Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall's Splendor

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

I love fall and always find myself smitten by the colors of the season.  I snapped this  photo on Saturday as I left school after grading papers for several hours.  I quickly phoned a friend and asked her to join me for a walk.  I think that we caught the only hour on Saturday when it wasn't raining (it started to sprinkle as we ended our walk).  She's used to me and indulges me in this quest for perfect fall colors.  In the spring I snap pictures of new growth and blossoms, and in the fall I capture these wondrous bursts of color. 
All the pictures you see here were taken on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday as I walked and soaked up these colors.  Heavy rains and wind may soon whisk the leaves away, but the pictures allow me to revisit the images as often as I like. 

I love the contrast in this picture of the bright green, the red, and blue of the house in the background.


A perfect fall bouquet of orange, yellow and red!

              A friend's home with a burst of orange and the glow of a welcoming lamp!

Monday, October 22, 2012

All in a morning's work!

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

3:15 a.m.  Wake up and mind begins churning . . .
Grab the pad beside my bed & empty my mind onto a paper list in hopes of getting back to sleep.
3:45 Decide to get up because mind is still churning and sleep is nowhere in sight.
Pull out late work folder from school bag and begin processing the work.
4:45 Hubby leaves for airport (I don't do airport runs on school days).
Head downstairs for my plan book and grade folder.
Get sidetracked by book review from WSJ, cut out the picture, & rearrange text so it fits on one page (front and back) in preparation for using it for a context vocabulary lesson.
5:15 Phone rings, who is calling at this hour?
It's hubby who has discovered he has no wallet.
Run upstairs to check for wallet on bathroom counter - not there.
Run downstairs to look beside computer -not there.
Ask hubby if it could be in the Prius, "No, I'm in the cab."
But remember, we were in the Prius last night when we went out to dinner.
"It's not in the car, check my black pants."
Run back upstairs to check black pants, not there.
Check bathroom counter again, no wallet.
Check by the bathtub, no wallet.
Wait, there's something on the tile by the closet door!
Your wallet!
Decide to meet at the church, he's a few miles away.
Throw on a bathrobe & my slippers, grab my wallet, my phone, his wallet, and the newspaper (can't bear to wait without something to read).  Did not brush hair or put on lipstick.
Arrive at church, phone hubby, what if I meet you at the Park & Ride?
"No, just stay at the church, but wait on the opposite side from where we usually park."
Change sides, read article in newspaper about historic Columbus Day storm.
Cab pulls into parking lot, I jump out, hand over the wallet, and saunter back to the car.
Superwife to the rescue.
Will he make his flight?
Drive home, head to shower at 5:45.
Good thing I'm easily distracted (the WSJ article) or I would have been in the shower when he called!
And yes, he did make the flight!

Monday, October 15, 2012

You Choose the Next Newbery!

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

My students have been chosen as participants in the You Choose the Next Newbery (YCTNN) program.  Librarians from King County Library System (KCLS) selected six titles this past week.  

The YCTNN @ KCLS ballot titles for 2013:

The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead
I am so excited with this list.  I've already read The One and Only Ivan, Wonder, and Three Times Lucky (

We discuss these titles in book clubs.  Parents join us as participants in our book clubs.  I love the community connections that are forged by this program.  Students need to read four of the six titles from the list between now and Jan. 12 in order to participate in the online voting offered by KCLS.  I participated in this program with my students in 2010.  It's a great opportunity for students to become familiar with the criteria established by the Newbery Committee and to read books published in 2012 that may be considered for the Newbery Award.  
In order to make the program work for my two classes and 56 students of sixth graders, we need eight titles.  I know that I want to add One for the Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt.  What do you think, fellow bloggers?  Which title do you think we should add to our reading list for next year's Newbery?  If it wins, we'll be sure to mention in the blog that you suggested we add it to our list.  An added bonus for us is that the Newbery winner is announced at the ALA midwinter meeting in January, and this year the meeting is in Seattle.  We'll be listening and hoping that one of our books (or your suggestion) makes the cut!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Counting myself lucky!

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

As the last word faded away, I knew I'd discovered another favorite book.  This book by Sheila Turnage soared to the top of my list and landed right beside One for the Murphys in my Newbery hopeful pile!  Anytime I read a book review that sparks my interest, I request the title from KCLS.  By the time it arrives, I'm not sure if it was a fellow blogger, the NYT Book Review, or the indie bookstore newsletter that prompted the request.

Regardless of how I lucked into this book, my first piece of luck was receiving this audio version narrated by Michael Friedman.  It was so fun to hop in the car and follow the adventures of Mo LoBeau and her friend, Dale.   My second piece of luck was finding another great middle grade novel featuring the friendship between a boy and girl who are best friends and "rising sixth graders" to boot.  And my third piece of luck was discovering this writer who captures so well the Southern voice that I was surrounded by growing up in Oklahoma.  The book was set in North Carolina, but the setting could just as easily have been my home state and the small town where I grew up.  Reading this book was like going home for a brief spell!

So find yourself a rocking chair and prepare to fall in love with Mo LoBeau, Dale, Miss Rose, Lavender, Miss Lana, the Colonel, and Tupelo Landing.  Maybe you'll be Three Times Lucky by the time the mystery is solved!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Lois Lowry

Join me on my writing journey each week as I post to the Tuesday Slice of Life sponsored by Stacy and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

When I saw Franki Sibberson's post this morning regarding The Giver and the publication of The Son, I realized that I had discovered my slice for today.  My slices are often prompted by things I read from other slicers and writers.

What a gift Lois Lowry is to our world!  I remember finishing Number the Stars on an airplane as tears streamed down my face.  I recall reading The Giver as I stood in an interminable line to get something (driver's license? passport?) after our move to Seattle.  I read The Willoughbys with delight and loved that she wove elements from Victorian stories that so many of us grew up with into this book.  One of my favorite books to read aloud is Gossamer.  There's so much in this book about the power of memory.

I read two biographies of Lois Lowry one year in preparation for modeling how to become the subject of your biography for an oral presentation.  Those biographies prompted me to follow her blog and from that time I was hooked!  Her blog was one of the first blogs that I regularly visited in the blogosphere.

Imagine my delight when she visited Seattle in 2008.  Here's are the notes that I kept from her presentation and shared via email with my colleagues.

  • Notes from Lois Lowry presentation – March 15, 2008 
  • Reconciliation – (one of the great themes) requires coming to terms with something that has made you uncomfortable.  
  • When Lois visited with her dad (who had Alzheimer’s?) and had conveniently forgotten his daughter, Helen, who had died – Lois began to think . . . What if (which is what writers always do) everything bad could be taken out of one’s memory?  What if we could manipulate human memory?  This led to her book The Giver.  
  • She put Gooney Bird in 2nd grade because she never went to 2nd grade.  She went to school knowing how to read and skipped 2nd grade.  
  • Lois is very visual, studied photography and the visual aspect always ties in with her writing.  Many of the covers of her books feature photographs that she has taken.  
  • What character would she most want to have lunch with?  The blind character, the seer in Gathering Blue. 
  • Why does she read poetry each day before she writes?  It gives me a feeling each day of the eloquence and lyrical effect of poetry.  
  • Do you believe that there are different expectations for adult literature and literature for young people?  No!  While there are those who believe that all literature for children should be uplifting and happy, I think children’s literature should be honest about reflecting life.  Reading about things that are different is how we practice and rehearse our own lives.  
  • What tips do you have for the wannabe author?  Focus on the writing, how you love language and how words are put together on the page.  The real way to learn the most about writing is by reading! 
  • (interesting side note – she rarely reads children’s literature.) 
  • Why are your books based on secrets?  Lois thought this was a good question and gave it some thought.  All serious books have secrets, something that is unknown that keeps you turning the pages.  Probably all serious literature deals with secrets.  She said I need to think about this some more.  
  • In responding to a question about current culture (I didn’t get the question down), she replied that writers have to pay attention to today’s world and make things move along.  
  • What advice do you have for young people troubled about today’s world?  We can’t flee a society that is repressive.  Educate yourselves and vote for leaders who will serve us well.  
  • What is the main message that you want to send through your writing?  This question made her cringe because she doesn’t like books with a message.  The thing that is most important is the way we as human beings are responsible for each other and are connected to each other.  It is time to stop thinking of ourselves as alone in the world.  

When I reread these notes, it made me glad that I'm a notetaker and a notekeeper. Unfortunately, the clock beckons and I must end this post and get myself to school.  So look for a future post with more notes about her presentation at the National Book Festival.  

I'll close with this quote from a favorite post about teachers on Lois Lowry's blog. 
“Down those treacherous bright streets and the dark paths today’s children travel, they need our companionship, our respect, our outstretched hands.”

Click here to read her entire post about teachers -