The Write Timing

My voyage toward publication

International Literacy Day September 9, 2013

Today will quite possibly rank as one of the best in my teaching career.  A few weeks ago, I opened an email from one of my favorite professional organizations, the International Reading Association.  It heralded the upcoming International Literacy Day, a day to celebrate the gift of literacy and promote literacy throughout the world.  I knew immediately that I wanted my class to celebrate it, but the question was – how?

As I pondered and brainstormed, our celebration day grew from a single guest reader to a day completely filled with literacy activities!  Here’s how our day looked in Room 311:


9:05 am – Students tumbled into the room, lugging pillows, stuffed animals, and bags full of books for our afternoon “Read In.”  One student brought me a wonderful sign to post in the room – Hooray for Literacy Day!

9:15 am – Dancing Classrooms and Music Class – Our physical activity and musical experience for the day!

11:00 am – Special guest reader, assistant principal, Mrs. Simmons came in and read The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns.  We talked as a class about literacy and how it relates to math.  The students came up with all kinds of ways we use mathematical literacy (in algebra, reading and writing story problems, interpreting graphs, etc.).

11:30 am – We discussed literacy facts and figures from around the world.  My students learned that 115 million children around the world cannot read and write.  My students wrote the figures in standard, expanded, and word forms.  We tried to imagine how many people that would be and discussed what those children would be doing instead of going to school.  We all agreed that receiving an education is a tremendous gift.

12:20 – Recess and Lunch (Literacy loves sustenance.)

1:00 – Reading class!!!
Read In – Students camped out around the classroom with pillows, blankets, and books galore!  They munched on read-and-feed snacks, played literary element charades, and read some more!

Passing It On – Students were paired and went into a primary classroom (K-3) to talk about literacy and then read a picture book aloud.  The students were SO excited to share what they knew about literacy with the youngest students in our school.  They came back to the classroom chattering with stories to tell and grins from ear to ear.

Writing Prompt – Students responded to one or both of the following prompts: Because I am literate, I can… AND Literacy allows me to invent my future by…

3:00 – Science Literacy and Experiments

Throughout the day and evening, I was able to tweet from my classroom account all of the wonderful activities we were doing to promote literacy throughout our building and our community.  The cherry on top was a retweet this evening by the International Reading Foundation.  It was a quote from a student who is not my most confident reader, but who fully embraced World Literacy Day.  I can hardly WAIT to tell him about it tomorrow!

“Because I am literate, I can be the smartest me I can be.”


If Disney Ran the World… July 23, 2013

Last week, my family and I were in beautiful Central California.  We started our trip in Santa Barbara, then traveled up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Luis Obispo (where my Grandma and Grandpa Mimick were married at the Mission in the 40s!), Monterey, Napa Valley, and ended in San Francisco.

The weather was beautiful; we traded in the heat and humidity of Omaha for the crisp high 60s to mid 70s of coastal California.  We had a marvelous time sipping wine, catching up with California friends and family, getting to know my sister’s fiancé (and his chocolate addiction) even better, and gazing out into the Pacific.


As often happens when you’re in a new place (or at least when I am), there are a few things that make you stop and think.  Why, oh why, do they do that?  What would possess someone to organize something like this?  And, being the avid (AKA obsessive) Disney World fan that I am, while waiting in line for a public restroom that had 6 stalls for a very large portion of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Fran, I started thinking: What if Disney ran the world?


(Cue foggy edges…)

1.) The world would be clean.  Even the restrooms.  Especially the restrooms.  Not a dirty napkin, discarded Starbucks cup, or empty pop can would be seen.  When a pizza crust or scrap of paper fell to the ground, a festively dressed man or woman would swoop in to whisk it out of the way.

2.) The world would be organized.  You would be able to grab a colorful map that could not only direct you how to get from place to place, but a times guide that would tell you when events were happening that couldn’t be missed.  When the need arose to wait in line for something, you would have fun activities to complete while you waited and themed decorations to keep you busy.

3.) The world would be colorful.  Decorated with poinsettias around Christmas, hoards of blooming colors in the spring, bright pinks and yellows in the summer, and deep reds and oranges in the fall.  And it wouldn’t only be decorated with flowers, but with buildings, street signs, and benches that are vivid.  Not a flake of paint or faded hue would exist.


4.) The world would be welcoming.  Every face you’d see would be smiling, every attitude positive.  Hands would always wave in welcome and the childlike grins present on each face would be contagious.  Every person would belong and you would be able to sense that feeling of belonging all around you.

5.) The world would remember the importance of family.  Disney World is all about family togetherness.  A world run by Disney would see families having meals together, playing games, talking to one another, and planning what they would do next as a family.

6.) The world would be respectful.  Everyone would be treated like a prince or princess.  Each person, especially children, would know he or she is a one-of-a-kind, very important person.

7.) The world would be responsible.  And full of cast members.  We would not be only considered citizens, we would be active participants in the world!  We would be the ones responsible for keeping our world running in a Disney-esque fashion.  All of us would work together to make our world the place it should be.  No one would sit and expect to be catered to and wait on by the cast members; everyone would have a role to play and be a cast member themselves.

8.) The world would be magical.  With fireworks every night for good measure.



Summertime Reading Week 2: The World We Found June 26, 2013


Back again with another (delayed) installment of my summer reading list!  During my second week of summer vacation, in addition to teaching at the Fine Lines Summer Writing Camp, I read my June Book Club book, The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar.  The book was published last summer, which means our book club found it earlier than we usually do!  Set mostly in India (with certain chapters set in the US), Umrigar’s book is the story of a friendship that stands the test of time and distance; and a story of the ways we change as we get older.

Four women, friends since their college days of utopian ideals and willingness to protest injustice, are brought together again by a diagnosis and a wish.  Armaiti, the transplant to America, has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and her prognosis is grim.  In her final months, she has a fervent desire to see her best friends once again and to introduce them to her beloved daughter.

Bringing this wish to fruition is not easy.  Each woman has her own dragons to slay in order to see Armaiti again.  For one (Laleh), it is grappling with self-imposed guilt over something that happened while they were students, and an admittance that the ideals she upheld as a young woman may not have been as realistic as she once thought.  For another (Kavita), it is dealing with the attraction she felt to Armaiti and her shame in admitting to her friends that she is in a long-term relationship with another woman.  For the third (Nishta), it is attempting to escape from the rigid orthodoxy her husband forced upon her following the Hindu/Muslim riots many years before.

I appreciated the way Umrigar gave each woman her own story and enjoyed walking beside them as they dealt with the issues that constrained them.  With each of them, at times, I wanted to turn and shake her.  Though I do not share the same political views or the women’s disregard for religion, I was able to identify with certain character traits of each of them.  These relatable characters made the book a very quick read.  Since I have never been to India, I also enjoyed having the chance to journey there through the eyes of these women.  I was able to see it as it was, and as they hoped it could be.

As a book club full of strong-minded women, we often choose books that emphasize the relationships women form.  This was certainly one of those books.  I am anxious to meet with my book club and discover their thoughts!


Summertime Reading Week 1: The Great Gatsby June 25, 2013

I know, I know.  It is no longer the first week of summer (for the 2nd or 3rd for that matter).  But, as I promised in last week’s blog post, “Summer Time, Summer Time” one of my goals for the summer is to read one book per week and then write about what I’ve read on this very blog.  Sooo…without further ado, here is Week 1 of my Summertime Reading:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


I mean come on.  Of course I wanted a reread of this classic prior to seeing the new Baz Luhrmann iteration of Fitzgerald’s story.  As the rest of you lovely readers most likely did (Big shout out to my new followers – thanks guys!), I read The Great Gatsby for the first time as a high schooler.  I enjoyed it as an innocent 17 year-old, and remembered bits and pieces of the story, though mostly from the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow movie version rather than the book itself.  When a colleague of mine mentioned she had never read it and was intent to do so before seeing the film, I did two things: 1.) Balked at her lack of literary chops (No Fitzgerald in the high school syllabus?  Whaaaa?) and 2.) Grabbed my personal copy (saved since high school – one of the 3 I decided NOT to sell back to the school) and packed it in my carry-on for the flight to Florida.

14 years after I read it the first time, I enjoyed The Great Gatsby even more immensely.  Certainly, the life I have lived and lessons I’ve learned in those 14 years allowed the book to carry more meaning for me.  For example, I was much better able to see Jay Gatsby’s life, and Daisy’s and Tom’s as well, for what it was (pretty much empty longing dressed up with glitter and alcohol) and not just see the glitz and glamour of the Gatsby parties.  The characters are endearingly flawed, and this time around, I enjoyed seeing these flaws come to light and become less endearing as Nick realized them.  As a high schooler, I found myself focusing on Jay and Daisy, but as an adult, I gave my attention to Nick.  Since he had the most redeeming qualities (with enough pizzazz to keep him interesting) and I continually wondered through the course of the book, Why do you continue associating with a group of people whose morals are so jarringly askew?  

As a writer, I was able to reread The Great Gatsby not only for the story, but to observe the techniques of a master writer.  Fitzgerald’s ability to transport the reader to East and West Eggs is unbelievable.  While reading, I was not sitting in the middle seat on a crowded flight from Dallas to Omaha with my husband sleeping beside me, I was waltzing through the courtyards behind Gatsby’s mansion and chatting with Nick and Jordan in the library.  Fitzgerald used just enough detail to give the reader a clear picture of Gatsby’s world, but was succinct enough to allow the full story to be told in very few pages.

The wonderful thing about reading a classic is it stretches your brain and makes you think.  But when you reread it, you understand even more…beyond just the vocabulary.


Summer Time, Summer Time June 17, 2013

There are things I genuinely love about each of the four seasons.  The fall, with its back-to-school shopping and return of college football; the winter, with multiple opportunities to spend time with family and cuddle up with a good book; the spring, with its explosion of color.  But there’s just something about summer…

The Fountain of Nations at Disney World, one of my favorite summer (and year-round!) destinations, contains water from each of 22 different countries.

The Fountain of Nations at Disney World, one of my favorite summer (and year-round!) destinations, contains water from each of 22 different countries.

We all remember how exciting summer was when we were young.  As kids, we counted down the final days of the school year, waiting for that glorious day when we could walk out of the school building and be greeted with nothing but luxurious days of friends and fun ahead.  As a little girl, my summers consisted of swimming lessons at Millard North High School, frequent trips to the Omaha Public Library to update my progress on the Summer Reading Program, afternoons full of running through the sprinklers, and an annual family vacation.

And I’m pretty lucky, even now, as an adult.  As a teacher, I still get to feel that summertime anticipation.  I still get to walk out of the school building (though these days, it’s a few days after the students have already left), with the promise of the best gift ahead of me.


Time to write (and to catch back up with my blog).  *Writing goals = Journal every day, blog once each week, send out more query letters, and begin a new piece (a screenplay!).

Time to read.  *Reading goal = Read one new book each week (stay tuned for a weekly account of these books).

Time to hang out with my family.  My mom is a teacher, too, and we love to spend our summer days shopping, going out to lunch, and planning activities for our students for the next year.  I also spend time at Preco, Inc., where my husband, dad, and brother all work.  Even though all of us are working (the boys on their Preco stuff; me on my writing), it’s nice to be together.

Time to reconnect with friends.  This week alone I have two lunch dates, two coffee dates, and a dinner date with friends!

Time to rejuvenate.  Sometimes I have to force myself to relax.  I am constantly on the go and I know that, for my own sanity (and my husband’s), sometimes I need to stop and take some time to do nothing.

Time to reenergize.  I love to generate new ideas for my classroom over the summer.  I am also attending some professional development sessions later in July, as well as presenting at a conference!

Summer gives me such a gift.  The gift of time.

(Note: There are a lot more things I love about summer.  Enough, in fact, I think I’ll do a second post about them!  Stay tuned…)


Beautiful Things March 11, 2013

Every once in a while, I like to look around and simply appreciate the beauty surrounding me.  This morning, as Mother Nature has once again blessed me with a Snow Day (and the added stress of rescheduling a major test for my students), I took the opportunity to look around my house and notice that beauty.


Certainly, the crisp white snow outside is beautiful, though not as beautiful as it was while it fell yesterday.  It was at its most beautiful around 8:30 in the morning.  As  I read the paper and perused the ads filled with brightly colored spring clothes and flip flops, it seemed odd to look out the patio door and see snow blanketing the ground.  Odd, yet beautiful.


The hutch that sits in the corner of my kitchen is filled with pink Depression glass.  I’m not sure exactly how long ago I decided to start collecting it, but at some point in my recent past (10 or so years), I did.  Though many Depression glass collectors have a particular design they collect, hoping to find multiple pieces of the same pattern, I appreciate the beauty of every one.  From the intricate adam pattern of the relish tray to the textured hobnail pattern of a plate, I love the mismatched, yet elegant look I can give a table when I set it using my Depression glass.


In the same vein as my Depression glass, every morning, I have the opportunity to observe the beauty of a coral cameo, given to me by my wonderful Uncle Tom.  I have always admired the beauty of cameos, and a few Christmases ago, Uncle Tom gave me my very own (inside an equally lovely box).  I love how a piece of jewelry, like this gorgeous cameo, can not only be beautiful when worn, but can be just as beautiful gracing the top of my dresser.


During Lent, my parish, St. Wenceslaus, has encouraged adults of the parish to read  My Life with the Saintsby James Martin, SJ.  It is part memoir, part assortment of biographies.  It is the story of how Martin has gotten to know each of the saints highlighted in the book through his life.  The royal blue rosary on top of the book was given to me by my grandpa, Frank Dolphens, upon his return from a trip to Italy and Medjugorje (with my previously mentioned Uncle Tom!)  This rosary, which was blessed, was woven through my wedding bouquet, to give my “something blue” even more meaning.


Speaking of Lent, this year, I have once again given up sweets.  Anyone who knows me well, can tell you that I have a major sweet tooth, which makes this a true sacrifice.  So, the four boxes of Girl Scout cookies hibernating in my pantry are certainly beautiful, as is the anticipation I have of finally enjoying them come Easter Sunday!


Above all, the most beautiful things in my life are the people with whom I get to enjoy it. My incredible husband Dave is so much better than I could have even imagined.  Seeing him is the very best part of every day.  My supportive parents, Mary and John Mimick, are the ultimate role models in virtually every aspect of life (marriage, teaching, hard work, faith, determination) except maybe worrying (too much, Mom!) and driving (too fast, Dad!).  I am supremely blessed to have such amazing parents.  My sister Amanda is my best friend – we have more jokes than we can remember (Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!) and are always sure to make time for each other each week (like our Friday morning coffee dates!).  She makes me laugh like crazy and is truly one of the most caring and gentle people I know.  I love so much about my brother, Matt.  He is super smart and has an inhuman ability to remember the details of everything political and sports-related, as well as almost every movie line ever spoken.  I also greatly admire how well he is able to maintain relationships.  He makes time to see his high school friends weekly (if not more often!) and keeps even longer distance friendships strong.

The Mimick Family - Disney World 2009

The Mimick Family – Disney World 2009

Combine these relationships with my awesome extended family, strong group of friends, and work colleagues I love to hang out with, and there’s no question that people are the most beautiful of all.


Writerly Notes February 22, 2013

It’s kind of funny; sometimes the universe sends you a message in any way it possibly can.  Lately, the message I’ve been receiving is about my writing.  Allow me to explain…


1.) Revision Workshop

About a month ago, I read a posting in the Omaha World Herald about a revision workshop that would take place at The Bookworm on February 23 (tomorrow!).  It was inexpensive, with a discount for SCBWI members (score!), at a place I love (with connected coffee shop – win/win), and the focus is something I need – revision.  We are bringing multiple copies of the first 5 pages of our current work-in-progress and an assortment of highlighters.  I have no idea what kinds of exercises are in store, but I’m looking forward to getting feedback on those vital first 5 pages from some new sets of eyes.

2.) Another Agent Politely Declines

Over the summer of 2012, I sent out a number of queries to agents.  A couple responded quickly (polite “no thank yous”), some did not respond at all (a different way to say “no thank you” in the agent world), and one responded this week.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This week, approximately 9 months later, with….a no.  Which is fine.  After a number of potential agents say no, the rejections don’t sting as much, but I was surprised by the email.  I had already assumed this particular query was a “no” since the agent had been radio-silent for 9 months, but I did appreciate his recognition of receiving my query and sample of my manuscript.  It would have been easier for him to simply ignore the query.  As a writer, I appreciate knowing that someone has looked at my work, even if it is to determine that it’s not for them.  It’s classy.  And I like it.

3.) A Contest!

I am a member of a number of associations for teaching (International Reading Association, Nebraska State Reading Association, Metropolitan Reading Council, Nebraska Association of Teachers of Mathematics).  Because of this, I often receive emails updating me on the goings-on of each group.  One of these emails brought something interesting to my attention.  The National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, along with a Boston publishing company, Charlesbridge Publishing, is holding a children’s book contest.  Contestants (me!) can submit picture books or chapter books to become one of at least two books that will be published by Charlesbridge.  There will be 25 finalists and at least two of them will result in publication.  I just so happen to have a picture book AND a chapter book that are currently seeking a home.  Perfect opportunity, right?  Time to brush up my manuscripts and put them in their Sunday-best.

4.) Fine Lines

As you, my beloved readers, may remember, last summer, I participated in some writing workshops and camps.  One of these was Fine Lines Summer Camp, held during June.  I attended as a camper, and was grateful not only for the time to focus on my writing, but the opportunity to network with fellow local writers.  I was recently contacted by the wonderful David Martin, editor of Fine Lines journal and organizer of summer camp, and asked to be an educator at this summer’s camp.  I will work as the assistant coordinator for the elementary side of camp and and am very much looking forward to it!  I’m hoping that I can recruit some of my current students (and future students recommended by some of my colleagues – hint, hint) to attend summer camp.

It’s been a bit of writing whirlwind lately with things popping up when I least expected them.  But the things that surprise us are often some of the best things in life.  I’m hoping these will be just some of those things.



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