Teachers Write 7/14/14 – Mini-Lesson Monday

Good morning! Before we kick off Week 2, I just want to tell you that you all kind of blew me away last week. Your willingness to write and share and support one another was just awesome. It’s amazing & so exciting to see this writing community taking shape.

Want to start with a Monday Morning Warm-Up today? Check out Jo’s blog to get your fingers moving.

And guest author Donna Gephart joins us for today’s Mini-Lesson Monday. Donna is the author of Death by Toilet Paper and other humorous novels for middle grade readers.

Part of writing is getting motivated, so today’s mini-lesson from Donna is a bit of a pep talk!

YOU CAN WRITE!

Those words were spoken by Brother Tom Price, an English professor at the University of Dayton, to Erma Bombeck. Price was Bombeck’s English teacher and ran the school’s magazine and he was impressed by her writing. Those three words – “YOU CAN WRITE” — represented permission for Bombeck to allow herself to pursue the passion that was inside her all along. What followed, as you know, was a wildly successful humor writing career.

 youcanwriteAt the start of summer, I purchased a “YOU CAN WRITE” mug from humorwriters.org for me and a few writing buddies.

Why do we need permission to write? Do we feel writing is a waste of time? Frivolous? Should we be doing something more important, like laundry, taxes or mowing the lawn?  At the end of Bombeck’s life, did she wish she had folded more laundry, grappled with more tax forms or edged a few more lawns?

Of course not! And we shouldn’t either. Life’s too short to repress our creative energy in favor of more “practical” activities. We should do what makes us feel fully alive.

The only person who can give permission for you to write with wild abandon is YOU. The biggest roadblocks to our writing successes usually come from within ourselves.

So, today, give yourself permission to write.

Your Assisgnment:

First, list every writing project you’d like to explore, as though you have unlimited time and energy.

 Always itched to create a picture book about hens who got chicken pox? A memoir about your years as a sky-diving, ninja-fighting postal worker? An alliterative poem about perplexed people who picked pickled peppers? A middle grade novel about death by toilet paper. (Wait a minute; that idea’s already been taken.)

Once you have your list, find the project that scares the heck out of you, the one thing you think you shouldn’t write. Or the project that makes your heart beat a little faster and your cheeks flush with excitement. WRITE THAT!

Kick fear out of your way.

Now, put your list aside and write the dedication of your next book or project. That’s right. The dedication. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t written a single word of this book or project yet. For whom are you writing? Remember, your writing is a gift. Who do you love enough to give the gift of your words to?

My fourth book – Death by Toilet Paper — was kicking my tail feathers. I kept starting and stopping, lost in a tangle of ideas and words until I came up with the dedication. I’d gift this book to my sister, Ellen, whose persistence with contests and with life inspired my book. As soon as I came up with the dedication, the words flowed. And I ultimately did give the finished novel – Death by Toilet Paper — to my sister, Ellen, as a birthday gift.

Note from Kate: What’s on your list of projects? Which one scares you? Which one makes your heart beat faster? And to whom will your favorite project be dedicated?  If you’d like to share some ideas in the comments, feel free!

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121 Comments

  1. Posted July 14, 2014 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    I’m working on my fifth middle grade novel (the others are still unpublished) but this one is both the easiest and hardest to write because I’m digging into some of my own childhood fears and emotions to develop my main character.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Andrea, you are in good company. Jerry Spinelli wrote half a dozen unpublished novels before he sold his first one. And I wrote, revised and sent out five or six novels (that now sit in a filing cabinet) before AS IF BEING 12-3/4 ISN’T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT finally sold to Random House. Keep writing . . . and dreaming!

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Those projects that scare us, Andrea…they tend to have the most Truth, I think. I’m cheering for you on this one!

  2. Terry Turner
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    This past spring, I gave my kids a questionnaire that is more about where they are at this point in their childhoods than anything else. The idea being that you ask them the same questions each year and you can see their development and personality change and stay the same through their answers.

    One question was, “If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?” And both my children answered ‘for writing a good book’.

    I think that was the last push I needed to finally stop getting in my own way and really take my writing seriously. If they believe in me, I should give them good reason.

    So my WIP is dedicated to them. I doubt it would exist without them.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Terry, that’s beautiful. I can’t think of a better reason to write your heart out. You might enjoy THE WRITER’S BOOK OF HOPE: GETTING FROM FRUSTRATION TO PUBLICATION by Ralph Keyes. It’s a gem and helps us remove our own mental roadblocks.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      I love this. When I was writing Marty McGuire, my daughter was six, and every morning she’d wake up and say, “Do you have a new chapter for me?” Such a great motivator!

      • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        We went camping this weekend, so I made up stories for the kids in the tent. My husband kept interrupting, and my son would say, “Keep reading!” Our kids can be our biggest fans and motivators.

      • Posted July 15, 2014 at 12:26 am | Permalink

        Kate, what a great motivator to have a daughter who yearns for next writing! Donna, I enjoyed your piece and the advice was priceless. Off to dedicate something new.

  3. Posted July 14, 2014 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Now this is a challenge for me. I tend to gravitate towards what is safe. I wrote my list early this morning and immediately chose the most safest idea on my list. I’m going to take a big breath now and take a huge leap of faith into the scary unknown…

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Hope, I’m so glad to hear that. We all need a sticky note above our computers that reads: BE BRAVE.

  4. Kerri Schegan
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    My current WIP would be dedicated to the Kutztown Fire Company truck crew members. The “family” they have built here continues to amaze me and make me feel like I’ve lived here all of my life.

    The piece that makes my heart beat faster is an adult novel. I’ve never written a word of it, but have thought about it a lot. It explores some controversial themes and adult topics, and as an elementary school teacher, it scares the bejibbers out of me to think about ever writing it down in a format that other people could read..fear of consequences I guess? LOL

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      It’s always a good idea to write the thing that won’t let us go, that we keep thinking about.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Kerry, maybe this summer would be a good time to put down some words on that wonderful, scary project. You could approach all of our TW exercises through that lens, and then decide later on if it’s something you want to share.

    • Jen Battles
      Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      I feel exactly the same way about the story that I can’t seem to put down on paper. I feel empowered to give it a go….this morning, anyway!

    • Jessica Loupos
      Posted July 14, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Kerri, I have the same feelings about a scary YA project that keeps nagging at me! Worried what the parents would think! I spent the past year on a safe, \”funny\” MG that I got bored with and subsequently stuck in the middle. I\’m going to take Kate\’s suggestion and explore it more this summer. Maybe it will morph into something completely different! Be brave everyone!

  5. Posted July 14, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    This is actually an easy for me. It will be dedicated to my parents. The story is all about the hobby farm they built and we lived on for my first nine years. I sometimes still dream about it. The characters are my family & the chicken is my pet chicken. My childhood alien/UFO obsession is helping add interest. I love remembering little details of things we did to add in that I know they will remember, like where mom hid the tooth fairy teeth and my brother scaring the cows while I was patting them.. The hard part is remembering I’m creating a story & have to change things to keep the flow and tension. I’m hoping to have a good revision and full story before Christmas, but it just keeps getting longer as I add more scenes to add depth.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Stefanie, it must be wonderful to revisit that time of your childhood. Sounds like such fun memories. Sometimes, for the sake of story, we need to let go of some of the real things that inspired it. But I wouldn’t worry about that right now. Just write with wild abandon. Turn off your internal critic until it’s revision time.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Stefanie – I’m doing the same thing! I’m trying to write a novel based on my real life, and I had chickens, too. It’s definitely hard to remember some of the real things, and how to add conflict. I love the UFO obsession. 😉 Donna’s advice is right on, I think – “we need to let go of some of the real things that inspired it” for the sake of story. Good luck! I look forward to reading your WIP.

  6. Posted July 14, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I think the one that scares me the most is the one I’ve spent three years researching. It means I actually have to take the research and turn it into something that fulfills the historical aspect yet has enough fiction to it to entice middle school and high school students to read it.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      It’s scary sometimes to let go of the research and bravely put words on the page, but it’s also exhilarating. You can do it. Don’t worry about your audience for now. When you write your first draft, aim to engage an audience of one – yourself. Let the reader into your consideration when revising. Good luck with this project.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Sandra, as someone who often gets wrapped up in my research, I can relate to this – the way research sometimes becomes the comfortable thing that keeps us from the scary work of opening that blank document and writing the beginning. Have you ever looked at Scrivener writing software? It’s not expensive, but I think it’s terrific – great for organizing research into the chapters/scenes in which you’ll use it.

  7. Brian Rozinsky
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Nifty constraints for getting ideas flowing, Donna; thanks for sharing them. Your mini-lesson led me to a handful of writing ideas and two dedications – one more serious, one less so:

    To Caryn, my captain

    To Tylenol and Earl Gray. (While my first migraine may not share the sentiment, I remain obliged to acetaminophen and caffeine.)

    Now I just need measures of diligence and perseverance to follow through on today’s reminder: I can write!

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      Brian, I loved both of your dedications. As a migraine sufferer, I appreciate the second especially. And there’s nothing like constraint, sometimes, to spark creativity. My writing students often produced the most creative work when I provided the most restrictive assignments. And yes, YOU CAN DEFINITELY WRITE!

  8. Theresa Wood
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    A few years ago I was terribly passionate about writing a fictionalized account of a real person’s life…then got cold feet wondering how much license I would have to do so. Your assignment has given me the courage to begin again. Write it first–worry about those bothersome details later.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Theresa,

      Most of the characters in my books start as real people, but by the time I’m done writing, you’d never recognize them. So just write and see what happens.

  9. Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    What a coincidence that just yesterday I was chatting with Holly Mueller on Twitter and I threw out a title I’ve been thinking about. It’s a professional title. The writing that scares me the most is writing about my own teaching because who am I to say what is best practice. But Holly responded “you should write it.” So my dedication today is for Holly’s few words letting me know that I am an expert. Thanks, Holly.

    PS: Has anyone noticed you can pull out the comment box to view your whole comment? Makes it much easier to proofread.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Margaret,

      Your comment reminded me of this very important quote that I share often:

      “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

      ― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

      • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        This is one of my favorite quotes, Donna. “Your playing small does not serve the world.”

      • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        Donna – Wow! I’m going to file that one away for myself. 😉

      • Tammy Petty Conrad
        Posted July 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        Amen! And as we let our light shine we give others permission to shine. What a deal!

      • Posted July 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        Those are powerful words. I’m sticking this in my Evernote file for quotes I want to remember.

      • Rita DiCarne
        Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        I love the first two lines. I remember where I was when I first heard them. Sometimes I believe we are afraid to let go.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      My husband has been telling me for years I need to write a professional book because I talk about these things so much. Like you I’ve always felt like I don’t have all the answers. I hope you reach for that.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      I love Holly’s advice – definitely write it! Also know that with most professional books, what you’ll need to submit to a publisher is not the entire book at first, but a proposal. Just as an example, I work with Stenhouse on my educational books, and here’s a link to what they request, along with a sample letter & proposal. Great stuff to look at for anyone thinking about working on a book for educators/librarians. http://www.stenhouse.com/html/submitproposal.htm

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Aw, Margaret, thanks!! I definitely know you can write it!!! BTW, I’m reading How To Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, and he talks about the “imposter syndrome” on p. 27. The definition is a “psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” He goes on to say, “It means you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing.” Ha! Sound familiar? It sure does to me. 😉 In his other book, Show Your Work, he talks about how we’re all amateurs because we really don’t have enough time on Earth to be anything else. I love that. If we waited until we felt like an expert, we wouldn’t do anything. So, WRITE! 🙂 I’m cheering you on from one amateur to another! 😉

      • Tammy Petty Conrad
        Posted July 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        Love that we’re all amateurs! Great info from the book.

      • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

        Holly, I’ll be getting that book. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      Margaret, WRITE IT!!! We are cheering you on!
      Holly, Great advice!! I love the idea of us all being amateurs. Hmmm…brilliant!

      I love the support here! 🙂

  10. Dan Rogers
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I do not have any WIPs. Heck I don’t even have any thoughts or ideas running around in my head that I what to write about. But, IF I did, the dedication would be to a former student.

    To Jessica G., your dedication and perseverance have truly inspired me.

    • Dan Rogers
      Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      “want” not “what”

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Dan, that was lovely!

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      I love the dedication. You could even write about Jessica – how she inspired you. I’d love to know, and surely she would too (even if she never reads it).

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      What a tribute….if kids only knew the impact they can have on US!

  11. Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Do I really have to choose the scariest? Well ok, how fun that it happens to also be the one that makes my pulse race! I want to write a historical fiction set in Wisconsin covering several time periods. It would be the stories of several women as ghosts that haunt barns. Barn ghosts telling the history of themselves and the barn. I know crazy. So in the theme of “crazy” my dedication goes to the man that lives that crazy with me everyday.

    “To my husband, who has supported my crazy ideas and passions over the years, and has matched every one with a crazy passion of his own. Tom, may the crazy keep us young!”

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Janet, now you have to write that book . . . because I’d love to see that terrific dedication in print. Here’s to crazy ideas!

    • Dan Rogers
      Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Janet, beautiful dedication and the story idea has me interested. I’d love to read that book.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Sign me up to buy a copy! Sounds eery-cool-iscous!

    • Andy Starowicz
      Posted July 14, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Hi Janet,

      Great post! I love your ideas. They remind me of the wonderful stories that I have read by Richard Peck (about ghosts and the midwest). Write that book, and I will buy it. In fact, I will read it aloud to my students (they love historical fiction). Keep on writing!

  12. Jen Battles
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Like, Kerri wrote, I also have an idea for an adult novel that has been floating around in my mind for several years now, but some of the themes are going to be difficult and I just don’t know if I have it in me.

    My book would be dedicated to my husband and daughters who seem to believe I can write well even though they’ve not read very much of my work and to everyone who has ever given me a pretty notebook or journal to “write your book in.” Sweet little exercise this morning…I love my people.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Jen, Maybe instead of writing the novel, just write a section. See how that goes, and where it takes you. It reminds me of what Lynda Mullaly Hunt shared about her writing process last week. Just an idea to try. Best wishes! I look forward to seeing whatever you choose to write. You can’t make a wrong decision!

  13. Michele Drivas
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    If I am truly conquering my biggest fear in writing, it would be to write about my experiences with panic attacks. I have dealt with them for quite a while. I am just now conquering them head on, and in the process, learning so much about myself and how strong the human brain plays into our mental and physical health. Admitting to the world what I have been covering up for so long, is probably the toughest thing for me. However, if I can make a difference in at least one person’s life by sharing my internal struggle, then it would be completely worth it!

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      I know many amazing people who have struggled with panic attacks. I was whisked off in an ambulance a few months ago in what doctors thought to be a heart attack, but later was determined to be a panic attack. There is no reason to hold on to shame. I hope you write what is on your heart. I have NO DOUBT it will be a blessing to others, and likely that you will be blessed in the process.

    • Terry Turner
      Posted July 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Michele-
      Everyone feels alone until their experience is shared. I think you actually have an obligation to share your story, for exactly the reason you mention. Not to guilt trip you! 😉 But go for it. I bet it will lift a great weight from you to do so.

  14. Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    This is just the post I needed today. I’ve been wanting to write a professional book and toss ideas away each time I get close to starting something. Last night, I sat down and began a book proposal. It scares me to death…what if I don’t have anything new to say? What if someone else writes it before me? What if someone else can say it better? Ugh!! Reading the mini lesson and all the comments gives me courage.

    I would have to dedicate my book to my husband and kids because they’ve always believed I would write a book.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Nobody else can say it with your voice, your perspective, your experience, or your insights. I try to remember to share my story, even if nobody is listening.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Do you feel comfortable sharing with us a brief description of your proposal? I would love to hear it.

  15. Stephanie Severson
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    All I know is that I want to finish something… I’m great at snippets and scenes — but not so good at the finishing. Does it want to be a short story or a novel? I just want to be able to put those pieces together and finish something.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      I have lots of snippets. Journals full of them, in fact. Some a bit old. You can put them together now, or write more of them and see if/how they fit together later. Or use them to start something else.

      My biggest problem is finishing something before starting something else. That, and wasting time.

    • Jessica Loupos
      Posted July 14, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Stephanie, I hear you loud and clear! I have several WIPs with characters I like with interesting events in their lives, then I get stuck! Maybe our fear is fear if finishing??!!

  16. Melanie Claybar
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I did not get to participate last week so I’m jumping in today. On a recent trip to our local botanical garden, my six-year-old, Annabelle, gave me an idea for a children’s book. This idea has come to me at least once a day, gnawing at me to work with her to develop the story, even if for our own entertainment. Now, I believe, it could be something more and I’m excited and scared about the possibility. So, of course, my dedication would be to Annabelle, the sweetest, smartest, silliest six-year-old I know. My life would be so boring without her and her four-year-old sister, Caroline, and I would not even know it!

  17. Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Conquering fears. Ugh. I avoid those things like the cleaning of toilets. My biggest fear is that someone will say I can only write fiction if I want to be published and…I want to be published. I only want to write stories that I have witnessed. I cannot love my fiction no matter how hard I try. My pulse races at telling my own stories or those I have listened to. So I shall conquer the underlying fear and write my own stories all summer and stay away from the fiction that slows my ideas and keeps me from writing. The dedication of the personal narrative that I want to publish with McSweeney’s will be to my first boyfriend whom I was with from 16 years of age until I reached the ripe old age of 21.

    To my first love, Stace Budzko, from the day we ditched school to talk at the gazebo to the day you sent me Lorre Moore’s How to Become a Writer, you have wanted me to share my stories. Here they are: untouched by human hands.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Hi Kim,
      For my two cents, you should write your passion! I’m much more fascinated by reading and writing non-fiction. I’d love to see the stories that pulse through your veins. As for your dedication, whoa! What a tribute to Stace!
      Lastly, if I’m ever invited to visit, I’ll stop at the McDonald’s restroom first. 😉

    • Andy Starowicz
      Posted July 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Hi, Kimberley!

      Wow! I love this post and it makes me happy to know that we are at it again with Teachers Write. I love the writing tips as much as I like reading the post from friends that I have not connected with since last summer. Keep on writing and write for the love of writing. Your post is the perfect summary of my fear of submitting my middle grade manuscript. I know that I will still love writing after the rejection, but I still fear it.:) Happy writing! It’s good to be back. Andy

  18. Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure I have a list of substantial writing projects. I do have a bunch of ideas in my journal or on my iPad for short pieces, which are likely to become blog posts. I have completed an outline for a second novel (I self-published a MG novel that began as a way of modeling writing for my students). I also have other writing ideas I have kicked around, including:

    biographies on young runners
    biographies on community members
    collection of poems
    a story about a shadow that hunts down and overtakes a young boys mind

    I’m not sure I have thought of one that scares me yet, but I like the idea.

    Dedication? Hmmm…. I dedicated my first book to my wife and my two daughters. I think I would dedicate this one to my mom. She was a teacher, but it wasn’t her passion. She had an immense love, and talent, for the performing arts. She performed on Chicago area stages with partners who went on to careers in Hollywood and Broadway. My mother could sing like an angel, and dance like Ginger Rogers, but her parents directed her into a more practical career. She lived in a day and age when society’s limited thinking pigeon-holed women into careers of nursing, office-administration, or education. With the arts taken from her, the only passion that remained were her five children. We were her passion, and she was ours. Cancer took her when I was 20, but her passion lives in my family, my teaching, my running and my writing.

    • Tammy Petty Conrad
      Posted July 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Your mom sounds like a great woman!

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      To Mom:
      You raised five kids single-handedly. You’re love was unquestionable. You were amazing.

    • Wendy Chaulk
      Posted July 14, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      I enjoyed the heart felt words about your mother. I can feel the love you have for her. Maybe your poems could include some of her?

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      Greg,

      What a beautiful tribute to your mother. She sounds like a remarkable woman. My mom, too, raised us single-handedly while working way too hard and earning way too little (and putting her love of art aside) and was taken way too soon from cancer as well.

      It sounds like your mom would be VERY proud of you.

      Thank you for all your encouraging comments throughout today’s post.

      • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for the kind and tender words. You made my day.

  19. Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I have several ideas of books to write on my list.
    *”The Book of Titles”- a coffee table book filled with great titles that need to be written.
    * story of a tornado that destroyed my grandmother’s farm and what they built with the leftovers.
    *story of a local legend – a homesteader that I portray in living history fashion
    *story of a dog that became a legend at a college
    That is the one that scares me most. And here is why. For years, I have dabbled in writing…”I’ll finish it sometime.” One Christmas, my husband gave me laptop with a picture of a dog on top. The dog had a word bubble that said “Let me out!” My husband was a great encourager for me to write but my own struggle with making it “perfect” immobilized me.
    So obviously – I will have to start the book about the dog. But it still scares me.
    I want it perfect. But my husband will never read it.
    He died 3 1/2 years ago.
    I will dedicate it to him with all my heart.

  20. Andy Starowicz
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    The piece that brings me both fear and excitement, which makes my heart beat really fast, is the middle grade manuscript that I completed last summer. I have let students read it. I have let teachers read it. I have let writing friends read it. I have revised, revised, and revised. What to do next? I have a few people that I can send it to, but I feel nervous about rejection, so I continue to sit on it (not literally, although my little daughter has sat on it, with others, to get a better angle of the dinner table). It’s funny that I can help my students take the next step, but I am struggling. So, I keep writing.

    Here are a few ideas in the popper:
    Penguins that get a snow day (picture book)
    Ice Cream in the Tub (picture book – inspired by true events – anything goes when Dad is in charge)
    Memories of Lane 4 (young adult – swimming)
    Sports Math (picture book)
    The Jig is up (middle grade – the crazy, yet interesting world of Irish dancing)
    And
    A chapter book about a young sports fanatic, athlete (inspired by my son)

    I have enjoyed reading all of the posts. They have inspired me to write. I have the day off from work; so back to writing I go. Happy Writing!

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Andy,

      I love your various ideas! You have quite an array of writing interests!
      As for your complete manuscript, I can relate. I finished one last year (after 5 years of inconsistent efforts to finish it) and deliberated traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. For me, considering the amount of time I invest in teaching, plus my other passion of marathoning, I didn’t feel that I wanted to invest the time I feared would result in numerous rejections. I wasn’t trying to start a career in writing, so I reasoned that self-publishing was a better route for me. While I have no regrets, (publishing it on my own was a huge learning process and accomplishment), I have now decided to pursue an agent. There has been such a great amount of positive feedback that I felt I owed it to my story. I began working this spring on researching literary agents and devising queries for each. I have had some positive responses, but no formal offers yet. I am planning to continue this pursuit through October, and then let the chips fall where they may. Hope my sharing helps somehow.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Andy! I like to think of you as my camp boyfriend. Just kidding (kind of) (sort of) (not really). I am so happy to see you and your usual total honesty. Why oh why is it so much easier to be honest here? I think it’s like when I was at camp as a kid and had no problem telling everyone I liked reading more than playing, more than eating, more than anything. I couldn’t have told anyone at my school that same thing.

      Anyway, on to you! You MUST submit that MG book. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll submit my picture book I wrote the first year of Teachers Write by the end of this year, if you submit your MG novel too. We will set a date, get them ready for some kind of submission and go 1-2-3 MAIL! You are a wonderful writer. You can keep giving it to people to read and keep revising forever, but others should get the joy of reading your work too. A great friend told me that I’m not working hard enough if I haven’t been rejected. Think about it!

      xo Kimberley

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

      Andy, have you considered joining a critique group? Perhaps there’s a good local group through SCBWI.org.
      The one in our area meets only once a month, and we support each other every step of the way from creation
      to revision to submission. We help each other get through rejections and celebrate acceptances.

      I hope you do end up submitting your middle grade book. Congrats on finishing it. That alone deserves
      celebration.

  21. Posted July 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Right around the time I read “The Lovely Bones”, two people were killed in a car accident in my city. One was heading home from college where she was working on a nursing degree. The other was eluding police. They layer out a spike strip to stop him, he hit the strip and spun out of control. I thought at the time that this would make a good fiction story…telling the story from their respective perspective as they watched the aftermath from Heaven. I’ve written a few chapters, but got stuck. I’m definitely going to do it some day though. I just need to give myself permission to make up the lies that are necessary in fiction. 🙂

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

      LisaC,

      What about doing a rough outline, with maybe a sentence or two for each chapter or scene. That way you could identify any problems before you plunge into the writing. I can see why that story calls to you. It’s haunting. Maybe you could also play around with different ways to tell it. A different point of view or a different trajectory. All this can just be rough ideas that are for your eyes only until you feel ready to write.

      I hope this story finds a way to be told, even if it doesn’t quite resemble the incident that inspired it.

      Good luck!

  22. Posted July 14, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    What’s on your list of projects? Two children’s books and one professional book.

    Which one scares you? All equally, but for different reasons. I’m afraid of being rejected by my peers. I’m afraid I will be called out as a fraud by other writers who have written about my topics.

    Which one makes your heart beat faster? All three equally, but I am a bit closer on the professional book and have “deadlines.”

    And to whom will your favorite project be dedicated? This is my dedication from my dissertation which is on the same topic. Can’t read it without tearing up, even a year later. It will be for the one book or the professional book (both on a similar topic – living with Asperger Syndrome):

    “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

    To my Liam. You are the inspiration for this work – for my life’s work. You are my hero.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

      Aileen,

      Even well-published authors worry about being found out as frauds, so you’re in good company with that particular worry.

      And your dedication is lovely.

  23. Linda Forte-Spearing
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Anybody else scared of just making the list? I am a list maker in every other facet of my life. If it’s on the list, it MUST get done. So … list = commitment. (Insert time ticking by.) There, it’s done. I’ve made my list and I dedicate my list to my future readers;-)

  24. Aliza Werner
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Today, I am only posting my dedication ideas. I hesitate to put the writing project ideas out in the open for now, as they really are just ideas. They need a little more baking time in the oven. Okay…a lot. I just put them in the oven. Here’s my dedication:

    This story is dedicated to…
    …my Great-Aunt Barbara, a former school teacher, who gifted a brand new book to me each time we visited with her.
    …every teacher who made the time to read books to my classmates and me every single day, as I grew up.
    …my husband, who believes in all of my words, both published and unwritten.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Hi Aliza, I loved your dedications, such percise wording. Thank you for sharing.

      • Aliza Werner
        Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

        Diana, thanks so much for reading and responding! I have never thought about a dedication before, but it’s inspiring to imagine the possibility of getting to write one someday!

  25. Posted July 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Oh, my goodness. Isn\’t it funny how hard we can work when it\’s \”just for fun\” ? I took today\’s warm up literally and possibly too seriously! The following is the result. I\’m pretty happy that I now have some direction and a problem to give my characters. Gosh, I needed this camp.

    Novel in verse in 1934
    1876 Picture book
    Scrapbooks of docs/recipes/letters for my sisters
    Collaborative piece with Jennifer
    Poems that work
    Teachers writers in residence program
    What a library is – in verse for middle school
    Christmas card for 2014
    Letter to Saunders
    For Karen and Jennifer. The recipes and photos are from the women our grandmother loved throughout her life as a girl, young wife, mother and grandmother. She alphabetized and preserved them in a gray box that you see in the photo on the inside cover. I miss these women we lost too soon. May each page bless you and our children and theirs. Love, Linda
    The dedication ABOVE is the non-fiction primary source documents of the fictional character Alice May Thatcher.
    Alice’s story is of a girl who leaves her father, step-mother and step-brother in 1934 to ease the financial strain of her family who has moved from the Catskills into a one bedroom flat in Albany, NY. In the move, she is also separated from her best friend and confidant, Pearl. Alice takes a position as a domestic servant at the Guilder Estate to earn money during hard times.
    But underneath it’s a story about a girl who wants to be loved and know a secure future.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

      Linda M,

      Great stuff here. A treasure trove of ideas!

  26. Tammy Petty Conrad
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Very inspirational to think of these things!
    Possible projects: finish novel based in the Middle East, persue picture book idea on voting, poetry collection about last relationship, attempt a YA chapter book
    Dedication for my novel: To my mom, who always believed I could be anything I wanted to be, I dedicated this labor of love. Because of her I became a strong, independent woman who could handle challenges, raise children and support myself. I also share this dedication with my dad, who take chances to better his family’s situation. Without his bravery, I would never have seen the world and had the experiences to write this novel.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

      Tammy,

      I love your ideas. And what a lovely dedication.

  27. Sheila Mustard
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Donna – Thank you so much for the mini lesson, it is difficult to see in black and white what I fear. I began my list with some lifelong goals and then took a deep breath and wrote the one goal that causes me to panic. I have always enjoyed writing but have never had the courage to share my interest, let alone something I actually wrote, with anyone. With the help of this workshop, I plan on facing my fear and putting some of my thoughts down on paper and sharing them with all of you. I am a person that welcomes constructive criticism and will take any thoughts about my writing to heart. I find that even in the classroom, I have difficulty sharing my writing with my students and my goal is to become more comfortable with not only sharing but also modeling my writing in the classroom.

  28. Phyllis Sutton
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    I think that, at heart, I am a children’s book author. Just last night, as my family sat around the table together, my oldest daughter (also a teacher) said, “Mom, do you realize you tell stories like a 5 year old?” She did not mean it as an insult – – just that is the level of exuberance I have. So, I guess I should put that into a story. Plus, the length of the story appeals to me. I do not know if I have a longer write in my yet.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      I love that someone has recognized and encouraged your “voice”, even if it is that of a five year old:) Sometimes it takes those around us to put a spotlight on our strength. So,get writing that picture book, Phyllis. My students are waiting to hear your story!!

  29. Cathy Duffy
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Wow so many great story ideas and heart felt dedications. I feel very inspired.
    I felt so good after making my list of possible novel and poetry ideas. I actually surprised myself. I can\’t wait to start digging in!

    As for my dedication. I think the first one would go to my first grade teacher Sister Rosella who gave me an over abundant amount of support. Even though I entered her classroom in the middle of the year unable to read and write like the other children she worked with me individually every moment she could. Today I am an English teacher trying to pay back that wonderful selfless soul. I love you Sister Rosella

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      Cathy,

      I’m glad this exercise got you fired up to work on your ideas. Sometimes, we need only plant a small seed in our brains and our subconscious gets to work.

      That was a lovely dedication to your former teacher. You have certainly honored her with your life’s work. That teacher, for me, is Myra Durlofsky. I sneak her into some of my novels. In my most recent one, I had her giving an assignment to my fictional character that she actually gave to me in 10th grade English class. Tomorrow, I’m mailing her a copy of the book.

  30. Jennifer Kraar
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Lots of dreams – little experience. Some of these ideas for writing have been kicking around in my head for a long time – but I haven’t written my thoughts on paper. Teachers Write may be the turning point!
    – A memoir story about my childhood overseas – to tell at the Moth
    – A story that takes place in Ocracoke, NC with native characters and tourists
    – A picture book biography of someone famous who has been overlooked (I’m not telling :))
    – A easy reader about starting school (with a secret twist)
    – A MG novel about being in an American school in Asia

    To my heroes, my husband and my daughter. Writing is an integral everyday part of your lives and over the years you have modeled perseverance.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      Jennifer, your ideas sound so interesting. Please get working on them! I would love to read them someday.

  31. Jeanne
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Project idea
    She walks into her house and freezes in the living room. Staring at the closed blinds she realizes this is the first time she has been alone in 25 years. Not sure if she was going to hurl or stay frozen, a switch goes off in that moment. A voice reminds her that 25 years is a long time and obviously she was not alone. Just not tied to a man. She shows herself her library books and music cd’s. Not alone because she has music. Quickly she plays one and decides in that moment to stick with her plan. First and foremost, get her shine on. Number two, hold on!
    This project is dedicated to Goldilocks. Thank you for inspiring me to find my home.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      love! Goldilocks…..finding a place and trying it on for size. What a wonderful dedication. I want to read this!

  32. Posted July 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Ideas for writing projects:
    Assignment four Teacher’s Write.
    Dedication: This piece of writing would not be possible without the love and support of my husband. He is my best friend, greatest confidant, and encourages me to dream.
    The hard part for me is thinking about really excites me in writing. I have always been passionate about literacy and helping children discover the wonder of reading. I have also advocated for children with disabilities especially (ADHD).
    I have blogged about the books I have read in the past in hopes of spreading enthusiasm but this was not successful so I am looking for ideas in this area.
    I also have been thinking the challenges that working mothers face and would love to write something about that.
    So after looking at this list all of these items are so close and dear to me, I am really not sure where I could start.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      Diana,

      It’s wonderful to list what matters to us, what we’re passionate about and figure out how to use our abilities to make positive changes in those areas. I hope you figure out what you most want to write to affect that positive change. Thank you for your good work.

      • Posted July 15, 2014 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        Thank you Donna. The hardest part for me is where to start. I think I am just going to pick something from my list and start and see where it goes from there.

  33. Michele Larson
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    I have been holding onto my story for years. It is drafted. A picture book about a duck who thought he was a chicken. I would dedicate it to my friend, Sue, who introduced me to this unique creature. And to Maggie, on of my 4th graders, who loved the story and challenged me to send it off to a publisher and stop sitting on it.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      Michele,
      I’ll add my voice to encourage you to send it off. But also to write the next thing . . . and the next . . .
      You never know what wonder you may write any particular day.
      Good luck!

  34. Posted July 14, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Interesting that I struggled with this and the Monday morning warm-up today. It’s almost seven at night. I couldn’t write this morning. I’m wondering if writing at the end of the day is harder…I digress…

    I listed quite a few things I’d like to write. Fiction scares me the most, so I’m working on a novel for middle grade students. I found it interesting to make that list. Thank you! And the dedication…who knew that could be tough? Donna, I love how you said, “Remember, your writing is a gift. Who do you love enough to give the gift of your words to?” I want to dedicate my writing to Jack & Jillian. They are my nephew and my niece. I’d love to finish this book and have them read it someday. They inspire me!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking prompts today. 🙂

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      Michelle, I always find it much harder to write creatively at the end of the day. But the act of making that list will set your mind to working on it, so maybe when you wake tomorrow morning . . .

      And I’m sure the lovely dedication will inspire you to write, write, write.

      It has been my pleasure to be involved with Kate’s Teachers Write each summer.

      Thank YOU for contributing!

  35. Posted July 14, 2014 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    I have a list of a handful of ideas I’d like to pursue, and the one I have the strongest feelings for- including a bit of fear!- at this moment is:
    Dark humor, picture book/illustrated poem, about the ways a teacher might die in her classroom… (this sounds much more morbid than it is… stems from an ongoing joke with one class who kept witnessing classroom accidents!) describing the dangers that lurk in pencils, printers, and paper!
    In order to make sure this isn’t misunderstood, here’s the warm up I did with this idea (Thanks, Jo Knowles!):
    This is a story about a teacher who wants to stop the accident and mishaps in her classroom. But underneath that, it’s about a teacher who really wants to create a safe and inviting classroom for all her students.
    OR This is a story about a teacher who is afraid of the dangers of her classroom: the accidents and mishaps possible in her classroom. But underneath that, it’s about a teacher who is really afraid of not being able to stop the pain her students share.

    Dedication—
    To the Zapata Academy Class of 2014: Your willingness to take risks, your laughter and sarcasm, pain and hope inspired me every day you shared your worldly words with me.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      Oh, Eliza, what a wonderful idea . . . and ripe for a humorous treatment. There are just so many fun ways you could go with it.

      And I adored your dedication.

      • Posted July 15, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        Thank you so much for your kind and supportive words! Your mini-lesson was a great way to start the week; I’m so grateful! Can’t wait to dig in today.

  36. Posted July 14, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm…I’ve been sitting on an idea for YEARS now for a picture book to help teach math concepts, inspired by my two years of teaching kindergarteners. I’ve done a little research, but have some trouble figuring out which publishers would be interested in a math-related picture book that would be a companion to lessons. If I ever figure it out and get it published, I would dedicate it to the students that inspired the work!

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      Ericka, this sounds like a terrific idea. I know Loreen Leedy has done several math picture books. I wonder who her publisher was. I hope you end up writing and selling this. Good luck!

  37. Wendy Chaulk
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    I have literally just started my very first attempt (as an adult) on a book. My husband and I have tossed the ideas around and I am finally starting to write, so I would have to dedicate it to him.

    To Bill: For lifting me out of a fog, loving me, believing in me, challenging me, and accepting my crazy animals even when you hated pets. Our life will be amazing together as we adventure with Maya and Gato! I love you.

    I have a list of other ideas I would love to work on and may float back and forth as ideas keep building. The ones that excite me are the one I am working on (Adventures of Maya and Gato) as well as one I would write based on stories I made up for my niece to get her to calm down at night (Princess Kaitlyn and her Crazy Aunt Wendy). The ones that scare me to write would be about why I became a Catholic (probably more of a short story) and one about how books saved my life.

    • Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

      Wendy, I am so glad you are writing. I love the idea of writing about how books have saved your life. I’ve often thought that would be a good topic because I think books and libraries and certain teachers have saved (and enriched) a lot of lives.

  38. Jennifer
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I have enjoyed reading everyone’s ideas! Reading all of the comments are encouraging me to embrace my writing projects. I have so many ideas, but then I chicken out when it is time to put pen to paper. My dream has been to write professional books. However, after jotting down my ideas, I freeze up and start doubting that I have something worth saying. My goal this week is to take one of those ideas and develop it into an article.

  39. Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Aileen,

    Even well-published authors worry about being found out as frauds, so you\’re in good company with that particular worry.

    And your dedication is lovely.

  40. Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    It’s been delightful and inspiring to read through everyone’s comments. And I know many others have written today and chosen not to share. And that’s okay.
    Thank you, Kate, for providing this safe space and this wonderful forum to encourage our dreams and creative endeavors. It’s been a privilege to be part of this wonderful community each summer. Thank you so much.
    I leave you with this quote: “You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
    ― Ray Bradbury

  41. Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    I have only had one short story published. However I have several works in progress. I have several poems that I am working on. The theme that keeps recurring is that of the 30’s and 40’s and my grandparents. I have a few pages of a book started. The main character in this is also a character based loosely on my maternal grandmother. I tend to always use one or more of my grandparents as inspiration. I don’t know a lot about their lives as young adults and I think I just like to try to recreate what I think their life would have been like. When I am picturing characters in my brain, their faces are the ones that pop up. That’s my comfort zone. What I would like to begin work on is a children’s book series featuring things in agriculture as a setting.

    When everything falls into place, and I publish a book, I will dedicate it to two teachers who were my teachers and eventually became my colleagues when I returned to teach English at my alma mater.

  42. Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    The book I am most apprehensive of writing is the first one I ever finished a draft for. I told the story (a medieval style fantasy) for years as a summer camp counselor. On the first revision attempt I learned I didn’t know enough to do the book justice, especially the combat. That one may percolate indefinitely. The other one I worry about is one that needs a third draft. It was the first Nanowrimo book I won the challenge with. The characters are dear now; one features in a collaborative novel I wrote with a friend as well. In this story’s case, I’m worried I’ll write them wrong in a major rewrite so I don’t get anywhere.

  43. Diane Cotton
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Nagging me on a daily basis is the thought of writing a children’s book about my 3x great grandmother’ journey on the Trail of Tears. I believe I would dedicate it to my grand daughters with the hope that they grow into mighty women.

  44. Jennifer Howe
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I am currently reading 103 letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother while he was stationed in Egypt from 1943-1945. If I write a story out of these letters, the dedication would go to my grandparents and my kids–the past and the future!

  45. Posted July 15, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the challenging exercise. I’m pleased with the direction it’s taking me. I’m wondering if anyone can guess at the feelings that Alice has toward other characters from these lines.

    -The pressed Iris, as thin as the Bible’s pages now, held memory of blue by mother’s bedside.

    -Turning at the top of the stair Alice saw the newlyweds. Brother solemnly said, “congratulations” holding out his hand as Father’s eyes shined thank you.

    -Pearl gently held out a clean, folded set of underthings that smelled scubbed and felt stiff from drying in the sun.

    -Dad’s job was small, almost nothing until it was everything that fed them and kept them at home.

    -Brother beamed in his patched too-small pants holding out the certificate to Dad.

    -One bedroom meant a room for Dad and Ma, a couch for brother and a pressure that Alice must lift.

    -Why would Mrs. Guilder’s girl run off to get married with this kitchen so full of light and electricity and warmth. Alice couldn’t believe she would be paid to work here and would sleep just down the hall.

  46. Posted July 15, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had an idea for several years about a little manatee that can’t find his wallet. Tomorrow is book fair day so he and his mom retrace their steps through the river til they find it. My story would include all first-grade core content story elements which would make it perfect for use in my classroom. Just a little something I’ve had in the back of my mind 🙂

  47. Posted July 15, 2014 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Donna: The writing assignment that you wrote on Teachers Write! has me consulting a long list of picture book ideas for the genres of fiction and non fiction. Many of the ideas, on my long list are drafts and some are being revised and edited after being critiqued. Two dedication ideas make me think of: 1.To My Sweet P, who loves and adores me, as he encourages me to be me. 2. To Pa and Oma’s seven, unique grands. Read, write & create every day. Thank you.

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