My Notebooks

I have many writer’s notebooks, and each has its own personality. Because I like to sketch and paint, many of my notebooks contain visuals and words, and often just visuals. When I sketch or paint without words, I can return to the pages and vividly recall where I was, what I was thinking, feeling–words could be and often are added at another time. So, writing often begins with visual thinking and experience. Some of my notebooks are professional in nature, where I think and plan for professional writing or conferences, or just enter thoughts about teaching. Here are a few samples!

This was a painting that reflects my feelings about my frequent drive to Shenandoah University in Virginia, through the Crooked Run Rural Historical district. Many of my notebook entries are of this special place.

Notes from a garden sketchbook.


A writing matrix is a great way for students to collect and organize thinking. This is a matrix that I created about lakes in Michigan across seasons. A matrix is easy: decide what you will put across the x and y axis and then notice, observe and list. You can return to it at another time to select a a writing focus.

A combination of words and images on Ashby Gap, Virginia. A sacred place to me…

Another matrix–Ashby Gap, Virginia…

Writing off of a photo, which I often do…

Rough sketch on-site, details and words added hours later

More writing of the natural world off of a photo…

Sketching from my yard

On-site quick watercolor and words–Lake Michigan

I sat on my townhouse deck one morning in Virginia and watched the sun slowly creep up over the mountains. I wrote down my thoughts and later turned them into this poem that I gave as a gift to a dear friend. Many of my notebook entries end up as polished pieces that I give as gifts to friends and family.

Virginia, Blue Ridge…words to come…

This is a challenge to myself to always notice–one of many pages. In the novel Cold Mountain, Ruby tells Ada,  in trying to describe how she knows so much about plants, herbs, the natural world: Well, you just have to know what likes what…”..that line spoke to me. So, I have lists, still compiling them and some have become small works of art. This is a good observational suggestion for students–to notice what likes what throughout their day.

Writing Small–writing in 50 words. A challenge that helps with focus.

I love to give myself “numbers” challenges in my notebooks. This one I called Home in 6 sentences, about my frequent drive home to Fairfax County from Shenandoah University in Virginia. Numbers challenges help focus and stir the imagination. Students often have difficulty with conservation of words–writing “small”–numbers challenges help.

More writing of natural world…

Professional notebook on words from teachers to whom I have assigned writer’s notebooks–this list is growing…

A personal project during my Summer Institute at Sunbelt Writing Project, Auburn University (1999)–keeping a notebook as I read Georgia Heard’s, Awakening the Heart, a book on how to teach poetry. The few notebooks pages that follow are also from keeping this focused notebook…

Another writing matrix..

Found Poem (or text) from one of my longer notebook entries.

Quick watercolor from a longer notebook entry…

Matrix observations from a Writing Marathon (where you walk, sit and write; walk again, sit and write…), Lake Martin, Alabama.

A sit-and-sketch in Michigan woods–words will come

Poem I wrote inspired by Diane Siebert’s books where she personifies the natural world through first-person voice.

Found Poem from the words of Laura Ingalls Wilder, from an essay excerpt from Sisters of the Earth.

I wrote this for my brothers.

This is the polished text…

The entry from which I found a poem and painted a watercolor gift for a friend.

More..what likes what?

Notebooks speak YOUR voice. You are their only critic, so be a kind one…and WRITE!!

4 thoughts on “My Notebooks

  1. Thank you for sharing and inspiring. I loved sharing my writer’s notebook with my gifted 4th/5th grade students when I taught. I look forward to inspiring writer’s again soon when I return to full time teaching!

  2. Thank you for visiting, Jamie! I think the greatest value of sharing notebooks with students is showing them that writing can be messy, incomplete, artistic and NOT perfect in the sense that so many students perceive that it must be. Even my adult students often fear the invisible editor that sits on their shoulders. Showing my notebooks frees them from fears and once they begin keeping their own notebooks their perceptions change. They feel more confident.

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