Grading Papers on a Sunny Afternoon

Sunlight on the slick clean table

Melts the edges away

Encroaching on the work

In front of me, anchored only

By a red pen that has lost

The very thing that gives it power.

Soon, if daylight keeps encroaching,

The papers will slip into the molten sea

Of the dissolved table and the coffee

Will tumble into the liquified abyss

Pouring out its heart on the fluttering wings

Of student attempts at composition and

Analysis while the bloodless pen spins

Uselessly through the void–

Unless

The setting sun retracts rather than

Advances its rays on

The evanescing table, setting it back

On terra firma, restoring the student efforts

To their fate once I procure another pen–

Though which option offers deliverance,

For them and for me,

It is impossible to say.

ABOUT THE POEM:

Feeling particularly tired yesterday on my commute home, I knew that if I read as is my wont, I would fall fast asleep and end up at the end of the line. So instead I took out my phone and starting flipping through my photos for inspiration. I came across the one above which I took last week during a particularly trying grading session at a local cafe when my pen ran out of ink. This poem is the result of photography, memory, exhaustion, and imagination, and, once I got started, a thesaurus as I became invested in using various synonyms for “melted” and “essays.”

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Some Days

Some days, you sit down to write and the words flow. Your fingers can hardly keep up. You are happy and creative and in touch with the essence of the universe.

Some days, you sit down to write and the words are stubborn. They do not want to come. You must tease them, cajole them, scold them, and force them from their places of hiding.

Some days, you sit down to write and the words have gone AWOL. They will not come. You stare at the screen, stare at the page, change writing implements, change seats, but you cannot find them.

Some days, you sit down to write and open a huge box of chocolates.

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What Happened Here?

As I made my way through Penn Station tonight, I saw what is pictured below:

And I couldn’t help thinking, “What happened here?” There was no one sitting or laying nearby to whom these shoes could belong. And the one stray pastel sock adds another level to the mystery. Does the sock belong with the shoe? Or were there two separate foot wear incidents in such close proximity? Questions arise.

How does one leave one’s shoes behind? And in such an orderly pose? And one sock? With those colours, could that be a child’s sock? A man’s, a woman’s with a sense of whimsy? It poses a quandary.

Naturally, my writer’s brain was quickened by the unusual sight, so much so in fact that I passed the shoes, noted them, but even though I kept moving, they squirreled into my brain, so when I got a short distance away, I went back upstairs to photograph then. What is their story? Don’t you want to know?

But you do of course. It’s in your head, and mine, and hers, and his, and theirs. So here is today’s challenge, a quest perhaps: choose your genre and tell us what happened here.

Mega Shadow Day Creativity Challenge

This afternoon was “Mega Shadow Day” at my school. This is a rather ominous sounding name for a day intended to convince accepted 8th graders to come to the school next year. My principal refers to it as a busman’s holiday as the 8th graders leave their schools to come take classes at ours for the afternoon. But it must work. Year after year, there are 9th graders who tell me that they remember my activity from their Mega Shadow Day the year before.

I am an English teacher with all that that comprises: reading comp, grammar, writing, literary analysis, research methods, but for Mega Shadow Day, I put all that aside and run a little creative writing workshop. I give the girls lollipops, introduce myself, have them introduce themselves, and then provide them with a story starter, telling them that from one sentence, we can create vastly different stories. Then we write for ten minutes. Finally, we share what we’ve come up with so far. It passes the time and is fun, even if some of the girls are a little shy about reading their stories at first.

I ran two sessions today with different 8th graders each time, but the same 9th grade helpers, so I gave two different story starters. See what you can do with one or both of these. Where does it lead you? The only “rule” is that you must start your story with this sentence. Everything that follows is up to you.

  1. I knew I shouldn’t have taken that short cut through the cemetery.
  2. I can’t believe I let Lindsay talk me into taking this short cut.

If you feel inspired, post your story in the comments below or give me a pingback if you post it on your own blog. Happy writing!

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New Year’s Resolutions 

Another year has come and gone.  2017, done.  2018 about to begin.  I could make the standard resolutions: work out more,  eat better,  get my papers graded in a more timely manner, etc. etc. But I won’t.  Not that those are not things worth doing; they are.  But in many ways,  they are destined to fail, especially if you’ve made those kind of resolutions before (as I have). No,  this year I will make only one resolution: write more.

Now I know.  That is an amorphous resolution.  What qualifies as “more”? Is this a resolution also destined to fail because of its very ambiguity.  But I don’t think so.  From an optimistic point of view, that vagueness can work in its favor. Anything can be more!

This year that’s coming to a close has had its ups and downs (as I guess all years do), but a definite up was my writing life. I did a better job of keeping at it, and as a result,  three poems were published somewhere other than this blog (or the Writer’s Digest Poem a Day blog in April). Yay! And there are quite a few pieces out for consideration.  Hopefully 2018 brings good news for those pieces.

So here’s to 2018, a year that once seemed so far away is about to begin.  May it find you healthy,  bring you peace, and inspire the writer within.  Cheers!

Handling Procrastination as a Writer: Making Writing Time Sacred

****This popped up in my inbox today, a day on which I usually set aside the afternoon for writing, but if you follow my blog, you know I sometimes have trouble keeping that appointment–like I will today due to a change in plans with friends from Tuesday to Wednesday for which I did not correspondingly set aside Tuesday afternoon for writing.

I particularly like this line:  “Remember: Writing is never about what happens, but what it feels like when something happens.” Whether used for getting over one’s procrastination or simple (?) inspiration, it’s a good line.  Wish me luck as I try to squeeze some writing time in today. Perhaps I’ll even try his exercises. ****

In this excerpt from Fearless Writing, author William Kenower shares an exercises for making your writing time sacred—and conquering procrastination.

Source: Handling Procrastination as a Writer: Making Writing Time Sacred

Cabaret City

So infrequently are you inspired

To dance with me,

But the other night

As we celebrated your birthday

At our local speakeasy,

The music moved you

And you grabbed my hand

And we danced–

A magical moment of

Love, laughter, and life.

Who knew we were

Breaking the law?

That the City That Never Sleeps

Also doesn’t dance?

Not us.  Not then. Not now.

Not 2017. But, perhaps soon,

Not any more.

Dance baby dance–

Freedom of expression,

Joy, and movement

Cannot be denied.

Prohibit the Prohibition.

Dance Footloose and fancy free

NYC.

 

 

***** Back in the end of October, I came across an article about NYC’s cabaret law which forbade dancing in bars and other establishments unless the business had a specific cabaret license, a law dating back nearly a century. Only 91 businesses in NYC of approximately 25,000 hold such a license, so if you have ever danced in a bar in NYC, you were probably breaking the law.

Here is a link to an article in The New York Times about the law and its repeal.

 

Crochet Coziness

Lately I’ve done a bit of writing about writing, but I have still been crocheting! I unwind in the evenings by winding up pieces of yarn. This summer, I was particularly busy as many people I know had babies and grandbabies. Since May, I have crocheted five baby blankets; some are full on baby blankets, and a couple are stroller blankets. And as of today, all have been gifted. The latest is a stroller blanket for a colleague’s granddaughter. I am particularly proud of this one as I made up the pattern myself–or as the case is with most home-created patterns, I put together pieces of other patterns to create a new one. In addition, I made it entirely from my stash! This, as any experienced crafter knows, is quite a feat!

I started with a chain in a solid dusty rose–I can’t remember now how many, but it was divisible by 6 plus 1. Then I did several rows of half double crochet. You can tell by now that I am not a pattern maker, can’t you? I didn’t write down what I did while I did it. I should have. Let’s say 7 rows. It really doesn’t matter. Make the band as wide or as narrow as you would like. Then, I switched to a variegated yarn in purples, pinks, yellows, and white. With this, I stitched a shell pattern along the lines of Bev’s Preemie Coverlet . When I finished the stash of the variegated yarn, I switched back to the dusty rose and the half double crochet. Since I couldn’t remember how many rows I had done to begin with, I used the old, trusty “fold the blanket in half and compare the bands on either end” method. It works. Finally, I switched to a purple for a scalloped edge all the way around. Then all that was needed was the AlyCatCreations tag, and voila! a sweet stroller blanket.

Here is another I made this summer with the same center but different ends and edging, for another friend’s granddaughter. This one has the bands all around, not just on the short ends. These bands are made of alternating double and single crochet. The final ending is a simple single crochet. This one came almost all from my stash! The sea foam green edging came from a friend’s stash.

It was quite fun and freeing not being too tied to a pattern, but I think I’ll have to return to patterns for the Christmas gifts I wish to make next. For at least one, though, I should be able to hit the stash again! Fingers crossed! Remember, Christmas is right around the corner; if you want to give homemade gifts, you’d better get started, but if you don’t feel like doing it yourself, you can always check out AlyCatCreations1 on Etsy. We take special orders. Happy stitching!

#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!

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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