On Kate Messner's blog, author Joy Feldman gave us several suggestions today for mining ideas. She encouraged us to go to a public place and observe. When I took my dog for a walk, this is what I observed.

Playground Days

The hum of beetles
Blankets on the cool green grass
A T-ball field full of giggles and excitement
Mothers chatting, reading, checking on children
Little ones shrieking, giggling, climbing everywhere
A warm brilliant sun in a peaceful sky
Playground days drifting by
 
 
I love the high ceiling and the sunlight flooding into the top floor of our home. Many people say that they would put up blinds or curtains, but the airy feeling is part of why it is my favorite room. A beautiful rug from my mother-in-law's trip to Mexico stretches across one wall; a cuckoo clock that was a wedding gift hangs on another. The room is open and from my chair I can see straight into the kitchen to watch my son as he is preparing dinner. This isn't a typical activity for him. He's practicing for this fall when he goes away to college. I love watching him work. He's whistling while he chops onions and is chatting all the while. He has such excitement as he looks forward to stepping out on his own. His conversation is littered with comments about what he will eat at college, what he needs to buy, career choices and his future. Seeing him become a young man is really amazing, but our home will not be the same without his music, his laugh, his singing or even his laundry on the bathroom floor. Life is going to change drastically, and I just don't know if I'm ready yet.
 
 
I started this just before midnight, so it counts for Tuesday right? Today's prompt came from Jeannine Atkins and you can see her full explanation and excellent words of wisdom on Kate Messner's blog.

Hi Lyla, 
How are you doing? I hear that you and your family are planning a camping trip to Brazos Bend. That sounds like a lot of fun. Is that the place with the alligators? I didn't know you could camp there. Have y'all been there before? I haven't, but I have some friends that have hiked there before and they love it. What are you looking forward to at the park? 

Have you all practiced setting up the tent? I've been tent camping before a few times and it always takes me awhile to remember how to put those silly things together. I am sure you all will have a few laughs while you are doing it. Try to keep my brother from whacking himself with the mallet. You know I love your daddy, but he can sure be a klutz about stuff like that. Better stand back or better yet, maybe you should be knocking in those tent pegs instead.

I miss seeing you every weekend, but I am glad that y'all have settled into your new house and are enjoying the sights around Houston. What's been your favorite place to visit? Have you met any new kids in your neighborhood? How is your sister doing with all the new things going on around her? Gabby probably thinks this is all very exciting and fun. She seems to always have a smile for everybody and everything. Well, except when she's cranky, but thank goodness that isn't too often.

I love you and look forward to seeing you and your new bedroom next month when I come to visit. Have you finished decorating it? What does it look like now? Did you pick a theme or a special color scheme (like yellow)? 

Love you Lylagirl
Aunt Sue


Hi Aunt Sue,

I'm fine. Yeah, we're going to the place with the alligators. Mom is a bit freaked out by that. The other day I heard her tell dad she had a bad dream about the place. She actually dreamed that we were in a paddleboat surrounded by alligators and Gabby was leaning over trying to pet them. She said she woke up just as Gabby was falling into the water. There is no way they have paddleboats there so it is completely ridiculous, but you know mom is a bit jumpy about wild animals. I honestly can't believe she agreed to this. It should be interesting.

We've been there one time before for a hike. My favorite thing there is the observation tower and the path to it because you get to see so many alligators. They are floating all over and you can see over to the island when you are up in the tower. They like to hang out over there.

We haven't practiced with the tent, but it's not a bad idea. You're right, dad's not so hot at stuff like that. It will probably be pretty funny. Maybe I can convince him to let me use it in the backyard tonight. 

My favorite place so far has been the Space Center. It was super cool to see how big those rockets really are and to see the control station where they heard those guys say Houston we have a problem. It was awesome.

My room is looking really good. I LOVE the built-in bookshelves. I have plenty of room for all of my books and my rock collection. We decorated the walls with yellows just like you guessed. It's just soooo cheerful. We found this fun smiley face rug for next to my bed. I even got those cool 70s beads that hang in doorways too. My bedspread is tie-died and I just love being in there. The only bad thing is that I don't have any friends here to show it to, but I did post some pictures online for my friends back in San Antonio to see. 

Gabby is having fun. She is so bubbly and smiley that everyone just falls in love with her and goes gaga for her. It's not working like that for me. Mom says I just need to open up, but it's just scary and you know I have a hard time talking to people I don't know very well. Gotta go. Mom's yelling. It sounds like she needs help with Gabby. I think Gabs just pushed the jello bowl off of the counter and it sloshed all over the floor since Mom wasn't done making it. Off to the rescue.

Hugs!
Lyla

 
 
Margo Sorenson provided Thursday's Quick Write

Before I started writing, I thought a lot about characters. Can characters be made in a vacuum? I mean, how does an author find or create a character without being influenced by the personalities of people they know? I don't know the answers to these questions. I also don't know if I am puzzling over this to avoid getting to work. 

I started this last week and wrote it in my pencil/paper journal, but forgot to post it here so my Thursday post is just the teensiest bit late.

The Library
 
Lisa reluctantly pushed open the heavy library door. It was crunch time. If she didn't get this ridiculous assignment done today, her grade would completely tank. That wouldn't be anything new really, but she had hoped that somehow this year would be different. Her older sister Sarah practically lived in the library when she was in school, but not Lisa. She avoided this place like the plague. Rows and rows of books stood ready to drag her into the dungeon for another agonizing round of torture. She could almost hear them cackling in glee as she stepped into the room. She imagined that they were rubbing their pages together in anticipation as they eyed her. 

If only the words didn't seem like a puzzle every single time. If only she didn't feel like her brain melted each time she turned a page. When would it ever get easier? Years of "special" reading classes hadn't fixed whatever was wrong with her. Sarah even tried to help, but couldn't really understand what was holding Lisa back. Most mornings when Lisa got up and looked in the mirror, Stupid stared back. Slow, Stupid, or Loser all took their turns visiting her in the mirror.

Fortunately, she could escape them, at least for a little while, when she ran. Because when Lisa ran, she was someone else entirely. She wasn't the loser that couldn't even read the easy books. She was fast and she imagined she could do or be anything. She felt strong when her feet were hitting the ground. She could scare the demons away or at least avoid them for a little while. If only reading could be like that. If only....
 
 
This is the fun project that I worked on this evening. I loved this excuse to experiment with the Idea Sketch app. I think it will be a great tool for some of my students. I am looking forward to adding ideas about my characters. It is cool because you can type notes so my research questions are listed there if you just click the word. I can see this as a fun way to plan if you don't get too distracted with picking colors and shapes. :)

Thanks so much to Kate Messner and her guest, author Sally Wilkins, for prompting me to create an outline! Their mini-lesson was helpful to say the least. I am really loving Teachers Write! 
 
 
You could see it in the hunching of her shoulders and her downcast eyes. Feel it crackling in the air. Waves of fear rolled through her that night as he raged. A torrent of words flooded the kitchen -berating, questioning and threatening her. A pan sailed through the air narrowly missing her, leaving a dent in the wall. Every part of her body tensed, but all the while, her hands methodically continued picking up dishes to wash and rinse, wash and rinse, wash and rinse.

She shrank into herself and into her mind keeping her eyes focused on the soapsuds and dishes. She hoped for peace as her eyes welled with tears. She hoped for safety as her hands shook. Maybe the storm of anger would burst in a fury and fizzle out quickly, unlikely though that seemed at the time. The mantra kept running through her head, "It'll be over soon, it'll be over soon, it'll be over soon." She just wanted to be invisible so he couldn't see her fear or tears. Tears always made the anger escalate though she didn't totally understand why.

Years later she would wonder if her tears made him feel guilty. If it turned a mirror to him. Made him remember his own childhood and realize that he had passed on his own nightmares to his little girl giving her a legacy of fear and distrust. She would wonder if that knowledge pained him. How could he be unaware of how people close to him dreaded his intensity and rage? She would wonder how it felt to be so consumed with fury and overcome by extreme emotions. She would wonder if that emotional demon inside him was the main reason he chose to die, and most of all, if there could have been a way to vanquish it before it was too late.
 
 
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Honestly, the Mini-Lesson from Monday seemed too emotionally difficult, so I did Tuesday's Quick Write instead. Kate asked us to write for two minutes about a very specific place. So I went to my back porch and settled in to write.

Schatzie, my slightly silly little dog, strains to get past the fence at the top of the stairs. He hears the twittering songbirds and wants to go bounding off of the deck after them. He whimpers for his freedom one last time before settling down to enjoy the evening. A silky breeze keeps brushing across my skin carrying a soft scent of lilacs. The wind chimes move so gently that they have no voice. Hummingbirds flit over to sip from the feeder. Listening closely, I can just hear the faintest hum of their wings under the whirr of the neighbors air conditioner. Gray clouds hang in the sky and a few gentle raindrops began to fall. The wind chimes start to sing as a sudden spring shower chases us back into the house.


 
 
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Earlier this week I started participating in the summer project called Teachers Write! Kate Messner and several other authors are leading this fantastic experiment. They created a virtual summer camp for teachers and librarians. We will work as a community to encourage each other as we stretch ourselves through our writing. I will be posting my writing here as the summer progresses. I am hoping to become a better writer, make connections with educators and authors, and enjoy the creative process. Feel free to comment, ask questions, or offer suggestions. Thanks for visiting!