Teachers Write 8.14 Thursday Quick-Write

It’s the second-to-last day of camp. I think that calls for a bonfire and some s’mores…

I’m revisiting my wrap-up writing post from Teachers Write 2012 for this final writing prompt of the summer – and that’s not just because I’m busy eating s’mores and getting a boy ready to go to college. It’s because I believe in the power of reflection.

You all showed up here in July – some of you veterans, some of you brand new to Teachers Write and even new to the idea of putting words on paper and sharing them. And it’s been an amazing summer of learning and writing. You’ve written bravely and shared with joy and fear and courage and all the other emotions that go along with opening up a bit of yourself to friends and strangers who are being brave, too. You’ve made me smile and laugh and cry sometimes, too, in all the best ways, and I am so proud of you.

So here’s one last assignment…

(You are being granted special time-travel abilities for this one.)

Write a letter to yourself of 10 weeks ago.  It will be sent back through time and delivered to you on July 5th, 2014…right before you begin Teachers Write.  What advice would you give yourself?  What can you tell yourself about what the experience will be like and how it might change your writing or teaching?

Here’s the letter I wrote to my back-in-time self after our first summer of Teachers Write…

Dear Kate,

Today, you are going to notice some of your Twitter teacher-friends talking about their goals to write this summer, and it will occur to you that it might be fun to set up a virtual writing camp.  Go ahead and do it, even though it’s not going to go the way you’re imagining.  You’re probably picturing a dozen people, right? Maybe twenty? Multiply that by 50 and you’ll be a little closer. It’ll freak you out at first when you see all those people signing up, but don’t worry — they are amazing people who will be happy to be here and patient with your summer schedule. Besides, tons of generous and talented authors are going to show up to pitch in. This probably doesn’t surprise you, does it? The children’s and YA writer community is amazing like that.

What will surprise you is just how much you are moved when you sit down to read the comments every day. These teachers and librarians will be so smart, so brave. They will try new things. Some will be afraid at first, but they will be so good to one another, so supportive, that new voices will emerge every week.  And these voices will be full of passion and beauty, humor and joy and poignancy.  They will be amazing, and they will make you cry sometimes, in the best possible way.

So go on… Write that introductory blog post, even though you’re biting off way more than you know. It will be worth every second, and when August comes, you will not be ready to let go. Not even close.

Warmly,   Kate

Your turn now…  Put today’s date on the paper, and then write your message to be sent to yourself, back through time. Share it in comments, too, if you’d like.  And be sure to visit tomorrow for our final Teachers Write Summer 2014 post and news about what comes next.

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20 Comments

  1. Kerri Schegan
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Dear Kerri,

    You are signing up for Teacher’s Write again this summer, full of enthusiasm and hope. You love to write – you should definitely do this! Here’s the thing, though. You need to REALLY do it. Last summer, you wrote pretty much daily, and it was great! This summer is going to go way too fast, with way too many things crammed into it. Summer school, curriculum writing, department leader meetings, and stealing away time for a little summer fun are all going to get in your way. You need to learn how to deal with these things! You are always going to be busy. Just like you are making time for healthy habits, if writing is as important to you as you say it is, you need to make time for that, too. Write it on the calendar everyday if you have to! You’ll be glad you did.

    Love,

    ME

    • Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      I love this reminder that we can’t just “take” time – we need to “make” time. Thanks for a great summer of writing, Kerri!

  2. Posted August 14, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Dear Linda,

    Its summer and writing is on your summer bucket list every year…..and every year you kinda push it down toward the bottom of the list until time has run out and you feel guilty that you haven’t given something that you love a bit of time and attention. Go ahead and join TW.

    You have that scrapbook idea for Grandma’s recipes, a bunch of poems and those great notebooks that are full of empty, clean pages. What do you have to lose? What if you committed to writing every day. What if you met some other teachers just like you that love to write…or teach writing….or just love to connect in the world of ideas like you do? You could have so much fun. Writing could feed and energize you the way it used to.

    I think you might be surprised at how many ideas you have to work on….that your work at school could be part of your work as a writer. You may also be surprised that at how much sheer talent is not soley what leads to success. Working hard and committing to the job is the same for writers as it is for you as an educator. It’s always good to learn these lessons. It’s always good to be in the role of a learner….one who has something to work on and toward.
    By the end of the summer you could have a notebook full of starts, some writing buddies to keep up with and write with and the possibility of becoming more of who you actually are. Go for it. Enjoy it. Reflect but don’t over reflect.

    Write….but don’t feel chained to it. Make mistakes, be excited. Let the house get cluttered and stay too long at the keyboard. Let the summer bucket list be a guide…a slide into what’s fun. Love your words and let them become something new and different and available to other minds.

    Just be and enjoy.

    Your friend,

    Future Linda

    • Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Oh, Linda – so many of these thoughts are perfect for posting above a writing desk. “What do you have to lose?” “Make mistakes, be excited.” I especially love this: “Love your words.” Such great words to live by – thanks for sharing them!

  3. Kristina Paustian
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Dear Kristina,
    Another summer of Teachers Write! You will grow even more as a writer by submitting writing for feedback. You will notice that one contributing author wrote Arrowhawk and rush to order her other books online. You will be critiqued by Avi and get very good advice. You will finally realize that dialogue will always be something that you struggle with. You will fill an entire journal this summer and be able to show your students that when you ask them to write, you have written too. You will start another blog just for your summer writing. You will be thankful for another Teachers Write as you have in the past years, and look forward to next summer’s camp all winter long.
    Sincerely,
    Kristina

    • Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing this, Kristina – I love the way you’ve made peace with one of your struggles here (dialogue) – because I’ve had to do the same with so many things along the way – learning to focus on areas of weakness and try to grow. This would be such a powerful idea to share with your students this year, too!

  4. Tammy Petty Conrad
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Dear Tammy,
    I’m so glad you signed up again for Teachers Write. I know you didn’t fully participate in the past, but this is your summer. The nest is practically empty and you are now ready to do for yourself. You have the skills and the heart for writing, now add the time and you will flourish.
    You will be amazed that people actually read your blog and that published authors will be encouraging. You will enjoy creating a story out of an elementary school memory and watching it morph in it’s own unexpected direction. I know your classroom will benefit from all the training information you will receive.
    So put it on your calendar each day, but don’t beat yourself up when you miss a day, or two, it happens. You will find that you learn to make time, because it is important for you and your creative baby.
    Happy Camping!

    • Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Hi, Tammy! Thanks for sharing this – I love the way your reflection letter is a mix of tough love and kindness to yourself too -I think we all get frustrated when we miss writing days, but it’s important to find that balance, and I love that you’ve captured that here. Thanks for writing with us this summer!

  5. Posted August 14, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Dear Tamara,

    I’m sure you are still giddy with excitement from presenting an Ignite session at the ISTE 2014 conference in Atlanta, Georgia, but I am here today to say this is only the beginning! Today you will embark on a journey that will not only challenge you as a writer, but test your skills as a responsible organizer and planner. You have such grand plans for relaxation this summer, but this will be your busiest summer yet!

    First and foremost, you will need to create a new blog separate from your Random Acts of Kindness blog. This will help you divide and conquer as you start to focus your writing for varied purposes. You will also need to carve out time daily to write, write, write. That old mantra you keep telling the students, “The more you write, the more you want to write” will actually materialize before your eyes as you continue with this summer camp.

    You will start to notice patterns in your writing. Those long, descriptive passages that illustrate a novel with just one breath will start to break into staccato rests. You will write about topics that are separated from your Pollyanna spirit, for the mere reason that they capture an audience’s attention. You will become (dare I say it?)… better.

    You will connect with authors and other writers and their comments will feed your soul. Your PLN on Twitter will explode exponentially as you interact with strangers who share your passion for storytelling. You will make new friends and make global connections. You will be invited to be a peer reviewer for a well-known publishing company. You will start writing articles for another publishing company, focused on technology and how it’s used in the classroom. You will even connect with a third publisher who will share your vision for random acts of kindness and offer to publish your book.
    It will be an AMAZING journey, my friend.

    Best of all, you will become disciplined with your priorities. You will realize the secret whisper on your heart was a seed planted so many years ago and all your literary expertise has led you to this moment, this summer, this writing camp. THIS. IS. YOUR. JOURNEY.

    Enjoy the ride and don’t forget to say thank you to all those who share the road with you along the way. 🙂

    Best regards,

    Your Pollyanna self

    • Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Dear Pollyanna (I can say that…I’m one, too!) – I love that this summer has been such an incredible journey for you, and it sounds like amazing things are happening! I’m so glad Teachers Write could be a part of that spark!

  6. Terry Turner
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    August 14, 2014

    Dear Terry,

    You know that writers network you are so desperate to build? The sense of being connected to people who are, each day, struggling to accomplish the same task you are? To sit down and just write. That network. That sense. To force yourself to put words onto a page, even if later you realize that it somehow went far astray from your intent. And then going back and rewriting and revising.

    This summer you are going to actually make that begin to happen. To meet other writers. To push yourself to write and share and revise, and recognize that if you just sit down and begin to put words onto pages, you will be a little further toward your dream of being a writer. And you will begin to find those people you have longed to connect to. And maybe, if we’re lucky, you and I, we’ll get to keep this feeling, and this satisfaction that builds from writing and revising and sharing. Maybe we’ll open up and begin to be the writer I believe I – we? – were born to be.

    Good luck and be brave. And rein in the smartass remarks. Nobody knows you that well.
    Terry

    • Posted August 14, 2014 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      I love reading everyone’s letters and learning how this summer camp impacted your writing and your hopes/visions! Terry, your last paragraph made me giggle for sure. I have learned so much from you all! I’m already excited about #TeachersWrite 2015!

    • Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Terry, I love this reflection for its mix of uncertainty and optimism, which is something I feel all the time when I’m writing. I’m so glad that you feel like you’re finding your people – stay connected to us, okay? Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Posted August 14, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    TW 8/14:

    Greg,

    Welcome to TeachersWrite Summer Camp. Don’t worry, the camp counselors, authors, and other teachers here are all pretty cool. I packed a few journals as well as your tablet, and of course, a few extra packs of Double-Stuf Oreos for when you need that extra spark of inspiration.
    You’re about to embark on a wonderful opportunity to enrich your personal writing, as well as your ability to help students find their own unique writing voice. The passion to experiment and grow as a writer burns in educators and authors all around the globe, and these relationships will serve to inspire you. Savor the lessons and the relationships that lie in front of you. Rise to each challenge, whether it invigorates you, or leaves you feeling unclear of what direction to go in. Take time to enjoy the posts from your peers, and be sure to offer thoughtful feedback, just as you will be the recipient of input from other campers.
    As you enjoy the camp, think about your students, and see the writing experience from their eyes as well. They need to know you are leading them from the position of a writer, one who understands the vulnerability required to experiment with the instruction of others, and to share those experiments in a safe environment.
    Lastly, remember all the participants have the same issues with an inner critic at some point in time. There are no perfect writers. Enjoy the gracious insights and nuggets from the authors who lead the camp and their guests who provide the mini-lessons, but remember they relate to you as a writer, and as a person.
    If you need a little time to clear your head, join Gae and the other swimmers in the lake, or Kate and the other runners on the trails. Or better yet, grab those Oreos and sit out on the back porch with your journal. Inspiration is never far from a few Doule-Stufs.

    • Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      You’ve had Double-Stuff Oreos all this time???!!! It’s not even 10am here, and you have me craving chocolate….

      Seriously, I love the different facets of your reflection – the way you’re thinking about yourself as a writer and also as a teacher – and how those two selves so depend on one another. I’m glad this summer’s been a good experience for you!

  8. Jennifer
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Dear Jennifer,
    I know that you are nervous about participating in Teachers Write. I know that you have a lot of writing baggage, but this is the time to lose that baggage. Embrace this opportunity to learn. Don’t be fearful. Don’t just dip your toe into the water, but go ahead and give yourself the freedom to dive into the pool. There are a lot of people who are waiting in the water and will catch you should you start to flounder. Think of them as your water wings☺
    I want to encourage you to post your writing in the comments section. This is something new for you, but you will benefit from really becoming a part of the community. The folks who participate in Teachers Write are kind and are not judgmental. They will respond positively to you and you will have the opportunity to provide the kind of feedback that they might also need. Click in that little box and type your message-it’ll be okay. I promise! This experience will change you in so many ways. You will be writing without fear!

    • Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Jennifer, I so love your water wings metaphor! That’s a perfect way to think about joining a writing community – the idea that others are swimming, too, some more confidently than others, but we’re all in this together, and there’s always someone to lift you up. Thanks for sharing this !

      Seriously, I love the different facets of your reflection – the way you\’re thinking about yourself as a writer and also as a teacher – and how those two selves so depend on one another. I\’m glad this summer\’s been a good experience for you!

  9. Posted August 14, 2014 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Dear Wendy,

    You’re going to start another summer of Teachers Write! You’ve been looking forward to this all year, and it’s finally here. Remember that first year, when you were so excited, but didn’t participate because you were lost and felt intimidated? And how about last year? You finally got your toes wet a bit and participated. You even submitted excerpts to Friday Feedback, but still you held back. Well, this year you’ll go even further. In fact, you’ll jump right into the water! Yes, this year not only will you participate by submitting excerpts, but you’ll also comment more on others’ writing. And because you comment, others will begin to like what they read, and look forward to learning more about your characters. Also, you’ll get to know other peoples’ writing and start to love their characters. On top of this, you will be one of the returning campers who welcomes newbies. Did you ever think that would happen? Joining this supportive group will be the beginning of kicking your butt into gear. Don’t get me wrong, you will still have your days where you don’t feel like writing (do it anyway, at least something), and days when you just can’t pull yourself out of bed in the morning, but I guarantee you that you will make progress on that novel you’re writing. The group will support your efforts. And from the support of this group will come the beginnings of a writing critique group. You know this group is something you need in order to keep you writing the rest of the year. This critique group will be the icing on the Teachers Write! community cake. So, get up, get connected, and get writing. You won’t regret it. Keep going!

    Love, Wendy

    • Posted August 15, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Wendy, I love this reflection – not only for the way it celebrates your growth as a writer but also for what it means to us as teachers of writing. So many of our students need this time to emerge, too, and having experienced it yourself, I can only imagine what a supportive, empathetic teacher you’ll be for those writers who have things to say but just need a little time to find their voices. Thanks so much for sharing this!

      Seriously, I love the different facets of your reflection – the way you\\\’re thinking about yourself as a writer and also as a teacher – and how those two selves so depend on one another. I\\\’m glad this summer\\\’s been a good experience for you!

  10. Andrea P.
    Posted August 19, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kate,
    Sorry it’s late. A common start to all my posts this summer. Seems I’m on the road a ton this summer. I apologize. But I am determined to tackle each day of TW. (in order, haven’t read on yet…)

    Here goes:

    Dear Andrea,
    I know you have many exciting things planned this summer and I am thrilled that you still signed up for TW with Kate and crew again. It’s a good habit to write everyday, even through the personal struggles that will creep in and eat up your writing time. You can only control certain things and one is the desire to learn the craft of writing for children in this amazing forum. Have faith, be diligent, and grow. I know you will share all that you learn with your students.

    There are inspiring mentors here and I know you will enjoy the tasks. These mentor author are so creative, giving, and encouraging. Remember to follow their lead in your classroom. Take what you learn and enthusiastically integrate this knowledge into your student writing activities this year. I look forward to seeing what you accomplish. Keep track of your word count each day, even the tiny amounts. It’s a tangible reward at the end.

    Best,
    Andrea

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