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NaBloPoMo – Just as hard as I thought it would be

So, I’ve missed a day…and published some posts I’m not proud of. This challenge may not be for me.

The purpose of my blog is not random daily content, or a web diary, but more a place for vignettes, book reviews, and musings on life. If I have stories to share or a piece I want to write, I’ll post it. Trying to come up with something to post everyday means you guys don’t get my best.

However, this challenge does have its positives. I’m thinking about writing…and practicing writing everyday. Even yesterday I started two different posts, though they never made it to publish. The discipline of this challenge is beneficial and forces me to think about my blog going forward. Whether I want to have some focus or plan or just continue to post as inspiration strikes.

I just picked up Amy Poehler’s book, YES PLEASEHere’s what she has to say about writing:

Everyone lies about writing. They lie about how easy it is or how hard it was.

They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that 

takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea. They

talk about their “morning ritual” and how they “dress for writing” and the cabin 

in Big Sur where they go to “be alone” —blah blah blah. No one tells the truth 

about writing a book. Authors pretend their stories were always shiny and perfect

and just waiting to be written. The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and 

occasionally great but usually not. Even I have lied about writing. I have told people

that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of sh**.

It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver. 

I couldn’t agree more.

and I love her.

I’m pretty sure we are twins separated at birth…we’re the same age and both blonde, so it must be true.

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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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NaBloPoMo Daily prompt: Do I consider myself a “professional” blogger?

My day is busy and my inspiration wanes, so the Daily Prompt it is.

This seems like a no-brainer. Do I receive compensation for my blogging or even my writing for that matter? No. Therefore, I am not a professional blogger. Professional typically means having achieved paid status for your work.

However, I do see another definition in Webster’s where it just indicates mastery or skill:

3.a thoroughly professional performanceexpertaccomplishedskillfulmasterly,masterfulfinepolishedskilledproficientcompetentableexperienced,practicedtrainedseasonedbusinesslikedeftinformal acecracktop-notch.ANTONYMS amateurish.

Using this definition of professional, I would have to say….No…still, no. Not a professional.

I have one page, very few widgets, not quite sure how the categories work, and sometimes my pictures don’t even show up right. I see other blogs with fancy banners, and side boxes, and multiple pages organized by topic. I aspire to these things, but am not there yet.

The purpose of my blog is to write and practice writing. If anyone reads it, or I eventually get paid for it, that is just bonus.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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NaBloPoMo (Sounds like something Mork would say)

As you can see from the giant badge on my page, I’ve decided to join NaBloPoMo which is not some alien gibberish, but rather stands for National Blog Posting Month.

I started this blog to encourage more frequent writing practice. Twenty-eight posts in one year is certainly more writing than pre-blog, but not enough for me to consider myself a serious writer. This month I will attempt to write a post every.single.day. (Right now Ricky Ricardo’s “Ai yi yi” seems appropriate)  (It would also appear that today’s blog is sponsored by TVLand)

This could go wrong on so many levels. Here are just a few….

There will be bad/dumb/poorly written posts.This is just a given. If I am forced to publish every day some of it will be content that would have normally ended up on the cutting room floor (ok, the drafts folder, but cutting room floor sounds better). The purpose of the exercise for me will be to develop the habit of writing every day. By the end of the month less and less should be cringeworthy. (Unless I’m burnt out, then you get what you get)

Some of you will grow tired of hearing from me and stop reading my posts. I get it. You won’t hurt my feelings if you skip over posts that don’t interest or appeal to you. To those of you who follow my blog via email: I apologize for the inundation this month.

I won’t be able to post every day. I’m not what you would call a “disciplined” person. Other than brushing my teeth, I can’t really think of anything else I do every day that is a habit of personal discipline. I look forward to the opportunity for growth….maybe.

I will run out of things to write about. This could be the cause for 1, 2, and 3. Thankfully NaBloPoMo offers helpful prompts if we feel stuck. I usually like to follow my heart or inspiration (see #3 – discipline issues) but appreciate some direction from time to time.

Well, readers, you have been forewarned. Thank you for bearing with me on my journey. babystepstowriting

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Pleasures of life

I linger 

under the covers, feeling the warmth and safety of my bed

over a cup of coffee each morning, preparing for the demands of the day

over a glass of wine with my beloved, savoring each moment together

over my baby’s crib, watching her breath and smelling her sweet scent

over a book, enthralled with character and story, unaware of time passing

over a sunset, enjoying the beauty of creation

in the sun-warmed sand on a salty beach

in the arms of my beloved

I linger.

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Daily Prompt: Linger

 

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Kindergarten Memories

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In the spirit of Anne Lamott, I asked my students to do a version of her “school lunch” writing exercise.* Instead of school lunch, we wrote about kindergarten. In the exercise, she asks her students to write down everything they can remember about school lunch and then see what stands out that could be turned into its own story. In her example it was the ‘boy against the fence’ who popped out of nowhere. In mine, it was Dennis. 

Dennis.

I don’t even remember his last name, but with his dark brown hair and deep blues eyes, he was the man – at least in kindergarten. In games of kissing tag, he was always my intended conquest.

You can imagine my thrill when we were made milk-buddies for the week. Everyday I walked to the lunch room with Dennis, entered the giant, dark, metal refrigerator, filled the milk crate with enough cartons for our class and carried it back to our classroom hand in hand….except for the milk crate between us. Our week together was bliss until the incident. The incident that scarred my kindergarten memories.

My teacher was only trying to keep us safe. Earlier in the week, a student, who had been running, collided with someone else and was badly hurt. She made a new rule: absolutely no running in the classroom.

In my exuberance to meet my milk buddy for our daily walk together, I scooted across the floor. I’m not sure you could really call it running….maybe more like race-walking. Either way, the teacher called it running and paddled me in front of everyone. Then sent me off in shame with my milk buddy, Dennis.

I was quiet as we walked down the hall that day. Then Dennis said the only three words I ever remember him saying to me, “did it hurt?”

“Did it hurt?” Not, “are you ok?” or “I’m sorry that happened to you. You most certainly weren’t running!” But, “did it hurt.” Like he was doing research to weigh the pros and cons of acting up in the future.

I told him that it embarrassed me more than hurt me, and we went on with our task.

I don’t remember pursuing Dennis much after our week as milk buddies.

I do remember the puffy alphabet letters….maybe a topic for another post.

Letter_t

 

*Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird c.1994

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Memoir

 

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I didn’t learn to write in school

Are we failing students in the way we teach writing?

We have the new Common Core with a stronger emphasis on writing. We have more options than I can count on how to teach the Five Paragraph Essay. We assign creative essays, literary responses, and research papers, but are the students really learning how to write and what the writing process requires?

Let me show you how I approached writing assignments in school:

  • Essay assigned – due in two weeks
  • Ugh! I have to write a paper. At least I have two weeks
  • 1 week later a fellow student asks if I have started my paper…I haven’t
  • 5 days before due date…I better start thinking about that paper
  • 4 days before due date…if research is required, make trip to library and gather required sources
  • 3 days before due date…pull out assignment and look it over
  • 2 days before due date….read/skim whatever material is required in order to write paper.
  • night before due date…commence writing paper, pull all-nighter if necessary.
  • Due date…read/edit paper and fix obvious mistakes
  • Turn in paper
  • Receive grade
  • never look at essay again

78a728fbf134373ba398c69128fdd25aThis worked fairly well for me and got me through high school and college with respectable GPA’s but it didn’t teach me how to write. It taught me how to compile sources and arrange thoughts in paragraphs in order to earn a grade.

The more I study eloquent writers and their writing processes and the more time I spend writing, I realize there are many things I never learned about writing. My procrastination driven college writing process only ever produced a first draft that was turned in and graded.

Here is the sad truth: I don’t know how to go about the tedious work of revision. The act of taking a machete to what I have written and chopping it up until only the best bits remain. Of then taking those best bits and reaching into the depths of my creativity to add to the manuscript using those as my foundation. This is possibly the most important part of the writing process that I entirely skipped over under the false pretense that my first finished draft was good enough.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) it was good enough to earn a respectable grade and move on, but it didn’t teach me how to write. Now granted, there are certain types of academic writing that once you learn the formula, you plug in the information and voila! Instant essay! But as far as publishable creative essays or fiction writing? Not even close.

How do I not fail my students in this area? I have them write frequently because we all know that to be a better writer you need to write all the time. But, as is common with curriculum, we complete a writing assignment for a unit of study and move on. Should I assign fewer writing assignments and spend more time on them going through the whole writing and revising process with my students?

I would love to hear from other writers and teachers regarding how you approach this in your classrooms.

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Stories: From the Outside Looking in

Sometimes when I am traveling and lost in my thoughts I look in the windows of passing houses and cars and think, ‘There are people in there I do not and probably will never know, living lives that I know nothing about.’ It is a humbling thought about my small place in the universe and the many strangers who occupy it living mundane or possibly fascinating lives. There is a curious part of me that wants to know them. To know what is going on behind the brightly lit window. Is it a happy family just sitting down to dinner? Or a family torn apart by tragedy wondering if they will ever smile again.

The man driving the car next to me while his wife rests her head against the window: who is he? Have they had a long trip or is she weighed down with weariness? I wonder what the anchor tattoo on his shoulder means and when and where he got it.

If I had one superpower, it would be to look into a person’s eyes and know their life’s story. Maybe I’m too curious for my own good; I suppose some would call it nosy. Maybe it is my love of story and wanting to know where people are coming from and what makes them who they are.

There are billions of people on this planet with their own lives and fascinating stories. Every once in a while we hear about one of them through an uplifting or tragic news piece. It is just a blip on the continuum of time and then we go about our business returning to the rhythm of our ordinary days. As I pass by the windows, my imagination takes over and creates the story of the family who lives there or the destination of the car beside me.

I imagine the man with the anchor tattoo celebrating with his former Navy buddies when Seal Team 6 took out Bin Laden. In their revelry they agree to matching tattoos. Right now he and his wife are on their way to the graduation of their oldest son from the Naval Academy. She is reminiscing about her boy’s childhood and wondering how they got here so fast as she rests her head against the window.

I imagine an elderly couple in the 1940’s bungalow we just passed. She is slowly clearing rose patterned dishes from the table while he sips his coffee from a dainty chipped cup: the last remaining piece of their wedding china. She joins him at the table as they comfortably chat about news of the kids and grandkids.

I have no way of knowing if these stories are true. The characters don’t even know I exist. I am merely someone passing by in the car. An outsider.

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Daily Prompt: The Outsiders

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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