Starting Again

slice 2014

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“Why aren’t you writing?” Ruth Ayres asked me in a quiet voice a couple of weeks ago. Thoughts (or should I say excuses) tumbled around in my head. What could I say that would make sense, because I don’t know what happened to my writing life. My last post was June 13. How did this happen?

January 11, 2011 was the date of my first, but tentative step into writing and allowing the world to read my thoughts. Week after week, I pressed that publish button and held my breath. Would anyone be there to read and comment? Someone did read and they left the most wonderful comments. The weekly sharing of lives developed friendships around the world. Weeks changed into months of writing. Months added up to become years of writing about those small moments or noticings of life happening.

Then one day I didn’t write. The next week there were no words published. Week after week passed. Something always seemed to come up on Tuesday, which gave me the excuse not to post.

Friends from near and far reached out. “Are you okay?” “What’s going on?” “You are not writing.” I assured them, there was no problem. I just fell out of the habit. I said I would be back, I just didn’t know when.

Ruth also asked another question, “Do you miss writing?”

It took me a minute to answer her. This question went to my heart. “No, I don’t miss the writing. But what I do miss is the community of writers.”

I know I don’t have to tell you, dear reader, writing is hard. It is hard to always be present and aware, looking for that moment to bring to life with words. I’ve taken a break, but now I know I need to get back to writing.

Thank you to those who inquired and nudged me back to sharing my words.

 

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A Writer

This simple, unassuming black leather notebook belongs to a writer. A writer who creates lyrical language in picture books. A writer who shares writers’ thoughts through professional books. A writer who pens a tale that keeps the reader entranced, whether it be fiction, autobiographical, or memoir. This writer’s notebook is a place to react to the world. It is a tool for living and writing.

Are you wondering who this might be? Before I reveal this writer, I will share a few snippets of my learning from this person last week.

  • What is non-negotiable in writing for this person? It does not matter the age of the student. These are critical elements to developing a writer.
  1. Time: a writer is someone who writes a lot, students must have that time.
  2. Choice: choice leads to voice.
  3. Response: Lucy Calkins said, “Children need readers, not correcters.” Respond to what the student is trying to say. Appreciate the intelligence behind the error.
  4. Environment: a safe environment that allows students to take a risk with their writing.
  • Teachers need to help students find a process for writing, not the process. All elements of the writing process are evident, but it may look different for each person.
  • This author spent time discussing the difference between boy writers and girl writers. Yes, boys do want to write about blood, fights, guts, and gore. As teachers of writers we need to figure out a way to allow boys that freedom of topic. Boys tend to write for each other, girls are more likely to be writing for the teacher. Another statement was made that had me doing more thinking. Girls tend to draw nouns, boys draw verbs. That is something I want to investigate more as I look at student work.

Those are a few of my take-aways after spending two days with this author. Have you figured out who this person is? Here he is signing a book.

 

This is from the inside cover of his writer’s notebook. Wouldn’t you just love to linger in the pages of this notebook?

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Day 14: Save the World!

What did you think when you read my title? Perhaps you’ve read articles on how to save the world. Perhaps you are doing your part by recycling whenever possible. Perhaps you are reducing your carbon footprint by driving a ecologically clean car.

Here are a few ideas I discovered when I googled how to save the world. Reader’s Digest has an article titled 5 Crazy Ideas that Might Save the Planet. These ideas are a bit crazy, but there is some scientific reasoning behind each one.

  1. Give the earth some shade
  2. Wrap Greenland in a blanket
  3. Feed pollution to the algae
  4. Float New York on the water
  5. Get plankton to the ocean’s surface

Popular Science has 10 Audacious Ideas to Save the Planet. Forbes published an article that lists 20 ways to save the world. My google search found about 138,000,000 results (0.76 seconds) for how to save the world.

This whole search for ideas to save the world came about because of a sign I saw the other day as I was leaving a movie theater.

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Really?! Isn’t that overstating it just a bit? Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s all it takes to save the world? Sigh . .  .

Day 4, 6 Words 6 Images

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” by Ernest Hemingway, is the most famous six word story. The concept of telling a story in six words has intrigued me for some time. My brain has played and abandoned the challenge of creating a six word story.

Last year, I attended a session by Don Goble at a conference and he revived that spark. He had videos of six words, six shots done by students that could take your breath away. However, time passed and my spark fizzled out.

This year he did a full day on the six word, six shot concept. A friend attended and came away bubbling with enthusiasm. I knew I wanted to try, but I also knew I could not put it into a video (not that savvy in the tech department).

Finally, I had a story to share. I took six photos, I selected six words. I combined them to document my work in a school.

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Waterlogue 1.3.1 (72) Preset Style = Illustration Format = 8" (Large) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = Technical Pen Drawing Weight = Light Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Auto Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Medium Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

 

 

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I celebrate the choice this school made to invest in their teachers. Changing practices takes time. The teachers were given that time and support.

What can you celebrate? Share your celebrations with the world at Ruth Ayres Writes.

What can you celebrate? Share your celebrations with the world at Ruth Ayres Writes.

Day 1 Are You Scared?

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Let me answer the title question, YES! The writing adventure begins today. This is my seventh year tackling the challenge of writing every day. Every year I wonder what will I write about every. single. day.

Last week, I decided to peruse through Kate Messner’s book, 59 Reasons to Write, hoping that there would be a spark of inspiration I could use. She did not let me down. I found help for today in Lesson 7: Writing Scared. She talks about two kinds of fear. One keeps you safe from dangers, but the other is the uncomfortable feeling we get when we are about to try something new. The fear starts to whisper in your ear, “What do you think you are doing?”

She reminds me that this fear is one to seek because it stretches you as a person. She says, “So go on now. Be scared. Be brave. And write.” This is the month I stretch a little more as I write, try on some new types of writing, and find joy in the smallest moments of the day.

She ends the lesson with a prompt: Sometimes, writing scares me because . . . (feel free to use this prompt on a day you are stuck)

Writing scares me because it’s personal. It’s you sharing your thoughts for the world to critique and analyze. Isn’t that what my teachers did for every piece of writing I completed? Did anyone ever talk to me about my work? No, it was simply returned to me with all my errors glowing with red markings. My paper became my teacher’s paper. It said what she wanted it to say.  

I didn’t think I could write anything that someone would want to read. That thought stopped me, until I began writing small slices of life for thirty-one days in March and on Tuesdays the rest of the year. The comments fueled me to continue writing. I still didn’t see myself as a writer for a very long time. Now I have to acknowledge, yes, I am a writer. So, even though writing scares me, I know I can do it.

So come along with me this month, perhaps I will look to Kate for more ideas, or share a recipe, or try poetry, or find inspiration within the slices I read. This is the month when I stretch my writing muscles. I. Am. A. Writer.

Dreaded Machine

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

With my steps slowing, I follow the technician into the darkened room. A monitor glows. The only source of light is an overhead spotlight. I step up and face the dreaded machine, willing my mind to take me somewhere else.

“Step forward a little. Turn your head. Lean to the left. Put  your arm here, bend your elbow. Shoulder down. Reach over here. Tilt your head back.”

As the machine squeezes, the final command, “Don’t breathe!”

A repeat performance on the right side.

A few moments of pain are required each year. These uncomfortable minutes could save my life. Thank goodness the yearly mammogram is over!

Celebrate Learning with Ruth

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The seed of this celebration began in January 2011 when someone planted an idea in my mind. “You can be a writer, come join our community.” The seed began to sprout roots as I “tried” writing. The encouraging comments pushed me to write more than I’d ever written before.

Friendships developed through telling the stories of our lives. Mostly, these friends are virtual, but some are now face-to-face friends. They have made my life richer through their stories and friendships. Ruth is one of those friendships that is no longer virtual.

So I was more than thrilled when my director asked me last August to find out if Ruth was available to work with the trainers in May. Yes, she was available. Yes, she would come and work with us.

Sunday, I picked her up at the airport. We talked and talked. We wandered the trails at our nature center. Then we talked and talked until it was time to head to bed.

Monday and Tuesday, she guided us through thinking about what needs to be in place to make writing workshop effective.

  • First, teachers need to understand how writers work.
  • Once this is in place, they need to claim time, space, and materials.
  • Now we can begin the process to develop lessons and assessment systems.

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Time passed quickly as we processed and reflected on this information. Before I was ready to let Ruth go, it was Wednesday morning and I was bringing Ruth back to the airport.

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I celebrate the connections I’ve made because I write. Each one brings joy to my life.