Saturday, February 27, 2010

Going With the Flow or What To Do When the Flow Dams

There's been a cyber discussion among my writing group about life's little and big interruptions: hospitalized child, death in the family, a pregnancy, etc. I remembered the words of Katherine Patterson that always bring peace when my writing train is de-railed, "The very things that keep me from writing are what give me something to write about." I believe her reference was specifically to children.

Currently my focus is on the 55 children in my classrooms. My focus on a new curriculum has kept me from writing consistently. I won't be teaching forever and I believe the trade-off, the things I am learning will immensely help my writing. We are focusing one hour of our two hour block on writing. When I have to teach something I always learn a ton.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Voice Revelation

I've always thought that I could write like a fifteen year old. I'm not fifteen but I've been fifteen. And twelve and fourteen. And every age for a few decades. But I can't write like a teen anymore.

I owe this revelation to my students. In their fiction and nonfiction writing, some of their "voices" are so fabulous. And of course they have authentic fourteen and fifteen year old voices.
Currently I have a seventeen year old teaching assistant. I've asked him to write along with the class and share his writing process and his drafts. Today he had the students enthralled with his piece about entering his "man cave" on a Saturday morning to spend the day with his XBox. I read his piece just before retiring for the night and had a smile on my face in my last awake moments as I recalled a particularly funny line.

This has been a fantastic learning experience for me. I hear the real voice and I don't have it. Plain and clear.
I'm questioning my ability to speak and write in first person as a MG novel writer.
I may start writing in 3rd person narrative. Again.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Writing Personal Narrative With My Class

The piece below was written in tandem with my class. I went through several drafts and was able to show them a final color coded version that was highlighted red for cuts, blue for changes and blue for additions. The color coded version wouldn't show up on the blog-I guess black is the standard and only color available. So please leave a comment with your email address if you want the example.

Writing with the class I hope has created a new enthusiasm. Foremost they see my passion, my bad writing and hopefully a transition/evolution to something that's decent.
And yes, I'm very embarrassed about the shoe count. But the piece helped me realize why.

I’m riding my bike when I see a young man wearing shoes that are duct taped so many times, he limps each time he takes a step. When he lifts the left foot, the heel hangs off. On the down step, it slides back into place. He looks like a nice kid, but what about those shoes?

He acknowledges me with a nod of his head.
“I was just wondering, your shoes, I have a daughter who loves to wear her worn out shoes. Are you the same?”
“Do you walk to school everyday?”
“Sometimes, I take the bus when I can catch it.”
“Where do you go to school?”
He names his school. “That’s a long way to walk.”
He keeps looking down.
“Well, I was thinking. I have this gift certificate for a free pair of shoes and I know I’m not going to use it. Could you use it?”
“Really. If you would just write down your address and I can send it to you. What d’ya say?”
He’s wishing I’d go away.
“C’mon, you’ll never see me again. I promise.”
I reach in my backpack, pull out a scratch piece of paper and the kid actually gives me his address. And his name.

I google map the young man’s address and pick a shoe store only a few blocks from his house in case he has to walk. While driving to the shoe store, I wonder why it’s so important to buy this young man a pair of shoes. It’s just a pair of shoes…but here I am-- driving by the boy’s house to make sure he didn’t give me a false address. I feel like a stalker.

I once read if you have more than one pair of shoes, you’re wealthier than three quarters of the world’s population— What does it mean if you have fifty-eight pairs of shoes? Are you rich, old or really insecure?

My memory of the shoe fairy coming to take away my patent leather red shoes is still vivid. The kitchen was electrified like a lightening bolt had struck the room. I must have wanted more than anything for it to be true-how else could I endure the ugly white corrective shoes I was forced to wear- the punishment from a silly jump I took off the top of the dresser in a pair of my mother’s high heeled shoes. Doctors and x-rays. It wasn’t broken but I needed help. Help came in the form of these shoes made for babies learning to walk. I was so ugly in those horrible shoes.
I walk into Famous Footwear and stroll down the aisle of teenage boy’s shoes. I want him to have enough money so he can wear his shoes with pride. But they’re more expensive than I thought. No wonder the kid is walking in duct tape.
I’d like a gift card,” I tell the cashier.
“Sure, how much?”
This is tricky. It has to be just the right amount so he has to be wise.
“Fifty dollars.”

I remember my grandmother’s pride while wearing a good pair of shoes and my mother’s anger when my sister and I broke her exquisite gold and green heels after sneaking into her closet to wear them just one more time. I remember when my father took me shoe shopping and explained that classy women only wear close-toed shoes. I wonder why my father took me shoe shopping and I think he must have seen a need. My husband and I were in college which means we had a small apartment and a sparse income. My shoes were probably worn and it must have been that worn shoes were unacceptable in my family. The first time my grandmother met my husband to be, she was congenial, she liked him, but at the end of the meal she pulled my mother aside and told her to buy my fiancĂ© a new pair of shoes. Everything Tony was, he wasn’t enough.

I put the Famous Footwear gift certificate in an envelope, write his name, his address and affix a stamp.
Return address? No.
Personal note? Never.
Because when he steps forward, I want him to see the shoes he deserves and not the stranger who thought he wasn’t enough.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Contest Opportunity

Head on over to for the entry rules for a chance to win an agent critique.

It's a great blog too.