Monday, September 18, 2017

Slice of Life: The frustration of writing


Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 


A few of my colleagues from my MFA program started an on-line writing group, and we met last night. Some of these people are published authors, and all of them except me have completed their MFA program in creative writing. They've all written many critical essays, including one at least 35 pages long. They've also written over a hundred pages of a creative draft with the input of an experienced mentor.

We've all written a lot. 

And yet, many of the questions and the input and the struggles boiled down to the same questions I ask my elementary aged writers: 
  • What's your story really about? 
  • What does your character really, really want?
  • How do you weave action, description, dialogue, and inner thinking together in order to communicate the wishes and struggles of the characters?
  • How do you stay in the head of your character?
During our critique sessions, the writer whose work we are workshopping is supposed to stay quiet; that person gets to speak and ask questions at the end. Last night, when our author had her chance to speak, she talked about how frustrated she was with this story that she's been working on for five years, and how she still can't seem to focus in on the heart of it. She's thinking about switching the entire draft from third person to first person--which is no small task-- and she's also thinking of abandoning it. 

"I feel completely overwhelmed," she said, her voice raw with honesty. 

Sometimes, I lose sight of how hard it is to write a clear and compelling story, and our curriculum (which is based on the CCSS) asks our students to do it at very young ages. When was the last time you wrote a story? Not a post, not an essay, not a blurb, not a lead, not a conversation, not a poem-- a full story, start to finish. I'm guessing many of us, by virtue of the fact that we are part of the slicing community, have written a story in the not-too-distant past, although maybe we haven't gone back and reworked and revised one. I'm guessing some--maybe many--of our colleagues who don't spend as much time on blogs and in notebooks haven't written a true story in a long time. 

I give our children so much credit. Writing stories is hard. I need to remember that when I am working with my writers, young and old. 

Happy Writing,

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Slice of Life: "Her mother's hair!"


Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 


Kindergarten teachers have one of the hardest jobs I can think of for at least the first six weeks of school. Today, I spent time in a new teacher's kindergarten writing workshop. Because she had so many structures of workshop solidly in place, I got to see some of the writing these children were doing. Most of kindergarten writing involves talking and drawing at this point of the year, and I sat down with a little girl who was busy with her picture. She had three crayons in her hand-- a white one, a black one, and a brown one-- and she was using them to draw around a non-descript circle.

I resisted the urge to manage her use of utensils.

"What are you working on?" I asked.

She held up the three crayons to make sure I could see their colors. "My mother's hair," she answered.

How glad was I that I asked. I did sit down and showed her how she could draw stripes using one color at a time to produce the desired effect of highlights and lowlights.

"What a great observer of colors you are!" I said.

While kindergarten teachers may expend the most energy, they may also get to hear some of the funniest things kids say.

Happy Writing,



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Slice of Life: Sorting through what to write


Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 

I'm sitting here at my friend's lake house listening to my husband, Jen, and Bill make breakfast downstairs. I've been debating what to write. I find that the more I have to write, the harder it is to get started. In the last week, I have:
  • adjusted to three of my four daughters being away at college... (it's VERY quiet at home!!)
  • moved my office at school... (so much to throw away!)
  • participated in a google hangout with fellow MFA (in creative writing) students... (a complete honor to be asked to join these people!)
  • run a young writers' group at the local library... (these six students are unbelievable!)
  • received my mentor's feedback letter and comments on 75 pages of my novel in progress... (so much to digest!)
  • and a whole lot of other things...
Maybe the best focus is right here and right now, where Jen is interrupting my writing life with breakfast served on a tray--how lucky am I?!?! I'm taking this tray and heading downstairs to the chatter and warmth of their house in front of a misty lake. 





Happy writing!