BulgingButtons

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My Awesome Life: In Honor of the Writing Project

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I have the privilege of attending both the National Writing Project annual meeting and the National Council of Teachers of English convention this week in St. Louis. I arrived this afternoon, and overall my impressions of the people here are overwhelmingly positive. The people at the airport, the shuttle driver, the hotel workers, all have been exceptional. And the conference attendees? Wonderful.

You see, things like this are a little overwhelming for this introvert. I was really shy as a kid, and to this day my social skills aren’t the best. I try, I really do, but I’m just sort of awkward. The good news it that other people are far better at this stuff than I am, and they’re frequently kind enough to include me in their conversations and plans. The mixer this evening started off really uncomfortable for me, but ended up very pleasant.

I circled the ballroom (and it’s a beautiful ballroom) several times, not seeing anyone I knew. I eventually struck up a conversation with a woman who looked about as lost as I felt. Turns out she’s from my state and we hit it off. A few minutes later a woman I met in New Orleans (who’s from Missouri) turned up, and joined the conversation along with her colleague. Not long after that another New Orleans connection turned up (from Louisiana), and so on. I never did see any of the folks from my own group, but that’s okay, I’m sure they’re around somewhere.

Tomorrow the serious stuff begins. I’ll be leading a round table discussion in the afternoon, and attending other sessions led by other educators. I’m excited to share information with them. In honor of this conference and the experience, I’d like to share some writing I’ve done with Writing Project kids over the past few summers. It’s a rough piece, done in my composition notebook while the young writers worked on their own pieces.

The prompt was “My Awesome Life.” What does your awesome life look like? Here’s a snapshot of mine:

I wake up when I want, fully rested and unhurried. I prepare to face the day and I feel good about the work I’m about to do. Midday I head off to a school or library or community center or bookstore, knowing that readers and writers will be there waiting for me. I bring along a box of my latest title — a give-away to thank them for being such loyal fans and readers.

When I get there I do a presentation that enthralls and inspires the audience. I answer their questions, take a few pictures, and sign my books. Then, a smaller group meets me to do a workshop. I’m so impressed by their dedication to making their work the best it can be. I love days like this.

Later on, at home in my studio, Lila lays at my feet as I write. She is a soft, quiet companion who grounds me and reminds me that I must occasionally take breaks.

 


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Taking November Off

writers-need-a-break-too.jpgThis year I’ve decided not to attempt NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo, the writing challenges that I’ve enjoyed in the past. This year is just far too hectic for me to even think about doing a challenge like either of those. A novel this month? Nope. A blog post each day? Uh uh.

I consider it a good day if I make it to work on time with my lunch in hand and matching shoes on my feet. I’m taking a class, attempting to participate in my writing group, and traveling out of town twice this month. I’ve also agreed to be an advance reader for a friend and prepare a review of the novel for its launch date. In November. Of course. It’s enough.

I do miss the daily routine of blogging before heading off to work, or making sure I get it done before the clock strikes midnight. I miss the links to other fascinating blogs and “meeting” bloggers with huge hearts and imaginations. I even miss the increased blog traffic it generates (I’m not gonna lie people, I like it when the numbers go up). I don’t miss the stress, though. There’s definitely a little pressure there, albeit self-inflicted. At the end, though, I’m always glad I’ve done it. I’ll miss that feeling of satisfaction this year.

Overall, I’m glad I didn’t commit to one more thing. I’ll be out of town, doing classwork, preparing Thanksgiving dinner with my sweetheart, and working. I’m thankful I chose not to stress myself out even more. Sometimes you just have to say enough is enough.


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Fangirl

I got the opportunity to attend the annual Arizona English Teachers Association conference yesterday, and it was fantastic. Yes, I learned things in the breakout sessions. Yes, I connected with other teachers from around the state. Yes, I felt that I had some ideas to contribute to the discussions. Yes, I saw some colleagues I hadn’t seen in quite a while. All of that would have been worth it, but none of that was the highlight.

For me, the highlight was hearing some of my favorite authors speak, especially the marvelous Meg Medina. Her keynote presentation was fantastic, and she shared with us so much about her own upbringing and her childhood and teen years. It was fascinating to listen to her experiences, and how they related to the experiences she wrote for her characters, especially in her award winning novel Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Ms. Medina’s work, what are you waiting for? She’s also the author of Burn Baby Burn and two picture books, Mango, Abuela, and Me, and Tia Isa Wants a Car. Additionally, she has a short story included in the collection Flying Lessons, where she’s in very good company with the likes of Walter Dean Myers, Kwame Alexander, Matt de la Peña, and other phenomenal writers. She was gracious, engaging, and fully present throughout the event, participating in round table discussions and sharing her perspective. It was a pleasure and honor to meet her and learn from her.

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I also had the pleasure of enjoying a panel of local writers of middle grade and young adult books. They are a thoughtful group, and are so generous with their time and talent. Several of them have volunteered to teach workshops with my summer writers in the past, and two more enthusiastically agreed to teach next summer. The willingness of the writers in this community to share their experiences and knowledge is so impressive and appreciated.

Conferences like this one are inspiring to me, both as a teacher and as a writer. I feel fortunate to have had the experience.