Weekend Coffee Share – April 21

Today let’s have coffee at the table, in the bump out of the little bookstore downtown. We can chat and watch the people go by. There is a bakery across the street so I will pick out a couple croissants for us. They have some delicious chocolate ones that will go perfectly with our elixir.

I am having black coffee. What would you like from the cafe barista?

While we are having coffee I will tell you about the video meeting with my writing group I had Wednesday night. It was life giving and motivating. I love these writers and it is easy for me to set up these times.

While we are having coffee, I will tell you about the relief of knowing my car is fixed. I don’t like dealing with the bill but there is more relief than I anticipated as I drive every day.

While we are having coffee I will tell you I have had many creative sparks this week.

One is the video from Julie Duffy about getting ready for StoryADay May. I encourage you if you want a boost to your writing life to participate in the challenge this year. The prompts are free and there is support in the community. You can also set your own rules. I choose to write a story a day but you can write 4 or choose days to write. You can check out her cool video here.

Another creative spark is the short story Saint Bus Driver by J.E. McCafferty.

There are such great lines in this story. The discussion on Literary Roadhouse was fun too. It has stayed with me and I keep thinking about it. If you read it later and would like to talk about it please let me know!

A third creative spark for me was perfect for April being poetry month. Billy Collins has created a Masterclass and I found it this week. I have made it through 13 of the 20 lessons! He is joyful to listen to. I use his poems a lot for use with kids. They are straightforward. It is inspiring to listen to him talk about writing technique. I am always learning!

A fourth creative spark this week is the Pink Full Moon.

Photo by Alex Andrews on Pexels.com

Do you need a refill on your coffee? I am going to get another. I think before we leave we should wander the stacks and find at least one book to recommend to each other.

While we are having coffee I will tell you I wrote everyday. I sent a story to a contest. I am getting mentally ready for storyaday May and excited about it. I tend to binge listen to the StoryADay podcast right before! There are lots of prompts and Julie’s voice is nice to listen to. Lots of notes go into Google Keep so I can write about them later.

StoryADay

While we are having coffee I will tell you I read some great short stories this week. I am trying to be more diligent about logging my reading but find it cumbersome. I found a new to me flash fiction author, Meg Pokrass who I am enjoying. She was recommended by Amber Sparks who is a wonderful short story writer herself.

While we are having coffee, I will tell you I feel like there are lots of decisions that are hiding around the corner from me. I am trying not to worry myself but there is something coming. It is not good nor bad, it will just be, but I can feel it looming! I am thankful for having The Next Right Thing book to help me navigate though. It brings me joy and focus. I am hoping to participate in a book club with this title soon.

While we are having coffee, I would tell you our teaming consultant visited this week and was wonderful. The meetings with him, my writer video meeting, and some great short stories has refueled my passion for my Inner Circle Gathering Idea. I believe I can pull it off online. The first ones are being planned to use a short story and some activities surrounding the text and then doing some writing exercises as well. Let me know in the comments or a message to me directly at tammybreitweiser@gmail.com if you are interested.

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.

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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.

#makethelist

Inspired by Emily P Freeman and her Instagram challenge. Day 9 – Make the List. The task is to make a list of what is Life Draining vs what is Life Giving.

Currently my life draining list is

  1. a too heavily scheduled week
  2. too many late days in a row
  3. interrupted sleep
  4. dealing with toxic people I cannot get rid of

Life Giving List

  1. writing
  2. reading
  3. deep conversations with my writing friends
  4. typically exercise, but not this week
  5. laughing and time with my husband
  6. laughing and time with my kids
  7. time in the sun
  8. time with the trees

What is on your list?

Mentor Text Monday

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

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 – April 14

Today we are having coffee in a gazebo overlooking the mountains with the sun shining in on us just right. There is a stream that is rushing by us and we can see elk in the distance. The air is crisp and sweet. It is the perfect Sunday morning.

I am having black coffee and just brewed a fresh pot. I have some add ins today for you if you like -some chocolate or some butterscotch. Even some whipped cream!

If we were having coffee I would tell you it seems unbelievable that I was on Spring Break last week. It turned out to be a week of long days in a row which made it seem longer. Monday though Wednesday I didn’t get home til after 9 each night which is unusual, especially three days in a row.

If we were having coffee I would tell you it was nice to get back into the swing of things at work again. I was able to work with some students this week in an English class which always makes me happy. The thinking that was happening was unexpected and out of the box. The discussion centered around analyzing digital and printed text with some reliable articles by Higher Ed and American Scholar .

If we were having coffee I would tell you I attended my IRL writing group holiday party Wednesday. It was postponed from Christmas time due to some medical issues. There were about 40 people there. There was a dinner, book exchange, door prizes, and social time.

Do you need a refill on your coffee? Mine needs warmed up. Do you need another napkin, or a glass of water? I am not ready for our conversation to end!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I wrote everyday. I had my beta reader look over two stories for me. They are truthful stories, but deal with sensitive issues so I am not sure where I am going to take them next. They are not appropriate for my IRL group. I am scoping out a writer group in Chicago. They have author talks, readings, writing meetings, and critique meetings which appeals to me.

If we were having coffee I would tell you my Bradbury Trio is still going strong. I received my Sarah Selecky story collection in the mail so I am excited to read her stories. Sara Batkie’s collection is on its way too. Sara I learned about from the Drunken Odyssey podcast which I was listening to on my run in the Dunes on Monday. Essays I think I am going to start looking at NPR. Do you have any suggestions?

If we were having coffee I would tell you I had to take my car in for repairs on Friday. This process always makes me extremely nervous and I usually put it off way too long. I found a great garage and the actual problem only cost a little over $300. The other things I added on were needed but not emergency so at least it was a choice. The car has been all over the country and we love her dearly! I want her to run for a long time so some belts needed changed and a tune up and transmission fluid change was necessary. She is running well again and I feel safer.

If we were having coffee I would tell you last week I said would pull some coaching materials together in a more formal way. I have started with some forms and pushed one out to a teacher. I also sent out the email about a mini coaching cycle. I like the idea of thinking about coaching as having deep conversations that I crave.

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.

#FMF LACK

Every Friday I participate in the FiveOnFriday challenge. You can link here.

I set the timer for 5 minutes and write:

What do I lack? Currently, I feel I lack peace and direction, but I am working on it. I am so reflective that I always know where I am emotionally lacking I just don’t always know how to fix it so I put my head down and focus on the task or obsession that I am engaged in at the moment. Now it is writing. I want to be the best I can be. I read about it. I do it . I try to find mentors to help me IRL or in the pages of books and blogs. I have my Emily P Freeman book about decision making which is helping tremendously.

I do lack directions of what I want to do. The amount of obstacles and out of nowhere hits have been I want to be at home. I want to write all the time. I know it is not a bad thing for a writer to have a day job. I like most of the people I work with and I do like the work that is required in my actual job description. I am reframing it at the moment to get more out of it personally as well. It works for the job aspect but is more fulfilling. I am coaching myself and streamlining my processes to be more consistent and that helps everyone.

I do not lack in love. The relationship I have with my husband is awesome and as perfect as it can be. It really is fairy tale like.

The relationships I have with all my children are unique to them and I love them dearly and would do anything for any of the 4.

The friendships I have IRL and online are strong. I nurture the ones that are mutually life giving and make me happy. I am looking forward to storyaday May next month when there is group writing every day and there is daily interaction with other writers. THAT makes me giddy.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Dunes Run #SOL

Yesterday I went for a second spring run at the National Dunes Lakeshore. I am lucky to live in Northwest Indiana and to have access to this park. I didn’t visit the park until I was an adult runner even though I have lived here most of my life.

I wandered down trail 9 yesterday. Essentially, I ran the trail backwards from how I normally run it. The “normal” route is to go down trail 10 and then up on the ridge and then down trail 9 back to the parking lot. There were several cars in the Wilson Shelter parking lot due to the beautiful weather yesterday. It was near 70 degrees here. During the week there has been no admission fee which makes me feel like I am getting away with something. On my way out I noticed a man at the entrance booth. hee hee

As I ran trail 9 I noticed to the left of the path the brown leaves are decaying on their own timeline. To my right the ground looked burnt and reminded me of the lava fields of Kona, Hawaii. I assume it was a controlled burn supervised by the park rangers. It was surreal to see and I moved along.

Looking at the black leaves, a smoldering fire, and smoke cloud I thought about how much I like the idea of fire.

Sometimes you need to light a fire.

Sometimes you need to stoke your internal fire and follow your passion.

Sometimes you need to burn a project to the ground and start over.

Gathering ideas are like gathering twigs in the woods. Starting the project is like lighting a fire. Sometimes I start the fire/new project too early because I am excited. I light the kindling, but then I do not have anything else to feed the fire with and it goes out! To avoid this catastrophe, I’m working on gathering my resources and organizing my most recent project so I can start a fire that can burn for a long time.

A cool tree along trail 9

I was happy to run outside yesterday. I needed to be in nature, it is I way I refuel.

How do you refuel yourself?

Weekend Coffee Share

Today we are having coffee in my three seasons room. I am having black coffee and just brewed a fresh pot. I have some add ins today for you if you like -some chocolate or some butterscotch. The birds are starting to come out. They do like the trees in the front outside my bedroom window. I haven’t lived in this house in the Spring yet so we shall see which animals come to the backyard.

If we were having coffee I would tell you this past week went super fast. It was a great week filled with “just enough” scheduled events but I am honestly not ready for it to end. I took a lazy day on Friday but something happened that made me angry and sadly it stayed with me a little too long.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I had a great writing week. I wrote with a friend on Monday at a favorite local restaurant. It was nice to meet, talk writing, and write “independently together”. I had a Zoom call with my online group and I also had a one on one session video conference with a writer friend on Thursday. I wrote at the local library yesterday which was a different experience but enjoyable.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I had a good reading week too. I went to Powell’s in Chicago and bought 3 books. I could have purchased more but used restraint. I read essays and short stories and poems everyday.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am playing with plot structure for my Camp NANOWRIMO stories. Camp NANOWRIMO is a month long community writing event that is more lax than regular National Novel Writing Month. My goal is just over 10,000 words total divided between 4 stories. I am working with the plot structure to hopefully help my writing get better and show me what I am missing in my stories. A couple resources I already have are the Ninja Writer’s plot class that I discovered I already owned, the Eva Deverell’s One page novel formula, and the Save the Cat structure.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I had wonderful meals out this week. We do not go out to eat often. My husband is a great cook for one but also with 4 children it can be an expensive endeavor. We went to a local place in the town we used to live where they have great hot dogs, fries, and steak sandwiches. We also went to a local “stuck in time” steak house. It was divine and a wonderful date night.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am thinking about decisions. Big ones and little ones. This is partly because Emily P. Freeman’s book The Next Right Thing came out Tuesday, April 2. I have the digital copy, the audio, and the hard copy. I do love the hard cover and have been gravitating towards it.

77: Do The Next Right Thing

Do you need a refill on your coffee? Mine needs warmed up. Do you need another napkin, or a glass of water? I am not ready for our conversation to end!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I did not listen to the normal amount of podcasts I do during a typical work week. I did listen while at the gym but did not get through the input I normally consume.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am still on my Bradbury Trio roll! I DID make a spreadsheet!

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I have been lax in keeping track of my connections for my word of the year. I have been connecting with other writers through the SLACK channel, Twitter, and even in real life which has been fulfilling. I have not attended the writing group however since January. The location had changed the last couple of meetings and it didn’t seem to fall on a good evening. There is a celebration next Wednesday I plan to go to so that is exciting. I have not felt very social lately to be honest. I am trying to figure out why. There is a saying that the 5 people you surround yourself with influence you greatly. I guess friends and connections is part of the decision making we talked about earlier. April tends to be a hard month for me for connection. The month reminds me of grief.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I have been thinking of pulling some coaching materials together in a more formal way. I have started an outline and pulling resources I already have. I have an email partially written to send out next week for my teachers as well to do a mini coaching cycle. We shall see how that goes! I am excited to synthesize some different items together that I have been using for years.

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.

Adventures

The sun sparkled in the sky yesterday, but the wind was biting.

The gym was the first stop. Car wash was the second. Third was a Greek diner in Hyde Park named Salonica.

The vegetable soup had more veggies than I could name in a Family Feud game. It was delicious and perfect.

The arc of the booth my husband and I sit in covers the faces of the friends that are meeting on the other side. It is the conversation of two friends that have reconnected in their old stomping grounds. One successful and one that doesn’t seem to know what to do with his life. There is polite conversation at first and then the obscenities of familiarity start rolling off the tongues. It a Greek restaurant and a comfortable space for me even though I have never seen this restaurant before today.

My Greek chicken with the secret spices and hint of lemon fills my belly and I am comfortably full this Wednesday afternoon. The half potato was seasoned with something I cannot place but went divinely with the meal. The broccoli was bright green and steamed, the cauliflower tender and firm, and the few slices of zucchini a hint of the season to come.

The man behind the counter spoke staccato English and was loud on the phone. He was squeezed behind a little counter with the olives for sale. There is little space in this city. Even the streets have bumper to bumper parked cars much like the traffic in the afternoon on Lake Shore Drive a stone’s throw away.

The fourth was Powell’s bookstore. I am lost among that stack of the books that smell like the houses of all the spaces they have occupied before settling in this in between space. I look for certain authors: Gaiman, Link, Chekhov, but my eyes wander to others. Then I see the red volume 2 inches thick that is the Bradbury 100.

Just when I think that my heart has swelled with as much book love as Powell’s has to offer I go through a narrow doorway to see a ceiling 8 feet taller with books and shelves reaching to the top of the space. There is a book about Alice in Wonderland and the oddities of Carroll titled The Raven and The Writing Desk. There are cookbooks, poetry , nature writing, and a small section of children’s books. I do not acquire many children’s books anymore. I love them, but they are lonely on my shelves with no eyes and laughter to stain their pages.


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My three book purchases will remind me of this day every time I open them. The ride home was quick with the toll road right there.

To think that trips to the city used to be a production full of planning. Chicago was always different than Indy that I knew well. Chicago used to require well planned out directions ahead of time.

I am comfortable in this neighborhood where University of Chicago students wander in and out of buildings. They are always walking somewhere important. There are two bookstores within 4 blocks of each other book ending restaurants, cafes, salons, beautiful homes, and dry cleaners. This is my kind of place!

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?