Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Slice of Life: Online Chat with Thanhha Lai

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" 
to the Tuesday Slice of Life (SOL) community.
Thanks to Stacey, Tara, Betsy, Dana, BethAnna, Kathleen, and Deb
                    for hosting this meeting place each Tuesday and nurturing our writing lives.

They came from the 100 wing, they came from the 200 wing, they came from the math wing, they came from points all around our campus.  It wasn't our usual meeting time, but with an advance email to teachers and notes delivered to classrooms by office TAs, Book, Brownies and Beyond members assembled in the library at 10 am for a special treat.  (No, it wasn't for Mrs. B's cookie bars.)  We joined a virtual chat with Thanhha Lai, the author of Listen, Slowly, one of our recent reads for You Choose the Next Newbery sponsored by King County Library System (KCLS).  
Books, Brownies, and Beyond club members ready for chat with Thanhha Lai
Our moderator's questions came from students.  The author was unaware that her book, Listen, Slowly, had been selected by KCLS children's librarians as one of five titles for students to read as Newbery possibilities.  She explained that she was writing and on deadline, and only talks to two people:  her husband and her daughter.  We felt lucky that she took the time to talk to us about her books and her writing process.  We were immediately drawn into this conversation.  Katie commented on one of the first things she noticed as the interview began, "I thought it was interesting actually seeing the author, naturally, not with fancy clothes or anything, just at home in her writing state."  and Elsa concurred, "I thought it was really cool that she seemed so human, kind of laid-back and relaxed..."

We enjoyed learning about the author's daily routine for writing which includes putting her daughter on the bus for school and then jogging for about two hours.  Everyone agreed with Rio, "Jogging for two hours is amazing."  That time outside is important to her.  As a child in Vietnam she wanted to be a naturalist when she grew up.  When she gets home around ten, she eats a huge amount of food, and is then ready to begin writing in her favorite writing uniform, pajama pants.  She always writes until three, but on a good day she writes until six.  The hardest kind of writing is working on brand new sentences. Whether she's writing those brand new sentences or revising (sometimes up to sixteen hours a day), she shared when you're an author, it's necessary to sit still a lot.  It is a solitary occupation, one that is done alone.  She's currently working on her third novel, Butterfly Yellow, which is aimed at an older audience than her previous two books.

While characters in her books are often based on someone she knows, she embellishes them and even combines traits from different people to create the characters who people her books.  The character of Mai was influenced by conversations with her niece who visited Vietnam for the first time as a 12 year old.  The mom in Listen, Slowly is based on her own mother.  All of the stories in your life add up to a voice inside you.  She commented that if I weren't a refugee, I wouldn't be a writer.  Norah whose grandmother is Vietnamese felt a connection to the author, "It was interesting to see how her life story of moving to America was like my grandmother's experience."

When asked about the cover of the book (one of our favorites of the books we're currently reading), the author responded that the covers for this book and Inside Out and Back Again were designed by the same person, an illustrator in western Europe and selected by her publisher.  When asked about the decision to write in poetry or prose, she commented that it depends on whose head she's inside of.  If it's a Vietnamese character, then it has to be poetry because her language is such a poetic language.  We agreed with Chris, "What really surprised me was how long it took to write a book," when we learned that it took her fifteen years to write her first book.  

As we arrived at the most powerful part of the chat, Maggie commented, "I really liked the advice she gave to young authors because I write a lot and it was cool to hear an actual author's perspective."  Her advice to young authors includes:
1.  Read a million books.  They can be fiction or nonfiction.
2.  Begin to recognize the styles and genres you like.
3.  Develop your sense of self based on what you like.  
4.  Eventually you'll find the one book that you would give your fingers for.  
5.  Look at how it's put together.  Tear it apart.  Copy sentences from it.  Shred it. 
6.  This is your spark. It will let you put together a book that is yours.  It will have echoes of the book that informed you, but it will be yours.

After our short time spent together, Charlie summed up the chat with this response:  "That was really cool.  It was amazing to hear from an actual writer about how she writes and about her process.  Her advice was good as well.  I will definitely try it out.  And yes, I would give my fingers to have written The Lord of the Rings."  

Here's the link to the entire video chat archived by KCLS:  https://youtu.be/7GrRKH9P3FI    

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Celebrate This Week!

                             Join us each weekend for Celebrate This Week with Ruth Ayres.  
                                          When we pause to celebrate, we find the joy. 
Discover. Play. Build.
  A week filled with moments to celebrate and remember!

1.  Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I finally convinced my book club group to read this classic which I've never read (even though I've seen the movie and the play).  I enjoyed hosting, and we had an interesting discussion, complete with my mother's first person account of how their family went on the road as migrant farm workers to Colorado and New Mexico when she was twelve years old.  They left a couple in charge of their farm in Oklahoma and their efforts allowed my grandfather to save his farm when many had to leave.  

2.  Digital Natives
I subbed two days this past week.  When I wasn't sure how to get the technology functioning, I asked Whitney, a neighboring teacher.  She picked up the controls and started punching buttons.  I'm always surprised by this behavior 
from digital natives, but it worked.  Note to self:  
Don't fear the discovery method of learning!

3.  Poetry Friday
 I subbed in 8th grade Social Studies on Friday so I shared the picture book, One Today by Richard Blanco and illustrated by Dav Pilkey.  I love that some of the students recognize the illustrator's name.  If you haven't seen the book yet, run to your local indie bookstore and pick up a copy to revisit this poem written by Richard Blanco and delivered at Barack Obama's second presidential inauguration.  Dav Pilkey's lush illustrations add a gorgeous backdrop to the words of this patriotic poem.
 I also shared Tara's Poetry Friday post with some of my colleagues.  Several wrote to tell me how much they loved and enjoyed the Pablo Neruda poem she shared.   

4.  Autumn leaves and sunsets

It's been awhile since I stopped by Slater Park to savor a few moments with phone in hand to capture the setting sun.  Glad I stole a few moments yesterday.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Slicing a Day Late!

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" 
to the Tuesday Slice of Life (SOL) community.
Thanks to Stacey, Tara, Betsy, Dana, BethAnna, Kathleen, and Deb
                    for hosting this meeting place each Tuesday and nurturing our writing lives.

Rains and winds brought power outages to western Washington yesterday (explaining my late slice).   

On Saturday morning our son is driving us through Old Town Alexandria.  We stop by the Farmer's Market and purchase apples, bread, and hand quilted heart ornaments.  We visit the George Washington Masonic Memorial to soak up historical details and enjoy the view of Alexandria atop the hill.  I spot a majestic tree and Blake stops so I can take a picture.  But the best part of the morning was a serendipitous discovery I spied early that morning before the shops were open.  Hooray for Books!  With a name like that, I knew it had to be a children's bookstore.  After our stroll through the Farmer's Market, my son found street parking near the bookstore.  I strolled into this delightful bookstore while he and his dad sat in the car to chat.  Two gifts from them:  they didn't accompany me, and they didn't give me a time limit.  And one gift to myself:  a new poetry book! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Celebrating through the Sadness

                            Join us each weekend for Celebrate This Week with Ruth Ayres.  
                                          When we pause to celebrate, we find the joy. 
Discover. Play. Build.
  A week filled with moments to celebrate and remember!

Like many of you, I was saddened to learn of the tragedies in Paris on Friday evening.   My heart aches as I think of the families whose lives are forever changed.
I look to the words of others seeking comfort.  
From "Praise Song" by Barbara Crooker:
" . . . Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. . . .
Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it's all we have, and it's never enough."
 Psalms 119:28
"My soul melteth for heaviness:  strengthen thou me according unto thy word."
Though our world faces darkness and despair, I'm grateful to join fellow bloggers
as we continue to praise, to celebrate, and to turn toward the light. 

Our Veteran's Day holiday was spent traveling to DC to visit Blake and Stefi.
I celebrate our family time together.

1.  Lance and I explored three "new to us" museums on Thursday. 
I wanted to visit the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, but it didn't open until 11:30.  We scanned the street signs and saw that the National Building Museum was nearby, and it opened at 10.   What's not to love about a museum with this byline?  "Telling the stories of architecture, engineering, and design."  Then we headed to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art with one objective in mind - to see James Hampton's installation that inspired Shelley Pearsall's, The Seventh Most Important Thing, one of our Mock Newbery possibilities.   After locating Hampton's work, we spent several hours enjoying the museum.  We chose our last stop, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, because we had heard they had the best museum restaurant on the mall.  We arrived after 2 and made a beeline to their cafeteria.  We even managed to see most of the museum after our late lunch.  And then we headed for the metro and even managed to snag the right shuttle back to our kids' place.  

  2.  We enjoyed family time with Blake and Stefi on Friday and Saturday.
We enjoyed great meals together, hiked the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail, took in two movies, and visited several points of interest in Old Town Alexandria including the Saturday Farmer's Market and the George Washington Masonic Memorial.  Blake joined the club of family and friends who have waited patiently while I insist on a stop to photograph a tree.  

3.  Our quick trip concluded with an early flight
home on Sunday morning that arrived an hour early.
And that's something worth celebrating!

"The Throne of the Third Heaven"
James Hampton, folk artist

On the C & O Trail
Great Falls Overlook
Majestic tree on the grounds of the George Washington Masonic Memorial

 Promised pic from Pie Night at the Passeys last week 
- cutting pies into 16 slices is serious business!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

So Many Books, Never Enough Time!

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" 
to the Tuesday Slice of Life (SOL) community.
Thanks to Stacey, Tara, Betsy, Dana, BethAnna, Kathleen, and Deb
                    for hosting this meeting place each Tuesday and nurturing our writing lives.

Decision Time!  Do you struggle with what to pack for a trip?  For me, the clothes are a secondary decision.  The most important decisions are what books to pack.  I generally pack a couple of books in my carry on and then add a few more in my checked bag, but when I travel with my husband . . .  no checked bag!  Here are my choices as of this morning (still subject to the whims of my indecision):

Adult Book Club - The Grapes of Wrath  - can you believe I've never read it?  And I'm a native Oklahoman!

Mock Newbery Book Club - The Thing about Jellyfish - also a finalist for National Book Award

Professional Book - Falling In Love with Close Reading - I won't tell you how long I've owned it, but I knew after Chris Lehman's session at All Write that I needed to read his book.

Just for Fun - Still considering the possibilities for this one!

And here's a picture of the bookshelf I'm leaving behind (and that doesn't include the picture book basket that sits by my favorite chair).  
Retirement provides a bit more reading time, but I still return many library books unread and move them to my "check out again" list!

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Wild Roundup with Irene Latham!

Stop by Irene's blog Live Your Poem to
celebrate her 10 year blogiversary.  Check out her  
list of 14 things she's learned in 10 years of blogging.  

It's time to roll out the red leaf carpet,
and light the Chihuly glass
to celebrate our blogger friend, Irene Latham!
I was introduced to Irene at NCTE 2014
by my new friend, Kim Dooele.
Kim and I met at the newcomer's breakfast.
It was difficult to hide my wild excitement.  Newly retired
and attending NCTE for the first time, I couldn't believe 
that authors and poets and bloggers were everywhere,
attending the same sessions I was attending!  
I'm a fan of Irene's books,
Leaving Gee's Bend and Don't Feed the Boy
I was wildly ecstatic to snag a copy of her new book
Dear Wandering Wildebeest
and this picture with Laura Purdie Salas and Irene.
But the wildest thing I did this past year was responding to 
Irene's tweet inviting me to join the 2015 Progressive Poem.  
The days that followed were filled with wild dread
until my lines were penned and submitted.  
Then it was a wild frolic as we followed the
poetic adventures of our mermaid girl living without a net!
It's amazing to be a part of the blogging world.  
Thanks, Irene, for your wild support of so many bloggers
and congrats on this milestone, your ten year blogiversary!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Celebrate This Week!

                                        Join us each weekend for Celebrate This Week with Ruth Ayres.  
                                          When we pause to celebrate, we find the joy. 
Discover. Play. Build.
  A week filled with moments to celebrate and remember!

1.  Calendar wisdom!
"Gratitude makes each day sweeter, each memory warmer."

2.  More fall splendor!

3.  Nerdy Book Club post - Celebrating a year of book love
with my Books, Brownies & Beyond friends! 

4.  Pie Night at the Passey's tonight (pics next week)!

5.  Calendar wisdom from Pooh!

Have a fabulous weekend and remember to celebrate every day!