Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Which Author Would You Choose?

What if you could sit down with any author for a chat? Who would it be, Hemingway, Dumas, Shakespeare, Rowling, Scieszka?

I choose all of the above, but there is one person that I regret I never got to meet or take a class from, and that is Joseph Campbell. My own writing, as well as my teaching of writing, sits on his hero journey foundation.  If you aren’t familiar with Campbell’s famous story structure jump over to Lisa Gail Green’s blog for a quick and concise overview.

My regret in never interacting with Campbell was partially satiated when I discovered THE POWER OF MYTHS PROGRAMS. This is series of discussions between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell on a myriad of topics including the hero journey, ritual, and mythology. They discuss story origins in myths from around the world with both reverence and humor, and show us how our work directly relates to the world's great stories.

Even though I will never get to shake the warm hand and look into the wise eyes of my literary hero, I can still be a student of his precious words. 

Let me entice you with some of treasures from the interviews: 

“Mythology to him (Campbell) was the song of the universe, music so deeply embedded in our collective unconscious that we dance to it even when we can’t name the tune.” Bill Moyers

“Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.” Joseph Campbell

“We are seeking an experience of being alive.” Joseph Campbell

And here, my friends, is our creative call to arms:

"Artists are the myth-makers of today." Joseph Campbell

Campbell’s fascinating perspective on the world is an invaluable filter in which we can view our own writing. He will forever be my tribal elder and mentor through his works and thankfully his beautiful preserved spoken words.

Hungry for more luscious Campbell quotes...Click away.

What writer would you invite for a creative conversation?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

View From the 5th Grade Trenches - May 2011 - Get a Clue, 39 to be Exact

Here in the 5th Grade Trenches we just finished a nail biting read-aloud. You might have heard of it, THE 39 CLUES, MAZE OF BONES (Book 1) by Rick Riordan.

The kids LOVED it. Amy and Dan Cahill, the pair of protagonists, are filled with the audacity and impulsivity that a middle grader can relate to. Dan is brash, and Amy shy. Every child in my class could relate to one or the other.

The humor was spot-on for the middle-grade brain, especially Dan’s one-liners. The villains may seem over-the-top and stereotypical to an adult, but the kids ate them up with a spoon.

As a teacher I loved all the curricular tie-ins that inspire a plethora of spin-off lessons:
History – The book is a Benjamin Franklin feast
Math – The magic square, overall number sense, and problem solving
Science - Chemistry and electricity
Language Arts – Anagrams
Technology – The fantastic online tie-in to the series where you find out which branch of the Cahill Family you belong to AND you have access to extra clues.

Best of all, the kids are grabbing for the rest of the series. I bought 3 full sets for my classroom alone, and we’ve stripped the school library as well. A different author writes each of the books, so the kids will be exposed to multiple voices and styles as they read on.

And there are the two words that are music to a teacher's ear – read on. 

Scholastic now offers the set in paperback. Dive. Dive.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writer's Sketchbook

As a designer, I kept a daily sketchbook. I’d practice perspective, detail, shading, or just draw a subject that caught my fancy. 

As a writer, I keep a situational sketchbook. I jot down dialogue, settings, characters, conflicts, and specific details that intrigue me, and may find a place in a story. I hate to lose or miss anything juicy that I experience so I pop it in my writer's sketchbook to pluck later.

I just finished a three-day stint in the hospital, so of course I sketched my experience with words. In my writer’s sketchbook, I chronicle in bullet points. Here’s a peek:

  • Nurse #1 hates me. Her upper lip curls at me all snarly
  • No matter how you arrange the hospital gown, you always flash your hiney
  • All hospital meat is a weird version of turkey meatloaf
  • Nurse #1 has one eye bigger than the other
  • Hospitals are not for sleeping
  • The show NURSE JACKIE is not available on the hospital TV
  • Nurse #1 will abandon you on the commode for an hour – take reading material
  • Graveyard shift male nurses are the most entertaining
  • “I will ask your doctor. I will ask the nurse. I will make no decisions.”
  • Nurse #1 works more hours than anyone else
  • Flesh-eating tape is used for wound dressings
  • Beware of nurses who don’t wear athletic shoes
  • Nurse #1 smells like the 99 Cents store
  • There is some weird covenant against daily patient teeth-brushing
  • Catheter, I.V., Bedpan, oh my.
  • Nurse #1 will require mental leave time if we are together one more day

What does your writer’s sketchbook look like?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Versatile Bloggers

It's fun to take a moment to just yell THANK YOU to all the fantastic writing bloggers out there who have filled me with knowledge and inspiration. You all make me think, dream, and work harder. Hooray for Ye Olde Blogosphere.

I'm yelling with gratitude and not because I'm being tortured by a physical therapist. I had hip replacement surgery on Monday, and I'm sure there has been plenty of yelling since then, but this THANK YOU is good yelling.

THANK YOU. Oops, I'm still yelling. Must be the pain meds. 

For the record I am about 20+ years younger than most people who have hip replacement surgery.  I plan on beating all the older patients in a footrace by post-surgery day three.

I'll compose myself and stop yelling now. Thank you (see how refined I can be) to Carolyn Arnold for honoring me with the Versatile Blogger award.  

I'm jazzed to pay it forward to some blogger folks I've been e-hanging out with these days:

  1. Arlee Bird Check out her TOSSING IT OUT blog and scroll down to enjoy the Blogging A-Z challenge that took place in April.
  2. Deana Barnhart
  3. Ebony McKenna
  4. From the Write Angle
  5. Tina Moss
  6. Write on Teens
Forgive me in advance for not responding to posts this week. I'm probably re-learing how to put my socks on with a long grabber stick.