I use this book for interactive read aloud the discussion leads to sharing about items in our lives that are important to us. These items have stories attached to them. The book centers around one item. This is also a good time to talk about focusing on one idea for a story if your students are trying to squeeze too much into one piece.

One of the coaching questions I am starting to use is “Which 3 stories are ones only you can tell?” Stories are important to our lives and items can be touchstones to tell those stories. I love this book to illustrate the idea of an item being a souvenir for a chapter of our own lives.

After the group discussion I have students write 3 items that are important to them on a post it note or in their writing notebook. Then the students star one item that are willing to share. I will tell the students that starring and sharing does not lock them in to writing about that one during creation time.

Then we share out. I tell students that they may add or modify their list based on the discussion. Often when writers talk new ideas spring forth. We get reminded of something important. We need to teach students to take advantage of these sunny writing moments. The shared items are written on a chart so it is accessible to students during writing time.

We also talk about what they notice about the structure of how Woodson chose to write the book. We also talk about why she chose to use the repeated phrase. Noticing author moves is important to the writing process but we also have to make sure as the teacher we lead them to make the connections back to their own writing. To understand why an author chose to use a certain craft device also eliminates the need for students to throw everything they know about craft moves into one piece. It is much more effective for them to know WHY as the author they are choosing the way to write it. Connectons to other books we have read that have repeated phrasing is good to add here as well.

Woodson uses the repeated sentence stem: This is the rope at the beginning of almost every paragraph throughout the book, which is a great structure to start with especially with reluctant writers.

Writing Springboards from this book:

  1. Use a repeated sentence stem: This is the __________ (insert important item for each student)
  2. Brainstorm stories which go along with the 3 items the student has chosen.
  3. Write a poem or their own children’s book about their most important item.

Companion book: Another book that follows a repeated pattern is The Important Book. It is written in poem form and is a good mentor text as well.

Image result for the important thing

Weekend Coffee Share #SOLC Day 31

Today we are having coffee in a little cafe in my town, The Librarium Cafe. There is a Harry Potter theme and board games. The best part is the Butter Brew. We are going to have large mugs of butterscotch, caramel, toffee and espresso deliciousness. Then I will have black coffee after one Butter Brew to cut the sweetness! haha

If we were having coffee I would tell you, this year I enjoyed the slice of life challenge as I do every year but something about this year was special. The caliber of writing was great as always but it seemed there were a lot more teachers who completed the challenge. Congratulations to every one who wrote and a special congrats to those who wrote all 31 days!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I think this coffee post is the perfect one to end the month with for the challenge. It has been met with the most commentary. I am drawn to the conversational form and love that people love it.

In the challenge, I am blessed to have met many wonderful teachers I would not have any other way. The group was interactive and allowed me to connect with people all over the world. I really hope it continues.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I have high hopes for April. I hope teachers will continue to write at least once a week. I hope they will link to their blogs on Tuesdays.I hope the commenting will continue.I hope these writers will notice how powerful their daily practice is and share that experience with students. I hope to see some familiar names at CAMP NANOWRIMO.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am now on Spring Break and am so happy! It is going to be a good writing day tomorrow! I am meeting a writer friend and I also have a writers group Zoom call in the evening.

If we were having coffee I would tell you the rejections came in last week and it made me sad. I really had to get into a different mindset after a few came one after another. I am emotional about 5 days a year and one of those days was this past week.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am thinking about silence and slow living. I am thinking about being intentional especially about time. Part of this thinking is tomorrow is the anniversary of my Oma’s death. I miss her all the time and I can hardly believe it has been 19 years now.

Do you need a refill on your coffee? Another napkin, or a glass of water?

If we were having coffee I would tell you my top productivity tool has to be Google Keep. I share dictated and typed notes with myself. I make notes from podcasts and reading. I save websites and stories to read and pictures. I can make it into a Google doc and just transfer what I need from the app or opened in the browser. I can open up Keep on the right side of my screen and scroll through different notes to add to one document in Google too! I LOVE IT!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am still on my Bradbury Trio roll! I have been reading poems from Paris Review. I am reading Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, and Octavia Butler essays. I am reading William Maxwell short stories and others. I SHOULD make a spreadsheet….

Thank you so much for joining me for coffee! I always enjoy our visits and today was no different. Let’s have coffee again soon!

Here is the link to Eclectic Alli and her weekend coffee post and link up.

English to English Translation #writingprompt #SOLC Day 29

One of the writing resources I use is Language is A Virus. Here there is a list of 66 writing experiments. I used the idea of English to English translation to work on craft yesterday.

According to the site:
Homolinguistic translation: Take a poem (someone else’s, then your own) and translate it “English to English” by substituting word for word, phrase for phrase, line for line, or “free” translation as response to each phrase or sentence. Or translate the poem into another literary style or a different diction, for example into a slang or vernacular. Do several different types of homolinguistic translation of a single source poem. (Cf.Six Fillious by bp nichol, Steve McCaffery, Robert Fillious, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Dieter Roth, which also included translation of the poem to French and German.) Chaining: try this with a group, sending the poem on for “translation” from person to another until you get back to the first author.

I used the poem, “The Imaginal Stage” by D.A. Powell.

This is what I ended up with after utilizing a thesaurus and them rewriting for more cohesion.

Inventive Theater by T.L. Breitweiser

On the plane where we change

I move away into a view of abundant worlds.

Rather than suns,

Abundant corners are fancy to scorch.

Do not settle

Perpetually adoring

An ending opportunity

When instantly they indeed appear

To settle with the mundane.

Quiver and alter

The remains of my mind

The end game is we combust

Apt to escalate at dawn

When I share my feathers.

This was an interesting exercise and more difficult than I first imagined. I would like to try it with students. I would only give students one stanza as it can be frustrating to find words that fit.

Who are You? #SOLC Day 19

I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Each day in the month of March teachers from around the country post to their blogs and comments are made on at least 3 posts.

Coming up with ideas for writing is usually not my problem. DECIDING on which idea to write about it is normally the issue.

I have gone up and down and all around about what to write today. I looked through my draft blog posts, I looked through my BLOG folder in Google, I read other slices this morning, I listened to some favorite podcasts…nothing resonated that I want to share publicly.

While scrolling on Instagram yesterday I noticed an advertisement for a 10 day writing challenge. I cannot pass up prompts sent to my mailbox so I signed up. The prompts are written out in a community, in an email, in video and audio formats. The day 1 prompt is refreshingly new to me and I am in the process of writing it.

The Day 1 challenge is to write your own Game of Thrones name like Daenerys, the mother of dragons.

You do not need to be a fan or watcher of Game of Thrones to do this prompt.

These are Tara’s words:
For context, the heroine of the show is a young lady, a Queen, named Daenerys Targaryen. She comes from a long line of rulers, but her ancestors were not well-loved. Her own dad was, in fact, torturous and murderous. And she is on a mission to break that cycle; to still walk in her regal ancestry, but to be a queen that liberates instead of imprisoning, and rules with freedom rather than fear.

Her name goes like this: “Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.”

So, the question is – Who are you today and now?

I have not written my completely yet but I am a mother, a wife, a teacher, a coach. I am an ultra runner and an ultra reader. I am the writer of stories. I am a yogi and an accidental inspirationalist.

We shall see what else I come up with throughout the day!

Here is a link to the challenge.

Other questions for today: Do you enjoy writing challenges other than Slice of Life? What others have you participated in? Have you ever considered starting your own?

Image result for welcome wagon two writing teachers

M is for Mentor Text #SOLC Day 18

I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Each day in the month of March teachers from around the country post to their blogs and comments are made on at least 3 posts.

The Bradbury Trio project is going quite well! I am “feeding the muse” as Bradbury would say with all the lovely words. It is also helping that I am reading essays specifically about creativity and writing. I am starting to get some recommendations from others which is greatly appreciated. I was reminded this past weekend of Pema Chödrön whose words helped me through a trauma a couple years ago. I will seek her words out moving forward.

Here is a small portion of what I have been reading lately:


“The Long Road to Mars” by Ray Bradbury

“Just This Side of Byzantium: Dandelion Wine” R.B.

“How to Keep and Feed A Muse” R.B

“The Gap” Natalie Goldberg

 Thaisa Frank

Short Stories

Come to the Fair Shirley Jackson

1,000 Year Old Ghosts Laura Chow Reeve

Devil of A Tale and The Mouse by Shirley Jackson

Foley’s Pond

The Actual Thing William Maxwell

The Needle Behind the Thread and Always See Me Ryan Bender Murphy

The Widow’s Club

Instructions for Mourning

Poems – [I receive the Paris Review daily email with a poem]

The Cooper Beech Marie Howe

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer Walt Whitman

“Spring” Judita Vaiciunate

The Solsticeby W. S. Merwin

“Yeats at Balscadden” Damel Tobin

Have you read anything really great I need to read? Tell me!

Image result for welcome wagon two writing teachers

M is for Mentor #SOLC Day 12

I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Each day in the month of March teachers from around the country post to their blogs and comments are made on at least 3 posts.

I am continuing my Bradbury Trio and have found it affecting my writing already. I have always been of the mindset it is good practice to find a Mentor to help you be better at whatever you are trying to raise your skill level in. I had a wonderful coach when I was learning to be a coach. I have consultants and authors I look up to now. But the most consistent mentor I have are books, stories, poems, essays, and most recently, blog posts.

Last night I read the essay, RUN FAST, STAND STILL, OR, THE THING AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS,OR, NEW GHOSTS FROM OLD MINDS by Bradbury in the Zen in the Art of Writing. In this essay he talks about his list of nouns and how he used the list of 20 nouns to fuel stories. Many of these went on to be published. The brain pickings newsletter talked about this concept which I wrote a blog post about as well. You can read that here. It reminded me to make my own list today.

One of my favorite writing exercises is to start with a word and springboard from there. I pick a word and set the timer for 10 minutes and see what happens. It is writing practice and sometimes it leads to a story or a blog post.

I was also inspired yesterday by a writing friend who is going through a coaching process with a professional. Chatting with her about it sparked an idea for a story or an article I am going to explore more today.

Other blog posts are inspiring me with their formats!

The poem I read of Billy Collins yesterday, “Thieves” inspired my own poem in my notebook (not for public consumption…yet).

Inspiration is everywhere!

Other ways to be a mentor of writing:

  1. Talk about writing.
  2. Verbalize stories.
  3. Use storyboards and share stories.
  4. Share stories from your life.
  5. Find a writer that is a little more advanced than you and taker her out to coffee or send her email or a Tweet. CONNECT and LEARN.
  6. Read Books to Help you Become a Better Writer. Try: Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott, Stephen King, Ralph Fletcher,
  7. Donald Maass

Add your favorite writing mentors in the comments! What other mentors do you use for your writing?

31 Days of FMF Challenge

My FOREST timer was set today for 5 minutes and I wrote: INSPIRE





This is a word that comes up for me a lot. I know to pay attention.

I have been called an Accidental Inspire-er – I am not really sure that is a word really – or even a thing.

I am not inspired by sound today. It overwhelms my ears and my brain.

Today is Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Day – I hope to inspire at least one teacher with my post.

I was inspired by feedback from one of my critique group partners today.

I want to inspire students to be creative. I hope to do that through Genius Hour. I want to inspire kids to read and write. I do that through Writer Workshop.

To inspire

I have to start a fire

Let it burn

Hot and Bright

Teach tools so there is management and the fire doesn’t get out of control.

Don’t let the marshmallows burn!