I always feel like I get deep advice and conversation from this podcast. It is one that I do not miss. I knew the new season was starting and kept thinking yesterday was Thursday because of it!
Keeping A Notebook
Nina LaCour is amazing. You need to listen to her podcast just to listen to her voice. It has a dream like quality that takes me to another place.
Her podcast is intermittent. During the pandemic she shared writing prompts and her feelings about the isolation with a spin off called Shelter In Place. She is real and honest. Another podcast I never miss an episode of.
I have been obsessed lately with MFA programs. This podcast is an interview format. An MFA student is asked questions about their writing and their program. How it works and details about workshops and boundaries pertaining to the individual program.
2 Writing Prompts
Set a timer for ten minutes. Let you pen move and do not censor yourself.
Cait Flanders is an author that has a style of writing that is also magical. Her new book came out Tuesday and I am already a couple chapters in. I pre-ordered this book which is not something I do often.
Welcome to the holiday weekend! I love the photo above. It makes me smile today. Do you have favorite photos? Are they on your phone or somewhere else? Do you look at them often?
I am having my regular black coffee. What would you like today? I have a pitcher of ice water as well. Let’s use the pitcher I inherited from my Oma. She used to make iced tea in it long ago. The kids use it for cherry Kool-Aid now!
If we were having coffee I would tell you I used two notebooks this week – both black. I have a notebook with thin pages that works perfectly with my fountain pen in the mornings. I keep that one at home. It is part of my daily writing routine. I have a smaller black notebook I write in the rest of the day. I guess I have an at home notebook and a going out notebook!
If we were having coffee I would tell you my writing intensive started this week. I posted my first assignment and did my reading reflection. I received some lovely comments about what I posted so that was motivating. It is a piece I can expand. We used the prompt “I don’t remember” which is one Natalie Goldberg writes about as well.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I had a conversation with two people this week about how I write so much! I am working on a workshop about this topic. Unpacking my process around writing has been an interesting process and more difficult than I think it should be! I welcome any questions you have about my process or what you would want to know. Leave them in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If we were having coffee I would tell you it was a full moon this week! The energy felt like it shifted for sure. With the school schedule getting more robust this week the energy was different too. I had the new adventure of making contact with my kindergarten parents and students. We did our virtual open house which was fun! Cats visited the screen as happens in this time! Next week starts live instruction and everyone is excited. All of my kids are adorable and I am learning about their favorite songs, things to do and unique things about them.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I am trying to find a boxing class near me. It is something that keeps coming up in my writing about an activity I want to try. We are going kayaking again this weekend. The weather is supposed to be nice. I walked several times this week and several were 10 milers. I have found fasting is easier when I am at work. I am busy and there is no food there.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I am working on my 100 writing prompts. I plan to share one writing prompt a day for the last 100 days of 2020! I am so excited for this project.
What is the most important thing about your week? I want to hear all about it!
I have been able to attend several writing conferences through my work over the years. One that had profound impact on me was the writers at work hosted by Ruth Culham in Sun Valley Idaho. I did not know the landscape could be so beautiful in a place I associate with potatoes. This education celebrity met with her small circle of authors every year to plan workshops for the year. Then she opened it up to other educators. The travel there had been adventurous for me with a small plane flying through a thunderstorm. It reminded me of the first time I was on a plane when I was 6 years old.
One of the speakers was Ralph Fletcher. He talked about how all teacher needed to be a writer with a lowercase w. The only difference between a writer with a capital and lowercase w is that capital w writers get paid. If you write, you are a writer.
As teachers, we need our students to learn to write in order to express themselves. I have found through my coaching and my own education experience that writing scares the hell out of most people. There is not a lot of instruction in writing in teacher prep courses. Why would you expect your students to do something that you are unwilling to do?
My Action List:
Unpack the Text
Learn Through Your Ears
Write in the Edges
Join a group of creatives or writers
Ray Bradbury said readone poem a night, one short story a night, one essay a night, for the next 1,000 nights.
This is his formula for an MFA. It works.
It is impossible to not be a better writer if you follow this formula. Read what you like from authors you like. It does not have to be any way connected to the grade level you teach.
Essays: Natalie Goldberg, Ray Bradbury, Zadie Smith, David Sedaris, Roxane Gay
Short stories: Nancy Stohlman, Kathy Fish, Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link
Poems: Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye
Unpack The Text
When you read a piece you particularly write then study it. Ask yourself these questions:
What works in this piece and how does it make me feel?
How did the author achieve this feeling in me?
What are my favorite lines?
What can I try in my own writing that the author does?
Action: Write something inspired by the text you studied.
Learn Through Your Ears
One of the ways I take advantage of extra time is to listen to podcasts. I love writing podcasts in particular. I listen to podcasts mostly in the car and during workouts. There is a rotation but I always learn something.
Why is This Good? Naples Writers’ Workshop
How Do You Write? Rachael Herron
The Writers Well Podcast J Thorn and Rachael Herron
How Writers Write
Stop Writing Alone Nicole Rivera
Qwerty Marion Roach Smith
Fierce Womxn Writing
Good Life Project
Any podcast with Karissa Kouchis as a guest.
I also like audio courses. I have been listening to Tony Robbins and his Personal Power 30 day program and his Beautiful State training.
Listen to what fuels you and write down the memories and stories that come to mind as you listen. Write about those ideas.
Write in the Edges
I learned a long time ago that if I want to make sure I do something, I have to schedule it.
Write now, open your planner/schedule and plan a 10 minute writing time for the next 7 days.
During that time write:
Whatever comes to mind
The story about one of your notes
A reflection of a favorite line from something you read
A new story based on a title of something you have read
Anything in response to a journal prompt
How you are feeling in that moment
My advice is also to carry a notebook and write down ideas that strike you, an overhead conversation, an interesting detail, a 5 senses description of where you are throughout the day. I strive for at least 10 snippets a day.
If you don’t like the notebook use a note taking app on your phone. I am partial to Google Keep. It backs itself up (I lost a whole note app full of gems I can never get back – a whole other story.) You can share notes and also easily make it a Google Doc. You can also use voice to text in this app which works for me when walking or driving. If you run and try to talk there are weird connections of words the device will pick up!
Challenges give me a structure and a schedule. There are small challenges and large ones but I gravitate to 30 day or 100 challenges. Some examples are: Storyaday May and September, NANOWRIMO, #the100dayproject, Five Minute Friday (FMF), and Two Writing Teachers blogging.
Storyaday: This challenge is hosted by Julie Duffy and it is just what it sounds like: one story a day for the month of May and/or September. I have challneged my middle school students to do this challenge as well.
NANOWRIMO: National Novel Writing month. This challenge is to write a 50,000 word manuscript in the month of November.
#the100dayproject: A creative challenge that starts at the beginning of April. The artist creates something every day. In 2020, I wrote a random sentence every day and am creating a short story based on these sentences. Some people do post it note drawings, or doodles, or paintings, or 100 word essays, or poems. It is up to you!
FMF: Hosted by Kate Motaung Kate posts a word on Friday with a great visual. You write with this word for five minutes.
Two Writing Teachers Blog: Every Tuesday, teacher writers post on their own blogs and link up on the TWT blog. In March there is a daily blog challenge where there is support and lots of comments.
Join A Group
There are lots of groups to choose from. Lots of time if you take a class or workshop you can find people you want to continue to talk to after the course is over. There are many writing groups online that are more public like Twitter and Instagram.
There are communities you can join such as Storyaday Superstars, Ninja Writers, Sarah Selecky Writing School, Teachwrite, and Jackie Aston. Almost every author you follow has a connection to a community somewhere. I found Storyaday by Googling several years ago. Find your people!
The point is you want to find a group that is nourishing to you. Some are paid, some are free but you may have to try a few before you find the one where you fit.
After you try one or all six of these ideas, your brain will start to make connections to how this translates to your classroom. It can even be one of the things you write about during your scheduled 10 minutes.
If you write, you are a writer.
Your students will listen to you more as a model of being a writer rather than being someone who just talks about writing. There must be action.
Next Right Step
Make a change in your writing life today. Write something. Buy a notebook and a pen you like.
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!
May 6 question –
Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE?
As a writer, I like rhythm and routine. I start the day with my coffee and my writing. It is always the first thing I do in the morning. Some days are better than others, but the writing always gets done. The words have to get on the page.
I most often start with a prompt but free-writing allows whatever is on my mind to get into the notebook. Sometimes it is reflection, but many times it is fiction. Yesterday when I woke I wrote a story based on the dream I had just came from. I often am in the middle of a challenge. This month I am participating in Storyaday where I write a complete story every day. It does not have to be good or long, just finished. There is power in the act of finishing and learning from that process.
During the day I listen to podcasts and read. I have to make sure there is input. I have had to change some of the venues because of the sheltering in place. I have found I miss the overheard conversations from life before COVID. I take advantage of the writing communities I belong to and have conversations with other writers.
If I am having trouble with ideas and flow, I will switch from handwriting to typing or vise versa. If I am thinking out a story then handwriting often works best. It is slower and my thoughts can trickle out with the pen drawing the letters. If the idea is hot then typing is faster and the ideas do not get tripped up before I can get the scene out.
Walking or running is also another solution to being stuck.
Since I have a list of actions that work for me, I choose the one that seems to solve the problem at hand.
Starts May 1st! Sign up for free prompts sent to your email every day at Storyaday.org. The Superstars community is one I am active in and enjoy especially during the month of May. There are several new members this year and the conversation has already taken off in the Slack channel.
You can go to the website and post under the daily prompt and find community there if you are looking for some fellow short story writers.
My goal will be to write 30 short stories over the course of the month. I give myself one day to not write a story from start to finish.
This challenge began April 7th. This challenge involves making a piece of art every day for 100 days. Follow the hashtag #the100dayproject on Instagram to see all kinds of projects. My project is to write #100randomsentences that I will meld together and make a short story connecting them all at the end.
In order to keep myself inspired I am loosely following the idea from Ray Bradbury to read a poem, a short story, and an essay every day.
The Bradbury Challenge hosted by Literary Roadhouse
On a whim, I search “writing short stories” and this podcast popped up. There are not many short story specific podcasts. There are three writers that are writing a story a week for a year with the idea that you cannot write 52 bad stories in a row.
Keeping a Notebook by Nina Lacour
I love this podcast. Nina gives writing ideas and her voice is lovely to listen to. She runs the Slow Novel lab as well. She does the podcast in spurts when it moves her and fits into her schedule. It is honest and inspiring.
I just renewed my Sarah Selecky daily prompts. I use these every morning in my notebook and hand write for at least 10 minutes. Some of the prompts are situational, some require description of a character or a different perspective of situation.
Another set of prompts I have been using are the Keep Writing flash fiction prompts from https://deadlinesforwriters.com/. This is the same site that does the 12 Short Stories prompts and 12 Poems prompts. It is a closed community where you post your stories and can receive feedback in exchange for you reading other’s writing. The flash prompts are usually one word and a word count. In this Shelter in Place moment they work for me somehow.
Tuesday is one of my favorite days. It is grounding for me. and helps me find my place in the week. I dubbed it Llama Tuesday awhile ago and it stuck especially in my Storyaday community.
I am part of a writing community called Superstars facilitated by Julie Duffy of Storyaday.org. She hosts a challenge every May and September where writers come together to write a story a day for the month. Julie posts daily prompts to get you thinking. You can sign up at the website.
This May is the 10th anniversary. Our Superstars group has a Slack community that I adore. It is a private paid community that has topics contained within channels. You can share with the group or individuals. We have different channels for writing, sprints, random, submissions, etc.
If I want to talk writing I can go there and strike up a conversation. I can check in with a writer that I want to talk to or check on their project. If I want to pose a question I can do that. I can share what I am reading and what I think about it or how it is influencing my writing.
The other day I asked everyone what notebook everyone was currently writing in. The pictures started rolling in and was delightful. For those of us who love office supplies pictures of notebooks make my heart beat a little faster!
Back to the llamas – I post a picture of a llama every Tuesday morning in the #random channel and wish everyone a Happy Llama Tuesday which I did this morning.
Slack is my connection to my people.
My other community is the Creative Life Scholars. This group began as a book club. A book club of action that turned into a mastermind. There are all types of creatives in this group. It has a different flavor than the Superstars. I can ask questions or complain or ask for advice in this group too. It trust these women.
Both groups also have regular Zoom meetings – this was a practice before the shelter in place orders. I know these people – I really know them. They know me. In my life I will be the first to admit I wear a lot of masks. There are roles in my life where I must portray a certain list of characteristics. I am allowed to be myself in these groups.
There is one group of writers I WISH had a Slack group but the leader doesn’t love it as much as I do (Yes, Nicole this is about you!) This last group is more recent but has had such a wonderful impact on my writing life. There is a bit of overlap with the CLS group here so there are a couple people I can interact with in Slack.
Slack keeps me connected to the people I feel my most true self around and I am grateful I can be tied to them when we stretch all over the country. I know when I need help or a creative kick in the pants I can reach out. They are true friends and I am grateful.
I love writing prompts. In my inbox is a daily prompt from my writing teacher Sarah Selecky. I write morning pages every day mostly according to Julia Cameron’s rules. I use tarot cards for the art for inspiration for writing as well. Last night, I even taught a class about writing and included prompts for students and for adults.
During this time there are so many of my favorite writing teachers providing free communities or classes or prompts. Here are a few of my favorites:
Welcome back to Sunday! A lot has transpired this week!
If we were having coffee I would tell you I am off school for now for 3 weeks. We will see if it is extended after that time. There is much speculation. I am taking the time as a gift and time to relax and take care of myself and my family.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I read more this week. I need to read more now. It is how I cope with stress and also fuels my writing. I read the newest Paris Review yesterday notably a story by Jesse Ball about turning into a mouse. I read several poems too. I have been able to put holds and pick up books I have heard about on my favorite podcasts. One book I picked up is Meander, Spiral, Explode recommended by Kathy Fish during a writing class last year. It is a dense book but smart.
Do you need a refill? Maybe some water? What books are you reading? Do you turn to reading when you are stressed? I am curious.
It is Sunday again and the temps are a little cooler here. There is supposed to be a heat wave this week here in the Midwest later this week. I hope it stays away.
If we were having coffee I would tell you this weekend is the anniversary of me moving into the house I am living in now. It is not my forever home and I feel it. The birds do great us every morning as do the bunnies and the baby squirrels. There is lots of green which I adore.
If we were having coffee I would tell you it was a productive and busy week at work. Lots of conversation and planning which was positive.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I am in week 5 of the Artist’s Way program. I am doing my morning pages every day which are three handwritten pages of whatever comes to mind. It clears the way for the creative juice to flow. On Thursday night the ideas kept coming for articles and stories and I really wish I could have taken a writing day ALL DAY Friday to massage and nurture those words into pieces but alas the day job and other responsibilities called.
If we were having coffee I would tell you Storyaday is going strong. I have been writing to the prompts everyday and it has been going well. I enjoy the challenge and use it to try different techniques to foster my writing skills. I tried a new genre this week — cyberpunk. It was out of my comfort zone but a fun experiment. I wrote a 100ish word story and still do not like them! hahaha I have met some new writers through the group as well and that has been interesting. The Zoom call was Tuesday night. We did a lot of writing sprints — where we set the time and write all together — but there was some talking. I write in the morning on my own so I show up more for the conversation then the word count. It does get me some extra words. This week I worked on nonfiction during the call.