Veteran’s Day: 25-Word-Stories

This is a revisiting of a post I did two years ago, when I wrote a number of 25 Word Stories on Twitter to honor and fictionalize the stories of veterans. (I am a veteran, too, but, thankfully, never in a war) I think the stories still have a certain narrative power to them. The one with the “maps on skin” still resonate with me as the writer.
If you are a Veteran, thank you.

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Peace (in the world),


Student Research Projects in a “Tweet”

My blog title is a little misleading. We haven’t yet tweeted these out via our classroom Twitter account, but we will be doing that next week. (Here is our Twitter account:¬†

On Friday, as we started nearing the ending phase of a student research project around an inquiry theme of their choosing that has been underway for the past two weeks, I had them do some reflection on how things have been going. One of their tasks was to write a summary of their project — in less than 15 words. This gave me an opportunity to talk again about summary writing, about focusing on the center of a piece of writing without the extraneous material and thinking that comes along with it, about synthesizing an idea to its core. It’s also the perfect Tweet-sized blast of an idea, right?

Some students really struggled with this (I set it up with 15 boxes and the instructions were to use only those boxes — one per word — and no more. It could be less than 15 words, however). Others found the confines of word liberating, in a way. It’s funny how different activities bring out various strengths and weaknesses in them as writers.

Here are some of the research sentences summaries that students wrote:

“Fast food should be healthy food in the United States.” — Shea

“Solar-powered cars will help the world if we invest in them.” — Ryan

“Marine animals have been driven out of their homes due to high mercury levels.” — Isaac

“More recess means more activities and less obese people because they get more exercise.” — David

“Ethanol is efficient but it would decimate our food supply and farmers could go bankrupt.” — Andrew

“Overfishing is a driving pressure that has devastating impacts on marine ecosystems.” — Nick

“Health care costs too much for people to afford.” — Colin

“Gas prices in America and China are too high and we need to lower them.” — Greg

I think they did a pretty good job and their papers and research inquiries are coming along nicely (if slowly).

Peace (in the tweet),

Using Visually for Twitter Matchups

I’ve been waiting for the new Visually site to get up and running to allow users to create infographics (I have one in mind for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project). Until then, you can do an interesting experiment around Twitter.
First, you can create an infographic of yourself on Twitter. Here’s me, according to Visually’s interpretation of data flow:

You can also go head-to-head with other Twitter users. Here is me versus one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman (he kicks my butt, which is perfectly OK with me):

And here I am, going up against one of my National Writing Project friends, Paul Hankins.

Yeah — so that is sort of fun. I can’t wait to tinker more with my own data.
Peace (in the play),

Two Writer/Teachers Chat About Twitter

Here, in this podcast, writers/teachers Katie Keier (Catching Readers Before They Fall) and Kassia Omohundro Wedekind (upcoming Math Exchanges) talk about using Twitter as a tool for professional development and for extending connections from our classroom to the world. (If you want to follow me on Twitter, I am @dogtrax).

At the Stenhouse site, where I found this, they list a bunch of folks they suggest you follow:

Katie: @bluskyz
Kassia: @kassiaowedekind
@ColoReader (Patrick Allen)
@WriteguyJeff (Jeff Anderson)
@spillarke (Lee Ann Spillane)
@justwonderinY (Cathy Mere)

Peace (in the tweets),

Giving 25-Word-Stories a Poetic Touch

I periodically jump into Twitter to write short, short stories — known by the hashtag of #25wordstories. In the past week, as poetry has been front and center, I’ve been trying to cross-pollinate the concept of 25-word-stories with a poetic theme.¬† My aim has not been to write poetry in Twitter, which I also do from time to time, but instead, to write a story with a poetic touch or theme. Alas, some are better than others. The limits of Twitter really makes things interesting and difficult. And certainly challenging.

Here is what I have so far:

What would you write? And if you do it on Twitter, use the #25wordstory hashtag. (There is also a #poemaday hashtag for daily poetry writing and a #poetweet for folks using Twitter for writing poetry as a tweet.)
Peace (in the stories),


Slice of Life: Very Small Twitter Poems

Slice of Life 2011Yesterday morning, I read an article from The New York Times about efforts by writers to use the Twitter format to write very short poems. I am always intrigued by how technology informs our writing, and how our writing can be adapted to technology. So, throughout the day, I tried my hand at some Twitter poems, and used the #poetweet hashtag to share my writing with others.

It’s challenging, as you can imagine. The constraints of 140 characters leaves very little room for exploration. You need to be short and you need to choose your words carefully. It’s a great exercise in editing, actually, and I wonder if some variation might not work well in the classroom.

Here are some of the poems as screenshots off Twitter, which I recast into podcasts this morning, too.
Peace (in the poems),

The Newspaper Life: 25-Word Stories

I wrote yesterday about my positive reaction to the novel, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. As I was reading the novel, I was inspired to try my hand at a few 25-word stories on Twitter about journalists and newspapers. I’m afraid a the balance here tips towards negative. But I admit that is my own bias to remembering a faded world as a writer. That said, I am very curious to know where journalism is going, and what will remain of the old world here. I worry that it won’t be quality writing, though. I worry about that quite a bit.

Here are a few:
Peace (in the stories),

Book Review: Hint Fiction

For a few months now, I have been writing 25-word stories and posting them to Twitter as part of the #25wordstory hashtag. I’ve been enjoying the experiences of this flash/quick fiction and more folks are now also writing and posting their stories, too. I recently picked up this book — Hint Fiction, edited by Robert Smartwood — and found it to a truly lovely little tome about small stories. Smartwood called 25 word stories “hint fiction” because the stories are designed to merely point to, or hint at, larger stories that are not being said.

“… a story of twenty-five words or fewer can have as much impact as a story of twenty-five hundred words or longer,” Smartwood writes in the introduction, later adding: “It’s my belief that the length of the story does not determine the credentials of the writer.”

Smartwood put out a call for these hint fiction stories and was overwhelmed by the response (from published and non-published writers), so this book represents just the tip of the iceberg of folks writing these pieces. There are plenty of great stories in here, such as:

The Strict Professor
by John Minichillo

A card in the mailbox: “Withdrawal: student deceased.” She remembers the name, the only essay in the stack she’ll really read.


The Return
By Joe R. Landsale

They buried him deep. Again.


Noah’s Daughter
By Shanna Germain

“Can’t you count I said two of each. This ” — he shook the squirming fluff of black and white in front of her — “is three.”


By Stuart Dybek

Broke and desperate, I kidnap myself. Ransom notes were sent to interested parties. Later, I sent hair and fingernails, too. They insisted on an ear.

Tell me you don’t get a kick out those. The book contains dozens more.

Sure, on one level, they are quick read. But most will make you pause and think, and wonder about what is going on just outside your field of vision. I notice how the use of titles here (as opposed to on Twitter, where space is a real issue) makes a difference for some of these stories. Here, most titles are part of the story, and if you miss the title, you may miss the story. That’s interesting — how important the title is.

Peace (in more than my 25 words),

Celebrating Veterans with 25-word-stories

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As some of you know, I have been tinkering with 25 word stories on Twitter as a way to narrow storytelling down to its bare essentials. You have to leave more out than you put in. Yesterday, on Veteran’s Day, I got inspired to write a bunch of 25 word stories to honor the stories about veterans.

Peace (in the writing),

My 25-Word Story Collection on Prezi

I’m back on my blog as I gear up for getting back to school next week. It’s been a nice vacation away from blogging, but I have been writing and doing other things. I’ll slowly share some of those things as the days go along. One of the things I’ve been doing that has me thinking a lot is writing 25-word stories on Twitter. This idea was made know to me by Brian Fay, a colleague in the National Writing Project, and you have to tell (try to tell) a story within 25 words. The concept fits perfectly with Twitter, of course, and there is a collection of stories at #25wordstory.

I’ve written about 20 or so of the little guys. It’s a challenge to lay the groundwork of a tale but use brevity in doing so. You leave out a lot more than you put in. You have to think in terms of hints and motivations more than character development. I am hoping this kind of activity will tighten up my other writing.

This morning, I popped them into Prezi. Take a look:

Peace (in the writing),