Teachers Write 6.28.16 Tuesday Quick-Write with Anne Marie Pace

Tuesday and Thursday are Quick-Write days at Teachers Write, so our guest authors will be coming by with some writing prompts to try out. Do as much or as little as you’d like with each mini-assignment, and feel free to bookmark those you’d like to use with students later on. Teachers Write posts don’t go anywhere after the summer ends. They’re always here for you to use and share with student writers. 

Ranger in Time -- Race to the South PoleBefore we start today’s quick-write, I’m going to toss around a little virtual confetti because today is release day for RANGER IN TIME: RACE TO THE SOUTH POLE! This is the fourth title in my Scholastic chapter book series about a time traveling search and rescue dog.

Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training, joins an early twentieth-century expedition journeying from New Zealand to Antarctica. He befriends Jack Nin, the stowaway turned cabin boy of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ship. They’re racing against a rival explorer to reach the South Pole, but with unstable ice, killer whales, and raging blizzards, the journey turns into a race against time… and a struggle to stay alive. 

I’d love it if you’d share this one with your students and help spread the word on social media today, too. Thanks! 


Now…on to your Tuesday Quick-Write! 

Our guest author today is Anne Marie Pace, who writes picture books for kids, including VAMPIRINA BALLERINA, which is in production as an animated series with Disney, and its sequel, VAMPIRINA BALLERINA HOSTS A SLEEPOVER. She’s with us today to talk about generating ideas.

100 Steps 

by Anne Marie Pace

Yesterday, Kate talked to you about having a writer’s notebook.  Today, I’m going to give you something to put in it.

I came up with the 100 Steps exercise for my picture book writing classes for adults to generate picture book ideas, but it’s very adaptable.

The idea behind 100 Steps is that every step you take puts you in a different spot than the one you were in before you took that step, and every different spot gives you a different perspective.  If you want to get technical, yes, I agree that whether I walk 99 or 101 steps south down the street I live on, I can still see Kristin’s car and that strange mailbox with the smashed-in side and the house where the lady with the corgi lives.  But at another level, at some point as you move towards something and away from others, something new comes into view and something else vanishes.  A tree seems taller or shorter. A house that seems grand at a distance suddenly comes into focus and seems more run-down when you see the unpainted siding or the cracked window that you couldn’t see from farther away.  You see the trail of ants but not their destination—and then suddenly you can see the anthill.


Your Assignment: Take your journal or notebook and your favorite writing implement (mine are Uniball Vision Elite BLX roller ball pens, but I digress).  Now walk 100 steps, preferably in a direction you don’t usually walk.  Take a side street or walk into your neighbor’s yard (assuming your neighbor is a friendly person who doesn’t own a vicious dog).  Remember — 100 steps, not 99 or 101.  

Stop.  (Obviously you can’t stop in the middle of a busy intersection, but try to plan your path so that you don’t have to.)

Observe.   What do you see? What do you hear?  What do you smell?  What random thoughts occur to you?

Take notes.  Jot everything down as fast as you can. Don’t think too hard—just take notes.  In ten minutes, you can probably fill a page or two with words and ideas.

Now find a comfortable place to sit.  Reread the notes you’ve taken and see what connections you draw between your various observations. You can even mark up the page if you like—maybe drawing circles around everything to do with nature and rectangles around man-made things, or making triangles around sights and ovals around sounds, or using dotted lines to connect all the notes you made about trains. 

Finally, pick one of the connections you’ve made and use that connection as a starting point for some writing.  I don’t know what you’ll want to write.  Maybe you’ll do a focused free-write on your connection. Maybe you’ll write a dialogue. Maybe you’ll start an essay or a poem or a picture book or a bit of description.

It doesn’t matter as long as it works for you. Feel free to share a snippet of your writing in the comments today if you’d like!

145 Replies on “Teachers Write 6.28.16 Tuesday Quick-Write with Anne Marie Pace

  1. Good morning to you too. What a great way to start our day, and Teacher’s Write, with an exercise from the fabulous Anne Marie Pace. Thank you so much. And, congratulations, Kate for the release of a new Ranger In Time.

  2. Congrats on the new Ranger in Time, Kate! Anne Marie Pace–ooooh, my little loves your Vampirina Ballerina book! Glad to know there is a sequel!

    I love this quick write. A change of perspective can really shake things up in a good way. I’ll have to wait to this evening to do mine, as I’ll be on a principal interview committee all day, but I am sure looking forward to taking those 100 steps!

    1. Let us know how it goes! And I hope your little one will be happy to know a third Vampirina will be out next spring.

      1. Hey! I didn’t know there was going to be a third Vampirina book – how did I miss that great news?! Learned something reading my own blog today!

  3. Happy book birthday, Kate! Thanks for today’s quick write suggestion, Ann Marie! Getting ready to embark on my fourth summer of an experiential learning program with middle schoolers and I think this will be most helpful for all of us in our natural setting on the farm! Can’t wait to try it! 🙂

    1. Oooh, I’d love to do it on a farm. I taught my class downtown, but near a strip of nature near an abandoned train track so I got both worlds. I hope it goes well with the kids!

  4. Anne Marie, thanks so much for taking the time and for this great idea. Just wondering where my 100 steps will lead me raises a lot of questions. In what direction will I go? Toward the abandoned house? Toward the school? Straight down the street?
    I am also wondering if I should take things in from my MC’s point of view. Since my story is very early, this exercise could really help me figure out who that character is. How would he see things? Is he even a boy? What kinds of trouble might he get into?
    Also, I imagine the looks I’ll get as I stand in my quiet neighborhood jotting things in a notebook!
    This will be fun!

    1. Oh, Todd, you’re thinking exactly the way I hoped people would think about this exercise! Yay!

  5. Congratulations on the latest episode with Ranger! While we were reading Long Road to Freedom, I showed my first-graders the picture of the upcoming Race to the South Pole. Lane seemed especially excited but I realize he was thinking North Pole and Santa. He certainly made a connection!
    We’ll take 100 steps later today heading right instead of left in our neighborhood.

  6. This will be an exciting adventure. We’re still at school here in Saskatchewan but that will give me time to ponder my path.

  7. Kate, congratulations on your new book release! Looking forward to sharing it in class. Anne Marie, your books are a big hit in my class. I’m excited to share this lesson with the kids and let them know it came from you. Looking forward to my 100 steps later today.

  8. Congrats on the book birthday, Kate! It’s on my order list for the fall when school starts again!

    I took 100 steps in the woods surrounding my home. There was this young pine tree leaning over, obviously reaching for its daily nourishment of sun and it prompted this question: Is it better to bend and twist yourself to get what you need or stand straight, proud and tall and expect it to come to you?

    Thanks for the exercise!

  9. Love 100 steps! Just walked and noted a giant list. Examined the list and found I could have my characters do the same thing in the scene I’m writing today in my MG novel. This is a great exercise. Thank you!

  10. Kudos to Kate and Ann Marie for your new releases. I’d be happy to share on social media ☺

    Ann Marie,
    I loved this prompt. While observing (at a distance), I noticed that I pay more attention to the sounds, but close up I noticed textures. Either way, I was able to collect more than “visual details” which is what I try to do. Thank you for opening my eyes, ears, etc. this morning.

    100 steps prompt:

    I darted towards the bend in the road that goes toward town. I didn’t care that the prickly dried-out grass poked at the soles of my feet. I just wanted to see mom and dad and the pickup as long as I could. As I stepped out of shadow’s reach and came to a halt on a small bed of pebbles, I felt the warmth of the sun on my neck. I remembered mom’s gentle touch as she straightened my shoulders whenever I needed to feel encouraged…and I stood a little taller at that moment. I watched as the truck kicked up dust along the dirt road leaving the reservation. The cloud puffs hid the pickup from my view. Then, I felt the warmth again, but this time in two tears rolling down my cheeks, eventually hanging onto my chin. That’s what I have to do – hang on. It’s just one year. They have an important job for our family and our nation. I can do this. I wiped the droplets from my chin and turned, walking back to my grandma’s house. I knew exactly what to do while they are deployed.

    1. Love the steps you took here! Love the transition from sunny warm to warmth of sad, sturdy, brave tears. Can’t wait to read the rest of this story!

    2. I really like the sentence starting with “I didn’t care that . . .” That’s a great way to express the speaker’s POV without saying “I felt.”

      1. I love the detail about mom straightening the narrators shoulders. I find memories like that really pull me in as a reader.

  11. The Sights and Sounds of Summer in the City
    A Poem by Andrea Clark

    Sun shining on the dewy grass
    Birds twittering
    Sun reflecting suspended spiderwebs
    Some sort of purring insect
    Sun on a silver car
    Birds calling to each other
    Pale blue sky
    Low hum of traffic in the distance
    Butterfly disapperaing in the tall grass
    Air conditioner turning on
    Thin and thick blades of grass
    Motorcycle revving
    Green leaves
    Many different birds and insects
    Spiderwebs shimmering in the breeze
    Insects calling to each other
    Patchy, dappled shade under a young tree
    Breeze rustling grass
    Two white trucks
    Bus rumbling by
    Pink flowers in the tree
    Airplane droning high overhead
    Different shades of green grass
    Air conditioner shudders off
    Car driving away, red tail lights
    New insect noise
    Patchy grass
    Police siren
    Tall trees
    More police sirens
    Short bushes
    For being quiet, it’s pretty loud

    1. Love your poem, and yes, the last line really sells it perfectly! Thanks for sharing!

  12. I cheated. I either took way more than 100 steps, or I took 100 steps a criminal number of times.

    The steps plus a bus bring me from home to downtown Denver and into a convention center theater for a morning keynote address at the ISTE 1016 conference. What I hear on the way in is the song “Africa” — Toto’s hit from 1982 — belted out by a live band. (Folks, it’s not even 9 a.m. here yet, and there’s a rock concert.) The music unexpectedly launches me back to my friend’s childhood living room where we spun Toto’s LP album at a giggle-inducing 78 RPM, more than twice the prescribed 33 1/3 speed. Music plus memory is a strong, strange secret sauce.

    Thanks, Anne Marie, for today’s prompt blending writing and moving.

  13. Thanks Kate for the books you are writing. As a teacher, the combination of history and fiction make a great pair to entice young readers to wonder about the past. I loved this prompt. It so funny how I posted on my blog this morning about the quick write as an essential part of my writing routine. It really is a great way to spend 10 minutes and get the juices flowing. I’m going to check out these picture books, Anne Marie. I’m sure my first graders are going to love the fact that I was in touch with the author! It’s a nice selling point to motivate them to read it! Here’s my post for SOL Tuesday. http://wp.me/p6nQS4-4J

  14. Can’t wait to get started on this! I’ll forego my walk to do this creative activity. Continuing to inspire. Happy Book Birthday Kate and Nora!

  15. I haven’t done this one yet, I’ll do it once I get the girls moving and outside with me.
    My brain is already moving around with ideas of using this in the classroom! This is great.

  16. 100 steps took me to the northwest corner of my backyard. I looked around wondering what I might find to write about. It is a very typical suburban yard but as I stood there I began to really see. Along the hedgerow is a line of mature cherry trees that my family has picked for years. For the lawn mower driver the trees provide a juicy snack on a sweaty-hot, summer day. Today they are droopy with fruit seemingly waiting arms outstretched for that next sampler. Among the cherry trees is a silver maple interloper holding a double-decker tree house built painstakingly years ago by a tag team of boys. The raggedy board ladder tacked onto the trunk has gaps and tips this way and that but remains for the next courageous climber to give it a try. In the northeastern corner are weathered tree trunk stools ringing the cement brick fire pit stacked high with crispy, dry brush ready for the matches, s\’mores, and song. Closer to the house is the silver and black trampoline, a few poles needing to be attached before jumpers can safely begin bouncing. The trampoline shadows the garden plot waiting for its plants. Just past the blueberry bushes, next to the raspberry plants is the grape arbor with the determined leaves creeping steadily over the top and back down to the ground under which the grapes will appear in a few months. Looking out past our yard to the north is a smart, tidy cemetery. My parents\’ gravestone marker looks back at me from its corner plot by the American flag reminding me I should drop by for a visit. If you have time. 100 steps to the north brings me to thoughts of happier times and sadder times, of faces I haven\’t seen in so long. George and Nancy. 100 steps.

    1. Your description makes it sound not typical at all. You’ve covered so many emotions in this short piece.

    2. I love the line “100 steps to the north brings me to thoughts of happier times and sadder times, of faces I haven’t seen in so long.” What a gem!

    3. I love that while this is in your backyard, a place you’re so familiar with, it still transported you to different times and beautiful details.

  17. I love the concept of 100 steps. I love the idea of having the opportunity to reflect on a new perspective. Last week, I traveled 2500 miles in a car with my sister, going from California to northern Michigan. It’s a bit more than 100 steps, but I decided to write about what I had learned on the trip about what I thought I already knew.
    Here is a snippet of the narrative.
    We lost our dad in February. I hate that. We didn’t “lose” him. We know exactly where he is. He’s on Molly’s dresser in a Taboo dusting powder container carefully secured with thirteen rubber bands so that he doesn’t bust free and scatter around. He is supposed to be in the car with my sister, Kathy, and I driving to Torch Lake for his memorial, but he’s not. We forgot him.

      1. Thanks, Anne Marie. He had a great run. He was 90. He’d find this whole thing hysterical. Your exercise has turned into a pretty compelling story. I’m off for a walk and then back to see where it takes me next. Thank you for this gift.

        1. Sue, you are truly my writing spirit animal. Tears pricked my eyes as I read this short scene. It’s beautiful and funny and sad all at once.

    1. wow, one paragraph and I’m chuckling and getting teary at the same time. What a great beginning. Yes, more, please!

    2. I want more, More, MORE! If this is the lead, it is WOW. Wish I had written it. Sad and angry and funny and intriguing all wrapped up in a few sentences…I feel the same way about the word ‘dead’. It is so harsh and final and not at all accurate…

    3. absolutely love the “Taboo dusting powder” image and is Torch Lake the real name? Such a powerful few lines of writing! Sets the reader up for an intriguing story!

    4. I adore this! It’s so relatable to all things life. Dark and humorous at the same time.

    5. Oh the details of this-so vivid. I love the way you evoke sadness and loss with humor. The best writing sticks, and this will stay with me. Thank you.

    6. I agree, Susan – please let this be the opening page for a book! Totally loving the Taboo Dusting Powder and image of those 13 rubber bands securing someone you could never “lose!” I cannot wait for this book to come out!

      Anne Marie, I am a pen afficionado (which I cannot spell, obviously), so I love your pen reference – made me start singing “It’s all about that pen, no pencil…” (base/treble song stuck in my head, thank you very much).

  18. I am visiting my mom in Boston, so I could have taken 100 steps in any direction and been somewhere only semi familiar. My 100 steps took me to a side street. I could observe the comings and goings of a city street and it made me think of the constant ebb and flow in cities and how they are changing all the time. I saw construction going on and saw workers going in and out. I saw a moving van. All of the street parking is reserved for South End residents, so I got to thinking what it meant to be a resident. My writing took me to the stories I am always looking for when I make observations. I looked for similarities and differences between this place and others. I then moved into Starbucks and wrote about the ebb and flow there. It is so interesting to notice the similarities and differences between this Starbucks and the “local” where I live in Kuala Lumpur. As I had the same barista as yesterday I wondered what makes a customer a regular in an ever changing city.
    This was a fun exercise and I wrote. Now on to do my Slice of Life post.

    1. Hooray for writing! And I think the way you used the exercise sounds really productive.

  19. Like Stacey, I look forward to trying this in my classroom. This is both fun and non-threatening. I LOVE it! Thanks.

    1. You know, non-threatening is more important than so many people realize in creating writers. It’s not something to be forced.

  20. I love this prompt. (I’m saying “love” alot today) Across the street from my house is a space that was cleared to extend the baseball field. But the money ran out and it wasn’t finished. I wrote a poem, I’m not sure the formatting will come in this this post, but I will give it a go.


    A clearing, half cleared, and mostly ignored
    fights to reclaim its wildness.
    Saplings grow among the debris of their ancestors.
    Poison ivy creeps about, warns to go no further.
    An artificial mound of sand is a repurposed home for fire ants.
    In and out of the holes they created, they wander,
    some carry sand, some carry sticks
    but most are empty mouthed.
    Searching for what, they will not know
    until they find it.
    A lone soldier protects her home and kin,
    bites my leg and I react in pain,
    ending her.
    But her message was successful,
    I’m not wanted here,
    I leave,
    it all unfinished.

  21. What a great idea! Better observation skills is one of my summer goals. We are staying in a 1 room cabin in the Montana mountains right now. To take full advantage of your writing prompt, I will write about inside the cabin, outside the cabin, and then take my 100 steps. Next, I will make my way down to the river and write one more time. Thanks!

  22. No matter which direction I go 100 steps, I end up in a field. And sure there are lots of things you can explore and find in a field. But, that’s not where my brain went. I’m thinking about the future because I want to do some futuristic writing, so what will 100 steps look like in the future. The closest town that has quite a bit of industry is about 20 miles away. Could it expand this far south in the next 25 years, or so? Will my farmhouse be the old house on the street that everyone wants to demolish for a strip mall? To try and figure this out I looked up how large is a large city, like New York City. According to what I found it is 305 square miles. If that were a perfect square that would be around 17 miles across (which seems small.) I think I’m safe. I hope if I can still walk 100 steps in 25 years, I end up in a field.

    Thank you for this prompt!

  23. I haven’t taken my 100 steps yet, as I’m still in my pajamas. Yes, it is after noon, but don’t judge me — it is summer. 🙂 I did want to comment on a cool connection. I just came back from our NCRA Leadership Conference, where we received our theme for our Young Author’s project, and it is. .. .”Step Outside” — a theme all about exploring our natural world. I thought this was such a cool quick write — and one that I’ll use with my writers’ group in the fall to kick off our YA theme! Thanks for the inspiration!

  24. Thank you for this great prompt! I used it to explore 100 steps in my main character\’s universe and the prompt encouraged me to visualize what her surroundings were like. I had been in a rut with this idea, but today\’s prompt focused my attention.

  25. I’m remembering today how much I love the magic that happens when people take a prompt in a million directions and then share. Thank you so much to everyone being brave today!

    1. Even better, one item was a dead bee on the path. This became the problem solver to my scene. A bee caused the problem!

  26. Okay. I walked 100 steps north of the outdoor pool that I swim in a few days a week. What did I find? Well, I found a very interesting perspective of a park that I swim, run, bike, cross-country ski, walk, and golf (and years ago, played softball) at during all of the four different seasons. Here are my notes:
    – rhythmic beat of the swim team swimming laps in the pool
    – an unleashed dog (no kidding – the owner didn’t show up until my entire list was written – about 15 minutes???)
    – the scent of fresh cut grass (from the golf course being mowed)
    – over a dozen trees, which my hundredth step put me in the middle of, surrounding me (I never knew there were this many – I have been visiting this park for over 20 years)
    – smacking of feet on pavement of runners running the same road through the park that I run (I wonder if they noticed the trees?:)
    – two women walking and talking very loudly about last night’s Def Leppard concert (it must have been a loud night at the amphitheater)

    Today’s writing focused on the unleashed dog. The adventures of an unleashed dog, which was surprisingly very well kept, exploring the park on a beautiful Tuesday morning makes for a fun little story. The writing was from the dog’s perspective.:)

    Thank you, Anne Marie, for a fun writing prompt! I look forward to trying this with my students – my school is located on a series of drumlins, so it will be interesting to see where 100 steps take us.

    1. Great observations, Andy, and the dog story sounds like fun. Isn’t it amazing what “new” things we can observe even in familiar places when we slow down and take the time? Also, I had to thank you for the word “drumlin”, which I had to look up, love the sound of and can now add to my collection.

  27. A step
    A start
    A move forward
    Or back
    Necessary to go
    Or to stay
    Or go around
    In Circles
    Again and again
    And again
    Will I go forward and find something new?
    Will I come back and share it with you?
    How many steps will I take this day?
    Will they push me to grow?
    Only one way to know
    One foot forward I go.

  28. A journey in 100 steps
    The Magic Shed
    Of course I’d end up here
    With a chair to boot
    I see “Lovers Lane”
    A direct route to Mikey
    I will marry him someday
    Look straight
    I see right into The Magic Shed.
    A most magically playful place.
    She told her mother to buy this house because it had a Magic Shed.
    So I did
    A tiny brick duplex we call a dollhouse kind of home.
    strawberries delicious
    Perfect puttering place
    Where rainclouds tease
    The sun peeks
    Birds chatter
    Won’t go inside The Magic Shed just yet
    I am stuck in a moment of summertime in the afternoon.

  29. I love the 100 steps & plan to really stop, listen, smell, & feel. Perhaps revisit the same spots at different times of the day. Fun!

    1. I love the idea of going back at different times–the wind, the light, the temperature–so much would be different.

  30. A View from the Front
    I bought my house for the backyard view, the peaceful hum of the nature, and the closeness to town without being town. Today, I am 100 steps from the backyard to check out the view from the front side.
    A breeze in the trees sends shivers down my arms as I am reminded of my grandpa and our time together on “The Farm.”
    It’s cold today in the front, yesterday so hot as I read by the pool in the back, a funny contrast to my feelings of the two yards.
    Birds signal out a warning–am I the reason for their alarm? My 100 steps has invaded their favorite place.
    Sirens calling out from town, a reminder that I am safe. The sirens draw near stopping at the end of my dirt road. Prays for safety to all.
    Silence settles back over Millbrook. The birds are now singing, no longer warning of my presence. I am in the corner of my yard, at one with the world around me.
    Looking in, I am at peace. Looking in, at my whole world, my favorite place to be. Breathing in fresh air, dark skies knowing I am safe, I am loved, I have a place–my own little corner of the sky.

    1. Are you in Millbrook, NY? My BIL used to live there and we’ve visited quite a few times. Love the bit about wondering if you’ve caused the birds alarm.

  31. So I have to share this with the group. My teacher friend and I (certified librarian/school media specialist) runs a summer learning club for our kids, which the four of them named the Brainiacs. One of our activities is free writing — the kids get to choose their favorite spot (inside, outside, under a table, in a tree, etc.) and write freely for 20 minutes (they usually write longer than that because they are having fun). This morning, before my daughter settled down to write, I challenged her to do the 100 steps exercise. She looked at me like, “Mom, I JUST sat down!” but obliged me anyway. She picked up her notebook and pencil, and counted 100 steps around our house. She went through the kitchen, living room, onto our deck briefly, and somehow, after 100 carefully counted steps, ended right back where she started. Her sister and I burst out laughing. I guess when you HAVE a favorite writing spot already, sometimes it’s okay to stick with it. 🙂

    1. Jennifer, your account made me laugh for two reasons. The first is that it was simply funny to imagine your daughter landing in the spot where she started. The second is that I did this exercise with a student I tutor, and he took 100 steps, one forward then one back, with every intention of staying in the place where he started. Sometimes you do have to stick with the place you want!

    2. Your daughter is a clever one! That made me laugh and laugh. Kids have ideas, yes? And they’ll comply with ours if we insist, but eventually come back to their own.

  32. I put on some shorts, threw my hair up and walked out the front door. I aimed my 100 steps toward the shade under the trees in the back yard. This is Houston in the summertime after all. Success! Okay, I cheated on the number of steps a little but this is the first time doing this assignment. Next time I will head up the street in the opposite direction and do exactly 100 steps.

    I decided that since I love reading fantasy and science fiction novels I would look around to find things under those headings.

    A bird flew by, landed on a branch and made a call that sounded like an alarm. Could this be a robot? Perhaps it just looked like a bird but is really an alien. What’s it doing in my yard? Who or what is it warning? What is the danger and should I be concerned as well?

    Looking at the plants I thought about what they could be used for in a magical potion. I have lots of flowers and thought that each different color can be used to change your mood. Blue can calm anxiety for instance. Tree trunks have different texture so perhaps smooth bark can be used in a potion for youth. Variegated leaves can help you see both sides of an issue.

    1. I thought I replied to this earlier, but I don’t see it! I really like the way you adapted the exercise to suit your own needs.

  33. (…at only about 7 paces from the door)
    Struggling to find the right pencil
    No lead
    Wrong lead
    Wrong pencil
    Replacement lead lost in blades of grass
    Starting is the hardest part

    (…@ 100 steps)
    Tiny white flowers, so delicate.
    Pop through the sunburned dead grass.
    How do they thrive while all else dies?
    Bright, like stars in the night.

    1. There are so many times in my life when just getting started was such a burden. Yay for perseverance!

  34. What a great idea. I’m going to use this with my library students, even the ones who aren’t quite ready to start writing can still talk about where the steps take them and what they think.

    1. It should be easily adaptable to whatever level of student you are working with–or however far along they are in their writing journeys.

  35. My 100 steps took me to the east end of my father’s garden.
    I filled my notebook page with a diagram of what I could see right in front of me as I pivoted to the north, south, east, and west. Thanks for the great exercise.

    The hoe-blade faces up
    Instead of safely down
    Near the end of the row
    The tiny yellow squash hide
    Beneath the umbrella of the wide green, pointy leaves
    Deep golden-yellow squash blossoms reach toward the light
    Through the small spaces between the umbrellas
    Red, peach, and deep orange zinnias grow
    Beside and under the green umbrellas

  36. Great exercise-thank you! My connection, because here in NJ it is a gloomy day, helped me
    create an idea for my WIP that shows the dichotomy of my 2 characters…

    I press forward, anxious but still moving, counting softly in my head–ninety-eight, ninety-nine,
    one hundred. I look up for the first time, anticipating life. But I’m disappointed. This tiny world
    is devoid of real color, save the brown and green shades that fail to prosper under the gray
    skies. Every place I step brings pain–the snap of a twig, the crunch of leaves, the squelch of
    the mud.
    Trees reach in all directions–some skyward, a jail barring my progress. Others lean and bend,
    with roots exposed, still begging to survive. And some have lost–prone on the forest floor,
    already the victims of the tiniest forest creatures.
    Sound? I refuse to listen, but the sirens streak past and make me pay attention. They warn of
    the intruder. You shouldn’t be here. You don’t belong.
    The smell speaks of dying Earth, mildew and decay, sadness.
    Yet nature finds its way, as always. Amid the debris, a tiny plant has refused to give way.
    New life persists and grows out of the rotting leaves and trees. And there are others–many
    in fact, if you just look–bravely beckoning to the world…are you ready?
    A single ray of light finds its way through the clouds and trees. A ray of hope, reaching back,
    calling me forward.

  37. I cheated, too. One hundred steps isn’t very far… and I’d already gotten it into my head to explore the small cemetery 2 blocks from my suburban front door. I love Quick-Writes as a way to loosen up my mind and get the words flowing. I also love how turning off my inner editor allows unexpected associations to surface. Thanks, Anne Marie, for this prompt. My notebook definitely has some raw material for a new poem. Here’s a snippet, still in note form:

    Dark gray stone flecked with moss, looks like a good shove could topple it over, lamb perched on top, headless.
    GEB. DEN
    1 JUNI 1901
    13 MAI 1902
    Creak of playground swings. Shouts from the pool. Strident call of blue jay overhead. What was it like here 100 years ago? More. The cemetery sits on a knoll. Have these trees been here that long? The pine. The oaks. How many times have we walked past here on our way to the park, to the pool? Pushing a stroller, carrying a toddler worn out from playing, crying out to the boys running ahead to stop at the street and look both ways before they cross. And all this time, Mathias has been here. The adults, too, but it’s always the children that get me the most.

    1. The kids get me, too, especially the ones who were not here long enough to get a name.

    2. Ooooh, I want to do a cemetery quick write sometime this summer. Your post is so cool! Thanks for sharing, Jennifer.

  38. Awesome prompt! I found myself in the alley (weird chioce, but I am glad for it). Apparently, one of my across-the-alley neighbors has a secret garden of lilies or tulips. Each stalk is marked with a name on a wooden stick. Also, our alley looks like something straight out of “Leave it to Beaver,” oddly perfect.
    Seeing this garden prompted a 4 page WIP about a 12 year old boy and his judgments about his old, Native American neighbor. The boy’s poor judgment create a consequence of him having to spend everyday with the neighbor, learning about his life and his secrets.

    1. An alley sounds like an awesome place to observe things you might otherwise skip over; and hooray for 4 pages!

  39. I think about being observant more often now than when I was young. I live in the house I grew up in. A beautiful cape on the ocean. My views and surroundings are constantly changing. Today, however, I took my 100 steps with my best friend. We were thrown in the playpen together while our mothers drank coffee and smoked cigarettes. We talked about how fortunate we are to live in a beautiful place, but I was thinking more about how lucky I am to have a friend who knows everything about me and my life. We grew up together, went away to college together, got married and are raising our kids together. We cried together when we each lost our mom. I know she will be there for me every step I take.

  40. Taking 100 steps, took me to my field. I was disappointed; I had imagined myself perched on a log deep in the forest. Dutifully, I sat down with low expectations.

    What I discovered was that the world shrunk and expanded at the same time. One minute, it was just this grassy space, a large open field. Then my focus zoomed in to my immediate surroundings until the world exploded into a complex tangle of grasses, flowers and seeds. As I held still, this tiny world came alive with insects and spiders–all going about their business. Each of them totally unaware of each other and blissfully unaware of me.

    A small spider the color of new leaves in the spring, landed on me. As I watched, she went through this amazing dance that enabled her to travel her own version of a hundred ‘steps.’ As I watched, she crawled up a tall blade of grass, to its high point. She raised her abdomen. I could see nothing, but wondered what she was doing. Next, she’d climb across a single strand of web. How had it gotten there? I began to watch closer. With the sunlight on her, I was actually able to see the web she released. The wind it…grabbed it, stretching the delicate strand to another nearby blade of grass. This one with a wheat-like head. Again, she quickly crawled across her line. She repeated this process again and again until I eventually lost sight of her. She left me wondering what she was searching for. Was it the perfect place to rest or hunt? Was she looking for a particular plant or insect? All I know is that she was was using her resources, the wind and the web, to make her way.

  41. 100 Steps
    I see the small opening between the roots of the large oak tree. That is where I started my 100 steps, and now I am sitting here with my pen and notebook writing. While I write, I have to be careful to remember where I am. A fly flew by and nearly caused me to fall over. A bumblebee could cause me to tumble down the hill, then I might not make it home before nightfall. The last time that happened, poppa made a tether, and I was only permitted to leave Oakhomey while hooked to the tether. Today, I arose early, so I could take my 100 steps and write. I can hear the campers in the distance. The large ones with their booming voices-“Stay together. Don’t wander off. No going down the hill,” and the smaller ones with their high pitched giggles and soft whispers. The smallest one is so quiet. She is the one that worries me. The others I can hear coming, but if she catches me, I would have to grant her wish just to get away. In the excitement, she might even call the rest of the campers over, and then I’d be overloaded with wishes. When I’d finally return to Oakhomey, I’d be kept inside. No more tether. I wander what life would be if I wasn’t a pixie.

    1. How creative! I love the perspective! I was constantly forming ideas on who the speaker was. At first, I thought it was a dog. Then, I when I reread it, I realized all the clues! So cool!

  42. I am a teacher-librarian in second year of #TW. Great prompt for use anywhere! I live right against an open space trail so that\’s where I ended up on a hot quiet afternoon. At first I was struck by how few sounds and movements there were but as I sat I sensed more and more. I was struck by the contrast and similarities of the natural and man made sights and sounds. I haven\’t had the sit down yet but there is definitely a poem there, possibly a man-nature two voice or something more narrative. Could also serve for a scene in a story.

  43. Great Prompt – It is amazing what we can find right outside our front or back door.

  44. Kate, Congrats on the new Ranger book! Thanks for the truly helpful prompt Anne Marie. I discovered that when observing I tend to pick out sounds and neglect visual details. I realized that I turn everything into a  narrative – I wrote a short slice of life ,piece. A great learning experience! 

    1. Oh, that is interesting. I think I probably do the opposite–focus on the visual, less on sounds.

  45. I’m not going to lie. I did NOT venture outside due to the heat! Besides, there’s an air quality alert which only adds to my excuse 😉

    I did, however, look out a window I usually ignore. It has a brick wall which blocks my view, but today I used the wall as a kicking-off point for a poem! A poem!

    I wrote down my thought process for the poem beneath it. I don’t usually write poetry, but I guess that’s the idea of Teacher’s Write—write something new. I hope when my learners look at my blog next year, they see my thought process and it eases their tension or they make a connection.

    Read it here: http://mollickslitmix.blogspot.com/2016/06/teachers-write-2.html

  46. Each house on the Mission Hills street is light–beige or cream or salmon. Each house–except one. It’s the house I’m standing outside right now. Everything about it is dark oppressive brown, especially the front door, which looks like it’s been repurposed from a medieval castle. It must have been used to lock out intruders, to protect the castle-dwellers from invaders, from those who would compromise the safety of the people who have locked themselves inside.
    I am the intruder–the one who, just by showing up, will tear down these walls, bust in that door. I know this is true, yet I step toward the front porch and prepare to ring the bell.

  47. What a fun exercise. Here is the free writing I did after jotting down my observations in my WN.
    “What did you hear boy?” Tabitha asked while being pulled back in the direction she had been traveling by her normally calm Great Dane. It was a calm afternoon. Other than the normal summer sounds of the day campers returning from their hikes, she didn’t sense anything out of the norm. However, Bucky’s howls and seeming urgency to return to the parking lot made her take an extra look around. Just as she was being pulled around the corner, she noticed a lone deer standing still in the middle of the meadow. The deer’s head was darting from side to side. The deer began a tentative trot toward the woods only to stop abruptly, turn his head to the right, stop mid step and dart to the other side of the meadow. At that exact moment, Bucky began to howl at the direction the deer had recently abandoned. Tabitha looked around again. The camp counselors who were just coming into view didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, but something was definitely causing the animals to behave in such a manner. She hesitantly resumed her walk, pulling Bucky with such force that she wasn’t sure if she had the strength to get him back to the car. Then, she saw it, a dark cloud forming in the sky. This was enough to give in to Bucky’s evident desire to return to the parking lot. Quickening her pace, Tabitha and Bucky began going back in the direction of their car; however, they had only travelled a short distance before a line of campers blocked the path in front of them returning from their hike. “Looks like a big storm rolling through,” Tabitha remarked to the counselor. He looked at the sky and then at her with a curious expression. “Either you or your dog has a sixth sense for storms if your predicting one with that sky,” he said pointing up. As Tabitha followed his eyes, she was amazed to see the sky was once again perfectly clear.

  48. Perfect writing activity for today. I’m making my husband do this prompt with me. He never takes time to walk or to write. Maybe this will prompt some good ideas for us both! Thanks for this great idea.

  49. I grabbed my new blue notebook, 2 pens (BIC Mark-It and uni-ball Signo), my “Life is Good” coffee mug, and headed out the front door to count 100 steps. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to notice much. I thought 100 steps is too few, the area is too familiar. I was wrong.

    I found myself staring at the neighbor’s front yard for the first time. I see it every day, but never like this. The first time I saw it was two years ago when we moved in. An African-American man no older than 60 was riding his John Deere lawn mower. He smiled and tipped his cap. I would see him just about every day for the next year. I would see him cutting the grass. I would see him trimming the hedges. I would see him edging the driveway. Then one day, I didn’t see him. I saw a hearse, hugging family members, and a black veiled wife crying on the porch. That day I hugged my wife extra long and kissed her an extra time. A sad reminder that life is short and time is precious. I hadn’t thought about the man much until today, sitting with my notebook, pens, and a cup of coffee.

    I stared at the huge oak tree in the front yard. It has been there much longer than both me or the deceased man. It is tall and strong at first glance, but time is catching up with it as well. A third of the tree no longer produces leaves. Dead limbs can be found in all directions. One branch is completely broken off. The other branches are holding it in the air like they are begging for just one more day with their friend. One strong wind and he will be gone. Another branch lays on the ground like the seven others that are peppered around the tree. Even the birds seem to avoid the tree. I can hear chirps all around me, but not a single bird sits upon the oak.

    Upon closer inspection, the yard is full of signs that the caretaker is gone. Another dead tree stands next to the elm. Far too young to be dead, but an untreated fungus has consumed it. A rusted basketball hoop with a cracked backboard and shriveled net barely stand by the front door. A hummingbird feeder swings completely empty from a dilapidated metal pole. The window shades are drawn closed. The same 100 steps as two years ago, but a vastly different view.

  50. We were traveling today but I did 100 miles. I wrote my observations about the Big Horn Mountains because at the beginning they are just super tiny when I look out my parents’ picture window and then 100 miles down the road they had risen up and we were much closer to them.

  51. Just a snippet from today’s 100 Steps exercise…I sit, with grass-covered toes from the freshly-mown lawn, in my lavender adirondack, looking at the back corner of my lavender house — though from this view — an L-shaped view of the back of my home — only 2 of the walls are truly lavender. The two inside walls are variations of natural wood, white, and a very faded lavender. The paint — or lack thereof on those two sides is another reminder of unfinished tasks and jobs yet undone…..The house is big and sprawling. It is tattered and worn and full of love — as all real things are. It’s evening as I write — and the oppressive heat has waned. It’s warm and humid, still, as it often is in the rural South.

    I look straight ahead down my driveway — a long grassy lane flanked by green dreams that are out of control — mostly weeds now, with treasures thrown in that are fighting to survive. Mint battles wild blackberries and the purple coneflower stands an astute soldier with its lavender blossoms along the edge of the chaos that was, once upon a time, the dream of a cottage garden and an herb bed.

    Overhanging the grassy expanse is an arching branch of a mimosa tree — a weedy tree by most standards, but a staple of my childhood and a beautiful beacon for butterflies with its powder puff pink blossoms — a nectar buffet. Even as I write, a dark mariposa flutters overhead.

    Beyond the grassy lane are the two tell-tale parallel lines — naked dirt — of a well-traveled drive….

    Not a bad start. Several themes emerged that might warrant some more attention. I enjoyed the time to sit and enjoy nature and quiet for a while. It was a fun exercise!

  52. I wasn’t able to actually take 100 steps because I waited until the afternoon to read the post and a huge thunderstorm was rolling through. Instead, I sat on the porch listening to the impending thunder and smelling the rain on the breeze and wrote about what I would see if I went down the road to an out-of-business arcade.
    I am on vacation at my family’s lake camp in the Adirondacks, a place I have been every summer of my life except one. There are so many memories here. Here is an excerpt from what I wrote. A longer version is on my blog: wellwornwords.blogspot.com

    Thunder rumbling,
    Clouds rolling in,
    Breeze picking up;
    Storm’s coming.

    I can smell the rain, but the birds are still singing.

    If I could walk from here, I would direct my 100 steps towards Sherman’s. The once busy arcade, carousel, and ferris wheel from fifteen years ago; go back further and there were other rides too, kiddie roller coasters, bumper cars. Now? I would see rusted metal, peeling paint, broken glass, evidence of a bygone era, a time when business thrived, though never really boomed; the summer months at least were good. I would hear geese squawking, traffic buzzing down 29A – but no one stopping. Maybe a loon would make a haunting call to its mate.

  53. I tried to write tonight what I had observed earlier today – I took my 3 yr. Old son strawberry picking for the first time. I used to do this with my grandfather when I was little. Many observations – perhaps I might try writing from his perspective…thanks for the inspiration!

  54. Thanks so much for the inspiration. I walked more than 100 steps so that I wasn’t sitting on a stranger’s lawn. I ended up outside of the neighborhood community center and made a list. When I did the connections, lo and behold, several of them had to do with aging and with beauty. So, I went with that. It was fascinating to draw the arrows and notice how seemingly unconnected items were actually deeply connected.

  55. This was a great prompt. I used it in my Slice of life blog… Starting with….

    “100 feet.

    I’m 200 miles away from where I usually am. Distance makes me notice more.

    New York City is different from my town. Difference makes me notice more.

    I don’t know the rules of the subway. Not knowing the rules makes me notice more.
    On the train, I can’t help but people watch
    in the silence
    It’s so quiet!
    Nobody talks
    Serious faces in suits and uniforms,
    Slices of life all around me, I desperately want my notebook
    which is deep in my backpack
    on the floor
    stuffed between my feet

    Sometimes you can see another train as you pass
    My vision zooms out to see a tube of serious faces
    My empathy makes serious faces into sad ones

    I notice.
    A tired woman boards, looks like she’s been cleaning all night –
    I hope she gets to sit down soon
    A man in a white t-shirt and suit jacket, keychains dangle
    A child softy complains
    I can’t help but notice people…”

  56. My 100 steps is not physical — but played back in my head as I envision my day at the Iowa Reading Association state conference on the ISU campus today. I see a variety of exhibitors and stop to chat with a couple of university reps from Iowa institutions. I had wondered down this hallway to grab a cup of coffee — but found pleasure in discussions with these folks. One even enlightened me about a political issue in our state involving education. Seems the governor, who once asked for and supported CCSS, now wants a study to assess its effectiveness for our students. This exhibitor, a long-time AEA consultant and administrator, is writing a letter to the governor to remind him of his past request for our state to adopt state reading standards — and to suggest gathering data after CCSS has only been implemented two years would be nearly impossible.

    I jot down some notes regarding this topic . . . and wonder where reading education might be headed to next. And question in my heart again the wisdom of a state legislature that has made a requirement that all third grade students must read at a proficient level by the year 2017 — or be retained. What kind of message is this?

    I am refreshed to hear from literacy experts throughout the day about knowing my own beliefs as a teacher and educator. Choosing what is important for students, then finding ways to do what is right for our students, rather than teaching them to read as fast as they can on an oral reading passage. That’s NOT reading!! Reading is so much more than this — an important tool the students need to learn all there is in the world. “Good teachers have a belief system of good teaching that is not found in a text book series.”

    As I walk the corridors, I see teachers of all makes and models — I see hope. I see enthusiasm. I see smiles. I see seekers, believers, questioners, and readers.

  57. Although I had to modify the 100 steps activity before I was eaten alive, I felt it had much to offer. As I started my walk on a trail through the woods that I haven’t ventured on for some time, my senses were popping to absorb it all. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I realized that the mosquitos didn’t want me to exclude them from my pages. My walk was cut short and I sat around my fire pit until life called me back.

    Here’s a sample:
    Rotted tree stumps as bug hotels
    acorn tops
    whole acorns with worm holes
    must walk faster
    mosquitos swarming
    can’t concentrate
    dog panting as she runs by, yet again
    the big roots of the pine tree weaving in and out of the earth

    It’s funny how when you want to use the different senses to explore, there seems to always be ONE thing that continually drawn your attention back. Today, it was bugs! I think this would be a great activity to do with students in the fall, winter, and spring.

  58. Happy book birthday, Kate! Thanks for the quick write suggestion, Ann Marie! I did accomplish the 100 steps, but couldn’t write about it until today. At first I was resistant, but I pushed through anyway. As I wrote, I noticed a pattern emerge about waiting versus doing. I think my notes have potential as a poem or maybe a theme in a short story. I’m glad I did my “homework”.

  59. I was at the lake visiting some friends when I took my 100 steps. Within my field of vision were glimmering glimpses of the lake and snippets of blue sky – both obscured by the trees. A path meandered back up to the cluster of cabins, or stretched in the other direction down to the lake. Up by the cabins I could see several clotheslines with beach towels and swimsuits gently flapping in the breeze; I also spotted about 20 bikes, all in a myriad of sizes and with various implements attached: baby seats, a tandem kid-rider, a cart for kids to ride in, and some with training wheels.

    These bikes spurred a memory for me – so I’m going to blog about it tonight! Yay! Thanks for this lovely exercise! (I loved it so much I tried it again at my house today, but that’s another story…)

  60. “100 Steps” ( A day late, sorry 🙂 )

    303C is definitely the oddball of the neighborhood when it comes to houses. For one thing, its small, boxy shape provides a sharp contrast against the grand, mysterious-looking brownstones that line the rest of State Street. When you look at this brick box that stretches no more than a third of the height of the surrounding buildings, you get a sense that at one point it was some wealthy family’s carriage house or shed.

    In addition to 303C’s lack of grandeur, the alley and driveway on either side of the house draw attention. No one, I mean not a soul, has a parking in Center Square. But this little shed boasts three parking spots. Every once in awhile I’ll notice a “For Rent” sign dangling precariously from a trash can in the lot. “$175/month,” the sign reads in small black letters. You’d think with the extra cash that the owner of this place is raking in, he/she might spruce the place up a little. But it’s not that kind of place, and I’m pretty sure it’s not that kind of owner.

    The blinds are crooked and broken and even in their closed position they reveal fragments of what lies within to any passerby who might be curious. And undoubtedly, everyone is curious about this place. If you are traveling South towards Washington Park and you peer in the window along the way, you can make out an iron spiral staircase and a flat-screen TV on a broken desk that’s littered with junk. Upon first seeing this view I was surprised that this tiny box of a house had two floors.

    Walking east toward the Capitol, the angle from which I approached today, you can see a broom leaning up against a windowsill, along with several rags and old bottles of cleaning products. Ironically, it doesn’t appear as if anyone has ever used those bottles in this place, not recently anyway.

    My eyes wander from the dirty bottles to the front door and I get the sense, based on the dilapidated state of the rest of the house, that the lock is rickety at best. I feel a sudden urge to turn the knob, jiggle it a bit, let myself in, but I resist.

    I make a slow, deliberate “360” and take in my surroundings. Across the street and on either side of 303C are beautifully kept, historic homes , some with wrought iron fixings over the windows, some even completed gated. As I complete my turn, and fix my gaze once again on 303C, I shudder, and a single word comes to my mind: exposed.

  61. Thanks for the inspiration. I often look out of my mother’s porch window, but I went down the stairs and across her lawn to sit in the swing and look out over the lake. I appreciated the peace of the night and was able to jot down many many things. Tonight I will expand on at least one of them, but maybe even more. Thanks again for the idea.

  62. My 100 steps takes me to the elementary school bus stop where my youngest son caught his last bus in June. This walk consumes me with fear–a new school, a new way of doing everything, a new milestone….I fear. I fear for his self esteem. I fear for his love of learning. I fear for/of the teenager he is becoming.

  63. Happy Book birthday, Kate! I just bought the first Ranger book for my niece. Hoping to hook her!

    Thanks for the fun quick write. I never would have thought of this idea.