WriteOut: Cadence in a Field of Outside Art

One of the themes of this year’s Write Out project is “cadences” and on a tour of an outdoor sculpture art show at a local apple orchard the other day, my attention was drawn to an art piece that made sound. It is constructed of heavy recycled industrial piping, and looks like an oversized percussion piece that had gone awry.

When you push any of the pieces, the entire sculpture sets sound into a slow motion, creating a metal-banging rhythm of unexpected noise. It’s pretty mesmerizing, and I found myself there for a long time, just gently pushing the pipes and listening to the gonging filtering through the fields of outdoor art.

The tone of the pipes seemed a perfect cadence for the kind of outdoor art gallery it was, and watching the movement was like watching a pendulum swing, as the energy from one pipe transferred to another, making a kind of unexpected music.

I had this plans of creating a video, with sound, being embedded inside a collage of images from the art show sprawled out over the fields of the apple orchard/farm. I remembered a site I had used long ago – Kapwing — and sure enough, it allowed me to create a multi-media collage.

Peace (listening to the sound),

PS: Write Out is underway, with tons of daily resources on place-based writing and inspirations. Come join us.

Slice of Life: On The Ropes – Up In The Trees

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I almost didn’t do it. Now I am glad I joined my teenage son and niece on an aerial adventure with a high ropes and zip-lining course this weekend as we had a family weekend of apple picking, viewing an outdoor art gallery and then the ropes course.

Which was challenging as the difficulty levels got increasing more .. difficult.

But we were outside, in the woods, at the start of the WriteOut project, and being up in the trees for a challenge seemed quite appropriate for the Write Out experience. And while my back and shoulders still feel the strain of twisting and turning and balancing and muscling my way through, the sense of accomplishment is strong.

Ropes Course Collage

Peace (outside and on the wires),

PS: Write Out 2021 kicked off this weekend and runs for two weeks (through Sunday, October 24). It’s a free, place-based, online activity for teachers, students and the public. Write Out is a partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service. More info: https://writeout.nwp.org/

Write Out Begins: Writing Prompts, Teaching Resources, Live Events and More

The Write Out project kicked off yesterday with a release of many free, wonderful resources for classroom teachers and families and community groups — from National Park Rangers presenting writing prompts through videos; to teachers and others connected to the National Writing Project providing a range of possible writing ideas connected to nature, public spaces and other places of interest for our students; to a series of live events throughout the two weeks of Write Out (October 10-24), including the National Day on Writing on October 20th.

Check it all out — then go on and Write Out, and please share wherever you connect with others. You can follow and share using the #writeout hashtag on social media and tap into conversations happening at @writeoutconnect, the Write Out Facebook Group, and the new NWP Write Now Teacher Studio.
Here’s an example:
Peace (and connections),


Book Review: Subpar Parks

Store - Subpar Parks - Amber Share Design

Amber Share was looking for some artistic direction as an illustrator and designer when she began to notice some one-star negative reviews left on sites for our National Parks. It intrigued her that anyone would leave a negative review for such national treasures and this inquiry began her work on Subpar Parks, first as an Instagram feed and then as a book.

The new book features Share’s lovely illustrations of different parks with the terrible reviews featured (with reviewer names and identifications left off), and then her snarky response to the observations of those who bothered to write a review. She clearly loves our National Parks and can’t fathom a negative experience, but then turns that into art.

Subpar Parks — Amber Share | Letterer Illustrator Designer ...

Some favorites of mine from the book:

  • “It looks nothing like the license plate.”  (Arches National Park)
  • “A hole. A very, very large hole.” (Grand Canyon National Park)
  • “A green statue and that’s it.” (Statue of Liberty National Monument)
  • “Mountains not nearly tall enough.” (Gates of the Arctic National Park)
  • “Don’t even get to touch lava.” (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park)

But the book is not all snark and pushback.

Share has done her time in National Parks as a visitor and she has done her research, too. Each chapter on a park (the book is divided into regions of the United States) comes with interesting information and anecdotes, as well as connections to the native heritages of the land, and she adds helpful advice from park rangers on when best to visit and where, and what to remember about a given site.

Subpar Parks: National Parks and Their One-Star Reviews ...

I thoroughly enjoyed her illustrations — muted colored hues as her palette and soft, evocative artwork that captures the essence of the places as a contrast to the words of the negative reviewers. She has a real cohesive style that connects the pieces together in an engaging way. You see our National Parks from a new view.

Subpar Parks 6 - The RV Atlas

I’m tempted to give this a subpar review, just to keep with the theme of Share’s work, but I won’t, since Subpar Parks is a fun and interesting and informative read all around. Five stars.

ALSO: Did you know Write Out 2021 is kicking off tomorrow (Sunday, October 10)? It’s a free, place-based, online activity for teachers, students and the public. Write Out is a partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service. More info: https://writeout.nwp.org/

Peace (reviewed and refuted),

Book Review: Diary of a Young Naturalist

Buy Diary of a Young Naturalist: WINNER OF THE 2020 ...

Dara McAnulty has a keen eye for the natural world and a passion that spills out and over every single entry in his book, Diary of a Young Naturalist. In writing about nature, he is also writing about himself, a teenager on the autism spectrum whose writing voice brings us into his unique observations.

As a teacher, I was attuned to McAnulty’s descriptions of how difficult it often was for him as a functioning autistic student to be in a traditional school setting, where his autism made the general level of noise, the connecting with other students, and the rigid systems of school a daily and difficult challenge, and I admired how he (with his mother’s help) found a path forward for himself.

His exuberance of learning and knowledge and love of the natural world comes through whenever he brings us out on forest trails or when he is helping professionals with tracking birds or even just sitting in gardens, observing both the larger patterns of the world or the tiniest moments of wonder. His own realization that writing (first as a blog, then a journal, then this book) helps him to make sense of patterns amid the noise resonated with my own writing heart, too.

McAnulty, who continues to write and publish, demonstrates how finding a passion and following those threads, through action and writing and more, can instill meaning in a young life, and forge a direction forward. This book is a call for all of us to not only observe the natural world, but to care for it, too, and in doing so, maybe be more attuned to each other, in all of our different perspectives.

Once you “hear” McAnulty’s voice on the page, you won’t forget him, and you may be inspired to slow down and make your own notes on the wildlife, the foliage, the insects, the world. Anyone can be a naturalist. You just need to be ready for it.

Peace (under leaves and woods),

PS — Do you have nature-curious kids in your classroom or your family? Consider joining in the Write Out project that kicks off on Sunday and runs for two weeks as a collaboration between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service. All activities and resources are free.

Slice of Life: Jazz In The City

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

“When was the last time you were at a live concert?” I asked my father.

We were in line to an indoor jazz concert as part of our city’s weekend long Jazz Festival. Earlier, we had caught an outdoor show of Cuban/Brazilian Jazz. My father had to think. And he still came up blank. It had been a long time, made longer by the Pandemic.


“I don’t remember,” he replied, as we handed our vaccination cards to the attendant, along with our driver’s license, and then my wife, my father and I entered the renovated theater for a night held in honor and remembrance of jazz great Art Blakey. The legendary drummer and band leader died a number of years ago, but this show featured five of his players (plus two young superstars).

We sat down. We had fantastic seats.

“This place feels more crowded than I remember,” my wife remarked, through her mask, which was mandatory for everyone in attendance. I nodded, in agreement, and thought, everything these days feels more crowded. Even in the midst of certified vaccinated people, it still felt a little uneasy to be there, with my knee touching the stranger next to me.

Then the band started up and for two hours, we were transported into the landscape of jazz with exceptional players (they were amazing) and with stories of Blakey’s leadership and nurturing of countless young musicians over the decades.

And somehow, in the pandemic, we got lost in the music, if only for a little while.

Peace (on the stage),

Come ‘Write Out’ with Us: October 10-24

WriteOut: Palettes Storyboards Cadences

If you have been following my blog for the past few years, you know that I am a facilitator with the National Writing Project/National Park Service’s Write Out adventures, which take place each October. This year, it is coming October 10 and running through October 24, with the National Day on Writing on October 20 right in the middle of it all (well, sort of just past the middle).

I want to invite you to join us. It’s all free, and teachers and community groups can choose what inspires them to think about place-based activities. We will have daily video writing prompts from National Park Rangers (these are great for easy classroom writing inspirations), Twitter chats on Thursday nights, Facebook Live presentations, and tons of other resources and ideas.

Sign up for information and newsletters at the Write Out site: https://writeout.nwp.org/

The connecting theme this year comes from the National Park Service: Palettes, Storyboards and Cadences. I find these ideas interesting and evocative, if a little slippery, and I hope the notions of colors, stories and sound can open up some lines of inquiry that connect writers to rural and urban spaces.

WriteOut: Palettes

WriteOut: Storyboarding

WriteOut: Cadences

Peace (and place),