English to English Translation #writingprompt

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What will you write today?

Try a writing prompt called ENGLISH TO ENGLISH

You can read the post here.

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#FMF Next

I participate in Five Minute Friday. Set the timer for 5 minutes and freewrite with the word provided. Find the link up here.

Set the timer and GO!

As I read the information about the prompt this week on the site I immediately thought of my work with Emily P. Freeman’s book The Next Right Thing. If you follow my blog, you know I love this book and have been reflecting through it since the beginning of the month. Each chapter is highlight by Emily on Instagram.

The idea of #mynextrightthing has been on my mind for quite awhile. It is a decision making process that makes sense especially in the sense of overwhelm. I can figure out what to do next, even if it is little like take a shower, or make a sandwich, or breath. I have been through trauma that had me feeling like I was trying to make it through the minute, not the day. I don’t remember exactly when I found the podcast The Next Right Thing but I know that it spoke to me. Emily’s voice is amazing if you haven’t listened to her either. I am thankful Emily is in my life this way.

There are lots of circumstances in this world that do not make sense to me. I used to be able to make a decision pretty quickly. This was at a time where my perception was that “Everything was gonna work out.” I have made some decisions which led to more obstacles as time went on and now I second guess as to if I will make the wrong decision. I have people relying on me and cannot afford to make any more mistakes than I have to. I will continue to make mistakes but try to be as informed as possible!

My next right thing right now is to keep writing. I will interact with my writing people this morning and my family this afternoon. Another next thing is to be open to opportunities and appreciate the moments I am in. The amount of next right things I get to choose are not guaranteed.

If you have not read Emily’s book I urge you to get a copy. It will be given as a gift from me several times this year! You can find it here.

Mentor Text Monday

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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

#mynextrightthing

I adore Emily P Freeman and her work. I was honored to be a part of her launch team and have been slowly absorbing the book in small chunks. It makes me think.

On Instagram Emily offers a community encouragement project to lead people through the book. I am not participating on Insta, but will share the graphic and some of my thoughts here.

pay attention

I pay attention to other people’s reactions and then sometimes base my behavior off this information. It has made me successful in job interviews in the past. I pay attention if I care about you or the outcome.

I pay attention to small details for my writing. I pay attention to how I feel or how something looks so I can write about it later. I pay attention to my reactions to words – written and oral – and then reflect on them later in writing.

I am not consistent about paying attention to the clothes I wear. I used to care a great deal and would be in dresses and heels 95% of the time. My job is different here, but sometimes I feel like my choices of clothing is based only that I need to be covered so I am not arrested for indecent exposure.

find silence

There is no real silence.

There are pockets of time where there is LESS noise.

There are always thoughts circulating through my brain. There is always a fan on, or a machine whirring, or a phone ringing.

When the power goes out and everything stops there is MORE silence.

name it

The idea of naming is a concept that seems particular to Emily. On Tsh’s podcast SIMPLE last year it was mentioned that Emily has the knack for naming the un-nameable. This has stuck with me and intrigues me.

Is it real unless you name it? Does IT have to have a label? Like relationships – people ask each other “What are we?” “Where is this going?” “Are you my girl/boy friend?”

In writing – did it really happen if it doesn’t end up on paper? Or on a social media platform?

We all have stories and the way we tell them are our own.

Naming is not explaining. I do think of naming as reframing. The darkness has the ability to suck us into the place where we know no answers. It can cause worry, anxiety, and physical ailments.

When I am upset that a car has cut me off on the highway instead of being sucked into negativity I think “Maybe they have a sick child and are needing to get home.”

When someone gives me a reaction that I am not expecting I think “Maybe they have something else on their mind right now.”


Emily says naming can release new growth and requires specificity. But naming is something I am still figuring out. Any thoughts are appreciated!

#FMF Offer

I participate in Five Minute Friday. Set the timer for 5 minutes and freewrite with the word provided. Find the link up here.

Set the timer and GO!

I offer myself to the world and subject myself to rejection or acceptance.

I offer my writing to publishers.

I offer my writing to my blog readers.

I offer my writing to other readers and critique partners.

I offer bids to people to connect with them. (If you don’t know what I am referring to here is an article)

I offer extensions of friendship.

I offer words to the world and some are rehearsed and some are not.

I offer honest feedback and advice to my friends and coworkers when they ask for it.

I have learned to protect myself as I often do not think as others do. I am “no nonsense” as a colleague put it. I would rather be respected than liked – 360 days out of the year that is.

I recognize people do things different ways and that is ok. I just don’t want them to try to impose their thinking on me if we aren’t friends or I didn’t ask. I do not ask questions I do not want the answers to.

I offer my true self to people…sometimes.

#Writing Prompt Wednesday

Whenever a name or a concept comes to my attention multiple times in a week I know I am supposed to pay attention. The serendipitous concept of the week is Sarah Selecky. Her name has come up on podcasts I listen to as well as her writing school. Then when I was listening to Caroline Donahue’s solo episode for the The Secret Library Podcast she was mentioned again. Sarah teaches a Story Intensive and has guest teachers. Caroline just finished working with a group of students.

Sarah has several resources on her website and a blog. She originally came on my radar when I was looking for a way to organize my short story files in Google Drive. She was the only one that had an in depth articles about it I could find that day. Maybe it was fate. I was then led to her newsletter from there. It is one of the few I read from beginning to end.

Sarah has a novel which I checked out from the library this week as well and started reading. I like her writing style immensely. The book is called Radiant Shimmering Light.


Her twitter feeds are full of great prompts too.

One exercise she talks about is a list prompt. She starts many of her writing practice days and classes with it. This is how it works:

  1. Randomly choose a letter of the alphabet.
  2. Set a timer for 5 minutes. (I like the Insight timer)
  3. Write a list of words with that letter.

After the exercise you can choose some words to use for freewrites.

Choose a handful of words to write a story.

Write whatever came to mind as you were writing the list.

Here is the list of words I came up with last night while I was writing at the library:

  • savor
  • silence
  • sandwich
  • someone
  • soar
  • swelter
  • snow
  • subtle
  • slow
  • symmetrical
  • synthesize
  • soul
  • space
  • summer
  • spring
  • salami
  • swindle
  • suck
  • sink
  • sly
  • sinister
  • swarm
  • singer
  • simmer
  • saute

The words swarm and simmer and saute stood out to me so I started a kitchen scene with a character.

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?

#FMF Measure

I participate in Five Minute Friday. Set the timer for 5 minutes and freewrite with the word provided. Find the link up here.

Set the timer and GO!

I am measure against other people all the time externally. This past 2 weeks I have been struggling to get anything more published. I am measured against the other submissions that are coming in. There are criteria I am up against as well I am aware of but it doesn’t always take the sting out of the rejection. Gladly, many of the letters came with a little feedback which was encouraging.

Many times in my life I have been in competition with people – sometimes only on their side. Now I mostly measure myself with my own set of agreements – not anyone else’s.

I measure what kind of writer I am by the fact that I write every day. It is not measured by how much I publish or don’t. I am in a community of writers. There are outside measures like critiques, evaluations, and feedback but I don’t always take them to heart.

I am a coach and a teacher which have its own measures and criteria by definition. I guess I measure myself by labels. There are sets of critical attributes of what I believe are the fundamentals of what each of those labels entails. There are also universal attributes for these labels as well.

How do I measure success? In the ACTION. The doing is more impressive to me than the reward or sometimes even the outcome. That is a measure from the outside and a factor I cannot often control.

“What can I control?” has become a mantra for me when in a situation with obstacles. It makes a huge difference to my mindset. I cannot control others – that I know for sure.

English to English Translation #writingprompt #SOLC Day 29

One of the writing resources I use is Language is A Virus. Here there is a list of 66 writing experiments. I used the idea of English to English translation to work on craft yesterday.

According to the site:
Homolinguistic translation: Take a poem (someone else’s, then your own) and translate it “English to English” by substituting word for word, phrase for phrase, line for line, or “free” translation as response to each phrase or sentence. Or translate the poem into another literary style or a different diction, for example into a slang or vernacular. Do several different types of homolinguistic translation of a single source poem. (Cf.Six Fillious by bp nichol, Steve McCaffery, Robert Fillious, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Dieter Roth, which also included translation of the poem to French and German.) Chaining: try this with a group, sending the poem on for “translation” from person to another until you get back to the first author.

I used the poem, “The Imaginal Stage” by D.A. Powell.

This is what I ended up with after utilizing a thesaurus and them rewriting for more cohesion.

Inventive Theater by T.L. Breitweiser

On the plane where we change

I move away into a view of abundant worlds.

Rather than suns,

Abundant corners are fancy to scorch.

Do not settle

Perpetually adoring

An ending opportunity

When instantly they indeed appear

To settle with the mundane.

Quiver and alter

The remains of my mind

The end game is we combust

Apt to escalate at dawn

When I share my feathers.

This was an interesting exercise and more difficult than I first imagined. I would like to try it with students. I would only give students one stanza as it can be frustrating to find words that fit.

Gate A-4 + Writing Prompt #SOL19

This week I reread Gate A-4 by Naomi Shihab Nye. You can read the story at the link below.

https://www.csmd.edu/Assets/For-the-community/connections/SHIHAB%20NYE%20POETRY.pdf

I have a deep love for Nye’s work. I was introduced to her poem Secrets at the Writers at Work conference many years ago by educator celebrity Laura Robb.

The setting of the story is the Albuquerque Airport which I have actually been to. It is the backdrop for the story but also allows the conflict to play out in a natural organic way. I do find the lack of compassion from the flight agents disturbing but I feel it is purposeful for the pacing of the story. Another peculiar detail is the four hour delay. That seems long with no explanation.

One of the main themes of this piece is connection. The connections we have to people and how food plays a part. Food has a way of spanning all kinds of voids including language barriers.

When I was young my cousin from Germany would visit us every summer. For the first few summers I didn’t speak much German and he didn’t speak much English yet we were inseparable. Food played a big part of daily life in my Oma’s house and was a connector for us. Meals were always all together.

Lines I love from this story:

“Such an old country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.”

“This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.”

There is power in such a short amount of words. I love the idea of home and being rooted. I think as I get older I think more and more we are rooted to other people more than places. At least this seems to be in the case in my experience.

This story is about one event – what happens in the delay of the flight and how this woman who speaks no English brings a gate full of people together with cookies that bridge a gap of apprehension and prejudice.

As a teacher I see both of these lines being great springboards for quickwrites. I plan to use quickwrites for some of my #SOL19 posts for the Two Writing Teachers March challenge. If you would like more information about this challenge click here. I also will reference Linda Rief’s Quickwrite book. I have been a fan of Linda’s for a long time. I was honored to meet her in person many years ago. I even have her first quickwrite book which she autographed for me.

Writing Prompt: Write for 3-5 minutes using the lines from the story Gate A4.

Here are my quickwrites from these lines:

#1
“Such an old country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.”

Carrying a plant as you travel seems to be a cumbersome activity in reality but I like the metaphor. As we travel away from home it is nice to have a connection to home. Now it is mostly through communication with the cell phone. I have had the experience of being connected to loved ones by letters when cell phone service is not available. Connection to home is people. Yes where we sleep is important. Sleeping in our own beds is usually a sentiment of what we miss when away. Plants are different in different landscapes. They can sometimes be transplanted and sometimes they die. Plants thrive where they originate from. Some plants don’t do well when you take them out of their natural habitat. Are people are the same way? Some can be transplanted and do well. Some are so attached to where they originate they cannot live anywhere else. I am not that person.

#2
“This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.”

Apprehension of people can be dissolved with cookies and compassion. We are not lost on each other we can find the place we are more alike than different. Who knew it could be a gate in an airport in New Mexico.

What are your thoughts about these lines?