Tuesday, May 1, 2018


Today is my 62nd consecutive day of posting. Thirty-one days of slicing in March, and thirty more days of poetry in April. Phew! I am tired!

As I wrap up these two months of nonstop writing, I'm thinking about several different things:

The importance of audience and feedback- It's really, really nice to get feedback on your writing. I loved getting comments from other writers. This year, I didn't get nearly as many comments when I sliced. I thought maybe it was just me-- that I was old and boring, and didn't have much to contribute to the community, but then several other people wrote about the lack of comments too. I found the same thing to be true with poetry, but it was mostly my fault. I really prefer to post in the morning, but I had a hard time getting ahead, and ended up, most of the time, posting at about 9:00 at night. That meant not many people read what I wrote. It's harder to want to keep writing when you think no one is reading it.

And then I think about our students. How many of our kids write for days and days and days, with only their teachers as authentic readers? No wonder they don't want to keep writing!

The importance of community. The first several years I wrote poetry, I wrote alongside a group, at Year of Reading. I loved the little community that formed each year. I loved having a focused (not sure that is the right word for it) and I loved seeing what other people did with that topic. Last year, I didn't write at all, and this year, I came back, I found that I really missed the community and connections and conversations around the shared topic. I did have a few faithful readers- Mary Lee Hahn, Cathy Mere, Glenda Funk, Elisabeth Ellington, Jean LaTourette. Those people kept me writing. And again, I think about the importance of community in our classrooms.

The importance of mentors and exemplars and possibility. I loved reading other people's poems. Amy Ludwig VanderWater gave readers a new tool to try every day. Mary Lee wrote a month's worth of fabulous golden shovel poems. Elisabeth Ellington and Glenda Funk, who both said they weren't poets, tried a whole bunch of fabulous and different structures. It was really fun to have all of those possibilities to wallow in. I think about the importance of immersing kids in poetry.

The role of choice. This feels a little like heresy, but I have been thinking a lot about choice. I totally believe in kids having choice as writers. At the same time, I really appreciated the structure provided the years that I wrote with MaryLee. I didn't mind having the topic chosen for me. And I actually think I wrote better than I did this year. I'm really not sure what that means, but I'm thinking about it.  

Playfulness. Writers need lots of time to just plain out play. And I don't think I give them enough of that.

So, those are just a few random thoughts, at the end of two straight months of writing. And now I'm going to go read a book. I haven't done nearly enough of that in the last couple of months!


Kyle said...

As I look for a job I am dismayed by how many schools have taken choice away from kids. The scripted curriculum is scaring me.

elsie said...

Community is key to continuous writing. I am in awe of anyone who completes multiple daily writing challenges. My hat is off to you! Yes, choice is important, but sometimes it's okay to offer a menu of things to try. Is it possible for you to have a button where a person who follows you gets an email when you post? I so appreciate getting an email to tell me there's a post, I don't have the hang of this reader list that I must check to find posts.

Elisabeth Ellington said...

I often feel like total freedom is not choice at all--it's overwhelming, plus in order to be able to choose what you want to read and write, you need to have a sense of who you are as a reader and writer and what the possibilities are, which many of our students don't yet have. I know for myself, I also need some structure and focus in my writing or reading life; otherwise, it's easy to simply avoid. So I think choice is tricky. I like options and lots of invitations and someone to read or write alongside. I missed the slicing challenge when it was over, but I haven't thought once about poetry this week! So relieved that challenge is done! I did like the daily blogging habit--the daily push to get something ready to publish. Not sure what I will do with it now, though. I noticed that traffic plummeted on my blog in April. I think reading and commenting on a daily poem is a big commitment for readers. I feel like slices give readers so many ways in, and I'm not sure that poetry does the same thing for my blog readers and regular commenters. I want to do a post of takeaways about the poetry challenge, but I'm still not sure what they are!! But I did appreciate journeying alongside you!

Penny Jansen said...

As I read through your post, I'm saddened that I hadn't followed it all month. I could have introduced my students to some new poets during poetry month. Also, I'm so impressed that you posted 62 days in a row! It's all about carving space and making time. You have motivated me!