Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I write to remember and reflect (dig pt.2)

at Two Writing Teachers!
For the past few weeks, I was immersed in writing, learning, and building relationships at the Columbus Area Writing Project.  It was exhausting and rejuvenating, routine and inspiring, solitary and collaborative.  We were students and teachers, writers and educators, strangers and friends.

A taste of the comments left on my introduction!
Before the Summer Institute started, we each had to make an "archeological dig" of our writing lives.  Throughout the three days of our retreat, we got to spend time diving into each other's artifacts and narratives, leaving behind sticky-note tracks so each writer could see our thoughts.  It was such a fun way to get to know each other as people and as writers, and it, along with other retreat activities, brought our diverse group of strangers together into an authentic community of writers.  I only wished we would have had more time to explore these delightful displays in order to truly honor each writer's unique work!

My "dig" filled 5 binders!
When I posted my introduction a few weeks ago, many of you wanted to explore my dig too!  I wanted to share other pieces of my CAWP experience while it was happening, but now that it's over, I'm excited to dive back into my dig and show you what I discovered!  After spending hours at my parents' house submerged in boxes and piles of my childhood writing, I was able to pick out a few of the best samples... and narrow them down to a mere 5 binders!  Instead of dividing my writing chronologically, I split it into five purposes for writing.  In addition to the overview narrative I shared as my introduction, I wrote an introductory page for each binder to highlight why each artifact is special.

Today, I'd like to share the central part of my writing life: writing to remember and reflect. For me, the primary function of writing has always been personal.  I write to express my emotions, develop my thinking, and capture memorable moments.  When I dug through my past writing, many of the artifacts reflected this... and I knew there were others that I couldn't even find!

Here are some of the highlights from this section:
  • early childhood: I found LOTS of biographical labeled drawings with short text.  This one is actually a pretty accurate map of where we usually walked when visiting my grandparents in Marietta, OH!
  • kindergarten journals: I loved the journals we wrote in kindergarten so much that my mom helped me make my own booklets to continue journaling that summer!  (The top one is ours from class and the bottom one is my homemade summer journal.)  One of my CAWP colleagues commented that I "seemed like a happy child who loved many things", which captures the feelings of these journals perfectly!
translation of the bottom page:
"i made a parrot piñata it was
fun and it was grate it has
a beak and wings a tail feather
i drew the eyes with a crayon
it is cute i love it a lot."
  • First grade journal: In first grade, I started to write a lot of stories (more on those in another post!), so my journal entries were formatted as "real stories", with title & author still listed.
translation: "My trip to Purdue a real story by Jennifer
i went to the Indianapolis Children's Museum.
There was 5 floors on it There was a
Mastadon skeleton and a merry-go-round.
i got to ride the merry-go-round i
rode a horse with beads on it. it
went up and down a lot I had fun.
  • Fourth grade journal: This is actually a "book" that I made from football game stories from my journal.  I was starting to add even more specific details (later in this entry, I listed stats for all my favorite players and the names of all the seniors!), while also attempting to develop a more unique voice.  

  • middle school & high school journals: I started pasting bits of realia from my life to enhance my journal entries in middle and high school.  Unlike the previous journals, these were never school activities: they lived under my bed at home, with most of the writing done by flashlight when I was supposed to be asleep!  I wrote in these spiral notebooks consistently from seventh grade through the end of high school.
I still have the OSU Marching Band keychain (a beanie OSU band member) mentioned here!  I keep it on my horn case to remind myself of how my horn teacher believed in me -- and she was right!  (Her writing on the tag says "Jennifer -- This will be you someday!") I'll never forget the power her words had!
  • travel journals: I usually kept travel journals on big trips, and when I studied abroad in Spain, I started keeping one in Spanish with lots of realia pasted in.  I added to it again last summer when my husband and I vacationed in Spain!
a page from my Spanish journal during my semester abroad
In college, I started keeping a Xanga online journal (as did my boyfriend - now husband - and several other friends) instead of writing in notebooks.  Now, most of my remember-and-reflect writing takes place here every Tuesday, as well as in my five-year journal and my Gratitude app.

I'll continue sharing other parts of the dig soon. What would you uncover if you dug through your writing life?


  1. What an awesome writing life you have lived! My life was sorely lacking until I started the slice of life.

  2. I loved seeing every bit, from those early beginnings to the later ones, Jennifer. Love that "myoozeem". Because of the move, I've thrown some things away, but still have some early things, and my college journal. I've kept personal journals for a long time, and do still have some high school and college writing too. How great to look further into your 'history' through what you wrote, and to find a sort of common element. Love it!

    1. haha, the invented spellings are my favorite part, Linda! It's amazing how they are really easy to figure out if you say them out loud!

  3. We are just about to kick off our SI at the Hudson Valley Writing Project on Monday. We had two rich orientation days in May and my buddy Mary will join us on Tuesday afternoon to lead the museum walk through our writing lives (digs). So glad you had the opportunity to join up with the NWP. Now we have to keep it going... a challenge these days.

  4. Wow! It is amazing how much writing you did all through the years and even more amazing that you still have so much of it. I think you have the material to write a really important book for teachers. It would be so encouraging to follow your development as a writer and to see how your teachers influenced and helped you, and how your own love of writing kept you going, kept you writing and helped you mature as a writer. I am also amazed at your Spanish journals! Thanks for sharing.

  5. How fun that you shared the actual pieces. I am especially fascinated by the way they move through time, capturing your writerly journey. It speaks to some powerful writing teachers somewhere along the way as well as to your lifelong love of words.

  6. I've never heard of an archeological dig of one's writing life. BUT I LOVE IT! It's so exciting!

    If I did one, I would turn up things like the book I "published" when I attended a young author's conference in fourth grade, lots of diaries, old high school papers, letters from camp to my parents, creative writing from a college course, and so much more.


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