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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: finding stories, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. the year of exploration

For some time I have been birthing -- in my head and on paper -- a new way of seeing, working, living, connecting, and being in the world. Why? Maybe it's turning 60, with the knowledge that there is less time before me than behind me for sure. Maybe it's recent disappointments and realizations. Maybe it's recent gifts and surprises. Maybe it's the on-going therapy, which is hard work. I'm sure it is.

Whatever it is, this shift in my thinking feels major, so I'm going to do something about it, and I will chronicle it here, March 20, 2015 to March 20, 2016 (start where you are, and I started with Saturday's post).

I want to see where this new energy and commitment take me and my work. I'll also Instagram my explorations, using the hashtag "theyearofexploration."

I'll label it that way here, too. I used the blog to chronicle my 2012 year off the road to finish REVOLUTION and called it "the year of possibility." You can read about it by clicking on the label on the sidebar. (or here. :>)

I'll tag some of these exploration posts "the home economics project." I've had a project in mind for a long, long time, and I want to start making it visible.

I'll chronicle book three of the sixties trilogy as well. I've already starting documenting photographs and research at Pinterest. You'll find a "book three hold file" and a "book three playlist possibilities" board as well as the many boards for COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION... and I've started resource boards for my other books.. I'll get to them as I can.

I'm going back to the roots of what makes me happy. I'm going to write more. I'm going to use my hands more, which is something that grounds me and centers me and helps me understand my place in the great continuum.

To that end, I have purchased four cacti, three French lavender plants, and a mother fern. I'm going to take a class at Creativebug - line drawing with Lisa Congdon. Also, Lisa's sketchbook explorations work-along at Creativebug. I've got my supplies (which include these plants!) and I'm ready to go.

I have no expectations. I want to do what I ask students to do when I teach writing: pay attention, ask questions, make connections.

I'll be an explorer like Comfort Snowberger in EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS: Explorer, Recipe Tester, and Funeral Reporter. Like Dove, the 9-year-old anthropologist-in-training in LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER. I shall be an anthropologist of my life. I'll try to let go of anxiety about the future, and just stay in the day. I will work hard. I will try to uncover as well as discover. I hope to learn a lot. Wanna come with?

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2. this morning's mail

Story connects us in ways we will never know. This just in: here is a letter passed on to me from a friend who gave REVOLUTION to her 72-year-old aunt in Texas. It now becomes a primary source document for future researchers. Just as important, it serves to show how a heart becomes awake and aware in the world. I was the storyteller for Mary, and now Mary is the storyteller for me. This is how it works. I am grateful. xo Debbie
January 23
Oh, Sally,

Thank you so much for making me aware of Revolution. It has unleashed a torrent of conflicting emotions and memories in me, none of which were completely forgotten, but largely dormant.

On one hand, it reads like a barn burner, and I do not want to put it down. I love the way she worked photographs, gospel and folk song lyrics, and headlines as page dividers creating a sense of the onslaught of information which occurred that summer. (It does remind me of your saying fiction can sometimes convey events better than dry history. But she does include a lot of what to me is not dry history.)

On the other hand, because of the flood of memories and the poignant strength of the emotions they evoke in me, I can only read it in segments, sometimes as much as a chapter, but usually less. Than I have to meditate on what is happening in me, in the story, and in our country now.

Since it was published by Scholastic Press, I guess it is geared to middle schoolers. My only sorrow is that many adults who would benefit from tumbling into its pages will not find out what they are missing....

For myself, I read the book on about five levels. Four come from memories: the first as a middle schooler, one in high school, one the summer after graduation from college (1963), and one in 1964 when I was at the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City. The fifth is that of an aging Democrat who worked the phones for Obama in 2008, delighted in our long-term success.

The student at Gilmer Junior High got in the car with your grandfather, heard the news about Brown vs Topeka on NBC news (and later CBS) and asked Grampy, "Does that mean I will be going to school with colored kids?"

In high school, I heard Larry Pittmon and others threaten to get baseball bats and beat up N----rs who tried to come to Gilmer High. An elderly Black had died, and the relatives who went to California and elsewhere had come to town in their finest to attend the funeral. This was at the same time that the Airborne and the National Guard were confronting each other at Central High School, Little Rock. In our ignorance of how groups like COFO would operate, rumor had it that the fancy dressed black people were members of the NAACP planning to integrate the school.

The summer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I had attended a workshop by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and then stayed in Dallas to learn typing at a business school. Having no TV of my own, I went to the apartment complex recreation building to watch the march. That night I joined one of the Black members of my class with her boy friend in the Hall Street Ghetto in Dallas for supper. We talked for hours about what that huge crowd meant for the future of Blacks in America.

The next summer, after my rookie year as a Dallas public school teacher, I had a job with the State Department in July and August, 1964. Mother and Daddy honored my experiences in college in a sit-in on the SMU campus and in that workshop the year before by letting me write the editorial response of The Gilmer Mirror to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the Public Accomodations Act).

Then I traveled to DC in late June, went to the White House as a guest of Lady Bird and Lyndon the night of my 23rd birthday, and went to work in the Personnel Department of the State Department.
The deputy director of the division I was in was a Black man. A fellow deacon of his church, the assistant superintendent of the DC schools, was shot down that summer as he drove back from his reserve duty at Ft. Bragg. He was a reserve Colonel in the US Army who was chased down after buying gas by hooligans in a pickup and shot. I can still see him that Monday morning when I came to work telling the Personnel Services Division chief, an older (55-60) white woman of the shooting.

Unlike the volunteers at Freedom Summer who sweltered in Mississippi, I got to go to the cool serenity of the Washington National Cathedral and hear a mixed choir of over 250 voices sing in thanksgiving of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

I read the headlines in the Washington Post about their efforts as I went to Capitol Hill to see the War on Poverty legislation accepted in the US Senate after the House had approved their portion.
Then in August, I joined Nana in New York City, attended Hello Dolly with Carol Channing (my adventuresome summer like Sunny wonders about) and to the New York World's Fair. From there we took the train to Atlantic City.

Selling pennants and buttons to raise funds for the Democratic Party as a Young Person for LBJ, I met youths from Philadelphia, MS who were there with representatives of the Freedom Democratic Party of Mississippi. When they learned my mother was a delegate, they lobbied me to ask her to vote for their group to be seated.

I told Nana about them, but LBJ was trying to court Mississippi votes, and did not want to ruffle more feathers until after the election. She of course did what LBJ wanted.

It would be four years later when I had promised Nana I would take the first job I was offered that I went to work for the Dallas OIC. You know what an impact that had on me. I was tempted by the Peace Corps, but Nana would never have let me go to an undeveloped country. I always think the Lord had a hand in the fact that OIC gave me my first job offer after grad school.

Well, enough meditation for now. I still have half the book to read, and I am mentally compiling a list of people to make aware of it. I definitely will see to it our Intermediate and Junior High Schools as well as the Upshur County Library have copies.

If you with to share these reflections with your friend, the author, you are welcome to do so. I am so proud you made me aware of it. Thank you so very much.
Love, Mary

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3. back to mississippi

I managed to post using the updated blogger, and I also found umpteen comments "awaiting moderation." Who knew there was such a thing? So I moderated. Thanks for the kind words, all. I've published most of them with their appropriate posts now. It's good to hear your voices. It was good to return to Mississippi last month to do research for book two of the sixties trilogy. I've been to the Delta

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4. Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Redux

Yesterday morning there was an article in the NY Times that touched on my former subject, Mary Sullivan. Although the article (in case the link doesn't work it's called

100 Years After a Murder, Questions About a Police Officer’s Guilt) 

 doesn't mention Mary, she had a minor roll in the case, though not in solving it (one of the many reasons I, sob, dropped the book). Seeing it there in the paper, I had a pang and so I decided to re-post this blog from early last year. If we weren't posting old blogs, I probably would have written an entire blog about my newly adopted dog, Ketzie. I guess I'm lucky because I am such a doting new parent I would have embarrassed myself by writing thousands of words about her and showing you a picture. OK. Since you asked. I'll show you a picture.

and one more just so you can see what she really looks like:

Now on to the "real" blog post, the repeat:

If it were up to me, you'd listen to this song while reading this post.

So. It's been a very, very long time since I broke up with a sweetheart, given that I've been married for almost 30 years. (In  my culture, you get married at 11.) And I don't intend to ever break up with him. But there comes a time in every writer's life when she has to break up with a topic. Actually, many times. Usually the break-up comes early on in the project. At least for me. I work on something for a short time and realize that there's just no there there, or that it's not for me. Or someone or something else pulls at me, grabs my attention. ("Oh you over there, come hither...")

But sometimes, it seems, you go out with someone for a very long time before you realize he or she was not your bashert. This has just happened to me. It was a long relationship, but it was going nowhere. It just took me a very long time to realize that because I thought... I was sure...though I had niggling doubts...that I was in love.

But breaking up really IS hard to do.

(By the way, I also like this version of the song. My friend Judy Blundell votes for the  2 Comments on Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Redux, last added: 7/17/2012
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5. not fade away

 Hard to let go of this summer:

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6. picture stories

              An afternoon drive out of Atlanta, a patriotic rest stop, a Confederate flag flying over the Columbia, South Carolina Statehouse, an arrival at Mama's house on John's Island. O Charleston, O Youth, O History of Long Ago. The marsh, the swamp, the salt, the

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7. small steps

Went tubing in the Smokies with friends yesterday and flipped. Then (because I had no choice and the water was so ferocious) I was flushed down that long set of rapids -- head first, on my stomach, then churning like something in a Waring blender. I am lucky I didn't crack my head open on all the rocks I slammed into. Lucky I didn't break anything. Lucky there were kind people on the trail and

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8. goodbye to miss daisy

I donated Miss Daisy today. Thirteen years (with me; I got her when she was four), 217,000 miles, so many long drives to schools and conferences and bookstores and soccer games and vacation destinations and camping and canoeing trips and family trips to Mississippi and back, so many sheltering rides in good times and bad, and all the times inbetween.

Thank you, Miss Daisy. It was so hard to let you go. At first I couldn't watch -- I came back inside. I burst into tears. I grabbed my camera. I could at least stand watch as you left, wave goodbye one last time, blow kisses, tell you it would be all right, and honor your passing.

I let go the last piece of my old life when you wagged down the road away from me. Maybe that's what the tears are for. You will be just fine. May you teach some young folks how to refurbish a grand old dame. May you find a home with someone who really needs you, the way I really needed you, lo these many years.

Go gently, old girl. All is well.

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9. ritual

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10. farewell

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11. overdue thanks

I sit this early morning in a hotel room in Boone, North Carolina. I will work here for the next two days. Today is a day in schools and a public library event. Tomorrow I will keynote the first Appalachian State University Children's Literature Symposium and work with teachers throughout the day -- exciting!

This fall has been full of travels, and I am overdue on some October thanks. Thanks so much to Mikey Jones at Powhatan Elementary in Boyce, Virginia; Kathy Crane and Joy Simpkins and all those who brought me to W.G. Coleman Elementary in The Plains, Virginia; Carole Butler and her intrepid team at Moorestown Middle School; and Bev Grazioli, Carol Herb, and the Home & School team that brought me to Moorestown, New Jersey's Upper Elementary School --  amazing, insightful days of teaching and learning.
Here you'll see teachers modeling for their students in assembly, teachers telling their own stories in workshop, students writing away in assembly, and projects using Deborah Wiles' books as a jumping off point, and more. 
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12. Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

If it were up to me, you'd listen to this song while reading this post.

So. It's been a very, very long time since I broke up with a sweetheart, given that I've been married for almost 30 years. (In  my culture, you get married at 11.) And I don't intend to ever break up with him. But there comes a time in every writer's life when she has to break up with a topic. Actually, many times. Usually the break-up comes early on in the project. At least for me. I work on something for a short time and realize that there's just no there there, or that it's not for me. Or someone or something else pulls at me, grabs my attention. ("Oh you over there, come hither...")

But sometimes, it seems, you go out with someone for a very long time before you realize he or she was not your bashert. This has just happened to me. It was a long relationship, but it was going nowhere. It just took me a very long time to realize that because I thought... I was sure...though I had niggling doubts...that I was in love.

But breaking up really IS hard to do.

(By the way, I also like this version of the song. My friend Judy Blundell votes for the slow version, which I also like. Ok, maybe I'm spending too much time listening to Neil Sedaka.)

I mean, look at her. An early NYC policewoman. A detective.  And we had spent so many, many months together.

The more time, energy, money, time, time, time, you invest in a topic, the more reluctant you are to let it go. I bought and read very many books.

I spent many hours looking for people who knew the person I had fallen in love with. After much detective work, I found her descendants. That was a great day! And then her great granddaughter became an enthusiastic helper, inviting me to come to her house, where I combed through boxes of clippings, notes, photos, memorabilia, and even recordings, hoping for the big break in the case. 

I dug deep into the web, into online newspapers, books, footnotes of journal articles. I reached out to authors, researchers, professors, librarians... But I just couldn't get e

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13. A Few Treats From Me To You

I can't imagine anyone has any time right now to read a long blog post. So I thought I'd take the opportunity to share with you some wonderful pieces I've read lately. Most of them are on a theme--nonfiction storytelling. I hope you take a minute or two between shopping, cooking, last-minute writing deadlines, last-minute paper-grading, etc., to sit down and treat yourself.

First, here is a lovely piece by Henning Mankell, whose books about the Swedish detective Kurt Wallander I love. It's called THE ART OF LISTENING. I adored this piece and if I could wrap it up and put it in a box and deliver it to each and every one of you I would. Well, maybe I just did.

Next is a piece that was in Friday's New York Times that might not have made it to other parts of the country. It's about a theater group that pairs teenagers with people over 60. It's inspiring for nonfiction writers and lovers, and a great idea for other communities. Sort of a twist on StoryCorps (always a good place to visit!). This one is called TRUSTING SOMEONE OVER 60. (Don't let the headline deter you.)

Another piece that walloped me from the Times was this one, WHAT WASN'T PASSED ON.  I won't say anything more about it so you can experience it for yourself.

Last week Jim Murphy wrote a great post about Recharging Batteries, and I referred in the comments to an article about the novelist Richard Ford that I loved. Read both when you can!

And because I can't help myself, I'm leaving you with my potato latke recipe. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and here's to a wonderful New Year -- 2012. That number seems like science fiction.

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14. Report from London: 3

I’m into my third month on a home exchange in London and time has raced by with breathtaking speed, even during the rainiest April in 100 years. I brought a lot of work-in-progress with me, but there is too much to do here! And in the midst of new places and culture blitzes creeps the question – is there a book here?

Searching For That Next Book

I drove north to Yorkshire for a school visit at the Driffield Infant School (ages 4-7, preK-2) and met adorable children, who acted out Katje the Windmill Cat in Yorkshire accents. On the drive home, listening to BBC Radio (great stuff!) I heard a documentary about an Elizabethan composer who could possibly feature in a sequel to my Shakespeare novel…. Long shot, that.

David Hockney’s stupendous show of landscapes at the Royal Academy – what about a biography? Thankfully he’s still alive and kicking and reinventing himself every few years.  His mother lived to be 101, and so he’s a mere stripling at 75, and we’ve got time for a few more Hockney incarnations. A biography would be out of date before it was published.

Dickens is 200 this year.  I heard a wonderful lecture by his great great granddaughter and biographer, Lucinda Hawksley.  Too late for me to cash in on the bicentenary.

I’ve spent lots of time and money attending Chelsea football matches, leaving no time to research the history of women’s football. BTW, Chelsea are the Champions of Europe!

Then a hol

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15. bessemer, alabama

These were all taken on 19th Street, within two-blocks of the Bright Star Restaurant in old downtown Bessemer, Alabama, after a lovely luncheon with Alabama teachers hosted by Scholastic Book Fairs, after the Alabama Library Expo in Birmingham. What do you think? Did someone save these stories? Are they lost forever?

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16. what's behind and underneath

Just finished a late breakfast in bed and took this photo. Not that I usually eat breakfast in bed, mind you, but Jim Williams is cheerily drilling into a wall in my house and I want to be out of the way. (If you follow that link, you can see a photo of my kitchen, front and center, opening his webpage. He does great work.). I need to pack and get on the road to Mississippi. I'm meeting Marianne at The Varsity. Ha!

But no lunch there. Instead, I'm having my ritual oatmeal and thinking about what lies behind and underneath. Underneath those cooked oats are blueberries and raspberries. Underneath the top bedcovers are many other winter bedcovers -- can you see the layers? That's how we do it around here, layers upon layers, and the heat stays way down at night.

And look at all those drawers and doors -- what's behind them, inside them? These are the sorts of questions on my mind as I turn my thoughts toward Mississippi and this weekend.

I wish I could convey the complexity of writing about 1964 Mississippi. So many folks who know about book two of the Sixties Trilogy ask me, "Have you read The Help?" and I haven't. I won't, not while I'm working on a story that also takes place in the sixties in Mississippi. My story is for young readers, and they deserve no less than adults do. They deserve a story with as much clarity and truth -- and heart -- as I can muster.

And therein lies the challenge. Chapter One of Bruce Watson's fine new book Freedom Summer gives a good overall look at what Freedom Summer was. It's good reading for you, if you want to follow me along on the journey to book two's publication. It's good reading anyway.

I was eleven years old in 1964. I spent time in Mississippi that summer with my kinfolks. I had no idea of the revolution going on around us. I only knew that the pool had closed, and so had the roller skating rink, the Cool Dip, the movie theater, the Pine View Restaurant... and no one could explain to me why.

Thirty-five years later I published a picture book I called Freedom Summer, about the summer I was eleven. Now, I'm writing a novel about (as Bruce Watson puts it) "The Savage Season that made Mississippi Burn and made America a Democracy."

There is so much nuance. There are so many layers, just like you see on my winter-made bed. There is so much love, anger, truth, ugliness, beauty, differing opinion, behind every obvious doorway. Just what WAS Freedom Summer?

The stories are not simple. Mindsets are misunderstood. Motivations were not always pure... or evil. And my heroine, Sunny, is plopped right down into the middle of the mess, in Greenwood, the headquarters of SNCC in 1964, where she must make decisions that will change her life and forever alter her history. Will she do it?
 I can't write her story without understanding, from as many valid angles as possible, the mamy layers of Freedom Summer. So off I go again, to Gre

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17. The Urge to "Correct" History

I don’t often quote the ancient Greeks, mostly because I don’t know what they said, but there’s one Herodotus line that has always stuck with me. Describing the difficult craft of writing compelling, fact-based history, he said: "Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all.” His solution, as he put it, was to “correct these defects,” by rearranging and inventing his way to a great story. Too bad non-fiction writers don’t have that luxury.

I’ve been wrestling with this problem recently, as I toss around ideas for possible book projects. It’s always fun to throw open my notebooks and let ideas I’ve jotted down over the years jump out and fight for attention. The bad part comes when I get excited about one of the stories, begin researching it, and realize I’m facing the old Herodotus dilemma.

Sometimes it’s a simple of matter of not knowing. Take pirates, for example. Everyone loves these thieving murderers (including my 4-year-old daughter), but there’s a serious shortage of primary sources, and hardly anything from the pirates’ own point of view. Even the best, most exhaustively researched adult pirate books are riddled with lines like, “Blackbeard may very well have said…” and “It was at this point that Bartholomew Roberts probably decided…” The most painful false lead of all involves an 11-year-old boy named John King. What we know is that in November 1716, somewhere in the Caribbean, King and his mother were on a ship that was boarded and plundered by the pirate Sam Bellamy. King declared he wanted to join Bellamy’s crew. His mom said no. The boy threatened to throw himself into the sea unless he was allowed to become a pirate. His mom let him go.

Shouldn’t this be the opening scene of an all-time great middle grade history book? The story has everything: a young protagonist, action, danger, glimpses into an exotic world, and, in the end, tragedy. In 2006 underwater archaeologists found the remains of Bellamy’s ship, which sank off the coast of Cape Cod in 1717. Among the wreckage were the bones of a boy of about 12. So King was on the ship for a year, and there’s no doubt his adventures during that year could pack a ripping non-fiction book. Only, we can’t know what those adventures were. With great reluctance, a writer of non-fiction has to pass on John King. Maybe put it on the list of historical fiction to write some day.

Then there’s the tantalizing tale of Elijah Nicholas Wilson, another adventure-seeking 11 year old. In the early 1850s, Wilson ran away from his frontier home (he was sick of herding sheep) to live with a Shoshone chief named Washakie and his family. He learned the lang

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18. Keeping and Letting Go

We’re getting ready to move again—no, not from Portland (we just got here, practically!), just from our itty-bitty downtown condo to a sweet, little (but a little big bigger) house across the river, in a neighborhood of antique stores, coffee shops, and a very lively branch of the Multnomah County Library. (Every time I go by, the place is hopping.)

We’re doing all those little repairs that one never seems to get around to for oneself (as in sheesh, why didn’t we fix that while we were living here to enjoy it???); we’re collecting boxes; the movers are scheduled.

Even though we culled through our belongings 1½ years ago, when we first moved from California to Oregon, and got rid of tons, I am still looking around now to see what we are holding onto that we really don’t want/need anymore.

Some stuff is easy to get rid of. A book I read and don’t plan to read again? Sure, no problem. Off it goes to the Friends of the Library booksale. Other stuff is harder to let go of, however: a gorgeous sweater that I have only worn a few times because it is too fussy to clean easily? Hmmm. I think it will be making the move with me.

Trying to decide what to get rid of and what to hang onto has even leaked into my writing life—literally. I have multiple files of partially-explored book ideas. And I’ve been going through them all, asking myself: keep or let go?

It’s been interesting to look back over these ideas, some that were generated over fifteen years ago, at the start of my career. I can recall the enthusiasm with which I dove right in, reading and collecting information. But for each of these projects, at some point, I hit a roadblock. And I set the idea aside, to think. And then didn’t pick it back up. These are the ideas that have accumulated in my drawer full of files.

The roadblock, in most cases, is whether the idea works as a picture book—the genre I’ve been exploring for most of my writing career.

For some ideas in my files, I’ve come to understand, there’s not enough there there to warrant a 32-page book. These ideas could successfully be turned into nonfiction articles, however, which often run as tight as 400 words and are enhanced by perhaps two or three illustrations.

Conversely, for other ideas in my files, I now see that there is too much there to cram into a picture book. These topics are too complex, too nuanced, too layered to be told in a 32-page illustrated book. And, most likely, they are not ideas that would interest the six-year-old who would pick the book up. These ideas would be better served in a middle-grade or young-adult nonfiction format, with multiple chapters to explore the idea in depth.

And finally, even for the ideas with just the right amount of there, there is still the issue of illustration potential. The lovely beginning-middle-end structure that works so well for the picture book format still needs a story that can be enhanced by a variety of compelling visual images—and for some of my fledgling ideas, that variety it lacking. They may be stories that could be told, but not necessarily stories that can truly be illustrated.

A drawer full of stalled ideas might seem like a failure of sorts, but I see it as an accomplishment. By exploring these ideas and trying to write them as picture books, I’ve learned a lot about what works for that genre, and what doesn’t. Learning how a dozen (or more!) ideas don’t work has helped me shape the ones that do.

So what am I keeping? The ideas that, after all these years, still speak to me. I do write articles on occasion, so the modest ones may still find a home; and I might one day decide to tackle a longer work.

And what am I letting go? The ideas for which I no longer have any passion. They deserve—and will be better served—by authors who do. And letting them go allows me to move, focused and energized, into

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19. twelve pretty pictures...

...all of New Orleans last week, posted here chronologically.They tell a story only I know, although you could write a fictional story using these photos, in this order. Or, mix up the order. Or, choose only ONE photo and write a story. Choose three. Which three would you choose? What stories could you tell?

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20. Author-in-Residence: A Dream Assignment

I have had a great gig this year: author-in-residence at the Michael J. Perkins School in South Boston, a small elementary school set right in the middle of Old Colony Housing Project. Old Colony is being renovated and I was hired to work with the Perkins kids on a blog about being in the middle of a construction zone. I described more about the situation in last October's post.

As the end of the school year approaches, it's natural to look back and access the experience. Having done school visits for many years, I have always been in awe of classroom teachers. Now, I bow down to them. To see what they do every day, day after day, is amazing. To see the pressure to fulfill a state's curriculum--teach X from October 12 to November 3rd and then segue to unit Y on the 4th. To understand more fully how my coming to the classroom with extras means extra resources and richness but extra work squeezing to fit everything in, however worthy it all is.

But some great things happened this year, from K to 5. Some of the highlights:

When the kindergarteners read Mike Mulligan and his Steam Engine, they wondered what the workers on the site had named their machines. They were amazed--maybe a little horrified--when they realized those excavators and dump trucks were just called "it" or "they." That's when the Name That Crane campaign was born--the two kindergarten classes each nominated names, ran campaigns and voted for the name to call the huge crane that lifted the steel (they also learned the democratic process in the bargain, which made the See How They Run author very happy). Voting Day was very exciting, take a look.

Here are the kindergarteners at the naming ceremony--with the Big Giraffe, the newly dubbed 400-ton crane in the background. (A fine name, but I was personally rooting for Mr. Lifty! That's democracy for ya--besides I didn't get a vote.)

For National Poetry Month, one first grade class experimented with acrostic poems, which use the letters in a topic word to begin each line. Then all the lines of the poem relate to this topic. Given what was going on outside their class window, they used the word, CONSTRUCT. This poem above was one of my favorites.
One second grade class is collaborating on a book about the day in the life of a construction worker and what these men and women must do to stay safe. For one week, they spent an hour a day observing the construction site and writing down what they saw.

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