Teachers Write 7.18.17 Tuesday Quick-Write with Loree Griffin Burns

We’re focusing on nonfiction and research again in our Tuesday Quick-Write, and your guest author today is the brilliant Loree Griffin Burns. Loree is a scientist and a writer with a passion for nonfiction storytelling. Her next book, Life on Surtsey, Iceland’s Upstart Island, explodes onto bookshelves November 14. Previous books for young readers include Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam and the Science of Ocean Motion, Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey, and Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard. Loree loves to share her work with writers and explorers of all ages, in all venues; visit her on the web at loreeburns.com

Tuesdays are for short writing prompts, and I promise that I’ll give you one … but only after a not-so-short introduction. Because yesterday’s post by my pal Sarah Albee? It got me pretty jazzed up, and I want to share a related idea for electrifying your writing research.

Talking to experts, as Sarah described it yesterday, is one of my favorite things to do. I’ve interviewed fifth grade experts hunting for ladybugs in New York, chemistry experts studying volcanic soils in Iceland, and a whole lot of interesting experts in between. Talking with people who know more about my topic than I do is how I “get the dirt” on my subject while, at the same time, collecting the details that will make my writing sing. A closely-related beyond-the-books research trick, a next step, if you will, to interviewing experts is what I call “getting dirty.”

What’s getting dirty? A field trip. Going somewhere and collecting rich experiences that will enhance your writing.

I know. I know. It sounds like a major way to procrastinate. And trust me, it can be. But all writers draw from the world around them. You can sit at your keyboard and tap your memories for the details you need; there’s nothing wrong with that approach. But for me, getting outside and getting dirty is critical. That’s where I find the tiny details that will help me transport my readers. More often than not, it’s where inspiration grabs me.

Let me give you an example. When I was researching The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe, I called up an expert beekeeper, Mary Duane, and asked to interview her. (Sarah would approve!) I talked with this expert by phone for a long while, and Mary gave me a lot of dirt: information on honey bees, their lives in managed hives, and even some interesting insights into their sudden and mysterious disappearance, which was the catastrophe in my book’s title. Before we hung up, though, I asked Mary if I could visit her apiary. That’s when the fun really began.

In Mary’s apiary, I watched her climb into a bee suit, and then I climbed into one of my own. That’s how I picked up on the sound Velcro bee suit tabs make when you rip-and-reset the jacket wrists in order to make triple-sure that bees can’t crawl up your sleeves. I saw Mary slide her hive tool under the inner hive cover and use it to muscle that cover off. When she handed me the hive tool, I got to feel for myself the strength of the sticky resin honey bees line their hives with. And when we finally got that hive cover off, I felt for the first time in my life the vibration created by eighty thousand height-of-the-summer working honey bees. I smelled the light scent of warm honey mixed with that of softened beeswax. I heard Mary describe what she was seeing when she whispered, with a mix of awe and glee: “This hive is just boiling with bees!”

Me, Mary Duane, and an open hive of bees. My first visit to an apiary was … nerve-wracking.

I loosened up over time. This image of a honey bee stinging a human arm appears on page 41 of The Hive Detectives. Guess whose arm that is? 

How, pray tell, could I ever write about being in a beehive without having done these things? Without having showed up and gotten my hands dirty? If you read The Hive Detectives, you’ll find the details I’ve described here woven into the narrative. Individually, they’re not stand-out moments. Together, they make a more authentic reading experience.

So, get away from your desk. Intentionally seek out experiences that can help you bring your book alive. It doesn’t matter if you are writing a middle grade photo essay about honey bee scientists or a YA dystopian novel about climate change. Sometimes, your inspiration needs to come from outside your office, outside your head. Remember that list of experts you created after Sarah’s post yesterday? Pull it out and add to it a list of places you could go to get dirty and find inspiration. Then treat yourself to a field trip.

Okay. It’s time for that Quick-Write Prompt. (You know what’s coming, right?)

Your Assignment: Go outside. Get dirty. Write about it. Have an experience, and then bring it to life for someone else by writing about it. The goal is to find the words to describe a sensory experience as fully and completely as is possible.

Do you hear a bird singing in your yard? Describe what you hear. (Is it a liquid trill? A low-pitched hoot?) Your reader is not there with you, so write a paragraph that so accurately describes what you are hearing that your reader would now recognize this sound if they heard it in their own yard.

Are you at the grocery store? Buy four different kinds of apple, bring them out to your car, and sample them, one at a time. Describe what you taste. (A tangy bite? A subtle sweetness overwhelmed by a mealy textured pulp?) Find the words that will make your reader’s taste buds squirt, that will wake their own personal apple memories.

No time for this today? Rather get in your run? Fine. Run. But when you get home, take off your shoes and socks and give them a sniff. Take a few minutes and tell me in words about that smell.

Be creative. Choose some sensory experience already in your book or article, or that should be in your book or article, and give it your undivided attention today. Choose something that has nothing to do with your work-in-progress. Whatever. It’s your choice. Just get a little dirty … and then write about it. Have fun! And as always, feel free to share a bit of what you wrote in the comments.

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123 Comments

  1. Posted July 18, 2017 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Hi Loree,

    Thanks for your great post and writing/researching tips. I enjoyed reading it very much and especially loved reading about your experiences in preparing for the writing of The Hive Detective. Amazing! As I was reading your post while sitting outside on the balcony, overlooking the neigborhood and seeing and hearing all kinds of activities, I decided to try and write about it. Here is a snippet from it:

    I’m surprised to feel a strong breeze cooling my back, actually making me shiver and wonder whether I need to get a cardigan or shawl to cover my shoulders. We are in the tropics here in Ghana and I don’t remember when I have experienced for the last time days that weren’t suffocatingly humid and hot. What a treat; definitely a beautiful and welcome change. Now if just that blaring lawn-mowing in front of the house would stop, it would be a perfect reading spot. The ear-splitting noise has been going on for far too long already. What kind of ancient machine is it anyway that makes such an awful sound? I seem to feel the vibrations in my chest, even though I am sitting on the first floor. Now a loud banging joins the racket, just my luck. Someone is hammering nearby. I might have to reconsider my reading spot for today. What a pity, having to give up this lovely spot – oh, the lawn mower stopped. Should I really be that lucky…? Of course not, there it goes again…

    Many thanks again. I will definitely order a few more of your books for our Primary School library. So far we have only Tracking Trash, but I can tell you, it’s a popular title with teachers and students.

    Warmly,
    Tanja

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      Hi, Tanja,

      Thank YOU, for reading the post and for sharing your writing. I really did feel like I was there with you, being assaulted by sounds. The bit that really got me? “I seem to feel the vibrations in my chest …” That’s the moment I could relate to what you were feeling physically, and so you had me. Well done.

      I’m so happy to hear your students and teachers like Tracking Trash. That little book is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year!

      • Susan MacKay-Logue
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

        I too, was taken by the vibration in my chest image. It created an image in my mind, but also a sensory image in my body.

        Well done!
        Susan

        • Posted July 20, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

          Thanks, Susan, for reading my snippet and commenting on it. I appreciate it.

          Warmly,
          Tanja

      • Andy Starowicz
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        Tanja,

        I love the snippet. There is such vivid description about the setting and there is so much emotion (feeling of being annoyed) brought out by the details. I felt bad for you. I hope that you got some quiet reading time.:)

        Thank you for sharing.
        Happy writing (and reading)!

        • Posted July 20, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

          Thanks, Andy. I’m so happy to know you enjoyed reading it. And yes, it did get quieter later on in the day, but unfortunately, the banging next door is still ongoing.

          Thanks,
          Tanja

      • Posted July 20, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Many thanks for the feedback, Loree! When further working on this, I would definitely add “assaulted by sounds”, because that’s exactly how I felt.

        Warmly,
        Tanja

    • Heather Jensen
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Tanja I love your description of the breeze and the thought of needing a shawl after days of stifling heat! What a refreshing feeling!

      Happy Reading,
      Heather

      • Posted July 20, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        Thanks Heather. So happy to receive all this feedback. Inspires me to go back and work a bit more on the paragraph.

        All the best,
        Tanja

    • Jennifer Hernandez
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Oh, Tanja, I *feel* you!! I remember, during my years in an especially hot and humid part of Mexico, how I would sit outside and try to remember what it felt like to be cold — or even cool for that matter. Enjoy that delicious chill!!

      • Posted July 20, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        Thanks Jennifer. It’s still surprisingly cool and I’m really enjoying it. Back to the Hong Kong heat and humidity soon though.

        Warmly,
        Tanja

    • Nicole
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

      Tanja,

      I just loved this! Talk about sensory details! Bravo!

      • Posted July 20, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Thanks so much for reading it and leaving a comment, Nicole. So grateful!

        Warmly,
        Tanja

  2. Amber Webb
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Thanks Loree,
    After reading The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, I have been hyper aware of the noises that fill my world from sunup to sundown. There isn’t a moment in my day where there is complete silence. So for getting down and dirty I listened and listened deeply.
    As I fall asleep I can hear the gentle hum of traffic in the distance through my open window. The dogs snores keep me awake and even after he repositions himself I can hear the slow, steady breathing of my best friend next to me. After awhile I moved to the couch and heard the clock’s constant ticking beat trying to lull me to sleep. The nocturnal beasts begin their day and lucky for them, it’s garbage day. I listen as they explore the trash world at the end of my driveway. I eventually moved back to my bed and snuggled between the cool sheets and fell into the great world of sleep. I awoke to the radio sounds coming from my alarm at 5:45am and began my day checking on sleeping children, feeding a hungry pup and attempting quiet for the next few hours. The dog’s tail hits the wall with a thunk and I cringe, hoping it doesn’t wake any tiny souls. The quick crunch of dog food and the sloppy slurps of water fill the air before I open the door for the first time today. Their is a myriad of birds chirping both high and low, scurrying about looking for food and nest fillings. The buzz of traffic gets louder as the minutes tick by and the community is off to work. These sounds fill my mind and make me wonder, what will your job be today?
    The book The Sound of Silence, while a children’s book, has taught me to listen for silence among every sound: the breaks between clock ticks, the breaths between chirps, the red lights among all the green. Listening has made me a more powerful and engaged writer, reader, attender in general. Getting dirty can just be listening sometimes.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      “Getting dirty can just be listening sometimes.” Yes! Absolutely! The point is to capture those snippets of truth, however you can, and use them at the perfect moment in your writing. In the piece you shared, I was so taken by the detail of the dog’s tail thunking against the wall, particularly in the early don’t-wake-the-kids time of day. It was perfect.

      I don’t know The Sound of Silence, but I just ordered it through Interlibrary Loan. Thanks for the tip, and thanks for sharing your work.

      Happy writing!

    • Heather Jensen
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      Amber I love how you described your attempt at sleep and the noises from around the house. I often have the same experience! Thank you for sharing!

      • Amber Webb
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        Don’t we all!

    • Maureen Morrison
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Great descriptions of silence. You have reminded me of the beauty of taking it all in, as I sit with my sleeping cat, Tiger and my not so sleepy typing fingers. Thanks!

    • Jen Howe
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      Amber, I can definitely relate to the lack of sleep and hoping morning noises don’t wake up children. Thanks for sharing The Sound of Silence. I will check it out!

  3. Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Hi, Loree. This is perfect timing. Yesterday, I was writing a scene that takes place in a particular area of the Harvard campus. I was writing it from memory, but it’s clear that if I want to make the scene authentic and more dimensional, I need to visit. There’s another place near the Charles River that I also need to visit at night. Looks like I have a good excuse to take a couple of field trips into Cambridge!

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      Yes you do, Theresa! Carry a notebook, of course, and a camera. (If it’s a phone camera, don’t forget you can collect video, too.) This will help jog your memory later if you need it. Another thing I try really hard to do is to transcribe all my notes the moment I get home, even if I’m not going to write the scene until much later. This is the best way for my old brain to keep the details intact until I can work with them.

      Enjoy your field trips!

      • Jen Howe
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

        Theresa, I hope you enjoyed your field trips. Loree, thanks for being here and for the prompt today. Thanks for also reminding us we can get video with our phones.

        I’m interested in learning more about my grandfather’s service during World War II. He was stationed in Egypt. After Sarah’s post yesterday, I did some virtual touring. Sounds like I need to plan a trip!

  4. Pamela Tallmadge
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Morning Bike Ride
    Light grey clouds and a strong breeze chill my bare arms until I pedal faster and warm up. A young man walks his black dog and is barely noticing when she stops. The leash is around his right wrist, and he holds his phone in his left hand and texts with his thumb. Further down the road, I notice a cyclist sitting straight upon her seat, then I see her phone in her right hand and a smile as she video chats and rides. I turn onto the path through the woods and briefly close my eyes. I hear che, che, che from the right and tw eeet tw eeet from the left. The bird chorus welcomes me. I ride slowly and a break in the woods reveals a white crane standing majestically straight and quiet. I cross the wooden bridge over the lake and a blue heron glides past. What treasures do I miss when I am not fully present?

    • Amber Webb
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      “What treasures do I miss when I am not fully present?” How true and sad for this day and age. It is so nice to unplug often and enjoy the moments. Thanks for taking us along on your morning ride!

      • Pamela Tallmadge
        Posted July 19, 2017 at 5:00 am | Permalink

        Thank you for reading and enjoying.

    • Heather Jensen
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      I love your last line! I think we all need to work to be more present. At Nerd Camp, we discussed how we view the world differently when we carry around a writer’s notebook to simply observe and just be present in our world. Thank you for sharing!

      • Pamela Tallmadge
        Posted July 19, 2017 at 5:01 am | Permalink

        Thank you for reading and for reminding us to carry our notebook around-observe and write!

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      This is beautiful. Makes me want to take a bike ride!

    • Jen Howe
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      I also love the last line. I spent most of my day inside working, so thanks for unplugging and taking me along!

  5. Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Oh, this is lovely Pamela. That bridge comes at just the right moment, as you pedal from a distracted world into a more focused one. Thank you for sharing your work … and for the reminder to be present.

  6. Diane Belinski
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Hi Loree –

    Thanks for your wonderful example. No big field trips today, but I did head to the bagel store bright and early:

    The brown paper bag is warm to the touch – always a good sign. Tommy’s face breaks into a grin as his arm brushes the bag resting between us. My left foot releases the brake, while my right hand shifts the Odyssey into drive. Pressing softly on the the gas pedal, the car eases forward.

    Five minutes later we pull into the garage. Tommy, new to the front passenger seat, opens his door and climbs over an array of Nerf guns, tennis rackets, and baseball gear. A rush of cool air surrounds us as we open the door to the TV room. Chief Zippy, our fearless guinea pig, squeaks a greeting in our general direction.

    I turn the kitchen faucet on, lathering and rinsing my hands. Popping the refrigerator door open, I grab the butter from the top shelf. I slide a sharp knife out of the butcher block and open the brown bag. Reaching in, I feel the seeds and spices that coat the warm everything bagel. Holding the doughy bread on its side, I carefully slice down the center. I lay the two halves side-by-side and begin to butter. The butter softens and melts into the surface within moments. I rejoin the two sides and make a final cut, dividing the buttered bagel into two even parts. Tommy is waiting at the kitchen table already, legs swinging, mouth grinning.

    The plate makes a soft snick as plastic meets tile. Tommy grabs half and performs his first magic act of the day: the disappearing bagel.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Any trip can be a field trip, and you showed us that with this piece, Diane. There are so many details to praise here, but I particularly loved the word “snick” in the last paragraph. Just perfect. Thank you for sharing your work today!

    • Jen Howe
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      Nice job describing an ordinary moment in detail. I like the magic trick!

  7. Susan MacKay-Logue
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Loree and Sarah, I have been inspired by both of your posts. My favorite writing territory is to write about life at my summer cottage on Torch Lake, MI. Since I grew up here, I thought that I knew all that I needed to know, but yesterday and today I began researching “my” lake and have found out some fascinating information that I knew nothing about. Information that will add depth and engagement to my writing. Thank you for the push!

    Today’s snippet is part memory and part porch experience from this morning. It does not include my new research, because I wrote it first. I appreciate any insights that you might add. Thank you!

    The sun shines down on the lake creating shimmers of diamonds on the water. They dance and shimmy as the water wanders gently toward the north shore. The air is crisp and cool, cleansed by the previous night’s gentle rainfall.  The breeze carries with it, the faint smell of bacon frying at another cottage further down the lake.  Ferns, scattered across the pine needle blanket lawn, wave good morning to the day ahead.  

    Inside the cottage, I hear the hypnotic hum of NPR through the static on the ancient radio, occasionally punctuated by the clatter of my mother putting away last night’s clean dishes. From the bathroom, My dad hollers in frustration, “Rita, I can’t find my toothpaste!”

    • Nels Tooker
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Susan, I love how you personified the water in this piece. It seems so playful in the morning sun. Like it’s begging for some interaction with swimmers, boaters, fish, whatever.
      Would the cottage be further or farther down the lake? I always mix up that scenario. Maybe it doesn’t matter anyway. What I really care about is that bacon smell.

      • Susan MacKay-Logue
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        Nels, I suspect you are right about the farther. Obviously, I also mess that up. Thank you for your kind words.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      I love that you combined memories AND first hand in-the-moment experiences; there is a lot to mine from both places. Like Nels, I was struck by your description of the water, wandering gently. And then, even in that idyllic place, we need toothpaste.

      You’ve set us nicely in a place that you clearly love. I’m excited to see what happens when you combine that with the new information you’re uncovering about your lake. It feels like there’s some magic (figuratively speaking) just around the bend.

      Good luck, and happy writing!

      • Susan MacKay-Logue
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, Loree. We had fun arguing “the facts” dug up today vs. family lore tonight at dinner. I think I like this research thing! 😀

  8. Nels Tooker
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this, Loree. My current project takes place in a specific park I discovered online. The park has a castle in it and while I’ve seen it from several angles on the screen, I’m dying to actually go there. I want to touch it, smell it, experience it. I intend to visit the park this summer. Thanks for the push to make that field trip happen.

    My getting dirty response involves actual dirt. We planted a garden for the first time in our side yard this year and I’ve been quite taken by the way it electrifies my senses.

    If deep green had a scent, it would be this tomato plant. It’s aroma is like nothing else, it’s not sweet nor flowery. It’s not musky nor bitter. It just the smell of growth, of plant life. Perhaps “Biology Green,” if it were a smelly crayon.

    I rip out some weeds that have gathered around the base. They cling desperately to the soil and release from the ground with a series of quiet pops as I pull. Harsh of me to end their little lives so casually, maybe. But later, the Early Girl straightens up, and releases even more of its pungent fume as if to say “Hey, man, thanks for the room.”

    • Susan MacKay-Logue
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      The “Biology Green” scented crayon is wonderful! I also love the way that the plant speaks it’s thanks to you. Great stuff, Nels!

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Nels, you’ve captured this gardener girl’s heart with this paragraph. I know that smell, and I never, ever imagined it as a crayon. Now that I have, I will NEVER forget it. Bravo!

      Thanks for sharing your work. I hope the castle in the park, when you get there, is all that you are hoping for, plus a little extra that you aren’t expecting. 🙂

      • Nels Tooker
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        Loree, thank you so much for your feedback and kind words. I know it’s a ton of work to look through all these posts and write meaningful comments. Your ideas, guidance and feedback are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  9. Maureen Morrison
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Loree,
    Are you sure you do not rent space in my brain? Your assignment covered everything I love AND you gave me no out for what I call perfectionist procrastination. (Putting off writing because my first draft will suck, therefore I must suck at everything.) Alas, this group increases my bravery day by day. Your books are beautiful and the November release is one I will be sharing in class. (I am a hs English/ESL teacher and nonfiction picture books are really helpful with English Language Learners when they are learning English as teenagers.)

    6:00 pm in New Jersey should not sound like the Amazonian Rainforest, but last night sure did. At first, the usual barrage of backyard sounds began the evening. The brave beetle returned for his nightly head bashing into the brown house siding. Then the mosquito flight command flew by with their tiny high pitched buzzing packing powerful bites. Book pages continued to turn and the patio cats quietly took it all in. They even rolled over from time to time change their view in a speed used the least amount of energy, but they sure sat up when the trees began to shake.
    First, one Starling flew across the yard. He was the conductor. Next, two Starlings came by flying in a perfectly straight line right over my head. All the trees in the backyard began to sing with a sound somewhere between awful and wow!. You know the sweet springtime trill of birds in trees? This was the complete opposite of that. Deep, bird grunts and lots of them. There was seat switching from tree to tree and across the yard. High fliers, low fliers, Like a tennis match in the sky. Then the trees went silent.
    About five pages later the yard roared and the flock of starlings soared in a giant crackly, fingerprint inking across the sky. And the trees went quiet again knowing they were part of something special.

    • Heather Jensen
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Maureen, this was beautiful. “Knowing they were part of something special”–love this phrase! Thank you

      • MAUREEN MORRISON
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        ❤️Thank you!

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      Ah, perfectionist procrastination. I know this phenomenon well. But I’m glad you are learning the truth: that you have something to say and no one will say it like you.

      The sounds of a flock of starlings is, as you say, somewhere between awful and wow. You’ve described it perfectly. I was taken by the vision of that first-to-arrive bird as the conductor; maybe you could play with that metaphor a bit here too.

      Thanks for sharing this “something special” with us, Maureen.

      • MAUREEN MORRISON
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        Thank you. Your kind feedback and suggestions make me want to wake up early tomorrow to work on more of this.

    • Jen Caldwell
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      I loved this, Maureen! I could both visualize and hear the crashing beetle and the mosquito brigade! The writing has a gentle, slowness to it as the noise picks up and “instruments” are added. I also loved the wording in the “giant, cracking fingerprint”! Thanks for sharing.

      • MAUREEN MORRISON
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        Thank you!

    • Jennifer Hernandez
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Here with a seconding motion for the power of NF picture books for secondary EL students!!

      Maureen – there are many details and descriptions that I loved in your writing, but my favorite is the “giant, cracking fingerprint”. Wonderful stuff!!

      • MAUREEN MORRISON
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        My heart is now also singing. Thanks so much.

  10. Heather Jensen
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Good Morning Loree. Thanks for the great advice. I am working on chapter book and a girl whose family works at a water park. So today “I got dirty” while cleaning my own pool and just really paid attention to what was happening around me. I used the details in a very rough draft of a chapter I hope to use in the book:

    Solace
    I never once thought I would enjoy getting up early in the morning. Especially, now that I have to do it every day of the week and go to work at the Mirage Water Park. Yes, that Mirage Water Park, the one I have so many fond memories of. Well, they offered Dad a job. A stay at home job, now that it was just the four of us. Dad is the head of the maintenance department–his job is to keep all the pools and rides running smoothly for the families here on vacation. As the oldest, I also work. My job is cleaning the park’s seven pools. So I need to be up pretty early to get them all vacuumed by the time the park opens at 10:00 am.

    Today, I start with my favorite pool. It is the smallest of the seven, meant for older couples who still love the what the Mirage has to offer. It is closest to the woods with a wide open field.

    The hum of the heater, the birds whispering hello, and a cool breeze relaxes all of my muscles. I close my eyes and turn my face to the sun, taking a deep breath as the subtle scent of chlorine and sunscreen tickles my nose. I take a moment to just be, there is no rush in this moment. I am reconnecting to the living world. No rush as I become whole again, searching for my smile. A hawk screeches loudly, reminding me I have things to do.

    As I open the storage bin, I am greeted by my friendly tree frog hanging on the lid. “Well, Hello my friend,” I smile. I reach for the large blue ribbed hose at the bottom of the bin. RIPPPPPPPPP! I love the sound of the ribbed hose being dragged out of the bin. I line it up straight and connect the metal pole to the vacuum. I dip the vacuum into the sparkling water, sliding it slowly so the hose will fill with water. The hose floats on the water. “I see you don’t want to cooperate today,” I grumble. So I sit next to the filter and let my legs dangle into the warm water of the pool. I use my feet to guide the hose under the water and then connect the end of the hose to the filter.

    Standing up, I grab the metal pole and begin the slow process of vacuuming the pool. As I gaze out into the field I see a doe and two spotted fawns emerge from the woods and begin a quiet breakfast together. There is no fear for them here, no loud noises or motor vehicles on this side of the park. They silently munch on the grass, birds serenading their meal, safe for the moment.

    The squeaking wheels of the vacuum brings me a feeling of satisfaction, as I watch the dirt and bugs from the day before disappear. I suddenly feel close to my mother, as I remember the look of satisfaction on her face as she looked at her clean home. I wonder what she would think of the dilapidated cabin we now live in on the edge of the park, with its sticky floors and greasy counters from years of families on vacation. I shake that feeling off, pausing to reflect on the memory of my Mom’s beautiful smile.

    I better get moving I tell myself, time is slipping by quickly. I remove the hose from the pool. Then I quickly search the rock pile for my Grandpa’s heart rock. I place my wet hand on the heart and ask him to look over the family as we do the best we can to get by without Mom around to take care of us. I know my hand print will only last a few minutes, but it is all I need to get on with the rest of my day.

    • Maureen Morrison
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      I’m not Loree, but you have a new fan in me. This was beautiful. You took me to that morning quiet place and tugged at my heart.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I love that your own chores could fuel your fiction today, Heather. That last visual in this chapter, her wet handprint evaporating from a rock, is an incredibly gorgeous detail, the kind that will stay with me for a while. Thank you for taking on this assignment so fully, and for sharing your work today. Good luck with this book!

    • Dayna Collings
      Posted July 19, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Wow Heather – that excerpt totally sucked me in! I felt like I was right there with your character as they cleaned the pools and got their day started. I really like that while the character worked he/she let their senses take over and enjoyed the benefit of being up early.

      I’m intrigued by the heart rock and sad to learn that mom is not around…..

      Can’t wait to read more 🙂

  11. Kay Berry
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Loree,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with the bees. I am a high school English teacher, but I really love research. Your books look fun! Right now I am at this lovely little town called Midway, Utah. This town sit in a valley surrounded very closely to mountains. There are streams, ponds, cows, and plenty of wildlife around. I am going to put my character’s name in this quick write. Thank you again for taking the time for Teachers Write. This is my first year and I have really enjoyed the experience.

    In the early morning, Stacey decided to walk around the pond to quiet her thoughts. The trees rustled slightly with a slight wind, and the few clouds overhead hid the sun. As she walked by the pond a woodchuck glided smoothly across, his head above the water. She stopped to pet the goat, but didn’t stay long as there was a pungent odor nearby, but the summer air seemed to be quivering with some sort of anticipation. Passing through a thick wood of trees, silvery beams of sunlight shone through and a butterfly floated by. Her feet fell softly on the paved trail, but the grass on the sides was so high that she could feel the warmth of the sun on her ankles.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      The moment you’ve described is so serene that I paused at “pungent odor” and wanted to know more. Was it the goat that smelled? Something more sinister? This curious reader really wanted to know! Great job with the assignment; thank you for sharing your work here today.

  12. Annie
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Yesterday and today have been so wonderful to reflect upon. I couldn’t agree more that we need to experience about what we write. For my current WIP I’m looking forward to my upcoming vacation to Martha’s Vineyard. One location on the island inspired a crucial place for my main character. I have been struggling to write about it. I know once I am there I will be able to write.

    I tried swimming laps this morning, after years of not swimming. Yay for exercise!
    The water is calm and is only moving from the light breeze in the air. I dive into the 50s. My hands cut the water to allow the rest of my body to enter. My hands push the water past me as I flutter my legs behind me to surface. The only sound is the water rushing around me as my body moves. I rise to the surface and slowly begin. I’m not as fast as I used to be. My body is lying on the surface of the water. I don’t float like I used to. My right arm bends and swings around as I scoop water past my torso to my thigh. My left arm bends and swings around as I scoop water past my torso to my thigh. My legs are pushing water up and down as they struggle to flutter in the heavy water. I continue to push my arms and legs through the water. The further I go the heavier the water feels to move. I reach the end. I grab the bar at the end of the dock. Drips of water trickle down my arm, tickling my skin. My body floats up to the water. My legs are floating. My body suddenly feels weightless as the water surrounds me.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Here’s to inspiration on location at Martha’s Vineyard, Annie. And thanks for sharing your paragraph. I’m intrigued by this description of swimming, and really connected with the repetition in the middle of the paragraph (My right arm bends … My left arm bends …). It was a great choice given the activity you are describing here.

    • Andy Starowicz
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Nicely done, Annie!

      As a swimmer, I was hoping that as you progressed through the water you would find your groove. I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptive details. It is difficult to get back in the water after so much time away.

      I hope that you find inspiration at Martha’s Vineyard (it’s hard not to). Happy writing!
      Thanks for sharing.

  13. Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I’ve been so lucky to snag a little wifi here every day! I’m reading as many posts as possible but haven’t had a chance to comment. Really inspired by everyone’s writing though! As soon as I get back I’ll be ready. Thanks for the feedback on my writing. We played a little family game today, involving getting dirty for real, so I wrote about that! Have a great day of writing everyone!

    All week Noah has wanted to play the, “Slap in the Face” game. The one where the strategy is to press a button as fast as you can, squeeze your eyes tight, and hope you won’t get a pile of whipped cream in your face.

    I step up to the table, challenging Jason to a match. As we take our places, I realize he has the advantage, he will be pushing the button with his right hand. My left hand, today my only weapon, is about as weak a choice as if I were using my foot. This doesn’t bode well for me. My niece and nephew flank us, taking sides from the start. My mom, video camera ready, counts us down. It is Jason’s first family vacation with our family. Do I let him win? Is that what girlfriends are supposed to do? Not in this family. We are a “take no prisoners” kind of camp.

    “Oooone, twooooo, three!” And we’re off! I’m flapping my left hand as fast as it will possibly go. I try to keep my eyes closed but peek to see the small pile of whipped cream wobbling back and forth on the plastic hand. It’s like a baby giraffe taking it’s first steps. Wibbling a little this way, wobbling a little that way. While my left hand slaps and Jason’s right hand slaps, the plastic hand is torn between which side to veer to and the whipped cream on top looks ready to topple.

    I see the plastic hand start to close in on my side. I knew this was coming. I close my eyes just in time and I hear the voices of my family cheer louder. Swaaaaaappffff. Whipped cream smooshes cold and soft on my nose, mouth, and chin. It slips down and I stick out my tongue to get a taste, not of victory, but of a so-sweet loss. Alice and Noah jump up and down giggling. And Jason, ever the gracious winner, comes in for one quick kiss. A win for both of us.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      This is so much fun! The details put me right there in the scene!

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      This IS a fun one. And by the end, I wanted to know more about your “take no prisoners” family. I definitely felt as if I’d fallen into the middle of a story, and it was one I wanted to read in full. Great work.

    • Andy Starowicz
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Awesome snippet, Megan!

      “Do I let him win? Is that what girlfriends are supposed to do? Not in this family. We are a “take no prisoners” kind of camp.” GOOD FOR YOU? I love these sentences.

      The descriptive details and action lead the reader through the snippet to a wonderful end. I’ll be honest, as the reader, I didn’t see it coming, so I really enjoyed the end.

      Keep on writing!
      Thanks for sharing.

  14. Brandy Loomis
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    An early riser is he
    The stir as my husband leaves for work
    Tosses and turns in the bed
    Softly patting Daddy’s side
    Quietly asking, “Where is Daddy? He go to work?”
    Closes his eyes
    I hope he’ll fall back asleep
    Can I sneak in more sleep?
    Short-lived
    No longer a hushed voice,
    Pats Daddy’s side with more gusto,
    “Daddy go to work!”
    Standing he bounces up and down
    “I get dressed!”
    “I need my underwear!”
    I trudge down the hall
    Trying to catch up
    Making way to his sister
    Barging in her room
    “Zoe I need a band-aid!”
    Sun pokes through the curtains
    “Zachary get out of my room!”
    Thoughts wander
    A freshly brewed cup of coffee
    A day to sleep in

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      There is truth in this! I love seeing verse related to non-fiction writing. It’s my favorite.I like the dialog…Daddy go to work.

    • Angela Berent
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      I love how you created a poem! Such a familiar morning, but I especially relate to “No longer a hushed voice” and “A day to sleep in”. The short lines walk us through your emotions as you move through your wake-up. Hope it’s gone on to be a good day 🙂

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Such a short piece, and somehow you give us all we need to know. I enjoyed this a lot, Brandy. Some topics don’t require a field trip, right?

      Happy writing!

    • Andy Starowicz
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Well done, Brandy!

      As adults and parents, don’t we all deserve a day to sleep in. I am hopeful each and every weekend morning.:)

      I really enjoyed the poem – especially the flow and rhythm of each line. I loved – “Can I sneak in more sleep?” This is the turning point of the poem. The rest of the lines that follow that line answer the question.

      Thank you for sharing. Happy writing!

  15. Posted July 18, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this prompt! Since I’ve been working on organizing my basement, I’m not outside to absorb the sensory experiences there. But this is what I came up with:

    The stairs creak, so Emma takes off her flipflops, hoping she won’t get a sliver. Slowly, carefully she goes down until her feet are flat on the cool tile. Why didn’t Dad ever get a decent light down here? A shiver creeps down her back. She’d never noticed before how spooky it was, with the shadows from the crates lining the walls and the possibility of hidden spiders. With light ballet steps, she hurries to the other end of the room. The slight shushing of her dress sounds so loud. She hopes it won’t give her away. The door to Dad’s secret work room gleams in the dim light. It takes a firm, almost painful push of her finger to press in the code. There’s a faint click. Did it work? Turning the handle, she leans on the slick metal. But the door doesn’t give an inch.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Sensory experiences can happen outside or in! As you show us here. Thank you for sharing, Andrea!

    • Andy Starowicz
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Good job, Andrea!

      OMG! What is in Dad’s secret room? What is the code? The description and details lead the reader through the story to the suspenseful end. FANTASTIC!

      Thank you for sharing.:)

  16. Diana Murrell
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this great quick write activity! I have been picking raspberries lately, which inspired this.

    The air feels like a warm blanket wrapping itself around my shoulders in the back yard. My eyes squinting from the sun, I walk across the clover and grass watching for wasps as the blades and stems tickle between my toes. The summer weather had encouraged my spindly raspberry canes to thrive, their massive leaves concealing delicious ruby charms beneath. I have spotted the perfect berry from my patio door and it has lured me out into this humid day. My fingers carefully reaching between the stalks, like the tweezers in a game of Operation, I grasp the gem and gently pull it away from its stem like a baby tooth. The berry feels warm against my tongue, the juice sweet. I feel foolishly proud that I have grown this in my garden.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      As a gal who picks a lot of raspberries this time of year, I was pulled in by this. And the detail that really got me was “away from its stem, like a baby tooth.” Plucking does have that same tug and release feeling to it.

      Thanks for sharing, and enjoy those “ruby charms.”

    • Andy Starowicz
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      Great job, Diana!

      Now I want to go berry picking.:) The snippet is descriptive and thorough with good sensory details. “The summer weather had encouraged my spindly raspberry canes to thrive, their massive leaves concealing delicious ruby charms beneath.” – I love this line!

      Happy writing (and berry picking)!

  17. Andy Starowicz
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    THANK YOU, Loree!

    I will be completely honest with you that I started to get a little sweaty and nervous while reading your post. I am very allergic to bee stings, so your descriptive details and pictures made me a bit lightheaded. Isn’t that what good writing is supposed to do? You nailed it!:) Thank you so much for the post and activity. I had a great morning at work (track and field camp) and could not wait to write about it, so I did.

    Snippet:
    Thump, thump, thump, thump. Sixteen feet pound the rubberized surface while the early morning mist burns off the track. The blistering July sun is just ascending over the distant tree line that blocks the backside of the stadium. Four hundred meters of speed, exhilaration, and breathtaking beauty as the runners each have their own unique style, but the similar l-shaped arm movement, head and chest up, and long stride create a rhythm that could be put to music.

    Go Ryan! Go Samantha! Go Teddy! Go Allie! The voices echo off of the rows of stadium seating on the close side of the track and disrupt the soft melody of feet as they beat to the finish line. Each and every runner lunges to the line at full speed before slowing to a walk while gasping for a clean and steady breath. Inhale. Exhale. As they make their way to the infield, the sweat is rolling from their forehead and many are taking long gulps of water.

    As they circle, coach asks, “Reflect. What would you do differently if you had the chance to run the four-hundred meter race again?”
    “I wouldn’t run cheetah so early,” says Tyler. The group had just learned about pacing by using the paces of different animals (“cheetah” being a sprint).
    “I would have started out slower,” declares Allie.
    “Coach, I know that you told us not to look back, but I couldn’t resist,” says Benji.
    “I was running at a donkey pace when I should have been running like a horse.”
    “I should have sprinted through the finish.”
    “I was just happy to make it to the finish line.”
    Laughter. Silence.
    “Can we do it again tomorrow?”
    Coach smiles.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      “I wouldn’t run cheetah so early.” As a researcher in the field, this is the snippet of dialog that would have struck me, too. It’s perfection. Just unusual enough to feel fresh, but not so much that you don’t get exactly what Tyler meant. Bravo! And thank you for sharing.

    • Diana Murrell
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      I like the line ” a rhythm that could be put to music.” That is really beautiful! You have described the practice so clearly and it is obvious in your writing how much you like being there which makes it a pleasure to read.

  18. Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I put on my suit and head for the beach a quick walk from my cottage. The iguana’s are playing tag through the drying sea grape leaves that litter the ground. Their crackle and pop make me stop to watch. I journey on across the walkway feeling the warmth of the boards under my bare feet. I step off into soft sand that buries my feet to my ankles. The walking gets easier as I get closer to the water. The soft sand turns to a mixture of sand and shells. I spread my towel onto the glittery sand close to the water. I sit for a while to take it all in. The boombox down the beach belches out bass tone tunes while children jump and scream running from the incoming waves. The water is green today. The warm rains this morning and the clouds have filtered the sun. Jade green turns into a washed out green as it nears the beach and is topped with a frothy white foam. I watch the father and daughter combing the beach for sharks teeth. As she drops to all fours I can hear the sand crunching, much like the sound of walking on spilled salt. The waves beckon me. Their coolness wraps itself around my sun warmed body. The waves massage away any tension I may have had. My brief stay is a fraught with a fight to reach land as the waves are reluctant to release me. I can’t give in to them. I push forward reaching the hot sand and my towel and head back to my cottage where I am now relaxed.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Oh, those ocean greens. They get me every time. There could be a whole book about them! Thank you for sharing your piece, Sandra.

      • Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        That has been the great thing about being at this retreat is seeing the ocean change color throughout the day.

    • Jennifer Hernandez
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      The boombox belches out bass tones — love this!!

  19. Angela Berent
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Rumbling along in our clankety old Jeep, trees encircle the dirt road. Like gnarled witches’ knuckles, branches lurch over the dusty path. Vines slither up the sides of trunks, begging to reach the sky. Lush summer leaves sway as the breeze shushes through them.

    The rare rock spits up at our underside and we jump at the clang beneath our feet. Gravel and rock grind as we crunch toward home. At the rise in the road, our glittering lake comes into view.

    In the back seat with the simmering sun on his cheeks, Max sighs, “This is the kind of day where you take your shirt off, it’s so nice.”

    Little-boy happiness, I think to myself. Pure and simple.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      One of my favorite kinds of happiness. Thank you for sharing your words, Angela!

    • Jennifer Hernandez
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Gnarled witches’ knuckles, slithering vines, rocks that spit — great imagery!!

  20. Barb Jaindl
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Pamela and I were on the same wavelength with bikes. I’m trying to work with a couple characters who I hadn’t written about in years. Curious to see where it goes. My MC, Kara, is a teen who is training in hopes of being an Olympian cyclist. Since my high school days, I’ve frequented the velodrome near where I live. In the summers, world class athletes converge and hit our hilly roads for miles around the track, so I’ve always been intrigued. Come from a family of athletes for a number of sports including a brother who went thru the developmental program, but now I need to go talk to some riders. The equipment is totally different than 30 years ago – except still 2 wheels and no brakes on the oval!
    Mudslide was curled up against the back porch door. No doubt so that he wouldn’t miss an opportunity to head outside. His name still fit, she mused, even though his greying black fur now blended into his all white beard that made him look more like a Merle than a Tri. He never would have made an Aussie show dog cut now. Thinking about the past never worked out well.

    Even on the porch with the screened windows, she could smell that he was overdue for a bath. The aftermath of their walk along the muddy riverbank two days ago clung to his fur. The smell definitely wasn’t off her new cycling shoes that had dried from getting caught 6 miles from home during the beginning of the storm.

    Though Mudslide lifted his head and turned it slightly to give her a quizzical look, he half lowered it again in hopes of longer slumber.Kara sighed with relief that it was probably a good thing that the vet had shared at last week’s visit that a couple short walks around the block would be better for Mudslide’s arthritis than the longer one she used to fit in before her morning mileage was increased.

    As she leaned over to scoop up her cycling shoes, Kara stubbed her toe, grazing the uneven hardwood floor, that broke just enough skin with a wooden sliver to bleed slightly. Not wanting to waste time with tweezers, she sat Buddha style and yanked it out with her thumb and index finger..Thinking it would look like an uncooked chicken finger by tonight’s double session rides, she quickly grabbed a Q-tip out of her bike’ toolbag and dabbed it with bactine.

    Kara sucked in her cheeks and puckered her mouth enough that she felt her tongue touch the back of her upper teeth and the roof of her mouth. Now she could taste just the hint of blood as she curled her tongue against her top palette again to feel the growing smartness of losing a thin strip of skin on her tongue that hurt as badly as a paper cut.

    Why is my perfect balance only on my bike? Kara thought and she grimaced as she pulled her bike over to the light streaming through the window. At least now she couldn’t smell the blood or bactine as pumped both tires and grease the chain. Even though RAy. poked fun at her, she still preferred the smell of the cleaning fluid dad had always used in the shop to the fake orange smell that was always prominently displayed now on the counter of the bike shops. It was a more potent smell than the fake orange taste of af the creamsickle flavor of the Gelati Hut’s summer special, just down the road from the velodrome.
    ***
    Mudslide was curled up against the back porch door. No doubt so that he wouldn’t miss an opportunity to head outside. His name still fit, she mused, even though his greying black fur now blended into his all white beard that made him look more like a Merle than a Tri. He never would have made an Aussie show dog cut now. Thinking about the past never worked out well.

    Even on the porch with the screened windows, she could smell that he was overdue for a bath. The aftermath of their walk along the muddy riverbank two days ago clung to his fur. The smell definitely wasn’t off her new cycling shoes that had dried from getting caught 6 miles from home during the beginning of the storm.

    Though Mudslide lifted his head and turned it slightly to give her a quizzical look, he half lowered it again in hopes of longer slumber.Kara sighed with relief that it was probably a good thing that the vet had shared at last week’s visit that a couple short walks around the block would be better for Mudslide’s arthritis than the longer one she used to fit in before her morning mileage was increased.

    As she leaned over to scoop up her cycling shoes, Kara stubbed her toe, grazing the uneven hardwood floor, that broke just enough skin with a wooden sliver to bleed slightly. Not wanting to waste time with tweezers, she sat Buddha style and yanked it out with her thumb and index finger..Thinking it would look like an uncooked chicken finger by tonight’s double session rides, she quickly grabbed a Q-tip out of her bike’ toolbag and dabbed it with bactine.

    Kara sucked in her cheeks and puckered her mouth enough that she felt her tongue touch the back of her upper teeth and the roof of her mouth. Now she could taste just the hint of blood as she curled her tongue against her top palette again to feel the growing smartness of losing a thin strip of skin on her tongue that hurt as badly as a paper cut.

    Why is my perfect balance only on my bike? Kara thought and she grimaced as she pulled her bike over to the light streaming through the window. At least now she couldn’t smell the blood or bactine as pumped both tires and grease the chain. Even though Ray poked fun at her, she still preferred the smell of the cleaning fluid dad had always used in the shop to the fake orange smell that was always prominently displayed now on the counter of the bike shops. It was a more potent smell than the fake orange taste of af the creamsickle flavor of the Gelati Hut’s summer special, just down the road from the velodrome.

    • Barb Jaindl
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      Sorry about the double sharing because of my inept copy and paste attempts!

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      This is great, Barb, and I like your idea of going back and interviewing some riders. Maybe they’d let you ride around that oval?!

      • Barb Jaindl
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        Other parts of my story describe the steep bank of the velodrome, so I’ll pass on that ride, but it’s definitely part of the intrigue — and wanting others who have never been to experience it thru my words. Plan to find some interviewees this week when I get out to the walking/running/riding path through the woods adjacent to the velodrome, donated land thanks to the family that started Rodale Publishing.
        Also wanted to share that Tracking Trash was one of the titles I highlighted for a Summer academy session about inquiry & multiple literacies I facilitated for other teachers earlier this month! Also have read aloud Handle With Care to all my grade 3-5 classes not only when it was a Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice nominee but before our butterfly release this year. Your detailed combo of photos/text pulls them in every time.

  21. Jennifer Hernandez
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Loree!! Going outside and paying attention is ALWAYS on my list of favorite writing prompts. Here’s what I came up with today:

    Helena stepped through the front door and paused at the top of the steps. The warm, humid air enveloped her immediately, like a too-heavy blanket. Oppressive. She could already feel her scalp prickling under the mask, the droplets of sweat forming along her forehead, the bridge of her nose, the saltiness pooling above her upper lip.

    She glanced down at the two glass pint jars filled with creamy milk, sitting just where they should be at the base of the steps next to the planter of red geraniums. The flowers wouldn’t need to be watered. Puddles from last night’s rainstorm showed in the low spots of the walkway. More rain expected today.

    The clouds directly above her were a wall of gray, darker at the top and lighter toward the bottom, a watercolor effect. But off toward the east, they were dove gray and fluffed as feathers. Bright, peach morning light shone out from behind the clouds, near the horizon.

    “Lena! Want my milky!” her sister’s voice called from inside the house.

    “Coming!” Helena scratched her head, rubbing the material of the mask under her fingers, and trotted down the stairs to retrieve the milk.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      The color details in those clouds is so compelling. I could see it! And of course I want to know more about that mask. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!

  22. Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    We have a side yard that my husband and I are working on. When building a stone wall and a staircase to our front door my husband dumped a bunch of gravel and rocks on that side yard. As a result, grass is not plentiful on the side yard. My husband spread weed killer on the yard. Lots of the weeds/grass died, but not all. I have been using a hoe to hack/dig up the weeds and the grass. I am covered in dirt and it takes a lot to get the dirt out from underneath my fingernails. I take clumps of grass, loosen the dirt and throw them in an orange Home Depot bucket to be deposited in the woods. It is a bit monotonous, but it has to get done. It’s a good workout. I need plenty of water while I am doing this work because I am sweating. There are two hawks in the neighborhood that entertain me “musically” with their screeching. I am mesmerized by hawks. A hawks screech is high pitched and sounds a bit like it is wailing. I look up to see them circling our yard. Often I will hear a group of crows making noise and I look up to see them chasing the hawks away. Sometimes they will land in a tree in our yard and I stop what I am doing and just observe them.

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      I’m mesmerized by wailing hawks too, Margaret. Thanks for sharing this peek into your day. Keep writing!

  23. Lacy Greco
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Sensory detail is something that I spend so much time working on with my students. I teach 4th grade and it is very difficult for them to “show” not “tell”. I always tell them, “Make your reader feel like they are there with you.” This is quite difficult for a 9 year old, but they grow so much through the year in this skill. They look back at writing from the beginning of the year and will say, “Whoa, I need to color this up!”

    As I pull into the parking lot, my sense of dread heightens. Why must the grocery store seem like such a daunting task? I step out of my truck and grab a sizzling shopping cart from the cart area. I always park next to a cart area, so when I leave I can just dump the cart and run. I enter the store with my prepared list, determined to not sway from the things I need. I have the same routine and the same plan each time I enter. Left to right. Cold stuff, meat, produce, deli, breads, condiments, frozen items, toiletries, pet supplies. It’s as though I’ve been there a million times, which might more accurately be a million and a half. The conversations from each section offer up something a bit different. “Dad, we will never eat all of that.” Referring to the massive pack of ribs to feed an army. “Mommmmyyyyy, I want these!” Referring to the fresh, ripe, bright yellow bananas on the shelf. “I’ll have a pound of peppercorn turkey in a 2. Let me see it first.” A bit of distrust in his voice when wanting to see the thickness of the slices before committing to his purchase. “Some people are just like that, Sharon.” The cereal aisle always seems to be a place of chaos and gossip. Why is that? Must be the sugar toxins flying through the air.
    I finally make it to the promise land: the check out lane. Thank goodness this is HEB, and not Walmart. Always plenty of open aisles to choose from. Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. Ah, the sweet sound of moving lines and the promise that I will soon leave this place.
    Rustling paper bags. Packed cart. Mile long receipt. A broken-record thank you from the tired teen at the register and I am on my way.
    As I exit the sliding doors, I feel a sense of accomplishment. You did it, Lacy. You owned that shopping trip.

    • Diana Murrell
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      I like the “broken record thank you!” I have heard that many times. I could really connect with the feelings you had for shopping. It was a great example of show don’t tell.

      • Lacy Greco
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        Glad I’m not alone!! Thank you!

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      You owned the day’s writing assignment, too! Great job. Thank you for sharing it here.

      • Lacy Greco
        Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        Wow! Thank you for the compliment! Means so much coming from an author since I’m just an elementary school teacher! Yay!

        • Posted July 19, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

          Having cheered three kids-worth of formal elementary education, and spent a lot of time doing K-8 classroom enrichment, I know FOR A FACT there is no such thing as “just an elementary school teacher.” 🙂

  24. Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Loree, for your time! I loved reading your post. It made me want to go out and research something! I look forward to future conversations with my daughter as she becomes an expert in a fascinating field. Read below.

    My daughter is studying to become a sommelier. “Sommelier” is simply a fancy word for “wine steward,” or, as my daughter explains it in terms even I can understand, a “wine nerd.” She truly loves spending hours studying grape varieties, growing regions, and wine-making. I truly love that she gives me great wine recommendations. Occasionally, though, I will venture out and grab a sale bottle of wine from the grocery store and hope for the best, which is exactly how I found my favorite red: Apothic Crush.

    This luscious red blend has a rich, dark, red cherry color, and a deliciously fruity and floral aroma. The initial taste is smooth, slightly dry, and reminiscent of summer red cherries on the verge of peak sweetness. The lingering flavor is warm, with a velvety hint-of-caramel finish. My favorite go-to red, a bottle of Apothic Crush is always close at hand.

    (Note: Sadly, this writer is not receiving endorsements or kickbacks from the vintner.)

    • Diana Murrell
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      Wow! You did an amazing job describing that wine! Kickbacks are definitely deserved!

    • Posted July 18, 2017 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      There have been so many great descriptions of color today: greens and grays and now reds. Each evocative in their own way. Thanks for this deep dive (ha) into your go-to wine. (Which, for the record, I’ve made a note of.) Happy writing, Gail, and thanks for sharing today.

  25. Jen Howe
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    The house is shutting down. The Wiggles whisper through Chelsea’s door, while Justin Bieber hums through Katie’s. A coin or two cling in the dryers as the clothes circle. Shadows creep in the hall. An army diperses as lights switch off in most rooms. Purrless, the cat, a shadow himself, settles at the food of the bed. The two ceiling fans whir a bit out of sync. My fingers tap dance across the keyboard, while my feet push the pedals forward. Dare I check the time or the number of steps? No rest til at least 10,000. Although doesn’t the house seem to be telling me it’s time to quit?

    • Posted July 19, 2017 at 5:21 am | Permalink

      Love the description of sounds in those first sentences. Reminds me of the days when all of my babies were home. Not quite as “noisy” these days with only one kiddo left. Hope you got those steps in!

    • Posted July 19, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      The house is shutting down. Mom is not! Thanks for sharing this, Jen. I hope you got all your steps in!

  26. Nicole
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed reading this post, Loree! The Hive Detectives really intrigues me (even though I’m allergic to bee stings!); I just added it to my Amazon cart. Jumping in here late tonight, so no field trip for me other than to my couch. Here is a paragraph describing the sound I hear – that of my cats’ water fountain.

    The cool water has a lovely sound. It trickles freely and gently into the white porcelain bowl. A steady stream of refreshment, it plops on itself creating magnificent swirls until they come together as one. Crisp. Clean. Calming. Meanwhile, a sweet jingling of a tiny bell fills the air. It gets closer and closer and causes me to break into a smile. She prances across the room and leaps into the air landing on the pillow next to me. Her name is Anna, and she is quite the mischievous little thing. Just two years old but still so full of kitten curiosity. She drops a toy into the crook of my elbow and skitters across the room waiting to catch it. I toss the plastic grasshopper her way only to see that she ignores it and chases the sound of the water instead.

    • Posted July 19, 2017 at 5:25 am | Permalink

      Your description of the water fountain brings visions to mind of something much grander. That must be some water bowl! 🙂

    • Posted July 19, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      There’s a lot of happiness in this short scene, a lot of serenity. Thanks for sharing, Nicole. And thanks for checking out The Hive Detectives!

  27. Stephanie Stefun
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    I read this post, and all through my bike ride today i was describing to my husband how i would write it. Here’s my snippet from the tail end of my bike ride today:
    “Yes, half a mile left,” I call to my husband behind me. I am so ready for this ride to be over. I raise my self slightly on my right peddle, giving my sore, almost tingling rear a break. Oh, not much of one as there’s another hill. “Come on, you can do it,” I tell myself, giving myself a pep talk as my legs struggle to climb the hill. I turn the knob on my great shift. ‘Click’ The gears shift, giving my legs a slight reprieve that final hill, then it’s smooth sailing on flat land the rest of the way. Finally we make it back to the car. “Oh,” I groan as I slowly slide of my seat, my feet touching the pavement. Boy can I feel those 29 miles we just biked.

    • Posted July 19, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Your readers get a feel for them, too, especially in this sentence: “I raise my self slightly on my right peddle, giving my sore, almost tingling rear a break.” You show us your movement, which gives us a sense of your discomfort, and all before you tell us exactly how uncomfortable you are. Thanks for sharing, Stephanie!

  28. Carol Owen
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Oops! Posted this on the wrong day- i posted it last noght but put it on Monday instead of Tursday. I wondered why it didn’t seem to fit.
    My entire day was spent at the hospital while my husband went through his radiation and chemo treatments, but we had time between appointments, so we waited outside the cancer center, a time I was able to try out this prompt. I found myself really focusing my senses on exactly what was going on around, sometimes closing my eyes so that what I saw wouldn’t overtake the other senses. So here’s what I’ve got.

    Without a push, the doors open and close to the outdoors as patients as varied as the nations head to and from the offices where they will be poked, prodded, stuck and hooked to plastic bottles of chemicals so powerful that nurses panic when a bit drips from the IV onto the patient. Some will be told encouraging news, others will hear words of “I’m sorry,” “metastasis”, “growth”, “no response to the treatment, ” “let’s try five more weeks of treatment”. Some walk with steady, smooth strides, while others meander with uncertainty, looking for information about where in the world they are to go in this monstrous maze, and who can give them the answers they want to hear.

    “Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick tock” passing “tock, tock, tock. Why do they call those thonged sandals flip flops, when the sound really resembles a clock? “Click drag, click drag, click drag”….”clonk, clonk, clonk, clonk. The first a woman on crutches, the second in high heels with purpose in her walk – driven forward in a hurry to her destination. “Shuffle, swish, rumble” as a patient, hooked to his IV pole heads out for a breath of fresh air, longing to reach for those cigarettes in his pocket, but seeing the signs announcing that the entire “campus,” is smoke free. “Kching, kching, Kching” a man with too much change and keys in his pocket passes enters acting confident, but he won’t win an Academy Award for his performance.

    A group of three head towards the entrance to the cancer center, only to be cut in front of by a woman dressed for the office, cell phone in hand, impatient to get this nuisance that has rudely entered her life over with as quickly as possible, The exasperation and glares on the faces of the three bore laser holes in the woman’s Armani suit, as they whisper angry epitaphs, which the business woman ignores, too busy giving orders to someone on the other end of her cell phone and glaring at the receptionists to hurry it up.

    Down the hall waft smells of lunch being cooked – some mysterious gravy typical of many cafeterias, bland tomato soup, empanadas (seriously, that’s what they had) but there’s a hidden smell that overcomes many in this place. It is the smell of a trapped animal, an abused child, refugees from war torn countries. It’s the foreboding smell of fear.
    *****************************************************************************************************************

    I should have told you that in my WIP the main character is a teen who accompanies her elderly dad to his cancer treatment (drawing from personal experience). As I’ve been doing this for the past 4 weeks, I’ve been writing down a lot of what I see and hear, and questioning the nurses and doctors, but mostly just observing. Just today one of the nurses did have a dripping IV, and the sense of urgency in her voice made me realize – these are powerful drugs.

    • Posted July 19, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      This is powerful, Carol. The details you collected are going to serve your fiction well, that is for sure. That trick of closing your eyes so you can focus on sounds is one I use often, especially out in the field when trying to identify a bird song or a frog call. It really works.

      Sending good writing vibes, and also good health vibes for you and your husband … and for the business woman in the Armani suit, too. xx

  29. Kim Oldenburgh
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I am just getting caught up after having my granddaughter for 2 glorious days in a row! This post made me smile-for my “expert” on Monday, I talked with my neighbor about bees! I was going to do some writing about bees after talking with her, but feel a little intimidated now with all of your expertise in the area! I don’t have WIP, so I focused my summer writing goal on “Journeys” and am trying to fit my daily writings into that theme. I think I can easily do that with bees, but I might instead write about taking my granddaughter biking through mud puddles.

    • Posted July 19, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Don’t feel intimidated. There is always someone out there who knows more; its as true for me as for you. (I spoke at a library last night, and in the audience was a lifelong beekeeper who corrected me several times during my presentation!)

      I love your summer writing theme, and the flexibility it will allow you with all these prompts. Good luck. And three cheers for granddaughters and mud puddles!

  30. Kim
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    First off. Thank you for Monday. I interviewed my 85 year-old grandmother for a little bit and got three pages of notes. She explained the first date with my grandpa, and I told her what a rainbow baby is. My uncle is one!!
    As for Tuesday, here it goes.
    I sit at my favorite summer spot: my table on my backyard deck. It’s midday so the umbrella is up casting shade and providing some relief from the heat. The air is heavy with heat today. The breeze is light. Not enough to jostle my papers as I write, but light enough that the perspiration on neck brings slight cooling relief when the breeze hits it. I feel under my feet the hardness, yet softness of the wood deck. The stain has textured it and the wood is currently cool under the table where my feet rest (heels up,balls of feet on ground). Step out from the under the umbrella and I’m “hot-footing” it to the door. The breeze picks up slightly, randomly gathering a page here or there of my notebook, yet my obnoxious curly hair can’t be moved. The oppression of the heat has it glued to my head with only tiny tendrils moving in the breeze.

    • Posted July 19, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      That interview with your grandmother is priceless. right? I’m so glad you did it.

      Also, “hot-footing it” made me smile! Thanks for sharing your piece here.

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