cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

PADding About with Poetry


Teaching poetry to a class of teens is almost intimidating as being the student learning the language of metaphors and similes and alliteration and such.

For one thing there is the DWA

factor–Dead White Authors.

Occasionally I detect a certain resentment of having to study the antiquated language and suspect ideas of people who lived in times current adolescents have a difficult time relating to, especially when many of these authors were among the 1% of their day. Understanding that religion revolved around one belief and not a myriad seems wrong to some of many students.

Getting students to remove their 21st century hats in order to not be hindered by Frost using “queer” when describing how the speaker’s horse thinks it’s strange to stop in the middle of the woods is a little challenging but not insurmountable.

Another challenge is getting students to embrace poetry as a necessity. Actually, for that concern I have a ready reply:

If you can figure the meaning of a poem and explain it in such a way it is comprehensible to others, you will no doubt succeed in other endeavors in life, such as presenting a new scientific concept to your co-workers or even putting together that bike in a box for your kid some day.

I do sympathize with my students about the saturation of 18th and 19th century poems we tend to study, especially in AP Literature. This is why I subscribe to services that provide a poem everyday. It’s like those word a day subscriptions except more words and they sometimes rhyme.

Over the past few years I have amassed quite a collection. Now what? Aha! I pulled together a monthly menu and created a PPT what I call the PAD–Poem A Day. While I take attendance, students read the poem on the projector screen and then discuss some aspect. Most of these poems are contemporary and the topics, as well as formats, tend to be more relatable for my students.

The other day we covered Robert Bly’s moon poem. I then had students find three objects in the room and describe them in a new way. The best one involved calling our box fan a meditation counselor since it had the ability to provide a cooling off whenever we were heated up. Nice.

I remember Robert Frost and his puzzled horse in fifth grade and I have taught it to my tenth graders and seniors. I’m hoping once we have chatted about meaning and metaphor they will think poetry is lovely as they move through life. My hope is they’ll carry a verse in their pocket or be able to pop out a ready line to fit any occasion.

Advertisements

The Bliss of SSR


Teen Read Week is coming up. It got me thinking about the need for teens to read.

Back in the day before screens ruled the scene, books were on student desks and in their hands. Accelerated Reader got kids reading — even if it was just for points. That ingrained habit stuck and most high schoolers kept up the practice of reading. Okay, Harry Potter helped as well.

Since we did not prescribe to point system reading at the high school level I initiated ten minutes of sustained silent reading or SSR. Before I get too many Book Booster kudos, I freely admit I did it mainly for classroom management purposes. My ninth graders were volumes heavy in energy and it would usually take ten minutes to call them down. With the routine of SSR they sat down, silently read, and class resumed in a calm manner. Why did I stop?

I have often asked myself that.

Something about increased curriculum needs, not enough time, correcting badly written, mostly plagiarized book reports.

After a five plus years hiatus SSR is back in style in my classroom. Frustrated with students who brag about never reading, getting them away from thumb swiping into page flipping, and needing to boost their SAT scores I decided to return to SSR. That class management aspect too.

Our district has gone to the one to one system where every student receives a laptop. That’s a whole different blog post. What this does allow is changing the format of the dreaded book report. They are now PowerPoints. Google Docs even provides a template.

I’m actually looking forward to them.

As the end of first quarter approaches, I notice that students are actually engaged and interested in reading. And even if they aren’t they are at least quiet for ten minutes.

I read along with them, and share my thoughts about the book I’m currently reading. Sometimes they share too.

The funniest aspect of SSR is the one book that gets grabbed off my shelf. Because if they forget their book they need to be reading, and I’ve got quite a few to choose from on my bookshelf. So which book is the go to book? Moby Dick. I kid you not. Is it to prove they are a mighty reader to take on this whale of a story?

I watched one student grab it, smirk to his friends his choice, and surreptitiously snuck glances at what he did with it: looked at the front and back covers, flipped the pages, gazed at the maps, flip more pages, and then he began to read it. From the front.

Yeah. SSR is a three letter word for bliss.

August Reading Round Up


As you know I broke my wrist the end of July which severely cramped the rest of my summer vacation. It’s also difficult to travel when sitting for more than 15 minutes–a side factor of the accident that is not as noticeable as a cast.

So I turned to donuts and books for the month of August. This kind of donut:

No sprinkles or glaze. But soft and comfy.

And here is the list of books:

by Veronica Roth

1. Four

2. Divergent

3. Insurgent

4. Allegiant

5. I’ll Push You by Patrick Gray*

by D.E. Stevenson

6. The Four Graces

7. The Young Clementia

8. Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

by Fredrick Backman

9. A Man Called Ove*

10. Britt-Marie Was Here

11. And Every Morning the Road Home Gets Longer and Longer

12. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald*

13. Portrait of Vengeance by Carrie Park Stuart

14. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

15. I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had by Tony Danza*

by Julianna Bagott*

16. Pure

17. Fuse

18. Burn

19. Amethyst Dreams by Phyllis Whitney

20. Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Veramontes

I’ve starred the books I especially enjoyed instead of my usual reviews. As much as I missed traveling to the coast and catching up on family visits, I have to say reading in my hammock for a month was fairly nice.

I won’t have any worries meeting my Goodreads Challenge this year.

Conference Recap


About ten years ago one of my writing group cohorts gave me sound advice: “If you want your writing to go somewhere, you need to go to writing conferences.” I immediately started listing reasons why I shouldn’t go: time, cost, distance, and of course, intimidation factor. She countered with a shrug. “Find a way.”

And so I did. I budgeted time and money, carpooled, and found solace in attending with my writing group buds. I absorbed, networked, and came away revitalized. 

Since that first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference I try to attend a conference of some sort once a year. My favorite one was at Chatauacqua hosted by Highlights magazine. For a week we learned the business of writing from some of the best children’s writers in the business, shared meals together, and received one on one conferencing. I sold a story, “Daddy’s Truck” to Highlights out of that experience. In fact it comes out this month in High Five.


This weekend I attended my seventh (or nearly so) SCBWI conference. Even though it’s closer and costs less than my first one, I’m getting more for money because I’m learning more. 

For one, listening to our keynote speakers, two agents and an editor, writing for children is a tough business and a very fulfilling one. As writers for children we encourage, impress, enliven, challenge, motivate, comfort, entertain, and so much more with our words. Our impact remains into adulthood with all of us treasuring at least one favorite title, a favorite author that we will pass on to the next generation.

I also learned that the children’s publishing field is very particular. Agents, editors, and publishers have their preferences and knowing those preferences makes a difference between a manuscript languishing in the slush pile and receiving a contract.

One very important takeaway from this conference is that my polished manuscript, the one I thought the editor I conferenced with would be so impressed she would pull out a contract and sign me up, needs work. Not a discouraging amount, but enough to get me back into revising mode once again.

Maybe in an upcoming conference or two, I’ll be up front at the long table with the authors instead of at the round ones with the hopeful writers. In the meantime I’ll keep attending, keep absorbing, continue revising, and checklist the chicken salad as my lunch preference. It was almost as good as the conference.

Hold it, Hold it


When I get down to one book in hand and one waiting to be read, a rising sense of dismay bordering on idgety panic ensues.

I could live without chocolate before I could live with nothing to read.

–C.Muse

So I did what any ink-blooded Book Booster does–I began scouring my resources and filling up my books- to-read shelf. First stop: the library.

I rarely buy books. If I do, they are gifts. This means I have achieved Frequent Flyer status at my local library. Can’t beat the convenience or the price: five minutes down the street and a twenty item limit. Did I mention they have an amazing free books shelf? Plus, they have the nicest inter-library loan dept. The library often buys my requests–I am spoiled, I know.

I also review for two separate publishers, and I can review two books at a time per site.

My panic mode at having nothing to read over the long weekend before school starts (my leisure reading diminishes considerably after Labor Day) became one of stress when EVERYTHING came in at once. I went from bare shelf to overwhelmed in a matter of moments.

Three holds appeared within two days of each other, with two being ILLs needing to be read almost immediately (honestly–why loan it out if a person barely has time to read the book?) and one book bearing that annoying little bookmark “Read Me First!” I can practically feel the anticipatory drumming of fingers of the next patron. Three books I have to read now, as in right now, presents an oxymoronic perspective to the idea of leisurely reading over the holiday.

Oh, two review books arrived and they need to be read and reviews duly noted before the month is out.

I also have three books which I had picked up at the library a couple of weeks ago, which means their due date is approaching. Renew or return? Oh, how I dislike that question.

Well, I have plenty to read at the moment. I will have to hold off on my longings for the new titles promos that keep popping up in my email.

Does anyone else go through this famine/feast cycle? I’m hoping I’m not alone in this…

Drug Free Teaching


Today was the first day back to school. I went home just before lunch after confessing to the principal I couldn’t handle it any longer. The look on my  face made him step back and say: “Go home.” Good thing it was only staff day and not class day. 

It’s been a month since I ditched my  mountain bike on the bike path embankment to avoid crashing into anothet cyclist. It’s been a long month of adjusting to using my left hand instead of my right, learning to love ice packs, and enduring physical therapy. Tolerating pain meds is it’s own post.

Being a lightweight (wave a cork at me and I’m tipsy), I take half doses of my pills in order to maintain some state of functionality. This means I’m always at about a three on the pain scale–I think ten is an elephant standing on your head (like when I first figured my wrist must be broken after I crashed).

Apparently, I cannot teach or drive, if I take my pain meds. Driving a car or teaching teens under the influence is frowned  upon .  Something about impaired judgement. So, to prepare going back to driving and teaching I have been cutting back on my dosage. Way back. How about no meds for a day? Yeah–that didn’t work so well. 

Thankfully, my understanding principal let me go home and nap so I could return for open house. Yes, it was a long day first day back.

At this moment I have ice on my wrist and I’m hoping to go back to sleep and go for another day of  staff meetings and prepping my classroom. During staff introductions I held up my black air-cast wrist and joked I had on my Wonder Woman titanium bracelet. The joke was on me when I said, “And it’s my first day without drugs.” And the quip? “In your teaching career?”

Yeah. 

I went home and napped for three hours. Ice is nice. 

  

E-clipsed


I did not experience the solar eclipse, but I am content with the strange sorta kinda dimness that I thought I was the eclipse. We do not live in the pathway and we hadn’t considered making the seven hour drive to witness the two minutes. 

I did experience some type of eclipse in college during the eighties, can’t remember what type. I do remember a group of us signed up for an adventure excursion trip. We jumped into a van and drovehalf a day with no real plan. At the eclipse approached someone in the van  yelled, “Pull over here!” We stopped at the top of a hill overlooking a vineyard. Slowly it grew dusk, cars on the ribbon of highway below began turning on headlights, but none stopped driving. A dim shadow quavered through the vineyard momentarily transforming it into an Ansel Adams time lapse print of grey landscape tones. Quite surreal. 

Didn’t make it here this time. Or last time, for that matter. Our vinny was more modest. I bet happy hour was something though.

This time around, I missed out due to being preoccupied with my mending broken wrist. I did virtually share the wonder of the event through NASA.gov with millions of other non-pathers and was genuinely happy for the crowds. Maybe next time I’ll plan it better. For now I’ll be humming Donovan:

The Perfect Eclipse Tune
How was solar eclipse experience?

Why We Say: #31 Tumblers, Turkeys, and Turns


Tumblers

There are many ways to categorize people. Dogs or cats? Soccer or football? Gelato or frozen yogurt? And the big one: glass up or glass down in the cabinet?

Housecleaning isn't what it used to be. Four hundred years ago it was even more of a problem. In fact, it was such a problem, especially dust issues, that glasses were designed with a pointed bottom so that when stored they would "tumble" over unless stored rim side down. Having a German mother, however, I do know about house cleaning, so this entry about tumblers took me to wondering just why we store our glassware in the manner of upside down. And yet, I'm wondering about how people actually used the glasses since they couldn't be set on the table. Were there catchers for these tumblers?

Turkey

The Ben Franklin story about wanting the turkey as our national bird is not this story. This story sounds like a bit of a fairytale though. Apparently tradesmen having discovered some birds, guinea hens, and sent them back to England by way of Turkey. Do you see what's going to happen here? When the birds arrived they were naturally named Turkey after the country they were thought to have originated from, which is why when settlers from England arrived to America and saw the natives with birds that looked like turkeys they were called turkeys.

I'm having a difficult time with this one too. Sometimes my little Why We Say… book has some really interesting explanations. Checking it out I found this information: maybe my little book isn't so wrong after all.

 

Taking a few turns…

Turning thumbs up or down

This one is so well known that you probably already know that a gladiator's fate was not always determined by whether he won the fight, but rather how well he fought. Thumbs up–he lived. A turn of the thumb, well, job security as a gladiator was a bit tenuous back then.

Turnpike

Originally, to prevent people from traveling down the road without paying for that privilege, a pike or bar was swung into place. And you thought those little gates were annoying.

Turn the Tables

Just like it sounds, during a certain card game a player could turn the table to replace his perceived poor hand with perhaps a better hand held by his opponent. Wait! That reminds me of a Bugs Bunny cartoon gag (around 3:35–the old carrot juice switcharoo).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOUhGcsHqDM

Reading Round Up: July


Due to my recent mishap involving having to choose between  a rock strewn embankment and the asphalt bike path, I’m spending my recovery days reading more than gardening, walking, writing, driving, visiting and anything else that involves continuous sustained movement. I am now five books ahead on my Goodreads challenge. Good thing I like to read.

Top picks for July:

 I’ll Push You by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck

The cover states it succinctly: “Two friends. One wheelchair. A journey of 500 miles.”

Friends since birth, Patrick and Justin, share the usual boyhood mischief together, which bind and bond them together through childhood, college, and adulthood. They manage to keep their friendship going despite raising their families thousands of miles apart. Their friendship extends into one another’s families and they share adventures together such as European trips. Justin’s neuromuscular disability does not slow any of them down. In fact, it initiates the greatest adventure: the Camino de Santiago Trail.

This book is beyond inspirational. It’s an amazing story of two friends who experience the beauty of giving and receiving. There is also the unexpected blessings of the generosity of strangers. And throughout the journey Patrick and Justin reflect upon the strength of family and the joy of their friendship, as they face the rugged challenge of their pilgrimage.

A 5 star for not only the amazing adventure these two friends shared, but also for the storytelling itself.

 A Man Called Ove by Richard Backman

I heard subdued chatter about this one. When it finally came in from the holds list I wondered if I was up for yet another book about a grumpy old guy with an undiscovered heart of gold, and by page 12 I had decided I could not bear to dedicate my reading time to such an incredibly irascible man. Mr Wilson from Dennis the Menace seems a jovial saint in comparison.

But stuck with it I did because I knew old Ove would have to go through a character change. If he didn’t, he would no doubt self-implode from orneriness by page 17.

Much more said and there will be a Spoiler tab on this review.

It’s a 5 star because the epilogue made me sniffle.


Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Continuing with many of the same characters from the first book, the plot focuses on Henry, Perla and Casewell’s son. Henry struggles with several major decisions and faces them with the help of friends and family. The introduction of Margaret and Mayfair add a satisfying depth of the different aspects of love and faith.

As an aside, I suggest checking out Sarah’s website: http://www.sarahloudinthomas.com. We’ve become “blog pals” and I appreciate her down home Appalachian Thursday feature. Her character-driven plots are filled with insights on the different ways people deal with faith, grace, and forgiveness.


I decided to reread Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, and just like my reread of the Hunger Games, I found myself favoring the first book and being disenchanted with the subsequent sequels.

Four is different, in that the Divergent story is told from his perspective and fills in some needed background that adds more depth to the story. However, once Four’s story intersects with Tris’s it becomes difficult to keep track of the story since there is pondering whether this is a repeat or new material.  Personally, I’d like to see Divergent continue from Four’s perspective, the aftermath of Allegiant. Maybe call the continuation Regiment as a new regime forms.

So, lots more reading than writing in August, and typing left-handed, actually left-thumbed, is more taxing than I thought. I will have a second career in thumb wrestling perhaps after this stint.

Writing Quotes


Usually I dedicate a chunk of time during the summer to writing projects: finishing, editing, revising, submitting. This summer writing has taken a back seat to my dealing with healing. Typing with my left hand, mainly my left thumb while my right hand passively observes, is not conducive to getting a lot of writing done. There is a deadline of 10 pages by August 21 I’m gamely trying to meet.

So–I get sidetracked. One of my more diverting diversions is looking up words on dictionary.com and I came across these quotes of encouragement. Hope one of them rings true for you:

   
               

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: