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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Charming Nonfiction {CELEBRATE This Week: 202}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
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I'm celebrating this book. The writing is admirable, and the topic is splendid. Each time I read a bit, I feel like I've been given a rich gift. I've dabbled in all kinds of writing, and it's taken me awhile to feel accepting of being a nonfiction writer.

I'm always drawn to story.

This book is charming me to all of the ways I can use story to craft nonfiction writing. It lays out sophisticated moves to make nonfiction writing beautiful. It makes feel challenged to write the finest nonfiction possible.

I can't think of a better celebration in the heart of summer when I'm reclaiming time to be a writer.

Share your celebrations...





Friday, July 14, 2017

Why I Still Celebrate {CELEBRATE This Week: 201}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
*******

I've written over 200 celebration posts, which has caused me to ask:

Do I still want to celebrate?

I cringe and look away from the sharp words. Not-thinking about something doesn't make it go away. The question taunts, demanding an answer.

The past twelve months have been grueling. Sometimes I've wondered if I'm a fake digging up something to celebrate each week.

There's nothing fake about my celebrations.

I dredge celebrations because the world is dark. 

Dreadfully dark. 
Disturbingly dark. 
Dismally dark.

The whole wide world is dark. It isn't only in shadowy remote corners, but dark is in our backyards, with kids living in cars and abandoned barns; teens lonely or drunk or hungry; dads in handcuffs and moms strung out. The world is dark.

There's a lot of talk these days about grit -- rugged toughness to get through life. Often I consider gritty celebration. I like the juxtaposition of the terms.

Grit is plowing through the dark.
Celebration is shining a light.

Maybe we wouldn't need so much grit to face the world if we took more time to celebrate.

I still celebrate because, as Kate DiCamillo wisely states, light is precious in a world so dark.

Thank you for Celebrating This Week, whether you've been joining in for hundreds of celebrations or if this week is your first. Together, we will change the world from darkness to light.



Saturday, July 8, 2017

What's fun? {CELEBRATE This Week: 200}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
*******


Sam is 11 and an early riser, like his momma. Often it is just the two of us who bring in the day. One morning he hugged me, then opened the curtains and said, "Look at the beautiful world!" I looked out the window and the sun was painting the sky above the tree line. 

I said, "I was thinking about going for a run. Do you want to come along?"

"Sure thing!" he said. 

These days it's harder for me to get out for a run. It seems that my energy is gone before my feet even hit the floor each morning. Instead of feeling invigorated after a run (or a walk or bike ride), I'm empty and ready to drop. The low energy remains all day. I was grateful for the extra motivation to put one foot in front of the other.

In the garage, Sam snapped on his bike helmet and wheeled his bike outside. I asked, "Do you want me to ride my bike or run?"

He looked up from his kickstand and said, "Whatever is most fun for you. It doesn't matter to me."

He hopped on his bike and spun around the driveway. I stood watching him. His response gave me pause...whatever is most fun for you.

He skidded to a stop in front of me and smirked. "I love it when I skid and spin my bike," he said. "Are you ready?"

I was still trying to figure out how to decide whether to go for a bike ride, a walk, or a run. I was filtering my choice through Sam's decision maker: whatever is most fun...

He pushed off and zipped around the driveway again. I watched him ride with no hands, then circle back and pull a wheelie before coasting past me. He gave a little wave. 

I admire the way Sam is carefree and fun loving. Sometimes I get perturbed by his panache for creativity and the mess left in his wake. This summer he has taken over the dining room and dubbed it his "Inventor's Studio." The table is littered with Legos and cardboard; marbles and balloons. He stores large cardboard creations underneath the table. Currently it is the home to the makings of a train engine. The cardboard contraption barely fits under the table. He leaves a trail in his creative wake, much like Hansel and Gretel dropped bread crumbs. Sam leaves scissors and cardboard scraps; lengths of yarn and fallen domino runs, the hot glue gun on the counter, the mat on the table with paint brushes in water.  Often he is no where in sight because he's in the basement working on his train layout or outside, riding his bike, shooting baskets, digging in the back yard, starting a fire in the fire pit...

He's busy having fun.

This summer I'm fighting the culture of busy. Most days I feel like I'm losing the battle I've waged. Is it an impossible fight? 

I watch Sam stand up to pedal and then make a sharp turn and head down the grassy north hill. He laughter adds a sound track to the rising sun. He jumps off his bike and pushes it up the steep hill. "Are you about ready, Mom?" he calls. 

At the top he puffs heavy breaths. "That's so much fun! It's worth  having to push your bike back up. Wanna try it with me?"

Maybe it's not so much about fighting busy, but deciding what to be busy doing. 

"Sure thing," I say and snap my bike helmet on my head.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Happy Holiday, USA! {CELEBRATE This Week: 199}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
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I hope you have a weekend of rest, watermelon and big belly laughs!



Saturday, June 24, 2017

It's Official! {CELEBRATE This Week: 198}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
*******



Yesterday, on her way past me, dear Diane slipped this onto my computer. "I've been thinking about this conference and how last year others gave me little gifts, so last night I put this together."

I hugged her tight. I couldn't resist. I met Diane, like I've met many who are dear to me,  years ago through our blogs.

This year's conference was a very different experience for me. It began with Mindy announcing her retirement and that this year will be a transition year. Through a grant supported by Dekko, the new director will work alongside Mindy for the year. The grant also provided a web coordinator, adding one more person to the team.

Mindy announced Inga Omondi as the new web coordinator.

Then she introduced me as the new All Write Director.



I smiled and brought my composition notebook to the stage with me. It is not a surprise that I returned to a composition notebook and Flair pen to determine what words to say. I ended with these:


One of my favorite picture books (as if I could select a favorite) is Miss Rumphius. In it, Miss Rumphius is challenged by her grandfather--
You must do something to make the world more beautiful.
Miss Rumphius sows lupine seeds.
I find it a delightful privilege to be like Miss Rumphius by sowing seeds. Although not lupines, the seeds I sow will grow educators -- teachers, coaches, support staff, instructional leaders, and administrators. And in a serendipitous occurrence, you will in turn sow more seeds, investing in the lives of children. I can think of no better way to make the world more beautiful.
This year, I was an observer at the conference. I stayed aware of the behind the scenes happenings. I watched, documented and snuck away for lunch with those who make me feel good about being me. 


Today I celebrate a new job and the new adventures it will entail. 




Saturday, June 17, 2017

An Uninhibited Playful Writer {CELEBRATE This Week: 197}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
*******


In February 2016 I was a mess as a writer. I was struggling with my most recent book and my editor from Stenhouse, Bill, said, "Keep going."

"It's kind of hard to keep going when I don't know what I'm making." The words may have been spoken in a tone more whiney than I care to admit. It wasn't the first time I defined the problem for him. I wasn't sure what I was creating. Was it memoir? Narrative? Informative? Professional and practical?

"I can't really find a mentor," I said, "And I need one."

There was silence on the other end of the phone and I wondered if maybe this were the end of the line. Maybe this was the point when Bill realized I wasn't going to cut it as a writer. Maybe this was when we just gave up on the book and on me.

"I think you're writing lyrical essay," he said.

Having no idea what a lyrical essay is, I googled it. 

Bill said, "It's not exactly what you're doing, but I think it's close enough to help you have something similar to look at."

I kept scanning the Google results. and he said, "Have you ever read anything by Eula Biss?"

"No," I said scribbling her name on a sticky note.

"I've been reading her essays and her writing reminds me a little of the way you write. Not exactly, but there are lines that are reminiscent of the way you write."

Before we hung up, I'd found an essay online by Eula Biss. "Time and Distance Overcome" changed me as a person and as a writer. I bought her book, Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays, a collection exploring race in America and her response. Often I read snippets of Eula's writing before diving into my own work on the book.

This week I was at a Choice Literacy writing retreat. The theme was Ourselves in Our Writing and the anchor was Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  It was a perfect place to live my decision to embrace a playful spirit. It occurred to me that perhaps Amy was writing lyrical essay also. She is definitely more playful than Eula, but both weave facts and poetry and story together to leave the reader deeply moved.

Decidedly uninhibited, I stopped thinking and jumped into the essayist pool. 

I decided to begin with No. 2 pencils. Brenda (my Choice Literacy editor) thought it would be a good idea for me to jump. She even had a story to share with me about No. 2 pencils.

The next morning, she laughed when I told her at breakfast how hard the writing was. "I bet," she said. "You're going to have to write a lot of the wrong things in order to find just the right things for your essay."

I brought a meager 339 words to response group and explained that I was trying to learn how to craft a lyrical essay. I knew they would be kind with their encouragement, but I didn't' expect it to be so energetic. Maybe I wasn't going to drown in the essayist pool. Perhaps I have a little more than a doggie paddle to keep me afloat.

They didn't have any No. 2 pencil stories, but they did have glue stories. The idea of school supply nostalgia grew out of our discussion. Earlier, Brenda mentioned she hadn't thought of the No. 2 pencil story for years. It only came to mind because of my topic. I began wondering what other school supply stories are buried.

Why not throw it out to the universe and see what people have to say? It's the kind of thing a person with an uninhibited playful spirit would do. Do you have anything to share with me about No. 2 pencils? It can be a joke, quote, passage, poem or story obviously or thinly connected to a pencil. Will you help me spread the word? Please use #SchoolSupplyStories so I can find them in social media. 

Cheers to playing as writers!



Friday, June 9, 2017

Summer Goals {CELEBRATE This Week: 196}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
*******


This summer I've decided to be completely inspired by Lin Yutang and his words:

“If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live”

This is a counter-cultural decision. The world tells us if we're busy, we're living right. 

I don't want to be busy.

I'm discovering it's a battle to find useless afternoons to spend in perfectly useless manners. I'm learning to fight the good fight. 

On Tuesday we were driving home from Steph's softball game and I saw The Sandlot advertised as the Retro Reel for the drive-in movie. My first thought was, It would be fun to get a group of friends to go together. 

Immediately I thought of all the reasons it wouldn't work. I thought of the hassle of arranging schedules. I thought of the risk of melt downs and ungrateful attitudes. I thought of the inevitable embarrassment of rude words and unkind actions that are guaranteed when we are around other families. I thought of the battle that always comes with a late bedtime. 

I thought of the space between what I used to dream for our family and what the reality is for turning darkness to light for kids who come from hard places.

Then I thought about Sam and his buddies. "The Guys" is a fluid group of fun loving kids. They're rare in their joy and their uncanny ability to include rather than exclude others. 

I decided to fight back and find a perfectly useless way to spend an evening. I figured since "The Guys" are awesome, they probably have cool parental units. I sent a text out to 7 moms telling them about the drive-in movie. Anyone in? I asked.

We all have to learn to fight busy.

We ended up with 6 carloads heading to the drive-in to spend an evening in a perfectly useless manner. There was a ragtag game of football and frisbee and kickball. We shared watermelon and Twizzlers and popcorn.

Little did I know we were living out the lessons from The Sandlot, a movie all about the power of perfectly useless afternoons spent in perfectly useless manners. This is where real living happens. 

Just like in the movie the themes of learning to live run deep. Good things happen when you are brave enough invite a new kid to play. You almost always have to leave your house to make friends. Rarely are things what they seem. And don't overthink it -- just keep trying. 

This summer I'm determined to spend more perfectly useless afternoons (or days or nights) in perfectly useless manners. In the end, I think all of the perfectly useless choices of how to spend the summer will turn out to be the wisest investment any of us could make.

Happy summer! I hope you, too, will choose to spend some perfectly useless afternoons in a perfectly useless manner. Here's to living life to the fullest! Share your celebrations below. 





My newest book is getting closer to publication. Check out this free eBook I put together that highlights 7 Leaps of Faith (and 35 Moves to Make) to use with hard-to-reach writers.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Persist {CELEBRATE This Week: 195}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
*******


I have too much to say for a single blog post. So I'll boil it down to the most important information:

I bought a new pair of shoes this week.

They are proving to be wise investment. I was looking for a pair of grass green shoes, but ended up with red...bright red...suede red on the toes and shiny red on the heels.

I bought them for an interview.

Since it's a little bit of a dream job, I decided it warranted a new pair of kicks.

I got the job.

I'm the new All Write Director. 

All Write is a professional development consortium, and I'll get to coordinate area PD for 30+ school districts.

Tonight I wore my new shoes again to graduation.

As a school board member,  I have the privilege of handing out diplomas. 

I loved it.

I smiled and shook the hands of 2017 graduates.

I kept thinking about how it couldn't have been all rainbows and roses for them to reach this point. By the time you graduate high school, you've faced a few struggles in life. 

I stood there in my new shoes and I was reminded that life is all about persistence. In the end it doesn't matter what the struggles were...it just matters that we keep pressing on. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

We made it! {CELEBRATE This Week: 194}

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! 

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. 

Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.
*******


We made it. The 2016-2017 school year is officially closed.

You may have heard my sigh of relief. 
The relief I feel from making it to the end of the school year is abnormal. 
Perhaps it's because it was an abnormally difficult school year.

I'm not sure how to sort it all out. 

I return to celebration.

This I celebrate:
  1. We are together.
  2. We have a summer full of special things.
  3. I'm still writing.
  4. There's still laughter.
This summer will be one of rejuvenating and anchoring myself. I am slowing down. I will scrapbook. I will write a flash draft of a book about faith. I will write stories from the classroom. I will take more walks. 

I will laugh.

It is laughter that makes it possible to overcome the hard of life. It is laughter that is my gauge of celebration. This summer I will laugh.

[My apologies for the late linkup post. It seems we made it to the end of the school year and then I caught a bug that landed me in bed from 9:30 pm on Friday night until 6:00 am on Sunday morning. Still, I celebrate the good of starting summer.]




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Let me help you plan a writing celebration!

Are you looking for a fast way to plan a formal writing celebration?

Sometimes at the end of the year, it can feel overwhelming to plan one more thing. The truth of the matter is you have time to make a plan for a meaningful writing celebration.

I know because I've helped lots of teachers make quick plans for powerful writing celebrations.

Last weekend I found myself with a little extra time, so I began imagining ways I could help more teachers plan an end of the year writing celebration.


By the end of the weekend, I created a new mini-course. It's designed to be a fast guide to help you plan a writing celebration. I pretended that we had time to grab a cup of coffee and chat through a celebration for your classroom. I created a few videos inspired by the conversations I've been having with teachers in my neck of the woods.

Then I thought about the things I would offer to print for your students. I created a handful of PDFs and added them to the mini-course.

In just an hour or two, you'll have a meaningful writing celebration planned for your students.

Check out the Fast Guide to Writing Celebrations. Because I'm trained in education and not in business, there's an insane early bird price for the mini-course.

For just a few dollars, you'll learn:

  • Celebration messages to anchor your celebration
  • The three components to a genuine celebration -- 
    • Response
    • Reflection
    • Rejoicing
  • A process for planning a meaningful writing celebration
And you'll get:
  • 5 video lessons (each around 5 minutes)
  • A printable PDF of the Celebration Messages
  • A Response Sheet for primary grades
  • A Comment Sheet for upper grades
  • A list of Interview Questions for Writers to use as a reflection
  • A template to guide you in planning a formal celebration

Leave a comment and let me know about your plans to celebrate your students as writers. Happy teaching, everyone!



on mission


Recently someone said to me:

Ruth, you need to figure out what you want to do with your career.

It was matter-of-fact, and the directive gave me pause. I couldn't decide if it was a statement of encouragement or admonishment.  Either way, these words tumbled through my brain and clunked around my heart.

Truth be told, they're still punching my guts.

Figure out what you want...

Fundamentally, I'm not sure it's something I believe is mine to do. Maybe it's not up to me to figure out what I want. Maybe what's mine to do is to show up where I'm positioned and give all I have to offer.

If I keep trying to get things right, then I miss the living right in front of me. Perfectionism comes at a high cost. It's why I decided to become a recovering perfectionist.

To become a recovering perfectionist, there are things one must pretend to know. For example, one might pretend to know how to relax. One might pretend to know how to let things go. One might pretend to know that things will be okay if not on time.

Lately, I've not had to pretend quite so much, because I've been learning to be okay with living my mission.

Years ago I gave it a name...
Honestly, I didn't really know what it meant, but I sure liked the sound of it. Sometimes the sound of things is enough for my writer soul to pursue it. I started tugging on the idea, seeing if I could unravel the meaning of Mission Story. I delivered a keynote based on the idea and have tagged 177 blog posts.

Often I unravel meaning by weaving words.

I don't need to figure out what I'm going to do with my career, because I've already determined how I'm going to live my life.

 I'm living Mission Story.

It's not streamlined; Story is organic. It is alive, constantly changing and adapting. It is unwritten. It's unfolding moments making days unfurling into months and seasons and years.

It doesn't go how it's suppose to go; Story is unpredictable. It's intertwined with others and together we move forward.

Because I trust Story, I don't need to figure out what I want to do. Instead, I collect and curate and connect the stories entrusted to me.

The important thing is I don't give up. As I hold firm to Mission Story, I see things more clearly. The ordinary, nearly insignificant moments that pile together to make a day are my most valued treasures.

 I'm living Mission Story.

I believe in this wild and precious Story I'm living, and I know it is worthy. So no matter how blurry the world looks or how busy I think things are or how counterintuitive my decisions seem, it all comes down to one mission --

Mission Story.

I find significance in story. I find magic in moments posing as meaningless. I seek these bits and write them down. This is my mission -- to find significance in story and inspire others to do the same.

It's not the sort of mission that marches with dominance across the top of a resume. It's not really a mission to support a career.

It's a good thing I don't really want a career.
I want to live a good story.
And inspire others to do the same.