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Writing Marathon

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Yesterday we took our kid writers on a writing marathon, and it was so cool! Well, not literally. It was actually very hot, so we started early, sought shade, and ducked inside to air conditioned spaces a few times. Still, it was a great experience, and the kids came up with some interesting writing.

Our group toured the college campus where we meet, finding interesting spots to write. We looked around, found a spot, and got to work. The locations were used as inspiration, but didn’t dictate the writing. Our campus is pretty much a desert oasis, with scrubby brush, cactus, rocks, Palo Verde and Mesquite trees, and desert flowers. There are also grassy areas, and plenty of small animals. We spied white winged doves, quail, bees, ants, flies, sparrows, moths, butterflies, a hummingbird, and a jackrabbit. They’re always there, but sometimes we forget to look for them.

We found a hidden courtyard outside the library, and in the library a very cool collection of anatomy models. Heads, hearts, lungs, eyeballs, and more were available for us to explore. In summer the library isn’t very busy, and the librarians were happy to see us (and provide a band-aid for a skinned knee).

I’ve had the extreme pleasure of participating in a “real” writing marathon in New Orleans; one that took me around that remarkable city over the course of a few days. I learned that people are generous to writers. They give us space and time and sometimes wine and coffee. They are curious about our process and product. Rarely do we see writers up close, even though to a greater or lesser extent we’re all writers.

Taking these young writers on their first (or in some cases second) marathon was a way for me to share my love of writing and my fascination with our world with these young people. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

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These writers are from a previous marathon.


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Ten Days of Terrific Writing

images.jpgTomorrow writing camp begins again. Usually I have a few days off between school ending and camp starting, but not this time. I feel like it’s kind of rushed, but then again, it sure feels like summer, so let’s go for it!

I’m fortunate to work with another wonderful teacher, so these ten days aren’t entirely my own. It’s nice to share the responsibilities, and to have double the ideas and energy to bring to the camp, especially this time, since there are currently 18 kids signed up for our session.

Our particular group ranges in age from those entering third grade to those entering eighth. Now that’s a range! We’ve got some fun and creative ideas up our sleeves, so all of our young writers will leave with some intriguing new stories.

Now to get it all put together on the computer, and, hopefully, to get the technology working correctly in the classroom tomorrow morning. And if not? We’ll do it the old fashioned way! Happy summer writing to you!

 


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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.