A great quote from one of my favorite books, Steal Like an Artist.
Thanks, Austin Kleon!
Hope yours was a wonderful Monday!
A great quote from one of my favorite books, Steal Like an Artist.
Thanks, Austin Kleon!
Hope yours was a wonderful Monday!
I’ve always got a stack of things to read, don’t you? My stack’s typically related to my latest interest or project. I’m a nonfiction reader, my current stack a mish-mash of art techniques and inspiration, small business ownership, and the craft of writing. When writing evaded me over the past year, I figured I’d read about writing until my own writing mojo found its way back! And my dear husband, who reads mostly on his iPad or iPhone (BIG screen) feeds my wish to have books near me… Christmas 2014 found a stack of Writing books and Writing magazine subscriptions under the tree…. a welcome diversion in a year that was often silent.
Here are a few that make my short list in an other otherwise long list of Writing resources, some found in the quiet of 2015 and several from years past:
First up – Stephen King’s, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a fascinating read about the man behind the typewriter. The best part is, you don’t have to be a fan of his fiction to get a lot out of this book, though it’s definitely a bonus. One of hundreds of tips to ponder as you read his book:
“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”
Remember his gruesome accident in 1999, when he was hit by a car while out for a walk? That chance encounter makes a small appearance in this book….
Another favorite is one I wrote about [here] in 2014, How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark. In that post, I ask:
How many words was your last blog post or article? Under 100? 500? 1,000? Did you get your message across? How do you know? Could you have said it in fewer words without losing its essence? What would have been the benefit of doing so?
Mr. Clark discusses the history of language and communication in this book, with an emphasis on short-form communication, a style that continues to be one of my favorites. I’ve read a few of his books, even buying a copy for a few friends…. good stuff!
Third on my list, 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form, by Dom Sagolla, one of the co-creators of Twitter, is a nod to short-form communication, too, with a pretty cool discussion about the telegraph and Twitter. I originally blogged about this book in 2010 and did a remix in 2014 [here]. Brevity. Practicing. 😉
Next up on my list is a little book with a big message that was actually the second one I read by author, Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!
A newer favorite, A Writer Teaches Writing, Second Edition, by Donald M. Murray, is ironically a much older publication, but a serendipitous discovery while reading Roy Peter Clark’s work. He referenced his ‘good friend Donald M. Murray,’ and in an instant I was taken back to a time I couldn’t remember clearly, but the name tickled my brain. Turns out, the copyright date is 1985, the year I graduated from high school, and the book appears to be a soft-cover textbook, like the ones found in high school and college composition classes … I suspect we crossed paths during my tumultuous high school and early college years – the book and I – it waiting patiently for me to be ‘ready’ to read it… which came 30 years later.
I also suspect I may have read some of his work back then and just don’t remember it specifically. He summarizes his first chapter titled, Learning to Allow Learning, this way:
Several key assumptions underlie this book:
- Writing is Thinking
- Writing is a Process
- Effective Teaching is Responsive
- Writing is an Interaction of the Global and the Particular
- There is No One Way
When I read this book in the past year, I remember thinking, It’s as if I wrote some parts of this book, like he was in my head! Now, I’m no Donald M. Murray, but my teaching/learning/writing philosophies are incredibly similar… Somehow, this man’s writing must have influenced me earlier on… lucky me, indeed.
The last book is one that arrived in the Christmas 2014 stack, but only recently made its migration from bookshelf to nightstand when I ‘re’discovered it on one of my Amazon Wish Lists and was about to buy the Kindle copy (because I was too impatient for Amazon Prime …overnight or two-day just wouldn’t do!) and realized, ‘Hey! I think I’ve got this book!’ Sure enough, waiting for me to find it when I was ready, A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement, sat quietly on my bookshelf.
Barbara Abercrombie’s compilation of anecdotal stories and quotes from fellow writers is a pleasant read and a joy to share.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Are there others you’d recommend? I’m always looking for new titles to replenish that nightstand stack. 😉
It’s funny what we can learn from seemingly difficult situations if we just take the time and trust the process, isn’t it?
Lately, I’ve struggled with what to do when those voices inside our head take a break.
Find the words and nurture the voices, of course!
For as long as I can remember, words have been an important part of who I am. I’ve loved to write. Lately though, the quietude has perplexed me.
What can I do to find the words and nurture the voices? I wondered.
After struggling with the quiet for while, I began exploring other creative outlets, each a bit different from the other, each igniting my sense of wonder and curiosity at what I could create, what I’m capable of….
I’m generally a glass half-full sorta’ gal. 😉
1. Card Design – something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but never took the time to actually create…. ’til now. I revamped my writing space to make it part writing retreat/part art studio. Now, my long-lost art supplies are front-and-center next to my new supplies. LOVE it!! The colors, textures, and materials constantly call out to me, making me incredibly happy… and content. Valentine’s Day was my first attempt, with Easter, babies, ‘Just Because,’ and Mother’s Day in the works now. Fortunately, we live in an area where local shops feature local artists. Between our local merchants and Etsy, I’m super-excited to develop this creative side of myself. Best part is, my husband is my biggest cheerleader. Love that man!
2. Mixed Media Art – a fascinating (and improvisational) way to use found objects, words, textures, text, typography, stamps, ink, and stitching to share a story. The possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination…. (which leaves me wide open for ideas!) While I’m not ready to share my own work (several pieces in progress), I’d be remiss if I didn’t show you others’ eye candy….
3. Blackout Poetry – a lovely form of words that I discovered last year, thanks to one of my favorite artists/authors, Austin Kleon. In his book Newspaper Blackout, we learn how to find poetry in others’ words. I introduced it to my high school students last school year and we had a blast creating our own works. Now that I’m struggling to produce my own words, I’ve rediscovered this useful writing style… finding stories inside other’s words. In recent weeks, I’ve created 100+ poems, some to stand alone, many to become a piece in larger, mixed-media art projects.
Here’s a peek at some recent thoughts ~
It’s weird how fast poems, ideas, stories create themselves in my head as I scan random pieces of text. Removing words to create stories is incredibly cathartic for me, with as many as 5 – 10 poems in an evening. Hubs watches TV; I sit beside him, my pen scratching across the surface, stories unfolding…..
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a whole lot of happy calling my name….
Five years into my teaching career, I decided to move from English Language Arts to Reading, specifically. I began working on my Master’s in Reading Education, and while I learned a lot, my biggest A-ha! came not from the volumes of textbooks read or the 1,000s of words written. No, my biggest lesson came from my students.
“Reading is boring!” they said.
There was no hiding my surprise … or confusion!
“What do you mean, ‘Reading is boring?'”
I wanted to ask, “Have you lost your minds?” but I had been teaching long enough to know that was not an appropriate question – at least not in that tone.
Turns out, reading comes down to two things for kids (and adults??):
Notice which comes first: Interest. Plain and simple – If I’m not interested, don’t bother me. I don’t have time. I could care less.
Add: Understanding it or the willingness to struggle to figure it out. You lose lots more kids: What do you mean I have to think? That’s too hard. Lose adults, too?
Add: I don’t have time, I’d rather watch TV, etc…. Our current technologies make on-the-fence-readers fall quickly, but that doesn’t have to be – if marketed well and planned for.
Because we both have to know how to reach readers.
To think nothing is interesting or to not be willing to figure something out is where we get into ‘doing it wrong.’ We have to teach them how to ‘do it right’ so readers will have ‘buy in.’
Now you might be thinking, Well, Robin, there are a lot of other things that we read – job applications, e-mails, medicine bottles, food labels… the list goes on – that have nothing to do with interest. That’s true. But, if I’m bored in school and tune out when it’s time to read, then guess what? My skills are limited and I can’t read the other, important stuff.
1. Start at home. If you have kids in your life – related or not – make reading so much fun it can’t possibly be boring. This is easy when kids are wee ones, but how do you keep them interested when they become ‘tweens and teens?
Whatever your choice, share it with the kiddos in your life! Buy them gift cards for books.
2. If you’re an educator, talk about books every day… not just in primary grades, but through high school – and beyond. My classroom is ‘print-rich’ – a term often used to describe primary/elementary classrooms – with lots of books, magazines, posters, and other things for kids to read. I teach 16 to 19 year-olds. When they first arrive in my classroom, they balk at the idea of reading (You want me to do what?!?). They also go to great lengths to show off their boredom and disdain (This is stupid!!!). I’ve learned this often means their reading skills are limited. Acting like a jerk is a survival technique; if I get into trouble and make a scene, I won’t have to read today. In my college classes, I’ve added numerous professional articles, electronically, to supplement textbook reading; it’s typically well-received, seen as interesting. (There’s that word again!)
3. Finally, if you’re a writer and want to grow your readership, interact with your young readers and their parents/teachers at the ground level. Let them meet you. Let them know you. Let them know you are human! 😉 Year after year, I find when I talk about books with students, they seem surprised to learn that a book is written by someone. I know, sounds funny, right?? Students often don’t make that connection. To most of my students, books are inanimate objects meant to torture them by being ‘required reading’ – textbooks and ‘reading’ books (novels, etc…) all lumped together. No interest, no pleasure, no joy… until the kids learn there’s a person talking ‘to’ them – telling them a story, often an interesting story, at that!
Writers, reach out to your young readers via Skype, Facebook, or Instagram. Let them see you and your writing process. I recently tweeted with Roy Peter Clark who graciously bantered through a silly word game with me, and was favorited by Austin Kleon, creator of newspaper blackout poetry, after I tweeted about my students’ progress in creating their own blackout poetry. When I shared this with my students, they thought it very cool!
Since I began my own writing projects, I share my process with students, whether it’s a few pages written, a chapter completed, the struggles of editing or finding just the right word. Some ask questions, many do not, but by talking about books and writing daily, I’m planting the literacy seeds.
My takeaway: Reading should never be boring! Life is too short. If reading is boring, we need to rethink how we’re doing it, indeed!
Life is too short to read boring stuff.
(My own quote in my classroom that typically raises a few eyebrows)
Earlier this weekend, I read Tara’s weekly Week in Review over at The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh! and got to thinking about ways to share some of the events that make up my own ‘life process’ in a week’s time. There are always so many things happening in our lives that influence everything else, and sometimes – at least for me – slowing down to reflect on how they’re related, takes a backseat to the effects they cause. When I asked if she minded if I borrow her format, I’m sure it seemed like a newbie question to Tara, but it was more to say, “Hey, I like the style you’ve created.” She was not only gracious in her response, “Borrow away!” but also suggested I link to other bloggers as well – to show off more styles. This lady is a true connector and I’ve got some blog homework to do. It’s been a few years since I participated in a weekly link-up, but looking forward to joining the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s here very soon! Tara’s weekly feature got me thinking about what I might want to share. Last week I did a Friday Five post, but realized I don’t want to get locked into five every week. What if I only have one event to share? Or ten things? I’m kind of stuck with a Five in my title, right? So as I was commenting on Tara’s Week in Review post this week, two things struck me: I take a lot of pictures, and, in my life as a high school teacher, there’s always something going on! Thankfully, the rest of my life is fairly quiet. After that intro, you’re ready, right? Last week had a lot going on – some good, some not so much.
I finished the resignation process from my adjunct position. This felt really good to be done with! While I enjoy teaching, especially online, I desperately wanted to recapture the hours I was losing each week and get back to my writing projects. Done! Last week, I logged 20+ writing hours, the most in a week since last summer. Finally!
I also found and interacted with many fellow writers on Twitter – some published, some not – all #writing. It’s a great way to help me focus my time and goals while learning from others, and hopefully, offering something of value in return.
In addition to productivity, I also found tragedy impacting my week. A student, just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday, was killed a week ago today, as she returned home from a day at the beach. Clipped by another car on a local highway, the car Brandie was riding in flipped numerous times, I’m told. I’m also told she was not wearing a seat belt. In the twenty years I’ve been teaching, there have been countless students in whichever school I was teaching, to die. This time it was one of my own, current students. I took the news very hard and we collectively struggled through the week. This came just a month after we lost two other students. It’s been a tough year at our high school.
As March gave way to April this past week, we began National Poetry Month and the final days ’til my students sit for FCAT, the mandated state test here in Florida. Poetry lends itself to lots of language learning, particularly the figurative and descriptive kinds. Remember these from high school: similes, metaphors, allusions, alliteration, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, and idioms? To get my kiddos’ creative thinking cooking and to do final test preparation, I introduced Newspaper Blackout Poetry to my juniors and seniors, via Mr. Austin Kleon, one of my favorite writers. He doesn’t know it yet, but his books have inspired my own, in progress: compact size, large, cool font, and immediately-applicable ideas – love it all!
After sharing some of our first attempts at blackout poetry on Edmodo and getting lots of replies from fellow ELA teachers – of all grade levels – who said their students love it, too, I discovered more ideas from the National Writing Project, through their tweet:
Overall, it was a week filled with new things to learn, new questions to ask, and tragedy to keep us grounded. I hope that I offered a few things in return… Looking forward to the week ahead!
P.S. ~ Plenty of web design (learning) happening, too. You might have noticed some design changes to the blog already… Saving that for another post. 😉
In my high school classroom, I have a poster: Writing is messy.
My students’ interpretations fall somewhere between, “Well, yea, my handwriting IS messy!” to “No, that’s not true. I have nice handwriting, so my writing isn’t messy.” What’s missing from their interpretations?
The real meaning of ‘messy’ as it relates to learning.
And so begins our year-long discussion about the ‘messiness’ of learning: writing, process, thinking, figuring stuff out, process, product, process, discussing, process… You get the idea. It’s m.e.s.s.y. And there’s an awful lotta ‘process’ goin’ on!
By the end of the school year, they’ve got it. (Well, some of them, anyway.)
Since ‘process’ is my middle name (or should have been… mom, are you listening?), I chuckled when I saw this illustration in Austin Kleon’s newest book, Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered.
Yes, it is! Messy, indeed.
Note to self: Enlarge the image and put it in classroom.
Is your process messy? Does messy make you happy or uncomfortable?
Without messy, I’d be a mess! 🙂
I keep reading this. I keep not doing this. At least, not online.
I do write.
In my head.
Since returning to the classroom fulltime in Sept 2011, my days are filled with teenagers, lesson plans, grades, more teenagers, questions, answers, epiphanies, and frazzled moments. Oh, and more teenagers. For an age group that thinks anyone over 20 is old and stupid, they sure are needy! 🙂 The hugs are the best.
I laugh out loud every day at the crazy things my high school students say and do. I tell them, “Now THAT is going in my book!” And it is.
In the past three years, my writer’s notebook and my head have filled with writing. Lots of it.
But Austin Kleon, in his newest work, says, “Share your work every day.”
Okay, Austin, here goes…