Sunday, June 30, 2013

Teachers Write Sunday Check-In Week 1

I hope everyone had a wonderful first week with Teachers Write! I’m so excited to hear how it went! Has the experience been what you expected? What was your favorite part of the week?

Last year, I knew I wanted to write a young adult novel and focused my energy on cranking out words, striving to make it to the end of my sloppy copy, knowing that they only way to revise, is to first have something written. Many of the Teachers Write posts last year were geared towards people like me who wanted to write fiction. We never intended to disclude non-fiction writers but in talking with different people, it seems like we may have neglected non-fiction writers.   

I invited my friend, Katherine Sokolowski, here today to share how she adapted Teachers Write to make it fit her needs as a non-fiction writer. I hope everyone can learn from her experience and know that we hope to give you the resources to feel supported with your writing but we also invite you to take as much or as little as you need.

JEN: Hi, Katherine! Thank you so much for being willing to share your experience with Teachers Write last summer as a non-fiction writer!

KATHERINE: Hi, Jen! Thanks for asking me to stop by! Glad to talk writing and Teachers Write with you.

JEN: To start, can you tell me what you goals were for your writing at the beginning of last summer when you signed up for Teachers Write?

KATHERINE: Hmm, my main goal was to continue writing. I had started my blog in November of that school year and I wanted to continue updating over the summer. I had also just started writing for Choice Literacy and wanted to continue writing articles for them over the summer as well.

JEN: Can you talk about what worked for you as a non-fiction writer participating in Teachers Write? What did you find helped you meet your goals?

KATHERINE: I had made it a goal of mine to write each day of the summer - just to write something. Some days I had an article/post in mind, some days a certain amount of time, some days an amount of words. I used Teachers Write to surround myself with a community of writers. Often the exercises were geared towards fiction writing. I’d use them if I was stuck and struggling to find a topic for the day - the writing exercises stretched my writing muscles.

JEN: With so much emphasis on the Common Core and non-fiction writing, I’m worried that people will no longer spend time on creative writing. I believe the literary devices we use in fiction writing brings non-fiction to life. Were there certain prompts or exercises that you used in your non-fiction writing?

KATHERINE: I can’t remember any writing exercise specifically. I do know that I use a lot of personal narrative in my own writing - I tell a lot of stories from my classroom and my life in general. To get my message conveyed to my readers I think my writing has to have similar elements that are found in fiction writing - there is a hook, a story, an emotional impact. Those things are necessary regardless of the genre of the writing. I think some of the writing exercises helped me to recognize those qualities in my own writing.

JEN: Even though you wrote non-fiction and didn’t always use the exercises that Kate shared, you said that you did find support in the community of writers through Teachers Write. Can you explain more?

KATHERINE: Sure! I think that being part of Teachers Write is similar to being in a writing group - you have people all around that are also working on writing as well. It makes you feel that you are surrounded by friends that are cheering you on. Being part of this community made me more aware of my own writing voice and increased the amount of writing I did daily.

JEN: I know that I found people I seemed to connect with and ended up having more specific conversations about our writing and our writing goals. Did you find others who were focusing on blogging or non-fiction writing?

KATHERINE: Not necessarily one or two specific people, but the entire community was wonderful. Many started reading my blog and leaving comments, which is always encouraging. They would also retweet my blog and send Tweets or Facebook messages, which kept me motivated to write more.

JEN: What are your goals for Teachers Write this year and how are you participating this year?

KATHERINE: This year I want to continue writing blog posts and Choice Literacy articles. I also have a book idea just beginning to form in my mind that would be geared towards teachers. I’m excited and nervous to begin.

JEN: What advice to you have for Teachers Write participants writing fiction or non-fiction?

KATHERINE: I think anyone wanting to participate in Teachers Write needs to make the program their own. What works for you may not be what works for someone else. If you need to do the writing exercises, great! If you need to just Tweet for support, fabulous. What’s important is that you write and - in the fall - share your writing with your students.

Thank you Katherine for sharing your perspective on Teachers Write and writing non-fiction! 
This discussion leads right into my second Teachers Write Tip! 
You get to decide what you want to write! Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, a novel, a picture book, or a poetry. Blog posts, journaling, or writing to share with others. It's totally up to you. Write what calls to you and if it means trying something new or different, go for it! I think it's awesome that we don't always know where our writing is going to take us. What an exhilarating feeling!

A reminder of my rules for Teachers Write Sunday Check-Ins:

1. We respect each other and the type of writing we do.
2. We only offer constructive criticism.
3. We are positive and encourage each other at all times.
4. We recognize and maintain this as a safe environment.
**I reserve every right to put the smackdown
on anyone who messes with our positive energy.**

Ideas for today, in the comments section:
What kind of writing are you working on? Fiction or non-fiction?
A picture book, chapter book, novel, poetry?
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the non-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

My Teachers Write Weekly Recap:
My plan for Teachers Write is to work on revisions for a young adult contemporary fiction novel and to draft another of the same. This week, I ran into a picture book that prompted an idea for a narrative non-fiction picture book of my own - see how writing surprises you? I ordered a few books from the library as research. I'm not sure where I'll go with that, but it seems fun. 

This week, I participated in the writing prompts from Kate and Jo. I feel like I eased into Teachers Write by reading and writing along with the prompts. I did open up the draft that I'm revising and I shared the beginning over at Friday Feedback with Gae and Geoff Herbach. On Tuesday, I shared how I was feeling overwhelmed by lots of things that were making it hard for me to devote as much time to writing as I wanted to...but I still count it as a win that I got some writing in!

This week I'm working on revising and outlining the beats for the first draft I hope to start in on. 


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