As much as I LOVE teaching, summer is still my favorite time of year. I love the weather and I have more time to write and attend conferences.
With some new book contracts underway, I have a LOT of writing to do this summer. I decided it was time to plan my own little writing retreat. (Just like the "real writers" always talk do!)
Have you ever considered time away from distractions to focus on a book project or two? Of course my dream get-away would be to go to the Highlights Foundation cabins and schedule myself a week of "unworkshop" days. I've been there for workshops before and highly recommend going! With un-workshop days though, you stay there, enjoy the AMAZING food, and write in the barn, your cabin, out in the woods, or whatever inspires you. If you have the money...do it!
My next search for a writing retreat was looking at Airbnb's. There are many options all over the United States. You can search by location, type of dwelling, price, or dates. There are tiny houses, apartments, private rooms within a house, even tree houses! The prices are a wide range, but can be more affordable than other options. Do check reviews for safety and cleanliness.
Another option I considered was using up some hotel reward points and staying for a week or two at someplace like a Fairfield Inn, with a full kitchen and bigger room. It would be a quiet, clean space to get a lot of writing done.
As I continued my research for a place to go, I thought about offering to dog sit or house sit for someone. It could be an exchange of needs. I need a quiet home to stay in for an extended time and someone else may need someone to take care of his/her home. Bingo! I found the perfect match for me. I'm so excited, as this person is an author also and part of my stay will be with her there. We will have a chance to write during the day and chat and critique each other in the evenings.
I still hope to try one or all of the other options out other summers, but for this year, I'm looking forward to my time away writing, like the "real writers" do.
If you've ever heard me present at a writing/teaching conference, you know that I'd tell you how important it is to do creative writing and poetry throughout the year, not just National Poetry Month. However, most schools do an extra poetry push in April. (Especially since this is in the midst or at the end of standardized testing season and the kids enjoy playing with words and exploring fun forms of writing.)
Naturally, since I wrote Monster & Dragon Write Poems to celebrate and promote poetry, I kick off any poetry writing in my classroom, in my poetry clubs, or my poetry workshops with this book. Monster and Dragon love to write poems and when they enter a poetry contest, they are each in it to win it. The inspiring part for kids is seeing the various types of poetry the creatures explore as they prepare for the big contest. They can't wait to try them all out themselves.
Many kids think of poetry as sing-song, rhyming, short text. That's why I love to reveal some of the other forms out there that play with words in different ways. Imposing a structure, such as a certain number or words or syllables for each line, causes kids to have to get creative with their ideas and word choices. I share some of these formats and how to do each form in the back of the book. You can order your copy here and get it to use the first week of April to kick things off with your class!
One example of non-rhyming poetry is a haiku poem. It's a Japanese form of poetry that uses 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line, and 5 syllables in the last line. These types of poems are typically about something found in nature, but don't have to be. Here is a sample of a haiku from a second grade student.
Students will eventually want to work on and read plenty of rhyming poetry too. I like to introduce this by showing many examples of rhyming schemes used in various poems. Many kids have never considered the fact that there is an intentional effort made to have certain lines rhyme. Once this is revealed, kids love to try it themselves.
The first story in our third grade reading series is, When Charlie McButton Lost Power. This story is written in narrative rhyme. We dissect the first stanzas to discover that Suzanne Collins used the AABB pattern throughout. I then read my book, Penelope Perfect. In this book, I used the ABCB pattern. It's a great exercise to allow students to discover the patterns and try to write their own. (Both of these books happen to share the same turning point in the story as well- a thunderstorm that knocks out the power in their homes, causing panic and worry.)
Some schools do a PIG week, Poetry is Great Week, sometime during April, rather than the whole month. If you do choose to do the whole month, here is an example of things you could try on a daily basis to celebrate and explore poetry.
If you want more ways to inspire young writers in your classroom, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter. It is free and I send it out the first Friday of each month.
I'd love to hear any of the ideas you use in your classroom for Poetry Month! Please comment below!
You can also follow me on Twitter @shannonteaches or Facebook.
You've probably heard the saying, "Fake it 'til you make it." Is this really sound advice though? Is it ever a good idea to mislead others by making people think everything is easy and perfect?
I remember a time when I was suckered into a pyramid scam back, when I was in college. "You just buy all of these products and sell them and try to get others to sign up and sell them too. Oh, and buy nice clothes and a nice car to let others think the business is really going well. That'll get people to sign up!"
Now, as a college student, of course, I couldn't afford to try to pull off this deceptive sham even if I wanted to, thank goodness.
I have had my fair share of experiences though, where I felt ashamed or embarrassed about something and tried to cover up the evidence or pretend it didn't happen.
For example, when I was little, my family struggled. My mom became pregnant as a young teen, dropped out of high school, and we just didn't have much. I didn't want anyone to know that my mom was a drop-out or that I couldn't afford what others could. I guess I thought I wouldn't be accepted.
When I was in high school, I didn't want anyone to know that it took me a LONG time to read and study. I learned to read early and easily, but comprehending what I read took me awhile. I had to take notes on everything, sometimes read into a recorder, listen back to it, and take more notes to remember and understand what I read. I didn't want teachers or students to know this because I didn't want people to think I wasn't smart.
When I had my first book published, I fell for another scam by a publishing company that is now closed, due to embezzlement. (The owners are in jail.) I didn't want anyone to know about this because I was embarrassed that I fell for it. I also worried people wouldn't think I was a real author.
As a teacher, mom, presenter for other authors, speaker at Christian events, and presenter for other teachers, I've found that the best encouragement is actually to expose our struggles and trials. By sharing our stories and lessons learned, we can inspire hope for others to be a little braver in their own situations.
Our kids and students especially, need to know that hard work and perseverance is what produces results. They need to understand that their success does not depend on luck, where you come from, or natural-born talent. It has everything to do with their efforts, commitment to learn, and intentional practice that will help them reach their goals.
What are you looking forward to in the new year? Here are 5 things I'm excited about:
Please share what you are looking forward to! Any new adventures on the horizon?
I can't believe it took me so many years to discover and appreciate podcasts. As one who devours information and never has the time to read everything, podcasts have become my mini-miracle for multitasking. I love them because you can:
You can also find these people on social media and through their webpages to learn more about them or their content. I have purchased many books by the people I learn from. Better yet, you can meet them and be a part of their podcasts if you're really brave. I recently had the honor of being interviewed on the debcast, with Debbie Gonzales and Jedlie's Reading podcast, with Jed Doherty. It was a lot of fun and gave me a chance to give back and share what I've learned along the way. You can check these out here:
I'm new to podcasts, so I'd love to hear what you're listening to. What podcast shows are your favorites? Please share in the comments!
It all began with a composition notebook, a family meeting, and a tugging at my heart. I wanted our family to start thinking of others more and be less self-focused. We decided to do a kindness for others everyday for a year and record our stories in a notebook. This is how "A Deed a Day" was born.
Our story has been published in three Chicken Soup for the Soul books, has been featured on A Plus, a positive Journalism website, founded by Ashton Kutcher, and has been on the Chicken Soup Podcast.
People from all over the world have contacted me about starting the "Deed a Day Challenge" with their own families. I created a Facebook group as a place to share ideas for spreading kindness and the ways others have blessed you with their good deeds. After just starting the group this week, we have 200 members and I LOVE reading the posts about kindness shared each day.
Planning intentional acts of kindness trains your heart to instinctively bless others when you see opportunities. Using a "Deed Diary" to record your (or your family's) good deeds is a great way to hold yourself accountable and start doing good for others on a regular basis. Another way to spread kindness is to share the goodness in our community and around the world. We become inspired when see the emotional impact our kindness can have. I'd love to have you join the Deed a Day Facebook group, below. Share ways others have been kind, ideas you have for making someone's day, or just read and enjoy the stories others share. What could you do for someone this week?
We all do things we regret at times . Below is my list of 10 things that I never regret doing. There are times I don't feel like doing many of them, but once I do, there is no looking back. I challenge you to try some of these things and see if you wish you hadn't afterward.
There are plenty of times I don't feel up to a morning run, but have never completed a run and thought, "Man, I wish I hadn't strengthened my body, reduced my mental stress, and released feel-good endorphins!" Or, after doing a kindness for someone, I've never thought, "I wish I hadn't made her smile and feel appreciated."
Your list may look completely different, but when you figure out what you value, you owe it to yourself to make those things priorities. Here are 10 of my No-regret goals:
1. Get 7-8 hours of sleep
2. Work out
3. Eat well
4. Make your bed
6. Connect with others
7. Do something kind for someone every day.
8. Take breaks
9. Learn something new
10. Do something you love
I'd love to hear some of your "No-regret" daily goals! Please share them in the comments below!
How I Made the Leap to Become a Full Time Writer
If your dream is to become a writer, and you’ve been talking to people about it, then no doubt you’ve heard that making money from writing is impossible.
Let me tell you something from experience – it is entirely possible to make money from writing. I’ve said this before, and people who know me are probably sick to death of hearing it, but I’ll say it again because it’s true:
The people who say it’s impossible to make money from writing are the people who didn’t try hard enough.
Being a writer had always been a dream of mine, but up until around three years ago, that’s all it was. It was one of those things you say you want to do, but don’t actually do anything about. And then, on a whim, I started a blog and everything changed.
I loved blogging, I still do, but I still wanted more. I wanted to write novels, short stories, maybe even the odd poem, and the dream that had burned within me for all of those years slowly started to become a reality as I wrote my first short story collection and then my first novel.
They were soon followed by another novel, a short story collection and a collection of funny poems. I now have four novels, three short story collections, the poetry collection I mentioned above and three non-fiction books available. And a whole host of ideas for more.
For the first year of writing my blog and books, I also had a full time job. I was the relief manager in a club, and while I didn’t hate the job, it didn’t inspire me to leap out of bed on a morning like writing did, and I began to think seriously about making writing a full time career.
I began looking into freelance writing and ghost writing and within a couple of weeks, I had several regular clients and I was getting approached by writers, publishers and website owners to write for them. Within around four months, I was making more money in my spare time from writing than I was from my actual job.
You see, I was lucky in a sense. I hadn’t told many people about my writing. Why? Well in the early days, saying I was writer when I was really only writing a blog was, in my mind, like saying you’re an actor when you haven’t actually been cast in anything.
And for that reason, no one told me making money from writing was impossible. It wasn’t until I was writing full time for more money than I’ve ever made in any other job that I discovered that the general consensus seems to be that this is impossible.
What made me make the leap from writing to top up my income, to leaving a safe job to pursue this crazy life? It was, by that point, the plan, but it was a long term plan, and then one day, one thought changed everything for me.
I had started ghost writing in June 2016. Once I realised the potential of it, I told myself that if I could make it work, I would leave my job in January 2017.
Around mid-September 2016, I realised that I was having to turn down well paid jobs because I couldn’t fit them in around working full time. And I really began to resent going to work for less money than I could have been making if I’d stayed home. But I was still apprehensive about going it alone.
I kept thinking to myself “but what if it doesn’t work out and I don’t make enough money to live on?”, “what if I have a bad month?”. So I continued working in a job I didn’t want while writing on the side.
And then one day in October 2016, I was at work on a quiet Tuesday afternoon and it suddenly hit me. The single thought that changed it all. I don’t know where the thought came from, but once I had it, I knew with an utter certainty that it was true:
If you don’t do this now, you never will.
I knew then that it was only self-doubt holding me back. I knew I could make a real living from this; I already was. And the only thing stopping me from making a lot more money was the fact that I had a full time job.
I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen right there and then and I worked out my finances. At that moment, I had enough savings that I could afford to go three months without making a single penny and be fine if it came to it. I had planned on having enough money to go six months, but that voice wasn’t having that.
If you don’t do this now, you never will. It was on a loop in my head.
I have always been one of those people that encourage others to live the life they want to live. And I knew I had to give myself that chance. The timeline I had set for myself and the target savings I had in mind were just ways to put off making the leap because it was a long way outside of my comfort zone.
Well, it was time to leave my comfort zone and start to really make the life I wanted for myself. And that’s what I did.
I went home and wrote my resignation letter and the next morning, on my day off, I went into work and handed that letter in.
I’ve never once regretted that decision. I am free to do the thing I love for a living and working rarely feels like a chore. Sure there are some days when I feel like I’d rather go off and do something that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a laptop, but who doesn’t feel that way about their job sometimes?
When I feel that way, if my deadlines allow it, I take the day off. If they don’t, then I suck it up and get on with it, reminding myself this is the life I chose. I find it a whole lot easier to be motivated to work when I’m doing it for me instead of to make a rich executive richer.
Are there bad months? Sure. But in two years, I’ve never had to dip into that safety net I tried so hard to build up.
There are so many opportunities out there if you’re willing to go and look for them. There are so many different ways you can make money from writing if you’re willing to work hard and push yourself.
If writing is a dream where you see yourself swanning around Paris, rich and famous, maybe it’s better being just a dream, a place you go to in your head when you want to escape the day to day reality for a while.
But if writing is a dream where you see yourself doing a job you love every day, then go for it, and know this: writing for a living is not impossible. It’s hard work at times, but it’s more than doable.
Give yourself the chance to live the life you’ve always dreamed of. You owe it to yourself to be happy, and you CAN do this.
Bio and Links
Born in 1982 in North East England, I knew from an early age I wanted to be a writer. Life got in the way, and the dream was put on the back burner, although never forgotten. I am now a full time author and freelance writer and I write my own blog, My Random Musings.
I have published four novels, three short story collections, three non-fiction books and a collection of funny poems.
Blog link: www.myrandommusings.co.uk
Amazon Author Page: https://goo.gl/FrXC4V
You come up with an idea and write your heart out. You read it to friends, family, and critique groups. You meet the editor that loves your story and gives you a contract for a book deal. Sigh...life is good.
The illustrator does an amazing job creating fabulous images for your text and makes the characters irresistible. Your book will come into the world soon. It's such an exciting time! But wait...
Your book is coming out soon! What will you do to be sure you aren't the only one buying it? What point is your story if no one reads it? Who will buy any of your other books if this one doesn't sell?
Figuring out your book launch is an anxious time. There are so many options for letting the world know that your book exists. You can promote on social media, throw a book launch party, have book signings, buy swag, do book giveaways, and beg friends to write reviews for you. It's easy to have paralysis of analysis, trying to figure out which ways to spend your time and resources to best market your book.
You have to be careful you don't over-promote and make everyone sick of hearing your news, but be bold enough to share so people are aware. The ultimate goal is that word of mouth would spread organically to the target audience of people who would want your book. You hope those who support you, as a person, will support your creative work too.
The best way to get this kind of support is to support others. When a friend has a new product or book, buy it or write a review for him/her. When you are on social media, share others' posts and comment and like others' news. When someone hosts you on his/her blog, interview him/her in return. The publishing world is smaller than it appears. Taking the time to get to know and support others on their writing journey will develop important relationships.
There are lots of things you can do to help your sales. From buying ads to doing book tours. The most important thing though, is to build relationships so people will care about you and your books. If you have ideas on how to build relationships in the creative world, please share!