Dinner Guests #SOLC Day 1


I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers March Blog Challenge. If you would like more information about this challenge click here.

Several years ago I learned about the 36 questions to become closer to someone. In the New York Times, the article was titled The 36 Questions that Lead to Love. I am always fascinated by questions. As an introvert, I learned to have a question ready when attending a social event in case the conversation lulled. I prefer to have deeper conversations as opposed to surface level ones.

As part of the challenge this year, I will be answering some of the questions and then you have the opportunity to journal about the question, ask a person you want to be closer to, or answer in the comments.

I have been asked this question many times. I read a book within the last couple of years about a dinner party of all these connected characters. You cannot help but think about who you wanted to be at your table. It is a recommended read from me!

I often think I would love to have one last dinner with my Oma who died in 2000. It is hard to believe that on April 1 it will be 20 years that she is gone. I would want her to cook the dinner though too! I miss her Sunday dinner of roast, gravy, boiled potatoes, red cabbage, and “green stuff”. Green stuff was whatever green veggies made it on the table that week: Brussels sprout, asparagus, beans, etc.

I would like to have dinner with Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link as well. They are both authors I admire. Neil writes in a little cottage. Kelly has a small group she gets together with every week. I would love to hear more about both of these practices. I would love to hear about their processes. Kelly just opened a bookstore too. Lots of reading and writing conversation for sure during that dinner!

Who would you like to have dinner with?

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M.A.G.I.C #SOLC Day 1


I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers March Blog Challenge. If you would like more information about this challenge click here.

There is a magic to teaching and teaching writing.


M= Mentor Texts

A= Authority

G= Gusto

I= Intention


A couple years ago in my little apartment,  I had a dream. An impactful dream of me up on stage giving a Ted talk. I had some clarity when I woke up and made the notes on my phone. Due to circumstances at the time I accidentally erased them when I reset my phone to factory settings. I have desperately been trying to recall the details and notes of this experience since then.

I remember being on the stage and talking about M.A.G.I.C.

Magic –

EVERYONE has magic inside of them.I have magic with students and you probably do too if you are an educator. If you are a writer, you have magic with your readers. People are drawn to the light inside of you. It can be annoying at times when people are drawn to you and you are an introvert but it is a GIFT.

Fellow teachers have expressed to me on multiple occasions and school corporations that I can get writing and learning from children that no one seems to be able to. It isn’t a magic spell but there is an enchantment. How do I do it? I don’t wave a wand (although I have my Harry Potter wand!)  I am authentic. I see my students. I listen to them. I see them as the little people they are with their own ideas – even a kindergartener. 

I am a reader and a writer and I exemplify these behaviors and students can see it. I do not ask them to do anything that I have not done myself already, or am willing to do. This is a mantra I use with adults and children. I do not believe in busy work. I believe in being transparent with students and it makes me happy. They know me, I know them. I listen to what they say and respond accordingly. I am not afraid to ask a question and not know the answer that will come from the students. I want to show students to struggle with new learning.

M= Mentor Texts-

To get to this magic you have to have use MENTOR texts. These are examples of writing you want your students to create. No adult writes a resume without Googling samples of resumes beforehand. You don’t write anything without immersing yourself in that genre. We should we expect any less from children.

A= Authority

You need to be a writer to teach writing. You don’t have to be published but you have to go through the process or as an educator you cannot help a young writer if they get stuck. You have to know what it feels like. I worked with a teacher that told me she started to write using her own writing prompts that she was assigning to her students. There were some that were not crafted as well as they could be and were hard for her – with 40 years of life experience to draw from. She decided through that experience she needed to modify if she had trouble with the assignment prompt. Then she told the students what she had done and why. It made a huge difference.

G= Gusto

You have to be excited about writing. There must be respect and a level of seriousness to the process.  When I teach writing I use writing materials from respected writing teachers in the literary world – not the teaching world. I quoted Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott, Julia Cameron, etc. I did use a lot of Nancy Atwell too. I told the students my rationale. The students saw my writers notebook. They saw when I was excited about a piece of writing I was crafting with them. In the middle of the process, if the kids made a chart or wrote the group story and it wasn’t exciting then we talked about what we could do to make it exciting for our reader. We read everything like writers. My students knew the goal was for them to be real authentic readers and writers.

I= Intention

Writing lessons like any other need to be planned purposefully. The mentor text to read needs to be right for the writing craft lesson. The prompt needs to align with the book and the mastery objective you want the students to glean from the lesson. There needs to be intention in the routines for your writers to establish and how their words are shared. Intention needs to be there for conferencing. Teacher and student conferencing and peer conferencing.

I wanted my students to write even when they didn’t have to so I set up centers in my classroom for exploration. Books were placed in the classroom based on interest and choice. Writing and book making materials were everywhere. Innovation is also part of this section.


Relationships and a trusting culture are essential for students to write. Writing is hard. You know this to be true whether you write or you resist writing with your students. Sharing your own writing can go a long way to create trust. Writing with kids is a great culture builder.

No matter the level I use the gradual release model.  I make sure with my middle school students to always model the I DO portion, especially with writing. Then there is a small section of WE DO so students are able to show me they understand the task. Then it is off for the YOU DO.

I also carry a notebook with me almost everywhere. When I hear a student say something or I read over their shoulder I often will say “That is amazing! I am going to write that in my notebook.” Or I say, “I wish I would have written that sentence.” It is the same language I use when we are reading and I want to record something in the writer’s notebook. Then I write their words down.

Over the course of the month, I will be posted more in-depth posts about each of these sections.

StoryFest for StoryaDay May 2018


Storyaday May is a challenge with simple rules:

The Rules from Julie Duffy:

  • *Decide how many days during May on which you’re going to write.
  • *Write and finish a story on those days

My goal was to write 30 stories and I wrote 31 stories in May 2018.

Every June, Julie hosts StoryFest at her blog. You can check out some other amazing short stories by going there June 23-24!

Here is my Day 21 story for you to enjoy! Comments are welcome!

Man Murdered by Tree in Minnesota Forest

By Mountain News Service on May 21 at 2:43 p.m.
Stearns County, Minn. —

Authorities are investigating the death of a man found with a bullet wound to the head in the Birch Lake Forest on May 20.

“We are shocked and saddened to confirm the death of Mr. Maxim Foster,” a spokesperson from the park office confirmed. “He was using dynamite to extract trees in an overgrown section of the forest when he was fatally injured.”

There had been previous reports from 15 years ago of an attempted murder and suicide in the Birch Lake Forest. A bullet from the attempted murder had been lodged in a tree and never recovered.

It is speculated the bullet fired from the tree when Mr. Foster blew the tree to bits. It apparently held a grudge and fired upon the man, killing him.

The tree will not be prosecuted.

Deliberate Writing Practice

pen writing notes studying
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

With the month of May devoted to writing daily short stories, I am also reflecting on my process daily trying to hone the practice. I always write with the purpose of becoming a better writer. I try to learn from the reading that I do and from the writing gurus I listen to. Most of this practice is one-sided as most of my writing resources are not real-life connections. I do have the benefit of Twitter and some writers group meetings this month which I am eternally grateful for.

I usually use feedback or an exercise in mind when I am writing. I have the advantage of podcasts at my fingertips, interaction with writers on Twitter, and special May video prompts and directions for writing.

My free writing exercises are never just pointless rambling anymore. I take the writing time seriously and the practice has become much more to me than just getting words on the page. I want the word count but also desire the content on the page to be worth reading. It is not always usable at that moment but can be saved away for another day, another story.

At this point in the month, I feel like my creative well is drying up slightly. I am still writing but it takes me longer and longer throughout the day. I also am aware that the craziness of the end of the school year looms in the shadows as well. There are some other frustrations in my life in regards to transitions that are wearing on me which is draining. Waiting for answers is never a fun place to be in, but one I find myself in often.

I am looking forward to summer when I can focus on some books that will lead me through some writing exercises so I can become a better writer for me, my audience, and my students.

Happy writing and reading everyone!



10 Questions On Tuesday #SOL18

  1. Have you read Click Clack Rattle Bag by Neil Gaiman? Today I offered this story to an 8th grade reading class and was so excited about it more than half the students picked it for their independent reading.
  2. Have you ever asked someone “Have you ever cried in public?” Throw someone off – do it.
  3. Have you ever asked “What do you usually get from the ice cream truck?” This question got quite a laugh from my friend! Her answer was the strawberry shortcake.
  4. What is my next right thing? This is the question I am pondering myself.
  5. Have you seen the new extreme Post – it notes? They are my new toy. I am sticking them to everything.
  6. Have you written a short story today? This month? I have written a short story every day the month of May for STORYADAY by Julie Duffy.
  7.  Are you ready for summer?
  8. What are you reading? I am still finishing Tangerine. I started Let Your Mind Run A memoir of Thinking my Way to Victory by Deena Kastor.
  9. What have you learned this winter?
  10. What is your favorite part of today? I had a great morning!



7 Writing Ideas #SOL18

Twitter Chat Blog Header 5I am the guest blogger at TeachWrite today! Check it out here!

sols_6Most of these ideas I use with picture books, but short stories and longer text can work!

  1. Quickwrite: For a predetermined set of time (use a timer) use what the book reminds you of in your own life. The rule is to continue writing NO MATTER WHAT!
  2. Stop reading in the middle of the book and have students write their ending. Finish the book the next day and do a compare and contrast!
  3. Use the title to write your own story.
  4. Write a letter to the author.
  5. Tweet to the author.
  6. Create an anchor chart “Phrases We Wish We Had Written”
  7. Use great vocabulary for a reading inspired word wall – Favorite names for these I have seen over the years:
    1. Dynamic Words
    2. Vivid Vocabulary
    3. Purple Words
    4. Fancy Nancy Words

When you are stuck with your own writing these ideas work for the adults too!

Happy writing!!

Favorite Writing Advice

pexels-photo-891674.jpegMy writing group met twice this week over Zoom. I have participated in several group meetings now with this App. As long as everyone’s sound works,  it is quite effective for getting together with people, especially for introverts. I don’t have to leave the house.

The question of writing advice was part of the homework for the second meeting. My piece of go-to writing advice is you cannot edit a blank page. I tell this to my students all the time. Reading is also important especially the genre or type of writing you are trying to create.  This quote is one I have heard from many authors but if you Google it, Jodi Picoult gets the credit.

Another piece of advice is from one of our favorite writers, Ray Bradbury:

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.”

― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing


This advice was another brought up.

Another favorite quote and piece of advice is:

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

― Ray Bradbury

I continue to write everyday. Knowing I am writing a short story everyday has me constantly thinking about ideas for stories. It is a great creative place to be in!


I will use these quotes as springboards for writing in my journal to explore it a bit more.