Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hello from the woods

Yes, I'm writing and posting this from my phone. Technology rocks!

Good news! I got a home cooked breakfast - sausage and eggs- and I didn't have to cook it!

Bad news! No Keurig means I waited 35 minutes for the coffee to be ready. No worries - no Bothans had to die to get me the caffeine I needed to survive.

Good news! No primping required. It's all little boys and the dads that wrangle them. No one cares that I'm stinky and my hair is all tangled.

Bad news! I'm stinky and my hair is all tangled.

Good news! No waiting for the bathroom. With a dedicated "women's bathroom" - and only one other mom in attendance - I never have to stand in line.

Bad News! I have to walk five minutes in the cold morning air to reach that bathroom. Don't get me started on the shower. (I mentioned that I'm planning on staying stinky, right?)

Good news! The sounds of nature are loud and beautiful. Trilling birds, hooting owls, and burbling creeks.

Bad news! Those sounds aren't as lovely at 5:30 in the morning. Yikes! Hush up out there!

Good news! We're going on a 3 mile hike.

Bad news! Umm. That IS the bad news!

In all seriousness, the camping trip has been wonderful. (Should I knock on wood? I still have a night to go.) The hike was an adventure. We saw a bald eagle and lost the path briefly. The boys all made it out alive. My favorite part was when one of the dads commented, "My wife would never do this!"

I may not be outdoorsy, but I want my sons to know I can handle a hike, a knife, and tent camping in the cold. Yes, I even bought my first knife before this trip and I'm learning how to use it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Confessions of a Dystopian Reader

This post is part of the blog hop for Teach Mentor Texts

What is it that is so appealing about Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian adventures? It certainly isn’t the depression of having a world collapse, leaving only a handful of survivors. It can’t be the oppressive government regimes, bent on taking away all vestiges of free choice and self-determination. No, what makes both of these genres appeal to me is the focus on the human spirit; the scrappy unwillingness to let go, to give up, to just stop trying and die.

Here are a few of my favorites. I’m skipping the “Young Adult” bracket because so many others here have done an excellent job sharing those books.

Upper Middle Grades: In this age bracket, it’s important to be cautious about the details of the disaster and the struggles of the adults. It’s equally important to have a main character that kids feel strongly connected to.

City of Ember  This is the perfect introduction to the genre pairing for younger elementary students. A world has been set up – the world of Ember – to help humanity survive. But what happens when that very world begins to die around them? The notions of fairness, of misplaced clues, and of children struggling to solve a riddle and save their families are so appealing to this age group.

The Giver. On the surface, the society seems peaceful, kind, and benign. Yet slowly, page by page and clue by clue, we begin to sense that something just isn’t right here. The discoveries are chilling, and just right for introducing the concepts of free will and the importance of having your own choices to make to a student in their preteen or early teen years.

Adult (maybe upper high school on up):  If you haven’t read these, proceed with caution. The first one is exceptionally bleak. Through the bleakness, though, shines forth the vital connections of family and tribe.

The Walking Dead – This is a comic series, and it is NOT for the faint of heart. It is a violent, disturbing look at the post-apocalyptic future tackled by so many movies. What happens if the dead reanimate – mindless, soulless, and looking to eat? Yes, it’s horror. Yes, it’s gory. Yet it’s also a deep look at what really motivates us. If we were down to nothing, what would we do? Who sticks together? Who goes off on their own? How would we choose a leader of that straggling group of survivors, and how long would we follow him? What would we do to save our child? The comics are ongoing, and I’m only through the first two volumes so far. Yes, I do also watch the television series.

The Gate to Women’s Country  by Sheri Tepper- This book is an all time favorite. Take a post-apocalyptic world. Add in a heavy dose of feminism and sprinkle it with references to ancient Greek theater. In this novel, one of the societies has split their culture into “Women’s Country” and “Warriors”. Within the walls, women have made a life filled with agriculture, medicine, and peace. Outside the walls, the men are allowed to continue with their warrior ways to help protect the walled cities. Boys are raised with their mothers, and then their fathers. After they have experienced both, they may choose. Return through the Gate or remain with their warrior fathers. The main character also gets a chance to experience another society that is extremely oppressive to women. Masterfully written, thought provoking, this is a book I’d love to do with a book club!

Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic literature shows us that humanity will never “go quiet into that good night”. Heck, no. We will struggle; we will rebel; we will fight ravening beasts for bits of sustenance. We’ll create new governments, and we’ll tear them back down. We’ll do whatever we need to do to survive; to thrive; to be true to ourselves. As readers, we learn about what makes humanity unique, and what we value as a culture. We also get the chance to experience vicariously that level of courage and spark as a rehearsal for the days that we face problems of our own, even though they pale in comparison. That is why I love these stories. 

So Long!

sols_5-years_w1 WOW!! Thirty one days. We did it! Thanks to the wonderful Slice of Life friends, and our hosts - Two Writing Teachers. 

So long, and thanks for all the fish. - Douglas Adams  (But just until the next post, right?) 

This is a short post, because I’m hoping to also post from the “field”. I’ll be camping with my cub scouts. Yep, I'm a "den mom". I'd like to say I make the shirt look good, but it's just not true. Yet I talk a good talk about being a strong woman as an example for my sons, so I try to make sure I walk the walk as well. 

I’ll be cold, tired, and dirty.
I’ll eat food that is horrifically bad for me.
                Hello, s’mores!I’m looking at YOU!
I’ll be stuffed into a fluffy sleeping bag,
                Hoping I don’t need to leave the tent
in the middle of the night
to pee.
I’ll hike, huddle around a fire, and hug my sons
                Awwww, mom, not in front of our friends!

I’m not an outdoorsy person
I’m making memories. 

Please - stay in touch. I'll be slicing each Tuesday. Look for my insipid humor and nonsense at least that often.

This post will go "live" early, so that I can make sure someone else also has the link to post for me, in case I can't link up from the campground. (I'm looking at you, Jess!) 


sols_5-years_w1 We're nearing the end of the March Slice of Life Challenge - hosted by Two Writing Teachers!

Blogging Joys and Frustrations!

First, let me thank all of you who stuck with me through all the crazy blog issues. Up, down, up, down – I’m getting a headache!

Click “publish” – will it appear? Will the link work? When will the blog finally decide to show my post to the world… and when will it randomly decide to take the link back down? Quick – post it on Tumblr instead, even though I can’t figure out how to get the images to appear.

Thankfully, my loving husband decided to throw in the towel on my old blogging service and move me over to Blogger. I still have access to my old site so that I can move my other posts over here, and I intend to get them all over here so they are together. The comments won’t show here, but I still treasure all the things everyone had to say about them. I use Disqus as my commenting engine, so I still have those comments – they just won’t show up here any longer.

So – on to the next stage of my Bloggy life. I even downloaded the Blogger app for my iPhone so that I can blog on the go. I’ll give that a whirl during my camping trip this weekend, so we’ll see!

Speaking of which – I leave to go camping on Friday evening and won’t be back until Sunday. I’ll be setting up a post to go live on Saturday. I SAID I would slice every day and DARN IT, I intend to do so. I’ll try to create an actual post while out there, but just in case... there WILL be one up. Here’s hoping I can get it linked to the site. I’m a bit competitive, you see, and that will mean I’ve posted EVERY day in March! When you visit that post, also check out my Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic post (which goes live today because of the camping trip) that is part of the blog hop hosted by Teach Mentor Texts! Visit their site on Saturday for more amazing posts. 

One more to go, my friends. Though I have no intention of stopping J

Thursday, March 29, 2012

One Little Word - Create

This is my 29th post for the March Slice of Life Challenge - hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Stop by!

Several others have commented on their "One Little Word" focus for the year. When they started talking about it on Twitter in early January, I gleefully ran to the link and pondered my word. Of course, in my ferret like ability to stay focused on one thing for any length of time…

“Oooo…. Shiny!”

Umm… what was I saying? Right, the one little word. I can’t locate the link right now, but rest assured there were hundreds of possible goal words to choose. I considered, hemmed and hawed, and then promptly forgot all about it.

Before it jumped back out of my distractible little mind, though, I’m pretty sure I settled on the word 


As I think back over this month, and all the words I’ve spewed forth in my daily Slices, I’m even more positive that was what I selected. Positive, of course, because that means that I’ve actually accomplished a lot in pursuit of that goal. After this month is over, I think I’ll go back through them all and see just how many words I generated on my posts alone. Countless more crossed my screen in the form of comments.

You can’t really tell right now, though, because of all my blog trials and tribulations. I’m hoping those of you who read my posts and use Blogger can be my PLN as I try to work out the kinks of this new engine. I’m really hoping I can find a way to repost all my old posts, because I was proud of a lot of them.

I now know I can write every day. Perhaps it’s time to dust off some of those rough draft stories and poems I abandoned over the years. Perhaps I need to reawaken the characters that have been sleeping in the back of my mind. Perhaps, once I do that, I can convince someone out there to make my stories come to life on more than just my blog. Who knows? 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Batty About Books - Graceling by Cashore Part One

This is my 28th post for the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Stop by!

Batty About Graceling.egg by mselke on Aviary  This is also the first post of a series - Batty About Books. Today Kathy and I discuss part one of Graceling, by Kristin Cashore.

A tweet is sent out to the Twitterverse, “Anyone want to be book buddies?” That tweet, by Kathy Burnette (a.k.a. @thebrainlair) was where it all began.

A flutter of tweets, replies, and DMs commences. Then a Google Doc. What did people do before all this technology? Can you imagine your book club being limited to just those people you’ve actually met in person? Say it isn’t so! Along the way we also discovered a common love for the amazing Barbara Gordan – otherwise known as Batgirl. The rest, as we like to say, is history.

We exchanged reading lists. Several people had been insisting I give Graceling a try, and Kathy was gracious enough to reread it so that I could move it to the top of my pile.

This, our inaugural Batty About Books posting, is our discussion about the first 115 pages of Graceling. My blog will host my original thoughts along with Kathy’s responses. Her blog will host her thoughts and my responses. We hope you’ll join in the fray, read along with us, and let us know what you think. 

Graceling – part one.  – Maria’s batarang tossed into the fray.  - March 24, 2012

Maria: Wow. Katsa is definitely my kind of hero. As I was reading I had flashes of Buffy, of Batgirl, of all the heroines I love so much. This was a wonderful choice for our first Book Buddies book. 

Kathy: I remember when I first picked up this book.  I was so excited to read a strong girl character and couldn’t wait to introduce her to a book club.

Maria: I love her “super power”.  I love that she needed to start her training with dummies to avoid hurting anyone. I adore the fact that she is more than strong and skilled enough to take out career guards and fighting men. 

Kathy: Yes! I like that someone understood her as a child with a grace and that she may need some help.  I also like that she is in charge of the group that rescues people!

Maria: I love her tomboy nature. Her reluctance to dress up, her discomfort with fancy clothes and good girl manners are appealing. While I don’t have an issue with a heroine who uses her feminine wiles as part of her arsenal, I adore the fact that Katsa is oblivious to such things. 

Kathy: Yes! We see a lot of the latter and not enough of the former.  Would love to see a character that does both with equal aplomb. I want a strong character (strong mentally and physically) who can throw on a dress, appreciate its beauty as well as her own,  and still kick some butt!

Maria: I adore the fact that the Council was HER idea. As the Council started to be mentioned, I was hoping this would be the case. So not only is she a powerful fighter, she is also a strong leader who can make things happen. I love her moral code. Yes, she can kill. She can maim. Yet she considers her orders carefully and refuses to step beyond the line whenever she thinks she can. 

Kathy: But will she be able to step beyond the line when needed? Who decides what the line is? Does she? Why does she continue to kill for her uncle? Why doesn’t she just kill him and take the power for herself? Does her grace limit her from harming family?

Maria: I love her discovery of the joy of having a real sparring partner. This is probably what I like most about Po so far. He’s dark and mysterious, yes, but he’s able to give her what she really needs  - a peer. Someone she can let loose with and not worry about damaging (too much). If I had to guess right now, I’d say I’m routing for Po to capture her heart. Which brings me to the…

Burgeoning love triangle: I’m a softie – a romantic at heart. While I didn’t really like the Twilight books, I do enjoy a good love triangle. Po is dark and mysterious. Giddon is her stalwart, quiet partner. Again, I had flashbacks to Buffy (and this isn’t a complaint). 

Kathy: I confess to never seeing Buffy. I know what it’s about but never saw it.  I liked the Twilight books on first reading but when I re-read them for a study on heroes and saw how the relationship between those two in a differnt light, I didn’t like it so much.  Though I loved Jacob’s character in Breaking Dawn. But, back to Po/Katsa/Giddon - when we met him in the garden and he had a hint of humor in his voice and he sounded smart, I loved him then! But, I don’t like triangles! I want everyone to find love! I don’t mind if it’s difficult and you have to work for it and and work to keep it, but I don’t want someone to have to lose. Especially if it’s basically a good person.  Unless there is something I don’t know about Giddon, I will feel so bad if he loves her and loses her to Po!

Maria: Can I give it to my students? I always (okay, almost always) read books with an eye toward deciding if I can add it to my classroom library. As of this part of the tale, I’m leaning toward making it available to my older readers. The book has one mention of the word “whorehouse” early on which made me nervous. Yet that went by quickly, and I don’t think it would cause a problem. The other thing that made me cautious was Helda’s short discussion with Katsa about the “women’s issues” she might need a woman to guide her through. Again, it was a snippet. I know the fifth grade girls have probably started to hear about such things, but I would want to think about this more before I bring it in. 

Kathy: I have to withhold comment on this because one of the few things I remember about my long ago read was the book club female reaction to some of Katsa’s words later. I would think a mature young reader would be mostly ok but I usually book talk it to late 7th grade.

Maria: Problematic: I wish Katsa had more of a female mentor. While I enjoyed the glimpse I got of Helda in this beginning section, I think that there is an overall lack of female mentoring that is endemic in heroine fiction. I completely understand why she doesn’t. It fits the tale well to have her fighting training be all from males, since her status as a fairly unique female warrior would make it tricky for her to have a woman mentor. Yet I still find myself hoping for Helda to take on a bigger role in her life.  

Kathy: I think I want to wait a bit before touching on this one.  I think this would be something to check for throughout the book... what stereotypical fantasy aspects, if any, are present in Graceling?

Okay… my thoughts completed. Time to check out yours, respond, and hit the next section of the book!

Check out my Batty Partner's post for her thoughts and my reactions!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Power of Team Katniss

sols_5-years_w1 I'm writing every day in March as part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I can't believe it's already the 27th! 

“You can’t change the world if you only change the girls” - Me

I saw Hunger Games over the weekend with a friend and thought it was a wonderful adaptation of the book. Yes, there were things I would have done a bit differently. Yes, it was hard to have the same emotional impact as the book, when you can't "hear" the internal debate of the heroine. Overall, though, I thought it captured the soul of the story.

There have been a lot of reviews out there of the Hunger Games movie, though. This one isn’t a review of the movie. It is a commentary on the power of having such a strong female lead out there for all to see.


What REALLY makes me happy about this book and movie adaptation?

Girls have a powerful role model. Yes, I’m a huge fantasy fan. I adore the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, even though the female presence is scarce. When a woman gets into the fray and kicks some tail, though, that’s when I feel like my voice is being heard. Katniss can be one of those strong young women for today’s girls. Katniss is powerful. She is caught up in a world that is out of control, but she takes control. She’s a scrappy fighter, a protector of family, and a reluctant participant in romance. She steps onto the path under her own steam. Her motivation? Not a boy. No, she's in it to protect her little sister.

Even better? It’s NOT seen as a “girl thing”. Boys and men are reading and watching it because they LIKE it. They don’t say, “This is a girl book”. They don’t wrinkle their noses up and decide it’s a “chick flick”. Nope. They dive right in and enjoy the show.  The boys in my classroom who are devouring the book don’t even comment on the fact that Katniss is a girl. They just love the character, and the action, and her struggle against the dystopian hand she’s been dealt.

Girls AND boys need to see that. They need to read that. They need to experience it. When girls and women can be powerful, and boys don’t even question it – that’s when we know we’ve succeeded in changing the world. How do we do it? One book, one movie, one scientist, one Supreme Court Justice,  one American President at a time. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Monday, What are you reading? March 26th

This is what I read this past week, which I link to the Teach Mentor Texts weekly post. Stop by and add to your "Must Read" list! 

Old and New  (this post is also a Newbery Update!)

I’ve completed another two Newbery Books as part of the Nerdbery Challenge. Huge thanks to Colby Sharp and John Schu for getting the challenge going!
This will also count as my “It’s Monday” post… I’ll just tack on a little bit on the end, since I didn’t get a lot read this week.

Waterless Mountain (1932) I enjoyed this story. I’ll state up front, I don’t know that much about Navajo culture. Yet I found that the stories embedded in this tale were intriguing, and made me want to learn more. So even if they weren’t accurate, I think that’s a win. I liked the family, and I enjoyed learning about this boy on his way to realizing his dream – becoming a Medicine Man. It was a quick read. Yes, there were numerous times when the narrator disrespected the culture of the “savages”. I didn’t pick up on it as much until a few Twitter conversations pointed things out. And I’m clearly in the minority in enjoying the stories built into this one. It’s hard, because I honestly believe that the author wanted to show this culture in a positive light, and I think that’s what I got out of it.

Dead End in Norvelt (2012)  - this was my very first audio book. I didn’t think I’d be able to pay attention to a book read aloud to me, but I was pleasantly surprised. I plan to pick up more audio books.
I have to say; I didn't like this book very much. From the constant nosebleeds, to the disjointed historical flashbacks, to the insane "mommy daddy" battles of Jack's parents that just made me angry - I just didn't dig it. I didn’t even really like the writing style; too many similes. How odd is it that they jumped out at me so severely?

I can see the appeal for some readers. The embedded history was interesting - it just didn't really feel like it flowed well for me. There was a lot of "boy humor". Okay, I DO like boy humor. I'm entertained by Captain Underpants, I like Lunch Lady... I just didn't really find this one very funny most of the time. I got a little bit interested as the mysterious deaths piled up, but not enough interested to really love the book.

I'll mark this one as a "not my taste" book and leave it at that.

Book Buddy Book:

Graceling.  Kathy (@thebrainlair) and I are reading and sharing our thoughts on this book.We completed the first portion this week (through the end of chapter 11). I’ll be updating my blog on Wednesdays with our discussion. (Code Name – Batty for Books, as we both love Batgirl)

Bedtime Read Alouds – Still working on The Lost Hero with my older son (he giggles along since he’s already read it several times, but he wants ME to read it) and Wind in the Door with my younger son. He really loves Charles Wallace. He got very upset that I couldn’t explain completely what is making CW ill in this book. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Not In The Mood

sols_5-years_w1I'm writing every day in March as part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Stop by!

I’m not in the mood to write at this very moment. Yet I am, diligently, sitting at my computer and tapping away at the keys. As Jane Yolen told me (and I ignored for years), writers need to get their Butts In the Chair. I need to write my Newbery Update. I need to jot down my thoughts about Graceling for my Book Buddy. I’ll do these things, and I’ll enjoy them. Just not this very moment.

Ideas flutter like fireflies.
I gaze at them

Energy depleted -
I capture them in a jar.

Perhaps tomorrow
They’ll light the way.


sols_5-years_w1 I'm writing every day in March as part of the Slice of Life challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Stop by!

I started working on this post as a poem (you can see my abandoned attempt at the end). It needed to be explored in prose instead.

I dropped Connor off with a friend today, to head out to a birthday party. As he darted off with barely a backward glance, I was reminded of all the moments – all the firsts – which I’ve experienced as a mother. While I know that there are so many more to come (he’s only ten); for some reason today’s goodbye made me feel particularly nostalgic.

I was blessed with an easy pregnancy and a long but relatively easy labor. Connor was also an easy baby. He slept well, ate well, and gifted us with uncountable goofy faces. (Most of which were caught on camera – which I’m sure will be a great source of embarrassment to him when he starts dating.) We called him so many silly names as an infant, and sometimes I forget and still use them in front of his friends. Bad mommy… oh, wait… I’m “Mom” now.

He’s a sensitive soul, easily bruised and gentle. He wears his emotions so close to the surface, a trait that he inherited from me. I watch him venture further into his own world with each passing year, and I worry. Mothers are made to worry, I suppose. Will he make the right kind of friends? Will he learn to treasure his own special blend of strengths and flaws? Will his kind and gentle nature be an asset for him, or cause him to find a way to build walls around his heart?

Yet, in spite of all my worries, I continue to release him. I have to, of course. I can’t keep him under my wings forever. He needs to experience the scrapes and breaks and heartache that will come his way so that he can appreciate the love and laughter and joy. My mind knows it, but sometimes my heart rebels.

I’m so proud of my little man. He’s curious, respectful, kind, and loving. He is learning to be more responsible with each passing year (and a lot of parental guidance, and reminders, about things like homework and violin practice). Still, some days I wish I could hold him tightly in my arms the way I did when he was just a newborn, and sing him a lullaby. I hope he knows that I will always be here for him. Wherever he roams, however he grows, whatever he becomes – he’ll always be that sweet little flutter inside of me, that goofy little baby with the silly faces, that amazing young man with the sensitive soul.

Round of morning sickness
                Flutter inside
Stretch mark
                Person who declares, “You have a glow about you.”

Contraction, timer in hand
                Panicked call
Trip to the hospital

Glimpse of my child, first tears to fall.
                Soft kiss on his forehead

This is the point at which I abandoned the poetic format and went for prose instead. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Free Reading

I’m using my Tumblr again for my March Slice of Life Challenge because my other blog again appears to be on the fritz. *sighs*   (moved it here to my Blogger so everything is together - 3/28)
(Not much “craft” to today’s post…. But lots of great reading ideas)
As my students finish up during state testing, they pull out a book to read. State testing time is one of those wonderful times when they are free to read anything they want. There are no assigned novels, and no real homework. My darlings are in fifth grade, and all are very strong readers.
On Wednesday I decided to take a glimpse around the room to see what they would be reading purely for pleasure.
Out of twenty students:
Four were reading Harry Potter. Several were reading the series for a second or third time. Books one, three, four, and six were represented.
Four were reading graphic novels. One was reading one of my Bone volumes, two were reading George O’Connor’s Athena, and one was reading his Zeus. All of those are new additions to my classroom library, and they are rarely on the shelf.
Three were in the midst of the Hunger Games series. One was reading Hunger Games, one Mocking Jay, and one Catching Fire.
Two were reading Rick Riordan. One is working on the Red Pyramid, and one is on Sea of Monsters. I can thank Mr. Riordan for my classroom’s current obsession with all things mythological. Sweet.
One was reading the Memoirs of a Muppets Writer. Big thanks go out to Kevin (@dogtrax) for posting a review of this book on his blog. This young lady is researching the Muppets as part of her fifth grade project, and I was able to jump in and suggest she grab a copy of this book.
One was reading Wonder. I have a classroom copy floating out there, but this copy was one his mother purchased for him after I recommended it to the group. Thanks again go out to my #nerdybookclub friends for all the buzz on this one.
One was reading Sabotaged (by Haddix). I resisted the urge to ask him to borrow it next, since my bookstack is already full. I adored the first two books in that series.
One was reading Horus and Wrinkles. This is a book that was donated to me by a previous student. I love the fact that students move into middle school and they (and their parents) will frequently donate gently used books to my room. This one looks intriguing, though I haven’t yet read it.
One was reading Kingdom Keepers. I’m not sure which one. I’ve heard great things about this series from my students, but haven’t read it yet myself.
The final student was reading a teen magazine. I cringed inwardly, but didn’t judge. Everything counts as reading, even if I wouldn’t read it myself!
The best part of this activity was seeing the students who had taken my recommendations to heart. The other best part was seeing some new books I’d like to try myself. One student had a graphic novel version of the Odyssey in his stack, and gladly volunteered to give it to me to read once he was done. I love my students! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Joy of Twitter

sols_5-years_w1 I'm writing every day as part of the March Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Stop by! 

“So, you are on that Twitter thing, huh?” followed by an eyebrow raised in my general direction.

Yes, I’m on Twitter. Okay, I’m also slightly addicted. Yet I firmly believe that Twitter is a blessing and a boon in my life. Let’s see if I can come up with ten reasons why I love Twitter. (After all, I’m pretty sure I haven’t done a top ten list yet).

10. Breaking News. For some reason, Twitter seems to have the ability to break any big news within seconds of its occurrence.  I don’t watch the news. I don’t listen to news channels. Last year, during our start of the year inservice days, my school building started to shake slightly. We were all told to exit immediately. I hopped onto Twitter. Sure enough, my feed was filled with East Coasters commenting on feeling the earthquake, links to geological sites that had information about the earthquake, and West Coasters laughing at us Easterners getting all worked up about a little tremor. (We kindly reminded them of the times they spaz out over a flurry or a small traffic jam and they conceded the point.)

9. Writing Opportunities. I would never have heard about Slice without Twitter - or Nerdy Book Club - or the chance to have my students contribute their thoughts on the Hobbit to the Sci Fi Now magazine (which is located in the UK!). I even collaborate on a story with a group of friends I met on Twitter. (Ooo… I need to sign up for the next chapter!)

8. Silly laughter. Yes, it’s a joke that Twitter is all about what you ate for lunch and pictures of cats. Still, many times the simple silly tweets of people I know only from Twitter put a smile on my face and help me see the humor in everyday living.

7. Geek Girls. Until I got on Twitter, I self-identified as a geek boy. My interests are shared by so few women that I know in my “real life” world. Twitter connects me with other women who love Star Wars, Comics, The Walking Dead, and more. I can proudly shout #GeekGirlsUnite and a geeky lady will answer the call.

6. Ideas for writing. I love following @dogtrax and seeing his writing ideas. #25wordstory , lots of haiku, great fun! I also get ideas from Twitter for my Star Wars weekly posts. Honestly, I’m finding more ideas than I can use.

5. Books, Books, Books! My “to be read” list is out of control. That’s a good thing, though. I’ve never been this up to date about the new releases for my classroom. Book buzz is contagious, and I’m not looking for a cure.

4. Contests. My husband laughs when a box arrives at my doorstep. Many times I’ve purchased the books, but it’s equally likely that I have won it via Twitter. I’ve won comics, graphic novels, novels, and more.

3. Author Connections. My students are in awe when I mention something an author tweeted. They feel like I have some special insights. I know when a new title is announced. I know when they have special swag to give away. One of these days I’ll figure out how to get an author Skyped into my classroom. I’ll be a goddess that day.

2. Global Perspective. The fact that Twitter is all over the globe gives me insights into global events with a diverse perspective. What a valuable resource for widening MY world as well as giving me classroom resources.

1. Community. I’m an introvert, yet I still feel a need to be connected. Twitter gives me the #nerdybookclub #Geekgirls #nerdbery #starwars and more. I’ve connected with friends who I’ll probably never meet face to face. They are kindred souls in Australia, the UK, and all over the world. Any time of the day or night, there is someone who hears me. That’s pretty powerful. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Poetry is a Process

sols_5-years_w1I'm writing every day in March as part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Stop by! 

The wind moans.
Winter approaches like a wolf.
Slowly creeping nearer;
Unnoticed, unremarked

Suddenly darting through yellowing grasses,
she pounces on her shivering prey.

Her twitching ears are the
dying leaves
dangling and dancing to the
wind’s frenzied tempo

Her amber, glowing eyes
a Jack o’ Lantern’s flickering flames
or the
harvest moon gazing down.
Reminding us all that
winter is coming.

Ah, the process of a poem. First, let it be known that this poem is based on an activity I made my third graders do. We read a poem titled “Winter Horses”, which was filled with lovely simile and metaphor. As part of our interaction with the text, they needed to come up with another animal and season pairing, and use the model of the poem to create their own. I decided to be a good role model, and complete the writing along with them. I started by brainstorming my lists on the board. I was just working silently, not talking about my work, but they perked up from their own work and checked out what I was doing. Once the class was over, I promised that I would create my own poem and share it at our next meeting. (Yes, my list was comparing a fox to autumn… it changed as I worked… )
Then, of course, I forgot to take home my list of ideas. I’m a free verse poet, primarily, and I agonize over every single word, comma, and capital letter in a poem. So the lack of time to work on it made me crazy. I got to school on Monday and sat down to write. I jotted down some notes in the margin of my plan book. Phrases, ideas, scratch outs and arrows. Messy. I promised I’d do this, though, so I kept at it. As I worked I decided I wanted to use the line, “Winter is Coming”. If there are any Game of Thrones fans reading my post right now, you’ll know why I decided I had to switch my animal to a wolf. Thankfully, with only slight alterations, it worked. I typed up my poem just before I left for the day. Whew, done.

I arrived at work on Tuesday ready to tackle the biggest problem – a title. I mentioned that I agonize over every word, didn’t I? To my complete and utter horror, I discovered that I had not SAVED MY POEM! Sorry, didn’t mean to shout, but I was freaking out. I took a breath, and tried to find where my computer “auto-saves” documents. It saves every random spreadsheet I start and forget to save, so why wouldn’t it have recovered this document? Nope, nada. I’d have to start from scratch. Well, from the notes I had made in my plan book. Tears welling up, I began again.

I completed it, playing around with the capitals , punctuation, and line spacing. Endless configuration possibilities lure me into trying different formats. Should this word be alone on a line? Where does that period belong? I’m still not sure I have it just the way I want it.

I shared it with the group on Tuesday afternoon. They were thrilled that I’d actually done the same assignment that they did, and I explained some of the process I described above. One suggested that I switch the word “moan” to “howl” to match up with my animal choice, and we discussed it. I told them I would consider it, and then make my final decision.

(As I’m typing this up right now, I still don’t have a title. This is a problem, because my students expect me to submit it to the poetry contest they are also entering. I need a title. Seriously.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reflections on Slicing

sols_5-years_w1I'm attempting to write every day in March as part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Stop by! 

I guess it’s that time of the challenge – time to sit back and take stock about how it’s been going, right?

I was leery of committing to the challenge. Several friends on twitter were already in the Tuesday slice (and, I’m assuming, have done the monthly challenge before). I questioned them for a while, and kept thinking that maybe I would just dip my toes into the Tuesday stream once March had ended. Then I thought about it some more, and chatted with another friend. This friend is a F2F friend, so we actually heard one another’s voices! (Hi, Jessica!).

I’m a “lapsed writer” – and Jessica actually gets paid to write articles. At the very last minute we texted each other and said, “What the heck? Let’s go for it!”

What concerned me?
I thought I’d have nothing to say. Heh. Clearly, I’m quite fond of the sound of my own voice… err… keyboard. I’ve had no trouble finding something to write about every day. In fact, I have a running list of about 15 ideas that I haven’t used. I really DO want to start a short story…

I thought I’d run out of time. Well, heck, that’s true. I’m one of those people who need a decent amount of sleep, so that couldn’t give. Housework? Umm… I’m already a total slacker when it comes to keeping my home neat. Cooking? Ditto. I guess I just decided to make the time, and it’s worked out so far. Could I keep up this pace long term? Maybe. I have always dreamed of being “published”. Perhaps I’d better go dust off those old story ideas and get my rear in gear?

I thought my perfectionism would get in the way. Well, that is true too. Yet each day I’ve been able to put aside my anxiety and click “publish”. Are there still typos? Are there still sentences I’d like to rework and thoughts that didn’t come out quite right? Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t go back and reread my own work. Yes, that is part of what gets in my way pursuing my desire to “get my name in lights”. I’m working on it, I swear.

I thought my other writing would interfere. Okay, so I’m not a published author. But I do write about two posts a week for The Fandom Post (a Star Wars Thursday post every week and a comic review most weeks). I’m firmly committed to keeping that going, and I wasn’t sure I could do it all. Then I added in my “It’s Monday” posts (Thanks, Mentor Texts!). How many balls did I really think I could juggle? It’s past the halfway point, and I’m still doing well. Whoo hoo!

What have I gained?
I am a writer. There, I said it. I am a writer. Maybe it will never be the way I earn a living, but I do love speaking my mind. I love the audience. What will happen when that audience goes away? (please, don’t all go away!) Maybe I’ll take the time to write and polish up those stories that are sitting on the back burner. Maybe I’ll keep reviewing books, or speaking my mind. It doesn’t really matter. I am a writer. Writers write. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Monday - What are you reading? March 19

Be sure to check out the other posts in this meme at Teach Mentor Texts. Of course, that might lead to an out of control wish list… but worse things have happened.

Hmm… not sure why, but I got through more this week than last week!

Graphic Novels and Comics

Zeus – by George O’Connor. This is a fabulous, gorgeous book! While it's about "Zeus", it really tells the whole tale of the start of creation - according to Greek Mythology - and how Zeus rescued his siblings (with the help of Metis, of course). I often think of Zeus as a bit of a "jerk", so it was nice that this book focused on the start of his journey. Amazing art, full of action.

Bone vol 4 (Dragonslayer) by Jeff Smith. I’m still adoring this series. This is the last volume that I already own… I’m already twitching because I want the next.

Womanthology: Heroic– I’m only about 10% through, but I’m adoring this anthology. Have you ever heard of Kickstarter? This book was published using “crowdsourcing” backing, in an effort to help women break into comics. I’m so proud to have been a backer on this project.

Batgirl #7 – Gail Simone (writer). One of my favorite of the New DC 52. Barbara Gordon is amazing as Batgirl.

Buffy  Season 9 # 7 – I review this comic for The Fandom Post. This wasn’t my very favorite issue, as the ending felt very forced. Overall, though, I’m enjoying this season of the comic.

Dawn of the Jedi #2 – As much as I adore Star Wars, I hadn’t read any of the ongoing comic series before now. This one just got rolling, though, so I jumped on board. I also review this one for Fandom Post. This series is about the origin of the Jedi (or “Je’ daii” as they were called at the dawn of the age).

Science Fiction & Fantasy:

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card. Yes! While there was a bit too much science explanation, the story had some very intriguing aspects of time travel. It was far from my favorite Orson Scott Card book, but I definitely plan on reading the sequel.

Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Since I wanted to finish the book before I saw the movie, I was so excited to complete Princess of Mars this week. As a book from the start of the 20th century, it’s an odd read. A very old-fashioned style, and it was funny to hear his scientific explanations of the life and technology on Mars.

Changeling – actually JUST started this book on Sunday. I’m so excited, because Kathy (@thebrainlair) and I are starting our own “book buddies” project like Jen and Colby do. Yay!

Newbery Challenge

Waterless Mountain (1932) The story of a Navajo boy on his way to becoming a Medicine Man. I am enjoying this book. Each little portion of the book is a simple tale, but tied together well. This would make a nice partner book with a unit on Native Americans, or with the novel Code Talker. I’m not an expert, but it seems fairly authentic. I finished it “under the wire” to count it for this week’s post.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. I’m listening to it via Audible. This is my very first audio book. I’m not thrilled with it, I’ll admit. I don’t much like the writing style, and I don’t really find it noteworthy. It has had some funny moments so far, though. (I’m about 25% done.) It’s growing on me, but I still don’t think I could gush about it.


Amelia Lost – This book is AMAZING! I can’t wait to share it with my students. Well written, fascinating account of the life and loss of Amelia Earhart.  I loved how the text alternated between her disappearance and the story of her life. Wonderful glimpses into the childhood of one of my heroes, accompanied by intriguing accounts of people who claim to have heard some of her final radio transmissions. This is a must have, must read for upper elementary on up.

Alien Investigation – Very interesting read. I like how the author presents all the evidence that makes aliens and UFOs seem plausible, while also sharing information about the many hoaxes and other possibilities for the things people have reported. I have two students doing fifth grade projects on this topic, so I was thrilled to win this book!

Bedtime Read-alouds

The Lost Hero – Rick Riordan. I actually started this with my older son a week or so ago. He’s read it so many times that he drives me crazy because he quotes along with all the funny lines. It is very entertaining to have him start to giggle before I read the funny parts, though! I love Riordan’s style.

Wind in the Door – Madeleine L’Engle  This was my younger son’s choice. I’m so unbelievably excited to read it with him. We just finished A Wrinkle in Time (his class is going to see a play version in May). He’d actually read ahead of me in Wrinkle, but still wanted me to finish it as a read-aloud. He also begged for a copy of Many Waters

Ode to a Geeky Reader

sols_5-years_w1I'm attempting to write every day in March as part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Reading Teachers. Stop by!
Member of the Nerdy Book Club
This post is cross posted with the Nerdy Book Club blog. I'm the guest blogger today! Check out their awesome blog filled with amazing information from people who love to read. 

“Wait!” I can hear the outcry now. “This is the NERDY book club site!”

Hear me out, my fellow readers. I absolutely claim membership in the Nerdy Book Club. I’ve been a card carrying member since my earliest memories. No - even before that. My mother tells stories of my father reading to me from his anatomy textbooks as an infant. Maybe that’s where it all began.

You see, I was an oddball – a geeky reader who just happened to be of the feminine persuasion. Maybe the melody of my father’s voice reading medical school textbooks did it, or maybe that’s just how I would have turned out anyway. My fondest, sweetest literary memories revolve around science fiction and fantasy.

Narnia was my second home. My heart broke along with the older Pevensie children as they were told they were too old to return to the magical land. My love for C.S. Lewis led me to move into his science fiction trilogy in fifth grade. Out of the Silent Planet widened my world view and taught me the joys of hard science in my texts.

Throughout middle school and high school I devoured worlds like Galactus. Dune? Heck yeah, the spice must flow! Middle Earth? Let’s have tea and cakes in a cozy hobbit hole. Pern? Sign me up for dragon riding lessons! Tar Valon in the Wheel of Time? I’d love to claim the Green, but I know I’d really be Brown Ajah.
Worlds I love

How did I know I’d found the love of my life? As friends in high school, my husband lugged in an enormous duffle bag filled to the brim with science fiction books. Asimov, Card, Heinlein, Herbert, Sagan… oh yeah, it was true love.
Serious Science Fiction
They didn’t need to be hard hitting, serious reads, though. I adored the goofy shenanigans of Douglas Adams. Did you know that to learn how to fly, all you really need to do is to throw yourself at the ground – and miss? Robert Aspirin’s silly Myth, Inc. tales resulted in stifled chuckles as I snuck a bit of reading material behind my math books. Piers Anthony inspired me to reexamine the Greek deities with his unique take on mythology in the Incarnations of Immortality series.  I stumbled upon an anthology series by some of my favorite authors – called “Thieves World”, and hunted down the entire set of out of print volumes.
Classic Light Fare
Yes, I still own all of these books, and I’m eagerly awaiting the day that I can foist them off on my progeny.

To this day, I make a bee line for the new arrivals in the science fiction and fantasy section of the book store before I look anywhere else. I’ve completed all five enormous Game of Thrones tomes. I’m still a dedicated Geeky Reader. I even made the plunge into comics this past summer and write reviews for fun.

When I was a teenager, being a geeky reader – as a girl – was something to conceal. I couldn’t chat about them in the lunchroom. I couldn’t devour them at a sleepover. Thankfully, the internet has given me the affirmation that I knew all along. Girls DO love science fiction and fantasy. With the tremendous success of Harry Potter, girls today will hopefully never need to hide their geeky reading behind a girl approved novel.

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