Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Writing With My Fate According to the Butterfly

Last summer, I led two virtual book clubs with students. They were 7th graders moving into 8th grade and one group read My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva. I first learned of Gail and his sweet book through our World Read Aloud Day celebrations. When I started working in my current school district, I introduced the free World Read Aloud Day Skypes to teachers. Now every student visits with an author on World Read Aloud Day in our K-8 district. 

I'm really proud of making connections - between kids and creators, between reading and writing, between teachers and books, between teachers and kids. I love it. So I was excited to share this book with a small group of students. We read and discussed but I also stopped here and there to slow down and look at the writing and that's what I'd like to share today. 
Years ago, I volunteered with 826CHI and spent two weeks with middle grade writers for their summer camp and the focus was food! I love food. I didn't realize how awesome food would be as a theme though until I was there and living it and experiencing how the amazing people of 826CHI brought it to life for me. 

We all have experiences with food. And we all have food that nourishes us or makes us want to throw up. We all have feelings connected to food. Food is such a universal experience. I think of one of my former students who uses a feeding tube. Even she has connections to food. So for this week's mentor text, I picked a snatch of text from My Fate According to the Butterfly that slows down to celebrate the best kare-kare ever. 

My thought for using this is to notice how she first tells us what she's describing. And then she shows us. Y'all, we need to show AND tell. It's okay to show and tell in our writing. Sometimes we need one more than the other, sometimes we need them together, sometimes they stand alone. But showing and telling both matter. 

So here's the excerpt:

"In moments like these, I'm so glad I'm not allergic to peanuts. 

This kare-kare must be life's way of rewarding my hero-ism, bringing me to this carinderia. Because this canteen has the best kare-kare ever. 

Swimming among the orange peanut sauce are beef chunks and pieces of ox tripe with melt-in-your-mouth texture. It also has a generous amount of soft eggplants, string beans, and pechay greens. The peanut sauce isn't too thick, nor is it too thin. It's the perfect sauce on a cup of steamed rice. Add a dash of their sweet-and-spicy shrimp paste, and you've got a saucy, savory, and slightly sweet combination that's like heaven on earth." (p. 122)

There's so much to talk about here! First she tells us what she's talking about. She writes, "...the best kare-kare-ever." It made me think of all the best things I know....

And then she tells us the details. Above are some words I wanted to think about for my own writing: swimming, chunks, melt-in-your-mouth, dash of..., and like heaven on earth. We talk a lot about cliches and not using cliches in writing but at the same time, there is definitely vocabulary that goes with writing about food. These stood out to me and I wanted to think about these for my own writing. 

But first I had to think of food that I think is THE BEST. What foods do you think are the best? Here's my list!

What stood out to me is that all my food comes from other places! When I decided to go vegan, I started exploring places with vegan food, everywhere I go I look for vegan food! From here I decided to zone in on one and see how I would first tell and then show about that food. 


Blind Faith Cafe's Vegan Chocolate Cake
(AKA the best cake ever)

When I went vegan, I went in search of the yummiest vegan options - here, in Chicago, and everywhere I go. And hands down, Blind Faith Cafe in Evanston has the best chocolate cake ever. 

Drizzled with raspberry sauce and served with a side of raspberry sorbet is the most divine chocolate cake. Not too dry, not too gooey, the cake is perfect. The vanilla frosting is sweet but subtle. Take a bite with cake and frosting and raspberry sauce and feel the love and joy and bliss that's like heaven on earth. 

I love mentor texts like this because they truly help me feel held and free when it comes to writing. That I can try something like this myself, that I have stories to tell, that writing can be fun. 

You know you want a piece of this cake now!!! Come to Chicago and I'll take you to experience it. It's awesome. But I also hope you toooootally want to go write about your best food, to show AND tell me all about it. What food do you think is the best?!?










Monday, January 25, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 01/25/2021

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop I co-host with Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing ReadersThe original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It's a great way to share what you're reading and get recommendations. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Last Week's Adventures:
I ended up reading more of Why They Can't Write by John Warner and The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. 

What We Explored Last Week!



This Week's Adventures:

I'll be reading The 57 Bus and I'm pausing Why They Can't Write to read The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom by Felicia rose Chavez and I'm sooooooooooo excited.

One more week until my FREE workshop For Teachers: The Year of You. On Instagram, I asked what people are looking forward to and Angie Moore replied, "Seeing you in real time." That made my heart soar! I'm looking forward to that too. I am so excited to gather everyone up in a Zoom hug but also to talk stories and social justice.

Don't miss it! Sign up HERE.

Goodness Coming Your Way This Week!


What are you reading this week? 
Link up below and check out other blogs to see what they're 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!


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Writing With A Fire In My Hands

One of the challenges of writing a story is to be able to zone in on a small moment. And then from there to choose not just a small moment but a meaningful moment.

Writers use mentor texts to gather up ideas and to think about how to take those ideas and turn them into published pieces.

A Fire In My Hands is a collection of poetry written by Gary Soto. His poem Oranges is the most anthologized poem in contemporary literature. How's that for a fun fact?

To get students brainstorming, first show students four images: oranges, a bench, a football, a clock. Model how to make a list of ideas for each of them and give them time to write their own ideas that come to mind. 

Then read Oranges, Some Words About Time, and Manuel and the Football Scrubs and show students how one small moment can be a poem. Ask them to notice what stands out to them and then have them try some of these techniques and craft moves in their own writing. They might even have more ideas for stories to write after reading what Gary Soto wrote about in his poems.

Of course, I tried this myself and suggest you try it too! I decided to use the first few lines of Oranges to get myself started.

The Clock Tower

The first time I saw the Clock Tower
with my friend Mike, I was 18? 19?
We took off driving
rolling down the windows and turning up the music.
College kids with nothing to do, 
meandering through cornfields in my white Suzuki Sidekick.
Eventually we found ourselves in Rockford,
stopping to get gas at a station next to the Clock Tower.

I wrote about this with my 8th graders 
the morning of the attack on the Capitol.
It was January 6th, 2021.
I taught my 7th graders about the Bill of Rights that afternoon.
The next day I thought about how to show up for my students.
How to talk to them about freedom in America. 
How to talk to them about injustice and how to speak out against it.

I decided we'd write and we'd talk
and I'd give them space and hopefully hold them up.
I reminded them to enjoy the moments
to cherish the times
when they can be themselves
hang out with a friend
roll down the windows
turn up the music
go for a drive
through cornfield after cornfield
and end up at the Clock Tower in Rockford. 

Because it's moments like that
two friends
happy and spontaneous
not a care in the world
young and free
that remind us what we are fighting for 
in moments like this.






Monday, January 18, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 01/18/2021

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop I co-host with Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing ReadersThe original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It's a great way to share what you're reading and get recommendations. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Last Week's Adventures:
Well...I'm just not reading much lately. I'm not sure what it is. I'm taking in lots of information but more via other media than books. This weekend I attended a stock market course with Linda Garcia from In Luz We Trust. It was really good learning. 


This Week's Adventures:

I still need to read The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater for our book clubs. And I still have Of Curses and Kisses to listen to. 

My friend Joy Kirr tweeted the other day, sharing three things:

"1. There is no good time to send or receive unexpected news. 
2. No one can help current classroom teachers right now except for current classroom teachers. 
3. Everyone else? Pls stop telling us to care for ourselves and in the next sentence tell us we need to do more."

This is exactly why I created For Teachers: The Year of You. Because I know exactly what y'all are feeling right now. I am you. We are in this together. Don't miss this opportunity, I really want you to experience it. You can sign up HERE.

Goodness Coming Your Way This Week:


What are you reading this week? 
Link up below and check out other blogs to see what they're 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!


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Writing Out of Wonder

In 2017, I shared the book Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth with illustrations by Ekua Holmes. You can read all about it here

I LOVE mentor texts! I started this blog because I love them so much and I see the power in how to use them. At any moment in time, writers always have mentors, people who have come before us, people who have led the way, people who guide us. But we have to know how to call on them. 
Out of Wonder is an awesome place to start with mentor texts because it's literally a book of poems inspired by poets. The authors chose twenty poets to learn from and wrote poems in honor of them and their style. 

In the Preface, Kwame writes, "I believe that by reading other poets we can discover our own wonder." This reminds me of a quote from Mary Lou Kownacki, "There isn't anyone you couldn't love once you've heard their story."

When we share mentor texts with students and invite them into life of a writer. We say, welcome to the party! See all these other awesome people? They write just like you. We give them role models to look up to. 

This is why it's so important to read widely and select texts that represent a variety of lived experiences. In this way we show our students that we value diversity and that we celebrate being in community with those who might look like us and those who might not. 

I suggested in my original post about this book that you can invite students to choose a poet from Out of Wonder, read the poem that was written in honor of them, and then go research them and their poetry. I decided to try this myself with Kwame's work. In my notebook I made a list of his work that stands out to me. 


Depending on your students, you can decide if you do this together or if they do it on their own. You can decide if you give them links to an author and their work or if you let them research on their own. With my middle schoolers, I know they have music they love and I think it would be super interesting to let them try this with bands or singers that they listen to. 

I started by making a "What I Notice" list. Kwame's writing has rhythm and is fun. He pays attention to word choice and word length and sometimes he plays with how the words are arranged on the page. And then I had to go and listen to the The OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO for Kwame Alexander's THE PLAYBOOK (with Music by Randy Preston)


Kwame reminds me to have fun! 

But he also reminds me to take a stance in Take a Knee.

I decided to try this myself and here's what I came up with. 



Live Big

One
life to live
Many 
dreams to pursue

One
soul in one body
Many 
hugs to give

One 
step to take
Many 
miles to walk

One 
turn to take
Many 
shots to make

One 
breathe to take 
Many 
sighs to exhale

One 
heart to beat
Many
people to meet

One
life to live
So many chances
to live big

Which poet are you interested in celebrating? I'd love to hear your favorite poets or your students favorite poets. If you love this and want slides so you can use this as a mini lesson in your anti-racist writer's workshop, join the Story Exploratory Patreon community here

Monday, January 11, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 01/11/2021

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop I co-host with Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing ReadersThe original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It's a great way to share what you're reading and get recommendations. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Last Week's Adventures:
I've been listening to Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon. 

This Week's Adventures:

My students are starting book clubs this week so I'll be reading The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater and revisiting Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowlingand Internment by Samira Ahmed. And I'll be listening to more of Of Curses and Kisses.  

Over the weekend, I shared an exciting new Story Exploratory experience called For Teachers: The Year of You. I love being a teacher. It's important work. It's hard work, now more than ever. When this school year started, I told a friend I needed a support group...and then I decided to create my own. A place where I can hold space for teachers so you can feel held and free and SHINE as the brilliant soul that you are. I hope you join me. You deserve it. And I bet you can think of five teacher friends who deserve some love headed their way right now too. I'd love if you would send this on to them so they can join in too. 

More information and sign up HERE.

Goodness Coming Your Way This Week!



What are you reading this week? 
Link up below and check out other blogs to see what they're 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!


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Magic of Brussels Sprouts

I called a friend on Saturday.

"Do you have a few minutes?" I asked. 

She did.

"I found my way back to writing," I gushed, feeling all the way through my body that it was true and letting it settle into my muscles. 

My writer's heart was broken in July 2018 and I've been limping along, wiping tears and more tears, not giving up since then. I finally feel excited to write again so I'm joining Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog and offering up some words to the world, celebrating the magic of living the life of a writer.

This week I'm sharing The Magic of Brussels sprouts. Thanks for reading. :)

*****

Missing being able to gather with friends and family in 2020 had me thinking about ways to still show people I care about them. I used to love sending handmade holiday cards but that was back when I used to scrapbook and the kids were little and that was how I wanted to spend my time. This year I decided I could use my digital scrapbooking skills to make a card in Canva without paying for all the supplies, making a mess, or taking up too much time. And then I also decided we could put together ingredients for North Pole S'mores to deliver. Porch drop offs and front yard visits would get us up and out of the house but also connect us to friends and family while still keeping everyone safe. 


On Christmas Eve, I told Jordan he had to go with me to drop off North Pole S'mores to two friends of his and one family friend. He was reluctant (apparently teenagers love to hate anything parents force them to do) but came with me. He didn’t say much to his friends as we dropped off the bags but I could tell he felt some energy in getting out of the house and seeing them in real life if even for just a few minutes. 


I dropped Jordan off at home and went in to round Danny up and tell him it was his turn. We mapped out our dropoff plan, listing his four friends based on where they lived and deciding our route. Third on the list was one of his friends who used to live in our neighborhood but now lives one block from town. Danny hopped out of our van with the bag of goodies to ring the doorbell and wait for his friend to come. 


As I backed out of the driveway, I glanced over at their neighbors’ house. During the pandemic, I added a lot of plants to our house, mostly indoor plants but some outdoors too. When I dropped Danny off to play football with Will over the summer, I saw plants and plants and plants all over the neighbor’s yard. Now it was mostly empty except for a two-foot tall mini-tree looking plant with long leaves that looked like Eeyore’s ears drooping down to the ground. 


“I’ve never seen that plant before,” I said to Danny, pointing out the window.


“His neighbor is a plant expert,” he explained. “Will told me before.”


I didn’t think much of it until about a week later when I went for a walk with my friend Meg in her neighborhood that she describes as “crunchy”. It’s a conservation community where people do lots of earthy good things. As we walked, she pointed out interesting stuff along the way. When we came to the community garden, I saw bare patches of land except for a plot with six green stalks growing, similar to the ones I had seen when we were out delivering North Pole S'mores. 


“What are those?” I asked her. “I saw something like it the other day.”


“I don’t know,” she said. “But now we have to check them out.”


I carefully followed into the gardens and we marveled at these plants that were still standing at the end of December, covered in frost.


When I lifted the leaves growing from the top, it revealed little sprouts underneath, up and down the stalk. 


Under the surface, there was so much more to them! Not to mention it was winter in the Chicagoland area and they seemed happy, as if they were meant to be there. 


The next day I texted Meg that I was now watching YouTube videos about Brussels sprouts. I had so many questions! How did they grow? Were they meant to be growing in winter? Was the gardener going to come back and pick them? When are Brussels sprouts typically harvested? When do you plant Brussels sprouts? Why did I not know this before?


I mean, it makes sense that I didn’t know this before. Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation, right? My kids will eat broccoli but Brussels sprouts? No way. 


Turns out Brussels sprouts are a common winter meal and they’re actually sweeter after a frost. 


I had no idea. I did know they grew on stalks, having discovered a bin of them at Trader Joe’s a few years ago. Of course, I bought one to show my family. What a surprise! Somehow this made them more fun, adventurous even. And now the more I get to know Brussels sprouts, the more fascinated I am.


I started to think of friends I’ve made along the way who remind me of badass Brussels sprouts. These friends are quiet powerhouses, women I’m so glad to know because I paid attention, I was curious about their stories, I spent time getting to know them, and they trusted me. Nancy, Joy, Alex, Donna, Wendy are some of these friends who come to mind and I’m so glad to know them. 


When I set off to share North Pole S’mores this year, I was missing being able to gather with friends and family in 2020. None of these women were on our list to deliver North Pole S’mores to. Either we’ve lost touch or they’re too far away. But I appreciate the reminder to pay attention, be curious, make time, and really appreciate all the gifts in my life. 


Even Brussels sprouts.


Monday, January 4, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 01/04/2021

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop I co-host with Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing ReadersThe original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It's a great way to share what you're reading and get recommendations. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Best wishes for a happy 2021! Thanks for coming to check out what I'm up to and to share what you are reading! 

This week I finished listening to Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao and read some essays by Latinx authors like Carmen Machado. It's time to go back to school tomorrow. We have an in-district conference today and I'm presenting on Writer's Workshop as Identity Work and on ideas for I Feel Better When I'm ______. As hard as this year has been, I'm hoping to share some good vibes and good energy with colleagues.

For Story Exploratory, I'll be sharing a FREE workshop just for teachers at the end of the month. If you're interested, make sure you are signed up for my newsletter. You even get a freebie for signing up!

This Week's Book Adventures:

This week I'm going to commit to another audiobook. This time I'm listening to Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon. 

What are you reading this week? 
Link up below and check out other blogs to see what they're 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!


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/12/2021

  It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!   It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop I co-host with ...