Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday Quick Write 6/28

     Today the quick-write prompt that I chose was to write a story from the perspective of another character.  This prompt actually coincided nicely with the topic that my writing group chose in my workshop today, although I am tweaking it a bit. 
     Before I start with my writing, I want to say that I really liked the idea of using a word cloud to help to discover a theme in a piece of text.  I think this would be a great experience for students. I also think it would be a good exercise for them in word choice. 

 Summerfest from the perspective of an inanimate object

Brainstorm: Stage
Spitting      Different types of music    Breath      Heat     Over-worked      Different shoes
Loud     Back breaking with dancing    Equipment scrapes      Annoying screams 

Here are my attempts:

Heat spills off my back
Stomping, jumping, and twirling
Can't they just stand still?

      Ear-piercing sound vibrates through me. Tonight it is one of those pathetic boy band groups.  I know I will have to hear teenage screams all night as well as the nauseating music.  Every year it seems to get worse.  When I first started, the music was decent at least and that made it easier to have the stamina to get through it all.   Now, the endurable music is few and far between and I feel exhaustion creeping in.  Night after night crews scrape and bump equipment on and off my back without even trying to take care.  There are scars and scrapes everywhere showing the long years of service.  Every night I endure an endless barrage of mediocre music while supporting multiple areas of my body so that I won't ache so much in the morning.  The worst is when the band is energetic and likes to move.  I cringe as their heels dig in every time they jump, twirl, or stomp their way through another song.   Each type of shoe brings its own particular brand of torture.  Stilettos seem to be made especially to bring pain.   Thank goodness I only have to work during the festival season.  I am not sure I could survive this workload if I had to do it all year. 

Not a lot of writing here but an interesting exercise.  I would like to revisit this sometime when I have more time to spend refining it.  I can see how an activity like this would work well in the classroom as a prompt.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Teachers Write 6/26 Quick Write

 Today's quick write prompt is a multi-media prompt.  The assignment was to find an image of a person and to begin to develop the character from that image by also finding songs that would represent the character.  I will focus on the girl in the image here.

The girl in this image has long brown hair, and brown eyes.  She is beautiful and has a round face with a long nose.  She is a smart girl and works hard in school.  Her passion is music and many people do not know this about her.  She has been playing the cello since she was 6 years old.   At this moment in time she is sitting on this boat furiously hoping that this friend of hers will realize that she is crazy about him and kiss her.  She doesn't want to look too interested in him and so she is pretending to be content to sit and contemplate the horizon.  She does not want to be too hopeful because she has messed up friendships in the past by reading signals wrong.  This friend of hers just lost his dad a month ago so she is trying to be there for him without adding pressure to his situation.

External Song: James Taylor   You've Got a Friend

Internal Songs: Bonnie Raitt  Something to Talk About   Cello Suite No.1-- Bach

As she stared into the distance, Katie couldn't help but feel a tickle of anticipation.  Surely Taylor was feeling something too.  They had been spending a lot of time together since his dad died.  She had been there at the hospital, through the awful next days at the house, and through the whole funeral.  She had not left his side.  Everyone said what a great friend she was, but she wanted more.  She peeked at Taylor, he seemed so deep in thought.  Katie wondered if he was thinking the same thing that she was.  She knew she should say something, but she couldn't.  It had been so awful when she lost Chris' friendship.  She had read that situation wrong and made a move at the wrong time.  What followed was awkward and horrible.  She could not do that to Taylor...not when he had just gone through this awful time.  On the other hand, they could have something amazing if he felt the same.  Katie wished she had her cello with her.  When she was playing her music nothing seemed impossible.  This opportunity was surely the one she had been waiting for.  They had hardly had any time alone lately with all of Taylor's relatives around and his mother so worried about him.

Children at the Beach

     As we pulled up to the beach house, I could barely contain my excitement.  This was it, this once a year ritual that my brothers and I had.  As soon as the car came to a stop, we vaulted out and raced to the beach.  Knowing we were going there, we had come prepared and all of us had swim suits on.
    "Last one there is a rotten egg," my kid brother, Kevin screamed.  You had to love that little kid attitude.  Kevin burst into giggles as he darted toward the water.  The kid had two speeds: lightning fast and asleep.  I stopped just long enough to peel away my dress and reveal the turquoise bikini that had cost me babysitting money and a fight with my dad.  Then, it was full speed ahead into the frigid water.  Once we had all gotten used to the water, we all sort of congregated together.  Standing here in the water, I thought about how we always seem to be at war except for these first few peaceful moments on vacation.  I wonder why I had been so adamantly against this trip.  I thought back to Thursday when I announced to my mother that I would not be coming to Englewood this year and that was my final decision.  That went so well that seven fights and three nights grounded in my room later here I was.  I don't know what I was thinking.  How could I forget about the salty air and the soothing sound of the waves crashing on the shore?  I looked over at my brother Lenny who now had had enough of standing still and was searching the shore for sea glass, coaching Kevin about the finer points of a search on the beach.  These two dorks drove me bonkers every day of the year, but I couldn't imagine life without them.
"Lenny, where should I look?" I shouted, as I got down to the business of being an older sister.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Teachers Write 6/18

Today's assignment on Teachers Write had two great ideas for generating ideas in writing.  The first idea was to go to a random word generator and let the random words inspire a quick write.  This is my attempt:

Random Words:     Lizard     Edge

As she sat there on the balcony basking in the bright sunshine, she couldn't help but notice the lizards clinging to the outside of the house across the street.  How different this life was from the one she left in Wisconsin.  It was so fascinating how things that are mainstream in one place could be so exotic in another place.  The outside wall of the house across the street had five small lizards basking in that same sunlight and hanging there as if it were a lazy day lying on the beach.  Everything here in Sevilla seemed to move in a slower way and to defy gravity in the slightest way.  Deciding to study here was the best decision she had ever made.  

The second idea is similar to the Nancie Atwell idea that I use every year at the beginning of the school year--writing territories--except this idea has a much more directed brainstorm list.  I am really excited to spend time doing this thinking and I hope it will help me come up with some great ideas for writing.

Setting Ideas:
1. List ten places that you have lived in your lifetime:  Camp Webb, Glenside Circle, Brookfield, Oconomowoc, The Cochrane House--Madison, Langdon Street, Triana, Gran Plaza, Grandma's house, Milwaukee

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.)
Camp Webb, The house/small bathroom in Brookfield, Kopps, Disneyworld, St. Francis Church, Memorial Union, Gambrinus, Streets of Sevilla

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:  Mallorca, Australia, Paris, Other cities in Italy, Greece, Grand Canyon, Tropical islands, Key West

4. List ten places from which your ancestors or in-laws come: Spain, Germany, England, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Poland

5. List ten books or movies that have settings you’ve found particularly captivating:  Harry Potter--I LOVE Hogwarts and the idea that there is another world right in the same space as the real world,  

Character Ideas:

6. List ten jobs whether paying or volunteer that you’ve done in your life: tutoring, Urban Outfitters, Culvers, Respite care for families, baby-sitting, camp counselor, charity fundraiser

7. List ten famous people, historical or contemporary, that you would love to share a meal with: Jane Austen, Barack Obama, Oprah, Emily Dickenson, JK Rowling, Walt Disney, Matt Damon, Madeline L'Engle, Picasso, Sarah McLachlan

8. List ten ethnicities, religions, tribes, cultural groups, gender or sexual orientations, or political philosophies that are represented in your extended family: Spanish, Irish, Catholic, Episcopalian, Religious right, conservative, liberal,

9. List ten people who can make you laugh: Ramon, Matt, Tim, Konell, Tony, Christen, Scrubs, Bernie Mac, Jim, Michelle, Carl

10. Complete this sentence ten times. “I’ve always wanted to _____ like ____________"

Sing like Sarah MchLachlan, Perform on Broadway, write like Jane Austen, Dance like an Irish dancer, Cook like Giada or Mario, Do gymnastics like Mary Lou Retton, Ice Skate like an Olympian, Ride horseback like an equestrian

I didn't quite get to 10 ideas in each list, but I definitely see the value in an exercise like this for a great idea bank.  I will have more than enough ideas to pull from here and these guided lists will help me add to my writing territories list this summer and at the start of the school year.

I want to do the Monday quick write from Jo Knowles' blog as well, but I am having a hard time coming up with a project to describe.  I will have to let that idea simmer for a night and I hope that I will come up with something tomorrow.  If not, I will do what I tell my students to do if they can't think of a real-life example for a prompt---make it up.

Happy Writing to all of my fellow Teachers Write participants...see you tomorrow.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Teachers Write Week 2 Tuesday prompt

     Since I do not currently have a work-in-progress, I decided to write the letter about a character that I am tossing around in my head right now.  I have witnessed my husband's immigrant journey and feel that it would be an excellent story to follow a teenager who is going through similar things.  I have had some interesting interactions with my in-laws because of cultural differences and I wonder what it would be like to be a teenager having to deal with these situations with your own parents and grandparents.  To that end, I have written a fake e-mail to my mother describing this girl, who does not have a name yet.

Hi Mom!

   I hope you are doing well and enjoying your time up north with the family.  I had a fabulous week and am excited to start summer vacation.

   This morning I met the most interesting girl.  She has been living in the USA for most of her life, but her parents are from Spain.  Ramon and I met her parents and invited the family over for one of our ex-patriot parties so they could connect with the other Spaniards in town. She is a typical teenager but feels a little out of place at times because of the way her parents act.  I can tell that it is embarrassing to her that her family does things differently at times.  Her grades are good and she likes school.  She is definitely an amazing soccer player and she is looking forward to some good prospects for scholarships to good schools.  When her friends ask her about her culture, she sometimes feels like an alien and is sometimes blown away by the stupidity and ignorance of their questions.  Why should she have to defend her love of caracoles to anyone?  They are delicious!  What kind of moron asks if there is popcorn in Spain?  What a stupid question!  Her abuela is an amazing person and I can tell that she has a great relationship with her, albeit a long-distance one throughout most of the year.  Her abuela is always telling her Spanish old-wives tales and she has to constantly decide which superstitions to abide by.  I am excited to get to know this teenager better.  I think she also has a younger brother and possibly other younger siblings.  I am sure that she loves to read and will be reading all kinds of books in Spanish and English when I run into her in the future.

    That's all for now.  I am sure I will have more to say about this girl in the future.

Teachers Write Week 2 list poem

     I am working this morning on catching up with the prompts from this week of writing.  I am surprised at myself by how lazy I was about writing this week.  The only excuse I have is that it was exhausting working on packing up my classroom and I was drained each night.  I also have the reading addiction and now that I have such great contacts on twitter and through this camp, I am completely sucked into fabulous books!  I am looking forward to having actual time off to work on writing and reading.  Next week is my first complete week off and I only have a few meetings and inservices so I will be able to devote more time to this. 

    I think one of the things that stopped me this week was the Monday prompt.  I was so impressed with that beautiful list poem that Jo Knowles posted that it was incredibly hard for me to think about trying to emulate it.  Here's my attempt:

I love how he becomes a little child
when he enters his mother's house,
because he knows that this is what she wants
he lets her spoil him
I love that he melts
when there is an animal around
how he loves Carmela and took in Sparky.
The insecurities he feels when faced
with unknown tasks make him so vulnerable.
I love how there is always music playing when he is around
How he has to pause before starting a drive
making sure that he has the perfect CD for his trip
The way he learned guitar but not in a conventional way,
learning riffs and sounds he liked, not whole songs.
How he is on an endless hunt for more great albums
scoffing at people who say they love music but don't know
what he does.
I love the way he shouts out the number of the answer in trivia
while I play,
repeating it over and over as if I didn't hear him the first time.
He loves to help me win.
How he knows when I need a hug
without my saying anything.
I love his righteous anger when things upset me
and his extreme patience with my extreme perfectionism.
I love the way that he uses the word "on" for all prepositions
confusing himself in his quest to master English.
How he cried when Spain won the World Cup,
so proud of his country.
How he looked so proud on the day of his naturalization ceremony.
And again on our first day together at the polls.
I love that he has caught the reading bug from my endless hounding
it is so fun to talk books with him
Most of all I love that we have grown together through the years,
learning to enjoy the things we each enjoy
learning to survive
learning to grieve together over disappointments
learning to argue
learning to love unconditionally and fully. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Library QUick Write--Thursday

It can't be right.  It just can't have happened that way.  I was just strolling along on my way to pick up some new books and there he was.  He really did it.  He asked me out.  I can't believe it.  Wait, did I just say that I would go to a movie with Justin Hunt?  Oh my god!  Did I have anything on my face?  Where's a mirror when you need one?  I must have looked okay or he would have run in the other direction.  Okay, first things first, I must find some advice on first dates.  I came in here for books, but this is an emergency that takes precedence over my book lust.  Thank goodness for the media part of a library/media center.  Okay, calm down.  Once I Google first dates and make sure I have the perfect outfit picked out and know what to say I can get down to my library business.  Must. Find. Computer.  Oh, hello Mr. iMac, how are you?  What say you do some magic for me and help me get this research out of the way.

    I sit down at the computer and start searching for advice columns.  It takes much longer than I anticipated and soon the lunch bell rings and I realize that I have missed my chance to eat anything as well as my chance to look for books.  I quickly grab the scribbles that I have for notes and scramble out of the library, headed for AP American History.  I am hardly aware of the crush of bodies as I tunnel my way through groups of friends milling around in the hallway.  I can't stop replaying the scene in my head and a part of me wishes I had spent more time noticing the details of what I am sure will be the "how it all began" story we will tell our grandchildren.  I realize as I arrive to class that I am still without a book to read and I will have to visit the library again after school.  Somehow this whole situation has made a mess of my brain like that old commercial about drugs,  "This is your brain (egg)...this is your brain on drugs (frying egg in pan)" except this is my brain on Justin.  I will have to get a grip soon or my whole school day will be lost to me.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day 2 Writing Camp

Okay, so I started this blog in order to do some of the assignments for the Teachers Write camp this summer.  I am not sure about sharing my draft writing with people but I have decided that I will be brave and share.  Today's assignment was a quick write that ended with a descriptive paragraph of a place.  I went to my favorite place on Earth in my writing.  When I have written with my students in class, this is always a place I go to...I think that if I do get a novel going it will involve this place in some way.  I now have many ideas flowing for further exploration.

My brainstorming and Quickwrite:

Ruthie in the kitchen giving me a ruthie roll and Don and Pam giving me kool-aid in their kitchen.  I walk down the wooden steps that my dad helped build and approach the beach on the lake.  The shack there is full of canoes and paddles and life jackets.  
Everything I see:  The playground is empty as I walk past.  The merry-go-round that used to be there has been replaced with a memorial to the two kids who lost their lives there.  There is a path to every important place here.  I can see the tall trees moving in the breeze and the old dining hall with its screen doors and huge bell.  I walk toward the craft lodge and see the chairs that were painted the year I was the crafts director.  And then there is also the Super-biffy...the shower/toilet house that was built when I was young.  
Everything I hear:  The laughs and high-pitched shrieks that let me know that children are having fun.  The wind rustling through the trees and the birds calling out.  I hear the bell waking everyone up and setting the schedule for the day.  People are calling greetings to one another as they come in and out of the shower house.  I hear the stream of hissing water as people shower and get ready for the new day.  At night I hear crickets and other bugs as I lay there.  I hear the pop and crackle of the flames in the campfire and a guitar strumming elsewhere in camp.  
Everything I smell:  I smell the musty humid smell of the house and the cabins.  I smell the fire and the air that is clean.  The Super biffy smells like mildew and concrete mixed with the various shampoos and soaps that people are using.  In the dining hall I smell the stench of old wood and floor wax.  I smell the crisp air at night as I star-gaze in the peaceful night.  
Everything I feel:  The wind rustles my hair and presses against my skin.  I feel the branches of the trees near my head.  I feel the uneven ground under my feet.  I feel the oar in my hand and the cool lake water.  
The paragraphs I came up with from this prewriting:

 As I slowly meander my way down the lane, I shiver with anticipation.  This is my favorite place on Earth and I cannot believe I am lucky enough to be arriving here once again.  This time I know it will be different.  This time I get to stay for the entire summer and provide amazing experiences for campers.  As I approach the dining hall I smell the pine forest and feel the crisp breeze rustling past.  The cool air of the morning makes me shiver as I walk toward the doors.  In the dining hall, there is the distinct smell of new carpeting and I wonder how long ago they replaced it.  It feels weird being in this new space when I have always been in old buildings while at camp.  I walk into the office and introduce myself to the secretary.  The director comes out and greets me and then the two of them tell me where I will be staying this summer.  
     When I leave the dining hall I turn right and take a deep breath.  I can’t believe how crisp and fresh the air is here.  The gravel crunches under my feet as I slowly make my way past the old dining hall and the Super Biffy.  The playground looks lonely as I walk past and I have to fight an urge to run over to the swings.  In a few days this area will be chock full of campers and I won’t be able to take a turn.  Seeing the jungle gym reminds me of the merry-go-round that used to be here and I silently pray that nothing like that tragic accident will happen while I am here.  To the left is the small arts and crafts lodge that I will be taking over for the summer.  I can’t wait to get in there and get started with the fun.  I continue forward to the campsites and walk into the center of the cabins.  Walking into a clearing I approach the picnic table and sit down.  Six cabins surround me and a flood of memories rushes me.  I walk over to the counselor cabin and the screen door screeches open.  I let the door slam behind me and revel in the smell of forest and rain that greets me.  It feels like I have never left this place and, even though I will have to sleep on the nasty old cots that are there, I know that I will sleep soundly knowing that I am home.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Teachers Write Assignment #1

     Today the writing camp that I joined has begun.  First assignment?  Make time to write.  Writing this summer is a priority for me.  The plan for the summer is to set aside at least 30 minutes a day to write.  I will write in the mornings while I have coffee and enjoy the most contemplative time of day.  Another time that I might use for writing is the evening before bed.  Throughout this summer my husband Ramon will be busy in evenings with summer school classes.  I am best at thinking when I am alone so that seems like a good time as well.  Since I am going to be spending two weeks this summer in a writing project workshop, I am sure that I will be able to kickstart and maintain my writing momentum throughout the summer.  When the school year starts, I will continue to write before bed in the evening.  I will write in the living room on the couch or at my desk, depending on what I am working on.  I am excited to set up my writer's notebook just so and I will explore the world of blog writing this summer as well.

     The writing prompt that Jo Knowles provided this morning has really got me thinking.  She recommended that we start by imagining a childhood kitchen.  I immediately pictured the kitchen at our house on Glenside Circle.  The kitchen was open and accessible from the dining room, the family room, and the hallway.  Our table was always busy with people sitting and working on homework or just family conversation.  I remember the blue patterned wallpaper and the yellow phone on the wall.  There are so many stories that I have flooding into my brain with this idea...the time I dropped the pot of boiling water while making mac and cheese, the morning battles with my screaming sister telling me not to look at her, making Christmas cookies with the powdered sugar glaze, the time my dad got so mad he threw the silverware tray and stormed out of the kitchen, slamming the door behind him.  I wish I had more time right now to start exploring these ideas...but it will have to wait.  I will possibly write more in the morning about this topic.