Gate A-4 + Writing Prompt #SOL19

This week I reread Gate A-4 by Naomi Shihab Nye. You can read the story at the link below.

https://www.csmd.edu/Assets/For-the-community/connections/SHIHAB%20NYE%20POETRY.pdf

I have a deep love for Nye’s work. I was introduced to her poem Secrets at the Writers at Work conference many years ago by educator celebrity Laura Robb.

The setting of the story is the Albuquerque Airport which I have actually been to. It is the backdrop for the story but also allows the conflict to play out in a natural organic way. I do find the lack of compassion from the flight agents disturbing but I feel it is purposeful for the pacing of the story. Another peculiar detail is the four hour delay. That seems long with no explanation.

One of the main themes of this piece is connection. The connections we have to people and how food plays a part. Food has a way of spanning all kinds of voids including language barriers.

When I was young my cousin from Germany would visit us every summer. For the first few summers I didn’t speak much German and he didn’t speak much English yet we were inseparable. Food played a big part of daily life in my Oma’s house and was a connector for us. Meals were always all together.

Lines I love from this story:

“Such an old country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.”

“This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.”

There is power in such a short amount of words. I love the idea of home and being rooted. I think as I get older I think more and more we are rooted to other people more than places. At least this seems to be in the case in my experience.

This story is about one event – what happens in the delay of the flight and how this woman who speaks no English brings a gate full of people together with cookies that bridge a gap of apprehension and prejudice.

As a teacher I see both of these lines being great springboards for quickwrites. I plan to use quickwrites for some of my #SOL19 posts for the Two Writing Teachers March challenge. If you would like more information about this challenge click here. I also will reference Linda Rief’s Quickwrite book. I have been a fan of Linda’s for a long time. I was honored to meet her in person many years ago. I even have her first quickwrite book which she autographed for me.

Writing Prompt: Write for 3-5 minutes using the lines from the story Gate A4.

Here are my quickwrites from these lines:

#1
“Such an old country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.”

Carrying a plant as you travel seems to be a cumbersome activity in reality but I like the metaphor. As we travel away from home it is nice to have a connection to home. Now it is mostly through communication with the cell phone. I have had the experience of being connected to loved ones by letters when cell phone service is not available. Connection to home is people. Yes where we sleep is important. Sleeping in our own beds is usually a sentiment of what we miss when away. Plants are different in different landscapes. They can sometimes be transplanted and sometimes they die. Plants thrive where they originate from. Some plants don’t do well when you take them out of their natural habitat. Are people are the same way? Some can be transplanted and do well. Some are so attached to where they originate they cannot live anywhere else. I am not that person.

#2
“This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.”

Apprehension of people can be dissolved with cookies and compassion. We are not lost on each other we can find the place we are more alike than different. Who knew it could be a gate in an airport in New Mexico.

What are your thoughts about these lines?

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Feb 24 – Weekend Coffee Share

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Today I am having my regular large mug of black coffee. What would you like to have today? This week was a little off for me. I hope yours was better.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the work started with a scheduled E-learning day. There was some confusion with my role for a couple things the rest of the week – this is the problem with having multiple bosses. It all worked out.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I was having trouble with my emotions this week. Intense feelings don’t bubble up all too often but for some reason the closer I got to work Thursday morning the angrier I got. I did a lot of cleaning that day.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you WORKSHOP WEDNESDAY was wonderful. We talked about CHECKS FOR UNDERSTANDING and the conversation was professional and engaging. It was one of those days I really appreciate the people I work with and how hard they work.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I was able to get 4 submissions out this week. Two were little contests and two were publication submissions. I am really proud of the two stories I sent out. At the very least I hope to get some feedback from the editors.

If we were having coffee I would confess I did not go to my IRL (In Real Life) writing group this week. The week before I had a lot of contact with writers and I was really tired. It is not the greatest reason but it is the honest one. As emotion-filled as I was that day I also figured it was better for me to stay home.

It was a full week! What great things filled your last 7 days? I would love to hear about them! I am looking forward to the week coming up. I am hoping for some great writing sessions and interactions with people!

This post is inspired by Eclectic Alli and her Coffee share page

6 Word Memoirs

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Six- word memoirs are a go-to quick writing idea. Do not be disillusioned by their small stature though. They can be difficult to write. Practicing making your language concise is a trying practice for some authors no matter if you are 5 or 50 or somewhere in between.

Here are a couple of examples:

Lost in places where I belong.

I’ve waited in the wrong line.

Lost my mind. Gave up looking.

I’m forcing the puzzle pieces together.

More examples can be found here: https://www.sixwordmemoirs.com/

Teaching Idea:

  1. Use 6-word summaries for text students have read or you have read aloud.

Examples from Stellaluna

Image result for stellaluna
  • Fruit bat misses mom and birds.
  • Stellaluna has lost identity and mother.
  • Friends are different and the same.

2. Have students use the 6 words for their check for understanding for the day or a specific lesson.

3. Use as a recap of the most important thought of the day. Track them over time.

4. At the end of each grading period have students write a 6-word memoir of the most memorable thing. Reflect at the end of the year.

5. Another variation is to write an 18-word memoir from last year (2018) – what sticks out to you?

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Weekend Coffee Share

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Today I am having my regular large mug of black coffee. What would you like? It has been a busy week over here and I am looking forward to talking to you about it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the work week felt odd. I was in charge of facilitating training for two full days. Tuesday ending up being an e-learning day due to weather so the schedule had to get all rearranged. Friday our literacy consultant was there who had been rescheduled at least twice. It was a crazy mixed up week where I kept forgetting what day of the week it was! Then I ran out of coffee at work on Friday morning! BOOOOOO!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I had a marvelous dinner on Friday. We went to an old school steak place in a nearby town and it was an amazing meal. Creamy garlic dressing for the salad, cheesy potato soup, ribeye, baked potato and fresh bread with honey butter. The creme brulee was disappointing but I will focus on the main meal!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you Saturday was Adventure Day. We drove about 2 hours to Kokomo. When I started my teaching career it was in Howard County. I have loads of fond memories there. Saturday’s trip centered around the Seiberling Mansion. It was built in the 1880s for about $50,000. All the materials and labor were local. The mansion is three floors and the Sierberlings loved to entertain so the top floor is a ballroom. I really wish there were pictures from that time period. There is only one picture of a daughter in a bedroom at her desk. There have been several owners over the years and Thomas Edison is said to have attended a wedding there.

The Indiana University extension took over the building for a while. Then the historical society came in and renovated.

There were several idea sparks that came to me while I was enjoying the house. There are lots of architectural details to look at. Lots of people have enjoyed the house and many more still do.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the restaurant I was so looking forward to eating at was closed just last week. I was so sad. Mike’s Pizza had been a place I ate at often when I lived there. They had the best Italian beef sandwiches and breadsticks. We made do with another lunch place that was still delicious but not familiar.

If we were having coffee I would tell you the last stop for this trip was Treasure Mart. This is a most interesting place. If you ever have writers’ block and any type of BLOCK walk around this place and it will be gone. There are all types of artifacts and trinkets and memorabilia. There are old typewriters, Coleman picnic kits from the 60’s, furniture, old photographs, cast iron skillets, decorative and practical kitchenware, old books, knives, guns, and the Oscar Mayer Weiner Whistle…you name it it is probably in the building somewhere. Again, lots of story sparks for me here.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I had my critique group call on Saturday night. I was a bit late to the call because of the drive from Adventure Saturday. I should have taken bullet point notes to talk about the stories I critiqued. It was a new format for me. I did get to hear about my story too and I clarified some questions about it. Overall, it was a great experience. Thanks to Julie Duffy at storyaday.org for facilitating!

If we were having coffee I would tell you the #write28days word for today is CREATE. If you would like to read more post in this series click here for the landing page. I have created a lot of writing lately including some letters! I have written and revised several stories too. I even submitted 2 stories yesterday. I also submitted 2 super short pieces on Friday as well. We will see what happens! I am excited about the possibilities!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I met with a new writing friend at a local restaurant and we talked blogging, writing, and teaching. It was wonderful! We made plans to get together soon to write.

It was a full week of great things! What great things filled your last 7 days? I would love to hear about them!

This post is inspired by Eclectic Alli and her Coffee share page

Where Do I Live? #SOL19

Where we live says something about us. When we ask this question it gives us insight into the person that is answering. There is a lot to talk about surrounding the answer and variations of this question.

This question was asked of me various ways last Saturday when I attended my writer retreat at a local Buddhist retreat and meditation center. I have lived in so many different places over the last couple of years I always hesitate before answering. I do not feel that the town I am currently living in reflects who I am. Which in many respects is silly. We did move here based on county affiliation and closeness to my work. I am in a temporary place and I know it. It is like we are stationed in this house and waiting for the next deployment and the emotions around this idea are complicated for me. So when I answered the question when asked by the wonderful people I was meeting, it sounded wrong when I said the name of my town in response. No one was judging one way or another but I felt like I needed to explain something that I could not quite place. I wondered if it sounded inauthentic when I spoke it. I felt the need to share the town I worked in too even though it wasn’t asked.

When one of my friends asked me how I was settling in a couple weeks after we moved to this house I answered, “I cannot walk around in the dark yet.” I still cannot most nights. It has been 5 months.

I positively frame the situation and am grateful for having a house to live in. We have a great backyard that we will enjoy in the spring. We will plant flowers and veggies to enjoy this spring and summer too. Everyone has space here and my car is warm in the winter because we have a garage.

In this town, there is a delightful coffee shop and a used bookstore that I will frequent as time passes. There are new restaurants to try that are not chains.

I grew up in Northwest Indiana and left to live in Central Indiana after high school. I came back to the north after my Oma died. I knew if I didn’t leave the state after college graduation I would stay here. I plan to change that status in a couple of years.

I have been asked when I moved from New York to live in Indiana. I have been told I don’t quite fit where I am.

Here is what I love about where I live – it is where I am. It is where my husband and four children are and that is what is important. (My books and writing are here too – also important!) The memories we have made in this area are important.

The physical space has come to not matter so much to me. I live inside my head a lot of time and circumstances have taught me to learn that many things I thought that were unshakeable are temporary. This is how life works and how I learn so I am not sad about it. I hope this post has not left you melancholy.

My inquiry to you is:

Where do you live?

What do you love about it?

Every Tuesday I write and comment at TWOWRITINGTEACHERS.ORG. Come and read other people’s slices of life and comment when one strikes you. This post was also inspired by the 10 Things to Tell You Podcast.

Melody writes about being where you are. You can find her site here: http://melodywarnick.com/?ct=t%28EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2_11_2019_13_6%29&mc_cid=ef5ebb0f05&mc_eid=c5a7f71a7b

How to Develop a Library of Stories

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The word belonging came up at the Jim Knight training I attended yesterday and several times this week. Belonging is a large component of engagement which is a buzzword in education right now, but applies to everyone. Everyone has the need to belong which can mean simply to have friends and to be part of a tribe. Sometimes we find these people in real life and sometimes they are online.

One practice of how we connect with another human is through stories.

Developing a library of stories is the biggest takeaway for me from yesterday’s training. A library of stories is basically a cheat sheet to jog your memory when you need a story to illustrate a point or for entertainment. It could be on a physical piece of paper, it could be a list in your phone or a mapped graphic organizer at the back of your planner. It is a tool. It is similar to how I use my Goodreads list. Whenever someone asks what me I have read lately, my mind immediately goes blank. I often will open Goodreads to jar my memory. A library of stories is a similar tool.

Telling stories is one of the most important things we can do as people. It is how our brains work and also connects us to people! Stories are part of why I am a writer and an educator.

Storytelling is an effective practice for engagement. They are quite effective for fostering hope.

A few components to keep in mind:

  1. The story needs a purpose to the story – a why to why you are telling it. In the classroom it is likely to demonstrate concept or key idea. It may be humor or just a show of a similar situation.
  2. Effective stories CANNOT BE LAME. They should be concise, vivid, surprising, and emotional – but maybe not all at the same time.
  3. You audience must identify with the story you have chosen.

Using stories can help you illustrate the ideas you are trying to teach or portray. Danny Bauer talks about core value stories. His story of tenacity is portrayed with a story about honeybadgers. Doing the most important thing first is illustrated with the BIG DOMINO story. I remember these concepts because of the stories he told. Check out his podcast to hear the stories for yourself.

How to:

To develop a library for stories create a timeline from birth until today. The beauty is you can keep this paper (larger size might be better) for you to capture story ideas with a few words so that when you need to pull a story for a lesson or situation they are gathered in one place. You scan and choose.

List people.

List events.

List the stories that go with each using a few words.

When I first did this activity I was shocked how difficult it was for me to come up with events and people. It might have been due to the fact Knight told us the exercise should take 90 minutes and we were doing it in 2 minutes.

BUT… when I woke up this morning this idea was still with me. On the commute to my writers retreat I decided I would go through each age and see if I could recall stories that corresponded. The ones that emerged on the paper yesterday were the ones that I often tell. Several of them I have even written about on the blog. There were a few that I had forgotten about like the story I shared in my small group about a surprisingly difficult exercise class that left me uncharacteristically sore for days! It even hurt to breathe. I am sure if I would have had more time and it wasn’t 20 minutes before the end of the workshop I would have had more things to write.

A couple months ago I had made a list of 25 life altering moments based on a business book I was reading so I am going to find that list in whatever notebook it is in and add it to my timeline.

Moving forward, one idea Knight shared was to roll this idea out to teachers and then have check ins to talk about the stories they were using with students. I would love to start this practice. It would not only help the students strengthen relationships with teachers but it would cement the bond between educators.

What do you think of a library of stories? Do you like the idea of a timeline? Do you like the idea of a list? Is there a story you tell over and over?

10 Things to Tell You

Every Tuesday (And every day in March!!!!) I blog and share it with teacher-writers on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

My Slice of Life today is inspired by the new podcast of the same title of the post. To listen you can find it here.

Image result for 10 things to tell you podcast
  1. Accept is my word today for today’s #Write28days. I need to accept some truths. I am contemplating and planning these GATHERINGS and I need to find the WHY. I think I have realized some truth after some journaling yesterday. One truth is I am an introvert so I need to carefully plan the execution of these events to not exhaust myself.
  2. I am super excited for my critique group video call this evening with Katherine and Marta. I am so honored to be writing friends with these ladies. I value their feedback and thoughts and they never steer me wrong.
  3. Storyaday.org’s Julie Duffy hosted a free writer Zoom call last night where 16 of us got together and wrote. It was wonderful to do 3 sprints together and I crafted a new short story! It took a surprising twist and direction. It is always fulfilling to talk story with other writers.
  4. The topic for the above podcast today is “Are you Lonely?” I love solitude but there are times I feel disconnected from people. On my commute this morning, I was thinking about being disconnected which is why I think I am pursuing the GATHERINGS idea. I want to have time to connect to other creatives for everyone’s creative well to be filled.
  5. Several years ago my life blew up and I was lonely because I was thrust into a situation where I knew NO ONE who had gone through the same thing. There was one person that had a small connection and I was rejected. Luckily, I found a group that supported me. I am forever grateful for this organization and they helped me from going into a spiral that would have not been recoverable.
  6. The #teachwrite Twitter chat was last night and super fun! The questions were amazing. I love that a teacher is part of this group that works in the corporation I used to. Seeing her name pop up in my feed makes me feel closer to teacher-writers locally! There is a chat every month – If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. (I will put the questions at the end of this post.)
  7. I have a literacy/coach meeting this afternoon with a consultant I adore listening to and working with. I am looking forward to the word for are going to do today!
  8. This is a wonderful site to follow. There are daily writing tips, great words, great quotes and a prompt. https://writerswrite.co.za/
  9. Another person to follow is Nancy Stohlman. She is an amazing flash fiction author, editor, and overall fantastic person. Find her here: https://nancystohlman.com/
  10. Connection for students is important and creating a feeling of belonging. I once named a remediation group “Writing Club” because I wanted them to come and I wanted them to enjoy the writing not get down on themselves for being selected for writing remediation. I wanted to instill an abundance mindset. Everyone wants to be part of a club especially one that you have a special invitation to!

What do you want to tell me today?

Happy Writing!

What is Your SuperPower? #DIYMFA Book Club #2

On the DIYMFA website there is a cool quiz. I love quizzes and used to do them in Seventeen magazine. (Remember that publication? The August issue was always HUGE and sometimes didn’t fit in the mailbox)

I always feel I get a little insight into myself no matter how silly the quiz is. I have used the 16personalities.com quiz as a teacher coach. I like these types of quizzes as springboards for conversation, communication and, reflection.

This SUPERPOWER quiz is supposed to lead me to how I approach writing. My initial results indicate the Disruptor. You can read the description below.

You Can Take the Quiz Here

Result: The Disruptor

You’re drawn to larger-than-life characters who rebel against the status quo. Your stories champion people who will do whatever it takes to change their societies, overcome all odds, and defeat tyranny. Whether your character makes a small but significant personal choice or starts an all-out revolution, at the core your stories are about sharing your ideals with the world.

Then I took the quiz again with mostly the same answers and got:

Result: The Underdog

You are the quintessential underdog storyteller and your superpower is creating relate-able characters who have a deep desire to change something in themselves or in the world around them. From rags-to-riches narratives to epic David-and-Goliath-style battles you craft stories with high stakes and compelling characters your readers can’t help but love.

My Reflection:

As I said, this is not a scientific study nor a psychological test. As a writer of short stories I am constantly creating new worlds and characters. I love a great story that has a character that changes throughout the course of the story and who has a shift of mindset.

I am a rebel – even for rules I impose on myself. I don’t like being told what to do in most cases, even if I tell myself. HA! I have had critiques where the reader felt there are too many unanswered questions or a character did something completely surprising. I don’t always follow story rules. I am usually ok with that though.

I do have deep fundamental beliefs that come through some of my stories. I am not sure as a writer that I would want to stop that. Not all the characters I write share my same beliefs. For one, that would be terribly boring.

Depending on the type of piece I am writing depends on how I approach it. It makes me multifaceted and I like it!

What is your superpower!? I would love to know what you are.

If you would like to read the first post in this series you can click here.

Fine, Fine Professional Development and Llama Tuesday

Better Conversations – Jim Knight

I have been wowed this year by some amazing PD. The Better Conversations workshop was a full day. The participants found clock partners from the room which was filled with Coaches from my district and 3 surrounding states. We all stood up and found 12 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 8 o’clock partners and wrote their name down. We found them later for each section of the workshop as directed by Jim.

Jim joked that he is from Canada and he wouldn’t do anything goofy. It was a well-run workshop that was worthwhile and life-giving. 

One of the activities centered around 5 questions that I have been using since that Thursday of training. They seem simple. The exercise we used was to ask our partner the question and then give them 1 minute to answer and we could not talk. It was eye-opening.

Communication is essential for a fulfilled life yet we are all so bad at it sometimes.

Bungay’s 5 Coaching Habit Questions

  1. What’s on your mind?
  2. What’s the real challenge?
  3. What else?
  4. What do you want?
  5. What was the most useful from this conversation?

It was odd how personal and intimate the conversations became with a stranger – even though the thinking before the exercise was to not get too personal in many of the pairs. I still plan to use the exercise with my teachers at a Workshop Wednesday. Conversation is supposed to be nourishing for both parties. These questions are helping me use my #oneword for the year – CONNECT.

It is Llama TUESDAY!!!

#SOL19 Simply Tuesday

Today is Tuesday. The day that The Two Writing Teachers host the weekly Slice of Life Challenge that teachers around the world participate in to write alongside their students.


Every Tuesday there is a post on the Two Writing Teachers main page where you can link your Slice of Life story post and read other people’s Slice of Life stories.  All you have to do is leave the link to your SOL story blog post as a comment inside of that Tuesday’s post.

I thought a lot about what I wanted to write this Tuesday.

Do I write about my new health routine commitment and intermittent fasting? I have more energy and have gone back to feeling how I did when I was in major training for marathons and ultras.

Do I talk about how much I loved reading Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen and how I want everyone who believes in everyday magic to read it?

Do I talk about how I printed my manuscript for my NANOWRIMO novel and am petrified to read it so that I can move forward?

Do I talk about the podcasts that I look forward to every Tuesday morning? Do I talk about the Next Right Thing I need to do? Or the literary society I want to start now?

I think the best choice is to sit with these questions and read other people’s blogs today!

Happy #SOL19 everyone! It is the year of #CONNECT for me so comments will flow from my fingers today.