Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The One With Ten Things About My Writing #sol15

Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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My writing life has been up and down and fast and slow this school year. I entered a contest called Pitch Wars in the fall and was chosen to be mentored by two amazing women. I worked like crazy to revise my young adult novel to get it ready for the agent round. Since then, I've sent some queries and have even received my first...and second and third rejections. It's still hard to believe how far I've come from the NaNo wannabe I was in 2012. 

This July will be the fourth summer of Teachers Write and I'm so thrilled to connect with the amazing Teachers Write community again. One of my fellow Pitch Wars contestants, Tara Sim,  did a post on 10 Things About My Writing based on a post from Clarissa Harwood and I thought it would be fun to play along. The Sunday Check-In here at TMT during Teachers Write is all about reflecting on how things are going and figuring out what works best for you. So in the spirit of going all meta just for fun, even though it's not summer yet, here are 10 things I've learned about myself as a writer over the past few years.

1. I find characters all over the place. Usually I find someone intriguing and then I start to build his or her story, adding little pieces as I collect observations until I have a clear picture and am ready to write. I love seeing a person and trying to come up with a story for him or her. People are fascinating to me.

2. I let ideas grow before I let them out of my head. I collect my characters, piecing together who they are, what their stories are, how their stories intertwine, and then I start to free write. But it takes a while of them rolling around and growing like snowballs before I let a story out of my head.

 3. I may actually have too much fun describing. I've noticed there are times when I over-describe something and need go back and revise down. I just love the beauty of words all bundled up in pretty sentences.

4. Writing helps me process. When I read The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown, I recognized that I'm a word doodler. I like writing words and tracing over them, or writing something over and over again. It helps me remember but also lets me work through ideas and better understand concepts. Whether I'm writing fiction or non-fiction, it usually helps me refine my thoughts.

5. I can write anywhere. As a kid, (and still) I can read anywhere. It doesn't matter if there's a party going on, a rollercoaster rumbling by, a jet plane landing right in front of me, I can zone it all out and stay in the moment. This works for me as a writer, too. Sometimes, I like to drown out the sounds so I can concentrate but for the most part, I can block out distractions and zone in. 

6. Even though I haven't experienced everything my characters have, I try to build in the feelings I've had and link them to my characters. I love that writing lets readers into the characters' brains. It lets them truly know what it might be like to experience something novel and capturing those feelings means a lot to me as a writer.

7. Blank pages don't scare me. A couple of years ago on a writing retreat with Brenda Power of Choice Literacy, I picked up a card that said, "Bring it on, blank page!" and it was probably one of the most empowering moments as a writer. To know that I can face anything and that there is no reason to be scared by a blank page helped me see more clearly how to embrace sloppy copies and to cherish the process.

8. I couldn't do it without my friends. I'm so thankful for the Teachers Write community and other writing friends I have discovered along the way. I'm so inspired by other writers - other creators - people who do something they love, who share their work, who own the process, who help motivate me. I'm so grateful to not have to meander through this on my own. I realize now more than ever just how critical it is for me to have writing buddies to feed off of. At the same time, I have friends who read what I'm writing and have really pushed me to think through my writing in such a different lens. 

9. The longer I have to write, the better. I used to try and sneak in snatches of time to write and it still works for me but I really love being able to get lost in my words. To just block everything else out and give myself to drafting of revising or whatever it may be. I could get lost in writing for hours if only I could stop time...

10. Mentor texts truly rock. When I started this blog, I knew I loved mentor texts and I used them all the time with students. But now I pay attention with so much more intensity and specificity. I can spot what techniques an author is using and I think about how they might have made a word choice or other craft move intentionally. And any text is helpful to me, from fiction novels, to non-fiction picture books, poetry, prose, any genre, it all helps me and I love having amazing models to learn from.

What I love about writing 10 things about my writing is that it's just me. Maybe you'll read this and see how we are similar or maybe you'll read this and think, I could never do that or I never thought about that, but I think that's the beauty of sharing. Each of us needs to recognize how we work, what works best for us, what motivates and inspires us. And then what if we had conversations with students about what works for them? What if we helped student writers see that there isn't one right way, that their 10 things about writing might be totally different and that would be awesome? 
 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/27/15

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Peanut and I are so close to finishing Tom Angleberger's Fake Mustache! I finished Counting by 7's  and started listening to I Was Here by Gayle Forman. I also downloaded AJ Pine's One Night and am excited for a new adult novel for some fun.

Last Week's Reviews:
 
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm looking forward to listening to more of I Was Here and reading Fake Mustache, and One Night. I also just put a bunch of books on hold at the library so we'll see if any of those come in soon. We do have the first two Tom Gates books and Peanut is excited to read them so I'm curious to see what he thinks of them.

Last Week's Reviews:
 
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 

The Cosmo Biography of Sun Ra

Title: The Cosmo Biography of Sun Ra 
Author: Chris Raschka  
Illustrator: Chris Raschka  
Publisher: Candlewick Press 
Publication Date: May 13th, 2014 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction/Biography/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Jazz musician Sun Ra (1914–1993) always said that he came from Saturn. Being from another planet, he was naturally intrigued by everything earthly — especially music, because music is the one thing on Earth most like the stars. Earthlings themselves confused Sun Ra, the way they sorted themselves by color and fought wars against one another. So he made music. And he traveled with other musicians and singers, calling themselves the Sun Ra Arkestra, playing, singing, and dancing for people all over the planet. Because music, he said, is what holds us all together. Join acclaimed author-illustrator Chris Raschka in celebrating a legend of the jazz world who was truly one of a kind. 
What I Think: The colors of Chris Raschka's artwork in The Cosmo Biography of Sun Ra completely bring to life the essence of the musician Sun Ra. I love how the text helps us see how Su Ra was completed devoted to his curiosity about the world and how that extended into his music. As I read this book I thought about Genius Hour and Passion Projects and how when we pursue something we are truly passionate about, we can easily get lost researching and discovering and creating. This story shows how Sun Ra's curiosity led to creation and it's such a great book for thinking about how we moved from taking in information to putting out work. I can see how this book would be a great anchoring text for a teacher encouraging students to discover their passions.
     When I looked at commas with middle school students, I typed sentences from Jimi: Sounds like a Rainbow onto little strips and then asked students to look sort the sentences, looking for how commas were used and where they could see similarities in the sentence structure. We did this to uncover patterns in how commas are used instead of just learning about rules of commas. It was a great activity and as I look at the sentences in Sun Ra and how commas are used, I think the text in this book would lend itself to that same activity. You might even use sentences from both of the books and see how the writing is similar or different. This is one of my favorite ways to use mentor texts, to really look at the structure of a sentence and then to try that in writing.  
Read Together: Grades 3 - 5   
Read Alone: Grades 4 - 6 
Read With: Tito Puente, Mambo King by Monica Brown, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio 
Snatch of Text:   
"Sun Ra drew other musicians to him. They played in small groups, medium-
size groups, and big groups, with singers or without singers - all kinds of ways.
They were like sailors on a boat bound for a new world, a new world of sound."
Writing Prompts: Write about something that you were so curious or passionate about that you devoted a lot of your time to it.  
Topics Covered: Curiosity, Passion, Creativity 
I *heart* It:

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Let's Celebrate Princess Leia!

It's time to CELEBRATE This Week with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.  Every week Ruth invites us to share our celebrations from the week and link up at her blog. What a fun way to reflect on everything there is to be thankful for. 

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This week I'm celebrating Princess Leia!

*throws confetti*

In March, Marvel published the first in a series of Princess Leia comics. I pre-ordered my copy and was so excited to finally read it. The second comic was just as amazing. I'm completely in love with this new series and am so excited that Princess Leia is in the spotlight.
I've always believed in girl power but then I read this series and remember how important it is to have stories like this - especially in comics. So far, these two stories are excellent. Leia is brave and courageous but shows some vulnerability, too. I'm so excited about where this series is going and think it's going to be great to recommend to student readers. I was a bit worried but now that I've read these two, I totally think they will be perfect for a school setting. 

While I'm not rereading these comics, they are making me reflect upon myself as a comic reader. When I was a kid, I loved Archie and Garfield and I've blogged before about my adventures into comic book shops as a mom. I owe most of my current comic book shop bravery to Dave Roman who helped me not be so afraid of going into one. It feels silly now but I was so freaked out to go into a comic book shop because I wasn't sure what to expect or what I was looking for. Now I at least know what I'm looking for and what I might find and I'm not afraid any more. 

I do think it's possible to find gore and, shall I say, uncouth things in comic shops but there are also amazing comics for kids and adult readers, too. I'm celebrating the awesomeness of the Princess Leia series. Do you have any others to share that I should be on the lookout for? What are your favorite comic series?

What are you celebrating this week?

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Sky Painter Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Title: The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist 
Author: Margarita Engle 
Illustrator: Aliona Bereghici 
Publisher: Two Lions 
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction/Poetry/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Louis loves to watch birds. He takes care of injured birds and studies how they look and how they move. His father wants him to become an engineer, but Louis dreams of being a bird artist. To achieve this dream, he must practice, practice, practice. He learns from the art of John James Audubon. But as Louis grows up, he begins to draw and paint living, flying birds in their natural habitats.

Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874–1927) is now known as the father of modern bird art. He traveled with many scientific expeditions all over the world. His best-known works—paintings for habitat exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History in New York—are still beloved by visitors today. His art helped to encourage wildlife conservation, inspiring people to celebrate and protect the world of wings.
Poems by Newbery Honor–winning author Margarita Engle and illustrations by Aliona Bereghici capture the life of Louis Fuertes and the deep sense of wonder that he felt when he painted the sky.   
What I Think: Before reading Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt, I didn't know much about John James Audubon. Because Audubon's artwork plays such a key role in that book, I learned how influential he was. Bereghici's artwork in The Sky Painter is beautiful and unique. She has a way of making the vibrant colors sound soft and gentile like the birds she portrays in the illustrations.

I really like how Engle used poetry to break up the story, creating purposeful pauses between pieces of the story. They lyrical text works so well as poems and she offers a variety of samples of descriptive writing to look at. In the snatch of text alone, readers can look at alliteration, rhythm, simile, and metaphor.   

Poetry also offers a great opportunity to look at word choice. Because poetry naturally limits the number of words, it's critical that each word have a purpose. By paying attention to Engle's word choice, we can look at how they create an image that the reader can visualize. Recognizing this connection between reading and writing is helpful as a reader practices good reading strategies as much as for a writer practicing incorporating literary elements to help the reader be able to visualize. 
Read Together: Grade K - 6 
Read Alone: Grade 2 - 6 
Read With: She's Wearing a Dead Bird On Her Head by Kathryn Lasky, Look Up! by Annette LeBlanc Cate 
Snatch of Text:  

Alaska
"I whistle.
Birds answer.
I follow.
Blue shadows.
White snow.
Clear ice.
The beauty
of flight
like a dance
in the clouds,
a graceful ballet
of wild swans." 
Writing Prompts: Using what you know about descriptive writing to write about something you have observed in nature.  
Topics Covered: Integration - Science, Integration - Art, Nature, Passion, Admiration, Family  
Additional Resources: Margarita Engle is a Cuban American poet and novelist whose work has been published in many countries. Her books include The Poet Slave of Cuba, winner of the Pura Belpré Award for narrative and the Américas Award; The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor book; Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, a Kirkus Best Book for Children; and The Lightning Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, winner of the 2014 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Young Adult/Children’s Literature. Margarita lives in California, where she enjoys bird-watching and helping her husband with his volunteer work for wilderness search-and-rescue dog training programs. To learn more, and to download a free activity kit for THE SKY  PAINTER, visit: www.margaritaengle.com.
Today happens to be Poetry Friday so hop on over to No Water River for other poetry posts!
I *heart* It:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Follow along on THE SKY PAINTER blog tour!

Mon, Apr 20
Library Fanatic
Tues, Apr 21
Kid Lit Frenzy
Wed, Apr 22
Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Apr 23
5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Apr 24
Teach Mentor Texts
Sat, Apr 25
Booking Mama
Mon, Apr 27
Sharpread
Tues, Apr 28
The Children's Book Review
Wed, Apr 29
Cracking the Cover
Thurs, Apr 30
A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
Fri, May 1
Archimedes Notebook


*Thanks to Blue Slip Media for 
a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review 
and the opportunity to offer this giveaway!*

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The One With Pryvit #sol15


Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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Last year, a new family with a third-grade girl moved in at the end of the culdesac. We were playing basketball in the driveway and she came over to play with us. Despite knowing very little English, she wasn't shy in joining in our game. 

That first day, I did learn her name but that was about it. Nonetheless, we were able to play basketball, taking shots, passing the ball, laughing when we missed.

We didn't see our friend much during the winter because it was really super freezing this winter and we didn't even play outside much even when there was snow. 

But now that the weather is warm again (finally), we've been playing outside and our end-of-the-culdesac friend came over on Saturday when we were playing outside. This time we were playing a ring toss game and as we played, I started asking her some simple questions and she was able to answer. She's definitely learned more English since she knew in the fall.

She told me she was from Ukraine and she had a dog and a cat there. I asked her if she missed Ukraine - I had to rephrase this question to ask if she was sad when she was here instead of in Ukraine. But she said she is happy in both places.

And then I started asking her to teach me how she would say hello and good-bye in Ukraine. She explained that they speak Russian and I repeated the phrases she taught me. Honestly, it wasn't easy but we had fun trying. I did learned how to say 
pryvit, which means hello - I have no idea if that's how you write it - but I looked it up online and I think it's close.

The next time I saw her I scrambled to remember any of the words or phrases she taught me. It was really hard to remember...but pryvit stuck with me and when I said it, her face lit up. She beamed and repeated it back to me. Maybe it wasn't perfect and I have a long way to go, but I tried and the smile on her face told me it was appreciated.

I truly don't know much about Ukraine or the language they speak. BUT through play, a smile, and listening with my heart, we have this new neighborhood friend. It's not hard to see others, to acknowledge them, to connect with them. It takes an open mind and patience, but it's possible. 

Someday, if I keep practicing...I hope to be able to tell her how brave she is and how much she inspires me.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/20/15

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Peanut and I are still reading Tom Angleberger's Fake Mustache and it's so fun because we've finally gotten to Jodie O'Rodeo's part and I get to use my country-western accent. I'm about halfway through Counting by 7's and I'm curious to see how it ends. I did get back to The Choreography of Prensenting which gave me a few things to think about, especially some techniques I hadn't named before.

I did get a lot of writing done this week...but not blog post writing unfortunately. Trying again this week!

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'll be listening more to Counting by 7's on audio and finishing up Fake Mustache with Peanut...and then it'll be a surprise after that! I do have Orion and The Dark by Emma Yarlett on hold at my local bookstore that I'm hoping to pick up this week so that's definitely on my must reread list! 

This Week's Reviews:
 
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/13/15

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
I fell in love with Gilmore Girls again this week. It's a totally different kind of rereading but honestly, it's such a brilliantly written show and it's been making me think through my novel so it's its own kind of mentor text in a way.

Bookwise, I finished Terrible Two! What a great book. Too funny and I totally found a prank book that Peanut made in his room the other day. Love it. 

Reviewed Last Week:
 
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm going to try my reviews again this week...and I got Counting by 7's on audio. I'm so excited because I've only heard good things. It's been a while since I've listened to audiobooks. The last couple of months have been a bit of a whirlwind and I've enjoyed lots of Spotify playlists but it will be good to get back to my audiobooks. Happy reading everyone! 

This Week's Reviews:
 
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!