I was given the delightful gift of being able to teach some bonus writing lessons in the week before spring break. Four lessons is not enough to tackle a full writing unit, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about some different poetry forms with my 3rd graders. I'm a fiction writer through and through and don't consider myself a poet, but as it is a form I admire, I thought I'd give my students a chance to be poets. We ended up trying out three different types of poems: cinquains, triolets, and list poems. Not surprisingly, my talented young writing students blew me away with the work they produced. We ended our mini-unit with a poetry reading and their enthusiasm and pride in their work made it the best poetry reading I've ever attended. But the best result of this was that my most stubbornly reluctant writer produced more poems than any other student in the class and declared that this was the best writing unit he'd ever experienced. I realized how poetry is the perfect writing vehicle for writers of any age to enter in at their comfort level and still produce a piece they are proud to share. My students who tend to struggle didn't get overwhelmed because our final products were meant to be short. My students who crave extra challenge got to show off their flair for metaphors and their ability to think outside the box; most of them wrote more than the required number of poems. My teacher-self has been mentally planning out ways to incorporate far more poetry writing into my lesson plans for next year.
My writer-self gently reminded me that my inner poet should be allowed to come out and play again. If writing poetry helps open up my 3rd graders to new writing adventures, then it could surely do the same for me. I remind myself that when I let go of the need to make my work fit within a traditional narrative, I end up with pieces like Spearmint Tea that live somewhere between poetry and fiction, and that is a pretty cool place to hang out every once in a while for any writer.
So in honor of National Poetry Month, let me leave you with a link to my all-time favorite poem by a very talented poet and fiction writer. What It Feels Like by Alice Walker
Happy (Poetry) Writing!
My flash fiction The Grannies can be read in Dual Coast's third issue. If you're are interested in reading it, you can get your very own copy of this awesome issue here or if you prefer your reading to be paperless, you can subscribe to their online content here. Happy Reading!
Happy New Year! 2015 was a year of change and growth for me. While much of it was spent in a not so happy mental state, I definitely arrived in a much happier place by the time the year drew to an end. I am working at a school with a strong sense of community where I feel I can learn and grow as a teacher, and my love of writing is a strong as ever. I am excited about what 2016 has in store for me!
A habit I have kept over the years is to keep a log of the books I have read, and as I was looking over my 2015 reading log, I thought I would share some of my favorites. Just to clarify, these are books I read last, but did not necessarily hit the shelves for the first time in 2015.
Best New (to me!) Author
The His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers was by far one of my favorite discoveries this year. What's not to love about teenage assassin nuns? I devoured this trilogy and can't way to see what Ms. LaFevers writes next!
Best Book for Young Readers
I am a fan of Alice Hoffman in general, but was excited to see she'd written a book for children/tweens. This beautiful story did not disappoint me! It is a story of love and acceptance, and I fell hard for all the quirky characters in this book!
I discovered Sarah Addison Allen when I found Garden Spells in the library a few years ago. I was immediately enchanted by her characters and the town she created. Naturally I was excited to learn a sequel to was coming out that continued the Waverly family story in early 2015. First Frost did not disappoint! Ms. Allen continues to enchant me with everything she writes!
Best Series Fix
Patricia Briggs is one of those authors that leaves me jonesing for a fix between every one of her novels. I've been hooked on both her Mercy Thompson series and the spinoff Alpha and Omega series for a few years now and was ecstatic to get my fix via Dead Heat this year. I have a confession to make. . . I actually like her spinoff series a teensy weensy bit more than the original series, so this fix was especially good for me. Now when's the next one coming out?
Best Standalone Novel
Seeing as I was just gushing over Ms. Allen's work above, it should come as no surprise that in 2015, I made it a point to read every other novel she's written, which was a satisfying reading quest, no doubt, but also has left me with nothing new of hers to read. Of those other novels, I found Lost Lake to be my favorite of her standalone novels. Here's hoping she's hard at work on something new for me to read in 2016!
So those were the best of the books I read in 2015! What's on your list? What are you looking forward to reading in 2016?
Happy Writing (and reading!)
One of my shorter flash pieces was adopted by Burningword Literary Journal and can be read online for free or you can pick up issue 76 of their print journal and read it there. This particular piece is one that I've always believed in despite the number of rejections it received. I couldn't be more thrilled that Burningword believes in it too!
Lots of changes afoot in my life, and all for the positive! I hope to post more about that soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a recent publication. After the Pause published one of my short flash fictions in their September issue. Additionally, this same story was highlighted on 101 Words' Flash Fiction Sunday feature where Grace Black chose four flash fiction pieces (including mine!) and had lovely things to say about them. I highly recommend reading the other three stories she selected in addition to mine. She found some stunning writing ,and I am so flattered that mine was among her choices. Hoping to get some more updates around her very soon, but in the meantime, happy writing!
A story I wrote years ago was accepted into an anthology about siblings. I wrote this story when I was in college and the inspiration came in part from the balloon festival that happened every Labor Day weekend in my hometown when I was growing up. At the time that I wrote it, my older brother was not really a part of my life. As this was a couple years after we'd lost my father, I was struggling with the realization that the time we have to "fix" relationships with loved ones is limited. Years later, we unexpectedly lost my brother. I am happy to say that my brother and I had started building a relationship at long last, though it was nowhere to the point that I would have liked it to have been, it was at least in a positive place.
The story I wrote back in college came from a place of love for my brother, and it sat untouched for years before I felt like I could dust it off and send it out in the world. I am happy it found a home in an anthology that celebrates siblings. You can order your own copy of this beautiful anthology here.
Melusine has been so kind as to give one of my flash pieces a home in their latest issue. It's a great little magazine and I highly recommend you check it out here.
As way of an update on my life, I've been writing a lot and in general figuring out my next career steps that will allow me to keep writing at the center of my focus.
I've only ever submitted on poem for publication in recent years because, let's face it, I am a fiction writer through and through. But a couple years ago, I wrote a whole series of prose poems that together serve as a memoir of sorts. I submitted one of those prose poems to Ginger Piglet for their Chicago themed issue, and I am thrilled that they accepted it. The sad news is, that the Chicago Issue is actually their final one. But it is an amazing issue and you should definitely check it out. Especially take the time to admire the photo art on the cover. A friend of mine took the picture!
In other news, I am currently in transition career-wise, but hoping to turn my focus back more toward writing, which hopefully will mean more frequent updates around here. I also have another flash piece slated to be published sometime this month so keep an eye out for that update as well.
In the meantime folks, happy writing!
I am extremely late in announcing this, but the life of a teacher leaves little room for much except. . . well, teaching, of course! However, I am very pleased to announce that my short story Golden Delicious was published in Issue 6 of Graze Magazine. This food themed local magazine is gorgeously delicious and overflowing with brilliant writing. I am ecstatic that they chose my work to grace their pages. Check them out here.
So it is obviously not an unusual thing around here for me to go a long time between posts. I've been in grad school and it pretty much sucked up every free moment I've had for the last two years. But it's totally been worth it because I feel ready for the next adventure in my life. I am so excited about the prospect of starting my first teaching job in a few weeks. Wherever that happens to be. :)
So, just to let you know how I've been filling my time instead of sitting here blogging, I compiled a list of what I have done (so far) on my summer vacation.
10. Reading, reading, and more reading!
I've been checking out a lot of YA literature especially and hope to get some reviews up for you next week. But let me just say, you should go read Bird by Crystal Chan. Just go do it. Trust me!
9. Shopping for my future classroom.
In the hopes that I will find an upper elementary school or middle school language arts teaching position, I hit up Open Books for their annual 50% off sale and scored some good finds for my classroom library.
8. Keeping a dream journal.
This is something I started doing back in 2012 at the beginning of my grad school adventures when I was having some interesting stress dreams, but with my busy schedule, it didn't last long. I have always loved dreams though and often get some interesting story ideas from them, so I wanted to get back into the habit of writing down my dreams now while I have more time to do so.
7. Volunteering with the Chicago Force.
Most people aren't even aware that Chicago has a women's professional tackle football team. But we do and they are amazing. They are also the current national champions and we'll be hosting the championship here in Chicago this year. You can usually find me in the ticket booth during games and I am proud to support such an amazing organization which is doing its part to break down gender barriers in professional sports as well as inspiring young female athletes every day!
6. Rediscovering forgotten writing projects.
I think every writer has those forgotten files saved somewhere on a random flash drive or taking up space in their Dropbox account, and I recently started exploring all these files I haven't opened up in years. And some of the things I found were quite inspiring! Can't wait to blow the dust off of these unfinished stories and flesh out these untouched ideas.
5. Cleaning and Organizing
My office (and attached closet) is truly neat and tidy for the first time in months. I know where everything is and I have found oodles of great supplies that I can bring into my classroom this fall -- opening up more space in my office!
Vegan Shepard's Pie topped with polenta was a great success and now probably my favorite comfort food. But we've also made some great fish tacos and I have oodles more recipes I plan to try out in the coming weeks.
3. Meeting with my writing partner every week.
This has been such a great source of happiness for me to reconnect with my writing partner so we can support each other through our current projects. Because of her motivation, I am writing almost every day again!
Almost two weeks ago, me, along with my 20 amazing classmates, all gave our Master's Presentations and celebrated the fact that we are done, and we are teachers! It was a great day and I am so proud to be part of such a talented, smart, wonderful group of teachers. Yay, Cohort 10!
1. Finishing my novel!
And last, but certainly not least, last week I wrote the final sentence to my WIP. This will actually be the third novel I have finished in the last five years, but this is the one that I feel is ready. The one I know I can send out into the world and be proud of. Just as soon as I finish those pesky revisions. . .
And so, that is how I've been spending my summer vacation so far. What do you think? Spending my time wisely? How about you? Whatever you've been up to, I hope it involves some relaxation and fun!
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