Monday, July 29, 2019

Growing As A Writer by Donnetta Norris

This summer is looking significantly different than I had planned. As the school year was coming to an end, I had been looking forward to vigorously reading as many of the books on my book list as possible. I envisioned myself laid up on my couch, seated on my patio, and/or relaxing by the pool with a book in my hand.

Never did I think about writing or being a writer. Mostly because I don’t consider myself a good writer. I have gone so far as to tell others that teaching writing is my greatest area of weakness.

Despite my clear understanding that to be good at something, you have to practice, it never dawned on me to take the time to write anything. How many times had I told my students, “In order to get better at reading, you have to read.” I know the same holds true for most things in life. So, why had I not listened to my own advice? I’m not sure I have the answer to that question.

Nevertheless, here I am finally taking my own advice, and simply writing something this summer. I am writing about summer writing. I am writing reflections about the successes and failures of the 2018-2019 school year. I am writing my thoughts and takeaways from the PD (professional development) books I am currently reading...none from my book list as of yet.

How am I hoping to grow as a writer this summer? I am hoping to gain insight into what writing and the writing process can look and feel like. I am hoping that as I learn and grow, I can help my students write well next year.  I hope I learn the best ways to allow my students to write authentically and find their voices. I hope that my growth as a writer this summer turns into a love for writing that I can pass along to my students.

Mostly, I hope to be a writer from whom my students can learn.

Donnetta Norris is a 2nd grade teacher in Arlington, TX. She is a teacher-writer and a teacher of writing. You can follow her on Twitter at @NorrisDonnetta 

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Joys of a Writing Retreat by Margaret Simon

Summer is here!  Just what I’ve been waiting for, long expanses of free time to write. But when it comes to writing, sometimes I’d rather dig in the flower bed or clean out a closet than sit down to a blank page.

So I prescribed myself a writing retreat. This could work to jump start my summer writing.  I signed up for a writing workshop at an arts center about 30 miles away.  Far enough away that I had to commit.  What made it even better, I reserved Jen’s rental space at her nearby farm, so I wouldn’t have to drive home at night.

Writing can be like exercise.  It’s easier to do in a group.  I invited my writing group to come to the farm studio to spend the day writing.  They showed up with food and journals and enthusiasm for quiet writing time.

Throughout the school year, I look at invitations to writers’ retreats, but they are usually expensive, far away, and/or require an application with a writing sample to get in.  I did apply to one in Maine but didn’t get selected.  Rather than beat myself up with disappointment, I took the initiative to create my own. Jen invited us to return any time we want, so we’ve booked a day in July. 

I highly recommend creating your own writing retreat. Three key ingredients are
1. an inspiring and comfortable place
2. food and drink for sustenance
3. commitment to doing the writing.
For me, scheduling a writing retreat made me commit to the time.  Sharing it with writing friends was a bonus. 

Dianne, one of my writing group partners, wrote this poem expressing how we all felt about time away to notice and note:

Lawless Road

I’ve only been to this place
Down Lawless Road
Once or twice
I should come here often

This place
where the words flow
From deep within
A habitat of mind

This place
Where the tiny frogs
Let loose and croak
Bold and brave

Dianne Dempsey-Legnon, 2019

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

I. Am. Going. To. Finish. My. Work. In. Progress. by Sara Royston

Ahhh summer.  Each morning I get up before the sun and sit in the quiet of my kitchen.  The aroma of fresh coffee wraps itself around me as brilliant words flood my mind.  I quickly write them down, and when I reach my daily word goal in less than an hour, I look up to gaze at a gorgeous sunrise illuminating my backyard ready to start the rest of my day.

In the wise words of Dwight from The Office, False.  This is not how my summer writing goes in the least.  Oh sure, I get some writing done, but it is NOT as glorious as it is in my writing fantasies.

In fact, my summers did not involve much writing before the year 2011.  This was the year I discovered my local Writing Project, and ever since I have made writing a priority each and every summer.  I have gone to a few local workshops that were also connected to the Writing Project, and I have participated in the online summer community Teachers Write led by author Kate Messner. 

I am the type of writer who loves to get a project started, but then loses confidence or vision or motivation to finish it.  I tend to be a pantser and not a planner when it comes to my writing; which means I usually have no idea where I am going or how I am going to get there.  And if I am not fully committed to the story, I abandon it. 

But this summer is going to be different.

I. Am. Going. To. Finish. My. Work. In. Progress.  That’s right.  I am putting my goal out into the universe for all to witness.  I am going to write and write and write some more and get the entire first draft completely written out.  Oh it will most definitely be a crappy first draft, but by golly it will be a completed first draft. 

How will this summer be different you ask?  This time I have a plan for my summer writing.  I have an outline (much less pantsing on this project), I have a clear why I want to finish this piece, and I have already been carving out specific writing time in my day since winter. 

This summer one of my writing goals will be accomplished.  Let’s goooooo!

Sara Royston is currently a middle school teacher in Grand Rapids, MI.  She has been teaching middle schoolers since 2001 and thinks they are the best people to laugh with.  Sara loves to read, write, spend time with her 3 boys and husband, drink coffee, and eat chocolate.  Follow her blog at or on Twitter @SaraRoyston

Monday, July 22, 2019

Writing for Myself by Vanessa Capaldo

This summer, I will write every single day for at least 10 minutes. As a teacher, 10 minutes of my own writing time is a luxury during the school year. Writing in front of my students during class usually consists of expository/informational writing, but in the summer, I let loose and write in my favorite genres: fiction and poetry. I joined a writing critique group before the last week of school and this has already motivated me to work more on my young adult novel and hold myself accountable every week.

My ideal writing day will begin with 10 minutes of freewriting. I will use a fiction prompt and take the writing from there. I am a “pantser,” I write by the seat of my pants. I never know where my writing will wind up. Sometimes my freewriting leads to something I want to add to my novel, but not always. I put the non-novel-related-writing away for another day, sometimes adding it to my writing for the next freewrite. Depending on what my other plans are for the day, I will try to fit in additional writing at my favorite coffee shop. The atmosphere there is enough to keep me going creatively.

Eventually, I will set a writing word count goal, starting at 500 words per day. I am working on several projects simultaneously, so working on increasing word count goals on a weekly basis will be incredibly important. I will set up dates and times to meet with my writing buddies to just chill with each other and write. What is imperative is that I keep writing no matter what.

Vanessa Capaldo teaches middle school in Keller, TX. She has an undergraduate degree in English from The University of Texas at Arlington, and a graduate degree in Education and Literacy. She is a voracious reader of young adult novels and is currently writing one herself. She can be reached at @VanessaCapaldo on Twitter.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Making Time for Summer Writing by Jess Houser

Vacations. Family time. Water activities. Yard work.

Summer is exciting no matter what you’re doing. How does that change for a writer, though? Do you write more? Less? Are you too busy, or do you set aside more time?

Summertime vs. the School Year

During the school year, I write in the evenings after my kids are in bed for the night. I start with journaling (ridding myself of my emotional barricades), and then I break into my novel or short story. This is all only true if I’m not completely exhausted from the school day...

When summer starts, my kids go to bed a little later, which changes my writing time. Before they join the world of dreams, however, my I dedicate time to my other hobbies: crocheting, quilting, reading, etc. (These are usually battling the most during the school year, so it’s nice to have more time for all of them.)
To really shake things up, we added a new puppy to our lives at the end of the school year. Puppies need a lot of attention, so she’s going to be keeping us busy for quite some time. That, and she likes to eat my pen, so I can’t write around her, yet.

Athena Skye — Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix, 5 years old.
Inara Gwen — Anatolian Shepherd, 8 weeks old.

Summer Writing Goals

Back in 2014, I started my first novel. It has slowly progressed over the last few years into my third draft. I’m currently working on the third round of revisions for this YA paranormal mystery written in the epistolary style.
While trying to solve the disappearance of her best friend, a teenaged track star comes face-to-face with death as her recurring nightmare finds its way out of her dreams and into real life.

I keep a journal for revising with sticky tabs that correlate to the changes I’ve made in the printed draft.

My major writing goals this summer are dedicated to my novel:

  • finish the third round of revisions
  • finish the fourth draft (needs major rewrites)
  • get the fourth draft out to beta readers
  • Other than that, I bought a book recently that was recommended by our local writing group (Save the Cat). I’ve already finished it (an excellent read!), and I plan to apply some of the advice to my novel and any of my future writing.

I highly recommend this book! It’s a great resource for novel structure.

About me…
Jess Houser (pen name J.J. Burry)
writing teacher for middle school (sometimes high school) in Texas
two sons: Billy (9 years old) and Mikhael (5 years old)
husband: Josh (married since July 13, 2008 — 11 years this summer!)
two pups (pictured above)
several hobbies (mentioned above.
Find me: 
Blog: Immortal Words of a Mortal Writer
Twitter: @JJ_Burry
Facebook: J.J. Burry
Facebook: Immortal Crochet

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Ideal Summer Writing Days by Ona Feinberg

Ideal summer writing days. . .

I want
Of course
I remember
I won’t
But, I will

I want to wake up early, take my coffee, notebook, and laptop to the deck.
Of course, it will probably have rained. I’ll have forgotten to take the cushions in, so maybe I’ll have to go to the porch.
I remember the deck at the beach one cold North Carolina spring break. I went on the deck every day, notebook in hand. Even in the spitting rain, I wrote.
I won’t have the sounds of the ocean on my deck this summer,
but I will plug in the fountain.

I want to do all the lessons that Kate Messner posts in her Teachers Write summer camp.
Of course, I’ll probably have too much work to do. I’ll be driving kids to and from their camps, so maybe I’ll have to do just some of the lessons.
I remember the summer I did so many of the lessons. I took a notebook full of great writing ideas to my classroom that fall.
I won’t have a classroom of my own this fall,
but I will have 2 schools full of classrooms.

I want to read all the mentor texts, taking notes of things to try.
Of course, I have grad school reading that seems to take every waking minute, so maybe I’ll have to sneak in break reads.
I remember sneaking in reading extra picture books in college while making Literacy block lists of picture books. I sat at the bookstore and the library with piles of books at the kids' table.
I won’t be alone at the bookstore this summer, or the library,
but, I will have my kids to read to.

I want
Of course
I remember
I won’t
But, I will

Ona Feinberg is a K-5 Instructional Coach in Central Pennsylvania. She began her teaching career in second grade and started teaching 6th grade in 2001. She is passionate about teaching, reading, writing, authenticity, kindness, and her 3 children. When she isn’t at school you might find her writing, reading, or walking her dog, Finnegan Foxy Feinberg. You can follow her on her blog, or on twitter @OnaFeinberg. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Head in the Clouds by RIta DiCarne

“When we feel stuck, look at the sky.  The clouds remind us that everything changes.” ~ Enkiquotes

During the last few weeks of school, I begin planning my summer writing life. Many times I set myself up for failure because my goals are too lofty, too broad, or too rigid.  This summer will be different.  This summer I am taking my cue from the clouds.

A few years ago I was obsessed with clouds.  I took pictures of clouds in all the different seasons and was going to create a writing project around those photos. That didn’t happen, but I am continually drawn back to them. 

As a young girl, I would lie on the grass looking up at the clouds and imagine all different scenarios based on what I saw - a castle, a dog, a giant - the images changed slowly or quickly depending on the wind. Just the thought of it brings me back to the velvety lawn, warm summer breezes, and the abundance of time to think, to dream, to create.

This summer I have no specific goals other than to read and write.  I am going to channel my inner child and give myself permission to be present in the moment and take time to notice the world around me. 

To that end, I am determined to change up my writing venue.  I will try writing at the library, the coffee shop, the playground,  or a restaurant - anywhere I can sit and observe the small things.  If I start to lose sight of my goals, I will look to the clouds for a reminder - a reminder that I have to allow my ideas to float like the clouds and watch what appears. 

What are your writing goals?  Are they realistic and manageable, or lofty and overwhelming?

Give yourself permission to daydream, to explore, to breath, and the ideas will take care of themselves. 

Rita DiCarne teaches 7th grade ELA at Our Lady Of Mercy RCS in Maple Glen, PA and is a PAWLP Writing Fellow.  You can follow or get in touch with Rita on Facebook - RitaDiCarne, Twitter - @RitaDiCarne or at her blog, “Practicing What I Teach” -

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