Teachers Write 7.27.17 Thursday Quick-Write with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Good morning! Our Thursday Quick-Write today is courtesy of guest author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. Olugbemisola is the author of the novel 8th Grade Superzero, co-author of Two Naomis and the forthcoming And Two Naomis Too, with Audrey Vernick. She​ writes for Brightly and has written for Heinemann’s Digital Campus; she has contributed to The Journey Is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want To Write for People Who Want To Read Them, Imagine it Better: Visions of What Schools Might Be, Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, and Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself. She is a Brown Bookshelf and We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) team member and teaches writing online and in living colour. Olugbemisola lives with her family in NYC where she writes, makes things, and needs to get more sleep. Find her online at olugbemisolabooks.com.​

One of my favourite writing prompts is also one of the simplest, but I find it extremely powerful, especially when I’m trying to tease out a fledgling idea, brainstorming, or just writing to write without an end “product” in mind.

I think it works best at the end of the day, or first thing in the morning. But I am not one for hard and fast rules when it comes to writing, so work it out the way it works best for you.

Your Assignment: Spend at least fifteen minutes writing down the last 24 hours, just listing what you
a) did, and
b) noticed.

That’s it! Usually, after a while, I begin to see patterns, and what Don Murray called my “writing territories,” the things that I know and care about a lot. ​You might see many different variations on a theme, or realize that there is this one thing that your whole self is crying out to write. Almost every time, I’m surprised, and it leads me in new and beautiful and strange and well-loved and tedious and ​slightly scary directions. Which is how writing often is, all at once, yeah?

As always, feel free to share a reflection in the comments!

52 Replies on “Teachers Write 7.27.17 Thursday Quick-Write with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

  1. Woke up at 2:00 a.m. with a whining dog on my bed- put him on the floor.

    Fell back asleep and woke up again at 6:00.

    Got some coffee, drank some water and lemon, and made myself a green smoothie.

    Went for a walk with my daughter’s dog to go pick some raspberries. I carried for esa short time where there was a lot of traffic and the hill was steep. We ended up walking 2 miles without protest. I picked 1/2 quart of wild sweet raspberries. We were both covered in hitchhiker spiny seeds. Afterward, I did my exercise, took a shower and got ready to meet my sister.

    I met my sister at a local movie theater. The movie. unfortunately was not very good. In fact, it was kind of bizarre. After the movie, we hung out near our cars chatting for the next hour and a half. My sister confessed that she is not an extrovert. We talked about kids, her retirement and planning a weekend together. Lots of laughs. We said our goodbyes.

    I got home, I took Rufus (the dog) out. I grabbed the book Children Want to Write, to read outside on the side yard. While I was out there I could hear the cry of the neighborhood hawk. I noticed a hummingbird moth fluttering in the hostas. I took pictures of it.

  2. Yesterday, one of my students met me at school to help with the tasks of getting the classroom ready. I’ve taught E in gifted classes for 6 years. This year, she moves on to middle school. I wanted to cherish this day we had together.

    For lunch I introduced E to Greek food. She loved it. We talked easily about our summers.

    Then we went to my other school. E was excited to see my other school. She walked through the halls with fresh eyes. She noticed the color of the walls. “I like yellow. But not this color yellow. It’s the color of pee.”

    I had to laugh. But E also noticed the friendliness of the teachers in the hallways. “This school seems friendlier.” She wanted to see how each teacher had decorated their bulletin boards. “This is a happy school.”

    Do decorations make the difference? E and I worked on my bulletin board, a task that proved to be challenging. I probably would have given up, but I persevered with E’s enthusiasm and creativity.
    Getting ready for the new school year can be a chore. I’m happy I found a fresh friend to help me see things in a new light.

  3. Thanks for the prompt. I would love to do this with my students, especially the ones who don’t think they have anything to write about.

    It has been a rough morning here in my house. The children would like to stay up late because it’s light and it’s summer, but we’re on our second week of camp (Farm Camp and then VBS), so they don’t enjoy getting up early. My morning routine is the same no matter what time of year–get up, start coffee, see if any laundry needs to be done, pack bags for the day, have a shower and breakfast, and get everyone else up. The summer days include taking the kids on adventures, and the school days include hopefully taking my students on adventures. I return home to get everyone ready and hopefully rested for another day. At this point, it feels like I know a lot about trying to balance work and home, others and self.

  4. Thanks for the prompt today. It was interesting to look for patterns in the things I do.

    Yesterday I shopped for me. I have a big birthday this year and there was some pressure for me to get something special. So yesterday I got two things I have wanted for a long time: an iPad and a good keyboard. I have a tablet. It is not a name brand but it does an okay job. I have to been wise about what I download and it constantly needs to be recharged but it works okay. I have a keyboard, a hand me down from my daughter from when she switched to a MacBook. The space bar only works about half of the time and it is really small but it’s okay. Because of my big birthday, I have been thinking about my life lately, realizing that I have often tried to squeeze my life in the spaces between everyone else’s lives. I have settled and taken things that were “okay” so that someone else could have the perfect thing. So yesterday I shopped and what I got was perfect for me: no compromises.

    1. I adore this! “I have been thinking about my life lately, realizing that I have often tried to squeeze my life in the spaces between everyone else’s lives.” It might be interesting to try a longer one that includes the things you do for others alongside your reflections on what you’d like to do for yourself. Happy birthday this year, congratulations on your celebration — keep it going!

  5. What I have done, and noticed, in the last 24 hours.

    I was asleep at this time yesterday.
    Finally followed advice to not check twitter as soon as I woke up. Lit a lavender calendar and laid in bed instead. Couldn’t fully separate from technology so looked through Instagram instead.
    Made a list of things to do for the day.
    After morning chores, took a shower that was long and luxurious. Listened to my new favorite song, No Shortcuts by Heather Maloney, on repeat while in the shower.
    Long shower meant already off track from my schedule for getting everything done.
    Physical therapy for pulled hamstring.
    Reply to emails. Send emails.
    Look at program for partnership with UMass Boston for next year. Decide application is too long to get done right now and still write.
    Work on Teacher’s Write prompt.
    Try desperately to finish knitting baby gift (toy elephant) for a friend I am supposed to visit at 3.
    While knitting, listen to David Sedaris’s new book on audio.
    While listening, notice, despite how it feels, we really have made progress in so many ways in our world. Sedaris talks about constant abuse in late 70s and early 80s for being gay – or presumed gay. Talks about the way coworkers talk about women and I am shocked. Then grateful for being shocked.
    Realize at 2 that the gift will not be finished.
    Call sister-in-law to discuss reading interventions for my niece and nephew, both who struggle as readers. Really excited to help in the process.
    Head to friends house, sans elephant. Happy to meet new little girl, despite being giftless.
    Leave to go to airport to pick up friend and her daughter. Grab dinner at Shanti, amazing Indian restaurant. Spend the evening watching a movie on the back deck sipping rosè.

    Woke up early to do Teacher’s Write before heading to Maine on a road trip with friend and her daughter!

    1. Oh, so many of my favourite activities: toy knitting, listening to David Sedaris tell a story…as well as my usual activities: unfinished toy making, and trying to disconnect from tech for a bit, and almost succeeding. So many stories here — I hope you’ll expand on some of them. Wishing you a speedy hamstring recovery!

  6. Yesterday
    List: dogs out, meds, breakfast, chores, shower, therapy, dogs, grocery shopping, lunch, teens awakened, writing, listings, dinner prep, husband’s plans, clean rugs, laundry, dishes,dinner, clean, dogs, Netflix, read, dogs, laundry, bed,
    My days off are lonely and repetitive. My actions are driven by our current crisis and even when I think I’m not focusing on it. I am. Woke up to two dogs needing to go out. Felt as though I hadn’t slept. Ate bananas hoping to calm my stomach. Took meds and drank required 8 oz of water . Then counted them again to be sure they taken. Like I can’t trust myself. Let dogs in silently wished they’d wake everyone so it wasn’t so quiet, lonely.. Scoured laundry room for items unneeded to sell online. Part tidying part income desperation. Sorted the laundry. Returned to kitchen to ignore mess made by teens who just don’t understand crisis. Watched The Keepers as I folded the towels. Felt my summer slipping by doing menial tasks. Showered and shaved. Last physical therapy today. Last reminder that everyday following thirty my body has given up some function. Therapy is humiliating. Sarcasm and conversation cannot quell the fear that I am the youngest one by decades and life sent me here, not surgery. The wondering if I’ll make it to their age creeps in. The dogs are a happy distraction in a way my children once were.

    1. It feels weird to comment on someone else’s day, but the way you’ve expressed yours deserves notice b/c you really brought me into your home with your description. (I often threaten to let the mess pile up until this house runs out of dishes, but I know the next move would be paper plates on top of dirty ceramic plates.)

    2. This is haunting and beautiful, Diane. I appreciate the way you’ve written about working to keep order amidst so much disorder in the world. So glad that your dogs offer some joy, and hope that writing about them does as well.

  7. I love the prompt and I’m going to give it a try, I was thrilled to see you mention Don Murray’s name. He was my writing teacher at the University of New Hampshire in the 70’s. It’s great to know that he is still influencing writers! Thanks again. Susan

  8. My last 24 hours- (In reverse order b/c my summer brain can’t remember that far back
    Went to bed at midnight.
    Watched Younger and
    Watched a free John Mayer concert on Facebook. (Noticed not too many people in the crowd knew the lyrics, realized I really should go see him in concert.)
    Enjoyed a cool evening on the patio with my husband. I noticed it’s been a while since we have had any deer visits.
    Ordered salads online and picked them up visiting my Chiropractor. Noticed he got a post vacation haircut and that 6:00 is a great time for a neck adjustment.
    Listened to an episode of “Royal Pains” in the car and noticed that the ridiculous medical terms humor me, and the doctor’s insane ability to travel traffic free in the Hamptons annoys me. (I’ve been to the Hamptons twice for a writer’s conference, and that traffic is insane!)
    Read a great educational book by the pool and noticed it made me excited to go back to school to try the strategies.
    Recorded myself jumping rope at the gym and noticed I did not care at all who saw me.

  9. I find it kind of depressing to think about my daily routine. Each day is basically the same (except for Thursday and Fridays when I take my mom to medical appointments and chemo) and we are all still walking around, numb or dazed, in the fallout of several major crises that have happened in the last year. But I do like to look for the small moments. Yesterday I noticed the baby chickadees coming to the feeder. I tackled a giant pile of ironing I’ve been putting off for a long time. I spent some time playing a game with my daughters, which is always fun.

    I found it interesting to apply this exercise to my story characters. What is their routine like? What would they notice? I wrote about one character’s morning:

    Routine here at Pioneer World is hard to get used to. In my normal life, it’s summer so I’d be sleeping in. After I got up, I’d spend time online and playing my games while munching on cereal. But here I’m supposed to get up and do chores. I have to sweep the floor and check on the chickens for eggs before I even have breakfast. Not that breakfast is so great, because it’s usually a hard lump of bread. Mom still hasn’t gotten the hang of getting it to rise properly. Sometimes, we get, like, a quarter of a scrambled egg to go with it. Mom says we’d get more eggs if I worked harder to keep the chickens happy. Isn’t that the rooster’s job? And what more do the chickens want? They get to run around the yard free every day and bawk-bawk with the other chickens. I’m stuck doing chores and I never get to talk with my friends because this place has no internet.

    1. Yes, do keep looking for the small moments — that’s often where I find my “biggest” stories. I love that you did this for a character — and it’s got so much voice!

  10. Good morning, Olugbemisola!

    Thank you for the activity. While jotting down the activities from the last twenty-four hours, I decided to jot down a rough outline of a typical twenty-four day during the school year. It was fun to look at the similarities and the differences.

    Here goes (from the last 24 hours):
    – Woke up to the sound of the alarm clock and birds (6:30 AM)
    – Make sure three of the four kids are ready for camp
    – Drive the two little ones to the church to get the bus to Lourdes Camp
    – Stop home to get my son for basketball camp (followed by drop off)
    – Read
    – Pick up my son from camp and drop him off at a friend’s house
    – Write
    – Run 5.5 miles
    – Pick up my daughter from soccer camp at the local college
    – Pick up the two little ones from camp drop off
    – Cook dinner on the grill (while reading☺)
    – Take a long walk with the girls
    – Watch Netflix (Parenthood)
    – Read and go to bed
    – Back up at 6:30 to get ready for a school board meeting at 8:30

    I found that my schedule is WAY different in the summer. I compared it to a rough draft daily schedule from during the school year and realized that in both scenarios I spend a ton of time in the van (driving my children), but during the summer I have more time for fun activities (with my kids when they are home and on my own when they are not). I get a ton of my writing ideas from my kids (and our/their experiences). I also feel that I’m a better teacher because of them. Thanks again for the activity.

      1. I agree wholeheartedly! I find that I’m more inclined to reflect when I’ve had those opportunities to recharge. And Andy, I’d love to know how you manage to cook on the grill and read simultaneously!

  11. This is a terrific prompt! I started a new Google Doc simply called, “The Last 24.” I think I can do this and I do believe the patterns you mentioned will surface. Thank you for such a constructive exercise. I just spent the last 50 minutes writing — nonstop!

    1. Titled mine “Writing Territories.” Or maybe that should be the title of a second draft that turns into the writing piece. I found 2 threads to follow. One is a professional one that could be basis for future blog posts. The other is my personal documentation about reestablishing a new life after grief — the unexpected loss of a spouse.

      1. I’m very glad that you’ve found some ideas to explore, Barb. I’m so sorry for your loss, and hope that writing offers a bit of healing. I know that it has helped me sit with and work through grief over the years, along with reading. I’m always grateful for the power of story.

  12. Wrote about time in the backyard garden with the dog, eating a meal with one of my sons who will soon be off to college again, and had open library hours for our district students. My writing selection from my last 24 hours:

    What I love about summer break are the pockets of time I create between household duties and errands for my personal development time as well as creative teaching planning. Last evening I dove deeply into the nominee titles for the PA Young Reader’s Choice to figure out how to use them for not only read alouds and book talks but as springboards for inquiry in the library and beyond with other texts and online sources. I find this planning to be one of my most creative times as a teacher because I’m looking for connections and patterns with wide enough brush strokes that students can take their own paths to discovery that lead them to revelations but might also lead to new creations.

    So exciting to recognize a couple of our Teachers Write authors on our comprehensive annual nominees state list. To name a few I recognized right away – Bildner, Feldman, Burns. Kate’s have been there as well. Still think Marty McGuire is one of the best read aloud chapter books and it doesn’t matter if we know the character or listenersare male or female. Love how Kate so models that for us on so many levels. Look forward to sharing more titles by the authors with whom I’m becoming more familiar with so that students may nominate some of their titles for future lists. Two Naomi’s is one of the books I read this summer that I’m already planning to promote!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words about Two Naomis, Barb! And I agree, Marty McGuire is a master class in chapter book writing and storytelling!

      I love your phrasing, “pockets of time” — what do you think about in those moments? How is it juxtaposed with what you do throughout the rest of your day?

  13. Good morning Olugbemisola! I love the idea for this writing prompt. It will be great to use with my 5th graders this fall.

    So my last 24 hours (a list poem):

    Catching up on Facebook
    Quick breakfast–
    Reading finding Perfect, Keeping it Together inch by inch
    Swim suit
    Cleaning the pool for family visiting later today
    Wiping down tables and removing the bird poop
    Cushions out
    Towels out
    Check into to Facebook
    Disgusting Tweets from a so-called leader
    Books delivered
    Read Shark Lady
    House is ready, family on the way
    A few more chapters of finding Perfect
    Dogs barking, family arrives
    Pool time and burgers under the hazy sky
    Swimming, raindrops, thunder
    Half the family leaves
    Shopping with the other half
    Check in with Facebook
    Shark Week
    Check in with Facebook
    A new day begins

    1. Wow, this reads like quite a story; I can sense the peaks and valleys. It might be interested to choose both a high point and a low point and expand on each for a bit.

  14. This is definitely something I will be using with my students!

    Last 24 hours:
    7/27-10:45 am- arrived at vet office
    -signed in
    -left and dropped my daughters off at my parents so I didn’t have to wait with kids and puppies
    -arrived back at vet office
    -unload puppies
    -wait some more
    -get called back
    -wait again
    -puppies get their shots
    -one puppy gets a fecal exam (has to take one for the team)
    -go back up front to pay
    -wait again
    -fecal results are negative
    -go to my parents
    -eat macaroni
    -sit outside with my dad
    -watch Madagascar (per my daughter’s request)
    -eat pizza
    -load up
    -head back home
    -sit in traffic
    -situate puppies
    -feed kids
    -bathe oldest daughter
    -playtime before bed
    -bedtime for oldest
    -bathe youngest
    -last bottle
    -put youngest to bed

    When I do this with my class, I could then have them go back and circle a couple of events to share more about. This would then help them narrow down to an event they could tell a story about. For example, I could tell a story about the vet’s office or spending time with my dad.
    So many times our students just list events when writing and never really get to a point. We call them bed-to-bed stories. This list is exactly what I did (bed to bed, but the story lies within this list.
    This is a great tool. Thank you for sharing!

    1. “When I do this with my class, I could then have them go back and circle a couple of events to share more about. ” YES! This can be so helpful! I love to get them talking a bit about their memories, and help them make connections — they usually end up surprising themselves. Would love to hear how it goes!

  15. I wake earlier than I wanted to.

    I fill the extra time by completing small tasks that would have begged my attention throughout the day.

    I feel accomplished.

    I drive kids here and there; to and fro.

    I answer email, much smaller in volume, as I wind down one position and start to think of another.

    I text kids in their various places – checking in to see how their days are going.

    I read: the Bible, my book; I complete my required DuoLingo lessons.

    I make dinner, wash the dishes, and read some more.

    I finish a long nonfiction book and write a review.

    I choose a shorter book from my TBR pile as a reward for reading something long.

    I long for bedtime.

    I make sure that everyone is showered, has their teeth brushed, and has completed their tasks for the day.

    I look at my calendar and write on my to-do list for tomorrow.

    I wake up an hour and fifteen minutes earlier than I needed to.

    I complete some tasks before heading out to work.

    I run my daughter to camp, make my sons lunch; visit the bank and read.

    I enjoy the things that I am doing, but I notice that it sounds like a checklist of life, instead of living…

    1. “Sounds like a checklist of life, instead of living.” Oh my word…..I feel the same at the moment. Why is that? Is it just today? Is it because it’s during the week? If this were next Thursday, then I’d be at the beach.
      I feel depressed haha

      I didn’t realize how mundane my days seem until I put this list in print. Yikes.

    2. I’m certainly impressed by how much you do! I wonder, when you look back over that list, what do you notice — what were your moments of joy, of frustration? How did you react to the different things you were reading? What do you think about while you’re managing others’? While you’re brushing your teeth? When you make you to-do list, what do you look forward to?

  16. Hello Olugbemisola, thank you for this prompt.
    My daily pattern changed the past 24 hours.
    I spent the afternoon with college friends. We have been friends for 40 years. We try to get together once a year. The moment we get together the giggling begins and we are 18 again. We reminisce about the past and belly laugh to tears. We have suffered many losses over the years together and yet I am struck by the power of friendship. It is uplifting and fills my heart with love. I am still smiling.

    I look forward to using this prompt again to discover my own patterns..

  17. What a great prompt! This is exactly what I needed to get my writing jumpstarted today! I didn’t include my entire response to the prompt, but only up through midnight last night because it was getting kind of long:)

    I woke up late this morning and realized that I needed to start working on getting up earlier. In less that two weeks, I will be back at school and won’t be able to sleep in after a late night of reading.

    Then, I spent some quality reading time in my favorite recliner (it used to belong to my grandfather, which makes it even more special). I finished The Founding Foodies and thought about what I wanted to read next. I checked my holds list at the library for about the hundredth time. There are several books that I’m eagerly anticipating, but unfortunately, they’re not available yet.

    I worked on several tasks for my local reading council. We’re hoping to set up a book club and are trying to decide on a common book to read. I created and shared a Google Form with potential titles, but I have no idea which title I’ll vote for because they are all be great choices.

    I channel-surfed while working at my desk, but quickly grew frustrated with the lack of choices. I’m not much into daytime television, so I often turn to Netflix, where I can binge-watch my favorite shows. Grey’s Anatomy is a particular favorite, although I also enjoy some of the documentaries that are available.

    After completing my work, I went to my cousin’s home for a cookout. We’ve had several cookouts at his house this summer and I enjoy this time with my family. My cousin has a wonderful deck where we gathered while the hamburgers and hot dogs sizzled on the grill. The deck is shaded in the late afternoon, so it was not terribly hot. I leaned back in my chair and just appreciated the beautiful summer day, my family, and delicious food.

    After stuffing myself at my cousin’s, I headed home with my family and back to my recliner, where I watched one of the Murder She Baked mysteries on the Hallmark Channel. Then I went to bed with a book. I had a hard time deciding on something to read, so I picked a book to reread. I hadn’t read this particular book for a long time, and before long, I was immersed in the story. Before I knew it, the clock struck midnight and I decided to call it a night.

  18. Thanks, Olugbemisola!! This is a great prompt, and one I can absolutely imagine using with students. I’ve been at AVID training for the past three days, and this is an excerpt from what I wrote about today’s lunch with some of my district colleagues:

    At Salsa a la Salsa we’re seated at a long table in the back. The room has echo-y acoustics, and multiple conversations ricochet back and forth across baskets of chips and small bowls of pico de gallo. We are friends as well as colleagues, trading updates on our families, our summers, as well as the latest scuttlebutt from the district office. These are the people who have been with me in the trenches, and it’s such a rare luxury to have this time with them, to sit and visit and laugh, while we wait comfortably between the time we’ve placed our orders for enchiladas verde, ranchera, y mole and the time the server brings out our food. There are no students crowding our classroom doors, no bells to signal that we have lingered too long at the table. Not now. Not yet.

    1. This is lovely! I can see it expanded to include some dialogue and description of the room and the food….and I love the look forward to the school year, both anticipatory and a little wistful…

  19. Jotting down what I did and noticed over the last 24 hours made me even more aware of how much my time revolves around my family. It makes sense. I feel like all of the writing I have done so far this summer has stemmed from what is happening in my life. Makes me think that I need to have a journal to jot down the funny, sad, frustrating moments to use a kernels to begin stories.

    1. That sounds like a great idea to me! It might be interesting to see if anyone in the family wants to join you in journal-keeping; you might end up with some great stories about the same events or situations from very different perspectives…