Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Clutter Clean Up

Ten trash bags are dump-ready. My son and I are reorganizing our studio-office space. The last few weeks away have inspired me to get creating but there's no way in this over stuff-cluttered space. It's due a deep clean. Today I give you a photo slice documenting the messy wreck of the room.  Consider these our before photos. 

First we moved most of the books out to the birthday shelves my husband built in the front room.

The books are not in any order yet, but they are single shelves! Big improvement.

Next to move the bric-a-brac so that we could clear and clean. The art table became a landing zone. 


Oh the binders of workshop overheads! Had to go.

My assistant took a computer break.  There are so many stories on this table: meeting Nikki Giovanni, meeting my cousin Lynn, finding new and old book favorites. There are programs from Vid Con and book quilt squares and Goodwill box finds, now sorted or filed or discarded.


Art cards and acrylic mediums, a roll of cork, a spool of copper wire now shifted off shelf to desk top.

Bottom shelves cleared and cleaned. Six shelves left to go (then maybe we'll think about the closet). Notebooks (these are full) dusted and soldiered across the shelf. 

I've got room for fezzes and yearbook finds. This section nearly done. Poetry and art books and all the little Knicks knacks need arranging still. The top two shelves are in a holding pattern.


We made a lot of progress. We've got lots of bags to haul away.





Saturday, June 27, 2015

Celebrating Highlights

Author, educator, and inspiration,  Ruth Ayres hosts Celebrate this week.
Join the celebration. Link up Ruth Ayres Writes.
In March I won a writing retreat at the Highlights Foundation.  It was a grand prize for a commenting challenge run one weekend during the Slice of Life Story Challenge. I could pick any workshop I wanted. I chose Writing from the Heart.

The workshop focuses on writing for children and writing for Highlights, both dreams of mine. While some came with finished manuscripts and drafts, I came to the workshop hungry for ideas and ready to begin again--to write. I write for myself and for teachers. I've written for my family, for my friends, for my son when he was young and as an Auntie, I write to my nieces. I am celebrating new beginnings and the will to learn.  Fiction is not my typical writing home, but I knew coming to Highlights would teach me a lot about craft.

It has.

Days begin (if you're up early and so inclined) with Yoga, then breakfast, fresh cooked from scratch muffins and quiches and cinnamon spicy things. Oh, the kitchen and staff! Martha and Joe, Roxy and Amanda, so gracious and kind. The tables they fill are eye-feasts, laden with delights.

Next time I come I will be able to eat! I'm on a doctor supervised fast for health reasons this time around, but even
without eating it,  the food, the smells , the art of the tables as they are set--sumptious. 
Then we workshop with Jillian and Suzanne.


A session to warm us up, a bit of writing and then critiques before lunch. Afternoons are much the same with doing and writing and talking and sharing. Oh the book feasts!

During the workshop we have been asked to bring a lot to the writing table: memory, art, music and mood. Today we got to the hear of setting with Clara Gillow Clark. She asked us to embrace our sense and to write from our childhood wounds. The writing--especially the last painful memories we wrote--felt full of pointy parts, but good.

Her talk today made me think of how I build community in my classroom and how just six days ago I could not have shared what I wrote today. Community, relationships, take time and trust to grow.

Today I am celebrating all  of it! All, I have learned and all I will take home: the writing practice, the woodsy trails, the walks to the creek, and corn field explores.


I am celebrating Molly the dog who treed the Bear on Wednesday,


and the couple that will get married under the twinkle lights tonight. 



 I'm celebrating Love's "it is so ordered" WIN and going home. What a grand week it has been.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Play and Practice



Many of the activities we've done during the Writing from the Heart workshop at the Highlights Foundation  have enabled us to play. In my life as a teacher, with building and district do-now lists it's easy to forget to take time out for a good explore with students much less for ourselves. I am much more comfortable writing about teaching than I am writing fiction or poetry, so this week's play has been good for my creative spirit.

 Jillian Sullivan gave us many ways to play with words through "writing without stopping." She's gotten us talking with and to our characters in fresh, engaging ways.

Teachers may know this practice as quick writes (Graves, Kittle, Rief) or as free writing (Elbow).

The only rule, of course, is to keep your pen moving until time is called. Jillian's prompts have been fantastic. We've all gotten some good writing done when she says, "start your page with 'You must tell them...'" and pretend your character is talking to you."

Jillian led us in journey play, reviewing stages in the hero's journey.  Ellen Yeomans delighted us with a title share related to books' structures (more on that later). Playing with the structure of a piece reveals possibilities the writer may not have imagined.

Ellen was talking about picture book structure. Her ideas around structure play with fiction reminded me of Kelly Gallagher's topic's chart, a tool I use with young writers in school (13). When you play with structure, expect surprise.

Productive play, playing with words is good for writers.

Suzanne Bloom had us playing with sounds this morning. She gave us a word list a true sesquipedalian would love. The list included the likes of: dragoon, gallinaceous, tarboosh; and my father's favorite, puscilanimous.  We discarded meaning and dug into sound. We wrote lullabies and admonishments with these polysyllabic wonders, what fun on the tongue it was.

Play matters. Play strengths brains. Play encourages creativity. It matters as much for adults and high school students as it does for the very young.



One of my favorite play experiences this week was painting. We used crayon, chalk, post its, tempura, Suzanne Bloom had a quite a treasure trove of art supplies. She had us paint to the edges of a large sheet of eighty-pound drawing paper: lovely. Something about abstracts sets minds free.

Play more. When I get home, that is at the top of the list (well, just after reorganizing the studio-office and moving books onto the new shelves in the front room).


My week here at Highlights reminds me to keep fun in front. Let students play with words and language and sentences and structures.  There will be time enough for my teacher-self to connect that play to ideas and books and writing and art.

Play comes first.



Works Cited

Elbow, Peter. Writing without teachers. Oxford University Press, 1998.

Gallagher, Kelly. Write like this: Teaching real-world writing through modeling & mentor texts. Stenhouse Publishers, 2011.

Graves, Donald H., and Penny Kittle. My Quick Writes. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005.

Rief, Linda. Seeking diversity: Language arts with adolescents. Heinemann, 1992.