Friday, January 23, 2015

Smack Dab in the Classroom: Teaching Community Service through Books, by Dia Calhoun

Many authors for kids use their books as an opportunity to give back--by helping charities or other community service organizations. Authors Lois Brandt, Laurie Ann Thompson, Justina Chen, Lorie Ann Grover, and Janet Lee Carey come to mind as prime examples of this.

Literature teachers could use this idea as a class project. Assign or have groups of kids choose a book from a list you provide. Then have each group brainstorm a community service link to that book. 

For example, take Laurie Ann Thompson's book, Emmanuel's Dream. It's based on a true story about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, the amazing, disabled bicyclist who road 400 miles across Ghana to show that disability is not inability. Students could find organizations that benefit the disabled, or disabled bicyclists, etc. Then they could map out an actual program to use Emmauel's Dream to help raise money or awareness for that organization. 

School's want to teach students about community service. What better way than through books?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New Year Intentions

I’ve never much liked the word RESOLUTION. It’s always seemed like a hard word to me—like something difficult you have to white-knuckle your way through, and if you don’t or can’t, you’ve failed.

I much prefer the word INTENTION. It’s softer, more female, and tied into words like purpose and design. It’s more about a way of being in the world than achieving an end result.

So I don’t have resolutions, but I do have intentions. The first of which is to write every day and to put “my” work first. I began the year with a new, interesting, complicated freelance writing job with a short deadline. It would be easy to let it take over my life, but I’m beginning each day by working on my own novel, even if only for fifteen minutes. After the alarm goes off and the tea-water boils, I sit down at my desk with pen in hand. I set myself up for success by leaving my WIP notebook open on my desk. A brief note about whatever comes next is the first thing I see.

And the days when the words aren’t flowing, or the pull of the freelance job is so loud that I can’t focus on my story? It’s okay – I'm not a failure. There’s always tomorrow.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Resolutions by Kristin Levine

I think my writing resolution this year is to tell the story I'm afraid to tell, the one that feels just a little bit too personal, but that I know holds the most emotional honesty after all.  
I think that's my life resolution too: to call the friend I don't know that well, to tell the story that seems just a little bit too personal, to let others into the reality of my emotional life.
Yeah, if I can do those two things, it will definitely be a good year!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"The Perfection of the Present Day" (January Theme) by Claudia Mills

The best New Year's resolution I ever made was so wonderful that it's the same resolution I make every year. I'm offering it here to all of you:

Fill every day with creative joy.

I modified it a bit so that any kind of joy counts. When it comes to joy, I'm not all that fussy.

The guiding principle for this resolution is the instruction attributed to William Law: "Be intent on the perfection of the present day." Because that's all we have, really. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not even the whole huge swelling total of the long unbroken line of yesterdays and tomorrows, but just the twenty-four hours of today. If I'm going to fill my life with creative joy, I need to start by filling my days with creative joy. That is to say, by filling TODAY.

As a dabbler in time management literature, I know that goals have to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Related. My joy goal is attainable and realistic, given that I have a generous threshold for what counts as joy and I'm willing to accept that some days are bound to be marked by unbearable sorrow, tortured worry, and the rest of the human condition. It's time-related: the time is TODAY. It could be more specific and measurable, though. What kind of creative joy? How will I know for sure that I've had some?

So I keep in my trusty little notebook a list of ideas for creative joy, in case I get confused on what it would look like. Here are a few:

1. Write. Just write. A day with writing in it is already, for me, a day with its full quota of creative joy. But to up the joy quotient of your day, read on.
2. Write somewhere interesting. Keep a list of places you would like to write. I keep making vows to take my clipboard, pad, and pen (I write by hand, which makes this easier) and go sit on a bench near a beautiful trail, or in the art museum in Denver, or the inviting reading room at the Women's Studies Cottage the the university. Maybe this is the year I'll actually keep those vows.
3. Write with friends. Make writing dates, as Natalie Goldberg suggests in Writing Down the Bones. Organize a write-in, as my friend Jeannie Mobley Tanaka (Katerina's Wish, Searching for Silverheels) does whenever her husband is off on a business trip and she has her house to herself (well, to herself and a bunch of other writers).
4. Eat a luscious little treat when you write. It doesn't have to be a healthy treat, either.
5. Go for a walk when you need a break from writing. Walk somewhere beautiful. Notice its beauty while you're walking.
6. Walk with a friend. Make a walking date instead of a lunch date (thus totally making up for the unhealthy treat).
7. If no friend is handy, call a friend from afar and talk to her as you walk. I'd almost forgotten how much I adore the old-school communication device of the telephone, not to text on, but to TALK on. It can be like junior high school again! Or at least junior high school for those of us who remember talking to girlfriends by the hour with the phone cord stretched as far as it could go so we could crouch in the laundry room for some privacy.
8. Go on a writing retreat. Go by yourself to a bed and breakfast in the mountains. Or by the sea. Or anywhere.

You get the idea!

The best part of this resolution is that you'll WANT to keep it. This isn't a dutiful pledge to force  yourself to do something you don't down deep really want to do. It's permission to do the thing you love most in the most joyous possible way.

So do it!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Resolution (January Theme - Sarah Dooley)

I only made one New Years resolution related to writing:


Every day. No matter what.

I've always been good about writing daily, but recently, with so many aspects of my life competing for attention, I've slacked off a bit. So these first few weeks of the new year, I've focused on renewing my writing routine. Surprisingly difficult when my desk is teeming with bills, and paperwork, and cats. 

My daily writing routine looks a little something like this:

4:45 a.m Hit snooze.
4:55 a.m. Hit snooze.
5;00 a.m. Grumble loudly. Hit snooze.
5:15 a.m. Get out of bed. Trip on cat.
5:20 a.m. Hit start on coffee pot. Stumble into desk chair.
5:25 a.m. Open Word document. Move cat off revision notes.
5:26 a.m. Realize there's no noise coming from the kitchen. Check on coffee pot.
5:27 a.m. Grumble loudly. Add water to coffee pot.
5:28 a.m. - 5:31 a.m. Stare blankly into refrigerator.
5:32 a.m. Eat one blackberry.
5:33 a.m. Blink at Word document. Move cat off revision notes.
5:35 a.m. Begin typing. 
5:35 a.m. Stop typing.
5:37 a.m. Begin typing. Remove cat from keyboard. Remove second cat from keyboard. Remove third cat from keyboard.
5:38 p.m. Retrieve coffee. Trip on cat. Spill coffee.
5;39 p.m. Clean up coffee spill. Get more coffee. 
5:40 p.m. Move cat off keyboard. Move cat off revision notes. Move same cat off keyboard.
5:41 a.m. - 5;45 a.m. Breathe in coffee fumes until it's cool enough to drink.
5:45 a.m. Realize that it's time to get ready for work.

What I'm finding, though, is that the further I get into my routine -- as un-routine as it may feel -- the less I'm letting distractions interfere, and the more writing I'm actually getting done. 

Also, my cats love the early-morning company.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Resolutions? Nah, I’m good by Danette Vigilante

I never make New Year’s resolutions. Too much pressure, I think. Instead, I like to live each day with a little resolution here, and a little resolution there. For me, that is what works best. I don’t want my plate filled up all at once with things I hope to accomplish in the coming year. I like to picture myself skipping through a field of wildflowers picking whichever ones strike my fancy as I go.  Tra-la-la-la-la— or maybe, I’m just afraid of commitment. Uh-oh …

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Resolve: The Noun (January Theme) by Bob Krech

I like resolve as a noun. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the noun resolve as "a firm or unwavering adherence to one's purpose." Attributes like this make me think of characters.

Resolve is really a great attribute to have. When you think about it, resolve is almost always an attribute a successful main character has. As writers we usually give our main character a problem right out of the gate and then throw obstacles at them all throughout the story which they have to overcome if they want to reach the goal or solve the problem. If they don't have resolve, they aren't going to make it.

With a lot of characters, or real people for that matter, resolve can't happen until one discovers one's purpose and that is sometimes the hardest part. Once one's purpose is really known and understood, resolve often becomes a much easier enterprise and then so does the overcoming of obstacles and the solving of problems.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

At the Heart of Resolution – January Theme by Tamera Wissinger

The turning of each year offers a great opportunity to examine those behaviors that I’d most like to change and then go ahead and try to adjust. In analyzing my behavior, making resolutions, and taking the effort to see them through, I become executive editor in my own life. It’s an important role with an eye on a more desirable future for me, but there are just two problems: Deciding to change is hard. Changing is even harder. I think that’s what has made some resolutions so difficult over the years – I put impossibly big expectations on myself when maybe I’m not ready to make big-leap changes. And then if I don’t meet my grand expectations I feel bad, as though I’ve failed.

It’s such a disappointment to feel like a failure when my intentions are always worthy, so over time I’ve changed how I think about resolutions. At the heart of resolution is solution. A solution doesn’t sound so difficult – I like solving problems. Since I am executive editor in my life, I have resolved that although change is hard, my resolutions don’t have to be – it’s okay to simply solve. As a result, some types of change have become less difficult – true, the stakes and rewards of success are smaller, but so is the risk of failure and the resulting negative emotions. And the result: I’m happier and something actually gets done. And that’s what I’m after: the answer to a problem, the key to a puzzle – fine-tuning shifts that allow me to click some new behavior into place that will help me improve and be successful, no matter how small the change.

I wish you a Happy New Year and all best wishes on seeing through your resolutions, be they big or small.


Tamera Will Wissinger writes poetry and stories for children. She earned her M.F.A. degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. She is the author of GONE FISHING: A Novel in Verse (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) and THIS OLD BAND (Sky Pony Press). Tamera is content with her approach to New Year’s resolution and will be celebrating the tiniest victories throughout the year. Connect with Tamera online through her Website or on Twitter.