The Write Timing

My voyage toward publication

A Few Minutes November 7, 2016

Filed under: Blogs,Dreams,Family,Goals,Life Lessons,Writing — michellephillips @ 6:20 am
Tags: , ,

Well, it would appear that I am here once again, ready to apologize for my lack of consistency in blogging.  As always, life (with two small children!) has gotten in the way and I’ve taken an unplanned hiatus.  But this weekend, I attended a retreat where one of the presenters, the amazing and awe-inspiring Donna Johnson of Arbonne fame, encouraged us to wake up “just a little bit earlier” and spend some time on ourselves in the morning.

She gave us some suggestions of things to do in these extra minutes: read, pray, meditate, have gratitude.  She didn’t say write, but I’m pretty sure it was implied.  What she also didn’t say were things like, “clean up the kitchen” or “organize the cubbies.”  Though these are things that need to be done and I certainly debated doing this morning, I sat down instead to say a prayer and to write.  Even though I can hear my son starting to wake upstairs.  Even though the bathroom needs to be swept.  Even though I haven’t made a lunch for today.  These things will get done, and  so I’m going to take a few minutes.  Some time for me.  I even made a cup of tea.

I hope today that you can take some time for yourself to pause.  Reflect.  Read.  Write.  Pray.  Be grateful.  And then do it again tomorrow.

 

Loving Them June 1, 2016

I’ve been meaning to get back to my writing.  Truly, I have.  Writing for Pregnancy and IMG_0219Newborn’s Knocked Up blog (find my posts here!) made me feel like a real live writer, and that’s a feeling I had been longing to have for a while.  You’d think I’d be more motivated to write every day.  But, you see, there is other important work I’ve been doing.

 

In fact, it’s much more important work.

 

It’s the work of being a mother.

 

And I don’t just mean the washing of bottles and the changing of diapers.  Sure, all of that is part of it (especially the diapers part – I have two kids under age 2 after all!), but it’s not the real substance of motherhood.

 

I’ve been busy loving them.

 

My two little dreams come true.  I’ve been busy holding my tiny baby so close that it feels like our hearts have one beat.  Kissing his cheeks over and over; willing him to feel the immensity of my love.  Staring at his perfect face and listening to the gentle snores that sound sweeter than music.  Letting his chubby hand grasp my finger and keeping it there just to be close to him.  Still holding him an hour after he’s finished eating, just so I can watch him sleep and take in his beautiful baby smell.  I’ve been savoring these precious baby moments because I realize they are so fleeting.

IMG_9808

 

And then there’s her.  The beautiful girl who made me a mother.  His big sister, who is really still a baby herself.  But who is also wanting to be such a big girl.  I’ve been talking to her, listening, even when I don’t understand a word of it.  Playing with her babies and giving them so many kisses when she asks.  Huddling into her play tent.  Reading the same book three times in a row just because she loves it.  Embracing the moments she’s sleepy and wants to be carried upstairs, so I can steal the cuddles she used to give so freely.  Loving her up as much and as often as I can.

 

So yes, I’ve been wanting to write.  But right now, I have much more important work to do.  I’m loving my babies.

 

 

Leap July 6, 2015

At the beginning of every summer, I set goals: how many books I’m going to read, healthy recipes I’m going to try, and opportunities I’m going to have to get together with friends.  And at the beginning of every summer, I decide that THIS will be the summer I really focus on my writing.

And, truthfully, I have.  For the past handful of years, I dove into my writing.  I submitted query letters, entered writing contests, and attended workshops.  I blogged, edited, and tweeted.  But this summer, I’ve taken a leap and added something else to the mix.

This Claes Oldenburg sculpture on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's campus always inspires the writer in me.

This Claes Oldenburg sculpture on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus always inspires the writer in me.

A writing community.

Last week, I joined an online writing community called Becoming Writer through The Write Practice.  I didn’t know much about it, but decided that if I want my writing to actually take me places in the future, I’m going to have to be more active about it.  I need to take myself seriously as a writer – think about my writing as a profession and not a hobby.  So I took the leap and joined.  Last week, I submitted my first piece to the forum, something I will do every week for the next year.  I will admit, I was nervous.  Posting my work for other writers to see was frightening – what if they don’t like my tone?  Voice?  What if they don’t think I’m a good writer?

Five days and four feedbacks (is that a word?) later, I’m already grateful I took this leap.

My fellow writers gave me suggestions on ways to make my first paragraph stronger and flow more smoothly.  They pointed out typos (two of them) that I could easily remedy.  But more importantly, their feedback gave me something I have not felt in a while: affirmation of myself as a writer.

So today, while my mom watched my daughter, Writer Michelle stole some time to work on query letters.  And I set another goal – this time, I am posting it here so you can all hold me accountable (gulp).  I’ve been pining away for a Macbook of my very own.  I miss the Mac I had in my former school tremendously, but haven’t felt like I should spend the considerable amount of money it costs to buy one.  But here is my goal:

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Image courtesy of Pexels.

When I get published – when one of my query letters results in my first freelance writing gig – I get to buy myself a Macbook.

Until then, I will continue writing.  I will continue querying.  And I will continue dreaming in apples.

 

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:

BTvSOEjCUAA1Hma.jpg_large

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.”

 

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.

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…)

 

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…

IMG_0747

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.

 

Nebraska Summer Writers’ Conference July 11, 2012

It is now a month after one of the greatest writing experiences I’ve ever had – the Nebraska Summer Writers’ Conference.  This is the first year that I’ve been able to participate in the conference.  I spent three years looking into it, thinking about it, checking my schedule and cursing the conflicts that existed.  This year, with the permission of my brother whose birthday was the first day of it (Thanks, Matt!), and the exception made by conference organizers to allow me to register in an already full workshop, I was able to attend!

The conference itself was made up of two parts – a weekend workshop and a weeklong workshop.  Writers can register for one or both.  Since it was my first year, and since I was already registered for a different writing camp during the week, I stuck with the weekend only.  I selected the workshop led by Emily M. Danforth (who, in everything you’ll read does not capitalize her name, but as a 5th grade teacher, my body physically won’t let me uncapitalize a proper noun) titled A Matter of Character: Building Compelling Fiction by Starting with Compelling Characters.

Prior to the workshop, we were to submit a writer’s statement so Emily could get to know us a bit more as writers (pretty good idea I may tweak to fit my classroom).  We also submitted a 5-page scene that we felt was not yet where it should be.  I submitted five pages from my middle grade fiction novel, TEAM MERRYWEATHER, which I have been shopping around to agents (no bites yet).

I arrived early and parked at my college sorority, Alpha Xi Delta (check out my previous post about Alpha Xi’s amazing Centennial Celebration!).  Crossing 16th and R Streets, walking in front of the Student Union, and making my way through the middle of campus brought back incredibly fond memories.  I felt transported back in time to my freshman year as I approached Andrews Hall, the English building.

As a newbie, once I checked in, I sat by myself and did what I often do in new settings – I watched.  I observed the conference staff talking with one another.  I figured out which conference attendees had been here before and which ones were currently in the English program.  I decided that one particular camper would most likely drive me crazy during the weekend should he be in my workshop (He was.  And he did.).

Once it was time to move into our separate workshops, I had no idea what to expect.  It was a fairly small group (that was a good thing) and once the workshop began, I figured a couple of things out immediately:

1.) Emily M. Danforth not only knows what she’s doing, she’s awesome.  The first day was filled with characterization exercises that really helped me get to know Amber, my main character, much much better.  The exercises were fun yet challenging, and they helped me realize how much I really do like my protagonist (and how much I really don’t like writing in second person POV – sooooo difficult!).

2.) I was not an English major.  Okay, technically, I already knew this since I was there the entire time I was in college.  But sitting in the workshop made me acutely aware of it.  Some of the language, the literature and poetry references, and the aura of expertise that many of the attendees had, I simply didn’t.  I wished that I could have had a miniature version of my good friend Pam Homan in my pocket so she could talk me through some of that high-level English stuff.

That evening, we went away with homework.  We read the 5 pages written by each of the attendees and were supposed to make notes for the next day, when we would workshop each person’s writing.  It was clear that some people submitted pages that had already been edited and revised heavily.  These pages were the ones that made me feel a bit like an inferior writer.  However, I kept reminding myself that I had submitted pages, as asked, that I felt needed work.

I was super nervous to have the group workshop my writing.  My previous experience with a group critique left me holding back tears (I’m a little bit sensitive and I cry easily – as I know some of you loving readers can attest to!).  I was thrilled to get some excellent feedback on my writing.  In addition to very helpful suggestions (that in no way made me want to pull out my kleenex), I was told that my dialogue has an authentic 6th grade voice (my major project a couple of summer’s ago was to make this happen) and told by Emily in my one-on-one that I write lovely prose.  Instead of walking away feeling like I needed to make a zillion changes, I walked away with confidence that I really am a strong writer and with feedback that will help to make it even better.

I am grateful for the experience – having the chance to talk about writing, improve my own work, and network with fellow writers who, like me, have a passion for it.  And I cannot WAIT for next year.

 

 
%d bloggers like this: