Slice number 5 of 31! This is the very fun Slice of Life Writing Challenge where we write every day and link together on theTwo Writing Teachers Blog of Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz.
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Jennifer M. at I Hablo Esplanglish, a wonderful teacher of English language learners with loads of stories to tell, including a loving husband, also wrote lately about another important man in her life, Ralph Fletcher! Jennifer attended the Dublin Literacy Conference a couple of weeks ago, and right before that I attended the Colorado Chapter of the International Reading Association here in Denver. I've written one post, about my time with Tony Stead. This time, briefly, I want to share some of my notes from my experience with Ralph Fletcher, adding to what Jennifer wrote. Evidently we received different presentations. She got to write a poem and in my presentation, Ralph talked about keeping writers notebooks. I think both might be inspiring to all of us who are entering the cooling off period of the challenge. It's Tuesday, we're thinking, and oh my, there are 26 days to go!
There are many books I love that have helped me teach students about keeping a notebook or writing, but some of my favorite are Fletcher's. If you don't know them, try to find at least one. He has lately revised an old favorite, What A Writer Needs that Stacey referred to in their slice number two, with a giveaway of this edition. A recent one that I've used and shared often is Mentor Author, Mentor Texts, filled with short pieces of every genre imaginable. I used Marshfield Dreams, one of his memoirs, often as a mentor text, and once as a read aloud. A favorite is Moving Day, a story in poems about moving. And a final favorite, Breathing In Breathing Out: Keeping A Writers Notebook. There are many more.
Ralph spoke of the importance of his thinking changes in this revision, that new ideas come now from technology, that there is more going on with visual inspiration in classes, too. He spoke of one important habit of an effective writer, that "they react". I wonder if we want to write something down because we are reacting to it, and writing is part of that reaction? He added that a writer's notebook is "where people stand in front of a mirror and try something." Think about that for a little while!
Another good piece of advice, according to Ralph, is that "keeping a writers notebook helps one keep in touch with all the senses--and your heart"! His book, Twilight Comes Twice, comes from his little boy asking the question: "What is twilight, Dad?" He noted it and came back to it later, then wrote about it. Ralph talked a little about memoir, reminding everyone that one needs to capture at least tidbits of info about an event, and further quoted Paul McCartney, who said: You can't re-heat a soufflé."
Finally, a quote I shared right after I attended the conference: "Writers are people who write interesting stories from their ordinary lives."
I've kept notebooks/journals/sketchbooks for a long while, with or without students. Here are two pictures of my poetry journal where lots of favorite poems & lessons are entered, some writing of my own too, and my writers notebook filled with mentor text pieces of poetry and prose, and lessons large and small.
I love these journals, and also have many computer files on my laptop. They are important to my writing, but I do wonder sometimes how many people will bother to scroll through file # 34, compared to one of these journals? Is that a consideration for another post? Ralph Fletcher is an inspiration for our personal writing and for attempting to inspire and to instill passion in our students. I'm so happy to have seen him!