Listen to Virginia’s poem, “What She Asked,” on Poetry Mosaic, the April 7th entry, and then read her description of the real-life event behind the poem.
In a rural Oregon high school where I taught English more than 20 years ago, we had big teaching areas separated by screen-wall things, but they came nowhere near reaching the high ceiling, because a few years earlier the design of the school had been to have a giant Resource Center and Library, and teachers and groups of students would ideally meet in sections of the massive room, and that would be school.… more
“He was always chasing the next draft of himself.”
American critic Dwight Garner, in the New York Times Book Review on February 16 of this year, was describing the childhood of Henry James.
An expandable list comes to mind, some of our memorable figures moving toward the next draft of themselves: Anne Shirley, Holden Caulfield, Jo March, Jody Baxter, Arnold Spirit, Jr., Gilly Hopkins, M.C.… more
The first college I attended was Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It had a work-study curriculum in which half your year was spent working off-campus on some job relating to your professional aspirations. At that time, being interested in the theatre, I was offered and took a job at a Cleveland television station. A few days before the job began it was canceled.… more
Our park ranger, Earl, which is pronounced in three syllables in south-central Kentucky, asks one last time to reconsider this journey if anyone suffers from a bad heart, high blood pressure, or claustrophobia. He waits at the steel door at the base of a sinkhole.
Thirteen years. The project I began in 2003 has had that many birthdays. It occupies two large crates in my office. It has dominated my life, involving travel, research, reading. It has spawned four versions, each dragging multiple drafts. Rejections span ten years.
Nobody, it seems, wants this book. “Kids won’t be interested.” The subject, Margaret Wise Brown, would find this funny. I am not amused, especially since it was Margaret herself who demanded (she’s not the asking type) that I tell her story.… more
I had pretty much given up on finding an appropriate gift for my dad’s 82nd birthday; the last thing he needed was more stuff. So I headed off to the family lake cabin for the 4th of July holiday (also his birthday weekend) with the thought that I’d figure out a clever celebratory idea at the last minute. Maybe some kind of game that everyone would enjoy?
Though I’m reluctant to admit it, some of the most rewarding moments of my career have come when I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and attempted things I didn’t think I could do: write for teenagers, illustrate a book with tricky paper engineering, tackle nonfiction.
“That’s your Great-Grandfather Who Lost His Arm in the Battle of the Wilderness.” That was his name. In a big gold gilt-framed photo: a distinguished-looking, white-haired, mustached gentleman high above the upright piano in my grandmother’s music room.
I finished reading The Road to Little Dribbling over a week ago, and I’m still laughing.
I’m a sucker for a funny story, and Bill Bryson has provided me with a steady stream of them since I first discovered him in Granta magazine back in the ’80s. I couldn’t get enough of his wisecracking tales about growing up in Des Moines, especially the epic family road trips he endured.… more
As another school year winds to a close, I’m feeling encouraged about the state of nonfiction reading and writing in elementary classrooms across the country.
In 2010, when the Common Core State Standards were introduced, educators began asking me for ideas and strategies for implementing the Reading Informational Text standards. And they were hungry for tips and tools that they could use to teach informational writing.… more
It is not often that I get a call such as I just did. The call came Larry McCoy, who holds a doctorate in theology, and teaches philosophy at the Steamboat, Colorado Community College. He also builds log houses and has a dog named “Helen.” That’s the way folks are here in Routt County. He is one of our near neighbors, living about a mile and a half away.… more
This past February, my husband and I traveled to Cuba on an eleven-day tour. Near the end of the trip, we drove from the central city of Camagüey to visit a ranch. After a two-hour drive, our bus bounced down a long dirt road and passed under a wooden sign that resembled a gate in an old western, telling us we had reached “The King Ranch.” Sheep, goats, and cattle grazed on dry, scrubby brush, in fields that lined both sides of the road.… more
I like to think of landscape not as a fixed place but as a path that is unwinding before my eyes, under my feet. ~ Gretel Ehrlich
Book projects get set aside, even those with fast beating hearts that you can’t bear to be away from for a second. Sickness, holidays, other stuff pushes it away.… more
As writers, we learn to expect the unexpected and be ready to capture experiences in words. One such moment stands out from this past winter for me.
My husband and I were sleeping in our cabin loft, on 60 acres where we keep our horses. I woke at 3 am to crunching snow below our window.… more