Sunday, June 24, 2012

Heat a la Hoops

After spending a day at the pool and returning to a car that reported the Death-Valley temperature, I just knew this slice was dying to be written.  So, for only the second time in my career, I reached for Hoops as my mentor.  This poetic rendering of a relate-able experience made capturing this moment a true experiment with language.  From one-word sentences (again) to alliteration, and (what my teammate calls) hyphenated hound-dogs, this mentor has a little bit of everything.


The skin-whitening, sun-deflecting smear. 
The impatient feet dipping beneath
The blue-glass surface.  
The toe-dipping deepens.  
The shoulder-tense, hands-in-the-air crisp chill
Replaced by cool relief. 

Feel the arctic shiver.
Feel your skin pop, starved for sun-drying.
The as-long-as-you-can-stand-it stand-off
At the edge of the pool.
You can do it this time.
Knees bent,
Hands in fists at the end of pumping arms.
The free-as-a-bird flight.
Feet leaving the pavement,
Hitting the warm water wrap,
Slicing through to the bottom.
The not-too-deep depth.
Just enough.

Back to the wall.
Arms planked to pull you from the suit-clinging sea.
Stand-off on the side. 
Deep breath.  
The I-know-you-can-do-it
I'm-watching-you stare.


Hoops.  The book.  Imitate it.  
Go on.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

It's Official: A Slice of Summer is Here!

This book has been around for a while.  But yesterday was the first time I wrote under its influence.  We were immersed in a day of learning around mentor text and I was fortunate to be among fellow writers, who--even at 3:00 on a summer afternoon--were still enthusiastically engaged in the work.
We studied the effects punctuation has on even the smallest, one-word sentences.  How a single word can carry such different meaning depending on the mark of ink that follows.  
Imagine for a minute you were watching a young man propose to his childhood sweetheart. 
What if she answered, "Yes." or "Yes?" or "Yes!" 
The word doesn't change, but the story that follows definitely does.
This started a brainstorm of other words.  Consider:

Now put them together:
(Sound familiar to anyone else? Especially now that summer is here?)

This kind of play doesn't have to stop here.  In fact...
It's time!
Here it is...
The moment we've all been waiting for...(drum roll please)
A Slice of Summer:

Today, Mama?
Is it today?
Our first day of summer?
Yes, baby. It's today.
What are we gonna do?

I bet you won't be able to stop thinking of one word sentences. So come on.  
Try. Try? Yes. Try!

Monday, June 11, 2012

With a Cherry on Top

I was recently asked by my very first follower (thank you, Kathy) if I want people to comment on the "Try-It" posts.  And my answer:
But it wasn't until last Friday, while in a session with Donalyn Miller, that it hit me:  
Member of the Nerdy Book Club
The Nerdy Book Club
I needed a mentor for how to craft the participation plea!  
Donalyn talked about her experience with her "The Nerdy Book Club" blog.   She explained how the whole thing just exploded.  But not without the help of her 
guest bloggers and avid readers.  
So, I have used her site as my mentor, and now you'll find a description of how you might choose to participate in this online community at the top of the page as well as a "Submit a Try-It Idea" link on the right.  So, come on, give it a try:  

  • Go back to a post that struck you in some way and share your Try-It via the comment link.  
  • Or, if the summer sun has made you particularly adventurous, click on the link to submit your own idea.  I am hoping to launch a "Slice of Summer" soon and would love your ideas to kick this off (and create a tool we can all use in the fall).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lucky Us!

As I was crafting the previous post (as so often happens) I was reminded of this excerpt from Michael J. Fox's memoir, Lucky Man, which just a few weeks ago, I used with teachers to explore mentor text:

Teachers labeled this technique:  leaving out critical information to build suspense.  

So how 'bout this try:
    They wheeled the portable ultrasound into the room on the sixth floor.  I was reclined at the foot of the bed.  Everyone was there: my mom, sister, dad, husband.  Everyone was there to catch a glimpse of Camryn months before we'd ever get to hold her.  
    But one of us was watching more closely than the rest.  One of us wouldn't get to hold her.  Indeed, no one knew better than my dad the importance of this invasion of his room on the oncology floor: his final birthday gift.  

I like the way authors establish this sort of comparison.  They start by telling you what something isn't before revealing what it finally is.  

Now, it's your turn...

Friday, June 1, 2012

It's Addicting

This cover story begins:
"It happens so often, we rarely think about it. But which of our everyday rituals better shows how we live than eating?"
I was writing up a shared reading lesson today on this article, trying to identify some stopping places, and I just couldn't help but notice the craft :  
  • Yes, it is a rhetorical question. 
  • Yes, it is an example of a question that begins with the word "But."  
  • Yes, it is an example of a lead that speaks directly to the reader.  
It is all of these, but what struck me was the relationship between two words: It and eating. 

I know what you're probably thinking.  As a comprehension skill, how many times do our students struggle to maintain the relationship between pronouns and antecedents?  And then, look at the one in this opener:  The antecedent--which, by definition, comes before the pronoun--is at the end of the second sentence.  

What a catchy hook.  
So, let's give it a try:

  • It was the only way.  She knew she would have to do it.  And the thought of ____ scared her to death.
  • He didn't even think twice before asking her.  He knew she would say yes.  "Mommy, would you play with me?"
  • She came around the corner faster than lightning.  She looked up and saw me standing there, frozen.  She sped up, if such a thing were possible. And then she stopped.  Right at my feet, and I knew I would be taking this puppy home.
  • They fought for hours, each pushing the other's stuff across the center line.  One was obviously in charge, taking up more space, but the other kept pace just the same.  As the wind picked up, they moved faster, and then, just as quickly as they had started, they came to an abrupt halt; these windshield wipers finally got a much-needed break as my grandpa pulled into the parking lot at the mall.

Yes, it is catchy: this writing backwards.  Now you give it a go!