Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Berta's Music

Tuesday Quick Write for Kate Messner's Teachers Writing Camp

Today, Julie True Kingsley joins us with a writing prompt on character development…


Step One:
* Pull out your magazines and look for faces that you find interesting (You could also do a Google Images search or use Pinterest).   What faces call you?  Pick one.
(Teaching Note: I make students pull a picture from a paper bag)

* Take in the photo.  What do you notice about this person?   Give the person some traits.  Start with physical traits (So easy!), now look deeper.  What do you think this person is feeling?  What makes the person’s heart tick?  Secrets? Yes, they are there.  Find them.  Dig deeper.  Learn more.  Push yourself here.

Step Two:
* Find songs that match your character’s inner and outer character.  Play around with this.  You Tube is your friend.  Go find that song that represents your character.
(Teacher note: Depending on the age group you teach you might need to frontload different styles of music and have them choose between a few specific choices.   You know your kids, do what they do they can deal with.)

See Example on the blog.

Step three:
Start this character’s story.  Go on, try a half a page.  Keep the music on.  Put the beat into your story. See what happens.  If you are motivated try numerous songs.  Notice, how does your sentence structure changes with the beat of the music? Does the beat find its way into your words?

My Turn: 

Photo Credit: Flickr by Donald Lee Pardue CC 2.0 on June 26, 2012

My Fictional Description: 

Name:  Roberta Rhodes
From: Seattle, WA now in Small Town, WA

Physical Characteristics:  streaked blonde hair, pulled back in a rubber band, bangs curled and pushed to each side, brown eyebrows, hazel eyes, slight but strong nose, pointy like her focus; thin lips, serious, even and rounded chin, healthy weight (huggable)

Song:  That Girl Was Me (Drama Queen) by Lindsay Lohan

Internal Characteristics: Takes charge of her life, focused, gets the job done, over works, but when interrupted, just sighs; pleasant, but feisty; doesn't take any crap -- has "tude";

Opuzz Determined to Succeed  - solid beat; instrumental keeps moving


"Bert," I called and snapped the picture.

Roberta just sighed and continued chopping broccoli.

"Get that camera out of here and get your gloves on! Spin that spinach."

We had many more to feed tonight; tons of sandwiches to make. People would be dropping into Bert's Bakery and Cafe all night tonight during the community cancer walk.

Bert's mom had passed away from breast cancer and Berta is a survivor. But you wouldn't know it. She works long hours and helps out whenever she can; all sandwiches are half price today for the community activities.

We've been open five years, and it looks like we'll make it. Just like she did. Life is short, and Bert keeps her cool, despite my continued teasing. I reach over and kiss her cheek. We've been married for twenty-three years.

She smiles and says, "Start another row of sandwiches." She throws a radish at me.

I'm glad she's back.


Your Turn:

Follow the steps above.

For images:
Go to Flickr.com, advanced search, and choose Creative Commons for commercial use and faces. Then type in a word to find; I used determined.

 To search YouTube, just type in your Google Search Bar: "youtube music determined" That's how I found my music.

Link back here with your new character!


Kate Messner's Teachers Write Camp

6/25 Mini Lesson

Monday Mini-lesson connecting Art and Writing is courtesy of Ruth McNally Barshaw, who wrote the Ellie McDoodle series.

Ruth shares some background:

"Art Literacy is the concept, now borne out by studies (see some background and research links athttp://www.picturingwriting.org/), that the act of creating art improves subsequent writing.  When you draw – even doodle – it changes your thinking so that richer writing results.
The best part is you don’t have to be a trained illustrator to do it. This works for everyone. Surprisingly, stick figures work just as well as the most beautiful, intricate painting….Storyboarding is used in advertising for developing commercials, and in filmmaking. Limiting them to 6 or 8 small boxes for the entire story prevents minutia or perfectionism from creeping in. It solidifies pacing and focuses cause and effect."

Then Ruth directs us to:

-Close your eyes. Visualize the character you want to write about. Then draw what you see in your mind’s eye, your imagination.

-To add depth to the drawn character, add callouts to describe various personality and physical traits. Brainstorm negative as well as positive traits, for a more rounded character.

-Start a story with your character.

My Character:

My Story:

We just wondered where all the water came from in the lake. Now we were packing spoons, buckets, shovels, and spray bottles into the van, headed to the beach.

This is great because its about 102° outside. We've slathered ourselves in sunscreen, and brought plenty of water plus string cheese, raspberry jelly, peanut butter, and bread.

Gramma Mosey slid her fingers through her mousy brown hair, which always was a bad hair day, but she didn't really care. She always said, "It's people in person not people in looks that matter."

Five cousins tumbled out of the Gramma Van and set up our site. Everyone took a sip of water and had a string cheese.

Then Gramma Mosey said, "Look around us and think beyond us; what will we see?"

We imagined, "Mountains, streams, rivers, the dam, and our town."

"OK. Let's dig."

We built the mountains and the dam, we scooped up sand dropped it into mounds, adding sticks and flowers, boulders and cliffs. We created a the river and the dam.

Then we added water. We squirted rain in the mountains. We watched the rain form streams and flow into our river. We dug down to the water table.

We added food coloring and watched pollution pollute our world.

Annie cried, "Jord ruined it. Look what he did to the boulder."

"Make it work -- look what happened," Gramma said to calm Annie.

Jord's moved boulder had created a new river. Now we all added catastrophe, including flooding below which caused a landslide slip into the lake.

All the while, Gramma Mosey encourages us and asks us questions. She adjusts her stripped purple, aqua, and white swimsuit as she adds more sunscreen; making sure we're all protected. She asks Mari what she wants to add to our project to make sure everyone is involved. She expects Ali to hold back to let the others think and add too.

Eventually, she rested in her chair and let us take over, including making our own sandwiches. Gramma needs to lose weight, but at least we get to solve our question and swim on this hot day.


Your Turn:  Draw your character and start a story. Share a link here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Poetry Friday on Tuesday

Tuesday Quick Write
Kate Messner's Teachers Write Camp


Guest author Sara Lewis Holmes  suggests this about poetry:

Part of her introduction to poetry:
"We write poetry in response to the things that set off alarms inside us. The moments when we are vibrating with wonder, or fear, or heartbreak.  Poetry is most definitely FEELING.
But we also write poetry to examine things more closely; to cry out: that’s not the same thing!  To logically parse a silly thought until it reveals something we didn’t understand when first we were alarmed. Poetry is most definitely THOUGHT. Perhaps that’s why I love Auden’s definition of poetry as 'clear thinking about mixed feelings.'"

Her assignment to us:
"1) Tell me about a time you didn’t reject the first silly thought or phrase that came to you—and what happened afterwards. Write a poem about it if you wish.
2) When you have a free evening, find the recent documentary, Louder Than a Bomb, which follows four teams of students as they prepare for and compete in a Chicago poetry slam. Need a quick jolt immediately? Here’s seventeen-year-old Adam Gottlieb performing “Poet, Breathe Now.”
3) Begin a “commonplace book.” This is simply a notebook into which you copy poems you want to keep nearby. You can do this by hand, inking in the lines, or do what I often do: print or make a copy with your computer, and paste it in. Or do both—no rules! Try reading from this commonplace book before you approach your regular writing time, and see if it puts you in the right frame of mind to be both open and clear.
4) To explore your mixed feelings, write a credo. But do it slant, as Emily Dickinson would advise. Start with “I don’t believe in…” and see where your intrepid words take you."


First: I've chosen prompt 4: I don't believe:

Next: Here is Sara's Credo Poem -- A model for us

And now, mine:

I don't believe in giving up.
I don't have time to write this poem,
It's not even Tuesday; it's Sunday,
but I can't let go of my commitment.

I don't believe in giving up.
I had three days of class this week.
Out of town, away from my safe harbor.
And I want to finish my poem.

I don't believe in giving up.
Although I do believe in adapting
and revising and reforming so it's doable
For me. I will be able to finish my poem.

I don't believe in giving up.
And I don't let my students give up either.
We adapt and revise and reform so the work is doable
For them. They will be able to finish their work.

I don't believe in giving up.
We look together at what needs to be shown
And decide on how each will find a way and a when to show
to me for them what must be done. They do commit to their work.

I don't believe in giving up.
Commit, Adapt, Revise, Reform, Extend.
I don't believe in giving up
But sometimes, I let go.

I don't believe in regrets.
I live each day as best I can
And do as best I can
Fulfilling, for sure, promises.

I don't believe in regrets.
I know that twenty-four hours and sixty-two years
Are both short and long;
Get done with what I can.

I don't believe in regrets.
We look forward to keep going.
We can't see behind without
A mirror, but that's no longer real.

I don't believe in regrets.
So when I can't, when it's too much,
I let go.
I let go and let it behind.

I don't believe in regrets.
Sometimes a student resists everything
We could do for success. What do you do?
Let go.

I don't believe in regrets.
I don't believe in giving up.
I do what I can and then
I am done with it.

Let go.


Your Turn:

Which prompt will you try?

I hope your try your thoughts wrapped up into an "I don't believe in" poem and share it here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Writing Prewriting Ideas

Prompt 2 by Guest author Rosanne Parry    6/18


Keys to writing: IDEAS

"The important thing is to generate more ideas in the bank than you will ever use. It takes the pressure off because you aren’t looking for one perfect idea, just a whole bunch of ones that are personally appealing and can be combined in ways that make for a story only you can tell."

Her List Ideas:

Setting Bank
1. List ten places that you have lived in your lifetime. It need not be 10 different towns. Different places in one town are fine. Summer camp, visits to grandma, college dorm, basic training—they all count as places you’ve lived
2. List ten places to which you feel a strong emotional connection. The emotion can be positive or negative. Either is powerful. (it’s okay to have repeats in the bank. That can tell you something useful about where your heart lives.)
3. List ten places you’ve visited on vacation or places you’d love to visit in your lifetime were money and time no object.
4. List ten places from which your ancestors or in-laws come.
5. List ten books or movies that have settings you’ve found particularly captivating. (you may want to include a brief note about what attracted you to the setting.)

Character Bank
6. List ten jobs whether paying or volunteer that you’ve done in your life.
7. List ten famous people, historical or contemporary, that you would love to share a meal with.
8. List ten ethnicities, religions, tribes, cultural groups, gender or sexual orientations, or political philosophies that are represented in your extended family.
9. List ten people who can make you laugh.
10. Complete this sentence ten times. “I’ve always wanted to _____ like ____________. For example, Dance like Gene Kelley.

My Lists

Setting Bank
1. List ten places that you have lived in your lifetime. It need not be 10 different towns. 

1 Eight Street, includes a walk past the ice skating rink in winter and feels my roller skates wheeling on its sidewalk

2 Avenue C, a old farmhouse now surrounded by town

3 Southeast Quad, Second door, Seventh Floor: not co-ed.

4 Duplex beneath the pines and airplanes: glad to be gone

5 Columbia Street: run outdoors and down the stairs to the half-basement for laundry

6 Buffalo Street: From street to street, it was ours

7 Dell Drive: watch the weather on the south hill

8 Crown Avenue: back to apartment — the tub water in the morning added heat

9 Pink Apartments: they haven't been pink for years; everyone here stays here at least once

10 Ent: Our sycamore in the back is an end, providing needed shade in the summer

2. List ten places to which you feel a strong emotional connection. 

1 Under the sycamore
2 In the bench swing
3 Walking the beach
4 The empty classroom at the end of the day
5 On the couch surrounded by my husband, Pooka, and two cats
6 On the phone with kids and grandkids
7 Wishing rocks
8 Gramma Camp
9 Family Camp
10 Avenue C

3. List ten places you’ve visited on vacation or places you’d love to visit in your lifetime were money and time no object.

1 The Lake
2 Cresent Bay
3 Inn at Langley
4 Semiahmoo
5 Pacific Ocean
6 Sun Mountain
7 Independence Hall
8 Redwoods and Sequoia
9 Yellowstone Park
10 Glacier Park

4. List ten places from which your ancestors or in-laws come.

1 Inverness, Scotland
2 Ireland -- under wishing rocks
3 Wales
4 England
5 Norway
6 Sweden
7 Woodstock, Ontario, Canada
8 Bottineau, North Dakota
9 Minnesota
10 Iowa

5. List ten books or movies that have settings you’ve found particularly captivating.

1 Lord of the Rings: The Shire
2 Jane Eyre: The Mansion
3 The Secret Garden: The secret garden and the mansion
4 Go and Come Back: Amazon Jungle of Peru
5 Star Trek: Space, The Final Frontier; The Flute episode; Temba: his arms wide episode
6 Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: He turned to fix engineering and fell into space
7 The Clan of the Cave Bear: what if...
8 The Many-Colored Land: what if.. time portal
9 The House of Dries Drear: Underground railroad: a house with mystery
10 Midsommer Murders: English countryside and culture

Character Bank
6. List ten jobs whether paying or volunteer that you’ve done in your life.

1 babysitting
2 Fuller Brush
3 checker
4 Mom
5 Den mother
6 clerk
7 insurance assistant
8 teacher
9 blogger
10 technology director

7. List ten famous people, historical or contemporary, that you would love to share a meal with.

1 Thomas Jefferson
2 Ben Franklin
3 John and Abigail Adams
4 Paul Revere
5 Samuel Adams
6 James Monroe
7 Patrick Henry
8 Dalai Lama
9 John Dewey
10 Gandhi

8. List ten ethnicities, religions, tribes, cultural groups, gender or sexual orientations, or political philosophies that are represented in your extended family.

1 Scots
2 Irish
3 Norwegian
4 Swedish
5 Celtic
6 Fairy
7 Democrat
8 Republican
9 Protestant, Lutheran, Baptist, Evangelical, Methodist, Catholic, Transcendentalist, Athiest
10 Geek

9. List ten people who can make you laugh.

1 Scott
2 Greg
3 Jake
4 Allison
5 Ashlyn
6 Hannah
7 Jim
8 Rudy
9 Bill
10 Will

10. Complete this sentence ten times. “I’ve always wanted to _____ like ____________. For example, Dance like Gene Kelley.

1 I’ve always wanted to sleep like a baby.
2 I’ve always wanted to sing like Joan Baez.
3 I’ve always wanted to draw like an artist.
4 I’ve always wanted to think like Scott.
5 I’ve always wanted to relax like a cat.
6 I’ve always wanted to lead like Jeff.
7 I’ve always wanted to create like Steve Jobs.
8 I’ve always wanted to lead in peace like Jimmy Carter.
9 I’ve always wanted to write like Ray Bradbury.
10 I’ve always wanted to garden like my neighbor.


You know the next step: Create your bank of setting and character ideas using this prompt. What are your faovirte.

Clover in the Grass

Monday Writes for Teachers Write Camp by Kate Messner

1. Prompt by author Jody Feldman

Assignment: Go to the random noun generator: 
The first word that pops up is yours for the day. You have two choices:
Brainstorm:Generate a full page of plot ideas with that noun at the center of your thoughts. Need a boost? Add in a second word.
Dive in: Let your noun kickstart a piece of writing. The word generator, for example, gave me expansion. My first, raw thought:
Whenever Parker caught sight of the Four Springs Expansion Bridge, he always gasped a little.
          Funny.  Now I want to know why.

My Noun: Grass

Clover in the Grass

Clover in the grass are weeds, they say, and they try to make them go away. But my mom loves them, and sits in the grass looking for that four leaf clover with her wish in its leaves. "Have a good day at school today, dear."

I adjusted my science, history, and English books and pulled the sleeve of my plaid coat even. "See you later," I called and walked off to school.

At school, I unlocked the locker and noticed Lucy approaching. She was new to the school, and I didn't know her. She said, "Hi." Before I could respond, three girls punched their way through the throng of students flowing through the hall.

"Hey, Lucy. Where'd you get that jacket, Value Village?" Danielle flipped her blonde flip hairdo over her shoulders and sauntered away with her friends in a fit of laughter that brought looks instead of smiles by those around them.

Lucy and I watched as they disappeared down the crowded third floor hall of the old high school.

I eyed Lucy's jacket. It was a short length, fitting right at the hip. Red velvet with princess seams and a black felt collar with black buttons.

"I like your jacket, Lucy." I complimented her.

"Thanks. I made it myself."

"I'm sorry about Danielle."

"Who cares about what they say. I wear what I like and I do what I like. They don't own me."

She slapped her locker shut and wandered down the hall to her class, and I stood, amazed that she could dismiss Miss Popularity so easily.

I thought to myself, "She's a clover, a wish in the wind, and they're just three of many in the blades of grass. Soon they will be cut down, but Lucy will continue to bloom."

"Come on!" Lucy turned and called back.

I smiled, and rushed to catch up to my new friend. It was a good day.


Your turn: 

Use the noun generator to find your word for the day. Choose one of the prompts.

Let us know your story

Sweet Stamp Memories

Jo Knowles
Monday Writing Warm-up

"For today's prompt, share a memory of working on a project with someone you love. What was the project? Why were you working on it? Why was it important, or why did it become important? What did you talk about while you worked? What did the materials feel like in your hands? Smell like? Were you physically exhausted? Emotionally? Show us why this memory is important to you."

Stamping Sisters

"Can you hand me the corner rounder?" Rounded corners often make the card or picture; it softens it to blend in with the colors surrounding it for a more finished card or scrapbook page.

My two daughters-in-law and their friends once met monthly to create personalized cards and family scrapbooks for our loved ones. Life happens, and we aren't as connected any more, but Stacy and I plan to get together again this summer for a stamping marathon.

Stacy and Autumn often provided the place, opening up their homes for our Stamp Club.  They rearranged things for plenty of space for people, stamps, and kids, and their homes became our hobby shop.

The kitchen and dining room tables and sometimes a card table held all of our stamps, ink, paper, tools, and accessories, spread out to share.

We had our favorite flavors: The vibrant colors of summer in watermelon, clover meadow, and star-spangled blue, the subdued flavors of fall in pansy purple, sunflower, and outdoor denim, the holiday joy colors in cranberry, ponderosa pine, and moonstruck, or the soft spring delights of orchid bouquet, kiwi, and sunkiss yellow.

We carefully cut the colored cardstock into pages, cards, backgrounds, and highlights. We stamped the perfect words and designs to match the personality of the recipient and the thought of the celebration. We pushed through complementary colored brads and wired beads for just the write touch.

The grandkids joined us with their own stamping pads, markers, and paper, creating along side us. In and out to play and stamp, they chattered and scampered and created.

We sipped water, pop, and tea, and took time for shared food: cheese dips, dill dips, lazagne, spinach salads, rice and ham salads. Yum.

We continued the marathon stamping, breathing in the sweet aroma of chocolate brownies baking in the oven. Brownies, our staple.

We talked about kids and kids' games and kids' teeth and, yeah: Moms and Grandmas talk about kids. We gabbed about TV shows and movie stars. We planned recipes. We shared funny stories and sad stories. We laughed at our mistakes. We hugged the kids and oohed over their creations, truly proud they would join us.

Our stamp club mentor taught us new tricks, and we bought more, gladly adding and sharing our collections, and adding to each other's ideas.

Sometimes these days were the calm in the chaos of our lives, and we treasured the time together, time for ourselves, and yet time to create memories and celebrations for friends and family.

We rounded the corners of our lives on these special days. Our cards and scrapbooks let us "scatter seeds of kindness" to those we love.

Your turn: What project sticks with you? Re-read Jo's prompt and live the project again, sharing the time in detail.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Thursday's Quick Switch

Thursday Quick Write from Kate Messner's Teachers Writer Camp


Kate's Goal for us:

"This prompt aims to help you draw rich details from familiar settings into your fiction, and to also see how they can be altered to be something entirely different for your stories. Think of it as taking a favorite pair of pants to the tailor and coming home with a pencil skirt!"

Kate's Prompt 1:
"Think of the place that is home for you. It might be where you live today, or perhaps where you grew up. Wherever you choose, be sure to pick a place that you know well. Take one minute to write down every detail about this place that you can think of."

lilac branches lightly tapping the top of the bench swing
don't need the top — the lilac bush and the tall sycamore, stretching to the sun and protecting over the entire yard with its loving arms, provide plenty of shade
but it does keep the little things that fall from trees from dropping into my computer, my book, my manuscript, my tea

soft green cushions
gently sway with the tap tap tap tap of my fingers

curled up beside me
a tabby cat purrs
by my feet
a white lab snores and twitches, dreaming of the rabbit he almost caught ten years ago

chickadees chirp
wrens rill
finches sing

I close my eyes to listen as the gentle breeze adds to the coolness of the soft shade, filtered with sunny spots like giant puzzle pieces thrown onto the lawn

this is pleasant
this is peace

Prompt 2:
"Done with the first part? Now we’re going to twist it around. Take the rest of your time to write about three changes that would make this place utterly altered for you–changes that would mean it was no longer home. --

What sort of changes? That’s entirely up to you. Perhaps you’ll change how home looks, or smells, or  where it’s located. Or maybe it’s the people there who make it home."

I slide the back door open to step outside, but close it again immediately.

The heat hits me like opening a hot oven.

I look up and shade my eyes with my hand. The sun beats down on the browned grass, sucking up any water left from attempting to green it back up. 102°

Brown and desolate, devoid of every beauty. No songbirds. No butterflies. No respite. Just angry heat, bright enough to blind you from the ground.

We'd long ago sold the patio furniture. The stump of the sycamore blends into the burnt grass like a crumbled castle.

I reach down and scratch the head of Pooka, her tongue hanging out, panting.

I pour three glasses of water: one for the dog's bowl, one for the fig tree, and one for me.

Summer is not pleasant anymore.

What place did you choose? How did your place change from prompt one to two? How does this help you create "place" in your own writing?

Link to your prompt response in the comments.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Character Conversations

Tuesday Quick Writes
June 12, 2012

Guest author Jeannine Atkins or Kate Messner's Teachers Write Camp, guides us to sketch out our characters through questions and conversations.

The Prompt, remixed:

Think of your character
  • Write about her or him as if to your mom or a trusted friend
  • Or begin a poem or story as a letter to your main character
  • Perhaps write a conversation, a dialog between two characters. 
  • Or you can write a poem based on questions and responses, and edit out the questions. 
Or ask your character the sort of sincere, casual questions we often reserve for friends:
  • Do you have a favorite place to be alone?  
  • A favorite toy, piece of clothing, pet, tree, tool, or book?  
  • Did someone encourage you to do what you love?  How? 
  • Did anyone try to stop you?  
  • What did they do or say? 
  • What parts of your work are hard or boring?  
  • What mistakes did you make?  
  • What did you learn from them? 
  • Who or what do you love? 
Remember, if your character seems chatty, please, just let her speak, even when it seems off topic.

The Writing (Asked character questions and edited them out within the backdrop of the story):

I plopped my backback onto the table in the back of Garden Cafe. This is my favorite place, if I’m not in Lilac Row, one of the gardens in our city building. This table sits in the circle of potted fig trees, each reaching up to the skylight now covered with pelting rain. I could hear the tick, tick, tick of each drop. This is one of the few cafes with a skylight, and this table is usually taken. I may have to share it.

I placed my water cup near one of the empty chairs. I sipped my Blue Moon slowly. The spearmint relaxed me, and the flavor lingered as I pondered my blunder today. I hoped the water glass detered anyone else from sitting here.

Unzipping the side pocket of my backpack, I slid out mom’s sunflower coin and set it before me. I adjusted my necklace with it’s medpouch filled with lilac petals. I closed my eyes and sighed. 

Why did I forget Andrew’s permission slip? Now he may not get to go to the Sun Dance. I pulled out the slip and stared at it. I ran home after school and tried to turn it in to Ms. Banjours. She had left already. I looked around but did not see her here; this is her favorite coffee spot. At least, that’s what she described when she modeled “elaboration” for us in English. 

In one hour I have science lab, my favorite class. I’m leader of today’s session, and a little nervous. I don’t like having to tell people what to do if they forget what to do or forget part of their assignment. I love planning the labs, though, in the gardens. Today we will analyze the sudden outbreak of fungus on the sycamore trees. Even in this rain, it will be fun to run deep into the woods, hiding from each other and getting work done. The Elders will appreciate our analysis. We may even earn a day in the roof garden if we solve the cause of the issue. My dad says I have a gift for environmental science; he says I see how things are connected.

I wish I had connected with Mrs. Banjours. I’m not sure where she lives. I picked up mom’s coin and slid back into my backpack. Perhaps Mr. Sawyer knows where she lives. I may still have time. I checked the slip again to make sure Mom had signed it.

“Excuse me,” a voice said, “May I join you? All the other tables are taken.”

I looked up.

Mrs. Banjours sipped her cappachino and smiled.

“Is that Andrew’s permission slip? I can take that.”

Ok.  Your turn.  What's your character's favorites? loves? strengths? fears? mistakes?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Outline Overture

Monday, June 11, 2012

Outline Overture

Wow! Outlining! I learned it. I did it. I hated it.

Guest author Sally Wilkins, for Kate Messner’s Teachers Write Camp, explained outlining in our Monday Mini-Lesson. 

After reading Sally’s suggestions for outlining, I thought of the many trips I have taken. Think about it. Whether you’re just decided to take a drive, or you’re headed for a vacation, in your head or on paper, you’ve got a plan for either trip. A plan: what to take, what to do, how to get there.

When writing a book (long or short, fiction or nonfiction), an outline is that plan. It’s a plan you hope will work, but knowing that detours and sidetrips may occur that will require revision of the original plan.

As a writer, the outline may be a formal outline, a list, a web of ideas, scraps gathered here and there. But when you hold it out in front of you, each part leads to the heart of your idea. The pieces fit together and guide the writing, even if those detours or sidetrips are needed to get to the “real” story that blossoms, that outline is the guide.

So let’s try it.

First Day: Being cool on the first day of school sometimes needs help from friends.

0. I hate school. I haven’t seen my friends all summer. This will be a bad year.
1. Just as get off bus with perfect hair, the rain pours the curls right out of my hair.
2. Jane pulls two of her barettes out of her hair and pulls my drenched hair back into a smooth look.
3. I open my backpack and discover I forgot my pencil case.
4. Robert has a hundred in his and shares ten with me.
5. I went to the wrong class first period. So did Sally. We got our tardy slips together.
6. In English class, I forgot how to spell conjunction. Aaron texted it to me.
7. At lunch, Jane, Robert, Sally, Aaron and I sat together. Aaron forgot his lunch. I gave him 1/2 of my pb&j. This will be a good year.

Title: Oh, no!  Ah, Thanks!
Title is also repeating phrase in the story.

How would I direct students to try this?

How did you get ready for school today? What were you looking forward to?  What’s gone right so far? What didn’t go right? How did you overcome it? Did any one help you?

One of the things we want to do this year is create a series of anthologies — short stories on themes.

Let’s try our first one about the first day of school — one that starts out with some bad luck, but gets better. [Share outline above.]

Make a group list of character names.

Make a group list of possible bad luck situations.

Make a group list of possible solutions to the bad luck.

Create your outline using your own or our suggestions. How will you end it? Sharing? Rescuing? Compliment? Game? Laughter?

What phrases will you repeat?

Follow the pattern of one of the mentor texts.
Create a similar story outline for preparation for your favorite sport.

Character Warm-Up — This week’s Monday Warm Up about a character poem would be a good way to warm up. The character the students warm up with could be the main character of their story for this outline lesson, helping them to think of the possible events and expresssions.

Possible Mentor Texts:

What story ideas would you plan for the fall?

Character Warm Up

June 11, 2012

The Prompt:

Think of someone you know well, someone you care about, or someone you love (or detest, that can be fun too!) and make a list poem like the one above, describing all of the traits that made that person special, unique, memorable, frightening (you get the picture). Try to avoid clich├ęs. Instead, give us specific tidbits that show how the person's eyes sparkled rather than say they did--don't fail at it like me! :-) Once you have your list, circle your favorites. Think about why you like those the best. Now try to use similar ones to describe the characters in your works in progress. Give them their own particularities that might reveal something deeper about their personalities. But mostly, as I said last week, try to have FUN!

My Writing:

Decidedly Determined

Long, sleek black hair, falling straight to the middle of her back
Flowing like a cape around
her shoulders

Steele brown eyes, penetrating when disagrees, 
eyebrows straight to finish the staredown
Questions calmly

Eyes soft and sparklling 
like dark amber shining,
eyebrows relaxed
Comments softly

Almost always serious in class
eyes questioning,
smile flattened,

Ask questions
to create and add
to assignments

Tallest kid in class
Taller than the teacher
Stocky and strong, 
Grace with legs long,
a family trait;

Powerful discus thrower
Endurance basketballer
A force 
move away

Long strides in the hall
Surrounded by friends
Less shy
Voice soft yet strong
Encouraging and teasing
Flicks her head back
to adjust her hair
Brushes hair quickly
away from her face
Serious again

Always prepared
Always willing
to learn and revise
Steady thinking
a question

Always loving
Always helping
Guides her walk
Sits and talks
Waits for meetings
Entertains herself
Til needed again

Decidedly Distinguished

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Teachers Write Reflection - Sunday

How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)? 
I met my weekly goals, but not my daily goals. I had to add time on other days because of commitments and priorities during the last weeks of school, such as planning the grade 8 promotion, which included recognition for NaNoWriMo, in which my students participated.

What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the not-fun part?)
The hardest part was squeezing the time in to complete the task, but because I want so much to be better, I did it.

What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
The most fun part of the week were the comments on my blog. Getting someone that read my ideas. I'm looking and commenting on others' work too. It's a great experience to read bits and pieces of others' work — learning a new perspective of the craft of writing. 

I loved this post reflecting on workshops with students: write with them; model for them. I've found that some kids don't get the ideas from modeling either; I've just got to sit beside them and let them tell me what they're trying to say, or to tell me their ideas. That way I can guide them in how to get those feelings and ideas on paper. Sometimes it takes that one to one modeling to help students see the way to show details and feelings in their writing, not simply a summary or a "telling."

What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?
I hope to stretch into new territory and continue reading a few others' blogs for the project— and to get those daily writing goals met. 

Thanks for the inspiration.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fear of Books

Prompt Source: Thursday Quick Write by Kate Messner and Margo Sorenson  #teacherswrite on Twitter

Fear of Books

I stopped. The library doors are Stop Sign Red.

Do I want to go in? Can't I just say, "I forgot."  Again. If this were library time, I'd hop through these doors to play the scavenger hunt and bingo games with our librarian, Mrs. Dickey. She helps us learn where the books are in the library and the topics of the books. That's fun, but I never check them out.

But Monday, Ms Edwards told us she wants us to try to read 40 books this year.

Forty books.

We have to read every day in our own books.

I've never read a book. Not a whole book. Not on my own. Yuck. I hate reading. I hate reading like that kid last year wrote. What did he say?* I forgot, but I hate reading like I hate spinach. It's boring.

"Sam, is that you?" Mrs. Dickey opens the library door after noticing me standing there.

"Um. I didn't pick out a book yesterday in library time. I need one by reading class time. Mrs. Edwards sent me." It was noon recess. I want to be at recess.

"Come on in, Sam." Mrs. Dickey guided me through the door with a gentle push on my shoulder.

I almost turned around. I mumbled, "I have to go see Mr. Erickson about cross country."

But she stood in front of the door now. She asked, "What kind of book do you need? Novel? Biography? Mystery?"

"Any kind. One hundred pages."

She looked at me and said, "You know how you are always drawing those cartoon sketches of your friends - those stick figures-- during library?"


"I just got a new shipment of books, and one has lots of sketches in it. I think you'll like it. It's called, 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid.'"

She nudged me to her desk, and presented me with the book, flipping through the pages. "Look, lots of drawings. And they're funny; the book is funny. It's not that long, but is just over one hundred pages. Ryal really likes them, and he's your friend."

She waited while I stared at it. Well, it did have a lot of drawings. It was only 117 pages long. "Look, lots of drawings," I thought to myself. "Lots."

"Let's check it out," she said, and took the book to her computer. She checked it out to me.

I have a book to read. A real book. I think I can read this one.

As I left the library, Mrs. Dickey said, "Look. There's lots more in the series." She held up at least four books.

"Hmm. Maybe I will make it through reading class," I thought as I put the book in my locker, right on top.

The Reading Paragraph

* The paragraph below was written in writing class by one of my former students about reading:

"I hate reading. I hate it because it is boring, and I’m not good at it.  I hate it like lima beans.  It stinks like a wet fart, and I hate that smell.  If it were my choice, I would eat a pinecone instead.  Reading is the activity I hate the very most.  It sucks like a teacher that does not listen, and I hate that.  I would rather have a hunchback.  In fact, I would give up my legs rather than read.  I hate reading more than math.  Reading is what I hate."

The Background

So many students in my classes have hated reading, that I decided that I would put a goal up: Read 40 books this year. Just that simple.

Then I told them that for at least three days a week, they would read for an extended time, at least fifteen minutes, often more, in our reading class to help them make that goal.

I also said they needed something to read on their own to apply the reading lessons we would learn and practice, because if they can't use the strategies on their own books, they don't do much good, do they? We would not write from our books every day, but, I suggested, you may as well read something you like and bring it to class every day. In fact, bring your book that you choose to all your classes, I encouraged them.

Soon, all the kids were reading books. Only three out of thirty-one needed reminding by the end of the year. Often students would say, "Could we just read the whole period today?" The most books a student read this year was 72! The least was five.

We're making a dent. How about you?

Ms. Edwards

The Prompt

Want to try this prompt from Teachers Write Camp?

Prompt Source: Thursday Quick Write by Kate Messner and Margo Sorenson


Kate Messner

Margo Sorenson

Okay…ready to write? Today’s Thursday Quick-Write is courtesy of guest-author Margo Sorenson!

A student walks into the library/media center at lunchtime. What is she/he thinking? Worried about? Dreading? Hoping or wishing for? What are the risks/stakes for him/her?

Show us in a paragraph or two.
Note from Kate: Some possible formats for this quick-write:
• A journal entry from that character, written later on
• A letter from that character to his or her best friend
• A letter from that character to his or her worst enemy
• A poem in the character’s voice
• A monologue in the character’s voice
• A conversation in dialogue between the character and a friend/the librarian/an enemy

For those of you in the middle of a work-in-progress, try this with your main character, or better yet, a secondary character you want to develop more fully. Imagine him or her walking into a room and feeling uncomfortable and awkward. Why?

You can write this from a third person perspective, from the focus character’s point of view, or for a twist, try writing from the point of view of a disinterested observer in the room — someone who has no idea who the person is or what’s going on. What would he or she observe in terms of mannerisms and body language?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Stump by mrsdkrebs
Stump, a photo by mrsdkrebs on Flickr.

A photo by Denise Krebs inspired this:

If you pause
And hold so still
Barely breathe-
Yes: movement nil;

Look to the right
In ivy leaves five
Just a flash
Flash alive;

Stay still now
And look again;
Sparkles appear
In sets of ten;

If still you be
And still you stay
Fairies will dance
And in ivy play

Stepping in time
With the blink of your eye
Just wait; Just look
Once: they will fly

And you will see
Briefly: A pas de chat;
A turn of a wing
Then gone, like that.

How about you? What photo will inspire you?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lilac Lane

Source: June 5 Tuesday Quick Write

Basic Prompts:  
1. Write for two minutes to describe a very specific place.
2. Find yourself at the place:  in photos, videos, reality, or if necessary, imagination.
3. Write for one minute each to describe the details of sights, sounds, smells, touch.
4. Rewrite the descriptive paragraph using the details of senses.
5. For kids: use the places near you.  Write first, then go there for step three.

Here goes:

1. Two minute write of place:

I look both ways and slink underneath the bush, pushing aside the branch and slowly letting it drop back into place.

Above me my roof is now green pointy leaves reaching towards the skies. Light purple lilacs top the branches. I breathe in the perfume and close my eyes. I love this, my own house.

I step over the first branch and into my kitchen. The tin cake pans and cups await my ingredients.

I reach over the three thin branches and pull out the big spoon.  I step "outside" and into the sunlight. I run with my spoon and cake pan to the sprinkler, now squirting water into the zinnia flower bed. I scoop near the back and fill the pan with dirt, letting the sprinkler soak it as I fill.

Carrying the pan back, I swat a mosquito, pick three lilac florets, five lilac leaves, and a bunch of grass.

Back in my kitchen, I stir and arrange. Each leaf and floret must be in the correct place to finish the dessert, a balanced pattern for my cake.

I carry the finished cake through the kitchen, step over two large branches and onto my kitty quilt spread in the largest opening between branches, my living room.

2. Close my eyes: Imagine the place that once was my playhouse and now is a parking lot for the Bismarck Hospital.

3. Four one-minute writes of sensory details:

The noon sun beats down around the house, but filters gently through my skylights. The shadows dance around, playing tag with the light, fairies sparkling here and there.

An occasional buzz, a soft wine, whirrs by my ear. Splat! I squish another mosquito. The gentle breeze fills the space with a soft shhh  shhh. 

Sweet lilacs fold through me, and the earth breathes a clean cool dew all around.

The trunks, striped in brownish twists like licorice, occasionally peel away in stings that may catch in my hair.

4. Rewrite

I run through the back porch and out the screen door. It slams, and I hear my little brother rushing after me.

I look both ways and disappear underneath the bush, pushing aside the rough branch and slowly letting it drop back into place. I stand in the middle of the thick row of lilacs, silent as Bill runs past. This is my sanctuary.

The trunks, striped in brownish twists like licorice, occasionally peel away in strings that sometimes catch in my hair. I brush away the fuzz, and shake my head, only slightly afraid of a possible spider web.

The noon sun beats down around this place, nature's summer play house, but filters gently through my skylights. The shadows dance around, playing tag with the light, fairies sparkling here and there. An occasional buzz, a soft wine, whirrs by my ear. Splat! I squish another mosquito. The gentle breeze fills the space with a soft shhh  shhh. 

My roof is now green pointy leaves reaching towards the skies. Light purple lilacs top the branches. Sweet lilacs fold through me, and the earth breathes a clean cool dew all around. I breathe in the perfume and close my eyes. I love this, my own house.

I step over the first branch and into my kitchen. The tin cake pans and cups await my ingredients.

I reach over the three thin branches and pull out the big spoon.  I step "outside" and into the sunlight. I run with my spoon and cake pan to the sprinkler, now squirting water into the zinnia flower bed. I scoop near the back and fill the pan with dirt, letting the sprinkler soak it as I fill.

Carrying the pan back, I swat a mosquito, pick three lilac florets, five lilac leaves, and a bunch of grass.

Back in my kitchen, I stir and arrange. Each leaf and floret must be in the correct place to finish the dessert, a balanced pattern for my cake.

I carry the finished cake through my kitchen, step over two large branches and onto my kitty quilt spread in the largest opening between branches, my living room.

Crack. I turn and smile. My friend Darlene has brought her own treat: cupcakes of pebbles topped with petunias. 

We giggle, and call out, "Bill! We have treats for you!"


Lilacs are magic:


5. Your turn!  

Please share your sensory description of a favorite and happy, sad and emotional,  or eerie and scary place -- or any feeling that is strongly attached to a place. 

Please leave a link to your writing, or write it here.  Thanks!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Kitchen Cares

"Sheri-Rae! Close the back door!"

Splat! I swatted at the mosquito as I pulled the white, wooden, screen door closed. It never latched properly.

I had smelled the chocolate as I ran home down the alley from Jean's house. The street lights had popped on, and that was my curfew. I heard the night train whistle in the distance.

I turned toward the counter and hoped for cookies. Standing on my tiptoes, I lifted the porcelain owl's head, it's "eyebrows" and lower feathers painted red with bright nail polish. I imagine the original had peeled off, and Mom's solution was a quick and easy one.

MMMmmmm! Yes, chocolate chip cookies. I pushed the pine chair over to the edge of the cupboard to stand on. I pulled a white tupperware glass and a corning plate from the cupboard, placed them in front of the owl. I bent over the cookie jar and topped my plate with six cookies.

Hopping off the chair, I stepped to the refrigerator on the other side of the back door. I pulled the handle of the door and grabbed a bottle of milk, readjusting the bottom crisper drawer filled with minnows for tomorrow night's fishing. I poured a full glass and set the bottle on the counter.

"Put the milk away!" Mom called from the living room. I heard the start of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" on the TV.

After putting away the milk, I looked up to the clock -- it's background painted teal to match the kitchen walls. Nine-thirty said the white numbers.

I grabbed my plate and glass and walked around to my spot at the table. I closed the pantry door, and pulled out my chair.

Wouldn't it be nice if every kid could have home-made chocolate chip cookies made by Mom?

And in my kitchen today is the same table, with the leg of my side of the table rubbed off from the constant shoving of the chair, in and out, to get into the one-person pantry or to open the oven door.


Prompt Source:
Monday Morning by Jo Knowles

Describe your childhood kitchen memory.
Describe: detail, senses, story

Take a snapshot of the memory.
Describe the room, the sights, sounds, smells.
How will you describe it -- spacial? around? through?

What's the focus? Who's there? How will we "see" it through your words? 
What happened before the snapshot? In the snapshot? After the snapshot?
Zoom in on the focus. Who? What? Sights, sounds, smells...

Be there now and write!

The Write Time to Make Time

A second has already sped by.  Whizzz. I hate that. My grandkids and I always want to "pause" time so we can have a long time of fun together. But it never works. Night comes and we turn in. It's 9:31 PM right now and I need to write now.

No matter what, if you want to do something, you make the time for it. Sure, we've got to earn a living. Sure, we've got laundry. And yes, Pooka needs walking every day.

So this summer my PLN friend, Denise Krebs, introduced me to author Kate Messner's Teachers Write online writing camp. I'm so excited!  As a writing teacher and as a writer, I want to experience my craft, learn my craft, and share my craft.

My students and I participated in NaNoWriMo last November, so we know that writing takes time, scheduled time, to get ideas, to re-read and funnel more ideas, to get it done.

FYI: NaNoWriMo is 148 days away:

So Kate's first assignment is to schedule that time, and to let others know your plan. 

I still have a week of school, until June 12th, so here's my plan to write:

June 4-12:

  • After walking the dog, after a light dinner, writing time begins, starting with 15 minutes (ha) right in my living room on my MacBook Air.
  • My husband will support me; I hope my students tune in -- and perhaps add their own responses-- I'm telling them tomorrow.
After June 12:

  • In the morning with clouds in my coffee I will write for 15 minutes or more as the sunlight filters in to inspire me
  • I may be sitting in the rocking chair with my husband on the couch next to me writing on his iPad getting ready for his day
  • I may be out in the backyard on my cushioned swing, dog and cats beside me with fairy light filtering through the sycamore leaves and chickadees and finches singing ideas for me
  • And my husband will be on the back porch at the little table with his iPad

Webinars and Swings

Of course, I may spend the day here. 

So, what's your plan?

If you have something to do, schedule it:
When will you...
Where will you...
For how long will you...
Who will know you will...