Chicken Soup for the Soul’s “The Queen of Parking Spaces” Now Available on Podcast

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Queen of Parking Spaces by Debby Zigenis-LoweryChicken Soup for the Soul is a great market for writer’s wanting to break in. Want to know how I know? Well, when my only publication credits so far were with Cricket magazine (for which I will be eternally grateful; I don’t mean to put them down at all–it’s just I felt I needed to branch out a bit) Chicken Soup for the Soul bought my very first submission to them–“The Queen of Parking Spaces,” inspired by my relationship with my Aunt Judy. (Sorry, I know that’s a capitalization error, but I just can’t make myself type a lower case “A.” For me, “Aunt” is part of her name.)

What Chicken Soup for the Soul Wants

Here, in their own words, is what Chicken Soup for the Soul looks for:

…an inspirational, true story about ordinary people having extraordinary experiences. It is a story that opens the heart and rekindles the spirit. It is a simple piece that touches our readers and helps them discover basic principles they can use in their own lives….

Chicken Soup for the Soul stories are written in the first person and have a beginning, middle and an end. The stories often close with a punch, creating emotion, rather than simply talking about it. Chicken Soup for the Soul stories have heart, but also something extra—an element that makes us all feel more hopeful, more connected, more thankful, more passionate and better about life in general….

Keep your story to 1200 words or less. Tighten, tighten, tighten!

You can learn more about their criteria for submissions at their “Guidelines for Submissions,” and you can sign up for their free newsletter, here.

“The Queen of Parking Spaces” Podcast Goes Live Monday

To my delight, I have learned my “Queen of Parking Spaces” will have a new life. On Monday, it will become part of Chicken Soup for the Soul‘s podcasting program.

New podcasts will appear each weekday, featuring stories from their many books. Each day is themed:

  • Motivational Monday
  • Tip Tuesday
  • Wow Wednesday
  • Thoughtful Thursday
  • Friend Friday (Which will feature an interview with one of their writers.)

So if you need a little pick-me-up, you can tune in and listen to your heart’s content

What About You?

Have you had your short story, personal essay, or creative nonfiction accepted in Chicken Soup for the Soul or any other anthology? If so, please use the comment space to let us all know. Give us your name, the title of the anthology, and the title of your piece so we can support each other.

Do you enjoy reading Chicken Soup for the Soul or any other anthology? Use the comment space to share the title. Everyone can always use another recommendation of a good book.

Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain!

Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain!

Do you have a lot on your mind? Doing a braindrain can be a great exercise to help you capture all the issues and ideas so that you can deal with them in a rational manner.

What’s a Braindrain?

A braindrain is like a brainstorm, only instead of trying to come up with as many ideas as you can that relate to a focused topic, your objective is to spill out all the busy-ness in your head onto paper. It’s a useful way to get an overview of the big picture.

Funnel Cloud

My Braindrain

I have been on medical leave for almost a month now. I’ve had lots of doctor appointments and email conversations. I’ve researched topics related to asthma and better self-care. I’ve had to do a lot of resting. And I’ve learned a lot of things I don’t want to forget. So, today I did a braindrain. You can type one on your computer or phone, write it in your journal, or just spill it out on a big piece of paper.

Here’s a sampling from mine:

  • If I use my emergency inhaler more than 2x per week, I need to call my allergist.
  • I like my job and miss my colleagues.
  • I enjoy seeing my friends’ and family’s facebook posts.
  • I enjoy writing to Mom.
  • Humidity is one of my big asthma triggers.
  • I’ve found some great new blogs to follow.
  • I love reading my Bible daily.
  • I need to add more fruits and veggies into my diet especially carotenoids and leafy greens.
  • I have learned how to use my planner more effectively.
  • It is good to sit still.
  • Dark chocolate is still good for me.
  • I need to be a more faithful vacuumer and duster for my health’s sake.
  • I can always remind myself my life is in God’s hands; God loves me; God is good; and God is in control. I have nothing to fear.

As you can see, I let the ideas come in random order, although thinking of one thing sometimes reminded me of other related topics.

writing-pen

What Will I Do With My Braindrain?

When I look over my list, I see there are things I need to remember for when I get sick. I’ll gather these on an index card and put it on my bulletin board.

There were more healthy eating suggestions on the list than I included on your abbreviated version. I want to make another index card with an “Eat These!” list on one side and a “Limit These!” list on the other to keep in my wallet. I will also make an index card for each and put them on my fridge.

I tend to over-embrace the Puritan work ethic, and I tend to get stressed. I’m going to make another list, on a blank page in my planner, of things I enjoy doing that are restful and relaxing.  Then, I’m going to try to remember to look at it when I feel stressed.

I have also created a new daily item for my planner: Calming Activity.

The Braindrain: Another Great Benefit of a Literate Lifestyle

I am a person who thinks best with a pen in my hand. I love using the braindrain exercise  to capture or quiet what’s on my mind. It feels really good to get everything recorded in one place.

Your Turn

Please use the comment box below to share your own tips for coping with having a lot on your mind. Or share a braindrain of your own. I’d love to hear from you!

Write Your Life: A Metaphor for Being

Write Your LifeWriting is a great way capture, reflect on, and enrich your life. It is even good for your health. And, as someone who has health issues, that is good news.

Write About Your Life

I write about my life for a variety of reasons, to celebrate, to mourn, to dream, to plan, to understand, to pray. Sometimes I do so intentionally, sometimes the words begin to spool out in my mind and I memorize like crazy until I can get my hands on paper and pencil or pen.

A Metaphor for BeingA Metaphor* for Being

Last week I returned to work after being ill for 13 days. I was not well, but I was out of sick leave and I wasn’t contagious. I am a high school writing coach and work one-on-one with students, and I figured, even running a little slow, I could do more for my students than could my sub. So, I went to work last Thursday.

My energy levels were at about .01 on a 0-1,000,000 scale, yet as I moved about the classroom, I felt an urgent need to go faster, even if it made my head ache, even if it made me more tired. My colleagues told me to slow down. I told me to slow down. I just couldn’t seem to do it.

Then, as I was attempting to poke my way along the long hallway, it came to me, “Move like fog.” And in the next instant, my mind took it further yet, saying, “You are fog.” I envisioned how fog slowly rolled in across the San Francisco Bay of my childhood. My pace slowed, my mind stilled, and I moved with the speed appropriate to me physical state! (I even, later that day, was inspired to write a poem about the experience.)

A Metaphor for the Moment

Whether you are struggling to do something or eagerly pursuing a goal, you can craft a metaphor to shape your frame of mind. Then repeat it to yourself when you feel the need for reinforcement.

Your Turn

Please use the comment space below to share a metaphor that would be useful to you today, in your life.

*A metaphor is a comparison that does not use like or said. It simply states the one thing is another.

golden-gate-bridge-573643

 

Teacher’s File Drawer: A Focus on Gratitude for November


I know, I know! Halloween hasn’t even arrived, but if you’re a teacher, you know now is the time to start considering seasonal activities for the upcoming month. And so, for all you teachers, both at home and at school, three ideas for bringing gratitude to the forefront in your and your students’ lives.

Teacher's File Drawer: A Focus on Gratitude for November

Why Gratitude?

Studies have shown that people who are grateful tend to live happier, healthier lives. Since November culminates in the grand holiday of Thanksgiving, it only makes sense to build toward this crescendo by focusing on gratitude each day in the weeks leading up to it.

Exercise 1: Thanksgiving Freewrites

Set aside time daily for your students to write a paragraph of at least 5 to 10 sentences, (depending on the ability of your students) about one person or thing for which each is grateful.

Requiring students to write multiple sentences will provide them with opportunities to practice elaborating on their subject and develop fluency in writing.

In addition to requiring a minimum number of sentences each day, limit students free-writing on any topic to just once each topic, thus encouraging them to think in an increasingly broad way about their lives and their world, and to find pleasure and gratitude in a wider range of subjects than they may have initially been aware of or considered.

For further details about this option go here.

Exercise 2: Thank You Notes

November is also a great month for students to learn how to, and practice, writing thank you notes. (After all, everyone knows the holiday season will be coming next.) During the month of November, I like to have my students write thank you notes to teachers, school staff, and other people who are important to their lives.

At the Downtown Learning Center, I teach my students the following template for writing thank you notes:

Dear Recipient:

Thank you so much for whatever it is you appreciate about this person.
Write one or two sentences explaining why you appreciate this.
Reword and repeat the first sentence.

Sincerely,
Signature

For more information click here

Exercise 3: Gratitude Leaves

The Downtown Learning Center is located, you guessed it, in our city’s downtown shopping and business area, and so we have a large, storefront window that faces onto the sidewalk and street.

We started to make Gratitude Leaves about three years ago and they have been such a hit with the staff and neighbors that I can hardly wait to do it again this year.

What are Gratitude Leaves? They are individual leaves, in a variety of shapes and colors, on which students, anonymously, write one thing they are grateful for every day until we break for Thanksgiving. All the staff participates as well. Then each day we tape our leaves to the window.

By the time Thanksgiving break comes our wide, wide window is a wonderful mosaic of yellow, gold, red, orange, crimson and even a few purple leaves that seem to glow as the western light shines through them.

If you want your students to be able to take these home for Thanksgiving, you instruct them to take them down on the last day of break and have each student tape his or her leaves to a paper ring, making a Gratitude Wreath.

Writing about these options for reflecting on how blessed we are and how much good there actually is in our lives has me so excited. Let those dark days of November come!

Play With Your Words: An Autumn Metaphor Poem

autumn-metaphor-poem

The leaves have started turning russet and gold, and teachers and students alike are back in the classroom.

No matter what grade level, literary devices are likely being taught or reviewed. Two key ones include metaphor and the use of sensory details. So, let’s review.

METAPHOR

Metaphor is often taught along with simile because both provide a vibrant means for making a comparison. Unlike a simile (which uses the words “like” or “as”), a metaphor compares by stating that one object or idea is actually a different object or idea, thus emphasizing what the two have in common.

SENSORY DETAILS

Sensory details are descriptive details that can be perceived by the senses–seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. They are evocative, because they appeal to the part of the brain that actually connects to memories of that sensation and therefore make for powerful details in writing.

AUTUMN METAPHOR POEM PRE-WRITE

Using either a 5-circle web (one for each sense) or a 5-column table (one column/sense) brainstorm observations and memories about fall. List them according to which sense is most dominant.

When you have at least three items for each theme (But don’t limit yourself to that amount!) go back and see if any fall into groups that share a similar theme. If you do, you may want to work with that theme or simply select an item from each web/column that you find most appealing.

You are now ready to begin writing your poem.

WRITE THE AUTUMN METAPHOR POEM

Line 1 sets up your poem: “Autumn/Fall is…”

Each line, 2-6, will contain a single metaphor for each of the five senses.

For example, one of the things I love about autumn is kicking through drifts of crackling leaves. For me, the real pleasure is the sound, so for my sound detail, I might say, “Crispy crackly leaves.”

Remember, make a metaphor for each of the five senses and make your metaphors as personal, specific, and concrete as possible.

Close the poem with a final thought.

Here is mine:

Autumn is…
Cool mornings,
The rising sun gilding golden trees,
Wood smoke,
Crisp, crackly-crunchy leaves,
Apple cider, hot and sweet,
An invitation
To savor the season
For soon winter’s winds will blow.

REVISE AND EDIT

When done, look over what you’ve written.

  • Are there some vague words for which you can find more specific replacements?
  • Can you play up the sound effects in your poem? (Note in my example, “crisp” and “crackling” start with a nice, hard, “C” sound.)
  • Can you use repetition for emphasis?
  • Punctuate your poetry like you would a sentence.

SHARE YOUR CREATION

When done, share your poem with your family, classmates, or writing friends. Compliment the strengths you see in each others’ creations, their vivid imagery, the poems’ effectiveness at summoning an “autumnal” feeling.

If you are a teacher, consider allowing your students to illustrate their poems and then post (“publish”) them on a bulletin board.

If you are working with a pre-reader/writer, guide your little poet through the same instructions as above, only you do the writing. When you are done, read back what he or she has “written.” Point to the words as you say them to reinforce the one-to-one-correspondence between the written and spoken word. Together use photos, stickers, cut outs, or clip art to illustrate the poem and hang it somewhere it can be enjoyed by all the family.

I would love to savor your autumn metaphors. Please feel free to post your poem as a comment.

Happy Writing!

 

Teacher’s File Drawer: Summer Back-to-School Poetry Unit

Pug w SunglassesMy favorite unit I’ve ever done with my students is a Summer Vacation Poetry unit. I liked that it was different from the usual “write an essay about your summer vacation,” that it allowed us to play around with poetry, and that working with poetry is a great way to build students’ word choice skills.

The length of time it ran varies from year to year, depending on how many types of poetry I want the students to try, and the final product was a hand-crafted book of poems.

STEP ONE

To begin the unit, I had kids get out pen and paper and brainstorm the things they enjoyed doing during their summer. (I usually timed this: 1-3 minutes depending on the needs of the class.)

Next, I had them circle three that they are most interested in writing about.

STEP TWO

The next time we worked, I asked the students to choose one item from the three circled on their list around which to focus their poetry.

I also introduce the various techniques of poetry. I used this handout for the lesson.

Summer Techniques of Poetry Notetaking Guide

At the end of the lesson, I discuss how these can also be used for mood and emphasis in prose writing.

STEP THREE, FOUR, FIVE, ETC…

At a rate of two forms a day, I introduced different forms for poetry and require the students to write a poem using at least one of them relating to their chosen summer activity.

Some of the forms I’ve used over the years are:

  • Haiku
  • Tanka
  • Acrostic (using the name of the destination or activity)
  • Diamante
  • Couplets
  • Quatrains
  • Free Verse
  • Concrete
  • Farewell Poem
  • List Poem
  • Letter/Post Card/Wish You Were Here Poem
  • A Sensory Poem (using at least 4 of the 5 senses to describe a particular object or moment

The number of options is tremendous!

For each form, I modeled a poem of my own from my summer vacation experience.

I did this as a writers workshop, and so during our writing time, while students are required to try one of the new forms, they were also welcome to try the other new one, one from a previous day, or revise their poems working in some of the techniques of poetry.

STEP FOURTH TO THE LAST

Finally, I asked the students to select 8 poems they wish to incorporate in their books. (Of course, they were always welcome to select more if they want to. This day is then spent selecting and revising each poem, focusing especially on word choice and the techniques of poetry.

STEP THIRD TO THE LAST

On this day, I had students pair up to peer edit their selected poems.

STEP SECOND TO THE LAST

With plenty of art materials on hand, I shared a book with the class, Making Books That Fly, fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn by Gwen Kiehn, which has examples of a variety of ways to make their books. (You can likely find books like this in your school library and most assuredly online.)I encouraged them to consider a way that most interests them and welcome to use their own ideas as well.

I allowed a couple of class sessions for the students to make their poetry books

FINAL STEP

I instruct the students to write me a letting including the following criteria:

Paragraph 1

  • The strengths and weakness you see in your poetry
  • The title of your favorite poem and the reason it is your favorite

Paragraph 2

  • Explain your understanding of:
  • Types of poetry
  • Techniques of poetry
  • Cite examples from your own book.

Paragraph 3

  • An explanation of what was the easiest and the hardest part of writing your poetry
  • An explanation of how you helped yourself to overcome your challenges

In addition to the letter, I also ask them to staple together (and label) a copy of their pre-writes, drafts, and evidence of revision and editing.

SCORING

In addition to scoring using the school’s standards for scoring writing (which count for 40% of the score.)

I also scored for:

Preparation

  • Pre-writes (5)
  • Rough Drafts (5)
  • Evidence of Revision and editing (5)

The Book

  • Title (2)
  • Table of Contents (2)
  • Creativity (2)
  • Color (2)
  • Illustrations/Graphic Elements(2)

Writing

Your school or districts writing rubric = 40% final score

The Letter

  • Discussion of Strengths (4)
  • Discussion of Weaknesses (4)
  • Most Proud/Why (4)
  • Mastery of Types (3)
  • Mastery of Techniques (3)
  • Conventions (2)
  • Examples Cited (3)
  • Discussion of what was Easiest (4)
  • Discussion of what was Hardest (4)
  • How you handled the challenges

The total of points will come out to x/100. You can then apply the percentage to whatever you want this unit to be worth.

THE RESULTS

First of all this unit was fun. (A great way to start the year.)

Second, each poetry book was totally unique to each student. (A great way to begin to get to know your class.)

Third, word choice skills are highlighted as well as the rhetorical skills in the techniques of poetry that students can draw on in their writing throughout the year.

Fourth,the  writing process has been established and practiced.

Fifth, the results were a delight to read.

The First Day of Summer: A Remembrance

sun_in_shades.svg.hiCue the Alice Cooper: School’s Out for Summer! (Please, Jay, don’t take this too seriously. I’ll be quite happy to come back in September = ).)

However, we teachers at the DTLC were as ready for summer as the students. For me, it had been a year that started with post-concussion recovery, ended with allergy season, and was filled for the last six months with colds and asthma attacks.

On the last school day of the 2015-2016 year, I stood with delight on the threshold of summer. Let’s channel my own version of Cooper here:

  • No more getting up to the sound of an alarm clock before any time that could even begin to be classified as decent (ie. before 8:00 A.M.)
  • No more limping through the work day on the heels of another blasted cold.
  • No more regimented schedules with microscopic amounts of time for writing.

Summer. It’s here at last!

So, on the second day of summer break I wrote this to capture the magic of Day One and to remind myself that for every teaching year, this day will come:

The First Day of Summer Break

Slept late.
Read long.
Wrote all afternoon.
Paradise.

What about you? Any days you would like to commemorate? Write yourself a little list poem and keep it somewhere to encourage yourself. If you’d like to share, I’d love to preserve your treasure here for you here.

Tell me about one, wonderful day!