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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Mississippi Book Festival 2016

Mississippi Book Festival 2016

I am lucky in so many ways. I grew up in the great state of Mississippi, my parents still live there, so I was able to attend the best book festival ever. The author line-up was a middle-grade teacher/author’s dream come true. Just look at that picture above. There’s me with Kate DiCamillo, and me with Jacqueline Woodson, and me with Irene Latham, me with Kathi Appelt, and me, my mom, and my blogger friend Keri with Augusta Scattergood.

Surrounded by such amazing authors and just plain smart generous people I felt amazing, smart, and generous. I also got brave. I realized early in the day that when you ask a question, a famous author knows you and likes you better.

I listened while Kate DiCamillo told stories that I had heard before (at NCTE 2015, on a streaming video with Mr. Schu, and on The Yarn podcast). But as she spoke and told her stories, funny ones that I never tire of hearing, I remembered on The Yarn interview that she said the only book she would consider rewriting was Tale of Despereaux because of its complicated plot structure. As a teacher of smart kids, I happen to love the structure of Despereaux. It makes for great conversations about craft. So I held up my hand and said that to her, face to face; she was looking right into my eyes.

And Kate said that the narrator in Despereaux guides the reader and guided her, too. Isn’t that a beautiful answer? When I stood in the forever-line to get her to sign my books, she knew me. Well, at least for that moment she did.

Kate (I can call her by her first name now since she knows me) left me with this advice as a fellow writer: “Write your Heart.” I have a WIP (work in progress) that is just that, my heart, so I am comforted by that advice.

img_7554

With my new brave on, I asked Jacqueline Woodson a question, too. She talked mostly about her new book Another Brooklyn, but I wanted to know how she speaks to social justice through her picture books, specifically Each Kindness.

She told the story that led her to write Each Kindness. She was visiting her daughter’s 2nd grade classroom. A girl came in with striped pants on. Jacqueline admired her pants, but then she overheard another child tell this girl, “Why’d you wear those pants to school?” And the girl covered her pants with her jacket the rest of the day.

each kindness

Jacqueline says you can’t be didactic with kids. You have to teach them through story, so she thought about how all of us at one time or other have probably said a mean thing that we could never take back. Each Kindness makes us think about what we say and the ripples our words may cause. I so admire Jacqueline for her social consciousness and for her gift of language.

Here is advice to writers from Jacqueline Woodson.

I strive for writingas strong as the story.writer's block is just fear.stay open to the musebutt in chair.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

 

 

What is voice in digital writing? We know it when we see it, but it’s difficult to define. In one sense, everyone has a voice, right? So shouldn’t every piece of writing have a voice?

However, we’ve all read things that touch us in a certain way. We feel like the writer is speaking right into our ears. The writer is with us all along the way.

Yesterday I had the privilege to see many wonderful authors at the Mississippi Book Festival in my home town of Jackson, MS. I’ll write more about this great day later this week. Kate DiCamillo told me (yes, me because I got up the courage to ask her a question.) that the voice of the narrator in The Tale of Despereaux carried her through the writing of the novel, and this voice carries the reader through as well.

Voice is elusive and difficult to teach. Actually, I don’t think voice can be taught. Voice needs to be discovered. My students discover voice by writing a Slice of Life every week. By writing about something personal, their personalities appear on the page. They post their Slices on our class blog at Kidblog. (Click here if you would like to follow our blog.)

This week we only had a few days together because of the extensive rain and flooding in our area. When we met on Wednesday, my kiddos were full of stories about the flooding. Jacob’s house was flooded, and he was excited that he could write about it. He wrote three and a half pages in his notebook. Others went directly to the blog to write.

Lynzee’s voice comes through in her poem.

Fearsome Flood

Half the yard gone,
Bayou is swollen,
Stranded in the house,
Some in shelters,
People afraid
Of the
Fearsome flood

And Tobie is, well, always Tobie on the page.

When my sister and I were getting dressed, we turned on the news as always, but this time, there were no commercials, no GMA, only local news. We watched a bit, getting dressed, when all of a sudden, it smacked us right in the face. We dropped dead, got buried, and stayed there until we rose as zombies. Okay, maybe I exaggerated, but we were pretty shocked. By the fact that… “Iberia Parish schools are closed,” said Dave Baker. I asked my mom what that meant, but on the inside, I knew. NO SCHOOL!! But that is bad because, well, it must be pretty bad to cancel school. For like, 4 days.

Digital writing makes an unique voice more possible. Daily blogging allows students to discover their own voices and to share that voice with others. My students are having conversations with each other. I am not the only one they are writing for. An authentic audience offers my writers a reason to write and a pathway for discovery.

Please join the conversation by posting a link to your unique voice, your own blog. Tweet at #DigiLitSunday. Google+ community here.

Twitter Chat with Katherine BomerSunday AUg. 28, 20166-00 CST (1) copy

Find more celebration posts at Ruth's blog.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

In the midst of tragedy, how can we celebrate?

Was it Mr. Rogers who said to look for the helpers?  There are helpers everywhere.

There is also kindness.

I have been glued to Facebook for the past week watching the shocking flooding of my friends’ homes. (The water came knocking but didn’t get into our house.)

I remember.  When I was in high school, my house was flooded 5 feet.  I know the smell.  I know how it feels to see your treasures piled up in the yard.  I’ve seen the studs in my home.

I also remember the kindness, the helpers.

I celebrate the helpers.  Kylene Beers and Kate Messner, authors I admire, both put out calls to replace books lost in the flooding.  If you know any school that has been affected, please check their Facebook pages.

I celebrate the resilience of my friends, how they are facing this tragedy and noticing the good.  They are experiencing the overwhelming feeling of loss alongside gratitude and hope.

Here is a post from my friend Gwen:

Our home is a metaphor for Louisiana.
Yes, we’ve been stripped down to our studs.
Right this moment, we’re a bit vulnerable, and we’re a bit weak.
We’re exposed.
But you know what is shining through?
Human character at its finest.
When we’re most exposed,
we show strength, generosity, kindness, joy, and love.
When we’re raw, we also show fear, despair, and sorrow.
The days have been long, and will continue to be.
When some are feeling strong, others are low.
But through it all, I have no doubt that we’ll recover.
It’s not our lowest point.
It’s not our darkest hour.
It’s our defining moment.

–Gwen Guillote

My friend, artist Paul Schexnayder, created a painting the symbolizes the resilience of people here.  He is selling prints and t-shirts to benefit the Community Foundation of Acadiana.  If you want more information about purchasing a print, t-shirt, or just making a donation, please send me a message by comment or email.

onward by Paul

 

Onward

We see the helpers.
We see the kindness.
We know hardship.
We know sorrow.
We know our neighbors.
We know love.
Onward

 

 

Ekphrastic Voice

Poetry Friday round-up is with Dori at Dori Reads

Poetry Friday round-up is with Dori at Dori Reads

 

With the threat of flooding gone and a need to connect with others, I attended a writing workshop led by my friend Sandra Sarr.

Sandy moved to Louisiana two years ago and quickly embedded herself in the arts community.  From her travels here to research her novel, she met interesting people like Dennis Paul Williams.  She once took me on a visit to his studio.  In 2013, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press published a large coffee table book of Dennis’s artwork.  I bought the book, but hate to admit that it just sat on the coffee table.

But Sandy’s ekphrastic exercise brought me closer to the images housed in Soul Exchange.  She made color copies and handed them out.  This is the one I picked.

DPWilliams painting

 

Before Sandy instructed us to write, I started writing.

Secrets shared
like a kiss
softly touching
a cheek.
Even while
she’s sleeping,
she hears
the sound
of singing,
a lullaby.

Sun glows
through the window.
She traces the line
of her face
in the mirror
only touching
the outline–
That space
where skin
meets sky.

She’s never lonely
within
covers of lace
because she knows
the secrets,
the ones whispered
on the wings
of a prayer.

Even her hair
glows like
rainbow light.

–Margaret Simon

This was just the free write, but I was happy with it.  Then Sandy asked us to circle words from our free write that had some power for us.  She handed out notecards for us to write our words on, tear them apart and put them back together into a new poem.

 

Words taken from my free writing.

Words taken from my free writing.

 

This was the resulting poem.

Enter dark space
a line draws her face
whispers
secrets

Her protector
sleeps
in covers of lace.

Angels kiss
her prayer.

Opening
the path to grace.

–Margaret Simon

What I love about this activity is the abstract way it gets to the soul where you write with authenticity and abandon all at the same time.  I want to try this with my students.  I wonder how they will handle the randomness of it.  Will they get frustrated or enjoy the freedom?  Some days, and especially hard days full of sadness, I find solace in poetry, in the act of creating.  It gets me out of my thinking brain for a minute and allows me to relax into flow. Thanks, Sandy, for sharing Dennis’s art and leading me on a path of discovery.

 

 

Slice of Sunshine

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

 

The rain started early Friday morning.  I knew this was a serious rain because school was cancelled 5 minutes before I walked out the door.  The rain stayed for days, falling in sheets for hours and hours.  By Friday afternoon, the news media was calling this an Historic Flood.  One of my colleagues posted on Facebook that her house was going under.  I watched and waited.  Finally a text came that she and her family were rescued and safe.

But the rain kept falling.  By Saturday morning, I went into a panic.  The bayou water had not risen this high in the 12 years we’d been living here, and neighbors said not in 20+ years.  This was truly an historical event.

The sun peeks through the trees. Water is up to the back step.

We put the furniture up, rolled rugs, emptied book shelves, and watched and waited.

Sofas raised up on kitchen chairs. Mimi watches the sun come out.

Sofas raised up on kitchen chairs. Mimi watches the sun come out.

Then on Sunday morning, the sun came out.  The water was a few feet from our back door, but it hadn’t come in.

Not everyone in our area was as lucky.  This incessant rain was worse than any hurricane.  And the flood waters did not discriminate.  Everyone here knows someone who is cleaning up today.

Painting the rain, collaborative work by a mother and son at the shelter.

Painting the rain, collaborative work by a mother and son at the shelter.

 

In my gratitude, I went to the shelter in our City Park to help out with an art activity with the kids.  It was crazy and messy and just what I needed.

Messy art is the best kind!

Messy art is the best kind!

 

Today, I want to focus on the sunshine.

The sun will come out.
We know this is true.
There is always light after the rain.

reflection flood poem

 

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

The crafting of digital media has never been so accessible to everyone. With only an iPhone and wifi, I’ve been taking videos of the flooding around my house, keeping family and friends informed with the touch of a button. (We are safe and dry at this time.)

And some have used this accessibility to create humor around this crazy disaster.

Found on Facebook

Found on Facebook

I have enjoyed playing with my own digital photos in apps like Word Swag. This is a photo of tree bark, and I added a quote.

writing quote

Some images just lend themselves to contemplation and creative thinking. I took this picture from my balcony looking through the tall windows in my house. You can see the light reflection on the window and the flood waters beyond.

Using Canva, I made this digital poem.

Light reflected poem

To lead my students to digital creativity and crafting, I try it myself.

I am interested in exploring the thinking process during the creation of digital media. What questions do students ask? What appeals to them and why? What is the deeper meaning within the image?

When my students design digital media, I ask them to share their inner thinking. By asking about the process,I motivate my students to make intentional choices. Reflection on a creative process is important. Reflection can lead to self-discovery along with inspiring the wonder of others.

How will you lead your students through intentional digital creation? Please join the conversation by linking your blog posts below.

Twitter Chat with Katherine BomerSunday AUg. 28, 20166-00 CST (1) copy

Find more celebration posts at Ruth's blog.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Birthdays are opportunities to show a person how much you love her. Birthdays are also opportunities to share your love with others.

Like eating popcorn with chopsticks

Lynzee popcorn

And chocolate-covered strawberries

Choc-covered strawberries

Like finding this message on Facebook:

Ms. Simon, 30 years ago, when we moved home from overseas, I struggled in the public school my parents put me in to fit in. My parents seeing how unhappy I seemed changed me to epiphany and I was blessed to have you as a teacher. My mother adored you. As a teacher myself, I know we aren’t always able to see the difference we make long term in a child’s life. You are an amazing person and teacher!

And spending hours catching up with your birthday sister. The waitress says, “Oh, you’re the kind of friends who can just pick up right where you left off.” She checked in on us occasionally as we talked on and on.

My birthday was a celebration of Love.

My backyard on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016.  The water has to cover the deck before it reaches the house.

My backyard on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. The water has to cover the deck before it reaches the house.

My state, Louisiana, is in a state of emergency. The rain has come down for more than 28 hours and doesn’t show signs of stopping. They are calling this the Historic Flood of 2016. My family is fine. Our house is on the bayou, and the back yard is no longer visible. Please keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers. I know of one student so far who has evacuated his flooded home. I will be posting updates to my Facebook page.

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