Just thinking about stories…

A dear friend shared a pic of her elderly daddy yesterday, playing his harmonica during his sharing of stories to a senior church group. My friend drove well over a hundred miles to take her daddy to this church, to share stories with a groups of seniors. I cannot express how deeply my emotions run. I am almost panicked into wondering what will happen when the “voice” in face-to-face meetings diminishes and gives way to twitter and snapchat and other social media outlets? Will the social media generation ever know the life-changing emotions and impact of storytelling, in person?? I have many elderly family members. I devour their stories. I want more of them. Dementia and health issues diminish the days where I sit happy, excited, questioning, always wanting more. And I know I’m a hypocrite. I twitter. I have this blog. And others. I don’t snapchat despite my granddaughter’s attempts (futile) to teach me how to “quickly” save the pic. *groan* *fail* But, still, I remain haunted by my friend’s shared post of her daddy, driving him many miles away to share stories. It won’t let go of me. I have no solutions, being caught myself in the web of technology. But, I do know that stories define us, make us more human, less robotic, more-connected, less removed.

That’s all. Just kind of a confessional/rant.

Poetry is good food…

Poetry is good food…

I belong to the Teachers and Writers Collaborative —the Spring issue of Teachers & Writers magazine is chock full of “nutrition” for writers of all ages. In this article,  Peter Markus, senior writer with InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit,  tells and shows his students that poetry is good food! The language he uses to convey this powerful metaphor provides me sustenance. Hopefully, you too!

The Setting and the Story: Joan Didion’s “The Santa Ana”

For Secondary teachers, especially! Why I love this—I LOVE nonfiction writing…and writing of a place, a setting you know well is the kind of writing to which all students can make amazing connections. Secondary (and middle school) teachers would benefit from immersion in this blog! So glad I found it just to lose myself in the contents.

Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies

VivianWagnerVivian Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Zone 3, McSweeney’s, The Pinch, Silk Road Review, and other journals, and she’s the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music.

Every time I read Joan Didion’s description of the hot, dry Santa Ana winds I get homesick. I’m a native Californian, but I’ve lived for many years in a village in southeastern Ohio, and we just don’t get winds like that around here.

Didion’s Los Angeles is, for many of my students, a foreign world. Yet I’ve found that her essay, “The Santa Ana,” inspires them as they describe their own Midwestern and Appalachian worlds. It’s an essay, in short, about the importance of setting, and about how the place where a story happens cannot be separated from the…

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My top 5 reasons for keeping a writer’s notebook…


…Seeing your life as Story can be the heart of finding your identity

…Our identities are ever-changing–shift-shaped by who we meet, where we work, where we live–the predictable and unpredictable events, the connections we make

…Looking back on our lives, we don’t see what and how we have lived in an orderly, linear sequence. Our look-backs break events into related chunks that can become Story. Some of of our lived-experiences we can name: happy, sad, hilarious, crazy, puzzling–others are harder to label

…A writer’s notebook can hold the raw material from which your Stories will emerge

…Every lived moment has potential for a writer’s notebook entry


Visual and Emotional representation

So, how can we respond to complex texts and more specifically to stories that move us? Each semester I ask my literacy students to bring a visual representation of a response to one of two short story selections by Sandra Cisneros: “Salvador, Late or Early,” or “Eleven.”  My purpose– to have students engage in the kind of response for which words are not needed. When they bring their visuals and talk about their meanings, I am both amazed AND affirmed that allowing opportunity for creating is important. Here is the work of my fabulous learners!! If you know the two short stories you will have fun inferring. If you do not know the stories, it is not necessary to appreciate the depth of emotion experienced by the students. 

Coloring…not just for kids anymore…

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Happily surprised to see the variety and number of coloring books that are so popular today, many of which are sub-titled..”for grown ups”. If it’s been awhile since you have picked up a crayon and colored, whether an original creation or in a coloring book like these, you should do so. You may experience a slow, almost palpable unraveling of your tightly-wound stresses and worries and your “To Do” list may evaporate for the moment. What those of us who dabble in paints and crayons have always known is the promise of that escape hatch, a time to let your mind go where it will. I’m thinking that some coloring books and crayons in classrooms might be a good thing, as well.