Writing Update/Inspiration

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Inspiration Number 1

I participated in a virtual write-in on Thursday evening for NaNoWriMo. My online writing group who is awesome were on a Zoom call all together. If you haven’t ever used Zoom it is a video conference call free program. It is nice to be able to see everyone. There is a chat feature and video and audio controls as well.

We logged in, chatted a few minutes, and then got to writing. We did two 15 minute sprints. It is nice to write with people that you know. It is a comfort somehow that we are not alone. It was also oddly comforting to hear the clicking of other people’s keyboards.

Encouragement from my tribe is a good thing. They help me along.

Inspiration Number 2

I read a story but Kimberly Lojewski today about a hot air balloon, a strange island, and treasure called About The Hiding Of Buried Treasure. It is so well written and fun! 

Inspiration Number 3

I had my 7th-grade writers group Thursday and they were wonderful! I started with them filling out a card with the sentence stem: I WISH PEOPLE KNEW… The responses were honest and raw.

Then we wrote to my prompt of requiring 4 words to be a major part of the story. The writing was the best I have seen from them. 

If you would like a link to the cards I created just click below:

Writing Prompt Card

Writing Prompt Card 2

Writing Prompt Card 3

Writing Prompt Card 4

Happy Writing!

31 Days of FMF Challenge

My FOREST timer was set today for 5 minutes and I wrote: INSPIRE





This is a word that comes up for me a lot. I know to pay attention.

I have been called an Accidental Inspire-er – I am not really sure that is a word really – or even a thing.

I am not inspired by sound today. It overwhelms my ears and my brain.

Today is Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Day – I hope to inspire at least one teacher with my post.

I was inspired by feedback from one of my critique group partners today.

I want to inspire students to be creative. I hope to do that through Genius Hour. I want to inspire kids to read and write. I do that through Writer Workshop.

To inspire

I have to start a fire

Let it burn

Hot and Bright

Teach tools so there is management and the fire doesn’t get out of control.

Don’t let the marshmallows burn!


FMF: Share


Thank you to Kate for hosting the 31 day FMF challenge!


It is my responsibility to share my knowledge with others.

It is my responsibility to share my experiences to inspire or help others.

When I encounter people within my day,  I need to make a conscious effort to share kindness. The idea of kindness has come up in the sharing in meetings lately which is why it is on my mind. It is a concept so many of the students do not understand because we do not use the word. They understand nice because we use it, but not the term kind. With the popularity of the book and movie Wonder there was a little more spotlight shed on the concept, but it needs to be massaged and encouraged.

Today I have to share my understanding of a concept for people that have a different viewpoint than me. We have to come together to make it work for the betterment of everyone. I am bringing doughnuts to help sweeten the journey.

How will you be kind today?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month! Today is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day! The question posed for today is:

October 3 question – How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

Writing has always been a part of my life. When I have taken the time to look back through my journals, morning pages or other writings, the bulk of words get on the page when my days are dark.

Writing helps me cope. It is my escape. This last 3 months I have moved 3 times among other personal ups and downs. I wrote every day. I gave myself the challenge to write a short story every day in September and accomplished more than 30. The challenge gave me a focus every day.

I have the advantage of technology now and the ability to dictate into my phone. I have always carried a notebook with me but am diligent about writing in it now. One of my favorite activities is to write down conversations that I overhear.  A major change when I started working at my current job was a 2 hour total commute in the car. It is almost impossible to write in a notebook while driving but dictating and listening to writing podcasts help reframe that time into something productive.

I know what I think by writing it out. It helps me work out what is happening in my head and helps me to not overthink. My brain function and my thinking are fast-paced and writing helps me slow down, especially when I write longhand. I like to play with different style pens and notebooks. As a type of therapy, I play with various outcomes and actions to different circumstances.

Writing is my lifeline and I am grateful for it!

Welcome October!

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


Image result for hansel and gretel neil gaiman

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.

Image result for on writingImage result for the dinner list

#happywriting #happyreading

10ish Things I Learned Over the Weekend

20180915_085949.jpgI was honored to be able to attend the Indiana State Literacy Association (ISRA) Fall conference. I used to be heavily involved with this organization when it was still called ISRA (Indiana State Reading Association).

The main reason I wanted to attend was because Pernille Ripp was the keynote speaker. I was not disappointed in either her keynote or her breakout session. She is a unique educator and reading warrior and a seventh grade English teacher.

Here are some highlights!

Her keynote was full of great educational wisdom and in the fashion of a true writer, she used her unique voice and uttered several funny statements.

  • Pernille was able to live in the United States with her mother on 3 occasions in her childhood. When she was 18 she moved to Wisconsin where she said,

I met a boy.

That boy introduced me to a much better boy.

Thank God!”


  • She started teaching in 4th grade (Like me!) and she said, “I graduated college with my fictitious lesson plans.” This made me laugh because it is true! I know in college we learn the whole process but my lesson plans never look like the ones from college in the “real teaching world”
  • “I know the student through the stories that we share.”
  • “If I know the books you like I know you more deeply as a person.”
  • Reading needs to be fun.

We cannot say that reading is the most important and then not give them time to read!


To Create Readers We Need:

  • Inclusive libraries – kids read more when they are surrounded by books. Even if the school library is right outside your door, that sometimes is too far. You need books in your room.
  • Sacred time to read
  • Exploration of self and reading identity
  • Choice to discover what they like or dislike
  • Relevant and meaningful work
  • Building a community of readers


The question that stayed with me:

How do we protect the hope of readers?


Her breakout session was about picture books and how to use them in the classroom. She reads a picture book to her 7th graders on the first day of school to kick the year off correctly.



My Amazon cart and library holds are going to be busy bees!!

If you have the chance to hear her speak, do it! She is inspiring and heartwarming.


Who is a professional you would love to hear speak?


Hello September!

abstract alone art black
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September Goals:

I am going to try to keep September simple:

Write one story per day motivated by STORYADAY
Attend at least 1 IRL writing group meeting.
Post at least once a week on the blog.

I am starting some new writing projects and groups with 7th graders at work this month and I am super excited about the program creation and execution.

I have not been reading as much as normal lately. My reading diet has consisted of short stories and blogs mostly. Winter is coming though so I will have more time soon…maybe! ha ha

Goals that were publicly stated for August:

3 blog posts a week – Yes! Done.
2 articles on Medium – Yes! Done.
Revise 4 stories (at least) – Yes! Done.

Submit 5 stories– goal is to have 5 out at all times – Only submitted 3
Mine my notes in my GOOGLE DOCS – Yes, I also updated some folders. I need to get my notebooks under control. They are everywhere. I use them for different purposes but I feel I am losing things in them being scattered.
Go to writer group at least once a month – I went to both meetings

Artist Date Reflection

woman walking on bridge
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A couple Sundays ago, I took myself on an artist date.

To be fair, it was not exactly planned as an artist date.  I did not purposefully carve out the time, it was slotted for me. Nevertheless,  I chose to make this time part of my creative process.

First on the list was to treat myself to a lunch of Indian food. I haven’t eaten and enjoyed it for years. I chose a newer restaurant that I had not been to before because the place I used to frequent in the same town, is no longer open. The new place has a lunch and dinner buffet on the weekends. To be honest,  I hate the buffet. What I order and what is comfortable for me is never on the buffet. I know this,  but I feel pressured. Since it was a new place I did not order off the menu. I was too shy. I did have delicious butter chicken and I tried a new dish but there no Naan so that was disappointing.

Next, I went to a park that has a 3 mile trail loop. I walked the path that I have run hundreds of times training and running races in the years previously.

The feelings I experienced were bizarre.  It was like being a stranger somewhere that used to be home. It was familiar,  but there were new parts which honestly filled me with anxiety. The park had installed new wooden plank walkways and there were new trees and foliage everywhere which was lovely. I did a lot of reflecting and sweating. While I walked, I  just listened to the woods and the water. I did listen to a podcast for part of the time but shut it off quickly to enjoy my surroundings.

Lastly, I visited a local coffee shop in the town where I live. It is a small chain but feels homey and writer-friendly. I almost didn’t stop though. I drove around the square twice before finally parking. I am glad that I did and did not allow my anxiety to grab hold. I didn’t write much myself but did record a lot of conversation between 3 friends that were meeting that will for certain end up in a story.

Part of what I learned is the fact I am dealing with some very real anxiety.  I  had to keep talking myself into keeping my plan and not go home. The moment of not going back is today. I am not sure who I have become. I forged forward and the feelings were not crippling but I sure didn’t like it. Everything was just off center. I kept having to talk myself into doing something that years ago I would have happily done – and have done numerous times.

At this point in my life, I am not comfortable in new places it seems. There was different anxiety at each place.

These new feelings are unwelcome but also preparation for the new life I want to be living. I have to get out sometimes don’t I? I have been ignoring the feeling of wanting to rush home.

I am uncertain as to the why of the anxiety. I can guess but I also cannot reverse it.

I am not exactly lost.

I will keep moving forward and reflecting and honoring how I am feeling and see where it takes me.

Wait! She’s Trying to Remember the Rest!

abc books chalk chalkboard
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I am continuing my funny stories from my teaching career.

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!

Wait! She’s Trying to Remember the Rest!

To quiet students, I use Harry Wong’s GIMME 5.

It is a nonverbal that if established can be effective.

When first introduced you say the 5 things – one for each finger. I believe I modified from the original 5 from Wong.

Stop moving.

Stop talking.

Look at me.



When I was a reading specialist I convinced an old school teacher to let me in his room to teach writing. No one knew really why he let me in when he had let no one in previously. In his class, there was a student who was 6ft tall in 5th grade and sat in the center of the room in the back row. He was a leader in stature and culture.

While in the process of starting my lesson I had established the gimme 5 signal. I would go through each step until they complied and then move on. If they were still talking I wouldn’t move on.

One day I started with “Gimme 5, stop moving, stop talking…” I was waiting for them to stop talking when the larger than normal 5th grader said…Quiet! She’s trying to remember what the rest of them are!”

I remember saying, I didn’t forget and then started laughing.


My Brain Needs More Oxygen!

happy child fun boy
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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!

My Brain Needs More Oxygen!

When I was teaching first grade many years ago I was honored to have a professional development coordinator in my district named Rita Brodnax. One of the many programs she brought to the district was Brain Compatible Teaching for Learning. One of the many practices I have adopted over the years is to share some of the learning with my students when I have attended a conference or workshop when I return.  I want the students to know that I am still learning and bringing it into the classroom for them and for me.

One concept I had talked to my students about was the need for the brain to have oxygen when thinking gets difficult. When we are learning new things our heads literally hurt because new dendrites are being formed. When this happens we need to sit up straight so out brain gets more oxygen to aid in the process.

I had a very unique class of cohesive learners that year and we were able to get to mastery levels with grade level material very quickly. They were sponges. We wrote and read every day. The kids were constantly making books. We had our family meetings in the mornings and then wrote a group chart. then the students wrote in their journals and we conferenced. The afternoons were filled with read alouds and math.

It was may and we had reached the end of the math book so I began material from the second grade standards to get them ready for the next grade. It was harder concepts, they knew it was second grade material but I was chunking it and things were going well.

This afternoon we were talking about borrowing in double digit subtraction and the students were working on a problem independently to check their thinking after the model part of the lesson. This was normal practice for our class.

Suddenly in the middle of silent work and productive struggle (there were lots of mumblings of process steps) my student Micah stood up abruptly.  It was so sudden it startled everyone. I asked him what was wrong.

(My name was Zack at the time)

Micah said “MS Zack, this is hard! My brain needs more oxygen” and with his missing tooth grin spread across his face his classmates and I laughed. I told him he could stand for as long as he needed to.

He stood for the rest of the lesson.

From then on, it became a thing for students to randomly stand. No one was alarmed when someone stood after Micah’s introduction to the concept in our room.