Category Archives: Uncategorized

Traveling and a drink spill

I’m en route to Austin, Texas for the International Literacy Association conference. For some reason, I booked a 7:30 a.m. flight. Since I had to travel nearly an hour to the airport to catch the flight, I had to get up earlier than I really like, so I had to keep reminding myself that the early flight meant some time to explore Austin this afternoon.

The airport was fairly quiet and I zipped through security. The wait at the gate was fine and I soon was settled in my seat. I sipped on a Coke. I’d almost finished my drink when I dumped it down my left leg. Thankfully it didn’t splash on the person beside me, but my leg was soaked and the tiny napkins were pretty ineffective. Thank goodness I wore dark capris, so you couldn’t really see a stain. By the time the plane landed in Atlanta, my pants had dried and my spill wasn’t noticeable.

However, things improved during the layover. I spent some time working on an academic piece of writing that hasn’t been progressing and I had a mini breakthrough just before it was time to board the flight from Atlanta to Austin. Now, I just need to capitalize on that breakthrough!

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Sitting in traffic #sol18

I spent most of today in Northern Virginia working on plans for the 2019 Virginia State Reading Association conference. Once the day’s work was finished, I prepared to leave Arlington for the journey home.

It was raining pretty hard when I started my trip. Not only did I have to deal with the weather, but the traffic was intense. Two traffic jams, one for an accident, extended the trip significantly before I’d made traveled more than 15 or 20 miles. Then, about an hour and a half from home, traffic was slowed for paving. I finally pulled into my driveway about five hours after starting off. The trip was not too horrible, though, thanks to a funny audiobook that had me laughing out loud. I can’t imagine traveling any long distance without an audiobook to keep me company!

Plagued By Carsickness #sol18

I typically drive everywhere when I travel with my family and friends. I avoid the passenger seat and back seats like the plague because for me, they automatically consign me to intense carsickness. As long as I drive, I’m fine, but put me in a seat other than the driver’s seat and we have a problem!

Today, I was unable to avoid the passenger seat. I needed to participate in a conference call and during that call, I had a stack of papers to reference related to that call. However, I was also out traveling home with my family during the scheduled call. It was getting late, so I didn’t want take the time to stop for the call. Instead, I surrendered the driver’s seat and slid into the passenger’s seat, papers and phone in hand. As the car started moving, I dialed the phone and immediately felt my stomach start to protest and I worried that I was going to lose my lunch. I flipped the AC vent to blow cool air in my direction, but after less than five miles down the road, I knew that I was in trouble.

I managed to participate in the conversation, but I’m not sure if my words made much sense as the nausea took over.  Once I clicked off the call, I leaned back in the seat and held on.  Luckily, I was less than ten minutes from home by that time, but it was a long ten minutes.  Once the car was in park, I jumped out with relief and headed inside for a cold Coca-Cola and my favorite recliner.  It took me awhile to feel normal and I know it will be a long time before I give up the driver’s seat again!

Looking for inspiration #sol18

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Today is one of those days when getting words onto the page is a challenge.  I suppose it was time for writer’s block to strike because the words had been flowing until today.  I’ve been sitting here at my desk for a good half-hour, staring at everything but the blank page.

For the past several summers, I’ve participated in Kate Messner’s Teachers Write.  When I’m feeling stuck and need inspiration, I often revisit old Teachers Write posts.  After spinning my wheels for a while, I scrolled through the Teachers Write posts.  I ended up going back to July 2016 before something caught my attention.  Madelyn Rosenberg was the guest author for the day and her prompt for a quick-write (click here to see the prompt) seemed to be what I needed.

The prompt was called “Postcard.”  The directions directed me to explore my surroundings and using ten words or phrases to describe that setting.  So I decided to write about my office at home.

My Office

Cluttered

Humming AC

Stacks of books

Ink Joy pens spilling from a cup

Pictures of parents

Blank index cards

Scribbled notes

Charging phone

 

Soft carpet tickling my bare toes

Creaking desk chair

Now the page is no longer blank and I’m already drafting other ideas using the “Postcard” prompt so it’s another loss for writer’s block!

 

A mini writing retreat

This week, I’m at the Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference in Winchester, Virginia. I’m going to have the opportunity to hear from authors like Katherine Applegate, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Lois Lowry during the course of the week. This conference inspires me not only as a teacher, but also as a writer.

I’m also excited about the week for another reason. I’m also using this week as a writing retreat. I selected a nicer hotel room than usual and this room not only has a large desk, but also a huge table and chairs that will enable me to spread out while working. It has a mini-fridge where I can put drinks and leftovers from dinner so that when I’m on a roll, I have something to eat and drink while I’m working.

Sunday night was my first night at the hotel and after dinner, I returned to my room and started working on a current project. I was so invigorated after the first day of the conference that I couldn’t wait to return to my hotel room for some uninterrupted writing time. I worked for awhile and took some short breaks, checking out what was on t.v. while snacking. Sometimes I pace around the room, thinking, before dashing back to the desk and recording my thoughts.

I don’t know how productive the entire week will be, but it’s off to a great start. I’m putting words onto pages and that feels like a huge accomplishment. Hopefully I can continue to build on this week’s work when I return home on Friday!

The first day of a conference #sol18

I actually woke up when the alarm buzzed Monday morning at 6:15. I haven’t gotten up that early in weeks. However, I had a great reason to rise early today: the first day of the Children’s Literature conference at Shenandoah University. I showered and left my hotel room only a few minutes after 7 am, which I thought was impressive.

I decided to grab a biscuit from McDonald’s before heading to the conference venue and I had plenty of time (registration didn’t start until 7:45). The line at McDonald’s was long, but moved quickly. I placed my order and waited as the car in front of me paid. I don’t know what possessed me, but when the Jeep pulled away from the first drive-thru window, I followed. Just as I passed the first window, where you’re supposed to pay, I realized that I hadn’t stopped there. What was I thinking? So, when I stopped at the second window, I apologized profusely and handed over my money. I think that the young man working the second window was perplexed when I confessed to passing the first window, but finally, I paid for and received my biscuit and iced tea. With a red face, I pulled out of the parking lot, promising myself that I’d stop somewhere else for breakfast tomorrow morning. Biscuit in hand, I found the building that houses the conference and found a good parking space. As I finished my breakfast, I had to laugh about the start of the day. But, as I discovered only a short while later, the day would only get more interesting.

I located a seat near the front and got comfortable since the conference didn’t begin for another hour. I had my Kindle, so I decided to enjoy some extra time reading. The auditorium filled slowly and some folks read books while others’ eyes were focused on their cell phones. Slides for each of the day’s featured authors flashed on a screen at the front of the auditorium and“All About The Books” played from a speaker.

Suddenly, the room went dark. Then the lights flickered back on for a moment, before darkness enveloped the auditorium again. This happened several times before we were plunged into a final darkness that was chased away only by the lights of cell phones, tablets, and computer screens. Folks cautiously made their way down the aisles to find seats, making me glad that I’d arrived early to stake out my spot. Thankfully, no one tripped or fell while trying to navigate the auditorium. It would have been easy to trip over all of the bags, purses, and books.

Apparently, power was out in the surrounding area and not just on the Shenandoah campus. Crews were working to restore power, but no one know how long that would take. The first author, Laurie Ann Thompson, rose to the challenge and her presentation not only inspired me as a teacher, but also inspired me as a teacher-writer. She talked about the process of getting her first two books to publication, a story of rejections and perseverance that encouraged me as I attempt to get my words onto a page. She talked about the need for voice in nonfiction, something that made me stop and think as I consider a nonfiction project. She shared about finding the voice that she needed for her books. Her message reminded me that nonfiction is not just a dry recitation of facts, but should contain something of the author’s voice.

I think that I listened to her presentation more as a writer than a teacher, though. I think that her words were exactly what I needed to hear as I question myself as a writer. Since I’m thinking about working on a nonfiction project, her words resonated with me. I can’t wait to get back to my hotel room and start writing!

The power remained off throughout Laurie’s presentation. We took a break around 10:00. Even though it was stuffy in the auditorium, I decided to stay in my seat and use the time to jot down my thoughts. As I looked around at the other attendees, I appreciated everyone’s good natured attitude. No one grumbled or seemed irritated, but simply seemed happy to listen to the presentation. Since teachers are flexible and do whatever necessary in situations like this, everyone just waited patiently for the restoration of power. When the power was restored at 10:35, everyone cheered and then turned their attention to the second speaker of the day, Matthew Holm. My kids love Babymouse, so I had to snap pictures of his presentation to share with them. I loved learning about the process of creating Babymouse and can’t wait to talk about that with the kids, too.

A New Notebook #sol18

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It was time for a new writer’s notebook.  I knew that I wanted a notebook that was spiral bound as I’ve discovered that they work best for me.  I also knew that I needed a fairly sturdy notebook based on how hard I am on notebooks.  Any notebook of mine has to withstand being dumped in my purse, knocked around on my desk, dropped in the passenger seat of my car.  Then, my notebooks also need to survive travel, days at school, and late night writing marathons.

So, last week, I was on an out-of-town shopping trip and decided that it was time to pick out a new notebook.  I searched several places, but I just couldn’t find the right one.  I know that folks in these stores had to be perplexed watching me shop for a notebook.  I picked up notebooks and mimicked writing to see if the notebook worked for me.  I considered the size of the notebook (it couldn’t be too small, but then it also couldn’t be too large).  I checked to see how easily the pages turned.  If the words are flowing, then I don’t want to have to stop to adjust a page or to help the page turn.  Did I need to hold down one side when writing on the opposite side or would the notebook stay flat? I know that this sounds like a lot of questions to answer before purchasing a notebook, but this is an investment and if I don’t feel absolutely comfortable with the notebook, then I’m not going to be able to put it to good use.  This examination took a lot of time and I’m too embarrassed to say just how long I spent choosing one notebook.  But, when I did finally make the choice, I was happy with my selection and couldn’t wait to get home and start writing!

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