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Archive for June, 2015

Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

I have a new best friend. We met on the Internet through blogging, linking up each week with the Two Writing Teachers blog. We met face to face for the first time at NCTE in the fall. So when she told me she was coming to New Orleans to visit colleges with her daughter, I jumped at the chance to get together. Julianne Harmatz, her daughter Claire, and I spent the day together on Tuesday. I showed her some of my favorite things about NOLA, The Quarter, beignets at Cafe Du Monde, and Pim’s Cup at The Napoleon House. Julianne and I talked nonstop. At one point we were discussing birthdays and guess what!? We have the same birthday! I screamed, “Soul sisters!” I celebrate friendship.

With Julianne in Jackson Square

With Julianne in Jackson Square

On Wednesday I drove home to Mississippi to be with my sister and her kids to celebrate our mother’s birthday. All of us (brother included) went out to a nice restaurant for lunch together. Much talking, laughter, and fun. Here’s Mom with her Crème brûlée desert.

MomBday

My brother, Hunter Gibson, is a musician. He was featured in The Clarion-Ledger this week. Friday night many of us gathered to hear him play and sing. Jack, my 10 year old nephew, and I made origami with dollar bills for the tip jar. Jack made an elephant and I made a guitar. I celebrate creating with Jack and in giving to Hunter.

origami guitar

The sunsets are glorious here at the lake. I celebrate being with family, watching wildlife, and reconnecting with friends old and new.

June sunset on the lake

June sunset on the lake

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Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Mary Lee.

Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Mary Lee.

June Sunset on the lake

June Sunset on the lake

The slow down days of June give me the gift of time. Time to watch and be present. I am visiting my parents at the lake. There are always things to watch at the lake. Now as I sit on the back porch, I see a turtle on the small island sticking his little head out to taste the breeze. I see a mallard floating on the waves the breeze has mustered up.

Observation is the seed to creativity. Earlier I took a walk and ran into a deer on the road. Here is a draft of the poem I wrote upon returning. I didn’t have a camera with me. But I don’t think I could have captured this moment with a lens. I capture it now in words.

The Doe

Walking
Dover Lane,
She stands near my path
like a statue someone placed there.

Still,
quiet,
looking,
our eyes greet,
speak of love.

She’s the first to move,
scurries into the brush.
I pause as I pass
to watch
the shadows of three deer–
her family.

We are mothers
eye to eye
holding in a moment
nature’s promise.

–Margaret Simon

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Join the Spiritual Thursday round up at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

Join the Spiritual Thursday round up at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you.
The Servant Song

I drive the highway south to New Orleans fairly often. There is a bridge overpass that is quite faulty. This used to frustrate me because suddenly my car was bumping up and down jarring me out of whatever thought I was having. Once I was driving this road with my friend Cathy. We were making a day trip to New Orleans to shop for wigs and dresses for the upcoming Berry Queen ball. Already we were in the mood for fun. When the bumping started, I exclaimed my usual ugh!, but when I looked over at Cathy, she was laughing and exaggerating the up and down movement. She says with glee, “I love this bridge!”

My attitude changed totally and ever since, I look forward to the bridge. I remember the fun day we had, the laughter in Cathy’s voice, and the memory of shared joy.

Laughter is like that. Laughter can change a moment of fear and frustration into one of joy and delight. I believe God is all about transforming moments into joy.

Sunset reflection

Sunset reflection

Today I am at the lake to celebrate my mother’s birthday. My sister and her children are here. There will be lots of talking and sharing and laughing.

On my way here, I listened to a podcast called On Being. The guest was Sister Simone Campbell. You can listen to it here. One of the writing exercises I like to do is turn my notes into a poem. Here is a found poem from Sister Simone.

Walk willing.
Open hands
for the treasure
to hold, not grasp,
willing to share.
Open heart
ready to be broken
by his story,
forever changed.
Make me one part
of the one body
that Paul speaks of.
Wake me up
to do the thing
I am able to do.

One of my favorite folk hymns is The Servant Song. This song expresses the community of Christ and helps me to remember how to be fully present for others on this spiritual journey.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

The first sentence of a novel is the author’s first opportunity to grab you, to hook you, and keep you reading.  Somewhere in my stacks of books that are now packed away for the summer, I have a lesson about first lines. The exercise lists all the options that E.B. White had for the first line of Charlotte’s Web. Do you know what the first line is? It’s the best first line ever.

Where is Papa going with that ax? (E.B. White)

I am working on a middle grade novel. One of my writing group friends suggested trying First Five Pages Workshop, an online critique group for MG and YA literature. I had to have my submission ready to email by noon on the first Saturday of the month. The formatting rules for the entry were very specific. I prepared a few days ahead and then hit send at 12:01 PM. I got in!

Turns out that was the easy part. There is no slacking in this group of authors. The expectation is that you will critique the others in the workshop as well. The writing is good. Finding something to say that is meaningful and helpful is hard.

americana_started_pullet_1

Sunshine, a main character for my middle grade novel.

The first sentence of my novel has changed a number of times.

My first draft began, “Sunshine flutters her feathers on my cheek.” But as I wrote the story, I soon discovered that things were amiss. And I needed to hook the reader with the idea that not everything was quite in order.

Draft #2: “I gather Sunshine from her nest by placing my cupped hands under her fluffy breast.” This is the one I submitted for First Five Pages. I got a comment that it was unclear that Sunshine is a chicken.

I completely rewrote the first sentence to “In the quiet of the morning, before the sun rises, before the barges move down the bayou, even before the St. Martinville, Louisiana public school bus drives down True Friend Road, I usually find a miracle waiting for me in the chicken coop.”

I liked the craft of three going on here and that it has a strong sense of place. I put it on the Facebook page for First Five Pages and got some great comments. “I like it. It sets a mood and tone and hints at trouble brewing with the little word, usually. I did stumble a bit on the town and state name. I’m not sure if you need those specifically right now vs. just saying the public school bus. The bayou gives us an idea that you’re in the south. Great job!”

This commenter suggested the word rumble to describe the bus going down the street.

The current version: “In the quiet of the morning, before the sun rises, before the barges move down the bayou, even before the school bus rumbles down True Friend Road, I usually find a miracle waiting for me in the chicken coop.”

What a process! I don’t think I could do this writing thing without help. I need the advice and encouragement of writing partners and critics. To put my writing out there for all the world to see, I have to muster up a boatload of courage. But I am never disappointed. I often get frustrated and wallow in self-doubt. In fact when I thought about writing this post, my little monster told me that no one would want to read this. I told him to take a walk.

If you are writing middle grade or YA, I highly recommend First Five Pages Workshop. I also suggest Teachers Write which is starting up next month.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

skyping with spark kids

Technology allows us, invites us even, to collaborate more and more. No longer am I a lonely teacher behind closed doors of a classroom. Through my PLN (Professional Learning Network) on Twitter and Facebook, I have met colleagues. Teachers are doing the every day thing in innovative ways. Months ago, Leigh Anne Eck tweeted me about helping with her high ability camp. She was teaching poetry. I Skyped with a group of 2nd and 3rd graders this week. What fun! I didn’t have to care at all about the boy who wiggled all around in his seat and started drumming with his pencil. That’s my kind of teaching. I was on screen far away in my own living room.

Leigh Anne shared the student work and her thoughts about the collaboration on her site A Day in the Life.

The haiku lesson itself was a collaboration because I used another colleague’s poetry project. Linda Baie blogs at Teacher Dance. We’ve never met face to face, but every week we are in contact through our blog posts. She’s one of my top commenters. Her poetry project in April was to write a haiku each day. She catalogued them on her site.

I am encouraged by this collaboration to look for ways to use Skype more in my class during the year. We’ve had author visits. These are great, but what about connecting with other teachers and students? We could Skype a whole hour lesson and share our writing together across the miles.

This next school year, I will have two 6th grade girls at two different schools. I am wondering how I can use collaboration to make their world bigger and more meaningful. Through Kidblogs, we could create a site just for them. If you know you will have high ability sixth graders next year, maybe we could collaborate on a book or writing prompt. Let me know in the comments.

In what ways are you collaborating using technology? What ways do you plan to collaborate? Link up your blog post and/or tweet out your response to #digilitchallenge and @MargaretGSimon.

For the next month, DigiLit Sunday will be on vacation. Please consider joining CLMOOC.

Sign up for CLMOOC running June 28- August 2, 2015.

Sign up for CLMOOC running June 28- August 2, 2015.

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Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

Twitter is buzzing this morning. My friends in cyberspace are posting images of their writing spaces. Such a fun way to connect with other teacher/writers. My writing space is messy. I sit at the kitchen table most days because Charlie (my dog) is here, so he keeps me company. Mimi, the cat, is often lying on some random piece of paper. What is it about cats and paper? I have a tablet for notes, a leather journal for quick poems, and my school notebook where many ideas are stored. I celebrate time to sit here, connect with others, and write.

#Iwritehere

#Iwritehere

Celebrating Rainbows: The good thing about summer rain showers (which are happening daily) is rainbows. I know the science behind a rainbow, but I still marvel at the sight and believe in the promise. May your summer be filled with rainbows.

Thursday morning rainbow

Thursday morning rainbow

Celebrating coffee shop visits: Yesterday I had two coffee shop dates. A wonderful way to relax and reconnect with friends over summer days.

I'm in between Jen and Sandy.  Coffee cups and friends!

I’m in between Jen and Sandy. Coffee cups and friends!



Celebrating antique shopping:
This is a rare treat for me, to wander through an antique market. This one is next to the Joie De Vivre Coffee Shop in Breaux Bridge, Lagniappe Antiques Mall. Lagniappe is a French word that means a little something extra. That’s an understatement. It was a warehouse full of somethings extra. I bought a few things that jumped off the shelves at me, silver napkin rings, a 1961 Life magazine, and vintage postcards.

Lagniappe Antiques Mall

Lagniappe Antiques Mall

Antique store finds, a 1961 Life magazine and vintage postcards.

Antique store finds, a 1961 Life magazine and vintage postcards.

What are you celebrating today?

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Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Jama.

Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Jama.

In this wacky wonderful world of the Kidlitosphere, I have met so many awesome writers and teachers and teacher/writers. It becomes an even richer experience when we work together to teach and inspire students. When Leigh Anne Eck tweeted me about Skyping with her summer writing camp, I agreed, of course. I was actually flattered. As the day got closer, I worried that I didn’t have what I needed to adequately teach this workshop. We had a quick email exchange and decided to do haiku. All my books are packed away at school, so I turned to another online friend, Linda Baie. She had written a haiku every day in April and made a catalog of them all on her site. How perfect and convenient! Thanks, Linda!

These were the poems I selected and a few things we talked about.

snow shadows again
blossoms tighten their hold
no open window

(Note the use of the word shadows. Why do blossoms tighten? What does the last line tell you?)

That little boy
digs into warm earth –
wiggle in his hand

(What is in his hand? How do you know? Poets can tell you that it’s a worm without using the word.)

from snow to puddles
mother nature’s pasttime –
trees drink deeply

(What is happening? How do you know? Note the personification of trees. What is a pasttime?)

Following our discussion, we looked at this image from National Geographic. First we collected words and phrases that the students shared. Together we wrote this haiku.

Three pairs of flip-flops.
Shadows of three kids playing.
Puddle reflection.

We pulled up a Google image search of “summer days.” Each student chose their own image to write from. Sacred writing time for about 7 minutes. Then some wonderful sharing time. I had such a good time teaching from my living room, even if it was early in the morning. (two time zones)

I wrote a haiku to an image of daisies. Teachers write, too, during workshop. I borrowed a line from Linda, “no open window,” and made it “open your window.” I talked about how poets get ideas from other poets.

Open your window
Summer daisies are here.
Golden sunshine smiles.
–Margaret Simon

quotes-about-summer

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