Half Finished Love Affair

“A half read book, is a half finished love affair.”-David Mitchell

David Mitchell, I wanna love you.  Really, I do.

And usually, I would agree wholeheartedly with your statement, “a half read book, is a half finished love affair.”  Or, I would have until roughly four years ago, when I read the book that taught me otherwise.  The tome that taught me if I am not enjoying a book, I don’t have to torture myself with it until the last page.  That book, David Mitchell, was your very own Cloud Atlas.  

One afternoon during the Fall of 2012, I came home to find my roommate and our close friend excited about something they’d found on world wide web.

“You’ve got to see this,” they said.

“You’re going to love it,” they said.

And I have to admit, the trailer for “Cloud Atlas”  looked awesome.  An incredible cast jumping across time periods in beautiful costumes?  Count me in.  We decided we’d each read the book and go see the movie when it came out in a couple of months.  What we saw in the trailer was exciting and engrossing, surely that was enough time to complete it?

That night, I sat in my favorite coffee shop excited about the adventure I was about to embark on.  I found the book on Amazon, and was grateful with my (Dad’s) prime account the book would arrive on my doorstep the very next day.  I’d be able to start reading right away!  I scrolled down to the “Customers Who Also This Item Also Bought” section to find some of my past affairs, all authors who fall into what I lovingly refer to as the “pretentious white guy canon.”  Palahniuk, Danielewski, Foster Wallace--I’d read and loved ‘em all.  

But you, Mr. Mitchell, you were different.

As sure as death and taxes, the book arrived the next day.  And I did start as soon as possible!!  I have a few vivid memories of reading this book--in bed as I fell asleep each night, on the courtyard of my university’s campus, while soaking in the tub of my small college apartment.  I even took it with me on a family vacation.  I was in it to win it.   And I made my way through most of the book!

But something happened, somewhere along the way I had two realizations.  The first was, I didn’t like your book.  Not even a little.  I don’t mean it as an insult, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  The second realization was that if I didn’t like something, there was no reason for me to continue to subject myself to it.  It was okay that I did not like the book.  I could take a deep breath, put it down, vow never to pick it up again, and this did not make me any less of a reader.

So, Mr. Mitchell, this is where I disagree with you.  I’m not a quitter for putting a book down two thirds of the way through.  I merely know what I want in a literary relationship and am not willing to settle for otherwise.

Besides, most half-finished love affairs are that way for reason.

CELEBRATE

In Exploring Inquiry as a Teaching Stance in the Writing Workshop (2006), Katie Wood Ray describes her observations of an inquiry lesson on journalism and op-ed writing.  One of my favorite pieces of this story was Ray's use of the word "celebrate" when describing the teacher and her students' actions after completing their first op-ed pieces.  It was definitely something worth celebrating!!  They had spent so much time working on them, they deserved to relish in their completion before moving on to the next assignment.  So often we hurry on to the next thing, but our students deserve that moment in the sun.

Writing With Your Students

Today while at school, I lead a writing lesson.  After going over the mini lesson and their assignments for the day, it was time for our work period.  I decided, after getting the idea from Writer's Workshop: The Essential Guide, that i would sit down and write alongside my students.  The results were incredible!  Their looks of shock and glee when I pulled out my own writer's notebook were irreplaceable.  It truly made them more interested in the task at hand.  At the end of the period, we each go to share a bit about our pieces and they were so excited to talk about their work.  Working with your students, a simple and enjoyable task, can truly make a difference.

Now Hiring

One of my favorite ideas in Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide (Feltcher & Portalupi, 2001) is the chart described on page eighteen, showing students where they could go (among their peers) for help with certain topics.  In the classroom I am currently in, I am learning a lot about delegating tasks to students and giving them responsibilities within the classroom.  It’s such a beneficial relationship for both the students and the teacher.  The students are given a role and authority within the classroom, something they can give back to the classroom community.  Plus, they undoubtedly grow through helping each other, while the teacher can watch and nurture this relationship as well as use the time to complete other tasks or aid a student who specifically needs instructor assistance.

Real Writing?

One of the headings in NCTE Beliefs About the Teaching of Writing reads "People learn to write by writing."  The authors state "Writing...should not be viewed as an activity that happens only within a classroom's walls."  I could not agree more with this point!  I love to write.  I have kept a journal since I was in middle school and believe this is one of the best habits I have made for myself.  I think it is important that there is a focus on academic writing, as well as the self-sponsored writing done outside of the classroom.  For example, e-mail etiquette and letter writing.  These are two skills that I am happy to have had focused lessons on.  While writing an academic essay or fictional narrative are important, I write e-mails and letters on a daily basis.

Recently, I heard NPR correspondent Glen Wheldon talking about a resolution he made for himself.  He wanted to spend less time posting on social media like Twitter and more time on "real writing."  When revisiting this resolution a year later, he felt he had been somewhat harsh towards social media postings.  A well written essay is always gong to be more respected, but if you can use one hundred and forty characters to get your point across, there's something to be said for that too.  Ins short, I think it is important to expose your students to as many types of writing as possible.  You never know what one student may excel and it could be that skill which allows them to view themself as a writer.

"Get young children to tell their stories, write it down, the child can read it."-NCTE Beliefs About Teaching Writing


I love the idea of teaching a child to read with their own words.  Last summer, I met a first grade teacher who allowed her children to write their own picture books which were kept in the classroom library.  Her students loved getting to read each others works and the authors loved sharing their writing with their peers.

I've always loved the idea of ending a writing unit with a reading.  Inviting parents into the classroom and letting each student share their work.

"Get young children to tell their stories, write it down, the child can read it."


I love the idea of teaching a child to read with their own words.  Last summer, I met a first grade teacher who allowed her children to write their own picture books which were kept in the classroom library.  Her students loved getting to read each others works and the authors loved sharing their writing with their peers.

I've always loved the idea of ending a writing unit with a reading.  Inviting parents into the classroom and letting each student share their work.

English vs Yanglish

The NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing state that "Conventions of finished and edited texts are important to readers and therefore to writers."  This inspired a conversation in class as to whether or not writing that didn't follow the conventional rules could be read, understood, or enjoyed.  Personally, I disagree with this statement.  I believe students should experience writing in many different voices and have the opportunity to write in the voice they feel comfortable writing in, while still learning about the standard conventions of writing.  And besides, The Color Purple is one of the most beautiful books I have ever ready and no one can or will tell me it is not to be understood or enjoyed.

 

 

Writer's Workshop: Fable Writing

“Woa-a-ah, I didn’t see you there” said the horse to the bear.Writer's Workshop is a time to write without abandon, especially in the early stages of brainstorming and free write before we get into the revising and editing stages.  This is one of my favorite ways to write and the pieces I will share in this series reflect that.  That's write, run ons and spelling errors are ahead.  

his piece comes to us from a prompt for writing short fables.  The prompt is meant to be read aloud as the student writes their fable.

For the 1st paragraph, write what the horse says to the bear.

"Woah-a-ah, I didn't see you there" said the horse to the bear.

For the 2nd paragraph, write what the bear says to the horse.

"It gets pretty dark out here, you must be from the city," the bear responded.

For the 3rd paragraph, write what the horse says to the bear.

"Sure am!" the horse beamed proudly.

ll of a sudden a huge storm breaks out: wind, rain, thunder, lightning.  Write a stenence or two about all the weather for your 4th paragraph.

All of a sudden a HUGE storm breaks out!  Thunder claps!  Lightning strikes!  Silos and barns are swept up in the flood.

For the 5th paragraph, write what the bear says to the horse.

The horse trembled, "We don't have storms like this in the city!"

For the 6th paragraph write what the horse says to the bear.

The bear gallantly jumped to his hind legs, "Hop on my back!  I'll swim us to safety!"

Now, skip a couple of lines and write "The more of the fable is:"  Take a few minutes to write a good one.

The moral of this story is: Strong swimmers make excellent friends.

Writer's Workshop: A Bad Experience You've Had With Writing

Writer's Workshop is a time to write without abandon, especially in the early stages of brainstorming and free write before we get into the revising and editing stages.  This is one of my favorite ways to write and the pieces I will share in this series reflect that.  That's write, run ons and spelling errors are ahead.  

I wrote this piece in class after given the prompt: "Write about a bad experience you've had with writing."

My sophomore year of college I took a literature and film class.  After each piece of writing read or movie watched, we were asked to turn in a one page essay on a prompt assigned by the professor.  I got an A on every one.  Now, I enjoy writing and even consider myself a good writer.  But I ain’t that good. (Example: I just used the word (nonword?) ‘ain’t.’  I wrote it out without a second thought.)  Being repeatedly rewarded with high marks did not make me want to try my hardest.  In fact, it had the opposite effect.  I threw each essay together an hour before class met Wednesday (usually after a regular Tuesday night of karaoke) knowing it was good enough.  Now, I don’t want to get holier than thou on you, but I am not that person I LOVE to write.  Letters, journal entries, the playlist to  mix CD,  I will hand write it every time.  But it doesn’t stop there!  I like the feeling of putting pen to paper, but I also love the sound of typing on a keyboard.  I have kept a journal since I was in middle school and as blogging platforms like Tumblr became popular, I put my high school voice out there for all to hear.   My writing is something I’m proud of, not something I only want to be good enough.

    I’ll never forget the moment I first valued myself as a writer.  A couple years ago I got the opportunity to write for a two very different blogs.  I loved both of my experiences, but I was right out of college looking for my “big girl job” (whatever that means) and neither of them paid and I really needed to go to grad school and what on earth was I even doing with my life?  I was visiting a friend of mine from undergrad and met her parents for the first time.  They were asking what I did and I began to ramble, “Oh I live with my parents and I got a degree in psych and really gotta go to grad school but I don’t know what in…”  My friend stopped me, “Taylor’s a writer.”  I was stunned.  Oh. My. Gosh.  I am a writer.  I told them all about my experiences working as a writer, and I was proud.  I want my writing to always give myself that feeling, I don’t want it to be just good enough.

 

A Wild Kevin Barnes Appears!

Over the weekend I was eating at my favorite Mexican restaurant with some friends when a baby waddled up to our table. He smiled at us and we talked to him for a bit before he was called back over to the booth beside us. When he turned around, we saw he had a giant Of Montreal patch on the back of his jean jacket (yes, the baby was wearing a jean jacket). When we left the restaurant, I smiled at the baby again. I looked up to comment on his cuteness to his guardians and found I was face to face with Kevin Barnes, lead singer of one of my all time favorite bands, of Montreal.

So, have you ever seen anyone who you look up to or who's art you appreciate out in the wild where you least expected it?  Comment or tweet me at @amanda_taylor.

You don’t crack open a 1,000-page book because you heard the author is a regular guy

For the next few months, my blog is taking on a bit of a theme, my love of reading and writing. More on the writing bit later, for now I bring you--why I have chosen to read a 1000+ page book.  

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I had kind of come to terms with the fact that  I may never read Infinite Jest .  It's a huge book and I may not even like it, why spend the time?  This changed earlier in the year when I saw "The End of the Tour."  Directed by James Ponsoldt (Hometown: Athens, Ga!!) and starring Jason Segel (as David Foster Wallace), this film had me so excited about the man behind the modern epic. 

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So, I saw the movie and I fell in love.  With DFW, with his words, his mind, Jason Segel's portrayal of him.  After listening to several interviews and one fabulous commencement speech, the next obvious step was to pick up Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself , the book which "The End of the Tour" is based on. 

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Fast forward a few months, to a friend of mine sending me a link to Infinite Winter, an online book club of sorts dedicated to reading Infinite Jest over the next few months. Needless to say, I'm in.  Here I am moments after purchasing the book, not regretting my decision yet.   Over Christmas break I started teaching myself to crochet, so naturally I made myself a bookmark to match the cover. 

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Here goes nothing. I'm taking it page by page, whether I takes me a few months or the next year. I'm doing it. Next time you see me I may be wearing an "Ask how I read Infinite Jest button. But for now, I leave you with this: good book or not, Infinite Jest  is the perfect size for propping up an iPad for infinite Netflixing. 

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I have a fever, and the only prescription is MORE STAR WARS

Emotions and excitement are high during the holidays.  Between visiting with friends and family, preparing holiday feasts, and participating in personal traditions.  But this year, we get a bonus.  This year, we get "Star Wars." 

Cue the John Williams

Cue the John Williams

John Corden and Chris Hardwick do an amazing job of capturing this special holiday season in a galaxy far far away brand of excitement with their "Star Wars" carol.

Needless to say, I have been eagerly awaiting "The Force Awakens," but this week my elation really reached its peak and "Star Wars" became a keystone in my daily life, even more so than usual.  

This week, I mixed up our usual pre-nap story time and read my students the Little Golden book adaption of "A New Hope" written by Geof Smith and beautifully illustrated by Caleb Meurer and Micky Rose.

We even had our own topical reading mini-lesson.

I adorned my denim jacket (Yes, its December and its warm enough to wear only a light denim jacket) with my Paul Frank button of Julius sporting the most iconic hairstyle in the galaxy.

Wednesday (aka "The Force Awakens" Eve), The Georgia Theatre hosted a marathon of the original trilogy.  I went for a bit and sipped on themed cocktails, The Tatooine Sun and Jawa Juice, and enjoyed some of "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."  

And then came Thursday, premiere day.  Assuming all of the theaters in the area were sold out, I had begun acting a bit above going on premiere night.  "Oh I'd rather not see it in such a crowded theatre."  "It'd be so late, I'd rather be alert and ready to pay attention."  This all changed when I received a text from a friend asking if I'd want to go with him.  WAIT, YOU MEAN I COULD GO SEE STAR WARS?  TONIGHT?  AT 7:00?  IN ROUGHLY THREE HOURS?!  YES YES ALL OF THE HEART EYES YESSSSS PUHLEEEASE I WILL BE THERE

So I went!  I got to see "Star Wars!"  On opening night!  In a theatre full of eager super fans!

And I finally got to wear Her Universe Darth Vader Dress!

"I'd like a feast of chimichangas..."

"I'd like a feast of chimichangas..."

So, what did I think?  Well, now I've got my plate of R2D2 cookies and have had a few hours to think about it and am ready to put some thoughts on "paper."  I'm going to do this as spoiler free as possible, but just in case if you haven't seen the movie yet you may want to stop reading here.

Alright, let's start with the baddie--Kylo Ren.  Earlier this week, one of my students told me Kylo Ren was going to be his favorite his favorite bad guy in the history of bad guys.  My love for Vader, I did not have the same feelings going into the movie.  But now, wow.  Now, Kylo Ren may be my favorite bad guy in the history of bad guys.  He is an interesting, tormented, multifaceted character.  Adam Driver, bravo.  I don't think I've ever felt so strongly towards the Dark Side.  And people of the internet, if you are reading this I am ready for some "Girls"/"Force Awakens" crossover memes because the parallels are there and have the potential to be HILARIOUS.

WHO RUNS THIS GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY?  GIRLS!  That's right, there are tons of new female characters and they are all AWESOME.  There is are girl pirates, females using the force, Leia is a general, a lady stormtrooper captain who has THE COOLEST STORM TROOPER ARMOR EVER.  

All in all, I really enjoyed this movie.  It's a great follow up to the original trilogy.  There's a genuine element of humor to it.  JJ Abrhams does a great job of sticking to the look and feel of the originals, not overly adding CGI.

So yes, its worth it.  Definitely go and enjoy.

And May the Force be with You.