The Best of the Best Ereads of Summer, So Far…

The Best of the Best Ereads of Summer, So Far...; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesThis summer has been a “medical” summer. As those of you who are teachers know, any procedure that can be postponed until summer break usually is, and that is precisely what happened with this household of educators.

The positive side of this quiet summer is that I have had a lot of time for reading, both books and on the web. In fact, I saved so many articles for this “Best Ereads” post that I had to delete a few in order to not to run over long. So, these are actually the best of the best articles and blog posts I’ve read this summer so far.

Education

A cautionary tale… This title seems to say it all, or does it? Although I accept, in fact already believed, that eye/hand coordination can impact academic performance, the article does not conclude that gross motor skills, as the title implies, is the key. The most important thing I learned from this article is that it is essential to read critically, and to exercise this skill with all media, especially electronic.

The Life of the Mind

This article explores the value of imagination, which is greatly unappreciated world-wide. According to Rivandeneira, “Imagination is a practical means for achieving and enabling…commonly valued skills.” I whole-heartedly agree. Imagination is not only a necessity for children and artists, it is the engine behind problem-solving and the creation of every practical thing that makes life in the twenty-first century good. Keep exercising yours and encourage your loved ones to exercise theirs.

“For those who identify as introverts, the interior journey offers an alternative path to deeper meaning—one steeped in silence and solitude, rest and simplicity, wisdom and tradition, beauty and mystery.” — Lacy Ellman

Being an introvert myself, it has been so exciting to find so much being written on the study of introversion and the introvert lifestyle. (Quite Revolution, the blog on which I found this article, is one of my favorites.) I really valued Ellman’s contributions to the discussion.

Jane Yolen is the queen of Folkloric Fantasy, the genre in which I write, and so I both enjoyed and was inspired by Windling’s profile of the prolific author. In addition to talking about Yolen’s fiction writing, Windling and Yolen discuss the centrality of writing in her life, a topic highly espoused here at Literate Lives. Enjoy!

As an introvert, I often find myself overwhelmed by the rapidity of communication options, deluge of information, and unending bombardment of the twenty-four hour news cycle. Therefore, I really appreciate Ta-Hehisi Coates and Jen Pollock Michel’s call for thinkers to be given time to think before being expected to provide insight and answers. This is a provocative read.

To facilitate your journey into the life of the mind, here are some writing prompts for August from A Symphony of Praise.

Writing

Yikes! I’m still running long. The following are posts deal primarily with fiction writing and the professional writer’s life, two areas in which I seek to continue learning and growing in skill:

This last is for both writers and Language Arts teachers: “Grammar and the Singular ‘They,’” b Steve Laube. This article addresses an issue I struggle with, especially here on the blog. I want to be gender inclusive. I will often alternate between he and she, but even doing that, things can get clunky. Therefore, I found this article by literary agent Steve Laube very helpful.

Your Turn

What have you been reading online this summer? Any particular article that inspired or excited you? Please share the title and link in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

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A Sensational, Sparkling, Savory, Fourth of July: Using Sensory Details

A Sensational, Sparkling, Savory, Fourth of July: Using Sensory Details; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/It is nearly the Fourth of July–that sizzling, sparkling, savory celebration of the birth of the U.S.A. What better holiday to stimulate writing with sensory details!

Sensory Details

Whether writing to capture your life, writing to entertain or inform, or writing for the pure pleasure of simply writing, sensory details add richness, depth, and realism to your writing.

What are sensory details? These are details that can only be detected through the use of your senses:

  • the beauty of a white frosted birthday cake topped with strawberries and blueberries
  • the vanilla scent of the frosting
  • the sweet tang of the berries on your tongue
  • the scrap of your fork on the plate
  • the silky texture as you swipe your finger through the frosting

Happy Birthday U.S.A.

Fourth of July Writing Exercise

Fourth of July celebrations are so full of sensory detail:

  • the crisp red white and blue of a flag
  • the sulfurous scent of fireworks
  • the tangy taste of bar-b-que
  • the sizzle of sparklers
  • the warmth of the sun against your skin

This exercise can be done by yourself, or done with your family. For each person participating in this exercise you will need either a pocket-sized tablet, five index cards, or a piece of paper divided into 5 sections and a pen or pencil that will fit into your pocket or purse.

Preparation: Label either one page, one card, or one section for each of the senses–sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch.

You, or each of you, will carry this with you throughout the day and evening, and pause periodically to record what you observe with your senses.

At the end of the evening, or the next day, look over your list.

  • For those who like to journal, use this list as you capture the holiday in words.
  • For those who like to write poetry, use this list as the pre-write for a poem.
  • For those who write fiction, use this list to create a scene.
  • For those who write non-fiction, use this list to write an article about July 4, 2018 as celebrated in your community.

Enjoy!

Have fun. Participating in this exercise will help you capture and savor the very specific and particular details of your Fourth of July.

Your Turn

Using the comment box below, let’s share 3 to 5 items from our lists or a bit of the writing that results from it. Again, have fun, and let’s encourage one another!

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!

 

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.

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!

The Value of Writing and Reading Fiction (And Maybe, Non-fiction, Too)

Last weekend I read a blog post that was so provocative, inspiring, and engaging, that I decided I couldn’t wait for a monthly round-up; I had to share it now.

5 Reasons Writing is Important to the World

In this post, on HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com, K.M. Weiland shares the experiences that made her a writer, the questions that had her doubting her career choice, the wisdom of others that provided answers to her questions, and the five reasons she is able to conclude “writing is important to the world.”

Don’t take my word for it. Go read the post now, and then come back.

Wasn’t That Inspiring!

I’m tempted to quote so much of what she said, but of course, you’ve already read it. Instead I’d like to comment and elaborate on her 5 conclusions and how they resonate for me.

5 Reasons I Agree Writing, and Thereby Reading, Stories, both Fiction and Non, is of Value for Us Personally and for Our World:

“1. Stories give us good truths.” They show us how the world works. They inspire us to be better and often show us how. Stories, both fictional and non, are therefore empowering.

“2. Stories give us bad truths.” Stories, again both fiction and non-fiction, can serve as warnings. They provide a training ground for discovering strategies and ways of being that work and ones that do not. Better yet, as a reader, you get to discover these things vicariously, rather than have to suffer the consequences of dangerous, foolish, or selfish/narrow-minded actions.

“3. Stories open our minds and teach us empathy.” Effective educators know that reading fiction and experiencing life through a character’s mind and heart, expands our and our students’ wealth of experience. They show us how other people’s feelings and thought processes work, as we experience them through character. Thus story, both fiction and non, helps develop empathy for others.

I love this Merriam Webster definition of empathy:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :the capacity for this

In a world that seems to be growing smaller, more crowded, and more conflicted each day, empathy is an absolutely essential skill for living together in harmony.

“4. Stories offer us archetypal role models.” Weiland asks “if you’ve ever been in the midst of a difficult experience or faced by an overwhelming decision—and you were helped in remembering a character who endured something similar?” Have you? I know I have. At one very difficult time in my life inspiration provided by a fictional character helped buy my children 15 more years with an intact, functional nuclear family.

“5. Stories teach us to hope.” In our messy, messy world and our imperfect, challenging lives it can be tempting to just give up. But stories show us the effort to not just survive, but thrive is worthwhile. They remind us that light and hope remain in our world. While we cannot live lives of unadulterated bliss, times of joy, of love, of peace do exist, and if we make wise choices on our journeys, we will experience them and carry their memories within us along the way.

Your Turn

What do you feel is the value of reading and writing? In focusing on Weiland’s post, is there anything you think I missed? Please share in the comment space below. I love to hear from you!

 

Setting: C.S. Lewis on Reality–“We Couldn’t Make it Up”

In the book Mere Christianity, Lewis reflects on the nature of reality:

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. For instance, when you have grasped that the earth and the other planets go round the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match–all at equal distances from each other…or distances that regularly increased…. In face, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them have one moon, one has four,…and one has a ring.

Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. This is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up.

I Should Feel We Were Making It Up

This principle applies not just to Christian apologetics, but to fiction writing as well. (Isn’t it interesting to note that Lewis was also a fiction writer, a literature professor, and medieval literature specialist.)

If the setting in our stories is too simple, too predictable, readers will feel like we’re just making it all up (which, of course, we are) rather than experience being swept up in the fictional dream.

Feel Real

For our fiction’s settings to feel real, they need to be complex, to contain variations–twists, surprises, imperfections, and to make even contemporary settings highly individual, particular, even a bit peculiar in their specificity

Your Turn

In the comment space below, please share the title and author of a work you read recently in which the author made the setting feel real. What was it that made it seem like it “could not be made up.” Or, are you a writer? Feel free to share an excerpt from your work illustrating a “reality” rendered in a way that seems it “could not be made up.”

I look forward to hearing from you!