Saturday, September 21, 2013


It is almost here!  NANOWRIMO 2013 will be here in about 39 days.  Are you a writer?  come and join us for NANOWRIMO: National Novel Writing Month.  It begins November 1st and ends at midnight November 30th. I will be participating for the third year.  Once again I have invited my students to join me in this adventure.  At this point I have almost 30 students wanting to join.  So what are you waiting for?

Monday, September 2, 2013

A New Writing Challenge: WFMAD

Laurie Halse Anderson, one of my favorite authors, has started a new writing challenge, "Write Fifteen Minutes a Day".  Click on the link and check it out.  This was the story that came from the fun prompt she gave us to write.

Clara and Belle were best of friends. As best as two cows can be. One day a dance troupe came to town. They were having auditions for their new dance troupe. 
“Hey Clara, want to join me in the auditions for the new dance troupe”, Belle asked Clara.
“Sure.” , said Clara, “What do we need to do?”
“Let’s work a dance routine that we can do both alone and together.” Said Belle.
“How can we do it both alone and together?” asked Clara.
Belle began to dance and show Clara. As she twirled around she said, “First I will dance, then you will dance, then we will finish together.”
Clare began to shake, “I don’t think I can dance alone.”
“I’ll help you with your part.” Said Belle. They danced and practiced all day. When they went to town that afternoon Belle made all of the arrangements for them to audition. They stood patiently outside and waited their turn. When their number was called Belle began to walk forward. She turned and saw that Clara was not with her. She looked all around the room. Belle wanted to dance so she proceeded to the stage. There was only one problem. She and Clare had made up the dance with each having a part so it would be the right length. By the time she got to the front she knew what she would have to do. 
Belle told them that she would be the only one dancing for them. The music started and she began to dance. She could feel the rainbow of happiness in her heart. It was always the same when she danced. She danced her heart out. She leaped and twirled until the music stopped. Then she took a bow and went back to her seat. She sat and watched all of the other animals try out for the dance troupe. They were really quite good. She waited patiently while the judges talked and tallied their scores. 
The head judge came to the front of the stage. I have great news we have chosen the following to join our new dance troupe. Please come to the stage when you hear your name. Belle waited. She heard Ollie Ostrich called to the front. He had done a wonderful split. She knew he would probably be chosen. Then she heard them call Ella Elephant. She had been able to stand on her trunk and balance ever so lovely. Next they called Leon the lion. He had been wonderful at keeping the beat. There were only two spots left. Belle hoped she would be called. She was okay if she didn’t win the spot because she knew that at least she had tried and done her best. 
“Daisy Dog”, the judge called out. Belle began to squirm in her seat like all of the other contestants. She knew there was only one spot left. The judge looked out into the audience and began to speak.
“The last member of our new dance troupe came here with a handicap. They had practiced hard and then when they got here they had to change everything. We want someone with imagination. We want someone who can think on their feet and are willing to take up a challenge because they love dancing. We want someone who can feel the rainbow of music in their heart and dance such a beautiful dance. We want Belle the cow in our troupe.”
Belle was shocked. She knew if she had not tried she would never have made the troupe. She felt sorry for Clara for missing such an opportunity. She ran back to the farm to get her belongings. There was Clara dancing in the field. Belle walked up to her. 
“I’m sorry you didn’t make the troupe Belle.” Clara said.
“What are you talking about?” Belle asked. 
“When they talked about the last person having a handicap I knew they were not talking about you so I left. You are one of the healthiest and most wonderful dancers around. Maybe if I had not chickened out we would have won. I am sorry.”
Belle laughed. “Silly girl, if you had stay you would have realized that the handicap they were talking about was having to make up a dance on the spot because you quit. I am in the new dance troupe. I just came home to get my dance things and to go back. We leave tonight for our first performance. But, it’s okay Clara. I did what I had to do because I wanted to dance. If you don’t take chances you won’t get anywhere in life. Remember that.”
Belle walked off and Clara felt lonely and sad. I wish I had tried out instead of chickened out, maybe I would be with my best friend dancing around the world.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Teachers Write Week Two

Today's writing prompt can be found here.  I loved what we had to do today.  It gave me a look at another side to my main character.  I think we often look at the conflicts through one lens and we need to find multiple lenses to see them through.  This gives us a well rounded character.  I think I will need to do this exercise with many other lenses to see what else I can learn about my characters.  Here is what I learned abut Jacob today.

1.      Jacob is a PK, also known as a preacher’s kid.  He has to live up to what he feels is an unrealistic set of standards that his dad has created because he is a preacher.
2.       Jacob loved his grandmother’s garden.  She had a rock path laid out that wound throughout the garden.  She not only had a green thumb but was very creative, for inside her garden was an area she had created just for her grandchildren.  Jacob found himself hiding under one of her mushroom sculptures.  His back leaned against the stem.  It was hidden from site by a large purple lilac bush.  Its fragrant flowers sent a shower of petals raining down on him when the wind blew.  Here he would watch the bees flit in and out taking what they needed from the flowers. He watched the viceroy butterflies with their orange and black wings flutter around.  He often wished he could be like them and fly away.  It usually only took five or ten minutes in the garden to wash away the dark clouds that he felt followed him constantly.  He stood and looked up at the sun drenched blue sky and walked toward the house for the snack he knew his grandmother had waiting for him.

3.       Jacob thought back to being a child when he first began to understand his dad’s standards for his life.  He decided he needed to visit his grandmother before the move.  He called her and told her he was on his way.  Jacob rode his bike the few blocks to her house. He knew the garden would not look the same. March was still cold, but he could see signs of life creeping to the surface of the garden. He walked the path carefully looking at each stone his grandmother had placed there.  He realized he had never noticed the words on them before.  Words such as breathe, relax, inhale, life, sunshine.  He realized they were there to help bring about a  peace of mind, a calming to the soul. He walked to the lilac bush and was met by his grandmother.  She handed him a cup of coffee. She smiled and spoke softly to Jacob. “This is where I always came to calm my spirit.   It’s not easy living with a preacher.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Teachers Write Day 4 - Getting to know your characters

Today was one of my favorites.  We interviewed our main character.  If you've been following my blog then you know that I've done this before.  Today I was working on "Preacher's Kid", my working title.   I am going to give you a look at one of my characters.

Jacob Wingate  age 16

My happiest memory was the day I became a Christian.  My parents were there.  They were so happy for me.  They’d waited a long time for it to happen.  I was twelve at the time.  People think I did it because my dad’s a preacher but that’s not true.  I did it because I felt God calling me.  Somehow I seem to have messed all of that up now.

My saddest memory is when I had to leave my best friend Bret to move to Florida.  I mean we’d grown up together.  We had both joined the youth group together.  Then one day my dad comes home and says, we’re moving to Florida.  It was some little place called Strawberry Ridge.  There wasn’t any ridge there, just lots of flat land.

If I had to tell you one thing I don’t want people to find out, it is that I’m a preacher’s kid.  When they find out they usually pre-judge me based on my dad’s job.  It makes it hard to make friends.  Any friends I make are afraid my dad will judge anything they say or do.  He probably would too.  They find it easier to be friendly at school and stay away from my house. 

I would have to say if there was one thing about my personality that stood out it would be my ability to make people laugh.  It doesn’t matter what the situation is they always laugh at my jokes or I can get them to laugh if they are in a bad mood.  If my best friend (the one I had in Beardstown) had to describe me he’d say I was the best looking kid in school.  Just kidding.  He would describe me as a shaggy headed or mop-top kind of guy.  I keep my hair like this to bug my dad.  It is the only thing I feel I have control over. 

Very few things bug me except my dad constantly yelling at me and putting me down.  I figure that is just my life, being the kid of a preacher.  You know I have all of these high standards, (his) I have to live up to.  My mom bugs me when she flits around treating me like I’m some little kid that has to be protected from my dad.  I know she loves me but she needs to just drop it.  It will all have to come to a head between us in the future anyway. 

If I had to tell you one thing I’m afraid of it is doing something so wrong that God won’t forgive me and I’ll go to hell.  You thought I was going to say I was afraid of my dad didn’t you?

You should see my bedroom.  It’s just ordinary.  I don’t have any sorts trophies or anything because I got yanked from the football team to move down here.  I have a guitar and a banjo on my wall across from my bed.  I also have one wall that is full of bookshelves and books.  I love to read.  It has always been the way I escaped from my dad and his harsh words.  I could open a book and be somewhere else for a little while.

I have to tell you about the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me.  I went on my first date with this girl I had liked for about two years.  My girlfriend and I parked along the river and we were making out.  My dad had been invited by one of the church members to do a ride along with him.  He was a cop.   Well they saw this car parked along the river and two heads inside and decided to stop and tell the occupants to move along.   Who pops up at the window?  My dad.  Needless to say that was the last time the girl went out with me.  My dad made such a big deal about it.

I know none of us are perfect.  I would like to have a house that was out in the woods somewhere and not connected to the church in any way.  I’m not allowed to have a pet.  My dad doesn’t see any reason for one.  I’d love to at least have a salt water tank full of fishes from the coral reef.  Then when my dad was being a jerk I could sit in my room and watch them swim.  It would be so calming.  The only other thing I do to calm me is play my guitar.  If I could have any talent I wanted I would want it to be the ability to play my guitar and banjo really well.  Lessons would probably help.  My dad says they are too expensive and if God wanted me to have the talent to play he’d give it to me.

I guess if I had to tell you what I really wanted out of life it would be to live my life for me.  Not live it for my dad or his church.  Not to be judged by his profession.  I want the opportunity to be me, whoever that is.

Check back this week for more of my characters.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Teachers Write Day 3 Question and Answers - The Path To Writing

Today is question and answer day.  There are a lot of great questions out there.  My particular question was about the difference between writing picture books and novels.  I find it difficult to cram my plot into such a small number of pages.  My first attempt at writing a picture book was met with, "somethings missing", "it doesn't feel complete".  The one I am working on now has a complete plot laid out.  I'm not sure why this one came together so easily.  I am actually writing it with my granddaughter.  Haylee is seven years old and loves to write stories.  I want to foster that in her .

As I've been reading every one's posts, you can find them here, I've noticed several consistencies.  We all have a fear of our writing not being good enough.  Self-doubt fills our minds.  As Laurel Snyder said,  writing is a process of discovery.  I think as a teacher I need to remember that and promote that with my students.

Other points that were made is that we need to just do it.  Just write. If I write a journal entry or in a diary, that is writing.  If I list my thoughts, or a quote or conversation I heard, or an idea that popped into my head that is writing.  I keep a notebook beside my bed.  For a long time as I read writing books I heard about "the voices in your head".  I didn't really get it until I was awakened from a sound sleep.  Before I went to bed I was trying to decide what role one of my characters would play as he was shipped to Afghanistan.  I kept hearing in my head, "I don't want to die", in my dream sleep stage I knew who the character was.  I had no intention of killing him off and couldn't figure out why my mind was saying that.  I went back to sleep and the same thing.  The third time I got up and got my notebook.  I started writing all the reasons this character would say something like this and the idea popped into my head. If my character is in Afghanistan there is a strong possibility that they could be killed.  It would be on their mind.  But, it was more than that.  I needed the tension in my book.  The idea popped into my head, what if he were injured while there, a real possibility that could kill him.  My agent kept saying that it was missing something and this was the direction I needed to go.

The only thing I can say is if you can't set aside time to write regularly then carry a notebook and write during those down times.  What is a down time?  I went to the dentist last year and took my notebook.  While I waited for the injections to numb me I turned down a magazine to read and used that time to write.  The dentist got a chuckle out of that.  He said it was the first time he'd had anyone do that.  It was one of the few moments I had in that day.  Be creative.  My mom lives with me and there are days when she is on the phone to friends all day.  I take that time to go to a park or someplace away from the house so that I can write.  Sometimes it is just out in my back yard. At school I will often stay in my room during my lunch time and set a timer.  I write and eat at the same time so that I can get work done.  Have kids?  Mine are grown, but I babysit my grand kids most days.  We go into the back yard and I take lots of things.  Cars and items that will keep my 2 year old grandson's attention for a while, crayons and they each have notebooks.  Jacob's is for scribbling and Haylees is for writing.  Jacob is learning that while I am writing that it is my "work".  He will leave me alone for a little while.  Telling him that I have to finish something and then I will take him for a walk or play something with him works well also.  I just have to set a timer and stick to it.  As a two year old this has worked well with Jacob.  It is something he can understand.

I think the most important thing you can do if you decide you want to follow the writing path is be committed.  You can start and then just stop and the tell everyone that one day you are going to write a book.  You must make a conscious decision that you are GOING to write.

I would be interested in your thoughts on writing, whatever they are.  Please feel free to comment.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 2 of Teachers Write

Today's quick write can be found here at Kate Messner's blog.  Today we are working on sensory details and memories.  We were told to think of someplace we love.  This is a free write activity so it can be prose or whatever format you like.  I would suggest you check out her blog and read the comments.  This is where people have posted some of their writing.  Below I give you two of mine.  This is a great way to start your morning.  I love it. Whenever I do a quick write my mind tends to jump back to trips to Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee. I love the place.  I've added some pics here to go with my writing. Both of them were thoughts of this glorious place

 Sometimes on that bridge you must cross to get to the falls you feel out of balance.  The taste of fear in your mouth is strong and bitter. It is at this point the breeze carries the scent of trees and flowers to wash over your body, drawing you forward. You take that first and second step, swaying to the rhythm, legs stiffening, knuckles white as you grip the ropes tightly.  You glance over the side, stomach in your throat, and see clear frothy water rushing over the boulders below, and hear the splash  that calms you and helps you find the courage and balance to take you to the other side where you celebrate the victory of staring fear in the face to reach your goal, the glorious falls that drop beneath you washing away all your cares.

 A Walk Through the Woods

Sometimes as I walk through the woods
listening to the buzz and hum of life
I am carried gently on the breeze, like the leaf floating lazily down the stream headed  for places unknown.
I drink in the cool air filled with contradicting
Scents of life and death, tasting the sweetness
That comes when everything in that moment
is balanced.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Teachers Write

Teachers Write is Here

Today is the official start of Teachers Write Camp.  To  find out more click here. Join the Facebook group here.  You can find the first mini-lesson here.  Today's mini-lesson was about the use of a writer's notebook.  I have to say I've been addicted to notebooks for years.  A couple of Christmas's back I let everyone know that I wanted notebooks, pencils and sticky notes for a gift.  My daughter kept saying she didn't know what to get me.  I took my husband shopping and pointed out what I wanted.  I told him to tell everyone.  He later shopped and purchased several notebooks and other writer type items and gave them to my daughter.  He told her to wrap them up for me.  When we opened presents I didn't feel anything that felt like notebooks.  When I got to my daughter's box I figured it was some sort of bath item because of the size of the box.  She looked so disappointed as if she was afraid I would not like what was inside.  I opened it and was in writer's heaven.  She couldn't believe I was that excited. The only other thing that gets me that excited is books.  So tell me, do you have a writer's notebook?  What do you keep in yours?

Here is how I use them.  I  get a project type notebook (think Cornell notes) . My favorite size is 7 x 9. The first thing I do is put a label on the front of what the project is and the year I started it.They have a section at the top for you to title what is on the page.  The left side has a column  labeled project action notes.  I use this to write questions about things on the page or notes about other things I need to research for that page.  The center section is the project planning notes.  This is where the bulk of my information goes.  It also includes pictures, maps and drawings. I've attached some pictures.

I have a section for my characters. (Left pic).  I always leave a front and back for each character.  I try to find pics to go with them and glue them in.  If needed, since this is historical fiction, I glue in maps. (right pic).  If they are full page 8.5 x 11 then I will fold in half and glue top half sideways into notebook.  I have these to mark up with markers, highlighters and to take notes.

I include sections for research.  This is a little more difficult to plan.  I try to make a list of all of the things I will need to research, and plan about 10-20 pages for each topic.  I then have a section of pictures that will help me visualize the time period or anything else I need to know.
 I keep notebooks for my ideas, story starters, comments I hear, pictures that inspire me.  Once I get started on a project I try to keep everything together in one place.  Notebooks are the best, easiest and cheapest way to organize yourself. I even keep one with me in the car in case I hear something on the radio or see a sign, I am able to jot down my thoughts.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Creative Input Needed

I need your input.  Read the following excerpt and tell me in your opinion what is wrong with the house that it is calling/haunting the character. This story woke me up in the middle of the night.  I got up and wrote it down.  I still have no reason for the house calling.

"They say there is no such thing as ghosts or haunted houses. They are wrong. I know, because I grew up in one. Mine is not an unusual story. It is not even that terrifying. It just is. This is a fact I have come to accept. As a child growing up in Bluebell, Idaho I had few friends because of that house. 
From the outside the house was a typical, two story farm house. My father inherited it when his grandmother passed away. He repaired and fixed it up. It stood out on the hilltop. You could see it a mile away. It’s gabled The inside is a different story. 
Even now I lay awake listening, watching, waiting, for it. I’ve been waiting since I moved out of that house. I knew it was only a matter of time. That time is now. Both of my parents are gone. A drunk driver took them away from me. Now the house is calling me. I hear it in the middle of the night, I see it in my dreams. It waits for me, calling me to return. I don’t want to. I don’t know why it calls me. Sometimes the shadows visit me. In school my friends used to tease me when I told them about the shadows. Then they would visit my house. No one teased me after that. Instead they stayed away from me. It is as if they were afraid the shadows would follow them."

So tell me, why do you think the house is calling her?  What do you think the shadows are?
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