Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Art by Leo, left, and Stella, right from “Let’s Make Art” activity at the Hilliard Museum.

On the campus of ULL (University of Louisiana at Lafayette) there is a beautiful museum, The Hilliard. Saturday they held a drop in art activity for kids 4 and up. I showed up with Leo, 4, and Stella, 2, and they were the only children there. They had the full attention of the artist instructor.

I was amazed by the focus of both kids on this activity. From the flyers on the table, I realized it was meant to be a quilting activity. There were shapes cut out of various papers. However, Leo immediately grabbed the scissors and started cutting the shapes to his liking and building a 3 dimensional motorcycle. I glued it down for him on the white “quilt piece,” and he continued to add to it a winner’s banner and a man riding (notice the skinny yellow strip sitting on the motorcycle.)

Stella was happy enough to glue and glue and glue. The artist taught her how to put the glue on the back and turn the paper over and press it down. We were also able to freely roam the current art exhibits. It was a great way to spend a rainy cold Saturday morning.

Today, at Ethical ELA Open Write, Stefanie Boutelier is teaching us how to use technology in poetry with a wonderful prompt and model poem “A Pile of Good Things”. You should follow the link and see what it’s all about. Here is my pile:

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I read Beautiful Hands to my youngest students, 1st-3rd grade. The question “What will your beautiful hands do today?” is the theme of this short and inspiring book by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten.

The story of this book is both sad and joyful. From a Bookology article by Nancy Bo Flood:

Beautiful Hands was done for Bret Baumgarten, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When we found out, it was at stage 4. It was heartbreaking. He and I both wanted to do a book for his children, Noah and Sofie. I found out every day he would hold his kids’ hands in his and ask them, “What will your beautiful hands do today?”

I wanted everyone whom Bret loved to be in this book. We arranged for his family and friends (mine too!) to make handprints as part of the illustrations in the book, so that they could participate and be a part of this narrative. Over 100 people’s handprints are in the rainbow at the end of the story. So many people loved Bret, we didn’t know where to put our grief. The book became a positive way to remember the message he wanted to impart most: love, creativity, compassion, and our connection with one another.

Kathryn Otoshi

With my youngest students, we practiced using acrylic paints.

1. You must put on a t-shirt to avoid stains on your clothes. (I provide old t-shirts.)

2. Mrs. Simon will squirt the paint. It comes out fast and can splatter.

3. We only have primary colors, so how do we make other colors?

4. Which illustration do you want to make?

5. You can only use hands, no paintbrushes. We used the paintbrushes to apply the paint to their hands.

Here are some samples of final works of art.

My Painting

by Carson

Sunflowers bloom.
My heart booms!

Clouds float in the air.
My hands show that I care. 

Carson is brand new to poetry writing. He gets very nervous about it, so we have to use some breathing techniques while I prompt him with sentence stems. We worked on making lists of rhyming words. He wrote “Clouds float in the air” with little prompting. And selected the word care from our list of rhyming words. All I said was, “Look at your hands in your painting. My hands…?”

“Show that I care!” shouted Carson. We celebrated with a high five and a glowing smile. When I typed it and let him tape it to his artwork, he was as proud as Vashti from Peter Reynold’s book, The Dot. ( If you don’t know about Vashti yet, you must go Google The Dot right now.)

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Remember Alice? The sleep-deprived child from my Slice on Saturday? She wanted me to let all my readers know that she took my advice and read The Lightning Thief, our current class novel, before falling asleep rather than watching TV. If you’ve ever read The Lightning Thief, you may not think this is such a good book to read before going to sleep. Talk about wild crazy dreams filled with Minotaurs and such. But the book helped Alice fall asleep at a reasonable hour, so she was enthusiastically ready for class today. 

She also wanted me to share her Basquiat art piece. 

I asked my students for an idea for today’s Slice of Life, and they pointed to a painting I created years ago in a creativity class for my gifted certification. That class was one of my favorites. I loved my teacher and the projects we did. I went searching for the binder. More than any other class, this one taught me how to embrace my own creativity so that I could encourage it in my gifted students. This was a reminder I needed today.

I found the binder, my final project, in a cubby and hugged it close. I’m so glad I kept it. Looking through the binder was like looking into a time capsule. So many things I had forgotten. But my painting with my teaching philosophy remains on the wall of my classroom today. I still believe in it and try to live it everyday. 

In the painting, I analogized creativity with opening a door. In my classroom, I want to make the students feel safe as in a birdhouse that gives them the freedom to explore ideas, discover relationships, and ask questions. A cat symbolizes curiosity; the tree, exploring possibilities; and the planet, discovery. The purple mountains symbolize expanding the horizon, and the wildflowers, flexibility.

Margaret Simon, circa 1999

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I love to go for a walk in the morning. Getting out of the house is my problem. First, I have coffee. Then I check email and these days, write a Slice and read some Slices. Comment. I get sucked in. Even with this problem of getting out of the door, once I’m out, I’m never sorry. Most days when I get back home, there’s a mad rush to get ready for school. Somewhere in this morning routine, I try to get in some writing. Sometimes the writing happens while I am walking. Notes app, microphone on.

My grandson Leo visited this past weekend. He is highly creative. He draws with amazing design, unlike most scribblings of a 4-year old. Last week we ran into my cousin Andrew, the architect, during Mardi Gras. I showed Andrew Leo’s drawings. My daughter started a shared album about a year ago, so I have them on my phone.

Andrew told me a story about his second grade teacher. He loved to build things, and his mother, my aunt, would throw out things like paper towel tubes, boxes, and magazines, etc.. But not Andrew’s teacher. She had a box of trash just for him. An Andrew box full of scraps to build with. He has never forgotten this and may be the artist he is today because of it.

Being Mamere I collected toilet paper tubes, gumballs, and a box. Early on Saturday morning (Leo woke up at 5:30 AM), I showed him the stuff. “You can make whatever you want.” I gave him a plastic container with glue and a paintbrush and left him alone. He created something. When his mother saw it, she noticed that he had even found a wad of cat hair to add to the top of one of the towers. I placed the sculpture in my new butterfly garden to hopefully attract insects and caterpillars.

Leo’s sculpture
Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tanita at {fiction, instead of lies} for Roundup.

For Poetry Friday, it is the first Friday, so the Inklings (my writing group) have a new challenge. And it came from me. I asked my friends to toy with the use of anaphora (repetition) in a poem using the mentor text from Jericho Brown, Crossing. I wrote one last week that I ended up putting in the trash, so I didn’t have anything to share. Remember the walk I took? I spoke a poem into my Notes app that is my poem offering today.

To see other Inklings poems:

Linda @A Word Edgewise
Heidi @my juicy little universe
Molly @Nix the Comfort Zone
Catherine @Reading to the Core
Mary Lee Hahn @Another Year of Reading

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Laura has the roundup this week.

Catherine Flynn of our writing group, the Inkings, put forth this challenge for our first of the month poetry challenge: “Somewhere, someone recommended the book How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. It includes “reflective pauses” and invitations for “writing and reflection.” After the poem “Work,” by Sally Bliumis-Dunn, (https://sallybliumisdunn.com/) the invitation reads: “Can you remember a time when you felt so consumed with the act of making something that you lost all sense of time and your mind seemed to clear? What allowed you to enter this mindful creative space?”

Mindful creative space is also known as Flow as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I studied his theory way back in the early 90’s when I was getting my masters in gifted education. It can be such a euphoric feeling that many creatives crave it. Like time doesn’t exist or matter. It hasn’t been happening to me lately, and this prompt challenge made me start thinking about what my blocks to flow have been.

You can read this list as a list of excuses (because they are) or as a sad list of losses. But the more I read about grief and writing and mental health, I realize that this is normal. Frustrating. Yes. But normal and as my Nikki McClure calendar reminds me, I will get through.

Calendar by Nikki McClure

Flow, not Flowing

I lost my journal,
the one notebook with the instructions on how to do this thing
called writing. Hiding
between the books in the school backpack,
and then there’s the time it takes to pack a lunch
and get out the door. Not to mention
the dog threw up again this morning.

I lost my godchild,
the one I’d hadn’t seen in years. She was growing up,
going to graduate school, doing all the things
a twenty-something does without a care,
yet now I care because she’s gone

and I can’t sleep or write or do anything
to make all those absent years present again.

I lost my happiness, buried deep
in the rains of winter, drowning out
the words I want to write, need to write.

“Are you writing?” they ask. I say I am
because that is what I do. Say it until it is true.
This is my confession and to tell the truth,
it flowed right out of me.

Margaret Simon, on-the-spot-I-need-to-post-something draft

Here are links to my Inkling friends’ posts:

Mary Lee

A bonus blossom:
I’ve had this orchid for a year, at least and these blossoms popped out this week.

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Design by Linda Mitchell

One of the wisdoms I have gained as a writer is that writing with others creates strong friendships because writing is such an act of vulnerability. It is true for the classroom, for writing workshops, and for critique groups. My group, the Inklings, are true friends. They listen, respond with integrity, and encourage me as a person as well as a writer. We live far away from each other, but we used Zoom long before the pandemic, and see each other twice monthly. This is all to say that when my father died, they did what they do best, and sent me a book of poems. I sat alone with these poems and let the comfort and wisdom of words wash over me. I offer a video today of me reading each poem sitting out by my beloved bayou. It’s 8 minutes long.

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Today’s Round-up for Spiritual Thursday posts is at Linda Mitchell’s site, A Word Edgewise.

I like to buy flowers. When I go to the grocery store, I often put a bouquet of flowers in my basket. I consider it rescuing them from certain death. Sometimes I find someone to give them to and other times, I cut them and place them in a vase for my husband and me to enjoy. Flowers just make life better.

Colorful roses from Walmart

The other day my neighbor shouted from her doorway, “Don’t go! I want to show you something.”

She brought out the amaryllis bulb I had place on her doorstep around Christmas time. It was blooming, a beautiful white double blossom.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” she cried. “Do you want it back?”

“Of course not. It’s meant for you to enjoy.”

“I do love flowers, you know.”

Heart card collage by Margaret Simon

What is in your heart today? Love, gratitude, grief? It’s all there. Take time today to hold your own heart with compassion. Buy yourself flowers.

To end this post, I want to share Avalyn’s heart poem. This was not my doing. She saw it in a book (Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog) that you can make a poem into a shape, so she wanted to try it. I showed her a quick YouTube video, and she created her own.

Concrete heart poem by Avalyn

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I filled the last page of my notebook, the one I use every day as I write alongside my students. We use marbleized composition books. With decorative paper, magazines, and other things, we collage covers for our notebooks. The last few days I have been stealing a few minutes here or there to work on my new notebook. Here are my completed covers. I tend to be pretty critical of my own collage work, but I like these.

One of the elements on the front cover came from an ArtSpark postcard exchange with Jone MacCulloch and Amy Souza. I cut the quotes on the back from a 2021 calendar.

May the space between where I am and where I want to be inspire me.

Tracee Ellis Ross

This week I am sharing videos from Margaret Alvarez about gratitude art journaling that I discovered in an email from The Network for Grateful Living. We’ve enjoying playing with these easy, yet creative ideas in my classroom. Day one was “Life is a gift” using watercolor shapes and sharpie designs. Day two we did string art. My students have been highly motivated by art journaling. These ideas are simple enough for my second graders while creative enough for my 6th graders. And it’s fun!

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Poetry Friday is with Buffy Silverman.

Exchanging Christmas cards is a tradition that I choose to hold on to. There are people in my life I haven’t seen or talked to in years, decades even, yet we still exchange cards every year. It’s a lifeline. A loveline. A way to connect beyond any reason. I don’t fault anyone who opts out. It’s a time consuming commitment.

We don’t send a long letter anymore. The most I can get out is a sticker for the back with the very basic information. But I do enjoy reading the long letters that arrive. I don’t even care if it’s braggy, braggy. I have a friend whose tradition is to open all the holiday cards at once on Christmas morning. I tend to savor each one as it comes.

Art cards express a dedication of time and creativity. This year I received a beautiful collage art card from friend and fellow Inkling, Linda Mitchell. She says she “dabbles” but this card, and other work I’ve seen by her recently, are placing her into a higher artist category. She has talent, and I appreciate and admire her work.

Christmas card collage by Linda Mitchell

My father, John Gibson, is an artist who created art cards for years. In 2013, I created poems to accompany each card and collected them into a small chapbook, Illuminate. Today, I am featuring one of these cards and its poem.

The stable by John Gibson

The Pointillist

She laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

He sits at the drawing table,
taps the paper
as an instrument.

Music comes forth
in tones
dark and light.

from his heart
to his hand beats–

syncopated in time–
drumming out each dot
point by point

emerges in focus
inviting the eye

I go with him
to the stable,
kneel next to the cow,

smell the light scent of hay,
listen to the breath
of a child,

adore with Mary.

Margaret Simon, all rights reserved
from Illuminate

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I love to place flowers in a vase on my kitchen table. Last Sunday the rain finally stopped and the sun came out revealing new colors. Flowers were so happy about the rain. They were blooming like crazy. So I cut some and put them in a simple vase, a knock-out rose, yellow gerbera daisies, and blue flag iris. There they sat when I found an email with a link to a YouTube video on contour drawing. I drew this still life and I wasn’t disappointed in the results. I usually hate my drawing and often give up on any exercise that involves drawing skills. But to live creatively, you can’t give up. You shouldn’t deny the things you love. And you should always, always place flowers in a vase on your kitchen table.

Still life with flowers, photo by Margaret Simon enhanced by Waterlogue app

Buds today
will be blossoms tomorrow
Don’t forget to water
the seeds you plant.
They are yours
for only a moment.

Margaret Simon, draft

Use these photos to prompt a small verse and leave it in the comments. Encourage other writers with comment replies. Thanks for being here today.

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