Cookies, Hope, and Light

Sometimes it’s not about the grades.

Sometimes it’s about connecting with those who need connections and smiles so they can make it to the next class or to the next day. On a day like today especially, but everyday, please be someone’s light. #valentinesday #belovely

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Posted by on February 15, 2018 in Writing


Sometimes. . .

Last Tuesday, author Kate Messner, co-host of Teachers Write!, challenged us to imagine one of the places we love and describe it with imagery.  Below is my attempt.  Where are your favorite places?  My guess is that our favorite places become our favorites because they appeal to us from several points of entry.  It could just be that we are overwhelmed by the sensory imagery of these places, or maybe these places fill a need or hold a sentimental place in our psychology.  I contend that in addition to the senses and psychology, I feel like I’m on holy ground–more than I usually am and closer to something much bigger in those moments.  I encourage you to try this exercise, whether you approach it from your own memory or perhaps from the perspective of a character in a work of fiction you like or are working on.

Sometimes on a sunny June morning in my front yard, I open the screen door quietly and tiptoe out in bare feet carrying faded bluejeans, I inhale the earthy coffee aroma and sip one last time before placing the flat black mug down on the top concrete step. Image

Sometimes I squat down closer to where the grass meets my sidewalk, behold the sparkling signatures of recently-repaired sprinkler heads still sitting in beads bound by surface tension on slender tender jade tendrils reflecting 30-degree rays of gold like tiny party lights strung across a vast miniature field, celebrating the changing of seasons.

Sometimes I hover my hand over it, in mock blessing, giving thanks for the watering day, the sunshine, and soft fertile soil.  I rise, pause, and retreat back to take a spot next to my mug, centering my cup in both hands.  I close my eyes and let the choir of robins aloft in the tree wash over my tingling ears.

Sometimes I feel the corners of my mouth curl up in a grin and grateful heart–a reverence eventually broken by a dish connecting with a countertop and a toaster popping somewhere far behind me.


Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Why is Writing Important to You?

As part of the Teachers Write 2013 workshop, co-host and young adult fiction author Jo Knowles asked on her blog why writing is important to us.   The simple one sentence answer for me is that when I write I feel like my inner voice is released–the one that is free to explore ideas, places, and people–not the one suppressed by performing the daily responsibilities of housework, kids, and financial management.

I believe that tapping that inner voice honors God because he’s given me both difficult and wonderful experiences and an ability to communicate them to others.  So I feel it’s my responsibility to do something with that.  I won’t pretend that I don’t get joy out of those moments when my writing entertains my family or my friends.  Further, I’d be flat-out lying if I didn’t admit that I like it when my writing helps to educate people. Image

More specifically, my current project (a short story of how I met my wife) is important to me because it’s unique and reveals something critical about us that continues to shape our marriage in beautiful ways.  It’s an idea I’ve shared with friends and family in conversation and I continue to get encouragement to turn it into a story.

In business, entrepreneurs and folks who seek loans from banks for ventures must answer this “Why is it important?” question all the time in marketing and project plans.  However, I honestly never thought to answer this question as a writer.  I encourage you to try this exercise if you’re in the early stages of a piece or stuck. It could help to focus you on your motivation and purpose, if not our intended audience.


Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Uncategorized



Keeping a Writer’s Notebook

Of course you need to keep a writer’s notebook. If you’re in the practice of writing regularly, I can’t think of any other simple step–aside from reading and listening–that plants and nourishes writing ideas. I love the disarming guidance that Kate Messner gives in her post about there really being just two rules: 1) write in it, and 2) there are no other rules. All writers need to hear and heed that sage advice.

As for me personally, this was a new concept at one time (more than 20 years ago), because I didn’t have writing mentors in my circle of family or friends (that has changed since high school, as one might expect with a college degree in English). I have enjoyed writing since middle school, but only since my senior year in high school have I been keeping writer’s notebooks. In the intervening 24 years, even throughout my 14-year career in cubicle-land between teaching gigs, I’ve tried many notebook styles (see picture below, which does not include all of them).

I have put just about everything in them: entries while traveling in Europe, Hawaii, and Alaska; song lyrics, to-do lists, reading lists, writing lists, character sketches, back stories, funny moments involving both real and imagined people, boring meeting notes, and responses to sermons, and business plan notes, among other things. There are expressions in some of those volumes that make me cringe to read them now, and quite honestly, there’s a lot of ramblings in the early ones about the ups and downs of finding the love of my life back in high school. (Note to my own kids: if you’re reading this post, don’t bother going to find and read that stuff yet. It’ll be slightly awkward to read until you’re in your 30s, when you can fully appreciate both the abject horror and ridiculous humor of knowing what your dad thought about your mom when they were both in high school.)Image Although I know what has worked for me in the past, I try to keep an open mind for what may work for me going forward.

Like Kate Messner, I am a multiple-notebook kind of writer. I have a little black Moleskine notebook for capturing ideas when I have to travel lightly. I take it to church and sometimes have it on the shotgun seat of my car or tucked in the center console, because I frequently get good ideas in those places. No, I don’t write while I’m driving, but I have been known to take a longer-than-normal time at gas stations, convenience stores, and in parking spaces everywhere because I have to get something down. It’s home is an easy-access pocket in my black messenger bag. For ideas that require a little more space, I use a Moleskine classic extra large ruled notebook with a soft black leather cover. I like its built-in bookmark and a pocket in the back for collecting loose pieces of paper or small artwork I like or want to build on.

However, as my idea-gathering has begun to include a greater proportion of sources in digital formats, I don’t think it’s any surprise that I also consider my iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Pro as writer’s notebooks for digital sources like e-book text from iBooks, Kindle, and Nook; articles and blog posts, iTunes podcasts, Pinterst Pins, TED talks, iTunes U courses, YouTube videos, Learnist Boards, Twitter tweets, ShowMe tutorials (called “ShowMes”), and interesting posts by friends and family (Facebook), or business colleagues (LinkedIn). I create or collect what I think I might use later in apps like Microsoft Word, Pages (because it integrates well with all of my Apple devices), Google Drive, Evernote, and SkyDrive (for use with any device), and Notability (especially for things I want to markup in front of others). I use Adobe InDesign CS6 (Macbook), Quark DesignPad, Adobe Ideas, Omnigraffle (flowcharts and diagrams), and Paper (by FiftyThree) for more intense graphics and layout projects. For photos, I use iPhoto, SnagIt, Picasa, Apple Photostream, Instagram/Padgram, Google+, and yes. . .even Facebook (depending on whom I want to see the photos). The point is, I think your sources, technology comfort level, and soul will define what a writers notebook is for you. The important thing is that if you want to write, you need to collect sources and write in one.

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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Uncategorized



It’s a communication thing.

ImageI know this is going to sound crazy, but I started this blog to write about reading, listening, writing, publishing, and speaking (this shouldn’t be a shocker if you’ve read the name of the blog).  More specifically, it’s about teaching all of those skills to middle schoolers–developing them into consumers and producers of critical thinking.

I teach middle school language arts because I sincerely believe that if I can move students toward a higher level of literacy (e.g., better reading, listening, writing, publishing, and speaking), their performance in most other academic disciplines (as well as self-confidence) will be raised.

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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in Uncategorized