Wendy's Writing Project Blog

Wide Awake July 31, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 5:20 pm

Join Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers each Tuesday for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

“You want to hear the new song I’m working on?” you asked, peeking around the corner. I was exhausted and tucked in bed, but of course I wanted to hear the new song you’ve been working on. What mother would refuse a 14-year-old’s offer to spend time together?

You lulled me toward slumber ballad after ballad. I appreciate that you thought of your audience and omitted the songs in your rotation that involve screams and growls. Is that wrong? During a pause between tunes I inquired about some of my new favorites– Imagine Dragons, the new Green Day and Killers. You seemed interested, so we looked them up. One by one you worked through them, improving with each practice.

You have a habit of shying away from being the slighted bit vulnerable, or at least I thought you did. I know when you reach a level of discomfort. You start texting me instead of talking– even when I’m an arm’s length away. You’ll write about it; you just won’t talk about it. You sat at the edge of the bed and texted to ask if I was interested in hearing some songs you wrote. I was growing more tired with each hour, but of course I wanted to hear the songs you wrote. What mother would refuse a 14-year-old’s offer to spend time together?

I am so glad you sent that text.

I’m guessing that you didn’t see me cry that night. I cried because you were shared yourself with me. I cried because I learned that you have been composing your own songs. I cried because your lyrics moved me. I loved that these songs sounded familiar. I thought they were from one of the many bands you like to listen to. You told me that you’ve shared your lyrics with others and they have given you feedback. I loved hearing that you are taking risks to share your writing with others. You seem so pumped about their comments.

12:30 came and went. So did 1:30. And even 2:30. We talked. We listened. We laughed. We learned. We sang. We loved. This mom would never refuse that. Not for exhaustion. Not for anything.


Missing Lucy July 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 6:20 pm


I wish I had that picnic quilt we spilt tea on
Or the little tupperware mug it poured from.
I wish I had just one letter I mailed to you
From Mrs. Dick’s refrigerator box post office.
I wish I had that two headed monster tee
Or maybe an ornament from the year we went as Christmas trees–
One of those plain satin golden balls.
I wish I had all of those girl scout badges
I’m *certain* we earned.
I wish I had my Star Wars lunch box
And I’m jealous that you still have yours.
I wish I had a rock from the field–
Just one of the several collected.
Just one more rabbit dinner?
Just one more swim in the horse trough??


July 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 2:51 am

“Long time listener, first time caller” may be an old fashion way to describe my SOLSC experience, but today I am taking the risk of posting with the official badge. Why is this so difficult? I’m not sure if I fear the commitment of posting each week, or am intimidated by the brilliance of others who post under this same badge. Today, I just want to write.



Golfing with Grandpa. Sigh. It paints a serene summer morning picture in my mind. Quiet– just tweeting birds and an occasional whack of a club. Slow– especially on a hot and hazy morning. I’ve watched enough golf on t.v. to know what it must be like without any applause from the gallery.

Those who golf with my Dad know this isn’t the case. This is how you golf with Jim…

Out of the cart in .325 seconds. Grab a club in .175. Ten giant steps to the ball. Ready. Aim. Swing. Watch the ball land. Nine giant steps back to the cart. Return club to bag as you get in the cart, but before your arse hits the seat or his left foot (your right) makes it inside, the accelerator is full on. And he doesn’t let up until he reaches the next stop, not even around corners. Repeat. There’s not much conversation, and nothing that hints of tranquility. He hasn’t been able to slow down, not even in retirement.

Mom decided that it would be a good idea to take Drake to the golf course to get him out of the house and into some fresh air. Let’s face it, the fourteen-year-old needed to give his thumbs a rest. Both Dad and Drake tried to support each other by never agreeing to the plan. Grandma usually gets her way if she persists. She persisted. Drake was up and ready to hit the coarse at 7:00 a.m.– that, or he hadn’t yet made it to bed.

They played through six holes before Dad’s golf cart habits got the best of him, or at least the best of Drake.

“I looked over, and he wasn’t there!” Dad recalled.

Dad managed to buck Drake right out of the cart. By the time he realized it, Drake’s face was planted somewhere along the cart path between the 6th and 7th fairways. I wasn’t shocked by the road rash on his elbows, hands and knee. I was, however, relieved that Dad didn’t suffer a heart attack when he looked back and saw Drake splayed in the rough like da Vinci’s Virtruvian Man. Drake was stunned, but was able to right himself before Mom’s cart crested over the bunker. She might have never found out if he hadn’t been bleeding. He was bleeding. My guess is, Dad will never be able to live this one down.

Today is a new day. Drake is fine, maybe even a bit proud of his war wounds. Dad checked in with the following message upon his return from the day’s golf outting sans Drake or Mom:

“How are my grandson’s arms? While at the scene of the throw out, I paused for a minute,” he wrote.

I imagine that, if he truly paused, he floored it the rest of the way.



Checking My Message July 11, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 2:42 am

It only took a half hour before that last post started to wear on me. I want to prepare to share my honest feelings about writing, but I was worried about the picture I was painting through all of the angst it has caused. Once again, I was doubting myself. I wanted to make sure the big idea to write was still a positive one, so I decided to check it with a Wordle. I felt more positive about my list as a reader, and wondered how the overarching themes would compare. I was surprised to see that the images weren’t so different after all, aside from the little extra love emphasized in reading. A true reflection.


100 Things About Me as a Writer

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 12:43 am

So, this list comes as no surprise. I am glad I went through with the idea. I have a lot to share with my students about my writing life, and much of it shows my struggles. I see this list as something I can share with them throughout the year, not all at once. After I model a small sample, I thought they could start a list of 3-5 and add to it throughout the year. I am excited about the plan for this new addition to our writer’s notebooks. I promise to be done with my 100 lists!

100. I am a writer.
99. It took a lot of extra work before those words would come out of my mouth.
98. I have always thought of my kids as writers.
97. I write a good deal on my iPad– without the extra keyboard. I like the convenience.
96. I start a new writer’s notebook each year. They always end with more empty pages than filled.
95. The last college paper I wrote was 17 pages long.
94. I am a better writer because of the University of Illinois Writing Project.
93. I think sharing a piece of writing is brave. I’ve never had a student who wasn’t brave.
92. My writing process often frustrates me.
91. It takes a long time for me to write something.
90. I enjoy making movies in iMovie. Making movies is writing.
89. I keep a gratitude journal.
88. My mom saved a letter I wrote to my Dad when I was five. I was mad at him for eating all of the candy. The letter still makes us laugh.
87. My grandmother has always had the most beautiful, elaborate cursive. It was better than writing on a birthday cake. Her 95 year old hands are a little shaky these days.
86. My Dad is a horrible speller. I save his writing because it makes me laugh.
85. My grandfather was quite artistic. I wish he were around so we could work on a book project together.
84. My husband is an artist. I hope one day we can get our act in gear and create a book together.
83. I love making lists.
82. I wrote a lot of letters when I was a kid.
81. I bet I can count on my fingers how many letters I’ve mailed in the past ten years. I email or Skype instead.
80. When writing for pleasure, I like to write in the morning or in the middle of the night.
79. I’m certain I didn’t compose anything in early elementary. I traced dotted lines and I copied.
78. I love to go on writing marathons, even when I don’t have anything to write about.
77. I enjoy doing podcasts with my kids. Podcasting is writing.
76. I have started 5 different blogs, but have only half-way kept up with one.
75. I get extremely careless when I try to write when I am tired.
74. I keep a list of ideas of what to write about.
73. When I am looking for ideas to add to my list, I think of places that are important to me.
72. I do not like extra fine tips when I use a pen.
71. I taught calligraphy at vacation bible school one year.
70. I did most of my writing for pleasure in high school.
69. I loved writing romance/fantasy back then. I think I would have classified the stories under realistic fiction, even if they weren’t so ‘realistic’.
68. I spent many a Sunday church service writing stories on the church bulletin with pew pencils, and believe that I have been forgiven for doing so. At least I’ve prayed for it.
67. It it 11:20 on a Saturday morning. I am still in my jammies… in bed… writing.
66. Big writing projects make me panic.
65. I have avoided going back to school partly because I know I’ll have to write.
64. I have many peers who nudge me to get past the bad voices in my writing head. They are very dear to me.
63. My husband gave me an Anne Geddes journal when he found out I was pregnant. I didn’t write in it near enough, but am glad that I wrote at least a little.
62. Santa always left thank you notes for Drake’s milk and cookies.
61. I used to write a weekly class newsletter. This last year I wrote once a month.
60. Sometimes I write for myself, but it is so much easier to write when I know I’ll have an audience.
59. I have drafted a children’s book about how bagpipes are made.
58. I wish I had my first diary. You know… the one with the metal key? I wonder if it still smells like Loves Baby Soft.
57. I enjoy photography, but feel that a lack of decent equipment hinders my ability. Photography is writing.
56. I love making books on Shutterfly. So far I have completed 7.
55. I stole bad poetry in high school, and changed it to make it even worse. Julie recently reminded me of that.
54. When I scrapbook, I save the journaling for last.
53. I prefer to type the entries I put in Drake’s scrapbooks. It looks better.
52. I scribble out my mistakes, not just with one line.
51. I get excited when someone retweets one of my tweets, or comments on my blog or fb posts.
50. I am currently searching for a new class website idea. Creating a class website is writing.
49. I have a lump on the tip of my right pointer finger. I think it might be a callus from writing. Sometimes it feels tender.
48. I write with my right hand.
47. It appears that I type with 7- 8 fingers these days. No thumbs, very little right pinky.
46. I have learned to be a better writer by teaching it.
45. My kid’s writings fill me with awe. I wish I wrote like that when I was in school.
44. I write more about things that make me happy than things that make me sad.
43. I had good intentions when I signed up for an online summer camp, but the prompts were not geared toward my genre. I wrote on my own instead.
42. I like to write about family history.
41. I have friends, family members, and neighbors who have published books.
40. I believe that good readers might not be strong writers, but good writers are always strong readers.
39. Writing helps me to learn.
38. I don’t read my writing out loud much. I mouth the words. I don’t like hearing others read it either.
37. I enjoy hearing others talk about their writing process.
36. I am grateful to others who offer suggestions for how to improve my writing.
35. I used to research with encylopedias and borrowed books. Now I research online.
34. I write more narrative and poetry for pleasure, and nonfiction for work or school.
33. I consider myself to be extra thorough, a bit compulsive, when researching a topic I have to write about.
32. I have called in sick to meet a writing deadline.
31. I procrastinate starting writing projects that will require extensive time.
30. I do not like to write fiction, but I love to read it.
29. I used to write homework assignments for my 3-year-old cousin.
28. One birthday, my friends and I wrote and performed a puppet show. I don’t remember what it was about.
27. I still have a poem my 5th grade teacher wrote about each classmate. It is on ditto paper. It doesn’t smell anymore, but I remember what it used to smell like.
26. I have a hard time writing in beautiful journals.
25. I don’t like to write on blank paper. My text always slants down.
24. I love the feel of Moleskins, but I never look back at what I write in them.
23. I am totally fine with misspelling words when I write in front of my students. I pretend that it is empowering for them to see me do my best and fail. Maybe it even is.
22. I love it when my writing makes people laugh.
21. I hate sharing my writing with people who are smarter than I am.
20. I think my weakest writing genre is persuasive, but I have to teach it more this year.
19. I think I dislike teaching how to write in a genre that I don’t know how to do.
18. I think Lucy Calkins is the one person who has taught me the most about being a writer, and about being a writing teacher.
17. When I finally get feel productive, I don’t like to stop– not even to eat and drink. I get extra grumpy when I don’t eat.
16. I’ve stayed up all night to meet a writing deadline. I get extra grumpy when I don’t get enough sleep.
15. I never had to copy 100 “I will not be bad in class.” sentences, but I have friends who have.
14. I am most jealous of those who can write a song. I want to stir someone like the songwriters who have moved me.
13. I love to write about upcoming trips. Planning vacations is writing.
12. I love the sound of someone who types fluently on a typewriter.
11. Facebook is my personal writing space and Twitter is my professional space, but sometimes the two paths cross.
10. The word I mistype the most is ‘and’.
9. My writing is guaranteed to have mistakes if I don’t read through it to edit at least twice. (You can easily find which blog posts I published without rereading.)
8. Sometimes I send tweets or an instant message to someone who is in the same room.
7. I’ve raised a child who would rather dialogue about tough situations through writing than talking.
6. I have to fight the monsters in my head that tell me that writing is hard.
5. I love to look at Korean writing. I can’t read it, but it sure is beautiful.
4. I don’t like to write at a table. I’d rather have my feet up.
3. The first time any of my writing was seen publicly on the internet wasn’t until 2002.
2. I get such a rush when I finish a big writing project.
1. Though I will now admit that I am a writer, I won’t admit that my writing is good or bad– and I’m okay with that.


100 Things About Me as a Reader July 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 1:50 pm

Sparked by an idea shared by Franki Sibberson in her session Planning for Minilessons in the Reading Workshop at All Write 2012, I created a list of 100 things about me as a reader. I plan to do this (on a smaller scale) with my kids this fall.

100. My 44-year-old eyes need glasses :(.
99. I prefer to read books on my iPad.
98. I prefer an ecru screen over a white one.
97. I saw great potential in my first enhanced ebook. Text + meta + video = Oh, my!
96. I love picture books.
95. I read a lot of non-fiction, especially about education.
94. I love the predictable text in Caps For Sale.
93. I loved checking out this coffee table book about castles from the library. It was big, had real photos, and showed a lot of gold.
92. I was a Bluebird in first grade. I’m not sure what that meant.
91. I have trouble remembering what I’ve read sometimes, so I reread sections a lot.
90. My sister claims my favorite book was Little Toot when I was young. I didn’t remember Little Toot, so my sister bought me a copy. I still don’t remember it.
89. My favorite book that I (sort of) remember was a story with photographs of real dolls. I just can’t remember the title.
88. I memorized nursery rhymes when I was young, so I’m guessing Mom read them to me a lot.
87. My Grandma is the most voracious reader I know.
86. I am a slow reader.
85. I love to read paintings in an art museum, but I don’t visit them often.
84. I loved The Boxcar Children when I was in school.
83. My favorite book from The Hunger Games series was Catching Fire.
82. I used to pretend I was Emily Elizabeth.
81. I preferred The Hardy Boys over Nancy Drew.
80. I read very few fiction books for pleasure.
79. My favorite kid magazine is My Big Backyard.
78. I used to get Ranger Rick as a kid, but rarely read it.
77. I have never subscribed to a newspaper. My parents always have.
76. I read the news online.
75. I read emails two times a day during the school year.
74. I just paid close to $18 in library late fees.
73. I only check out children’s books from the library.
72. I get a lot of book recommendations from people I follow on Twitter.
71. I loved, loved, LOVED the Steadfast Tin Soldier on my GE Show N Tell Player. What I would give to have that back!
70. My first library card was made of thick manila cardstock. It had a number punched on a tin plate. They fed it through a typewriter to put my name on it.
69. The Bookmobile came to my elementary school in the country.
68. I have to finish the book before I see the movie.
67. I have never seen a movie, then read the book. Wait– except for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
66. I love books that are made from song lyrics.
65. My parents ordered me a set of Funk & Wagnalls Wildlife Encyclopedias and Story of America Cards, so reading materials came through the mail.
64. I loved See Saw book orders when I was young. I still do.
63. I like to read aloud.
62. I loved The Moonstone.
61. I loved Wuthering Heights.
60. I didn’t start keeping a reading log until last summer.
59. I read nutrition labels every time I go to the grocery store.
58. I go back and reread the last three paragraphs when pick a chapter book back up after a break.
57. I am always tempted by the new releases at the book store.
56. I don’t keep my grown up books after I read them. I’d rather give them away so others can read them.
55. I have a hard time sharing my children’s books.
54. I love stories about real animals.
53. When I read in the car, I always get carsick.
52. I don’t think I’ve read more than three books in any series.
51. I miss Pages for All Ages.
50. I don’t get to read all the blogs in my feeder on a regular basis.
49. I have never had a desire to read a graphic novel.
48. I don’t think I could stomach to read some of the classics I had to read in high school.
47. I don’t think I read one book for pleasure in college.
46. I feel proud when I finish a thick book.
45. My parents always ordered coffee table books from Reader’s Digest. I looked at the pictures, but never read much past the captions.
44. Good historical fiction fascinates me.
43. I like to read books with my teenager– even if he doesn’t like to.
42. I love Kate diCamillos use of voice.
41. I always cry when I read The Polar Express.
40. If I buy a book for me, I prefer paperback. If I buy a book for the classroom, I prefer hardcover.
39. Book jackets get in my way when I read.
38. Books on display are simply irresistible.
37. I read more during the summer.
36. I have never belonged to a book club, but would love to.
35. I always ask for a children’s book for Christmas and Birthdays, but I don’t always get one.
34. I’ve seen my Dad read the paper and a magazine, but never a book.
33. I don’t like stopping in the middle of a chapter.
32. I have a goodreads.com account, but I don’t use it.
31. I relied on Cliffs Notes in high school and college.
30. Reading about politics makes my blood pressure rise.
29. I love when kids clap at the end of a good book– just the really good ones, not all of them.
28. I can fall asleep with a book in my hand.
27. My sons first board book, Ba Ba Ha Ha, has kiss marks on it.
26. My bike basket holds a maximum of 16 picture books.
25. I love Chris Van Dusen’s If I Built A Car. I want that car!
24. I learned to read with Dick, Jane and Spot.
23. I wish someone taught me to read like I teach my kids to read.
22. I have never read The Bible cover-to-cover, but have reread the Book of Matthew several times.
21. I don’t dog-ear to mark my place anymore. I used to.
20. I’ve never listened to an a grown up audio book, but I’d like to.
19. I believe that no two people read the same book (Edmund Wilson).
18. My students see that books make me laugh, sigh, wonder, frown, and even cry.
17. I read music, but I don’t memorize it well anymore.
16. When I don’t understand something, I will reread until I do.
15. I enjoy watching read alouds on Tumble Books with my kids.
14. I enjoy the technology that Scholastic News incorporates into its traditional issue.
13. I sneak book purchases, especially during the Scholastic Warehouse Sale time.
12. My bookshelves hold more books that I haven’t read rather than books that I have read.
11. I have friends, family members, and neighbors who have published books.
10. I like to read in my recliner.
9. I read more at night.
8. I read travel reviews before I plan a vacation.
7. If I didn’t love teaching second grade so much, I’d be a librarian.
6. I love going on Writing Marathons. I’d love to go on a Reading Marathon, but never have. Is there such a thing?
5. Reading a book with a good quote can be icing on the cake.
4. My favorite ‘new’ picture book is Grandpa Green by Lane Smith. Yesterday it was Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Tomorrow it will be something else.
3. I love being lost in a good novel.
2. I don’t read as much as I should.
1. I don’t read as much as I want to.


Writing Marathon 2012 Ramblings

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 1:42 pm

It stinks to be without focus. I look back at my seed ideas and still come up empty-handed. So I write about not having anything to write about.

Even by standing in the sprinkler, ideas didn’t rain down… as others look on, wondering when I’m going to finish….

Like they are now.

Listening to the sssshhht… sssshhht… sssshhht makes me think of Patrick Allen’s reference of how we sit at our kidney tables and sprinkle ourselves around… sssshhht….. ssssshhht….. sssshhht…. ssssshhht…. ssssshhht…. ssssshhht…. then back around, keeping most of the grass green but never giving our kids a good soaking… allowing their roots to growth deep within the year that we have them.


How is it that some teas taste really good and others don’t? I mean, what does it take to grow a really good tea and why haven’t the crappy tea makers figured it out?

My 95-year-old Grandma continues to wander. She’s always wandered, but now tends to fall frequently. My dad came back from town yesterday and found her out weeding along the road in 102 * temperatures. He went and got the tractor, told her it was time to take her medicine and get something to eat, put her in the wagon, and gave her a ride back to the house. I wish I had the solution for what to do with her. I wish I was there to help. Do we let her keep going on her own until it kills her, or do we put her in a home– which will kill her?

My mind wanders like my Grandma.


30 years ago this weekend you would find me grabbing a tube from the brooder house, rolling it past the sugar cane shack and down the hill to the creek. My sister and uncles would be with me. We would hold onto the tree root to slide down the bank right where Bill put the rocks to create a dam. “The rapids,” we called it. The start was the best part of the three hour trip. We would walk our tubes to the middle. Manueuver our rears in place, gasping when the cool water reached our backs. Slowly we would creep, funneled toward the opening. Then woosh… it would thrust us on our journey.