Friday, March 29, 2013

THE MARGINS OF OUR LIVES


What moves at the margins of our lives?

What lurks at the edges, the fringes?

What are we carelessly or unintentionally not seeing?

What are we deliberately ignoring and trying not to see?



When we invite the telling of our margins, when we intentionally see and share, and invite others to do the same, we are, in the words of Toni Morrison, making a "gesture toward  possibility."
She says we are inviting others to tell about their "lives and particularized worlds."

Tell us, Toni says What moves at the margin?

I love the painting, The Scream, by Edvard Munch-- so much so that it is my Facebook icon, instead of the traditional photo or avatar of me. Gunter Kunert's ekphrastic poem inspired by this painting, and translated by Gerald Chapple, begs us to notice what moves in  the margin,  pleads with us to see and hear the thoughts of the two people walking over the bridge behind the screamer in the foreground.  


Edvard Munch [Public domain ],
 via Wikimedia Commons

(For more information about ekphrastic poetry, along with samples click here.)

There are four versions of the painting, all painted or done in pastels by Munch between 1893 and 1910. 

Look closely and you will notice a couple walking over the bridge.

I had viewed this painting a number of times and never noticed these two people.  Most people don't see them either.  In fact, if you search Google images for this well-known painting, you will notice that many of them have cropped the people out of the picture entirely. 

This notion of looking at margins also reminds me of the previous post in which we considered Ally Condie's artist mother showing her a painting of a woman looking out over the water. At the edge of the painting,  there was a white image reflected in the water.  What is that?her mother asked. Just as most of us would have answered, Ally quickly said A boat.  Her mother's response was Are you sure?

What is reflected at the edge of your life? What moves in the margin?

One way to consider our margins is to think about the central stories, events, and 
relationships in our lives.  Which stories have you told over and over--   the stories that have choruses or refrains that your family and friends can recite in unison .?

We might also think about what people have always been there as part of the fabric of your life?  
When did these folks enter and what is their purpose and  plot  trajectory in your personal story?

And finally, what historical, national, cultural, and popular events have shaped your identity and made you you?

These all might be placed in the center of your life circle. 

What is near the perimeter, the edge of the circle of your life?  As well as tapping the center of your circle, tap those margins for writing ideas.


As we mine the margins, looking for the liminal,  we find the wonders that we have ignored, the ashes of stories previously pushed back  and under the center stories.  We find the afterclap of stories forgotten.  We, find, as did Tupac, The Rose That Grew From Concrete.  

His poem encourages us to consider even the smallest blink of an idea from the edge of our circle.

What is growing in the concrete of your life?  
What stories are near the edge of your circle? 
What moves at the margin?


Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

To help you consider the margins of your own life, you may want to draw a large circle and then list the major stories of your life in the center.  

As you move away from the center,  begin to list those stories less told, less often remembered and rarely considered. 

As you near the very edge, you may find yourself remembering things long forgotten--pushed back or under the center stories, those pushed out to the edges.  You may find people, relationships, and events that begin to surface. List those at the perimeter or just outside your circle.

Write about these marginal stories and memories.  You may choose to write a poem, narrative, personal essay or what ever form the stories suggest.

What did you discover moving at the margin of your circle, of your life?








Wednesday, March 27, 2013

ALLY CONDIE: OCTELA 2013



After this long (still on-going) winter, OCTELA 2013 was a fresh breath of spring learning.

(See the previous post  sharing insights gleaned from J. Patrick Lewis's morning keynote presentation at OCTELA 2013.)

The learning continued as a our lunchtime keynote speaker, Ally Condie, shared how reading  specific books throughout her life influenced the writing of her popular books, The Matched Trilogy (Matched, Crossed, Reached) 





As I listened to her share her experiences with books and art and family,  and other people who were willing to support her in writing, in reading and in life, I couldn't help but consider the books  that have influenced my own reading and writing and life.

What is the book you wanted to live?

For Ally, this book was Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  She shared how her grandmother was willing to dress up and play-act with her--- willing to bring this book, and her dream of living it to life.

I never caught the Little House fever-- those books are not my cup of tea--although many of my fourth and fifth grade girls read Little House exclusively for a period.  They kept our school library shelf on which those books were kept empty most of the school year.  They eagerly added their names to the waiting lists for those volumes checked out and being enjoyed by some other little girls not from our class, and they shared and compared plots, crushes and other Little House information.


I, on the other hand wanted to live, at 9 and 10, the teenage life I read about in Betty Cavanna' s books, which had absolutely nothing to do with my actual life.

 I read every one of her books that my small local library owned. (Although I vividly remember the books, I could only remember Betty C-something for the author---the Internet is a wonderful external memory and retrieval system)



What is the book in which you recognized yourself?

Ally wanted to teach Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury early in her career.  An older more experienced teacher challenged her choice Oh honey, you have to be good to teach Dandelion Wine-- I don't know if you are that good.
Of course that kind of challenge dictates that you rise above the concerns, the objections, and doubts.  She learned from this experience that if things go badly,  it is not necessarily you.  And likewise,  if things go well, it is not necessarily you, either.

She linked Match to her experiences with a Junior Prom in a small Utah town.  Each junior girl  with no date was matched with senior boy.  This had been the custom--an intended merciful and kind practice-- for a long time. 

In discussions with her husband, and influenced by the distopian 1984, she wondered what if the government did get to decide who you married?  Don't all good stories begin with a What if?


Distopian novels and fantasy (but not necessarily science fiction) are, and always have been, my cup of tea.  I remember reading 1984 several times on my own, and then for various classes, but the first book of this genre that entranced me, opened the door to wanting more of the same, and established this as a favorite genre, was Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle was a close second.

This is the book that helped me, like Ally , to understand: 
As things are, they have not always been-- as things are, they will not always be.

What is the book that changed the way you read? And also perhaps the way you write? 

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner was this book for Ally.  

She recounts how she read this book over and over. From him she learned the importance of setting.  Her painter mom also helped her to understand that seeing is critical and how we are changed in the moment of creating, whether with chalk and paint, or with words.

In Match, the setting becomes crucial as her characters needed to live in an unfamiliar environment.  She relied on her mother's advice about seeing and her brother's expertise in the outdoors.  

The books for me that changed the way I read, and opened up possibilities in writing are those that are written in non-traditional ways--multigenre, epistolary, linked vignettes, alternate perspectives, graphic or comics--different in some way.

Older books that are complex in style and challenged my thinking include: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and Maus by Art Spiegelman. Each in its own way, offered me new frameworks for telling stories and thinking about writing.

What is the book you can't put down?

Ally says her first choice is always and anything Agatha Christie.
.
For me, it has varied over the years--- my perennial favorites are Anne Rice, Milan Kundera,  Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz.... and more 

In an earlier post Because of That Book, I  listed books that have changed me--many of these are my can't-put-down selections.

What is the book that changed the way you look at people?

Ally's artist mother showed her a painting of a woman looking out over the water. At the edge of the painting  there was a white image reflected in the water.  What is that? her mother asked. Just as most of us would have answered, Ally quickly said A boat.  Her mother's response was Are you sure?

The book that kept her asking the same question is Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler

The lesson in this for Ally, and for us is:


You give people enough when you are writing or making art (or teaching), but always there is this possibility at the edge of it,  which is not so clear that there is not room for imagination


Don't we love books that leave us this possibility at  the edge? For me some of those books, among others, are Cloud Atlas by David Mitchel., House of Leaves  by Mark Z. Danielewki, American Gods by Neil Gaiman ,and the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

These are each books that no matter how many times they are read , that white reflection at the edge of  understanding can not be just a boat...


Ally Conde gave us much to ponder and remember, as she took us on her journey though the books that have influenced her reading and writing and her life.

She left us with this final  pearl:


When the teacher says write what you know--all of what has come to you and been a part of your life enters into the process.

What books have influenced your reading  and writing and enter into the process when you create new texts? 


Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities


Reflect on your reading and writing life-- your literacy development and history.

Recall Ally Condie's categories of  books and think about them in your own life.

What is the book  you want to live? 
What is the  book in which you recognize yourself?
Which book changed the way you read?
Which book can you not put down?
Which book changes the way you look at people?

Using Ally Condie' s five questions as a framework, write an essay or personal narrative.

Monday, March 25, 2013

J.PATRICK LEWIS: OCTELA 2013



I spent this past Friday at the OCTELA (Ohio Council of  Teachers of English Language Arts) 2013 Spring Conference.

I spent this past Friday in the company of other teachers, lovers of books, writers and authors and poets, old friends, new friends, and some I won't meet until next year or the year after.

I spent this past Friday talking, learning, thinking and...  wanting still more.

The OCTELA Spring Conference always inspires better teaching, higher learning, and critical thinking--always  presents new ideas and opportunities to revisit, reclaim, reaffirm or rework old ones, and always challenges us try something radically different.  Thanks Sarah Ressler Wright and the entire OCTELA 2013 Conference Committee!

I had the privilege of meeting J. Patrick Lewis  very early in the morning--he signed the book I had already purchased. (I visited Greg and Jan Michael's (Michaels Associates) table again later in the day to buy more books --no one who knows me will be surprised by that fact.)



We had an opportunity to talk briefly.  I now know what J. stands for --and his signature  was positively a work of art.  I told him he set the bar extremely high for book signing. I will need to rethink my whole approach to this art.

As the opening keynote speaker, his wise and witty words inspired many tweet and retweets. My own tweet from this session is below.


Poetry is... Sound of silence amplified. Daily clues to the ordinary. Subjects for poetry are everywhere. --J. Patrick Lewis.




He spends half of his life writing fun, humorous verse--what he calls ludic verse, and the other half writing serious historic or informational texts. Surprisingly, he has written 85 books. I must own about 20 of his books, but didn't realize just exactly how prolific he had been.

He talked with us about the importance of priming the pump with poetry that children will enjoy and the essential-ness of verbal play, the necessary-ness  of word play.  For more extensive information about J. Patrick Lewis click here  to read an article published Language Arts when he was awarded the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 2011.

Some J. Patrick Lewis Thoughts

Nothing succeeds like failure. If you are failing your are trying. Go on, go on, and keep on failing. only next time, try to fail better (Lewis quoting Thomas Beckett)
Our classrooms must be safe places where risk-taking is the norm. If we establish communities where it is safe to make mistakes, learning is multiplied exponentially.
Children are practicing. they are not poets 
What he meant, I think was that children were still playing and learning---not accomplished or finished.   This one, however,  I have to meditate on--- I always encouraged my students to think of themselves as writers and poets and to act like writers and poets.
I have written 85 books, and I still get rejected. Everybody gets rejected.
I always used to joke that I was going to publish a book of the rejection slips for my poems and poetry manuscripts--I guess in this sense we are all never "finished".
Subjects for poetry are everywhere.
I agree wholeheartedly with this one, thus my tweet above. I  also absolutely loved his several definitions of poetry. 

According to J. Patrick Lewis, poetry is:

Sound of silence amplified.
Daily clues to the ordinary.
Frozen fire. 
The midwife at the birth of the alphabet. 
A blind date with enchantment.

Bonus Writing Strategies to Try 


 I also learned two writing techniques --one quick and easy, one more familiar and serious

Tailgater
A tailgater is a couplet in which the first line is from a well-known poem.   The second line is your own. 

See J. Patrick Lewis's guest blog post on  David L. Harrison's Blog for some very funny children and adult examples of this form.



Mask poem--This is a poem that is written and read in someone else's voice. 

 Near the end of his session, he read the poem The Innocent, which is written in the voice of Mamie Carthan Till (the mother of Emmett Till) and included in When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders.

After hearing this new term at the conference, I was treated to a mask sermon this past Sunday as my priest, Fr. Karl Ruttan, for the entire duration of his Sermon,  took on the persona of the Centurion who was forever changed after  witnessing the crucifixion.



Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

J. Patrick Lewis defined poetry in poetic and metaphoric, yet concrete ways.  

How do you define poetry?  Write a sentence or two defining or describing poetry--several lines that create a visual definition or image in words.

Select a well-known poem.  Use the first line of that poem to begin a couplet in which you supply the second line to create a tailgater.

Try writing a mask poem.  Who will you be? Whose voice and perspective will you present in your poem?





Friday, March 22, 2013

BIG HEADLINES AND SMALL FATES




If you tweet or text, you are used to writing small.  


As writers, we are often encouraged to expand what we have written, to add more details. 

We are taught to elaborate and extend individual moments in narratives to enable readers to see what we see. 

But sometimes we want to do just  the opposite, condensing our writing to its bare minimum.  We want to write small--distilling our thoughts until we have just the gist--just the crucial, sometimes cryptic kernel. 

Small writing is everywhere--advertisements on the television, billboards, corporate slogans, titles of books (with important information after the colon), and, of course, newspaper headlines.

Newspapers are gold mines for writers, a treasure trove of ideas that can lead to a variety of forms of writing.

In a previous post, we considered newspaper blackout, a 
creative poetry  form developed by Austin Kleon, using newspapers to create new writing. 

We can also find poetry in newspaper headlines. 


 I "found" three small poems below.--they are each composed entirely of unaltered headlines appearing in the Columbus Dispatch the past three days

1
Wounds deep,
healing slow
Dementia costs prove
staggering
Widow's gift to help veterans,
and herself...
Celebrating life
The way we were


2

70 mph speed limit gets closer
Lying speedometers
Some drive long 
and winding roads to jobs
In Ohio,
auto rates
a bargain

3
Apple 
not as dominant
in mobile market now
Samsung's latest 
takes a new shot 
at iPhone
Macs aren't immune 
to malware
                                                      Monitoring your vitals
                                                      with a webcam?
                                                      Lawsuits underscore 
                                                      issues of privacy


No changes were made in the wording.  I simply juxtaposed them. (However, anytime you write you want to reserve for yourself, the  writer's right of flexibility--it may be necessary to make small changes to get the result that you want.)


In the Columbus Dispatch Random Thoughts Column (January 9,2012), Carol Ann Lease writes about  the difficulty of constructing original and accurate headlines, due to the loss of shared experiences, knowledge of Greek mythology,as well as other literary allusions, that drove headlines of yore, and resulted in poetry for past readers.

What would make a good headline for your life today?

Nigerian author Teju Cole searched newspapers to create his  fait divers  or what he calls small fates. These condensed, stripped bare reportings are short incidents, items or bits of news, usually bad or grim, that may also have an ironic twist.  The kind of news that is buried in the back pages of the newspaper and can be expressed in a brief sentences. 

For a two year period, I followed his Small Fates Project on Twitter. Below are two examples from near the end of the project:


10 JanAdegbegha will not wed in March after all. A police corporal in Ibadan found him stubborn and shot him dead.
3 JanIn Katsina, both of Mallam Isa's wives are in hot water, Binta for having scalded Hadiza.

For a more complete explanation of The Small Fate Project  and more samples, visit Teju Cole's website  or read/listen to the NPR story Simple Tweets of Fate: Teju Cole's Condensed News.

One additional way to "find" writing in the newspaper is to select one headline that puzzles, intrigues, amuses, or in some other way touches you--- then explore, explode, analyze  or deconstruct that headline in an essay or poem or narrative.

Warren Wolfson digs deeper into  the following headline in his poem, Misplaced Blame, included in Rattle (#23, 2005):


A power failure blamed on a cat shut down the Cook County Criminal Courts Building Monday.                                               --Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, 9/26/03
Start searching your local newspaper.  What headlines do you notice?   

What do those headlines mean? 

What small fates lurk on the back pages?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibility


Search your daily newspaper for headlines that intrigue, puzzle, amuse, or in some other way touch you.

Try combining several seemingly related (or unrelated ) headlines to create a small poem.

You may want to analyze one particular headline, either writing a small fate or series of small fates. 

Try exploring one headline through writing a poem or essay.

Finally, you  may want to try your hand at writing your own headlines.  

Can you write headlines connected to either one or more events in your own life or current events. 

 You may want to return to the above suggestions, this time using your own headlines.









Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WRITERS ON THE BLOCK




Writers block.

Writers block 
the truth they know.                                 

Writers block
the truth they know
in their first mind.

Writers block
the truth they know
in their first mind
(instead of) giving full rein.

Writers block
the truth they know
in their first mind
giving full rein
to their second and third minds.

Writers block
the truth they know 
in their first mind
giving full rein
to their second and third minds
ignoring the words.


Writers block
the truth they know 
in their first mind
giving full rein
to their second and third minds
ignoring the words
eager to be born.



Writers block

That's what we call it when we can't get started, when we don't have any ideas, when we just don't have anything to write about--nothing to say.

Nothing has happened.

Or everything has happened --and it is just too much to sort out and organize-- and you don't know how you feel.

Reading  stories of other writers may help.

Reading about the ways they gather ideas,  notice the ordinary, remember the extraordinary, pay homage to their musings, and  noodle around with words may be just enough to nudge us off the block that we writers sit on when our second minds tell us that what we thought in the first place is no good.


Reading about how Langston Hughes,  while riding a train, was struck by the many rivers that have run through his ancestors veins, flowed through his people may help----  the result was his poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers.  Robert Burleigh tells this story in Langston's Train Ride.


William Carlos Williams may get us down off the block-- he writes about everyday ordinary things around him in a loose conversational style, that we may find easy to imitate, and then make our own.  


He is able to look at life and see beyond the present object to deeper insights and truths. He tells  his stories through small short musings. Two of his  well known poems include, The Red Wheelbarrow and This is Just to Say.  His story is told by Jen Bryant in  A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams.


In Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, Eve sits on her stoop, (or rather on the writer's block) unable to think of ideas for a school writing assignment in which her teacher had simply said Write what you know. From the various characters that live  in her neighborhood, she receives advice that will draw us all down from our writer's block. 
The actor: The whole world is a stage-watch the stage, observe the players, and don't neglect the details. 
The cook: There's always a new way with words- find the poetry in your pudding

The dancer:  Stretch your imagination-stretch the truth. Ask What If?
Another neighbor:  It's like making soup- add a little action, a little spice
When I read this book one year to my fifth graders,  we made a chart of writing suggestions we found in this book .  The chart remained on our wall all year.   They referred to it often when they were stuck.

So sometimes getting unstuck or coming down from the  writer's block is as simple as looking at the writing, the objects around you, your ideas, or the assignments from a different angle, turning them over to see the underside, the hidden part, or noticing the obvious parts that you may have deemed unimportant.

One of the ways I meander around ideas is using the nested meditation form that opened this post. I love the structure of this short form  created by Kevin Anderson.    

The rules are few and simple (and flexible):


Begin with a single line that forms a complete sentence. 
Each stanza must be a complete sentence.  
Each stanza must include the lines from the previous stanza (punctuation and capitalization may be adjusted as necessary for each stanza to make sense) and each stanza be able to must stand alone.

For a more extensive explanation and for samples of nested meditations see Anderson's book,Divinity in Disguise: Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul and his website.

 While on a CAWP retreat at Kenyon College, a couple of years ago,
I wrote another poem about being stuck.  Click here to read the poem, Staring at the Blank Page.

What do you do when you are stuck in your writing?

How do you climb down off the writer's block?


 Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Consider a piece of writing on which you have been stuck, or an idea you have been unsuccessful in writing.

Select or create one line with which to begin a nested meditation. Where did that writing lead you ?  What did you discover?

Try one of the ideas suggested by Eva' s neighbors to work on a piece on which you are stuck.



Monday, March 18, 2013

WOMEN: POWER UNSPOKEN



Hilary Clinton was the Secretary of State in the United States of America.

Sonia Sotomayor sits on bench in the highest court in the land.

Oprah Winfrey ruledaytime television for 25 years and remains a powerful entrepreneur.

Dilma Rousseff is president of Brazil.

Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberian democracy campaigner Leyman Gbowee, and Yemeni's women's rights activist Tawakkul Karman were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011,  for their exemplary  nonviolent struggle  for women's  rights and the safety of women.

Yahoo, Facebook and Xerox all boast women in powerful positions at the helm


Yet...      

A inebriated 16- year-old woman in Steubenville, Ohio was carried from party to party and raped repeatedly by athletes.  No bystanders came to her aid.  Images and mocking videos quickly appeared on social media. (See/hear related NPR story.)   

Her voice was silenced.

In New Delhi, India a 23-year woman riding a bus on the way to the movies was gang-raped by 6 men and subsequently died.

Her voice was silenced.

A similar rape of a 29 year -old woman occurred as she road the bus to her northern Punjab village just a month later.

Another silenced voice.

We hear numerous stories of university and high  school women being drugged and raped.  They are not always encouraged by friends and family to speak out, not often urged  to confront, report and prosecute.

                                                     You will face embarrassment. 
                                                    You will embarrass the family. 
No one will believe you. 
It is his word against yours
What did you have on?
Well, you had sex with him before.
He isn't that kind of person.
You were not a virgin.
                                                     We don't believe you. 
These were the responses faced by women I knew personally when I was younger.   
These responses have changed little in 2014. 

The responses are not always meant to be malicious--more often they stem from ignorance and belief in long standing myths about rape and rape victims.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, is the story of a young woman silenced by rape. She finds her voice through art and ultimately, in confronting her rapist and speaking out.

On the tenth anniversary of Speak, Laure Halse Anderson wrote a powerful poem composed completely (except for the first and last stanza)  of words from the many letters she received from women whose stories echoed... and mirrored the responses and feelings of Speak's protagonist.  
Click  to listen to Anderson read her poem.
Click to read her poem.

Telling her story, raising her voice, using her unspoken power is what ultimately saves a rape or abuse victim.  

Ellen Johnson -Sirleaf's reconciliation and peace-building efforts in Liberia, in addition to providing jobs for poor and other social reforms, are also creating a space for women to tell  their stories of rape and abuse.

Do you know someone who had been raped, sexually assaulted, or abused?

There are a multitude of resources available online that may be helpful to her, and to you as you encourage her.  Along with the local resources in your own community, the two websites below may be good places to start:

RAINN: Rape Abuse& Incest National Network
 http://www.rainn.org/

How can we provide spaces for telling our stories and the stories of other women?
How can we raise our own voices? 

How can we use our unspoken power?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Think about time you or someone you know was silenced.

Write a personal narrative recounting the story.

Now think about a way to raise your voice in this situation.  How can you make a change? Who can help?  You  may want  to write a speech to address the issue or a letter to someone involved.

You may want to create a dialogue or scene rewriting the events or circumstances so that this time you do speak up.












Friday, March 15, 2013

READING ON THE WAY TO WRITING



Writers read.

What are you reading?       

If you want to write, you must be reading---filling your head with wonderfully simple plots or delightfully complex ones with lots twists, turns,  and  surprises-- gathering new narrative possibilities for your own writing.

If you want to write, you must be savoring poetry that reflects your life, shows you the perfect metaphor for what happened yesterday, or names what was unnameable until that one particular poem read on one particular morning named it for you.

If you want to write, you must  be reading nonfiction, informational texts, newspapers and  journals--current events, local goings-on, and reflective essays provide much ink for your pen. And literary journals keep you abreast with what your peers and literary superheroes are writing.

If you want to write, you must be filling your head with language and words and  ideas-- and life.

If you want to write you must read--a lot.

You must read like a writer, not only enjoying, savoring, and learning, but also noticing and naming what writers are doing in  texts, and later imitating to create your own texts.

In a previous post, we considered the important role of reading and mentor texts. (see Mentor Texts: Learning to Write from What We Read)

 In Language Arts (May 2008, Vol. 85, No. 5), I wrote the following about reading like a writer as part of a review of  Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray :



...Katie Wood Ray invites us to not simply appreciate the finished product, but to closely and critically examine the underside to see how the colorful patterns were created. Likening the search for writing ideas to a seamstress shopping, she reminds us that the seamstress will “take a lot longer . . . turn jumpers and shirts inside out, sometimes sitting on the floor to study how something is made. While the rest of us mere shoppers are looking only at sizes and prices, (Katie’s) friend is looking closely at inseams, stitching and ‘cuts on the bias’ . . . she is shopping for ideas for clothes.” 
Katie Wood Ray challenges us to push beyond mere reading purposed for enjoyment and understanding; she urges us to become apprentices to other writers, to learn the craft of writing by eagerly examining, deliberately deconstructing, and intentionally imitating the work of other writers.

Writer read.
And... writers read like writers.

So what am I reading?
What am I reading on the way to writing?

I am currently engaged in reading a number of books for a variety of reasons.

Each morning after reading the morning office in the Book of Common Prayer, I read the day's appointed devotions from two sources.  

Can I use the beautiful language  and  complex, formal sentence structures I find here in my own writing? 



I love poetry and have fallen in love with the work  of Richard Blanco, the young poet who read  One Today at Barack Obama's second inauguration.  I am reading his chapbook, Place of Mind.  And a second book by Blanco rests in my to-be-read pile. 

Can I write about home and history and the sea like Blanco?






For the class I am taking  on digital writing, this week we are reading one of our several texts,  Learning in the Cloud: How ( and Why ) to Transform Schools with Digital Media by Mark Warschauer.

Here I find several charts and suggested content that will help me complete my matrix-- Ways to Work with Digital Tools-- an assignment for the class which details my recommendations for instruction and professional development in digital writing. 


I will be featured on NWP Radio on March 28, along with Lynne R. Dorfman, co-author of Mentor Texts, Teaching Writing Through Children's Literature, K-6.  I  am looking forward to this and in preparation for our conversation, I am rereading one of  Lynne's books.

Can I effectively use and encourage others to use mentor texts in new ways?



Additionally, I am reading, in spurts, two other professional books, Ralph Fletcher's new edition of What a Writer Needs, and Christopher Lehman's Energize Research Reading and Writing


I saw Lehman speak at NCTE 2012 and wanted to read more of his ideas. I have used the first edition of Fletcher's book for years in my own teaching, and with teacher writing groups, so naturally I needed to check out the second edition..

In addition, I am currently deeply interested in sentence crafting, so I am slowly working my way through How to Write a Sentence: And  How to Read One by Stanley Fish.

Can I write nonfiction clearly and creatively like Fletcher and Lehman? Can I utilize new sentence structures that will better convey my meanings?


Finally I am also reading Seeing Red- A Pedagogy of Parallax: An Epistolary Bildungsroman on Artful Scholarly Inquiry by Pauline Sameshina ...just for my personal pleasure.

Can I write an epistolary poem embedded with information
about teacher education or writing instruction or some other academic field?


And then there are whatever current entertainment, cultural, news, professional or literary magazines and journals that have arrived.  I won't list all of those.


And  of course, there are several piles of next books, piles to shop through when I am ready for something new.

From all of these books that I am currently reading, I  am learning more about writing. I am seeing new writing possibilities.

Writers read.  And  writers read like writers.

What are you currently reading?


Today's Deeper Writing Possibility

What are you currently reading?

You may want to actually make a list.

What is each text teaching you about writing?

What might you write that is inspired by each text?