Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thirty Days of Writing: Looking Back

My December "Don't Break the Chain" Calendar
Today makes 30 days. December 1 to December 30.
I wrote for 30 minutes on every one of those 30 days.
My longest string yet.

So, on this last day of #writedaily30, I'm looking back.

Calling today "the last day" has me a little on edge. See, I can't really look at today as a "last" day. I've been successful with this challenge, but I can't afford to chance breaking the chain. I can't treat today's celebration of my accomplishment as a finale or lean on 30 days of success as a reason I don't need to write tomorrow.

The truth is, I do.

I do need to write tomorrow. And the day after. And the 363+ days that come afterward. 
I do need a place to reflect and express and play and create and explore.

I don't always need the same thing of my writing time, but I do always need my time to write.

My December #writedaily30 goal was essentially to show up. To make a commitment to keep my pen moving on paper for 30 minutes every day. No specific topic, no intended audience, no pressure to publish. Just "me" time with my notebook to see what would come.

Writing is generative.

Flitting among the pages of two (Yes, not one, but two!) notebooks, there are recurring themes and ideas I have circled back to. There are pages that house classroom vignettes or specific memories I'll be glad to hold on to. And there are occasional rants or outpourings of questions--followed by more questions--that may never have real answers. But that's ok.

All of it is, actually. Because it's evidence of how my thinking and my life as a writer are evolving. Together.

Last night I set a timer for five additional minutes after my 30 had passed. I wanted those five-more-minutes to respond to Linda Urban's prompt: What have you learned about yourself? What have you learned about goals and daily writing and commitment?

Reflective notes flowed freely from my pen. I was astonishing by the ease in which I was listing! Could it be that while my attention was turned to keeping a 30-day writing commitment and establishing a habit, I was glazing over some bigger realizations? Like these:

  • Ideas come to me. All. The. Time. An offshoot of writing daily means that consciously or subconsciously, I anticipate the chance to write. My daily goings on include observing, generating, and storing ideas for writing time, whether intentional or not.
  • My notebook is an extension of myself. Along with my wristlet and phone, my notebook is the third thing that travels with me almost everywhere. And I depend on my notebook to catch my randomness--inspirations or otherwise.
  • Sometimes the pressure of posting publicly stifles me as a writer. I get caught up in doing it right. Giving myself permission to "take a break" from blogging was hard, but a necessary reprieve to let me get back to reflecting on and banking ideas. And I've come away with at least a dozen smaller writing pieces that I can return to. That said...
  • I need to up the ante on myself. Free writing with no pressure has been what I needed this month, but now I need to attend to a nagging idea that is begging for more of my attention. It's time to find a balance between continuing to generate writing and making project-specific progress.
  • As solitary and personal as writing is, keeping the company of other writers is motivating to me. Beyond the gentle nudge of accountability, the #writedaily30 community is special, generously encouraging one another with positive responses to expressions of relief or frustration.

Today I'm celebrating my success. 
I kept a commitment for 30 days and wrote 30 minutes on each of those days.
And I came away with lots of possible blog posts, a project to pursue, and a whole lot to think through about what it means to be a writer and a teacher of writing.

I'm pretty sure I still need to write tomorrow.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Letter to My Blog

Dear Neglected Blog,

I'm sorry. I realize I've done a really poor job of keeping you refreshed and up-to-date with my reading diet, happy celebrations, and otherwise random musings of classroom life and professional endeavors. I feel really guilty that I have not shared the highlights of #NCTE14 or amazing connections my students have had with books and authors. I know it likely seems I have been swallowed whole by a book I have yet to review, and that is somewhat disheartening to you. It is to me, too.

So, let me begin by reassuring you: I am still the same "me." I'm still doing important work helping kids find who they are and assume their place of responsibility in a crazy world every day. I'm still a nerdy book lover, devouring middle grade novels in a single sitting (when I can). I'm still thinking-incessantly-about what is going right in my professional world and what needs to change. And, I'm still writing, I promise. In fact, I'm writing more now than ever before.

So then, you ask, what's the deal?
Why no new posts since mid-November?
Why the skipped weeks of #IMWAYR?


For the most part, it's because I'm writing
A lot. 
All the time. 
In my notebook.
To reach this point, I've had to give myself permission to relax about posting to you, sad Blog. I've had to allow myself the freedom to write to explore my ideas without the expectation of publishing for an audience, without the pressure of finding words that are pretty, or perfect, or provocative enough to interest readers. And you know-just between you and I-doing so has actually give me PAGES of what feel like possibilities. Possibilities for researching and revisiting and revising... Things that might grow into blog posts I can share later, that will help you appear "impressive."

Dear Blog, I hear your cry of concern that time is passing me by, and I'm not saying enough or showing everyone else who I am. I share your concern a little, too. But right now, this free, personal writing feels good, feels promising. So I'm going to trust in it...for a little while longer.

I want people to look at you...I do. I hope you can one day do even more to introduce me to people and connect me to great professionals with whom I can stretch my thinking. For now though, I beg you, be patient with me and my process. Support me in taking the quiet road. I have some things I need to think about. Explore. Tussle out. 
For a few more weeks, at least.

I will be back. Don't give up on me. 

I'm just finding my way.

Your wandering (but no less committed) writer,

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (12.1.14)

Every Monday bloggers all over the web participate in an effort to share books we have read and what we are excited about digging into. Thanks to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee & Ricki at Unleashing Readers for hosting us all!

What I Read this Week:

Ranger in Time #1: Rescue on the Oregon Trail, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Kelley McMorris
(Scholastic Press, January 6, 2015)
     Sam Abbott and his family are traveling west on the Oregon Trail when they are joined by Ranger, a time-traveling dog who has strayed from his owner, Luke, left in the present. Ranger's adventures in the past include traveling the Oregon Trail, complete with illness, stampedes, and challenging terrain. 
Ethan's Ranger in Time Fan Art
     No one will be able to resist the relationship formed between Sam and his family and Ranger, and readers will feel connected to Ranger themselves as though they are traveling, too. The factual information about westward travel is woven well into the text, making history digestible for developing readers. I read this book aloud with my 6-year old nephew over the Thanksgiving holiday. He loved Ranger and can hardly wait for more!
The Yeti Files, by Kevin Sherry
(Scholastic Press, September 30, 2014)
     This first book in Kevin Sherry's new series introduces cryptids and their enemy, the cryptozoologist who is on a mission to debunk the creatures as mythical. 
     Sherry's artwork and book design will appeal to transitional readers who are looking for a book of length but not prepared for pages of text. The book is highly scaffolded with drawings, including diagrams and maps. My students are grappling to be the next to read this book. 

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
(Candlewick, October 14, 2014)
     Sam & Dave set out to dig a hole and find something splendid, but with each move they make, they narrowly miss the treasure they are after.
     Ever a fan of the Barnett/Klassen team and their individual works, this book was a treat for myself at NCTE '14. The artwork is beautiful and telling. With each page and a new "near miss" of the treasure, students are sure to be giggling and slapping their foreheads. 

What I am Currently Reading:
The Friendship Riddle , by Megan Frazer Blakemore
(Bloomsbury USA Childrens, May 5, 2015, ARC)

What I am Reading Next:
Mark of the Thief, by Jennifer Nielsen
All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven
How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel, by Jess Keating