One Question Changed My Life

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A colleague and I were reflecting on career paths, life decisions, waiting, and life. We both remarked how different we were from our siblings who we grew up within the same house and with the same parents.

Then the conversation moved to my love of asking a great question

Read the rest of this post here.

Bradbury Trio #SOLC Day 9

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There are lots of routines that I want to try out but if I tried every one I would never get anything done though. I do not have an MFA but there are various ways to recreate a DIY approach. There is even a book: DIYMFA. One of the leaders of this idea is one of my writing heroes, Ray Bradbury.

The ‘Bradbury Trio’ in Ray Bradbury’s own words:

“I’ll give you a programme to follow every night. Very simple programme. For the next thousand nights, before you go to bed every night, read one short story. That will take you ten minutes, fifteen minutes. Okay? Then read one poem a night from the vast history of poetry. Stay away from most modern poems. It’s crap. It’s not poetry. Now, if you want to kid yourself and write lines that look like poems, go ahead and do it, but you’ll go nowhere. But read the great poets. Go back and read Shakespeare, read Alexander Pope, read Robert Frost. But one poem a night, one short story a night, one essay a night, for the next 1,000 nights.”

There is a great explanation of this idea at Benjamin’s Blog.Benjamin has an inspiring video of Bradbury on this post as well you want to check out. I have watched it several times.

Yesterday, I decided to follow this program. Several writers I know participate in this process. I cannot time wise do it everyday but for the next month my goal is to accomplish the Trio 3 times a week. 1000 nights is over 2.7 years!

Essay: “The Joy of Writing” by Bradbury Zen in the Art of Writing

Essay: “The Rules of Writing Practice” Natalie Goldberg Wild Mind

Short Story: “I Found Your Voodoo Doll on the Dance Floor After Last Call” Nancy Stohlman

Flash Fiction: 1000 Cranes Melissa McCracken

Short Story: “Findings and Impressions” by Stellar Kim Best American Short Stories (BASS) 2007

Poem: “Knives” by Michael Stephens

Poem: “The Chairs That No One Sits In” Billy Collins


The idea of gathering with a group of people with these three readings as a topic excites me too! The Knives poem is what inspired my writing the most yesterday. I also am going to play with the format of the Kim story.

Clearly, I get caught up and cannot just read one of each! How does this practice resonate with you? What are your thoughts about it? Please share in the comments.

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Workshop Wednesday Recap

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Last Wednesday I hosted Workshop Wednesday during team times. The invitation was specifically sent out to the English teachers but everyone was welcome as always. The email informed the staff the topic was Independent Reading. This meeting is voluntary so I always let staff know ahead of time so there is no surprise. I was pleasantly surprised myself when my content teachers showed up as well.  Their attendance really showcases how dedicated they are to the new reading culture in our middle school. 

Last year there was not consistent Silent Sustained Reading, Independent reading, or choice reading. It doesn’t matter what the label was, but there was not enough time or support it seemed to pull it off.

It was decided with the new block scheduling this year there was time to implement Independent reading time. Now is the time where teachers have tried various components and how to differentiate for their classes and students.  I am so proud that all of the teachers who keep the choice piece sacred. All the decisions made were around that central idea.

The purpose of the meeting was to celebrate reading in our building and the culture they are all perpetuating. It was also to make lists of what was the reality of the reading time and what we want to make consistent across the school. To make a school wide definition decided by the teachers – not anyone else. 

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It was a great discussion about conferencing, book talks, reading identity, first chapter Friday and what it looked like and sounded like in their respective classrooms.

We talked about what they needed and how to make reading spaces more inviting.

There was celebration about reading memories, students asking for more reading time, and books disappearing because the students want to read them so badly.

Taking inspiration from THE ART OF GATHERING by Priya Parker,  I had my version of “15 Toasts”. I had silly plastic champagne glasses with sparkling water. Everyone had a toast to make in the area of  a reading memory or the first memory they had of reading. One teacher shared she sat in the back of her third grade classroom because it was where the bookcases were and she could snatch books and read no matter what subject was being taught. There was one book that she loved so much she stole. She still has it! After the meeting she came to show me the book!

I also incorporated the Google Jamboard which I had never used before. It is designed to be used on an interactive white board but I just used the post it note function for everyone to share something exciting going on in their classrooms. I hope to foster some relationships between teachers to visit each other’s rooms and share ideas that are working. 

Here is the shared Jamboard

I am excited for the conversation when I can get all the stakeholders together and make some decisions for the achievement of our teachers and the students!

Welcome October!

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To celebrate the month of October I found a copy of Neil Gaiman’s version of Hansel and Gretel.

 

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From a writing perspective, Storyaday’s Julie Duffy talks about the Hansel and Gretel structure of story. You can listen to her take on it at this link here.

There’s something about fairy tales that seems very autumnal for me and this Neil Gaiman version has these wonderful illustrations done by Lorenzo Mattotti which gives it a spooky feeling.

I also love the short story by Neil Gaiman for October too:  Click Clack Rattlebag

Does anyone have any spooky short stories they can recommend to welcome October?

 

I am combining challenges this October. I am combining the word prompts from Inktober and Kate Motaung FMF Five Minute Friday .

Today I am writing a story inspired by POISONOUS and STORY. I started dictating while in the car  – it is going to be FUN!

 

I started The Dinner List and couldn’t be more excited! I also found out On Writing by Stephen King is an audiobook.

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#happywriting #happyreading

It’s A Book Tour!

 

I was honored to be a part of the I’d Rather Be Reading Launch team for Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy. I received an advanced copy of the book for being part of the team.

You can find the link to the book here: https://www.idratherbereading.com/

 

I love books, especially about books. If you are familiar with Anne’s writing and work or this is your introduction you will love this book.

The format is pleasing and is a collection of essays which can be read from cover to cover or in random order. Some of the essays are expansions from hints of stories Anne mentions on her podcast or her blog. One of my favorite chapters is The Books Next Door. I am completely envious of one of her houses situated next door to the library! The visualizations that are conjured in my head are exciting.

In Confess Your Literary Sins Anne talks about how people tell her their bookish secrets – books they have claimed to read or other book misdirections. My confession time: I was encouraged to read The Catcher in the Rye by a friend who recommended it to me. I had not read it and have made more of an effort to read classics that have been overlooked. I do not understand why people like this book at all.

There are loads of book recommendations sprinkled throughout this book and many of them I have read. Of course, many others are on my TBR list and some I even own copies of. Some are new and of course, are searched on Amazon and the library and are currently on my wishlist.

In the essay,  I’m Begging You to Break My Heart the writing is about books that make you cry. Where the Red Fern Grows is a classic that I love that is discussed as well as Me Before You and  The Fault in Our Stars. A more recent book that made me cry is Ms. Bixby’s Last Day which is a Young Hoosier Nominee for this year.

As I read this book I wrote in it and filled it with my annotations. Many of the notes are a simple YES! and others are snippets of words to remind me of a personal connection. It was FUN to read.

As a devoted reader all my life, Anne’s words and sentiments have encapsulated exactly how I feel,  which is not an easy feat.   The stories are heartwarming and funny and worth reading. There are no essays that I wanted to skip which is a rare occurrence for me to say that about an essay collection. Anne’s voice is a delight to read.

The book is not only a great read but also makes a great gift for any reader. It is the perfect book for any busy reader in your life. The format works for snippets of time and the size is great to pop into a bag and read on the go. It is also the perfect book for that warm fuzzy feeling curled up in your favorite reading chair with a blanket nearby and a nice beverage.

Pop over to any bookseller and get your copy!

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#idratherbereading

 

 

Do You Reread?

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There are few books I reread. The book Essentialism by Greg McKeown comes back onto my radar usually after I have listened to Tsh Oxenreider from THE ART OF SIMPLE talk about it.

This book requires me to think about my actions and why I make the decisions I do especially when it comes to how I spend my time. There is often a gap between what my responsibilities are and what I want to do. There is also a category of the things I should do because someone expects me to. This is the area I am really looking at for the upcoming school year. I have made a big decision about doing what I deem essential and also managing my schedule and time differently.

I have a choice about how I spend my time. At school, I want to spend my time on the actions that I can get the most bang for my buck and make the most impact with my teachers. I cannot do everything even though my TYPE A personality whispers to me in quiet moments that I can.

I stopped celebrating just being busy for busy sake and my stress levels went down.

Over the next couple of days these questions from the book will be on my mind:

  1. What do I feel deeply inspired by?
  2. What am I particularly talented at?
  3. What meets a significant need in the world?

The next right thing for me and my time is on my mind. What are you thinking about for the fall?

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ARC MEANT TO BE BROKEN REVIEW

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For this review, I received an advance copy of this wonderful book. My opinions are my own.

This book is categorized as a YA Romance…not usually my genre and I was not disappointed in this book at all. The characters are well developed and you care about them. I kept reading wanting to know what happened to each of them. There are romance tropes of course, a love triangle and some terrible decisions on the characters part but a great read. The love triangle isn’t introduced right away but there is a build up where you sense it is coming. It was the perfect book to read in my hammock in the summer shade.

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The book is a respectable 450+ pages but went fast. The only reason I didn’t read it two days was because it was so good I didn’t want it to end.

I have been focused on character names lately and the three main were perfectly named in this book. Rayne, Gage,  and Preston.

The banter between Gage and Rayne is super fun to read. The relationships are well written along with the plot.

There are even a few moments where I was surprised by the way the story turned! A few gaspers even! Just when you think you have these lives figured out another curve ball comes in at just the right time. It is a satisfying read and one I highly recommend if you are in the mood for a great book.

Some favorite quotes:

Like we’re stuck in some sort of time warp where everything’s paused, and when we do get a moment, someone’s always crashing it. p.94

He’s walking Prozac to her, the one medicine that religiously calms her anxiety. p. 211

Everytime I speak, Taryn stares at me as if I’m a jigsaw puzzle in pants, some experiment she can pick apart and dissect like the fetal pigs from her medical classes, then bandage up again like-new condition. p. 393

Check this book out! It is a summer read that will suck you in and stick with you after the last page.

Title: Meant To Be Broken

Author: Brandy Woods Snow

Publisher: Filles Vertes Publishing

Publication Date: July 2nd, 2018

Format:

Reviewers in the United States: Paperback

International Reviewers: eBook (format of choice)

Description:

Rayne Davidson is perfectly happy fading into the background. Her mama’s antics garner enough attention in their small Southern town for the both of them, but when Rayne catches the eye of all-star quarterback, Preston Howard, she’s enamored with the possibilities. Too bad Preston doesn’t make her heart thump—his brother does.

Gage Howard doesn’t mind the town’s stares because he doesn’t get them. Growing up in his older brother’s shadow, Gage shrugs off the endless parade of girls Preston brings home—until Rayne.

But there are unwritten rules that shouldn’t be broken, like cheating on your boyfriend or betraying your brother. Rayne and Gage deny their growing attraction, neither willing to hurt Preston—until the town finds out.

They think overcoming the gossip will be the hardest obstacle.

They’re wrong.

Rayne’s mama has a secret, and its revelation could divide the town, the families, and the new couple.

Can love endure if it’s all built on a lie?

#happyreading

Poem in Your Pocket…Literally

sols_6I am continuing the logging of some of my funny stories from my teaching career and am sharing one for Two Writing Teachers Blog Slice of Life.

Last month I attended an amazing workshop with Jack Berckemeyer and his colleagues. One of the main components of their presentations is FUN. As I was listening I started a list of funny stories from my teaching career. Every teacher has funny stories of situations with students and I have decided to write some of them down.

Laughter helps you lose weight, live longer, and lower your blood pressure. Bring on the guffaws!

Poem in Your Pocket…Literally

I love poetry. I love writing poetry. I love teaching poetry. I love reading and displaying the poetry my students write.

When I was a reading specialist I introduced Poem In Your Pocket Day. I use poems with reluctant readers because they are fun and because they seem to be less intimidating to students. We use them for reading and writing.

I was lucky in this particular job at the elementary level to push in to do full classroom writing lessons but also have small groups.

My classroom was right by the front doors and the office, but also right across from the bathrooms. I learned early that it was important to have reading materials outside my door and in the hallway so students could read while they were waiting in line for their turn to use the facilities.

I was standing in the hallway having a brief conference with a 5th grade teacher and her students were lined up. I noticed one boy kept patting his jeans pocket. It was that movement we have when we have something important in our pocket that we do not want to lose. We keep checking to make sure it hasn’t magically disappeared without our knowledge.

I asked him what he had in his pocket. I was intrigued. He looked at me shyly and said, “My poem”.

This was a student that was a little on the harder side. He was very guarded and would be likely to have a weapon in his pocket rather than a poem.

The look of surprise was evident in my face and he continued.

“You talked to us about poem in your pocket day so I thought I should put my own poem I am working on should be in my pocket then I always have it with me.”

I smiled at him with tears in my eyes. “I love it,” I told him.

He smiled and patted his pocket again.

I saw him several times during the day and every time he would smile at me like we shared a secret and pat his pocket to let me know his poem was still there. He extended poem in your pocket day for at least a week.

#happytuesday

Sunday Morning Coffee Talk

 

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Come sit with me and have a cup of coffee and let’s chat!

I am thinking about the question today: What makes me feel most alive? It comes from Emily P. Freeman who I adore as an author and speaker.

After I read this question in her book, A Million Little Pieces I realized I didn’t know the answer automatically.

What I used to think from a couple years ago, and what I think now is gravely different.

Now, writing makes me feel alive. Just the process really. I do enjoy the POWER SURGE from getting published or simply a comment from a reader, but the act of writing is where the joy and life is for me.

I used to say running made me feel alive. Working out does to a certain extent but now it is more of a necessity and tires me more than an elixir.

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Reading always makes me feel alive. Always. I love to think about the way that people think and learn something too. Any recommendations for me today?

Most importantly, my husband and my children make me feel alive. The love I give and receive from them compares to nothing else.

Thanks for sitting with me and helping me work through this question this Sunday morning!

What makes you feel most alive? Let’s make this a conversation…