October 11 2013

Draft #2

I spent a little time reading over my first draft and decided that I needed to add a few more details. Here’s the second draft:

It was a normal day in September. I was in my classroom getting ready for the day ahead. I remember being excited about what I was teaching that day and now I have no idea what I was teaching. As I was organizing my desk, my friend Jen calmly walked in and said, Michelle, there’s a phone call for you.” I thought that was so weird. No one ever calls me at school. As I walked to the phone, my mind was trying to solve the puzzle of who was calling me. I was so focused on that, I didn’t even realize that Jen brought me to the principal’s office to answer the phone. Still, nothing seemed wrong, just weird. Everything changed the moment I said, “Hello.”

I heard sniffling and my sister’s voice. She was crying. She could barely spit out the words. “Michelle, Dad collapsed. He’s in the hospital.” My mind couldn’t make sense of what she was saying. I kept repeating, “What? I don’t understand. What happened?” I also didn’t notice that Jen was still there and so was my principal and my friend Sharon. The room seemed crowded and still I didn’t understand why. Kate, my sister, kept talking. I realized I was holding my breath and suddenly I needed to sit down. It hit me. Dad’s sick. Dad’s really sick. I need to get to him. The next few minutes (or longer, time stopped for me) I had to plan. I need a sub. I need a plane ticket. I need a ride to the airport. I need someone to take care of Leo. Before my mind stopped and now I couldn’t stop it. 

 The day turned into a blur. I boarded the plane. It felt like I held my breath for the whole trip. When I got there, I still couldn’t see him…more holding my breath. Finally, it was late that night and I saw him. He looked different. I was scared. I realized that he might not survive. I was sad. This moment, that phone call changed everything. 

 What do you think of the new draft? Again, compliment and question please. 

October 9 2013

My first draft

We talked about first drafts being ugly or messy or just plain bad. The first draft is where you get your ideas down. After much thought, I decided to write about the moment when I found out my dad was sick. It’s a powerful moment and I’ve never written about it before. Here’s my ugly, messy first draft:

 

It was a normal day in September. I was in my classroom getting ready for the day ahead. I remember being excited about what I was teaching that day and now I have no idea what I was teaching. As I was organizing my desk, a teacher walked in and told me that I had a phone call. My dad was sick. I was scared. He was really sick. I didn’t know what to do. He was far away. I was supposed to go and see him. The rest is a blur. I went to see him. It felt like I held my breath for the whole trip. When I got there, I still couldn’t see him…more holding my breath. Finally, it was late that night and I saw him. He looked different. I was scared. I realized that he might not survive. I was sad. This moment, that phone call changed everything. 

 

Give me some feedback on my draft! Please start with a compliment. Tell me one thing that you liked about it and then ask one question or make one suggestion about how I can improve my draft. 

September 3 2013

First day of school

Can you find me? This is my sixth grade class.

Can you find me? This is my sixth grade class.

 

 

I’m trying to remember my first day of sixth grade in 1982. I attended Holy Cross School (a private, Catholic school) and Sr. Mary Lou was my English teacher. Even though I teach English today, I dreaded it in sixth grade. Can you guess my favorite subject? 

One thing I did love about sixth grade was going to the library. Sr. Helen was our librarian and the library was in the building next door to the school. We got to leave the school and go across the playground to the basement of that building to our library. I enjoyed that freedom. Sr. Helen recommended the best books and I always left with an armful.

I wonder what your memories of sixth grade will be when you look back. My hope is you will look back on our time together with laughter and lots of good memories. Let’s start those today!

 

Here I am in sixth grade, 1982.

Here I am in sixth grade, 1982.

June 24 2013

Writing Notebooks

Today in Teachers Write, we are writing about notebooks. I have kept a writing notebook (or a journal, diary, daybook) since September 22, 1982. I was ten years old. OK, this post is going to require so much math, UGH! I’ve been writing since 1982, so that means I have been writing for thirty one years! THIRTY ONE YEARS! Whew, no wonder, I’m tired. The question I get over and over again is “How many notebooks do you have?” Today is the first day I can honestly answer that. I have 55. Fifty-five notebooks. Wow! 

Pre-sorted (with Leo sitting in the middle)

Pre-sorted (with Leo sitting in the middle)

Sorted by decade

Sorted by decade

I have tried just about every kind of notebook and writing utensil known to man. Each of those decisions has become very important to me as I endeavor to write. I’ve used wide ruled notebooks, binders with looseleaf paper, the traditional diary with lock (only one of those when I was in high school), spiral notebooks without lines, and finally my current favorite hardbound sketch books.  

Plain old notebooks worked as I began to write

Plain old notebooks worked as I began to write

 

As I continued to write, my two rules were spiral and no lines.

As I continued to write, my two rules were spiral and no lines.

 

As I continued to write, my two rules were spiral and no lines.

As I continued to write, my two rules were spiral and no lines.

 

Here's the first notebook I titled! From then on most of my notebooks are titled.

Here’s the first notebook I titled! From then on most of my notebooks are titled.

 

Now, I exclusively use hard bound books to write. My no line rule continues. I feel freer.

Now, I exclusively use hard bound books to write. My no line rule continues. I feel freer.

Writing about notebooks is something I could do all day! Perhaps I’ll continue…

 

 

June 23 2013

Introductions and feedback

My online writing camp officially starts tomorrow, but today there are introductions. Here’s what I shared to introduce me:

 

Good morning, my name is Michelle. I teach sixth graders in northern Virginia. I lurked here in Teachers Write last year and this year my goal is to participate. There are lots of stories floating around in my head, so my goal is to pick one and write it. Writing creative non-fiction (poetry, memoir pieces) is much more comfortable for me, so I’m jumping in and trying fiction. Thank you for this supportive community! Writing goal for week: work in some revisions from Friday feedback. Writing goal for summer: find my story!

 

Oh and from Friday feedback, I received some amazing feedback. Here are some of the positive things people (teachers and authors) said about my writing:

What I like and works is the mood you set right away. I’m not even sure how you do it so well, but I really feel the particular energy of the scene – a mix of sleepy and nerves, excited energy, something new about to happen.

I’m very hooked with your story opening.

I love books about this sort of “super power,” especially in terms of a school, so I’m hooked.

I’m intrigued! This starts like a contemporary piece, but does this teacher have some sort of mind-reading capability? Definitely an interesting twist! 

…the quiet moment before school would be much needed! That is usually how I start my day, and I can’t read my fourth graders’ minds – thank goodness!

I can’t wait to hear more about Jack and his teacher (wish I could be a mind-reader!).

 

You know what’s funny? I am just as elated at the suggestions that were made to make it better. I can tell that the readers really read it and thought about how to make it better. I have  some decisions I need to make about my writing.

I also wonder if she can only read Jack’s mind or all students.

I agree with the idea of playing with POV. I like the idea of showing both sides of this relationship, and I like how they intertwine here, happening in real time, rather than alternating by chapter.

I want to know: is this common, or limited? Can everyone have a power? Does everyone have powers already? Is it all mind-reading, or are there other abilities? Is it a natural talent, or is there some operation? I WANT TO KNOW!

Suggestions: Be careful with verb tense shifting. It starts in present and then changes to past. Also, in interviews I’ve read with literary agents and their first page preferences, they suggest not starting with the weather. 

One way to do that might be to really exaggerate it at first in your draft. What I mean is, to add little cue ins for yourself to keep the POV or voice straight, eg. overuse Jack’s name and edit it out later. “Jack did…” this. “Then he did . . .” this. That may help you write the stuff that follows clearly from one consistent POV and then you can edit it out/clean it up later.

 

They found all of the things that I know I struggle with and they gave me specific suggestions on how to make it better, while leaving it up to me. Whew! I’m exhausted already and camp hasn’t even started. Off to try some of these suggestions. What are you writing this summer?

April 9 2013

Poem #9 Tag You’re It

On Saturday, MS wrote a poem and it

mentioned peanut butter.

So-tag-I’m it. I’m going to write a

poem about peanut butter…a peanut

butter haiku.

 

Smooth peanut butter

Sticky, gooey in my mouth

For all morning long

 

Here’s another one: 

 

Oh peanut butter

Oh why must you glue my lips

I want to eat lunch!

 

TAG, YOU’RE IT!! It’s your turn to

take a line or an idea from my poem

and write your own. 

 

April 6 2013

Poem #6 Inspired by Real Life

 

Walking my dog
enjoying the chilly morning air
starting my day
like any other
until I saw
a heart 
in the road
 
A paper heart
alone
flat
sad 
but
 
still bringing
joy
a smile
love
 
The idea
of that heart 
stayed
with me all day
and beyond
 
Where did it come from?
Why is there a heart in the road?
What happened?
 
I realized
love is all around
everywhere
when I want to see it
even
in the middle of the road
on an early chilly morning
while walking the dog…
 
March 13 2013

Slice of Life #13 What do you think?

Trying out some of my fiction writing skills. I thought I’d share. I welcome any feedback…

 

On a cool Monday morning in late September, the sun streams in as Miss Leone enjoys the silence and a cup of coffee. Soon, students will be streaming into the doors or Stapler Academy and straight to Room 229- Miss Leone’s classroom.

Sixth graders fill the halls and their laughter reverberates around the locker bay. Miss Leone takes a deep breath, ready to start her day…hoping they won’t find out her secret.

“Good morning everyone. How are you?” Jack smiled as she asked the question because she was the kind of teacher who really wanted to know the answer from each and every student sitting in front of her. He thought, this is going to be a good year. Miss Leone nodded, “Yes, Jack.” Weird, Jack thought, I didn’t say anything. Hmmm? Miss Leone continued walking through the maze of desks, signing agendas and checking in with the sixth graders, trying not to look suspicious. Zoë sat at the next desk. She and Jack met in pre-school when Zoë bit Jack, and have been best friends since. Miss Leone noticed the unruly mass of blond curls first. “Good morning Zoë. How are you today?”

“Fine,” Zoë answered, but inside Zoë was thinking, Ugh! My mom is driving my crazy!! I don’t know why she won’t let me stay home alone!!! Skyler only ran away that once and Dad found her at the neighbors. Mom is so MEAN!

            “Maybe, she thinks you’re too young,” Miss Leone advised. The curls moved quickly as Zoë’s head shot up and looked questioningly at Miss Leone.

“WHAT did you say?” Zoë demanded.

“Maybe,” Miss Leone quickly explained and even more quickly moved onto the next desks and agendas.

As Miss Leone stood in front the class introducing the lesson on onomatopoeia, she noticed Earl. He was looking around the room. Miss Leone heard him think, Oh Jack is in the perfect position. Where’s that eraser? It’ll bounce right off his forehead. She shook her head and walked around monitoring the students writing examples of onomatopoeia in their notebooks, as she got to Earl’s desk she leaned down and quietly whispered, “Do you really think bouncing an eraser is the best use for it?”

Earl froze mid-onotaopoeia, How did she know?

“Because I know everything,” she replied loud enough for everyone to hear. She laughed and the rest of the class continued with event. The bell rang at 10:08 and students moved on to their next class, for Jack, Zoë, and Earl that was PE. In PE today they were running the mile. After the whiny kids gave their lame excuses for why they couldn’t run, the rest of the class began. Jack and Earl were running at the same pace following closely behind Zoë- she was so fast.

“So what was going on with Miss Leone today?” Jack began the conversation. He was very observant.

Zoë called back over her shoulder, “What are you talking about? I didn’t notice anything.” Her blond curls were flying everywhere while she was running.

Earl gasped and looked at her with disbelief, “You didn’t? She…well, she just knew stuff!”

Zoë rolled her eyes dramatically and said, “Of course she knows stuff! She’s a TEACHER!”

Jack laughed at Zoë’s dramatic reply and said, “Zoë, I think he means she knows things about us. She smiled and agreed with me when I didn’t say anything. What’s that?”

Zoë, exasperated with these silly boys, picked up her pace and ran faster. Earl ignored Zoë and asked Jack, “Man, I saw it too. She was so weird today. At least she forgot to give us homework.” Jack high-fived Earl to celebrate no language arts homework. “But, how are we going to figure out what’s going on?” Jack asked getting back to the situation.

“Exactly what do you think is going on?” Earl asked.

“She knows things she shouldn’t. Do you think she can hear what we are thinking?” Jack scrunched his forehead like he did when he’s figuring out his algebra homework. He shook his head and said, “That’s crazy! No one can hear other people’s thoughts!”