The Surprising Benefits of Writing by Hand

the surprising benefits of writing by hand, literatelives.wordpress.comLast week, as I worked endlessly on my school computer sorting files, typing out procedures, and making preparations for leaving my job (a job my boss, colleagues, and I had pretty much invented as we went along because it was an entirely new position for our building), I yearned to curl up in a cozy chair and journal by hand (instead of on the computer as I usually do).

So this week, when I had a chance to catch up on reading some articles I’d been saving for a long time to enjoy, one in particular, The New York Times’  What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” from June of 2014 caught my eye.

What I read impacted me powerfully, not only as a writer, but also as a grandparent and nurturer of literacy.

Some of the Findings of a Variety of Studies:

  • Writing by hand activates more regions of the brain than keyboarding.
  • Young children who learn to write at the same time they learn to read, learn to read more quickly.
  • People generating ideas in print or cursive, generate more ideas than those using a keyboard.
  • Students who take notes by hand, rather than by keyboard, are better able to understand and remember the information from lecturers and other auditory sources.

The Implications for Me

  • I have always written out the rough drafts of stories, poems, and novels  longhand and will definitely continue to do so.
  • I also print out the work I want to revise and revise in pencil on paper. I will continue to do so.
  • I will start to vary my journaling practice between computer and paper, depending on my mood and the nature of the thinking in which I want to engage. I can always scan in what was written by hand if I want to keep everything together.

The Implications for My Grandparenting Style

I had been thinking a lot about ways to have fun with my grandkids this summer. We live just fifteen minutes away, so activities like picnics and craft projects have always been high on our list. However, just because we live nearby does not mean we cannot write to each other. This summer I will write to one grandchild each week and enclose a card and self-addressed stamped envelope to encourage them to write back. (Why not write to all of them once a week? I do not want this practice to become overwhelming or a burden for them, or by familiarity, to lessen the delight in getting a hand written letter now and then.)

The Implications for This Blog

As the creator of Literate Lives , I will encourage you, my readers to sometimes put pen or pencil to paper, and to ask your children or students (come fall) to, now and then, do the same.

Your Turn

What do you think about this information on writing by hand? How do you want to incorporate this practice in your, your kids’, or your students’ lives? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s encourage one another!

 

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The Best Ereads of Spring: Reflections on Parenting, Reading, Writing, and the Mind

The Best Ereads of Spring: literatelives.wordpress.comI had the opportunity to do a lot of reading this spring and so accumulated a lot of candidates in by “best ereads of the season file.” Finally I narrowed them down to these six reflecting on parenting, reading, writing, and the mind.

Hello, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Graduation

In Parents: Let Go of Graduation Nostalgia, by Jennifer Grant, the author chronicles her resistance to the nostalgia and even grief that can accompany a child’s graduation. With the premise that yes, our years of parenting were magical and significant, it is wise to savor where we are, perhaps even with younger siblings, and the opportunities that will open up for us and our graduates as they move into their adult lives.

Reading and Family Life

These next two articles celebrate the fun and health benefits of a reading life.

In How to Make Reading Fun: 25 Ideas Kids Will Love, by Jean Reagan. Reagan includes innovative ideas like having your child read a wordless book to you, reading a book which might include words or names you find difficult to pronounce, and much, much more.

For those of us with an overactive sense of guilt about the time we put in reading, Andre Calilhanna‘s Can Reading Books Lead to Better Health?  is a refreshing antidote. With headers that include, “Increases Longevity by 23%” and “Reduces Stress,” lovers of reading can throw guilt out the window and indulge in their favorite pastime with a clear conscience.

For Fiction Writers

First of all, for fiction writers, here is an excellent article by Dash Buck, Three Writing Exercises for Better Characters, which I would have titled “Three Awesome Writing Exercises for Better Characters.” It made me want to try them right away. (And isn’t the illustration, Butterfly Book by Rick Beerhorst beautiful!)

For writers working on planning and story structure, The Triangle of Structure for Writers, by Sarah Sally Hamer, is informative and provides a handy 3-sentence fill-in-the-blank exercise for crafting an effective inciting incident.

A Quiet Mind

One of the issues I struggle with is quieting my mind. Unless I am reading, writing, or–okay, I admit it, staring at the television, it ceaselessly ruminates, reflects, remembers, worries, plans, and imagines, which in reasonable quantities is, perhaps, a useful trait for a writer to have. Running out of ideas is definitely not an issue. However, resting and simply enjoying the moment is. Therefore, I connected immediately with and was inspired by Mindfulness and Memory, by Pamela Moore. Even the image chosen to accompany the article is deeply soothing, and the active form of mindfulness she describes is something that feels so much more doable with a busy mind like mine.

Your Turn

Have you found any great articles on the web? If so, please use the comment box to share them with us (include author and title or web address, please). Tell a little about why you liked it. Let’s encourage one another.

Wonderful Words: The Well-Lived Life

Wonderful Words: Living Well, Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesI love words, love our wonderful language, and love when people employ them both well. This spring included many trials. Here are a few of the quotes I collected that inspired me to not only live this season, but to live it well.

A laugh a day puts wrinkles in the right places.
~Liz Curtis Higgs, a chapter title from Only Angels Can Wing It

 I am ever grateful to Liz Curtis Higgs. Both her fiction and nonfiction never cease to inspire me.

 There are things in life you’re not in charge of, but you are in charge of you. When you accept that, your brain changes. And every time your brain changes, you grow.
~ Michael Fitzgerald, high school teacher, Edutopia

My favorite part of my master’s level, Education Psychology class was being introduced to brain-based practices for learning. Information about how our marvelous brains, thanks to neuroplasticity, continue to learn and change throughout our lives both inspires me as a teacher and gives me hope as a human being.

The long-lasting fulfillment we desire comes from living a life of purpose, meaning, compassion, and altruism. It comes from being there for others, helping where we can, loving one another despite our differences, and making others smile. Yes, follow your ambitions, dreams, and professional goals…. They can bring great satisfaction and even meaning. But remember what also leads to your deepest happiness…. A life well lived is a life in which you have shared an abundance of love, and…the greatest aspiration to have is to be a wonderful person for someone else.
~Emma Seppala, Ph.d, Psychology Today

In a season of contemplating my own mortality, this really spoke to my heart. I love, reading, writing, crafting, drawing…, but even more, I love investing in the lives of the people God gave me to love. It is with great joy that I recover my strength and with delight that I contemplate new ways of living and loving well.

Your Turn

Do any of the quotes prompt thinking on your part? Or is there a quote about life and living that you savor? Please, share using the comment box. Let’s encourage one another!

Characterization Reading Response Exercise

Characterization Reading Response Exercise; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesReading fiction and reflecting on, writing about, and discussing what has been read is a great way to build reading comprehension and other reading skills, as well as deepen understanding of the various elements of fiction.

For the writer, it is a way to learn the craft by examining and analyzing the practices of others.

Read

Read a novel or short story for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Reflect

Think about what you have read.

Write

  • Make a list of things you like about a character in the story.
  • Pick one trait from the list and explain why you like it.
  • Explain how this trait contributed to your liking of the character.

Share

Share your response with your reading partner, partners, or as a comment here.  If you share here, please remember to include the title of the book and its author. Your “response” could prove intriguing enough that someone else might like to read that book as well.

Building Pre-readers’ Literacy Skills

Read a picture book that contains a storyline together.

Ask

Ask your pre-reader which character they liked best. Once your pre-reader has identified a character, ask what he or she liked best about that character.

Discuss

Enjoy a lively “book talk” with your pre-reader!

Your Turn

How did it go? Please share any of your actual responses, observations, or comments. Let’s encourage one another!

Kristen Lamb and How to “Diagnose” a Writer

Kristen Lamb & How to “Diagnose” a Writer: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/I love Kristen Lamb’s Blog. She is one of my favorite bloggers. A post from last month (Diagnosing a REAL Writer: Do You Have Terminal Inexactitude Syndrome?) had me laughing out loud. Please, go and read it. I can wait.

Is Writing a REAL Job or a Mental Condition?

As she muses whether or not writing is a real job (spoiler alert, it is) Lamb considers that perhaps writing “may be a mental condition” which she labels “Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome” and describes as “a compulsive need to tell stories.” Then she lists the symptoms.

Do I Have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome? Do you?

T.I.S.” in Youth

Of the 6 symptoms Lamb listed for children and young adults, 4 definitely would characterize my childhood, and even my life after:

  • “Preferred reading books, writing stories or drawing dragons 74% more than sports”—although I would have to change that percentage to 100.
  • “Had a 300% greater likelihood of being found in school library when compared to non T.I.S. peers”—This was particularly true during high school. It was so much easier than attempting to socialize! (As an adult I have, more than once, served as a library volunteer, and am now the “librarian” on my one room school site.)
  • “Displayed a 92.4% chance of ‘royally sucking’ at Dodgeball (data is inconclusive about skill level or simple desire to be ‘OUT’ so as to return to reading Goosebumps)”—Again, for me, the percentage would need to be raised to 100. Also, since I never willingly played Dodgeball (the only occasions when I did were for P.E.) there was, alas, absolutely zero chance of getting back to a book when ‘OUT’.
  • “Demonstrated early addictive behaviors with office supplies. Parents who suspect their child might have T.I.S. should look for noticeable pupil dilation when shopping for school supplies”—My favorite toy as a child was my size 64 box of Crayola Crayons. To this day, I love browsing stationery stores, the school supplies sections of stores, and the paper and art material sections of crafts stores. I love paper, notebooks, journals, index cards, glitter gel pens, mechanical pencils, and Prismacolor colored pencils.

Am I a Writer?

According to Lamb, “a primary symptom of T.I.S. is that writers angst over what makes them ‘real.’” Yup, I have been guilty of that and so have many of my writing friends.

Of Lamb’s 8 diagnostic questions, I confess to having committed 6:

  • “Display visible signs of distress, pain, and at times, explosive violence when shown sentences such as… Their are no more donuts in the brake room’”—Yes, I confess these kinds of errors can make me crazy—but only when committed by people I do not know and love. I am grateful for any communication from any of my friends and loved ones and would never, ever mentally edit their writing.
  •  “Exhibit significant cognitive-tactile impairment when texting (refusal to employ ‘ur’, ‘IDK, ‘BRB’ or even the seemingly innocuous ‘lol’)”–Yep. See the next trait.
  • “Insist on using full sentences and proper punctuation”—Yeah, guilty. However, I have begun to have fun with emoticons. I particularly enjoy hearts, kittens, flowers, and suns.
  • “Can become agitated with certain trigger words such as bae, turnt or fleek”—My biggie is the news media’s abuse of the word “troop” when they use it to refer to a single individual.
  •  “See nothing wrong with discussing rates of body decomposition, history of guillotines, The Black Death, or bot flies at social functions involving food”—my most recent exploration for the novel I am working on was figuring out when rigor mortis sets in, and when it goes away, however I have not had opportunity to discuss it at a social function.
  • “Are known to choose mates based off vocabulary, intellect, appreciation for Monty Python, and ability to operate, repair, and set up laser printers (leading to an abnormally high ratio of writers choosing engineer ‘types’ as partners)”—Now this one is only partially true. My guy, while being a math teacher and our home “technical expert,” also likes music and books similar to what I like, is one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and trustworthy people I know, and is simply an awesome life partner; I would have been a fool to let him get away!

 My Conclusion

I definitely have T.I.S. (Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome). Not only do I have it, I embrace it. I love to write; it helps me make sense of the world. And I love to write fiction because it’s just, plain fun.

Your Turn

Do you struggle with T.I.S? Well, there’s no better way to deal with it than to write. So, tell me, what are your symptoms? What are your joys? Please use the comment box, below, to share your thoughts. I am so eager to hear from you. Let’s encourage one another!

Barbara Bush: Literacy Advocate

Barbara Bush: Advocate for Literacy https://literatelives.wordpress.com/One of the many national events that occurred while I was on hiatus was the death of Barbara Bush. Now I never knew her personally, but I so admired her. You see, I always thought she was a real lady, and I’ve always wanted to be a “lady,” but seem to fall terribly short.

What is my definition of a lady, you ask? To me a lady is a woman who is confident, gracious, kind, generous, and who loves people and knows how to put them at ease. However, there is one trait Barbara Bush and I share, a love of literacy and passion to help others become literate.

Why Value Literacy?

What exactly is literacy? In its simplest sense, it is the ability to read. However, the ability to read is a complex skill set that includes more than translating letters on a page into words. It includes the ability to question what is read; to analyzed what is read; to hold and idea in your mind and compare and contrast it with others; to not just understand the words on page, but the author’s mind on the page. Even when we read for pleasure, we do this unconsciously.

Why is literacy still important when we have T.V., radio, audio books, podcasts, text to speech programs…? We can listen, and learn to listen well, (and there is a lot to be said for interpreting body language and tone), but it is much more difficult to listen and be analytical at the same time, or after you had heard something, to look back over it, tear it apart mentally, and draw deeper meaning from it.

So why be literate? It enables us to be better citizens from the local all the way to an international level. To vote wisely for a candidate of your choice, you need to learn about all the candidates. To wisely embrace a “movement” you need to understand its purpose, which sometimes is not so obvious behind its banners and signs.

For the individual, the acts of learning to read and reading engage the brain in a unique way and actually changes it, producing more synapses and connections, making it easier to think and learn. On a professional level, an ability to read, communicate effectively, and write are tickets to advancement (not the mention the ability to learn new skills, which often also requires reading). Education itself is dependent on knowing how to read. In our public schools, educational strategies shift at around the fourth grade, to not just learning how to read, but using your reading skills to learn other subjects.

And as for communicating effectively? Academic studies have shown that the more a person reads or writes, the better one becomes at doing both. While we communicate most frequently face-to-face, the ability to write involves thinking about what you want to say before putting it on paper and organizing your thoughts to present them in the most effective way—a very wise move when you have something important to say, either face-to-face or on paper.

Those of you reading this are already lovers of reading and writing, and like Barbara Bush and me, you care about helping others improve their reading and writing skills. Doing so starts in the home. Read to your children from the moment they can hear you, many people even read to their children before they are born. When reading picture books to young children, pause to ask appropriate questions about the words or pictures. The brains of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are growing and developing at a rate higher than they ever will again in life. They are ready to start learning from the people they are the very closest to from day one. Furthermore, associating words and story with the closeness of a loving caretaker loves primes their brains to view reading as something to be enjoyed.

Of course none of us have children this little for very long. They grow up, faster than the crop of spring weeds in my flower beds. However, as Mrs. Bush did during her lifetime, you can commit to helping other people learn. Volunteer in a local school (K-12) or adult literacy center. A “reading buddy” can make such a difference to a struggling reader. Or support a local, national, or international literacy organization. Here is the link to the Barbara Bush Association for Family Literacy.

 Your Turn:

What are some ways you nurture literacy in your home, in your work, or as a volunteer? What literacy organization do you know of or support? Please use the comment box to share. Let’s encourage one another.

Image: George Bush Presidential Library & Museum

Dear Readers, Welcome Back!

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives; Dear Readers, Welcmome Back!

Dear Readers,

Welcome back! This has been still another new year and spring consumed by family health issues. I so appreciate your patience while I have been away.

During these weeks, I have thought about you and this blog a great deal, have numerous things I want to share, and look forward to resuming our reading/writing lifestyle together. I even woke, a couple of times, in the middle of the night and got up to write down what I was thinking about because I was thinking about you.

So how did my literate lifestyle fare during the weeks of this hiatus?

First of all, in spare moments, I enjoyed journaling and sometimes writing emails to family or friends. I downloaded some journaling prompts from my Pinterest Journaling board, and rotated through them, so each time I went to journal, my prompt was very different from the last.

I could tell things were beginning to turn for the better when finally, I did not fall into bed too tired to read. Reading before going to sleep has been my rhythm ever since I first learned to read, therefore resuming bedtime reading gave me hope our family was on its way back to normal.

Through these weeks, God has been so good both in our family’s situation and in my writing life. As he often does when my actual writing must move slowly, he’s sent all kind of ideas—for the novel I’m working on and other novels in my queue, so while I have not been actually writing fiction, I’ve been thinking a lot about my novels and jotting down scads of notes.

Your Turn:

How has your literate lifestyle fared during the time of this hiatus? What literate practices carry you through when your life gets stressful?

Please use the comment box to share. Let’s encourage one another!

And Now For… A Brief Hiatus

Today’s date should be April first–April Fool’s Day. Considering the title of last week’s post, Keep Writing,  I find it rather ironic that this week, due to unforeseen circumstances, I must announce a brief hiatus.

However, Literate Lives will be back in May with more reflections and celebrations of the reading and writing lifestyle, and more encouragement and inspiration to help you and your kids keep reading and writing.

While we are on hold, remember next month is National Poetry Month. Play with your words! Have some fun!

I’ll see you back here May 1.

Keep Writing! I know I will.

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: And Now For... A Brief Hiatus

Keep Writing

Keep Writing (Or Reading) Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesWinter, which felt like it was going to last forever, is coming to an end. Leaf buds are swelling and apple and cherry trees are blooming. So how’s your writing life going?

I know. Odd question. What does a writing life have to do with spring?

For me, the constant lover of fresh starts, it represents renewal.

Renewal and the Writing Life

There are so many things in life that can derail the best of writing plans, but the good news is, they do not have to stay derailed.

A blog post I read this week has really renewed my writerly determination and positive outlook.

12 Tips for the Best Writing Life Ever

On The Write Conversation with Edie Melson, Melson listed 12 lifestyle tips for a successful writing life. Tips 1, 3, and 12 really resonated for me.

  • 1. Writing is a mind game—and our minds play tricks on us.
  • 3.  Take care of yourself physically.
  • 12. Keep writing no matter what.

The dreary days of winter are always a mind-challenge for me. Furthermore, this has been a year of health issues as well, and when ill or tired I find it a challenge to both work on my writing and maintain the proper mindset to work on my writing. Melson is right. Taking care of your mind and body is key to producing solid work. My default tends to be to neglect myself, however I recognize the wisdom of her words and will strive to take care of my body and mind in the months to come.

I found her final tip, though one I’ve encountered and valued in the past, even more inspiring. Keep going. Keep writing.

Here, I must extend my appreciation to you, my readers. Knowing I have built a relationship with you and have a responsibility to you has been a great spur to keep writing, at the very least, these weekly blog posts.

My love and gratitude goes out to my critique group as well. I once quipped, “Anyone can bring one page.” Since then, I do not dare show up without something to read. (I will be eternally grateful to them for many more reasons than this, but that is a topic for another post.)

Keep writing. Keep going. This will be one of my themes for this season in my life.

Renewed Commitment

Therefore, I commit to keep writing here, to you.

In addition, I will finish the revisions on The Swallow’s Spring, my novel that is 98% done already and then launch into the next phase of this novel’s life—the great agent quest!

Then I will move on to a number of other projects I’ve got waiting in my queue. It is very exciting to think of the work that awaits me.

Your Turn

How will you renew your writing life this spring?

Please share your plans in the comment box below. Let’s inspire each other!