#WhyIWrite

Today is #NationalDayonWriting, and it has been a whirlwind, hectic day, with paper everywhere, pens scratching, and keys clicking, which means it has been a very good writing day. I celebrated with my students, doing writing activities in all my classes, including a “Tweet” board in the alcove outside my classroom for students to post #WhyIWrite messages.

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Though many were hesitant at first about the assignments, they tried, and succeeded! The sophomores are well on their way to creating detailed descriptive paragraphs about the view from their windows. The juniors are crafting beautiful poetry about a treasured object or love (or as it seems, love gone wrong). And the seniors are are producing academic prose–a mini-research paper on Pygmalion by the Brit Lit group and an analytical essay on symbolism in “The Japanese Quince” by the AP group.

In Brit Lit, we read some critical excerpts yesterday and took notes, so today, the students were asked to bring in one article from a specific database on their chosen topics. Then I walked them through the process of taking notes from an academic article. As they continued on their own articles, I walked around the room offering help and encouragement where I could. Then one student asked me, “When are we going to write this paper?” I said, “We’re doing it now, aren’t we?” Yes, writing is a process. Yes, it’s worth it. Yes, I think they’re getting it. 🤞

The only thing I was not able to do with my students was write with them today, but I could at least talk to them about what I am writing. When one student apologized for her poem being long (maybe a dozen lines), I told her not to worry; I had written a poem this week that went on for two typed pages.

And then I had a prep period which I used to put some finishing touches on said poem and submit it. 🤞

On the way home, I tweeted about #WhyIWrite: “Fueled by coffee and imagination, I can go anywhere, be anyone, anytime, including myself, now.” But that tweet only covers a part of it. Writing rejuvenates me, frustrates me, engrosses me, and exhilarates me. I write to live. I write to communicate. I write to teach, and I write to learn. I write to understand and to be understood. I write because in the beginning was the Word. Writing is in my soul.  

Wishing you a happy National Day on Writing, and many more happy writing days to come!

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Pro-cras-tin-a-a-a-tion

All morning I’ve been procrastinating. I should be writing. I know it. I want it. But for some reason, I don’t do it! I was crocheting, grooming the cat, making myself a smoothie, Facebooking, and watching TV. Not very productive. Well, except for the crocheting and grooming the cat, he needed it and mostly enjoyed it. Looking around the apartment, I also saw a million things that needed to be done, so I did what any self-respecting writer should do in a time like this; I ran away.

Okay, so I only walked up the block to the new Bean & Bean Coffee Roasters that opened on the corner, but it’s out of the house. I haven’t been here before, but I like the ambiance right away; not too loud, nor too quiet. I may have to rethink my seat as by the window on this sunny day may be too bright, but so far, all is good. Now I have a latte, my Chromebook, my notebook, and I’m good to go. If I get a good amount written in the next two hours, I may treat myself to a beer before I go. Who knew that Bean & Bean serves beer and wine too! (Then again, I probably won’t. I want to go to the gym later. Can you go to the gym after a beer?)

Wish me luck in working the story on the docket today. I hope you each have found yourself a good space to work as well.

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Damn! I’ve Gotta Rip It!

According to my husband, my mother-in-law used to say, “Damn, I’ve gotta rip it” when she made a mistake in her crocheting or knitting. First of all, let me say that she was such a good crafter that I can hardly imagine her making a mistake. On the other hand, I know how easy it is to drop a stitch. And it is frustrating. How frustrating depends on how quickly you realize it. Tonight, for example, I realized I had dropped a stitch in a very easy pattern about 12 rows back. Boy was I annoyed! “Damn, I’ve gotta rip it!”

20170715_232938Just as I thought I was making headway and  nearing last third of the project, I sent myself back to less than halfway. (The picture was taken after I had already rewound much of the yarn.) I am frustrated now. Yet, also strangely inspired. (Hence this late night blog)

Creativity does that to us doesn’t it? We are inspired by something and we forge ahead trying to get what is in our heads out in whatever form we are working in at the moment. We struggle with the words on the screen (or paper) or with drawing that picture that is so clear in the mind’s eye or in crocheting a perfect blanket. What is in our heads is so beautiful, so inspiring, so communicative. But what comes out at the end of the pencil, the brush, the hook, the needle, is often so knotted and gnarled that we go back again and again to smooth it out, leaving instead a muddied, crinkly wake in our trail.

But it does smooth out. The tough part is believing in the process again and again. Not letting the defeat of ripping out a dozen rows of a blanket get in the way of completing it nonetheless. Not letting the umpteenth rejection letter stop you from writing or submitting. Not letting the misshapened hand or disporportionate body lead you to putting down the charcoal or the brush. The mistakes we make show us what not to do in the future. They lead us to the another path and another perception. And sometimes, they lead us to an altogether new inspiration that we had missed in our single-minded pursuit of the original vision.

Trying to Write

Today, I have set up at a table in Bryant Park, logged on to the free wi-fi, plugged my Chromebook into the charging station, gotten myself a raspberry lemonade, taken out my notebook, set my fingers on the keyboard, and…

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I am just too distracted by the gorgeous day and the constant flow of humanity all around me, including a juggling class on the other end of the lawn.

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And my story is stuck. I know where I want to go with it, but at the moment don’t know how to get there. So, instead, I’m sitting and watching the fountain, the people, the jugglers. Soon, I’ll have to leave to get something to eat, but for now, I’ll just absorb the images.

Of One Accord

–With Apologies to Walt Whitman, on this,  the anniversary of his birth —

 

Out of the classroom,  endlessly grading, essays, quizzes, tests, projects,

Students querying, teachers conferring, adminstrators requesting,

My world seems harried with

Deadlines, disagreements, discernment, and classroom dissonance, but

I go forth once more into the dusk, the light of the day having passed me by, yet

The twilight is enchanting as I enter the park in search of

Leaves of grass and blooms on the trees to turn this urban jungle

Into nature’s bounty.  And the park is crowded, I am not alone, now

That the sun has been shining and the skies turned blue.

The runners in their teams,  stretching before the race,  gathering in their teal t-shirts,

The casual joggers getting their exercise glance lightly as they saunter by,

The tourists with their cameras capturing Bethesda fountain, the buskers singing

Lennon around the Imagine mosaic adorned with flowers,

The artists, masseuses, and psychics hawking their wares,

The policemen watching it all, hearing the buskers’ songs

And the people talking in English, French, Spanish, German, Hindi, Farsi, Mandarin,

And so many more, melding into one giant song,  a harmony of humanity,

One day, one moment, when the mass of man – and woman – kind

Coexists, lives side by side, enjoying the evening and

The leaves of  grass.

And these days, these moments,  quietly stack themselves

One after another in peaceful concord without

Notice,  until order is broken and dissonance

Reigns, convincing us all that strife and discord are

The Way of the World and the Solution to whatever

Problem arises.  Return, oh friends, to Strawberry Fields,

Hear the songs of peace,  feel the sun on your face,

Lie in the grass, listen to the gurgle of the fountain, hold

Hands with your neighbor and form a bond that

Knows no bounds and admits no disorder.

Dear Parents

My friend Moira expresses here so well the need to infuse our children with art and culture. Take our kids away from the screen and into the world of creativity!

Nine Cent Girl

Dear Parents,

First of all, a big thank you to all of you who hang in there. Who continue to show up for those noisy crazy little beings. Perhaps a special shout out for those of you who learn to grow along side them too. (In this area I was fortunate, in that just about every roundabout loony or otherwise twist and turn my siblings and I took, at least one of our parents understood, or learned to).

But what I really want to suggest today, is to be adventuresome with your kids. I know you’re tired. I know too many of you are between jobs or down on your luck, and working with all your inner resolve just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Regardless, those little ones need to see the shiny side of life. They need movement to exert themselves and they need…

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PAD 1: She Majored in Music

It’s that time of year again, folks–National Poetry Month! As in previous year, Writer’s Digest sponsors the Poem-A-Day (PAD) challenge on it’s “Poetic Asides” blog. I’ll do my best to keep up. At the very least, I’m starting on time! I read the prompt this morning and ruminated all day, and then when I finally went into my “office” to write, I came across a spam-ish email from a former student which sparked some lovely memories of teaching the young woman how to play the flute during after school sessions. Since today’s prompt is to write a reminiscing poem, this random email struck just the right chord.

She Majored in Music

 

A clear, soft tone

Of a silver flute.

Crisp and clean.

We’d meet after school

And practice and learn.

Sweet music almost as melodious

As her laughter.

Her joy was contagious,

Even after a long day,

Especially then.

I think that I, the teacher,

Learned more from her

Than she ever did from me.

She’s like a lily,

So clean and defined,

That knows what it is, and

Is proud of it.

The flowers stand tall;

The scent is unmistakable.

The purity and goodness

It symbolizes.

She shared with me:

Her joy, her music, and her faith.

Simple and profound

And topped with a hat.

 

A Rose Refurbished 

A couple of Fridays ago, I had some time on my hands,  so I went to the newly refurbished Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library. Always a beautiful space, it is now brighter and cleaner as well. It is certainly conducive to creativity and work.  And let’s admit it,  the two go hand in hand.  But surrounded by beauty and knowledge,  it is easier to engage in the search for truth.  (Support your local libraries, museums, and cultural institutions, my friends.  Tell your Congressmen to support the arts,  the NEH and the NEA.)

As I looked around the majestic room, I saw people from all walks of life immersed in all sorts of reading/writing activities: in print, online, by hand, by machine, researching,  creating, in English,  in Chinese, Spanish, French, etc. And others came in to appreciate the art and architecture, and others just to sit for a minute. It is a beautiful space that offers so much to so many.  I feel lucky to have experienced it today. And in a true New York moment,  I ran into people I know who had just stopped in to see the room!

One of the things I love about libraries is the access to the creativity of generations. Thousands, millions really, have left a little part of themselves for us to read and know. They inform, challenge, and inspire. But the Rose Reading Room of the NYPL does even more–through the beautiful architecture of the building, the space itself inspires. It is a place I love, yet definitely do not get to enough.

Musing on a topic? Stuck on a scene? Look up to the newly renovated ceiling and drift among the clouds or trace with your eyes the ornate designs. Soon, new ideas and connections will spring to mind, and your creativity will flow freely. Grab a seat and begin. I’ll see you there!

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Crochet and Mishaps 2

Last week I started a post about my crocheting mishap and published it accidentally, which is really apropos actually. If you read my last post, you know that I made some big mistakes in crocheting a baby blanket. And, I posted about it on the Instagram (and Facebook) page for our Etsy store (AlyCatCreations1) too. Here’s the thing: This series of posts garnered 90% more likes than our other posts.

Now, I am not one to quibble about likes. I’m happy to have traffic to our site. Please, come browse. Like it. Buy something! We’d love to have you. The thing that struck me though, is that while we do get likes and comments about our finished products, the posts that garnered the most attention were the ones about my mistakes. I began to wonder about that. There are so many “feel good” memes and the like on Facebook and Instagram about building each other up and saying nice things. Which are great. Which are the right sentiment. Which we should do. But then, the likes poor in when I fail.

I wasn’t sure how to feel about that at first. Well, actually I guess I should say that I was feeling many emotions at once. I did laugh. It struck me as funny that posting about a product that would never be on our site brought more traffic to the site than the pieces available for purchase. I was happy the posts were getting likes. I also found it funny that Facebook kept wanting me to boost the post. But I would be lying if I said there wasn’t also a twinge of something else-some hurt or embarrassment.

This led to some pondering of the phenomenon of social media. We post all these lovely catch phrases about being good to others, you never know what they are going through. feel-good-meme

And we should. We should think of other people’s feelings. That has been lost on social media. Too frequently, perhaps in an effort to be brief (140 characters only please) or because we’re posting on the go from our phones and not really crafting prose, posts can be too blunt or even hurtful, so we do need to be attentive to tone and diction, now more than ever. But then, when I admitted I failed at a crochet project, the abundance of likes seemed out of proportion to the post. This is where things get a bit tricky. I posted the photos and the story, so I wanted it out there. I wanted to draw traffic to our site, which it did. I feel good about all of this. I am not really hurt or embarrassed. There was just a twinge, no real regret. My main reaction to the failure of the project is frustration. I did begin to wonder, however, what this says about people in general. Do we really like to see others fail?

What I’ve come up with is yes and no. On the one hand, some like to see others fail because it makes them feel better about themselves, but I think that is the minority, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, that is not what was going on with my crooked blanket posts. I think, rather, that the likes on the failure posts were commiseration. Too often we try to make our lives seem perfect on social media. I’m sure you have all seen the memes and videos of Facebook versus real life. (This one is pretty powerful about how destructive this fake life can be.) Perhaps when a post comes up in which someone admits to making a mistake, and does so without whining, we empathize. “Oh I hate when that happens.” “I understand the frustration.” There is no emoticon for that, so we “like.”

So, let’s continue to like each other’s posts, and let’s comment too. I have to admit that I did receive some encouraging and empathetic comments on the blanket debacle posts. I really liked those; they let me know that others understood my frustration. Sometimes that understanding is what we need most to pick hooks up and begin to stitch life back together. So, let’s like; let’s continue to build each other up and support each other when we were down.

As for that blanket, I rewound all the yarn.

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And I’ve started again. This time, I’m crocheting my tried and true pattern and so far, it’s lovely. I’ll let you know when it’s done. Wish me luck!