Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Wandering writers brought together: inspired, changed.

at Two Writing Teachers!
It's been an amazing two-and-a-half weeks at the Columbus Area Writing Project!  Every day, we learn and write and grow so much that I feel like I'm just overflowing with writerly wonderfulness!

For this morning's quick-write, Robin guided us through an exploration of short, structured forms, with types of poetry and prose both familiar and new.  She pours book floods out to us every day (Kelly Gallagher would be so proud!), and today's mentor texts included delights such as Tap Dancing on the Roof (I'd never heard of sijo!) and Not Quite What I Was Planning.  She then challenged us to play with short forms during our 10-minute quick-writing time.  I didn't get very far then, but the idea stuck in my head and crawled out again on the way home as I was brainstorming slice ideas.

So, here are some short forms to capture my CAWP experience.

1. Six-word memoir: did you notice it in the title of my post?  If not, look again!  :-)

2. Tanka: At CAWP, whenever we need to focus as a group, come together from writing or an animated conversation, or ground ourselves from tension, one of our co-directors leads us in the following ritual:

Kevin intones, "Breathe."
We gulp luscious life and pause,
away from the world.
Together, we push out stress,
finding selves in a new place.

3. Haiku: this just happened!

Husband cooks dinner:
pouring, stirring, simmering.
Grateful, I can write!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Retreating into writing

at Two Writing Teachers!
Last week we kicked off the Columbus Area Writing Project with a three-day retreat at gorgeous Kenyon College.  We explored new ideas as we explored the unfamiliar beauty of the campus, shared our words and our writing lives, and grounded ourselves in the power of story.  Suddenly (and yet gradually), a smattering of strangers came together into a supportive family of teacher-writers.

We had some free hours to discover the inspirations hiding around Kenyon's campus, and I was lucky enough to be one of the first from our group to discover the magical wishing tree.

As soon as our project directors mentioned that there was a special tree people could "go inside", I just had to find it.  I was always that kid who loved crawling under tables, benches, and bushes to create secluded forts and cozy hideaways.  However, I wasn't prepared for the surprise that awaited me.

I was picturing a stately tree with a hole or hollow in the trunk.  Instead, I found a gangly, unkempt monster.

But when I dared to come closer, I discovered that the unwieldy arms of this hulking beast actually hide inviting passageways into an enchanted paradise.

Looking back toward the "doorway" through which I entered.
(The tags are wishes left by visitors)

Following a well-worn path to duck through the curtain of leaves, I reeled with the magic of what I found:  The tree's branches enclosed it in a mystical living shroud, 360 degrees around.

Were forest nymphs going to shyly come out of hiding, or would talking animals greet me  with songs of welcome?

In the center of this secluded dome, the tree's massive trunk stood strong, reaching toward the sky even as delicate strands from its its branches dangled back down toward the ground.

Delighted, I scampered around the bright green bubble, taking pictures from all angles.  I crawled onto the massive branches and climbed until the ground seemed too far away. 

I knew I HAD to write here, so I settled into a branch that seemed made to hold me.

Relaxing, I opened up all my senses, and the words came...

Soft sunlight wafts down onto my skin, peeking through gnarled branches and tumbling green cascades.  Wispy puffs of cotton sail by high overhead.  Enveloped in a green sanctuary, I am completely alone, but not lonely.  Cheerful birds call to their friends, occasionally interrupted by the deep brassy bellowing of sacred bells.  Spindly, shiny ants toddle through their tiny lives along these branches we share.  The soothing breeze gently ruffles waxy leaves that dangle with veins full of life.  I gulp renewing breaths of untainted air as my muscles slowly let go of lingering tensions.  The sturdy gray branch against my back reassures me as it cradles me.  These worn knots and ancient wrinkles hold a thousand dreams and wishes.  If I am still enough, I can almost feel the heartbeat of those stories coursing through the coiling branches.  Faraway, yet right outside, bright tennis shoes and deep blue jeans stroll by, unaware of my hidden refuge.  Do they know what they are missing?

(Special thanks to my CAWP colleague Shelly, who discovered me writing and took the last 3 pictures!)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Un mundo de relatos

at Latinaish!
Today is Spanish Friday, so this post is in Spanish!  Feel free to use Google Translate to get the main ideas if you need to!

Acabo de regresar de tres días maravillosos en el hermosísimo Kenyon College con mis colegas del Columbus Area Writing Project.  A pesar de la tormenta amenazadora del miércoles, disfrutamos de muchas horas juntos para escribir, aprender, compartir historias, conocernos, y forjar amistades nuevas.

Se construyeron los edificios viejos de piedras de la región.
Hoy por la mañana, los directores nos presentaron una sorpresa muy especial: la oportunidad de participar en el proyecto StoryBox.  Kevin, uno de nuestros directores y un cuentacuentos encantador, nos relató cómo inició este proyecto y reveló dos StoryBoxes (cajas de relatos) que había traido.

StoryBox: una caja de relatos
Corrimos a las StoryBoxes como unos niños hacia el árbol de Navidad.  ¡Qué tesoro!  Historias, cuentos, poemas, cartas, y dibujos.  Unos de crayones, otros escritos a máquina, de niños y maestros, de nuestra ciudad y países lejanos.

Emocionada, agarré una carpeta con la etiqueta SPAIN y la abrí...
¡cuentos de estudiantes de Madrid, mi ciudad querida!
Saboreé las palabras españolas, dulces y suaves: una colección de fábulas y cuentos escritos por dos clases de un pueblo de la Comunidad de Madrid en 2009.  Su maestra había puesto su dirección del correo electrónico, así que me sentí ganas de escribirle un mensaje breve.

Unas estudiantes escribieron un cuento de una tortuga, el animal favorito de mi esposo! Las palabras negras son españolas y las moradas son una traducción al inglés que hizo su maestra.
Más tarde, en otras partes de la caja, descubrí otras colecciones de otros países:

¡cuentos de Nueva Zelanda, donde vive mi amiga!
¡una caja de información y cuentos de Irlanda!
cuentos tradicionales de Australia, con unas fotos de las presentaciones de los niños
Leímos y sonreímos por casi una hora, disfrutando del regalo de los cuentos y esperando las semanas que nos tocará añadir nuestros propios relatos y compartir este encuentro con nuestras clases.

Es cierto que los relatos tienen el poder de unirnos con todo el mundo.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Digging up my writing life

at Two Writing Teachers!
I've spent most of the day today pouring through old pieces of my own writing, from kindergarten journals, drawings, and "books", to recent blog entries.  Tomorrow, my journey with the Columbus Area Writing Project begins, and we've been assigned an "archeological dig" of ourselves as writers.  Each participant gets to set up a small display of "artifacts" from our writing lives, with an accompanying narrative to weave them together. 

Here's the introduction to my display:

If you looked around any house I’ve lived in, you’d notice two things: notepads and books.  Surprised at my early literacy skills, my kindergarten teacher asked my mom how many books were in our house.  My mom got tired and stopped counting at 1,100.  Is it any surprise I tried to fill every free minute with reading? When I got a little older, I started stashing books everywhere: on the couch, in the bathroom, under my bed.  If there wasn’t a book within reach, I’d read anything I could get my hands on, from the upside-down newspaper across the table to the ingredients on my cereal box.  (One morning at breakfast I bewildered my parents by asking what guar gum was.  It had to be important, because it was listed in the ingredients of almost everything!)  Late at night, my thoughts always kept me awake far after my parents thought I was asleep, and those nebulous dark hours would always find me curled up with a flashlight, soothing my racing mind with a book or a notepad.  While I’m usually so exhausted now that I have no trouble falling asleep, I still have to keep notepads by the bed for those delicious moments when the perfect words jolt me awake in the middle of the night.

When I told my mom I needed some samples of my old writing, she started dragging out boxes. “I hope the Writing Project rented a semi truck for you to drive to Kenyon College,” she joked.  From messy poems drafted on tiny midnight notepads to wallpaper-covered books “published” at my elementary school publishing shop, my early writing life took hours to explore.  Even through times when my memory told me I had “lost” my writing, I discovered that casual journals, carefully crafted essays, and heartfelt letters continued to sustain my writerly self.  While my writing may not leave such an obvious physical trail anymore, it now flourishes through clicking keys and tapping fingers. (Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still notepads scattered around the house, waiting to catch those sparkling ideas that arrive in the middle of dinner preparations, TV shows, showers, and sleep!)  No longer confined to wrinkled pages hiding under my bed or cautious sharing to a few select friends or teachers, my words now fly courageously across the country and around the world just seconds after I push “publish”!  

To complete the display, I filled five binders with a variety of "artifacts" of my writing life, organized into five areas:
  • Writing to Remember and Reflect
  • Writing to Tell Stories
  • Writing to Play with Words
  • Writing to Explain and Discover
  • Writing to Communicate and Connect

I had so much fun "digging" through my writing life, and I can't wait to interact with the other writers' displays and read their comments about mine!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I am a Writer.

at Two Writing Teachers!
Last Thursday afternoon I rushed out of school, drove the old familiar route to campus, and squeezed my car into one of those awkward, always-too-small parking garage spaces.  I lifted my face to the calming sunshine and opened my ears to the joyful chattering of student life.  Like a weary traveler returning home after a long journey, I let my eyes drink in the shapes and colors of beloved buildings, paths, trees, and open spaces.  I blinked, and everything seemed to grow brighter and sharper around the edges: years of memories melting into the present moment.

For me, coming to campus always means coming home.

Last Thursday, I was coming home to begin a new journey, one that I know will lead me to grow as a writer and as a teacher.  I pushed open the worn wooden doors of one of my favorite old buildings and listened to my footsteps echo down the still hallway.  When I found the right room, I dutifully grabbed an information packet, made a nametag, got a snack, and sat down timidly.  I tapped on the table, swung my feet, fiddled with my laptop.  As more footsteps brought more nametag makers and packet recipients, energy buzzed through me.  Did they seem nice?  How many were there?  Would we get along?

Finally, the circle of tables was full.  Full of teachers.  Full of writers.

And we wrote.  We wrote to discover and describe and declare ourselves as writers.

And then we shared.  First, there was silence, and then the buzzing energy bubbled out of me until I spoke up: the first to reveal myself, the first to offer my words as a gift to the community we hoped to build.

This is what I wrote, and what I shared:

I am a digital writer. I love the easy flow and freedom of writing digitally, being able to move and change words and sentences as my thoughts fly.  I also love the ability to link new writing to old writing, embellish my words with pictures, and connect with others easily. 
I am a reflective writer. Writing helps me solidify my wispy, nebulous thoughts into concrete beliefs and ideas. 
I am a bilingual writer. Aunque muchas veces mis palabras vuelen a los dedos en inglés, también me encanta escribir en español. 
I am a teacher-writer. Writing makes me a better teacher, and teaching makes me a better writer. 
I am a poet. No words are more beautiful or more sincere than the words that rise up out of my heart and arrange themselves into poems.  Nature calls me to make poems out of her. 
I am a writer who is full of words and in love with words.
I am a writer who sees the world with writing eyes.
I am a writer who thinks, learns, remembers, creates, and connects through writing.

Thanks to all of you, my slicing friends, I had the courage to share my writing self with people I had never met.  Now, my words are weaving together with others to build a new community: the Columbus Area Writing Project.  I can't wait to see what our words will do this summer!