Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Slice - A New, Old Hobby

As my boys are getting older, I've started shopping for hobbies. While I don't have a ton of free time yet, I know that the days are quickly approaching when I won't have my entire life consumed by homework monitoring and chauffeur duties.

I posted a plea on my Facebook page - asking friends to give me some ideas about what to try. A few are on the back burner for now..

I SWEAR I'll rejoin Teachers Write this summer and pull out all my old notes and try to get that going again.

I definitely want to find the time to take archery classes.

I plan to sign up for a volunteer session at a local(ish) bird rescue so I can learn more about raptors. They have always been a love and maybe I can also use that knowledge in my writing.

For now, though, I'm relearning a former hobby. In college, I took up crocheting. Oh, I know, I was a REAL party animal! It was soothing, and I got fairly good at it.

UntitledNow, I have no real desire to make baby blankets or crochet myself a dress. I've seen people making cute little creatures and people using crochet stitches, though. It's called "amigurumi", and that sounded like a great thing to try.

My first goal is to make a simple Princess Leia. I found a pattern that sounded like it was at reasonable skill level and started to reteach myself the stitches. Thank goodness for YouTube! I can find tutorials of ANYTHING there!

I bought cheap yarn and a set of hooks on Easter Monday. This photo is one of my early (last week) practices at doing the magic circle and stitching in a round that are required by amigurumi.

On Sunday I decided I remembered enough to purchase the actual yarn and materials I needed to make my first project. This cream colored yarn will become Leia's face.


By last night, I had gotten 15 rounds completed and started searching for videos on how to change colors. I had to stop here because I have to insert the safety eyes before I continue this section of the piece. I should receive my eyes today! I plan to work on the wig/buns this afternoon if I haven't gotten the eyes yet.

I found a few other simple patterns to use. Now I just have to figure out what to DO with these little guys once I make them. The first Leia will be mine, of course....

Come join the writing community at Two Writing Teachers. Someone is there Slicing (writing personal memoirs and reflections) every Tuesday. Let's Write! 

Monday, April 13, 2015

It's Monday April 13th - What are you reading?

Welcome to my little corner of book heaven. Here's what I read the last two weeks. Don't forget to visit the lovely hosts of this meme - Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. There are links to a LOT of posts there!

It's been a bit over a month since I posted about my reading life, so I won't go through all the books I've read in that time. I'm going to just pick a few to share!

Picture Books:
We got to celebrate Special Delivery Day

Middle Grade Graphic Novel
This one will rate a full review - once I can get it back from the line of students who are currently passing it around my classroom. 

Don't miss the Star Wars series that are out now. There's a Star Wars title, a Darth Vader, and this AMAZING one about the best princess ever.

Middle Grade Creepy

This series rocks, and the CLIFFHANGER on this one.... seriously! 

And more creepy.... bizarre and intricate and completely entrancing...

YA SteamPunk!

I'm on the third book in this series now - definitely for older readers (mature upper middle school or high school) due to a decent amount of hanky panky. SO FUNNY!

I also did a blog tour Q&A with Andy Griffiths to celebrate the publication of the 39 Story Treehouse!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

39-Story Treehouse Blog Tour and Q&A

My students are absolutely in love with the 13-Story Treehouse and the 26- Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths. It's just the right mix of adventure and silly fun, combined with amazing illustrations. They kept asking me to find out when the next book would be released.

Thankfully, I can tell them that way will soon be over! April 7th - just TWO days from this posting - is the day that we can all rejoice in another huge dose of excitement and creativity with the debut of...

I love to create questions for these author interviews, but I knew my son and students would want to have the privilege this time. I asked them to tell me what THEY wanted to know and zipped those questions off to Andy Griffiths' publisher.

What secret insights did he share? Read on to find out!

1) What will happen when the treehouse gets too heavy for the tree? (Or what is it that is keeping the treehouse from falling?)

We will add a new level in the treehouse which contains a bigger and much stronger tree and then we’ll move all the existing levels of the treehouse into our new tree and everything will be okay again. 

2) Where do you get your ideas for the rooms and characters?

I make a long list of lots of crazy/silly things that I think it might be funny to have in a treehouse. Then I read the list out to various groups of children and see which ones they like the most. Gradually, I edit the list down from 50-100 possible levels to the 13 most entertaining ones. Once I have a good idea of the levels the story and the characters often emerge from these. 

3) Why do you count by 13s? (This was the most frequently asked question!)

When I first asked Terry to draw a picture of a treehouse I asked him to draw one with a bowling alley and a tank full of man-eating sharks. He really got carried away and in addition to these levels he added eleven more. So we ended up with a picture of a 13 level treehouse which I knew we just HAD to write about. We had so much fun doing the first one (The 13-Story Treehouse) that we decided to double it and add another 13 levels to make The 26-Story Treehouse … and after that we added another 13 levels to make The 39-Storey Treehouse. 

4) Will you go beyond "39" stories?

Definitely! There will be a 52-story treehouse as well as a 65-story treehouse … and who knows how many more after that!?

5) If you could pick only 13 rooms for your very own treehouse, what would they be?

A bowling alley, a tank full of man-eating sharks, an anti-gravity chamber, a maze of doom, the world’s scariest rollercoaster, a chocolate waterfall, a see-through swimming pool, a baby dinosaur petting zoo, an invisible level, a chainsaw juggling room, a watermelon smashing room, a boxing elephant called THE TRUNKINATOR and a volcano for toasting marshmallows.

So, there you have it my friends! Straight from the horse's.... err... author's mouth.

Don't forget to pick up the 39-Story Treehouse from your favorite bookstore this week!

Interested in more interviews with Andy Griffiths? The School Library Journal ran a fun one with him about a year ago... 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Must Read in 2015 -- First Quarter Update

I carefully selected a Must Read in 2015 list. A few titles ended up on the list after NOT getting read in 2014. A few are to help me meet the Pop Sugar Challenge.

For my full list - check out this post: http://www.mariaselke.com/2015/01/must-read-in-2015.html

Read so far...  (12 done of 39) 

Jump started....

I read these two in November 2014. I had already decided to put them on my list, so I'm still counting them.
Feed - Maybe closer to 2.5 - mostly due to the audiobook narrator. I just couldn't take all the "duuuudes" and the valley girl style slang. It's a shame - I was really looking forward to this one. The premise is fascinating, but I didn't feel like the things I really wanted to hear about got expanded on enough.

Poisoned Apples: Fascinating poems on feminism. I loved the fairy tale allusions. As always with a book of poems, some of them I liked better than others. Still, totally worth the time and attention to read these.

January 2015: Just like last year, my first month was extremely productive for this challenge.

Beautiful writing and creepy illustrations were the perfect combination for this retelling.

Surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. Were there unrealistic aspects? Sure. But the hook of "what's going on here?" kept me going. This book was on my book gap list for 2013 AND my Must Read in 2014 list. I FINALLY read it!

I read this one for Cybils too, which is why there wasn't a star rating. I liked it a lot, but wasn't nearly as impressed as everyone else seemed to be. (probably a 3.5)

Listened to this one. I really liked it, but maybe all the extreme praise it got had my expectations too high and it didn't hit "5 star" for me.

Very cool premise. I definitely enjoyed this one, and the description of "Sherlock + Doctor Who" was the hook for me.

So glad I made the time for this title! I listened to it, and Tim Federle was the perfect narrator.

Yet another title I kept meaning to read, and thoroughly enjoyed. I love the fact that this dragon based fantasy won a Schneider!

February: My pace slowed down more than a bit this month. I read a lot, but less from my Must Read list.

Another audiobook. Sometimes the narrator doesn't do it for me - and that was the case with this one. Still, the premise is so fascinating! "EOs" - will they use their power for good or evil?

I LOVE THIS SERIES! *coughs* Sorry, but I really do. The perfect blend of mystical and mythical. I love the boys in this series, and I absolutely adore Blue. The author, though... she's my hero.

Hysterical! Definitely for older teens, as there is some hanky panky. I love the mix of steampunk and a unique twist on vampires, ghosts, and weres.

I'm doing well on the Pop Sugar challenge, too... just a few more categories to go!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Do or Do Not -- SOL Day 31

When I jumped into the Slice of Life Challenge this year, I wasn't really sure I was going to make it. I debated whether I should even make the attempt this year.

Words hadn't been flowing recently. Fatigue was wearing me down. Would I really be able to get through an entire month? Would I manage to have an idea every day? Would this be the year I just couldn't hack it?

I signed up anyway, and gave myself permission to not be perfect.

Maybe there would be a day that just didn't happen. Nope, I actually posted every day. 

Maybe some days my writing would be considerably less than stellar. Well, yeah. There were some days I just didn't have much in me. I put it out there anyway.

I wrote about
scouting and teaching
fandoms and feminism
frustrations and triumphs
endings and beginnings
geeky style and writer's block
weather and professional development.

Some days I feel like I had actual insight to share, and other days I just got something onto the blog.

Along the way I discovered that sometimes you just have to dive in and keep swimming. Will my momentum continue through the next few months? Will I discover other stories and get them on paper? Can we still say that if we type?

Do ... and keep on doing ... there is no try.

Come join the writing community at Two Writing Teachers. March is the official DAILY Slice of Life challenge. Someone is there Slicing (writing personal memoirs and reflections) every Tuesday. Let's Write! 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Running on Empty -- SOL Day 30

Maybe I should just leave
this page
blank today?

My fuel gauge
near E.

One last little bit
of flame
flickers in
a puddle of wax.

Only embers
glow in the hearth.

The cupboard

I'm just going to
huddle under this
blanket for a while, okay?

Come join the writing community at Two Writing Teachers. March is the official DAILY Slice of Life challenge. Someone is there Slicing (writing personal memoirs and reflections) every Tuesday. Let's Write! 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Conversation Interrupted -- SOL Day 29

The influx of information on historical and current research and the increased connections with other feminists through social media have combined to make me extremely aware of some of the ways these biases impact me.

I've been fairly sheltered from the worst of the effects. I was born into a family where both of my parents believed I could be anyone I wanted to be.  While the church I attended as a child and teen had very limited views and held to the idea of traditional femininity, my parents never reinforced those strictures. I surrounded myself with friends who supported my passions and listened to my ideas.

Still, I know that the world is not perfect. Even with encouragement, I still self-censor to an extreme degree. I defer to the opinions of others more than I should. I am non-confrontational to a degree that stifles my own voice. Society, as a whole, reinforces the idea that my ideas aren't as valuable as those of the men around me.

I see women I respect online having their voices shouted down. I see them on the receiving end of horrific slurs and threats. I see women being taught countless ways to protect themselves, and many of those ways include silencing ourselves to prevent having targets painted on our backs.

In the recent past, I had one small incident occur which brought these lessons into my life in a more personal way. Thankfully, I was never truly in danger. Thankfully, it was just one little slap in the face. And yet... it was a reminder of how far we still need to go.

**** Conversation Interrupted****

A few colleagues and I were sitting in a public place, discussing education topics. Of course, the discussion came around to the hot topic of the Common Core standards. Our discussion was friendly, and we were just talking about the positive and negative impacts the standards (and the resulting testing) was having on our professional lives and the lives of the children we teach.

Suddenly, a man walked up to us and began to engage in our discussion. He wasn't a fellow educator; just someone who was in the area. My first response was a little bit of discomfort, but I'm fairly introverted and I'm often uncomfortable when strangers jump into my conversation. My colleagues seemed fine with his questions, and one of them happily responded to his initial salvo of questions and opinions.

It didn't take long for him to start altering the conversation to fit his own agenda, though. He began with something along the lines of, "You realize the common core is part of the communist agenda, right?" and it rapidly went downhill from there. He completely hijacked our conversation and made it about global conspiracy theories and his beliefs about economics. He told us repeatedly about his graduate degrees and expertise, and seemed especially happy about that once he realized our educational backgrounds were focused on... well... education.

Even though we all have master's degrees,  and one at the table has a PhD, he kept talking on and on about the things he felt HE knew that we didn't. He loomed over us, essentially trapping us at the table.

After about 5 minutes of him altering the conversation to fit his desires, and him basically just talking AT us instead of having a conversation WITH us, all three of us began to give all the social signals that we were no longer interested in this.

We stopped making eye contact. He kept talking.

We occasionally pulled out our phones to text people or engage in other activities. (I began live-tweeting my discomfort with the tag #WomanInPublic to help me manage my rapidly increasing level of stress). He kept talking.

We tried to pull the conversation back to our original discussion. He jumped it right back to conspiracy theories that would make your toenails curl.

Finally, about thirty minutes later, we realized that we really did need to locate a speaker who hadn't yet signed in for our event. We began rapidly discussing this fact and pushing papers around on the table to emphasize that we had actual things to do that didn't involve his theories.

He. Kept. Talking.

One of my group left our table to take care of an item of business. She made a point of giving us a task at the table that made it clear that we had things to do.

He. Kept. Talking.

I've mentioned I'm not comfortable with confrontation, right? One of my twitter pals suggested that I get up and start waving my hands in front of his face to tell him that I really wanted him to stop talking now. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen.

FINALLY, after almost 40 minutes of him lecturing us about his favorite topics, he walked away. He actually walked out the door and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Maybe his initial impulse to come and chat with us about common core was a good one. Maybe he had other reasons for feeling we owed him conversation that day. Maybe his "graduate degree waving" wasn't designed to prove he was better than we were, even though that's how it came across.

I've been socialized so strongly that being polite and kind is the way to be that I didn't see any other way out of this situation. I was frustrated. I was angry. I was stuck. Thankfully, I never felt like I was in any actual danger. There were no threats, no gender based slurs. This little taste of powerlessness was only a tiny glimpse into what other people face every day.

Come join the writing community at Two Writing Teachers. March is the official DAILY Slice of Life challenge. Someone is there Slicing (writing personal memoirs and reflections) every Tuesday. Let's Write! 

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