Slice of Life: Lifting Lines to Honor Writers

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(This is a Slice of Life post. It is part of a month-long writing adventure facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Slice of Life: I Lift Lines

I’ve written about my line lifting before … of reading other people’s blog posts, and finding a phrase or line that seemed particularly interesting, and then building out a poem from it, leaving it as a comment in the blog. I hope that folks get pleasantly surprised by it. (or at least, amused.)

Yesterday morning, I wandered to a few blogs via Slice of Life that I don’t visit all that often, hoping to catch a flavor of the writer and maybe a line that I could build off (that sounds like I am using Legos for poetry, doesn’t it?). I was not disappointed, and while my own poem collection is a mixed bag (some hold up more than others), that is the nature of the quick poet at work.

You can view all of the Line Lifted Poems here as a collection on Notegraphy.

If you were one of the bloggers I visited, thank you for lending me your lines. I hope you saw my poem as a gift. I was grateful that Greg, one of the bloggers, sent me my poem back, wrapped up in a lovely PicCollage.

A Line Lifter gets his poem back
Peace (from a line lifter),

Slice of Life: Saying Sensei

(This is for Slice of Life, a writing adventure with Two Writing Teachers. Each day, we are looking at the small moments of life and writing. You write, too.)

saying sensei

(Check out the Word Map for Sensei)

I am doing a read-aloud of a novel entitled Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz with my son. We’re both liking it (although the story starts with a ritual suicide by the protagonist’s uncle as part of a Samurai code ceremony and this unnerved me more than a little bit.) But there is a word in the story that I keep mispronouncing. Maybe you have your own arsenal of words that whenever you see it, you say it wrong.

My current word trouble is “sensei.” I don’t know why this one causes me so much difficulty. When I read it in my head, I hear it just fine. Sens-ay. When I read it out loud, it comes out Sens-eye. I suspect it has do with the spelling of the word. My son called me on the carpet last night. Again.

Him: Dad! (sigh). You said it wrong. Why do you do that?

Me: I did?

Him: Yes. It’s sens-aye. You said sense-eye again. Why are you doing that? It’s so frustrating!

Me: Sorry.

I pause to look at the word. I’ve paused to look at that same dang word many times now. I’ve seen Karate Kid (both versions) enough times to know how it sounds. I put my finger on the word. I keep reading, and when I run into the word, I slow my voice down, carefully pronouncing each syllable. Se-ns-ei.

Him: Dad!

Me: What? I said it right. Right?

Him: Now you’re reading too slow!

Me: (sigh).


This reminds me of a time when I was about seven years old, and I found I was saying the word “very” wrong. Somehow, without my even knowing it, I began saying vurrry (maybe I watched some British show?). A friend finally pointed it out to me (in blunt terms: why are you saying that word like that?) and it was like a punch in the stomach. What? What am I doing? I could not believe it. Then I said “very” out loud and sure enough, it was all wrong.

I practiced that word by myself, mostly because I did not want to be embarrassed in front of peers. I said “very” many times. Very Very Very Very. Now I find myself doing it with “sensei.” Sensei Sensei Sensei.

Me: I’ve got it now. Sensei.

Him: That sound right. Now, can you keep reading?

Me: Hai!

Him: Dad!

Peace (in the pronunciation),

Slice of Life: Getting Ready to Gig

(This is a post for Slice of Life.)
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Lately, I’ve noticed that our mail does not get delivered anymore during winter storms. Whatever happened to “neither rain nor snow …” and all that? I don’t begrudge the mail service, of course, and last night, a friend and I were driving home in some of the worst conditions of the winter: snow, sleet, freezing rain. Things were slick.

And all because my band — Duke Rushmore — is gearing up for a gig this coming Friday night (passing through Western Massachusetts? Come to the Paper City Brewery in Holyoke, from 6-8 p.m. — see you there!). We jammed the songs out one last time, worked through a few pieces that are new for us, and then began to pack up the gear that we need to lug to the brewery. (We need roadies.)

Getting ready for the gig

I have some revisions to do on my notes, which I keep handy in the days before the gig to help me stay focused. You can see all the scribbles, arrows, and other handwritten notes that I need to use to adjust my notes. During gigs, I barely glance at them. But before the gigs, I consult them quite a bit, thinking of song keys, solo sequences, changes, background vocals, etc.

Duke Rushmore 2Friday will be here soon and we get to rock and roll. What’s better than that?

Peace (in the gig),


Slice of Life: It’s Allegorical

(This is a post for the Slice of Life, facilitated by Two Writing Teachers throughout March and every Tuesday during the year. You come write, too.)

Yesterday was the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Theodore Geisel has local connections to our area (Springfield, Massachusetts, is right down the road) and so we often do play up celebrations around the author. Yesterday, with all of my sixth grade classes, I read aloud The Butter Battle Book. Only a handful had ever heard of it before, and a few had read it.

The Butter Battle Book is not his best book — I still vote for The Lorax just about any day of the week — but it does give me a chance to do a mini-lesson around “allegory” — a pretty complex literary term for sixth graders. But after discussions around the Cold War, and global geopolitics both of the past and present, we dove into the story of the Yooks and Zooks who hate each other because of how they butter their bread.

Reading the picture book, playing up the voices, asking questions, sparking discussions — it reminds me that we don’t do enough to use picture books for mentor texts in the upper grades. I use them, but I could probably do it even more.

We were hoping to do an All-School Read-Aloud for Read Across America Day yesterday (and Wednesday is World Read Aloud Day), but snow moved in (surprise) and we had a two-hour delay, so that community reading will happen this morning. I am trying to find my copy of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Anyone borrow it?

Peace (in the book),

Slice of Life: Sunday in the Car

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a daily writing challenge throughout March that is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. Come write, too.)

Dad in the car #sol15

I was tempted to draw a map of my “life on the road” yesterday, driving around. But then I figured, today was a day to tap the “Super” app and create this Slice of Life. One of the prompts is “current status” and I know they mean “romantic status” but still … I was not available at all for anything other than behind the wheel.


Peace (in the share),

Here We Go … Starting Up Slice of Life

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It’s March. For me and my blog (hello, old friend), that means dipping back into the Slice of Life Challenge, where each and every day throughout the month, a whole bunch of folks aim to write a bit, share a bit, and connect a bit.  (On Twitter, we use the #sol15 hashtag, just so you know.)

The whole shebang (love that word) is coordinated by the folks at Two Writing Teachers (more than two now, but hey … who’s counting heads?). I do try to do things different each year (this may be my seventh or eighth year of Slice of Life), so I am considering making myself a little calendar for different types of media for Slice of Life. I guess I should have put that into place before the challenge actually began but …. here I am, writing my first slice.

And making a comic …. one or two of my days will be comics.

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What’s your slice? Come join the Slice of Life Challenge. Even if you don’t write every day in March, get writing. Connect.

Peace (in the slice),

Slice of Life: Ice Falls

(This is post for Slice of Life, as facilitated by Two Writing Teachers each Tuesday. We write about small moments. In March, the Slice of Life goes daily for a month. Consider joining the effort to write every day.)

Ice falls #sol15

It was one of those nights and aims to be one of those days …
Peace (with one eye open),

PS — If need information about the March Slice of Life challenges, here you go:

PSS — a bonus Zeega to celebrate Slice of Life



Slice of Life: Where No Dog Dared to Go

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing feature with Two Writing Teachers).

Neither the dog (his name is Duke) nor this dog (my nickname in social networks is Dogtrax) wanted to brave the great outdoors this morning. The blizzard is here, and even as I write this, I can hear the winds whipping around the neighborhood.

duke in winter

Juno has arrived.

We think we’re ready: extra food, extra water, generator near the garage door, a trip to the library to stock up on additional books, etc, etc. I sort of wish I had slept in a bit more but the howling winds and the antsy dog had me up and outside.

Outside this morning, Duke was nearly dragging me to get back home, jumping on his back legs as if he were kicking his motor into high gear. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad out there, and I hope the snow is cold enough that it won’t cause power lines to fall.

Hang tight, if Juno is near you. Stay warm.

Peace (in the winter),

PS — I brought my camera outside, but most of the shots didn’t come out. These two did, and the hues of the world are interesting, particularly against the black lab background of Duke.

Slice of Life: Our Own Little Hollywood

(This is part of Slice of Life, a regular writing activity facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. We find small moments to write about. You come write, too, OK?)

Making Robbers on Loose 2 collage

Our video production budget would make the penny pinching budget dudes in Hollywood very proud: seven cups of hot chocolate and a overflowing plate of nachos as pay for the acting team. The creative energy that is going into the filming of my son’s second feature film? Priceless.

As the script for Robbers on the Loose 2 (a sequel to his last film, shot three years ago and featured at a local film festival) took shape in the past few weeks — written with friends, with advice from his parents and brothers — the excitement of shooting a movie took hold. Organizing the schedules of nearly 10 kids (all nine and ten years old) has been difficult, and we have about one-third more of the movie to shoot.

Making Robbers on the Loose Day2 Collage

I won’t give away the story. Let’s just say, someone is on the loose. But in the script that they wrote on their own, I noticed references to the first movie, foreshadowing for something to be stolen, the use of frames within frames (done in the editing process), and the boys’ obsessions with Nerf guns (only one girl is in the acting team, as the police officer. She’s the best actor of the bunch.)

As an independent media activity, making a movie is interesting and complicated, as my 10-year-old son is finding out. He has his crew rehearsing their lines, making adaptations to the script, adjusting his vision to the reality of what is available to us, and more.

I am merely the camera operator, adding in some advice when I think it will help. (I am also taking still photos of the filming, which is where these collages came from). Seeing my son and his friends pouring over the footage of the day is such a nice sight to behold, as they laugh at the retakes, and critique their own performances.

What more could you ask for?

Peace (on the loose),

Slice of Life: Oh, That Snowy/Icy Day

(This is a Slice of Life post, where we zoom in on the little moments of life. Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. You should write a slice today. Use the hashtag on Twitter #sol15 if you do)

I just knew it. Sunday’s night’s forecast for Monday morning looked iffy, with rain and snow and ice and the temperature hovering just around freezing. Sure enough, the morning began with a series of phone calls: my school district, my wife’s school district, my sons’ school district, and then my wife’s cell phone — where she also has the cancellation texts sent — started to pipe up with an early morning soundtrack of alarm.

No school. (Well, no school for the boys and I — my wife, an administrator, still went in and worked in a quiet building all day).

So, what did I do?

  • Walked the dog and made the coffee
  • Blogged and tweeted in the morning, checked RSS feeds, added a few pieces to my Flipboard magazines
  • Tinkered around with annotations via Hypothesis (for the forthcoming Walk My World adventure)
  • Tinkered around with shared annotation feature on Diigo with Terry
  • Played and then assessed some student video games (see Peter’s game)
  • Finished reading aloud The Greenglass House to my son (good book! Second half had us hooked completely)
  • Finished reading How We Got to Here by Steven Johnson (good book! How one innovation impacts others is fascinating.)
  • Boys and I watched The Princess Bride, even though younger boy was one reluctant (he remembers watching pieces as a littler one and didn’t like it but his older brothers said ‘you have to see this movie’) and then he was glued to the flick. It’s a classic.
  • Watched Terry remix my poem (on his own snowy day). Kicked up the volume when the bass kicked in. Dang. That’s some good bass.
  • Strummed some chords on a guitar and then started to write a song. I had no lyrics on my mind so I dug around in my guitar case and found some lyrics of a friend. Worked them into a song called Running. Recorded on Garageband app. Sent it to him as a surprise gift.
  • Read more to my son (started The Boundless)
  • Finished the day on the couch with my wife, watching the first episode of Netflix’s Marco Polo (just ‘eh’ so far) before the Internet went down.
  • Read a few pages from A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane, and then drifted off to sleep

I guess the snow day had a lot going on … I just didn’t realize it until I wrote about it.

Peace (in the daze),