Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Last weekend I attended our state's annual reading conference, which was, as always, fabulous. Kelly Gallagher, author of READICIDE and WRITE LIKE THIS (among others) gave two of my favorite sessions. He talked about upping the volume of kids' writing by having them do lots and lots of quick "writing sneezes" andshared several of these "sneezes," including some where he and his students experimented with other author's styles. One sample was a paragraph from THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt. That book has been on my adult TBR list for a while but I haven't read it yet. I was intrigued by Tartt's style (I don't know if the whole book is written this way- YIKES!) and played around with it when I wrote my slice this week.  

"saturday afternoon"

at noon i leave three days of teacher nirvana and before i leave i look up the number of nissan because they were supposed to call me back three days ago and no one has and i sit in my car and call them again and the guy in the parts department is very nice but has never heard anything about my son's car and he needs to know which windshield wiper is broken which of course i do not know and he needs the VIN number which I also do not know and i try to call my son and of course he does not answer and i call my other son and of course he does not answer and i text my sons and finally one sends back the vin and says both windshield wipers are broken and i call the car dealer back and he tells me the vin number is wrong but then he finds it and he quotes a price that clutches in my throat then recants and says maybe we don't need 75 windshield wiper arms maybe we just need a 2 dollar pin and i pray that is the case and then he puts me in hold to make a service appointment and by that time i am at the grocery store and i only have a little time today so i push the cart with one hand and hold onto my flip phone and the grocery list with the other and then finally after 19 minutes and 34 seconds, when i turn the aisle to canned goods, halfway through the store i give up and hang up and call the service number again and it only takes ten minutes to make the appointment for ten on monday and finish shopping with the exception of half of the specialty hair and face products items my sons think they need and I also do not buy cashew butter which costs eight dollars for a jar which looks like it might make two sandwiches nor do i buy organic honey which costs three times as much as the plain old store brand and by the time I go through the check out it is 1:08 and i have to make it home and unload all these groceries and change my clothes and be across town for a meeting at two

and the grocery store clerk is named David, just like my dad,
and he is so, so sweet
and tells me how he speaks english and spanish
and he loves the macaroni and cheese i buy
and can eat almost a whole box but he doesn't do that any more he only eats a half box
18 years old finishing high school at the alternative school
and he really wants to go to art school
but he has to earn the money for tuition himself
i am in such a hurry
but he is so sweet
and i force myself to slow down and breathe
and be in the moment
and I wonder why a kid this incredibly sweet and hard working
cannot be successful in our local school system
and i wonder why we can not ever get it right
with these high school kids

and traffic on colorado boulevard is horrible and i wonder why but then i find out it s a free day at the zoo which totally explains everything and it takes 45 minutes to make a twenty minute drive and i throw the groceries at my sons and run down stairs and throw on a new shirt because i have to go to a funeral and we are supposed to wear bright clothes and i did not know that when i got dressed this morning and i get back on colorado boulevard and head for the coffee shop and meet the second grade teachers and we drink nonfat chai latte and plan for two hours and then the second grade teacher on maternity leave arrives with her sweet three month old and i try to hold him and he screams and i hand him back and we plan some more and she take him in the bathroom and feeds him and we plan some more and the other second grade teacher holds him and he does not cry and then her phone rings and i try again and he screams again and i hand him back and they move onto math and i get on the highway in yet another traffic jam and i wonder where i could move and not live without a car and i go to the funeral

and there is almost no one there when drive up and i wonder how to comfort this sweet young woman a former mentee whose mother her only family has died of pancreatic cancer and then more people come and by the time the actual service starts over one hundred friends and colleagues are there to honor this single mom it is a night of stories laughter and tears and brave sara only child gives the eulogy for her mother and we hug and cry and i come home and collapse on the couch and talk to my mom on the phone and tell her of course i am not too tired and i will definitely be there tomorrow to take her to lunch and the grocery store.


Jaana said...

I have not read the THE GOLDFINCH either, but I LOVED reading your post. It flowed. It made sense. I could feel the urgency and tension at times as well. Wonderful!

Tabatha said...

Wow! I'm exhausted. Very powerful, Carol.

I started The Goldfinch but did not finish it, which I feel guilty about when I see all the praise heaped upon it!

"Readicide" is an interesting word I'd never heard of, and "writing sneezes" is new to me, too. Kelly Gallagher expresses himself memorably!

Linda B said...

Beautiful, Carol. I loved this exercise that Kelly shared, thought it would be fun to give my students, & now you've given me an even better "mentor text". What a day!

Tara said...

Goldfinch was not my favorite - but I love what you've done with this, Carol. I'm breathless at the pace of your life, and the size of your heart. I'm so sorry I wasn't able to make it to CCIRA after all - but Denver is definitely on my agenda as a place to visit someday soon.

BK said...

Without punctuation we are racing along with you. What a great piece to share with students to help them see why a few periods etc. help the reader.
Love Kelly but not The Goldfinch.
Can't recommend it but what a day you had!!!!

Stacey Shubitz said...

I was searching for books on eReader today and strongly considered the Goldfinch. Ultimately I purchased The Boston Girl. After reading this, I know I need to put The Goldfinch on my TBR.

Michelle said...

whew exhausting is an understatement and this had to be even harder to write ... what an exercise for your writing brain and an outlet for your crazy day!

writekimwrite said...

Bravo for you for trying a new style(and posting early, though your posts are always worth waiting for!) This style fits so well with what you have to say. I agree with Tara about the pace of your day, and the size of your heart! It, also shows me what a rich, full life you have and though exhausting, it shows you are fully engaged in living.

Beverley Baird said...

I started the Goldfinch as well, but didn't get far. It was a library book - had to return it.
Quite a stream of consciousness that you wrote - so many experiences.Great exercise.

Mary Lee said...

Oh my.

Makes me glad I listened to Goldfinch...or maybe that's one I should go back and re-read with my eyes, too!