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<<October 2016>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: notebooks, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. The Anatomy of a Backpack

Anatomy of a Backpack

Remember shopping for school supplies? You combed the store aisle to pick out the perfect binder. You couldn’t wait to crack open that brand new box of crayons.

Getting ready for school is a lot more than checking items off of a list. It’s a rite of passage. Fresh markers, pencils, and notebooks get kids excited about learning. Compared to used or donated supplies, brand new items match the excitement of a new school year and new possibilities. When they have the tools they need, kids go to school with confidence.

If you serve kids in need, you can help instill that confidence with new supplies from the First Book Marketplace. There is more to a backpack than meets the eye — it’s not just textbooks, paper, and pencils. The anatomy of a backpack includes items like calculators, for when students run out of fingers and toes to count. It includes gluesticks, because sometimes tape just doesn’t do the trick. It includes highlighters, so students can learn how to focus on key parts of what they’re reading.

When many students’ backpacks are put on the examining table it becomes clear that some things are missing from their anatomy. Maybe they have fresh paper, but nothing to write with. Perhaps they have pencils, markers and paper, but no backpack to put them in. The First Book Marketplace offers educators and program leaders the opportunity to help fill a child’s backpack with what they need.

And if it’s the backpack itself that they need, First Book has those too.


Please visit the supplies section of the First Book Marketplace to find more items that make up the anatomy of a backpack.

The post The Anatomy of a Backpack appeared first on First Book Blog.

0 Comments on The Anatomy of a Backpack as of 9/23/2016 10:06:00 AM
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2. Notebooks: Starting with What Matters Most

Before summer began, we at Two Writing Teachers planned this blog series, and I blithely volunteered to write a post about the value of notebooks in writing workshop. Notebooks. What was I thinking?!… Continue reading

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3. Summer Writing: A Confession and a Goal

All of us at Two Writing Teachers are thinking about and planning for summer writing. Summer writing inspiration for our students and summer writing goals for ourselves. Kathleen wrote this fabulous post about using… Continue reading

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4. An Eraser-Free Workshop and the Language We Use for Talking About It

When I visit a classroom, one of the first things I often say to kids is, "Today, please don't erase. I want to see ALL the great work you are doing as a writer. When you erase, your work disappears!" Often, this is what kids are accustomed to and they continue working away. But sometimes, kids stare at me as if I've got two heads.

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5. Back to school

I'm back from summer break! Not that summer is entirely over: here in Colorado, it's still a balmy eighty-something degrees, with no end in sight... I'm kind of looking forward to fall, to tell you the truth.

But it's back to school time, which means I'm back to work. I'm writing a crime novel for adults (work-in-progress, stay tuned), and generally getting caught up with what's happening in mystery, YA, MG and for us grown-ups.

And back-to-work also means I'm stocking up on school supplies while they're on the shelves, including a good stack of spiral notebooks. They're my tool of choice when outlining, brainstorming, pretty much anything to do with writing. I should plant a tree for all the paper I go through...

How about you?? What are you up to? Read anything good lately?

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6. Launching a Year of Meaningful Note-Taking

With some set-up, modeling, and direction instruction, your students can go from okay to great note-takers.

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7. When to Pop Out of the Notebook

As much as I LOVE notebooks, even I have to admit there is a time in every writer's process when it is time to pop out of the notebook and onto a laptop or lined paper.

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8. Exploratory Notebooks

Beginning to think about Exploratory Notebooks and easing into a research writing unit.

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9. Exploratory Notebooks

Beginning to think about Exploratory Notebooks and easing into a research writing unit.

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10. Drafting

If you are a regular reader, you know a lot of my thinking lately has been about writing process, and specifically nudging third grade writers into more traditional drafts. Today’s post is a collection of my thoughts about drafting. I hope it is applicable to a range of writers — not a specific grade level. [...]

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11. Friday Speak Out!: Defrosting the Deep Freeze, Guest Post by Karna Converse

Defrosting the Deep Freeze

by Karna Converse

Two or three times a year, I sort and organize the contents of my deep freeze; once a year, I defrost it. Many of the contents are unrecognizable due to ice crystals or the white of freezer burn, and I throw much of it away. But I usually find something that’s worth keeping, and sometimes, a treasure or two: a container of chili that’ll feed two -- perfect for a meal when only half the family is home. A package of sweet corn or a frozen fruit cup that brings a taste of summer to a cold, winter night. A chicken casserole that simply needs to be reheated. A roast I’d forgotten I’d purchased.

I do similar exercises with the contents of my writing files.

Some of the writing I find is truly awful and I send it to the trash bin, but some—rejected from a first round of publications--meet the guidelines of a new publication I’ve recently encountered. Like the casserole or container of chili, these pieces simply need to be defrosted and reheated. I’m re-energized by these discoveries, but the ones that bring the biggest smile to my face are the pieces I’d forgotten about, the ideas I’d begun to develop but never completed. Most are journal entries, and they’re begging to be thrown into the crock pot.

I had no particular plans for the notes I started scribbling notes into spiral notebooks 12 years ago. I was a stay-at-home mom with young children, and to be honest, didn’t have time to develop them into full-fledged pieces. I just knew I needed to capture the moment. Some entries filled a page; others, only a few lines. A few entries were written in response to a writing prompt but most are simply notes about the particular day’s triumph or disaster; a parenting-related news story or controversy; or the questions and funny comments my children made.

Now, as one of Literary Mama’s blog editors, I’m expanding these random thoughts into short essays for readers who understand and can appreciate them. My “For Your Journal” writing prompts connect a parenting issue with a personal experience and encourage readers to keep a journal about their own parenting experiences.
Even though my children are now in high school and college, I continue to make notes in a journal. I’m not sure when, or if, I’ll develop them into longer pieces but I know I’ll be glad I’ve captured the moments. So, I encourage you to pour a cup of tea, settle yourself into a comfy chair, and defrost the contents of your writing deep freeze. You might be surprised at what’s already simmering in the crock pot.

Don’t have a spiral notebook? Get one. Now. Jot down the funny things your friends and family say, the experiences that make you proud, the conflicts that make you angry. Write about the family pet, a favorite board game from your childhood, the first time you tried to teach your child how to cook, the role religion plays in your life, the childhood events that influenced your present-day relationship with a sibling.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a character for your next short story or a theme for a narrative essay. Or maybe you’ll use the idea to create a special holiday card or photo album for someone in your family . . . Or maybe the memories will simply be captured, to be defrosted months—or years---down the road.

* * *

3 Comments on Friday Speak Out!: Defrosting the Deep Freeze, Guest Post by Karna Converse, last added: 10/17/2011
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12. I’ve been studying sentence structure…

I was watching or listening or reading something this week — I don’t remember what — but the message was: You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. True. (And probably the reason I don’t remember who said it since this little tid-bit is fairly common knowledge.) The person went on to say: [...]

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13. I’ve been studying sentence structure…

I was watching or listening or reading something this week — I don’t remember what — but the message was: You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. True. (And probably the reason I don’t remember who said it since this little tid-bit is fairly common knowledge.) The person went on to say: [...]

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14. Notebooks!

Lately, I've been experimenting with making these spiral-bound notebooks (or journals, or sketchbooks). It's so much fun to have a new, FUNCTIONAL way to share my art work! I've always wanted to have my art on note books and the like. So, while I work on finding a partner with larger manufacturing abilities than myself, with a wider distribution than I myself can provide, it's exciting to make it happen all by myself. I really love these books.

This one features bunches of pages of speckled paper alternating with bunches of pages of lavender paper. I also added several pages of 100# watercolor paper at the front of the book for extra variety! (Maybe I should add a lavender scent, too? Hmm...)

The cover and back are a very rigid, acid-free matte board in purple. On the front and back cover, I adhered my art prints, printed on an acid- free 100# fine invitation paper.

The place holder ribbon is recycled - cute, eh? I originally received it from my pet-art buddy Christine Throckmorton of I Heart Dogs Studio. (We did a custom pet portrait trade awhile back, and I did her doggie Rosie. Check out all the process posts here.)

 I've been using them and it is SO MUCH FUN for me. I'm a notebook-a-holic and sketch book-a-holic, and I have been wanting to make them for such a long time, so I can't get enough of them. I'm experimenting with different ways to add variety, embellishments, separators, and different papers within the books. I hope you like them!  Once I have the time to really get into it, I will be creating some to sell in my Etsy shop. As always, if you feel so inclined, I'd love to hear what you think. :)

3 Comments on Notebooks!, last added: 12/15/2011
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15. 12 Gifts of Christmas - For Writers

           ByRuth Symes / Megan Rix

Thereare so many lovely gifts for writers out there, from extremely cheap tolavishly expensive. We must be the easiest people to buy for! Here’s my top 12 Christmaslist:

1.Journals and notebooks and paper: You can never have too many or too much, in myopinion, (recycled paper best if poss). A4 books for getting down to someserious writing. Smaller notebooks for stuffing in a handbag or pocket, alongwith a pen, for when inspiration strikes!

When walking on the beach this spring I even found a waterproof notebook that you could use in the rain or in the bath.

2.Yearly Planner Wall-chart: I love being able to put a daily sticker(occasionally two) on my yearly wall-chart to mark off each 1000 words written.The best part is coming to the end year of the year and having a wall-chartcovered in them - very satisfying.

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16. Observations While Writing

(Because even when you have Freedom switched on there are always ways to procrastinate)

- The David Tennant Doctor Who figure is taller than the Matt Smith figure and for some reason I thought it would be the other way around. I should Google who is tallest. (To which the answer is a) yes David Tennant is taller and b) what an odd site and c) my Google-Fu found that in one click).

- Why have trays on your desk if you're not going to use them for anything sensible? And yes, labelling them WIP / Ideas / Guidelines / Writing Tips isn't much good if you're just going to throw everything into whatever tray you feel like.

- Making graphs is an awesome way to track your progress even if you're not making any progress because you're busy making graphs.

- Scribbling short story titles and throwing them into the trays would be awesome if you used the right trays or maybe had a short story title tray. Ooh, see now I have another reason to procrastinate and then later on I could blog* about all the silly things I write short story titles on like fruit pastille wrappers and gift tags and whatnot. You'd think there were no notebooks in this room.

- If you count all the unused notebooks in your office, you may find they total 30 (at least).

*I won't really blog about that... Although, in the words of James Bond, never say never.

I wonder which James Bond figure is the tallest?

8 Comments on Observations While Writing, last added: 6/9/2012
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17. A homemade coloring book

This weekend, I will be spending ample time with my four-year-old ballerina friend Solveig. I want to have plenty of fun creative things for us to do together, so I made this coloring book for her.
inside front page (color print) and first coloring page

 I used a ballet theme for most of the inside coloring pages. Since the recipient takes ballet classes, I am pretty sure we will be "on the same page" with the theme!
another coloring page

Something personaized is always extra-special

Everyone likes to "see their name in lights", so to speak! I included the recipient's name in some of the printed pages. It is a small detail and I know she will be delighted!

For a few of the pieces of art on the coloring pages, I tried different colored outlines instead of brown, just to punch things up a bit... and what young lady doesn't love pink and purple?

Back cover

I covered the front and back covers, both inside and outside, with art prints I already had lying around. I picked out a few that I thought were just rig

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18. Writer’s Notebooks

Last week I had a conversation with a middle school teacher who has spent her summer studying writing workshop and is excited to make writer’s notebooks the backbone of her writing instruction. This… Read More

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19. SCHOOL'S OUT! Or is it . . . ? by Anna Wilson

In January I wrote about the joys of giving children notebooks and letting them run riot with their story ideas. Since then I have met many teachers and parents who have done just this. They have told me how wonderful it is to see this space being used. The freedom to write or draw whatever the child wants has fed into stories she or he has often then gone on to polish in class in structured writing time. (This has not, of course, always been a direct result of my post – many teachers and parents were already giving their children the chance to explore their writing in this way.)

I would not be blogging about this again, were it not for something I witnessed on a long train journey last week; something which had me thinking again about how constraining we can be in our approach to our children’s education and the damage that can be done when pleasure is forsaken in favour of ticking boxes and getting things ‘right’. And, perhaps more importantly, when this approach leaks into home life.

A mum got on the train with her two small daughters, whom I guessed to be about five and six, and her son, who, I thought, looked about eight. They settled into their seats and the mother brought out some pens and pencils, paper and notebooks.

The little girls immediately clamoured, ‘I want my notebook!’ ‘I am going to write you a story!’

How lovely! I thought. What a great way to spend a few hours on the train.

‘Yes,’ said the mother. ‘You each have twenty minutes to write a beautiful story, and then I will read it and check it. Now – remember I want to see “wow” words, good punctuation, proper spelling, neat handwriting and lots of interesting verbs and adjectives—’

The boy groaned loudly (or was it me?) and put his head in his hands. ‘I don’t WANT to write a story!’ he complained. ‘I don’t like writing stories and I am no good at them.’

His mother placated him with promises of chocolate biscuits if he would only ‘be good like the girls and write for twenty minutes without making a fuss’. His sisters were indeed already scribbling away and reading aloud what they had written, eager to share it with their mother. She praised them and told them to keep going for the full twenty minutes.

What is it with this twenty minutes thing? I thought. Maybe she is desperate for a bit of peace and quiet. Don’t judge! You were in this situation not so long ago yourself: long train journeys with young children are tiresome and they have to have things to do otherwise you go crazy and so do they.

The boy then handed over his story. His mother, glancing at it, said, ‘Well, that’s not very interesting, is it? You haven’t used good connectives, there are no “wow” words, your handwriting is messy and you just haven’t made an effort.’

Pretty harsh, I thought.

Then came the killer blow.

‘You really have got to start making an effort with your writing, you know,’ the mother went on. ‘Next year you will have to write for twenty minutes and put all these things into your stories. You have been on holiday for a week already and you have done no writing. You must promise you’ll concentrate on this for another twenty minutes, or you will be no good at this next year.’

I must confess that, at the time, I wanted to lean across and engage the boy in conversation. I wanted to ask him if he liked reading and, if so, what kind of stories did he like best? What about his favourite films? I wanted to get him chatting about his likes and dislikes and encourage him to scribble them down, to use this precious ‘writing time’ as a chance to let his brain go wild. I wanted to tell him that it was OK to do that, and that afterwards he could go back over his story and concentrate on the connectives and the punctuation and the neat handwriting. I wanted to say that all those things his mother was talking about were indeed important, but that perhaps the reason he hated writing so much was that he was struggling with remembering the rules; that if he could forget the rules to start with, he would then perhaps find he loved writing stories, and that he had piles and piles of them to tell. I might perhaps have added that, as a published writer, I would be paralysed if I had to write a clean first draft from the off which obeyed all the rules of Standard English . . . 

Of course I didn’t. I did not want to upset his mother – after all, it was none of my business. In any case, on reflection, it was not her behaviour with her children that upset me the most, rather the fact that she clearly felt anxious that her son was not up to scratch with his English. Indeed, she was so anxious that he improve that she was insisting he work on it over the summer holidays, and work on it in the exact same way he is required to at school. She was armed to the hilt with educational jargon and was turning this terrifying arsenal on her weary son.

I was an editor before I was fortunate enough to develop my career as a writer. I know as well as anyone the importance of good grammar and correct punctuation. I appreciate clean, clear writing and a well-structured plot. I know good dialogue when I see it. My own children will roll their eyes and tell you that I am the first person to howl at the misuse of the apostrophe on a street sign or restaurant menu. Of course I can see why we have to teach these things and why parents should care about their children’s level of competence in English.

However, it makes me extremely upset that an obsession with such technicalities has the potential to wreck a child’s love of their own language. When you are as young as that little lad, creative writing should be fun, shouldn’t it? Leaving aside the dubious value in making your child work over the summer holidays in such a joyless way, I found it heartbreaking that the mother seemed not to see the potential for fun in giving her son a notebook and letting him run riot with his imagination before giving him guidance and advice on how to hone his ideas. Even more heartbreaking, though, was the thought of how anxious the woman seemed to feel about her son attaining certain targets in the academic year to come. She cannot be alone in feeling this.

I only hope that, come September, her son will find himself fortunate to have one of the many inspirational teachers we have in this country who are still in love enough with their subject to occasionally throw out the rulebook and teach from the heart instead.


0 Comments on SCHOOL'S OUT! Or is it . . . ? by Anna Wilson as of 7/29/2014 3:44:00 AM
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20. Something Writerly About Dreams

So, I don't know about all y'all, but I've not been sleeping well.

I have a gun!

(There are a few voices calling from the aether - they are saying...
Aether voices, I salute you.)


Anyhoozle, the weirdest and random dreams have been plaguing my subconscious.  Like one time I dreamed of storm clouds that went roaring by, sort of like those old Disney movies where it films the clouds in fast-forward, and seconds later a veritable tidal wave flooded the landscape.  This happened twice.  It felt quite portentous.


Another time I dreamed someone had been falsely accused of murder, and there was a frantic rush while we rushed the accused to safety, and it was very Bourne/Narnia.  I know, right.  Weird.



Another time, the dream started IN prison, one of those old antique prisons, and the nice little prisoner very cleverly found a way out of the prison, picking up a random hairy stranger on the way, and at the end of the dream the nice little prisoner gets hurt and the hairy stranger (who apparently magically sheds his extreme hairiness) has to protect him.

I dunno

Anyway, I mention dreams because I had one where nightmares and bad dreams are different from each other, in that bad dreams are essentially that - BAD dreams - and nightmares are the conscience that can steer a bad dream back to good dreams.
That's cool, folks.

I mention THAT because I feel like an oft forgotten necessity for writers is to always keep a notebook by their beds.  You never know when an idea will attack you while you sleep.  You have to be ready for it, ready to pounce.

Yep.  I just posted a writerly blog post!!  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!?!

Pretty much!
Oh, and if you are ever feeling "dried up" creatively, think about buying one of these suckers:

Buddha Board
 I "impulse bought" one at Barnes and Noble the last time I was down there, and it is incredibly soothing and freeing.  You just use a little water and the water "paints" on the canvas.  It's non-permanent, and you wouldn't believe how fun it is to just draw knowing nothing will be permanent.  I love it.  I want a big one.  I bought the mini, which fits in my purse, but I want the big one now.

No, the big one! Big one!

This is the Cat, leaving you with THAT whisker of wisdom.

Cheers and God Bless!

The Cat

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21. Notebookery

On my mind constantly of late: notebooks, sketchbooks, art journals, and combinations thereof. Conversations are swirling in several of my circles—

• at Sketchbook Skool there is always lots of chatter about what people prefer to draw on and with;

• over at Wisteria & Sunshine, Lesley has been revisiting the topic of daybooks (especially handmade ones);

Kortney is posting wonderfully enticing things about right-brain planning;

• Amy Ludwig Vanderwater is hosting a summer “Sharing Our Notebooks” project that I plan to participate in, soon as I get a chance…

Once a week I meet a small group of teenaged girls (one of them my Beanie) at a coffee shop to discuss literature while their younger siblings take piano lessons in the studio upstairs. This is hands-down one of the best hours of my week: meaty stories; lively analysis; word-collection; chitchat. A couple of weeks ago we ran off on a tangent of comparing one another’s notebooks. The conversation coincided with a similar thread at Wisteria & Sunshine, so I was primed. I’ve been using graph-style spiral-bound steno pads for the past year or so, with a modified bullet-journal method. (Chiefly the use of an index page at the front of each notebook—that was a game-changer for me.) But I was hankering after something less utilitarian-looking, and one of my lit girls had a new kraft-brown Moleskine that set me swooning. Back at home, I looked it up and it was exactly what I wanted. Slim paperback in the size I favor (Moleskine calls it “large” but it’s only 5×8), and—this was crucial—they offer a “squared” (graph-style) version.

I’ve used Moleskines before but mostly the Volant model with the bright solid-colored covers. So pretty on my shelf but you can’t really fold them back on themselves, and I don’t like writing on a double-page spread. That’s why I’ve mostly sighed and made do with spirals. But Moleskine’s Cahier model with a heavy paper cover is flexible enough for me to fold back. And I love the pocket in the back, such a nice touch.

Kraft paper is one of my favorite surfaces for decorating, so of course the cover cried out for some decoration. I started on the back in case I messed up. Still haven’t decided what I want to do on the front.


gridded steno notebook, kraft brown Moleskine Cahier journal, Canson Mixed Media Sketchbook

I love a skinny notebook not only because it fits easily in my bag, but because it fills up faster. I am mad for the fresh start. I had a few pages left in my May steno book but I craved a clean slate for June, so I’ve been using up the steno pages with hand-lettering practice.

I use my daily notebook for list-making, idea-sorting, story-outlining, note-taking…basically anything that involves words. Words + doodles, really: my “work” pages are always margined with crosshatching and basketweave and spirals and mushrooms…whatever. I used to try to keep things compartmentalized: one notebook for current book-in-progress; one for medical & insurance notes (I always seem to have volumes of these); one for quotes/commonplace book entries; one for to-do lists…but they always wound up melded together, and then I’d have three or four mishmash notebooks going at once, which was ridiculous. So I gave up and embraced my brain’s clear need to dump itself onto a page, melting-pot style, and now I let all those channels of thought intermingle. (Messily, much like the mingling of metaphors in that sentence.)

april page

And these days my word-notebooks are overrun with drawings, too. I have a separate sketchbook—two, actually; a smaller (5×8) hardcover Moleskine that fits in my bag, and a larger (7×10) Canson mixed-media sketchbook that is my place to experiment with drawing techniques and paint. That’s where I do my Sketchbook Skool assignments—it’s my it’s okay to screw up place. Consequently, it sees way more action than the Moleskine sketchbook, which I pretty much only use when I’m 1) away from home and 2) feeling unobtrusive enough to draw in public. I don’t mind kids looking over my shoulder but I’m way too shy about my work to want adults eyeballing it in progress.

Interestingly, the Canson Mixed Media Sketchbook is the one that got a thumbs-down from Roz Stendahl (THE source of in-the-field info on all things art supply), and when I read her review I had a major light-bulb moment: Ohhhh, so you mean the paper isn’t supposed to buckle when I paint? This Canson (I’m in my second one now) is the only sketchbook I’ve ever painted in, so I thought that’s just how it went, unless you bought one with watercolor paper. Roz’s report clued me in to the possibility that the book I picked (entirely because it was on sale at Michael’s) may not perform as satisfactorily as other brands. I’m nearing the end of this one (you guys!!! I’ve filled two whole sketchbooks with drawings!!) and may take Roz’s recommendation and try a Strathmore Journal Series’ Mixed Media book next time. Does Michael’s sell them, I wonder? Got another coupon burning a hole…


bad phone photo; can’t be bothered to scan

Okay, so I was saying that in theory I have the sketchbook(s) for, well, sketching, and the notebook for all the word things, but the truth is that ever since I started working on my drawing skills last fall, I’ve got rough sketches running wild all over my word-notebooks. Again, this is something I’ve just decided to be at peace with. So much of my work involves a rigorous process of polishing and structure, and I think perhaps my mind really needs a place to be messy and unfiltered, a place to set itself down in raw form. It’s like a test kitchen for my thoughts, I guess. This is where the index is so invaluable: it allows me to quickly locate the notes from that Very Important Phone Call without having to hunt through pages of nonsense. I try to update the index at least once a week—just a mild leaf-through to note down the page numbers on which I have recorded important information. I number the pages of my notebooks in the bottom right corner, about ten pages at a time. I like to write my to-do lists on a Post-It that can travel from page to page. As each task is crossed off, I jot it down in the notebook for a record of what I’ve done.

Since the ugly steno books all look the same on the shelf, I would run a highlighter down the sides of the pages, a different color for each new book. But so far the kraft Moleskine is serving beautifully, and I doubt I’ll go back to the steno grids. I might use a bit of Washi tape on the spine to differentiate the Moleskines on the shelf, once they’re filled.


Back to my coffee-shop girls. We had so much fun that day, comparing notebook preferences, that we decided to all bring our sketchbooks the following week. Which was truly delightful—what a treasure, this look at the outpouring of creativity from these girls. Beautiful design work (I mean really breathtaking, some of it), whimsical drawings (much more skilled than mine), and illustrated quotes, and just so much wonder, so much evidence of curious minds sifting the world. I felt really honored to have this work shared with me. We are nearing the end of the topics we charted for our class, but the girls begged me to keep going through the summer. So we’re thinking of spending a few weeks on sketching and notebooking. I have all sorts of ideas for things we can do together—heavily Lynda Barry-influenced, naturally, because who better to guide you through an exploration of all the things a sheet of paper can become?

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22. Friday Speak Out!: Lists I Love, Guest Post by Betty Auchard

Lists I Love

by Betty Auchard

I am obsessive about making lists for story prompts, and have more than I can possibly use in a lifetime. Most of my ideas spring from letters I write.

Long ago I started a file called Stories in Letters, and it’s so large now that I have files within files. A few of the subtitles are Mom, Grandkids, and Teaching Junior High (I’m renaming that file My Gin and Tonic Period). Other categories are Menopause, Raising Teenagers, Mating the Dogs, Living with 12 Men, Catechism Classes, Escape from Las Vegas, Jury Duty, Student Teaching at 40, College Graduation at 42, and To Make the Bed or Not to Make the Bed. I get such a kick out of just reading my ideas that I’ve often thought of putting the lists together and sharing them with other writers in a program called Lists I Love.

In addition to computer folders, I have a drawer full of spiral notebooks filled with first drafts and notes about writing. Some notebooks are completely full and others contain many sheets of clean paper. (Does any of this sound familiar?) When I get an idea that I don’t want to lose, I grab a half full tablet, make sure I put the date on my new notes, and then start writing by hand. One tablet I grabbed recently is dated December, 2001. The date on the next page is January 1, 2011. The note read, “I am not making resolutions this year—period!” I love reviewing these entries. Some became published stories.

There’s also a Ziploc freezer bag full of stuff that is just as much fun to sort through as the notebooks. The bag is an odd assortment of first drafts dated 1998, thoughts I didn’t want to forget the year my husband died. These old drafts are written on all kinds of paper—used envelopes, napkins, the white margin of a torn out hunk of newspaper. I scribbled on scraps and journaled on junk. Writing kept me afloat.

One item I cherish from that plastic bag is a white paper placemat from The Fish Market. An idea struck and I just had to get it down. I pushed my almost empty plate a little to the left and wrote on the placemat over stains of tomato sauce and salad dressing. The shape of the story is curved like the plate on the left and straight at the edges on the right. I cried privately while writing, glad that I had already eaten most of my food. That story ended up in my first book.

Idea lists are precious. We might want to mine them for stories more often.

* * *
IPPY Finalist Betty Auchard is a popular speaker and the author of two memoirs. She lives and writes in northern California. Blog with the author at http://www.bettyauchard.com/.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
23. the power of paying attention

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24. How do you make writers feel welcomed?

This time of year thoughts about creating a safe and inviting classroom fill our minds. This is one of  my favorite things to think about. Today I shifted the question slightly and began thinking about writers specifically. How can we make writers feel welcomed? Here are some ideas I’m tossing around. More importantly, I can’t [...]

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25. Uncurtained windows: reading writers' notebooks - Anne Rooney

Writers' notebooks are personal, valuable, essential. Somewhere to jot down thoughts as they occur before they disappear back into the ether. They contain the germs of ideas, solutions to problems, plots and titles that never went anywhere - a nostalgia-fest for the writer and a boon for literary biographers and critics in the case of the famous. Reading them is like looking into lit, uncurtained windows on a winter night, especially those in the backs of houses passed on the train. They give a privileged insight into the interior life - the writer in the wild, roaming his or her territory unaware of observers.

I've been using a facsimile of Bram Stoker's notebooks for Dracula while researching my own vampire series, Vampire Dawn (Ransom, March 2012). They look familiar. Spattered with odd jottings that are hard to interpret later, but also with longer pieces meticulously copied or summarised from books and conversations. There are typewritten notes and annotated bits of typescript as well as pages of handwriting (thankfully neat in his case). They offer a fascinating glimpse into the process of composing Dracula. The bits he didn't use are just as interesting as those he did.

He was very thorough. He went to Romania and interviewed local people. He wrote long lists of Romanian words he might use. He researched boats that had sunk off the coast of Whitby and boats that carried their cargo to shore. He recorded any odd episode or story he could use. Just as we all do.

I have two types of notebook. There's always a general notebook that is carried almost everywhere, and filled with odd ideas, observations, scribblings of any kind. Those are a chaotic jumble that probably make little sense to anyone else. Then there are specific notebooks for each project. These show the genesis and evolution of a book. It's interesting later to see the bits that never made it, the ideas that look really stupid later, and how far the final book has wandered from the original idea or plan.

My notebooks will never be of real interest, like Stoker's, but I can't show his as the facsimile is copyright, so here's a peek inside mine as a poor substitute for the curious.

This is a Moleskin softcover brown notebook. On the cover is a printout of an early version of one of the covers of the series (the first cover we fixed on).

I always stick a picture on a notebook or folder as it's the quickest way to see which is which.

Inside... these are bits printed from the web. I needed to know exactly how a guillotine works and the position of the body of the victim just before execution. This continues on further pages. In case you ever need to know, there is a tilted bench that the beheadee lies on.

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