Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

 

International Dot Day is one of my favorite days of the year.  For years, I’ve celebrated with my students.  This year I tried out a new activity for Dot Day, a Zeno Zine.  We started by reading The Dot and playing the Emily Arrow Dot Day Song.  Then each student decorated a dot on white art paper using markers. Rainbow dots seemed to be the choice of the day.

After drawing a dot, I asked my students to collect words and phrases about their artwork to use in a zeno poem.  We wrote a zeno together using ideas from the book.  Then they wrote their own zeno about their own dot.  We folded their art work into a zine and copied their poems into their zine.

Zeno form: syllable count 8, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1 (Each one syllable line rhymes. )

Our Group Dot Zeno

I can’t draw a straight line, can you?
May I please see
you draw
dot?
I don’t think so
maybe
not
I bet you can
draw a
lot!

Dot Day Zeno Zine by Chloe

 

 

After the rainstorm has happened
Colors appear
rainbow
light
a beautiful
hopeful
sight
flower petals
amazing
bright 

by Breighlynn

Zine by Breighlynn

 

I draw and write alongside my students, so I made three zeno zines throughout the day.  My student Madison suggested that I post this one because, as she said, “The solar system is full of dots!”

Solar System Dot Zeno Zine

Gravitational central sun
spiral orbit
spinning
round
Solar system
planets
bound
Constant spinning
without
sound.

Margaret Simon, (c) 2018

 

 

Bayou Song Interview on KRVS:

If you are interested in hearing an interview with me on our local public radio station, click this link and go to “Interview.”

Read Full Post »

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

I am a writer.  I am a poet.  I am also a failure every day.

There is a myth about publishing, that once you get published, the writing becomes easier.  I know that can’t be true.  I’ve read enough blogs from authors to know this, but I’ve had days recently in which I’ve felt like I’ll never write another good poem. Ever.

I think the problem lies in how I am approaching my writing life these days.  I expect to be motivated.  I expect the words to come.  And when they don’t, I feel a flood of failure.  The kind that whispers in my head, “You will never write again.”

I’ve had writing partners go through this and my advice is always, give it time, take a break, go for a walk.  These are all things I give myself permission to do, but when it goes on for days and days, it’s cause for concern.

Early in the morning sitting with my coffee and Charlie on my lap, I looked outside and said to myself, “How is it the cypress trees know that it’s September?”

I didn’t have my notebook.  It was in my school bag in the trunk of my car.  I didn’t want to go outside with bare feet to get it.  And besides, I was worried the muse would escape if I did that.  So I grabbed a nearby pad of paper and wrote a quick poem.  This simple response relieved my writer’s block. Still when I went back to my work in progress, things were no better, but I calmed my disdain with my new poem.  I got up and went to the study where I keep the old typewriter my son-in-law bought me at an estate sale and plinked the September poem, cut it out, and glued it into a beautiful handmade journal I reserve for these private musings.  Ah, there.

Read Full Post »

Louisiana booth in the Parade of States.

Bayou Song was featured at the Louisiana booth at the National Book Festival. This was a fun yet humbling experience. Kids crowded our table wanting Mardi Gras beads and a stamp from our state. I stood on the side like a protective mother to my book. Occasionally an adult would take interest and want to talk. I had a number of good conversations about teaching, poetry, and writing. One parent and child asked me to sign the bookmark. I felt like Vashti from The Dot. Really? Yes, sign it.

A man picked up Bayou Song and as I reached out to grab it back, I realized he was reading a poem aloud to his infant son while a taller, school-aged boy clung to him. So heartwarming to see this scene in the midst of the crowd.  He explained that he is a stay-at-home dad and he reads poetry to his children every day.

 

The National Book Festival is a huge free event that promotes literacy on all levels. On the kid level, there were activities and talks by authors like Kate DiCamillo, Dan Santat, and Jason Reynolds.  For grown-up readers, there were some big names like Sonia Sotomayor, Amy Tan, and Roxanne Gay.

Poetry Friday friends Heidi Mordhorst, immediate right of the sign, and Linda Mitchell next to her. Heidi said, “Poetry is the means by which a person knows her place.”

The highlight of my day was to see two of my writing critique friends face to face. We palled around to a talk with poets laureate Tracy K Smith and Robert Haas. We also heard from a new-to-us author Suzanne Slade who presented about her new book Countdown. It’s written in verse! With amazing photos and illustrations.

Later in the day as I waited for my husband who was listening to Jon Meacham, I saw Suzanne walking by. I waved her down and not only was able to get her to sign her book, but we also had a great chat about writing and publishing. Authors are just regular people who love to talk about their work.

On Sunday, my husband and I worshiped at the National Cathedral and toured the Holocaust Museum. I was moved by both experiences in different ways.  Our nation’s capital is an awe-inspiring place to visit.  My husband agreed and said he’d accompany me on any author trips.  He enjoyed being my “roadie.”

 

Read Full Post »

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

Take Down the Letters: A play will be presented at Cité des Arts, Lafayette, LA on Sept. 14, 15, 16.

I met Sue Shleifer with a mutual friend a few years ago. She’s a writer, and my friend thought we would enjoy meeting each other. At our lunch together, Sue mentioned a box of letters that she had written to her boyfriend over the course of ten years from age 18-28. The box had been sent to her by his widow. He died young at age 50. Sue wanted to create something from these letters, but at that time, she wasn’t sure what.

Fast forward three years: Sue has written a full length play that will be presented in mid-September. As part of the grant, she had to give a free writing workshop. She contacted me to assist with the poetry writing session. The premise was very similar to the inspiration for her play: Bring in a letter that you would like to use to write a scene or a poem.

After Sue and I met to discuss the workshop plan, I asked Jeff, “Don’t we have some letters from your grandfather to your grandmother in the secret drawer in her desk?” He couldn’t remember, so we looked. The secret drawer is in the top of the desk and can only be opened by pressing a button underneath the drawer in a closed compartment. And sure enough there they were. Letters from the summer of 1925.

According to my mother-in-law, their daughter, they were married in City Hall in New York City. And shortly after, her mother traveled home to Canada to vacation with her family for a month. C was very much in love, and the letters are romantic. “Probably why she kept them,” Jeff said.

Imagine the time period: the only mode of communication was by letter. C wrote pages and pages in fine calligraphy-style handwriting. The one that was most poetic was the last letter of August 8, 1925. In this one, he used a repeated line “Bring back…” I created a poem by finding the poem in his letter.

If you come in on the 7:47, bring the bathing suit with you.
And bring back yourself even if you forget all of the above.

Bring back that dark brown hair I love,
the big wavy curl that hangs
continuously over your left eye.

Bring back the eyes looking into mine
telling me you are mine.
Bring back the nose,
your quivering lips–silent.

Bring back the arms that have hugged me
so tightly–a little tighter still, because–
because they wanted to.

Bring back your heart, that electric spark
thrilling my toes, my body to my head
and down again–and again.

Bring back the mystery, the wonder,
the sweetness that is yours.
I will take it all, put my arms around it
all, and hug, and kiss, and love it
for ages and ages.
Will you?

–Margaret Simon (c) 2018 with words by Cecil Lennan, 1925.

Read Full Post »

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

 

The beginning of school is a tough time.  Learning new routines, establishing a safe space, and getting to know your students takes time.  And then there are the directives, the process of finding the way to fit your teaching philosophy into the constraints of district guidelines.  I feel the strain.  As fun as it is to see those kids you missed over the summer, and to reconnect with faculty friends, the stress can be overwhelming.

Without going into too many details, I had that kind of beginning.  I took all this stress with me to a yoga class out in the open air pavilion downtown.  Susan was playing music and singing while Laurie led us in sun salutations.  Near the end of this invigorating exercise, Susan sang “Let it Be.”  Her voice entered into my soul and the chorus became a mantra, “Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”

I watched Karaoke Carpool with Paul McCartney.  If you haven’t seen this yet, you should watch it.  Paul tells the story of how he came to write the song.  He had a dream about his deceased mother who told him, “Let it be.”  There are many things that are not in our control.  I am reminded of the serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Using the words in a golden shovel, I wrote this poem:

Someone is speaking.
I can’t hear the words.
I look into the eyes of
love and know wisdom.
It is mine to let
go or choose to let it
get to me. I choose to let it be.

Margaret Simon, (c) draft 2018

Susan painted this mural in the yoga room.

Read Full Post »

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

I saw my students for the first time on Monday.  The first day of my gifted class is traditionally the day to decorate your journal. (Some people call them notebooks, but I have always called them journals.) I bring in decorative paper, magazines, stamps, stickers, and this year, washi tape. The students have full freedom of choice about how they decorate their journals.

I love this as the first day activity for a few reasons.  One is it allows us the time to sit around the table and talk casually. I decorate as well, so we are working together.  I also love how this simple activity tells me so much about my students, how they work on a project, what interests them, and how they handle creativity.  Perfection can be an issue with gifted kids, so this project helps me see these types of characteristics. And also it’s just fun, so kids are excited to come to gifted class every day.

My journal for 2018-2019. I incorporated cards and stickers from friends to make my space personal.

When a sea turtle is too large for your cover, use it on the back and turn it sideways.

Sticky note leaf shapes become a palm tree for this Queen Writer.

Daniel was not discouraged when a magazine cut out didn’t work. He found this cat that he liked much better. There are no mistakes.

Rainbows and washi tape!

If this first day is any indication, this is going to be a good year!

 

Read Full Post »

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

School starts this week. Monday and Tuesday are inservice/orientation days and the kids come on Wednesday. 2018-2019, here we go!

“How will you keep up your writing?” my writing critique partner, Catherine Flynn, asked me at our online meeting.

I hadn’t really thought about it.

#TeachWrite chat on Monday night asked the same question. “What is your plan to continue writing when life gets crazy as the new school year begins?”

Oh, no. A plan?

So here’s my plan for all the world to see:

1. Keep calm. Keep writing.

2. Open my notebook at least once a day. Write the date at the top of the page. See what comes…

3. Write alongside my students. (I have done this as long as I’ve been teaching writing. It’s one of my guiding principles for teaching.)

4. Don’t feel guilty if a day goes by, and I didn’t write. Some days are like that. Realize that there may be other days when the writing is easy. Let go of ridiculous expectations.

5. Set realistic goals. A poem a day may be too hard, but a poem a week is doable.

6. Be an advocate for my writing life. Make time for it because in the long run, I’m happier when I am writing.

There. That’s wasn’t so hard. It’s not so much a plan as a promise to my writer-self. What will you do to keep writing when life gets crazy-busy?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »