Silent, the Lost Word: a Found Poem

Found Word Visual Poem
I used an app that generates lists of random words which, sort of like magnetic poetry, you pull together. There’s a certain disconnected nature to this kind of poetic construction that gives it an interesting disjointed flow around the connections between words and ideas. The app does not have clip art, so you have to pull in your own. I used this image from my collection of screen saver files.

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

 

Poems for April: Wonder

My friend, Mary Lee Hahn, over at A Year of Reading, is hoping to inspire us to write poems this month by focusing our attention on the Wonders of the World, and I am curious. I know it is cliche to write poems in April, but what the heck … writing poems at any time is always worth it.

I know her first prompt this morning is about the Pyramid of Giza, but I was writing about the idea of wonder, and realized that if you turned this poem on its side, it was a building.

wonders:

the world unfolding;

overlapping architects

weave ideas from strands of silk,

composed of words, image, sound

while designers of this flowing media fabric

add unexpected edges and rich unknown colors

which we work to wrap around ourselves

sheltered in the experience of the past;

overlapping dreamers in

the world unfolding;

wonders.

wonders poem
Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Reader’s Book of Days

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(This is part of the Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments on Tuesdays. You come, too. Write with us.)

Since January, I’ve been reading the same book, page by page, with the aim of finishing it up at the end of January. That’s right. One page a day, for the entire year. It’s so unlike me — the one who cranks through reading and writing — but The Reader’s Book of Days by Tom Nissley is designed this way, as each page is a calendar day filled with news and information about the literary world that has taken place on that single day.

I love how each page is like a message in a bottle, and I can’t help but imagine the painstaking research that went into this book by Nissley. There’s very little in terms of boring events, and his own writing style in crafting the vignettes on the page (typically, about five or six small stories) is engaging, light-hearted and enlightening on a variety of levels.

How A Reader’s Book of Days Was Made from WW Norton on Vimeo.

I’m sharing this book out because reading it is like a cousin to Slice of Life, where small portraits of writers and books and characters and intrigue from the literary world inhabit each day. It’s a wonderful book, and one that I use as a sort of nightly appetizer before digging into a novel or non-fiction book that is the main read. A Reader’s Book of Days settles me in, bringing me into the spirit of the book.

What more can you ask for?

Peace (in the book of books),
Kevin

Book Review: Wildwood Imperium

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You know that feeling you get when a beloved series ends and you can’t quite believe the story is over? That the literary hang-over I am feeling this morning after finishing a read-aloud of Wildwood Imperium (the third book in the Wildwood Chronicles) with my son yesterday. Sure, author Colin Meloy left a few hints that another book might be possible (as any good author would do) but for the most part, the loose ends of this engaging story about the Impassable Wilderness on the outskirts of Portland, where all sorts of strange magic happens and the most unlikely of children becomes the bravest heroes of all.

Oh, Wildwood, we will miss you.

Wildwood Imperium is the third book in the series and is not for the feint of heart. It has multiple storylines, and a rich vocabulary, and a style all of its own, with engaging characters and a treacherous villain (whose actions will surprise you), and the threads that come together to tie up the story are heartfelt and resonate with a respect for the environmental world and the unseen stories in our lives.

If the Wildwood Chronicles does not become a movie some day, it would be a shame. Unless the movie sucked, then it would be a shame. But my son and I both agree that the series, if done right, could be a powerful storytelling experience. Meanwhile, I have two students who eagerly read the first two books this fall and who are waiting, hoping, that I will lend them this third one. Of course, I will. Of course.

Peace (in the woods),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Slice of Data of the Slices of Life

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

And so, it ends.

Today is the last day of daily Slice of Life writing as part of the March Challenge (but anyone can continue to write about the small moments on a regular Tuesday basis via Two Writing Teachers throughout the year).  Each year, on this final day, I often reflect on the power of writing communities, and the connections made throughout the challenge. I notice the way that writing about moments in our lives opens up larger observations of the world in general. I pay attention to how writing remains the heart and soul of reflection.

All that still remains true, and I’ll add that the growth of the Slice of Life community is breathtaking to watch unfold, as each year, dozens more teachers spend their days writing, reflecting, sharing, connecting, and it is a joy to see happening.

Yesterday, though, I thought I might take a closer look at some of the writing and sharing that was going on during typical days of Slice of Life, gathering together some data.

First of all, a disclaimer: this is so not-scientific. But I will explain how I went about it so you can take my numbers for what they are — a slice of observation only.

  • For the average number of posts per day, I randomly chose five different days throughout the month and counted the Slicers who posted, and then averaged it out.
  • For the gender gap, I chose three different days and did the best I could to determine gender, and then tallied and averaged those numbers out.
  • For the number of comments, I took one single day and went to 10 different blogs, and tallied and averaged the number of comments at each blog.
  • And for the topics, I created a chart and used one single day to put topics in different categories, mostly based on titles of the posts, which is far from perfect.

And now, the Slice of Data, which I put into Haiku Deck to share out (and can’t figure out who some of the bottom section of letters are cut off … sorry).


Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app

For me, the most striking slide is the Gender Gap slide, which is something we have noticed in the past with Slice of Life but this year, it became very evident as the numbers increased, the number of male writers did not trend with the women writers. This is not a bad thing, per se, just an observation as one of the few male writers.

Peace (in the data),
Kevin

Staying Closed in the Age of Open

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I’ve been having an interesting conversation among some friends about a networking space for National Writing Project teachers that has been active and nurtured for, gosh, at least five or six years now. My friend, Bonnie Kaplan, and I conceived and launched the iAnthology (with initial grant funding and support from NWP) during a time when there was palpable anxiety about writing and sharing online, and so, we built it as a closed community, of sorts. (It was designed to emulate a summer networking site for NWP called the eAnthology, which some of you NWP folks might remember.)

The iAnthology is a Ning site for NWP-affiliated teachers, so we have opened up the homepage but everything else under the hood — all of the participants’ writing and commenting and sharing — is not viewable by the general public. We even made a promise to our participants at the start — this space would be a closed community. Many early participants expressed gratitude that this would be the case, and some noted that they would not have joined otherwise. It was a sign of the times.

In fact, I remember setting up a blog for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Summer Institute one summer, and somehow, a few of the photos from the private site got archived by Google search (some tech glitch that I never quite figured out), and a teacher whose headshot could now be found on Google was irate and angry, demanding that we call Google and demand that her headshot get removed from any search queries. I was patient with her, and did some research and filed a request, but even then, I knew she was in a hopeless battle against the flow of information. I did feel guilty as the tech person who set up a site that allowed this to happen, though. We had promised privacy and the public had creeped in. It felt like a betrayal of sorts, even though I thought the reaction did not quite merit the offense, but there could have been some underlying story about protecting her identity that I did not know about.

But times have changed, haven’t they? The anxiety among us is not what it used to be. People share everywhere now — on Facebook, on Twitter, with Instagram and Flickr, with YouTube. We’ve since added a Twitter connection to our iAnthology site, and there is a companion Facebook page. We’ve had a group on Flickr, etc. The flow of connections continues to extend outward.

Check out this chart I made about Open Learning a few weeks ago:

 

Or take part in the Online Learning site, which fosters the idea of wide open spaces for self-directed inquiry. Open learning is everywhere, and changing the face of how we write, connect, share and construct networked communities. It’s become a fabric of our times.

So, our conversations this past week among a few site leaders have revolved around the prospect of opening up more of the iAnthology to public viewing, perhaps, in hopes that we might get more participation. We are also noticing how the seamless connection between platforms (ie, I write here, and share there and there, so that invisible threads connect what I am doing in one space to another space, and you connect with me).

One one hand, I agree with a shift towards “open” and in my heart, I see the merits on many levels. On the other hand, I remember the promise that we built the site upon — the prospect of closed walls — and I think about the stories and writing and images that hundreds of people have shared over the years in a space they assumed was and would be closed, and what it would mean to change the “terms of agreement.”

It feels like Facebook’s dance with privacy, and its claim that open is always better, and that unsettles me. Of course, with Facebook, the “open is better” means “more inroads for advertisements and profits.” We make no money off our writing community, and in fact, the Western Massachusetts Writing Project has funded the Ning for the past few years as a way to support and nurture teachers-as-writers.

And so, my impulse is to keep the site closed and private, although I suspect that if Bonnie and I were to build a writing community today, I would advocate for an open space with many nodes of entry and sharing in a heartbeat. Times have changed. Yet promises are important and trust in one’s word is one of the anchors of any writing community. So I think we will probably remain closed in the age of open.

Peace (in reflection),
Kevin

PS — Are you a NWP teacher or a teacher who has some connection to NWP? Come join us at the iAnthology. We have weekly writing prompts, a Photo Fridays feature, and a shifting variety of activities.

 

Graphic Novel Review: D-Day (24 Hour History)

D-Day

Some events in history do unfold rapidly, and a new graphic novel imprint from Capstone Press seeks to use that as a the theme of a series of graphic novels under the banner of “24 Hour History.” It’s an effective structure for a book like D-Day, where so much happened in such a short amount of time, but which impacted the way World War II played out.

This graphic historical narrative, D-Day, is suited for middle and high school readers (although, interestingly, the Capstone site suggests an elementary grade level – I don’t agree, given the vocabulary and content here). Less a novel than a history lesson, the book begins with an introduction to World War II and then quickly moves into the planning and launching of Allied Forces into France as a move to turn the tide of the war and push Germany back through deception and overwhelming force.

The artwork is nothing to write home about here (ie. rather bland and boring), but with the use of maps, timelines and geographic narrative devices (telling the story of each landing point) along with a few personal stories (which could have been stretched out a bit more, I think), D-Day is an effective piece of graphic non-fiction story that could easily be part of a classroom World War II collection. The writer even gives us some perspectives from both sides of the confrontation, although it is clear the Allies are the heroes here. The stories do not mince words about mistakes that were made and sacrifices given by soldiers in the name of war and liberation.

The use of the 24 hour time frame allows the narrative to move at a rapid pace, as the reader shifts from landing point to landing point, with a clock face read-out on the corner of the frames. It is also helpful that the back of the book has short biographies of some of the main leaders on both sides of the battle, as well as a handy list of additional resources about World War II.

Peace (in the landing),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Nacho Request

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

My son has taken to leaving sticky notes in strange places, particularly when my wife or I are working or need some quiet time. I opened up my laptop yesterday and found this note, which had me laughing. Notice how my wife circled “yes” to the request for trading a hair brushing for nachos.

Nachos

Peace (in the note),
Kevin

Daily Create: Get Crazy and Stay Creative

There is the very famous “stay calm” poster that you see variations of just about everywhere. Yesterday’s Daily Create via DS106 was to remix that poster’s saying. I went into Mozilla’s Webmaker tool and did my own version.

Get Crazy

What’s cool about Webmaker is that you can remix my project or you can go to the one that I remixed, and do your own. At the very least, check out the hilarious collection of remixed posters.

Peace (in the scream of creativity),
Kevin