Book Review: My Near-Death Adventures (99% True)

My son and I took a chance on this for read aloud based only on the title. Death. Adventure. He was hooked. (He is a 10 year old boy). And My Near-Death Adventures by Alison DeCamp was a fine choice for our read aloud time, as it is funny, hyperbolic look at living in the time of lumber camps and Lumberjacks and how a boy is missing the father he never knew, so he searches the camp for another one.

DeCamp liberally uses hyperbole to tell this tall tale, but for me, it was the voice of the narrator — Stanley Slater — that comes through as a confused kid, a bit curious about the world, and trying to navigate that shifting space between childhood and manhood while surrounded by strong women working to keep the family together. It’s not easy for Stan.

My son got tired of the “I’m a whiz at …” phrase that Stan says quite a bit (he’d be quite the expert if everything he said was true) so I began to replace the phrase with others (Sorry, Alison).

I loved how she let Stan’s inner thoughts sneak out as mumbles that other characters would hear, as it makes for some hilarious interactions. And while Stan does not get what he wants (he never finds his father, who has abandoned the family, and he does not get to join the river run of logs), he does discover some things about life and some loose ends get tied up by the end of the novel that indicates that Stan and his mother will be OK, even if his “evil” Granny is still in the picture.

My Near-Death Adventures is a fun read-aloud, and I almost forgot to mention one of the more interesting elements of this book. DeCamp uses the scrapbook idea to very funny means here, showing Stan’s collection of cutout images from magazines, complete with Stan’s doodling on the pictures, so that there are visual jokes to go along with the text. It is quite effective.

Peace (in the adventure),

Digital Poetry: A Poem Under Remix

Here I am, still working with a single poem, from draft to finish and beyond. This is not how I usually write. I am a quick, “I am done” kind of writer, who moves on to new things once the last thing is completed. I don’t suffer from attention deficit (I don’t think) but I am always in search of the next writing piece that will kick in that moment of creative excitement.

Working on the same poem for days on end … not my cup of tea. I am a little tired of this walk through the woods to get to the beach …

But here I am, moving into a remix stage of my piece about walking through the woods on the way to the ocean, a poem of place about Maine. I want to share two versions here, both of which use Webmaker’s Thimble site, and both are a little different in nature and experience.

Walk to the Beach remix

First, this remixed poem layers the text into four stanzas, with images for each stanza that shift when you hover the mouse over them. It’s not that dramatic a remix, to be frank, but I love the look and feel of this (which I remixed from a former poem from last year, which used a template that I remixed ….)

Head to the poem

Walk to the Beach remix

Second, I was thinking about how I could use the Blackout Poem idea (of using a sharpie to remove words from a text, leaving only a poem) and I wanted to do it with Thimble. I remixed yet another remix poem, in which the push of the button “drops” text out of view, leaving designated words behind. In this case, I tried to make a new poem living inside of the old poem.

(Note: This worked fine for me in Firefox but not in Chrome or Safari. Sorry. It has to do with the javascript being used in the code, I think.)

 Head to the poem

Peace (in the remix),

Digital Poetry becomes Digital Story

My iteration or riffing on a single poem continues as I took my poem and created a digital story with it via Adobe’s Voice app, which continues to impress me with its simplicity of use. The images all came from Voice’s internal/external search function. I toyed with the idea of not including text of the poem, but then decided to keep it in as a visual cue. I’m still not sure if that was the best decision for a digital story, driven by voice (pun not intended but appreciated).

Peace (in the poem),

Digital Poetry: A Soundscape Poem


If you have been reading what I have been up to the last few days, I have been working out a poem, from draft to beyond, and this morning, I want to share a “soundscape” version of my poem. I used Freesound Music to gather up sounds of a walk to a beach, and then used Audacity to stitch them all together.

Take a listen:

Now, if you go directly to Soundcloud, you can see a little better how I layered the words of the poem into the audio file, so that as you listen, the poem comes forth as a comment overlay to the soundscape. Here is a push into digital poetry, where words and audio move into each other, making the poetic experience for both the reader/listener and the writer/composer something a bit different.

I hope you enjoy the poem as soundscape …

Peace (listen),

Digital Poetry: A Walk to the Beach


I’ve been working on a poem of place over the last few days and while the final pieces are coming into place enough to share it, I also know I have some other ideas for what I want to do with the poem to move it more into digital poetry. This is what I have right now:


As part of this exploration of the digital, I have been working on the draft in TitanPad, which allows you to use a “time slider” effect to show the process of writing over time. (I think you can now do this in Google Docs … anyone know if that is right and how it is done?)

Check out the time slider of my writing of the poem. 

Writing a Poem in Motion

I will share out more of the poem’s iterations in the next few days, I hope ….

Peace (in the poem),


Digital Poetry: Talking Through the Lines


I’ve been interested in taking a poem through the stages with digital tools as part of Digital Poetry Month. Yesterday, I shared out the handwritten draft (raising the question of why that might be digital poetry … even with my use of contrasting images of the draft … perhaps more reflection on what I think digital writing is comes later).
Today, I want to share out some of my thinking as I was writing the poem — what the arrows and lines all mean. I did this video annotating via Voicethread. While I have the media embedded down below, it works better with the link because the file opens up into a full-screen viewing format. You can leave comments at the Voicethread, too, if you want (although you will need a Voicethread account).

Peace (in the poem),

Digital Poetry: The Start of a Draft

I’ve been writing a place-based poem along with my students. It’s still in progress but in the spirit of Digital Poetry month, I thought it might be interesting to share out what the draft looks like. It’s a mess, as my drafts always are.

Poem draft 1

I took an image of the draft and then used an app to mess with the look of it, with some reverse imaging. It’s interesting how the visual impacts the feel of the writing. The poem seemed to get darker for me as I looked at it this way, the scribbles and lines more ominous.

Poem draft

My aim is to work on the poem over the next few days, thinking of how the digital aspect might inform or play into the act of writing poetry. A bunch of us are sharing digital poetry via Twitter with the hashtag #digipoetry. You are invited, too, of course.

Peace (in the emerging poem of place),

Digital Poetry: The Wind Chimes/The Poem Unfurls

It’s April. Time for some poetry.

(icon pulled into shape by Leigh Anne Eck — @teacher4)

I do write poetry all year (why wait until April?) but it’s nice to be part of a gathering of other teacher-writers who intend to try their hand at digital poetry all month. It is always interesting to consider: What does technology do to our writing process? How does it shape what we write? How does it change the way we compose? Or does it?

I’ll see what unfolds from my end, but I wanted to start out the month on right foot …. I used a music app called Musyc to make the soundtrack here, and then used the soundtrack as inspiration for the poem (as opposed to the other way around).

Musyc works by dropping shapes onto a canvas. Each shape has a sound. Sounds bump into each other. It’s neat. I used to be able to share out the video of the music, but the app seems to be having difficulties with that option right now, so I took the audio out and layered it into Audacity with my reading of the poem.

Here is what I saw as I was making the song:
A wind chimes


Slice of Life: It’s Not the End of the World (and I Feel Fine)

(This is a Slice of Life post, in which we share out the events of the day. It has through March and but also is open for words and slices every Tuesday throughout the year, and it is facilitated by the folks atTwo Writing Teachers. You write, too, if not today, then how about next Tuesday?)

Slice of Life Writing Block

Here’s a comic I never had to use during this month of daily Slice of Life writing. I had even another comic sitting on my iPad, a Seinfeldian comic about writing nothing … just in case that day came and I had nothing to write about.

But you know, I always found something to write about, and so did dozens of other educators and writers participating in the Slice of Life. I had no interest in the various prizes for commenting and posting, but if it kept folks involved, I’m OK with that. For me, the gift was that of connections, and writing.

In a final nod to Slice of Life 2015, I went around yesterday morning and did some more of my “line lifting” — stealing lines from blog posts and then constructing short poems around them, as comments to the original bloggers. My aim, as always, was to honor the writing through some literary theft.

You can read all of the poems I made yesterday morning here.

Line Lifting Slice of Life

You know, each March, I think … maybe not this year. Maybe I won’t take part in Slice of Life. Then, I do, and I can’t even remember why I was thinking of bailing out on it. There’s something in the collective power of teachers writing, sharing and connecting … expressing the good and the bad and the serious and the funny and the moments of our lives that reverberate across time and space. The writing exposes the human nature of who we are, and so many posts move us beyond our role of teachers.

If you were a Slicer, or if you came here to comment at all, I thank you from the deep parts of my heart. If I never got to your blog to comment, I am sorry. I’m an early bird writer, so the blogs listed at Two Writing Teachers before school got my attention. Morning is my quiet writing time.

Remember: We’ve still got Tuesdays. See you on the Interwebz.

Peace (in the month gone by),