Each year, after winter break, I have my kids write their own stories. We go through the entire publication process. We start with brainstorming, write our first draft, edit, revise, and even have critiques from students in upper grades. Then, we illustrate all of the pages and send them off to Studentreasures Publishing to be made into hard cover picture books.
The students also get to draw their main characters to send into Budsies. The Budsies company changes each picture into a plush character! From there, we create book commercials using iMovie trailers. Lastly, the students illustrate a white dress for me to wear to our publication celebration.
We invite the parents to come in and see all of the books and characters and then relax and enjoy watching the book trailers each student created. We end with some cookies and punch and wonderful memories.
To read more about this experience, click this link: https://www.budsies.com/blog/stories/books-come-to-life-thanks-to-their-inspiring-teacher/
It's that time of year. We begin reflecting on the passing year and look onward to the times ahead. Do you set New Year's resolutions? Are they goals for your physical or spiritual health? For your career? Home improvements?
I could create a post long enough to keep you procrastinating a lot longer on your to-do list, but I'll simply it for you:
1. Make the List
2. Do the List
3. Take care of the list-maker!
Make the List
I'm a 'to-do' list girl. I always have been. I have an on-going list at home, at school, and for my writing work. For the new year, I usually create a goal list. From there, the goals get broken down into my to-do lists, or steps to accomplish these goals. I start with the things that have due dates or deadlines and work my way backwards. If there is something you really want to accomplish, you should put it on the list. If there is something you aren't serious about or don't think is important in this season of your life, don't clutter your list with things that aren't a priority right now. (You can always add things on your future lists.)
Do the List
On every list I create, there are some things that I can't wait to tackle and there are some things that I wish I didn't have to do. The list items that are daunting, could be scary because the task is overwhelming, difficult, or takes me out of my comfort zone. For these things, I try to remember this video from a leadership training I attended.
Once you eat the frog(s) on your list each day, it really does set you into motion for conquering other things you need to take care of. I take great satisfaction in taking a fat sharpie and crossing off those unpleasant list items once they are done. By the time my list gets whittled down to a few items, I usually have some new ideas or tasks that need to be added. I create a brand new list and add the ones from the old list at the top. The cycle continues and I find the frogs and eat them.
Take Care of the List-Maker
As I have gotten older and my responsibilities have grown, I've discovered the most important element in making and doing my lists. You have to take care of the list-maker. Over the past few years, as a full time teacher, a mom to two teenagers, an author, speaker, the regional advisor for the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and a member on the board of directors for the Indiana Reading Association, I've had to pause and reflect on what drains my energy and what fuels it. I realized that I would either have to give up some of the things I love to do or find a way to do them in a healthy way so that I can continue and still do a good job.
After a visit to my doctor and an honest look at my priorities, here is what I came up with:
I hope these tips are helpful and that the new year brings you exciting adventures and opportunities. If you would like to stay connected, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook and subscribe to my newsletter below:
Please add your favorite tips for reaching your goals in the comments. I'd love to hear them!
I’m at a writing conference in Philadelphia and am staying on a campus in a dorm. So many thoughts swirled in my head last night about getting my classroom ready for the school year, missing my family, trying to figure out how I'm going to do all of the things I've learned at this conference, finding time to write all of the stories I have ideas for, and figuring out what to add to my blog. My thoughts even took me to the white duck in the pond on the campus here. The poor little guy is all alone, swimming around all day by himself every time I see him. It was hard to sleep with so many stray thoughts.
When my alarm went off at 5:30am, I was not excited about waking up. I’m normally a morning person, but I run every other day and I did not run yesterday. I could also hear rain hitting the window. Ugh.
It would have been really easy to reason away why I shouldn’t have to run. I’m at a conference, it’s raining, it’s hilly, and I’m so tired. I should maybe set the alarm for another hour so I can be more alert in my sessions today.
Blessings at Mile 0: Deciding to get up and do it anyway. I climbed out of bed and got my running clothes on. Before I left my room, I checked my email. The top email was from Hawaii, from a man that asked me to contribute to a book about kindness. Today was book release day! Fun news!
Blessings at Mile 1: The rain feels awesome in the warm air. As I turn on the road leading around a chapel, there in the grass, was a flock of geese. They were calm and seemed to be socializing and enjoying their time together. In the middle of the flock was the little white duck. He has friends! I smiled the rest of that mile knowing he had someone to hang out with.
Blessing at Mile 2: As you could probably guess, I’m an animal lover. The blessing in this mile was a group of baby and mama deer peacefully grazing by some trees. They seemed completely unphased by me running by.
Blessing at Mile 3: My route took me back by the pond. There swam the little white duck, again by himself. Maybe he is like me and enjoys fellowship with others as much as he enjoys his alone time in the pond. This made me smile too.
Blessing at Mile 4: I started seeing people heading to breakfast and realized my running time was up. I made it 4 miles and feel great. Time for a shower, some good food, and I guess I figured out a blog post to write!
Enjoy life's simple blessings.
From when I was little, I always loved having my own little nook or cave to retreat to and write. From huge cardboard boxes, to forts, to cleaning out half of my closet to use as a hideaway “office.” I loved having my own secret little spot. I would decorate it, stock it with paper, pens, markers, a desk, chair, and light. Some things never change.
Once I started writing more seriously, a corner of a room in our house became my writing space. I found the perfect chairs, a little table, and surrounded the space with inspirational art, quotes, pictures, and momentos from writing events. It proved to be a comfortable happy place.
There were just a few problems. I shared the room with the piano and our home computer, so I wasn’t always alone. The room was right next to the living room, so if the TV was on, I could hear it. There was no lock on the door, so my clever cat, Tucker, who can open lever handles, always opened the door to let all of our pets in to “see” me. To some, this may seem like minor nuisances, but I had a hard time focusing.
Many year ago, my husband and I had an amazing playhouse built in our backyard for our girls. It was sided and designed to look like a mini-version of our home. It also has electricity, an air conditioner for the summer, and a space heater for the winter. We insulated it, installed windows, and carpeting. My mom made curtains and we filled it with a kitchen set, Barbie houses, a table and chairs, and even a tv/dvd player for movies. If I would have had this when I was a kid, I don’t know if I would have ever come back in the house!
My girls are now in 7th and 11th grades. This past summer was the first summer that the playhouse was not played in once. Our original plan was to turn the playhouse into storage once the girls outgrew it. As I thought about the possibilities, my wheels started spinning about a writing cottage. I had seen all kinds of cool “She Sheds” on TV and on Pinterest. Artists have studios. Could I have my own personal writing shack? Once I was cleared to remove the toys and take over, the fun began. I ripped out the carpet, added another window, put down hard-wood flooring and a rug, brought my writing chairs out, ordered a writing table and lamp, and started painting.
I cannot tell you how much I love this space. I have all of my books, poems, and magazine publications out here, cards of encouragement people have given me up on the wall, books I love to read, books that help me become a better writer, and all of my current writing projects. I have a window that my chair and desk both face, overlooking a tree with bird feeders and birdhouses. As I sit here, I feel very blessed to have this cozy space to do what I love.