Stay #SOL19

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It’s Tuesday and I’m joining the writing community over at Two Writing Teachers with a weekly Slice of Life Story.

Today’s Emily P. Freeman word is STAY.

STAY today refers to being in the present moment. You can only be in one place at a time. I suppose this is mostly true. As a writer, I am physically only in one place at a time, but mentally I am usually somewhere else. This is sometimes in one of my own story creations. Sometimes I am in a memory mining it for details that will add panache to the story I am working on.

When I am reading I am in the character’s head feeling and thinking what they are, often trying to anticipate their next move. Or I am trying to figure out the craft moves the writer made to have me feel the way I do about a character, setting, or story line so I can use it later.

I find it difficult to be in the moment. I am working on it. I know I should do one thing at a time but there is so much to learn. Everyone I meet has something I don’t know.

I have been tired lately. More tired than I should be. Last night I watched the movie The Professor and the Madman which my husband and I had been looking forward to. It did not disappoint. It is the story of how the Oxford dictionary came to be. It took extraordinary dedication and focus to have this book come to fruition. 70 years from the first conception in fact. Dr. Minor was meticulous in his mad state about the history and definition of words. He was in the moment for sure – for long stretches of time. I kept thinking of how much energy was put into this project and how many obstacles everyone had to overcome.

I am trying to find the right ratio of input vs output without driving myself mad. I love input of all sorts – deep conversation, reading, podcasts, etc. Outputs are likely interactions and writing lately. I know I have not found the right ratio when I am angry or overly tired.

Reflection and slowing down are both critical attributes for this process. I am glad that today I can breathe and think about it.

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Mentor Text Monday

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

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

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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.

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#wellnesswednesday

The coffee is brewing and the twinkle lights are on in my office. It is the simple things that are part of my routine that make the day go smoother!

I have already made rounds talking to teachers this morning. I had to follow up with a couple people about videos that were taken of their students before we left for break. I needed to get the reflection forms to them before any more time went by!

Today I want to share a quote that I will be writing about today from one of my FAVORITE short story writers, Kelly Link.

Look. All books are weird when you think about it…It goes without saying that real life is also weird. Kelly Link

If you have never read Kelly click here for a link to her story, “The Faery Handbag.”

#happyreading #happywriting #happyday

A Good Writing Day! #SOL19

I participate in the TWOWRITINGTEACHERS.ORG Slice of Life Challenge every Tuesday.

I started the day writing my stories for Camp NaNoWriMo. I am using a plot structure for at least one of the stories and started to flesh it out around the framework I already created. It is going ok but I do not find it as exciting as my normal writing I must admit. I have two other structures I am going to play with as well for this series of stories.

I read my poem, essay, and short story for the day. The short story I listened to from the New Yorker Fiction podcast which was interesting. I liked the commentary afterwards.

I met my writing friend at a local restaurant and we wrote together. I brought a prompt and she brought a prompt. It was great fun and then we talked about what we wrote. It was surprsing what I came up with and it was fulfilling. I have a seed for another short story now.

I had my online group monthly Zoom call. There really wasn’t much talking about writing. We did some sprints. I had already written a lot so I cut out early.

What kind of writing day did you have?

My Good List #SOLC Day 28

Today’s Slice for the Two Writing Teachers Challenge is inspired by Tsh Oxendreider and her podcast.

A good THING: This fountain pen

I was writing with it this morning! It is light and perfect for my little baby hands.


A Good BIT OF FUN: LLAMAS!!!


A Good Work of INSPIRATION: Kelly Link

I have re-watched this video of Kelly Link numerous times. I think she is amazing as a person and as a writer. She always inspires me.

A Good PHILOSOPHY:
Pronoia is a worldview that says that every person, place, thing and circumstance in this Universe is actually conspiring to bless you. This idea reminds me of THE ALCHEMIST which is a book that came to me when I needed it.

It’s A Beautiful Morning! #SOLC Day 26

Running made me a morning person. I used to get up before 5am everyday and run no matter what the weather or the mood. I am not training for anything now however.

I keep hearing and reading lots about morning routines. The information centers around creativity, productivity and being a leader which I enjoy. I also like reading about routines especially when they are about the process or writing.

I like the Ninja Writers W.R.I.T.E.R. acronym: For 10 minutes each Write-READ-IDEAS-EXERCISE-REVIEW but I do not stick to it.

I have read a lot of about other people’s routines here.

I do have morning routines for home and school.

My ideal morning routine is to wake up naturally, have coffee in bed with my husband, write and read for several hours, and then run outside.

At school I try to freewrite before my official day starts. I either write what comes to mind organically or use a prompt I am feeling that day. Many times it is something that was sparked by a podcast that I listen to on my way to work.

When the day starts I look at my bullet journal and what I have for the day. I double check email to make sure that I have everything on the list. I pour a cup of hot Joe and then get started.

I feel like my mental clarity has been better the last couple of weeks which is refreshing. Throughout the day I read my Bradbury Trio. There just isn’t enough time in the morning to get that all in!

What is your morning routine?


Musical Memories #SOLC Day 22

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I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge at twowritingteachers.org.

I played the violin from 6th grade to 12th grade and had the same orchestra teacher my entire career.

One year we placed at state playing “HoeDown” by Copeland. We would have received a perfect score if the music had not been mislabeled. We LOVED performing this song. I would practice sequences on my arm in class.

The song may seem familiar to you…it was featured in a “Beef It’s what’s For Dinner” commercial several years ago.

Over the past week I have listened to the song over and over. I can feel what it is like to be on stage. I was third chair [there were literally two prodigies in the 1st and 2nd chairs] throughout high school and can remember looking out into the crowd at performances.

What memories come back with music for you?

“Are you One of US?” #SOLC Day 21

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I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge at twowritingteachers.org.

I was asked yesterday by a fellow teacher:

“Are you one of us?”

Even after being in this position for 4 years, there is still confusion about my role as a coach. There are a couple factors at play here. One factor is the role I play in certain scenarios. If there is a lock down for instance I am one of the people with a radio. Two, even though I have a good relationship with my teachers I think sometimes they feel like I’m “checking up on them” because the administrator has asked me to. Three, there is an openness to my position that is different from a teacher even though I have the same contract. When I first started I actually was blocked at first from a meeting and was told at the door “Only teachers.”

I’ve had the honor of being a coach in two corporations but the roles were glaringly different. One coaching was mandatory and I was an evaluator/quasi admin. Here, it is voluntary and not evaluative.

But it got me thinking about perception and how I’m seen. The Better leaders better schools Leadership podcast last week was guest hosted by Amber Harper who is the founder of The Burned In Teacher. It is an acronym and she helps teachers go from burned out to burned in. She was a guest for over a week sharing tips and action steps. One activity that got me thinking was TEACHER/COACH Brand. Every product has a brand identity. When you think of NIKE or CRAYOLA certain adjectives come to mind. It is the same for teachers. There are teachers who are known for Quiet Power or great discipline or zany ideas and innovation.

You have a brand.

Your coworkers have a brand.

Your principal has a brand.

The actionable idea is to poll your co-workers and see what adjectives they would use to describe you. You make own list of adjectives of how you want to be perceived and then embody those adjectives as much as you can. The idea is also to see if there is a discrepancy.

I always tell my teachers I cannot fix a problem I do not know about. About two weeks ago I was conducting a PD and I took the opportunity to ask a small group of teachers what adjectives they would use to describe me as a coach . Now I realize this procedure is not scientific. It wasn’t anonymous but I have a good enough relationship with these three people for them to be honest. It takes a lot to offend me or hurt my feelings on a normal day. [Confession: I do have about 5 days a year were things bother me that don’t normally and I have been known to cry.]

The words I received were not surprising. I am still pondering if they are the right words for what I want to convey and achieve.

Some of the words for my Coach Brand from teachers were:

  • caring
  • resourceful
  • no nonsense
  • academic
  • helpful
  • fast paced

I have considered sending an anonymous poll to the whole staff. I am not sure yet.

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?

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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:

Essays

“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

THE TIME I MET NEW YORK’S PATRON SAINT OF TYPEWRITERS by
 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!

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