National Secondhand Wardrobe Day–Imagine a Life

Imagine a LifeHere is how the National Calendar Day website describes National Secondhand Wardrobe Day:

There is nobody who does not like to save money and today is a good day to do just that.  National Secondhand Wardrobe Day is observed each year across the United States on August 25.

The practicality and thriftiness of second-hand shopping in today’s economy, its earth-saving benefits as well as donating some of your own slightly worn clothing is what National Secondhand Wardrobe Day is all about.

And it’s true. Shopping second-hand stores is one of my and my hubby’s favorite recreational activities. We’ve saved a lot of money (and I have purchased some of my most complimented wardrobe items) just this way. In addition to saving money on things you need, however, second-hand stores, both those featuring just clothing and those of a more general nature, can provide great fodder for pursuing your goals, creating characters and worlds, and exercising your imaginative skills.

Imagine a Life

Think beyond the question of who am I? In “The Career Mindset Comes Before the Writing Career”, author Jamie Raintree discusses how acting “as if” can help you reach your goals. Who do you want to be? What do you want to be? Browsing through the racks of a secondhand store can help make your vision for your life more concrete and the outfit that matches your goals more affordable.

Imagine a WorldImagine a Character

Are you working on a novel or a story? Who is your main character? How does he or she dress? What colors does they character like? What might he or she have sitting around their homes? What one object does your character treasure? What one object is symbolic of your character? Of his or her goal?

Browsing a thrift store (and maybe making a purchase or two) exposes you to a wider range of fashions and accessories than any retail store ever will. (And if you are looking for even more out of this world ideas–October secondhand stores are awesome!)

If you don’t want to buy it, jot down a description in a notepad or text it to yourself. Snap some pictures with your phone. Add these to your character file.

Family Field Trip

Second-hand stores are great places for a fun outing. Give each of your children a few dollars and head out second-hand shopping. Tell them there is just one rule for how they can spend their money–they must be able to make up a story to share with the family in which their purchase plays a major role.

After the outing, sit down together–maybe over lunch or a snack–and each of you share what you bought and tell it’s “story”.

Literacy Field Trip

Follow the same procedure as the Family Field Trip, but when you get home, ask you children to write the story of their purchase (and you do the same–modeling is very important in teaching and learning). Encourage your family to illustrate their stories if you wish.

If you and your family have been engaging in literacy activities or will continue to do so in the future, start a “book” of family stories. A three-ring binder works great. Date the stories and put them in the binder. Encourage your children to add stories whenever they want.

Now, Go Boldly Forth & Shop!

Have fun, enjoy National Secondhand Wardrobe Day, but don’t limit yourselves, and when you come home, use the response section below to tell about your purchase or record your story!


“aab…” Poetry Mystery Form–Try It!


The Mystery

Last fall, I discovered an aab, ccd, eef…poetry form when I was working on my Mt. Rainier poetry book and I gave it a try. Because I enjoyed working with it, I attempted to dig up the information about it to share with you, but can’t find it anywhere. So here, from memory, are the instructions for the “mystery” form and my example.

aab, ccd, eef…Mystery Poetry Form

The basic unit of the form is a stanza consisting of a couplet (two rhyming lines) followed by a single unrhymed line. That third, unrhymed line is often a new thought–a conclusion, a comparison, a summing up, or a twist on the couplet.

This type of poem can be a single stanza in length or as many stanzas as you would like to make it. The rhyme scheme for any stanza in this form can be completely independent of the rhyme scheme of the first stanza, thus my description–aab, ccd, eef…

My Example


Like water trickling ever downward without being taught,
You experience life’s moments ceaselessly through thought.
Writing is thinking.

Like opening your front door to the street,
You note cars, the weather, and people to greet.
Writing is noticing.

Like a jeweler creating with pearls and gold,
Idea meets idea and a story is told.
Writing is connecting.

The hardest part of writing–“What shall I say?”
Is something you do every waking second of your day.
Writing sings the music of your mind.

“I get by with a little help from my friends.”*

As I am still recovering from my blasted concussion, I have given up on my search for the name of this form. If you know what it is called, could you please share with me and your fellow readers in the comments below?

Thanks so much! I hope you have enjoyed your National Poetry Month.

*The Beatles



Play With Your Words #85: More Fortune Cookie Writers’ Prompts

searchToday my husband and I had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant, “China Faith.” If you live in Salem, Oregon, or visit Salem, Oregon, it’s the best! It’s located on North Lancaster.

As usual, when done (and the servings are so large I brought some home to take to work for lunch tomorrow) I eagerly waited for our bill and fortune cookies. Why? Because fortune cookies provide great writing prompts.

Here is mine for today: “An alien of some sort will be appearing to you shortly!” (The exclamation point came with the fortune.) Hmmm. Do a smell a science fiction or fantasy story brewing here?

My husbands: “Be generous, and the favor will be returned within the week.” Again, oodles of story possibilities.

Try one of these out and enter your title and a short summary of your story in the comments. I’d love to see what these prompts inspire.

Dining Out–Family Literacy Exercise and Fun

7.4 Giovanni's Close upOn the Fourth of July, my husband and I drove out to one of our favorite restaurants, Giovanni’s Pizza in Mill City, Oregon, where we often went camping in the mountains when our son was young. I had remembered that the pizza here was fantastic, and as we ordered and then sat down, more memories flooded in of the fun times we’d had here with our son and his friends. What surprised and delighted me the most, however, was something I had completely forgotten–Giovanni’s table decor.

Each table in Giovanni’s (except for the booths) is covered with two tablecloths–the lower one a warm mix of red tones and the upper, clear. Sandwiched between them are napkins on which diners have documented their dining experience or memories of the trip that brought them to Giovanni’s in the first place. There were drawings of snowmen and tales of skiing and sledding trips, drawings of boats, and campfires, rosters of signatures, and of course notes of gratitude and praise for the food. There was one note from a couple who were celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary with a meal at Giovanni’s, and another written by a tourist from Shanghai–both in Chinese characters and English–saying this was the best pizza he had ever had.

I immediately fished in my purse for a pen, which as usual, I didn’t have. My husband went and got one from the car. (He still has not figured out how I manage to be a writer when I never carry around paper or pen. But I’ll let you in on the secret, he just about always has some!). As we waited for our pizza I documented  a napkin memorializing our Fourth of July trip and slid it under the tablecloth.

The pizza was great, likewise Mill City’s fireworks. As we drove home, I couldn’t help but wonder why more restaurants don’t take advantage of free customer-created advertising like Giovanni’s, and I wondered if more would if those of you in the know helped get them started. When you dine out at a place with clear plastic tablecloths, you and your kids or guests can write on and decorate your own napkins documenting the trip, date them, and slip them under the tablecloth.

Or, for your own family memory collection, whenever you dine in a restaurants with paper napkins, pass out the pens while you are waiting for food, and you and your companions can start a scrapbook memorializing family dining experiences. (You can even ask for take out menus to add to your page.)

Make a meal out an event to remember, and savor the opportunity for creative time with your family and friends.

7.4 Giovanni's Wide View

First Summer Outing

friends w starChurch Street Pizza…
Zach, David, and Me
A sidewalk table in the cool green shade,
A quiet street,
A tall icy drink and thin slices of gooey yumminess.

I feel the need to apologize after my long silence, however, life has not eased up enough yet. School gets out this Thursday. Then I hope to renew our acquaintance.

Crazy Summer

This has been a crazy summer for my family and me. We are working through some major transitions in our lives, needing to spend much time in research, deal with accumulated things, and make new decisions.

The process feels like it has taken over my life. There is so much I need to do that has to wait while we deal with more important matters. It seems like there is always more work than there is time.

For this reason, I am planning to take Wednesdays off until Fall. Some weeks you may see a Wednesday post—when inspiration strikes and I can carve out a few minutes for you, my literate friends.

Do not fear, however. New writing prompts and reading reflections will continue be posted Mondays and Fridays. They provide good practice for skills our kids left behind in the classroom in June.

So, enjoy this season of freedom and cherish the time you and your family have this summer to read, write, and pursue literate lives.

Wed. 12/14 My Christmas Journal

This year, I am resurrecting something I made long ago, but let languish during my busy years of teaching, and now blogging, writing novels, and searching for an agent—My Christmas Journal.

What is my Christmas Journal?

It is a seven and a half by nine and a quarter-inch binder in which I record a miscellany of information about each Christmas season as it passes. I’ve actually started a second binder because the first one is full. The journal includes the recipes for the cookies I’ve baked and the amount of each type that I baked. At our peak, my kids and I baked a quintuple batch of Nancy Hebel’s Gingerbread Boys and Girls. The following year I made a note: “The mixer can’t possibly handle more than a 5x batch of gingerbread no matter how much you love them.”

I include menus for Christmas breakfasts or Christmas dinners I’ve served including how much of each item I made, or bought, or assigned someone to bring, and whether that was sufficient, not enough, or too much. (I prefer to err on the side of too much.)

I include advice for myself for the next year. For example, only a few years into Christmas journaling, I came up with the good idea that I should spend no more than one night staying up past 10:30 making or wrapping gifts for Christmas during the week before Christmas. Another year, there is a brief “Note to self: get Sharon’s Rocky Road recipe. It’s easy and its good.”

I punch and insert one of each of the Christmas cards I sent each year, as well as really beautiful, or cool, or sweet ones we received—including, of course, hand-made ones from the kids.

I also include a photo or drawing of the Christmas ornament we made each year. I loved to make a variety of ornaments with my kids so they’d have gifts for grandparents, teachers, aunts and uncles, and even now that they’re grown, I can’t resist making ornament gifts for family and friends every Christmas.

There are reading lists. My daughter Gen and I loved Madeleine L’Engles 24 Days Until Christmas. I recommended I begin reading aloud the rest of L’Engle’s Austin family books to her. Sadly, another year there was a note: “Read the Christmas books!”

I sometimes truly journal a page or two about a particular Christmas season. One year I did a page of thanksgivings, another year, after Christmas, a page of what I did right, so I’d remember to do it the next year.

I flip through my old journal and those special times with my kids are fresh before me. I look into the new one to see how many iced Christmas cookies I made last year and whether I should make the same amount this time. Thank goodness I at least recorded that much last year!

There is even an Ode to Tissue Paper, a little ditty I made up because Santa always wrapped my gifts in tissue paper when I was a child and so the crinkle and crunch of tissue paper in my hands is a delight to my spirit.

I can’t wait to decorate my new journal. Then maybe I’ll finally get around to sending out some Christmas cards. Merry Christmas and happy journaling to you!

P.S. Happy Birthday, Genny!

Write about an Unexpected Gift: Play With Your Words Prompt #42

This week’s Play With Your Words Prompt involves writing a scene around a character who receives an unexpected gift.

I saw Mr. Popper’s Penguins last spring. In the film, Popper’s dying father sent him one incredible gift that definitely changed his son’s life.

Dream up the most bizarre thing you can imagine that could be delivered in a package.

Write a character description of the person who would send such an item. Bonus points if you also write a description for the person he or she is going to send it to.

Now write the scene in which some special someone receives this unexpected gift.

When you are done, share your scenes with your writing partners. Compliment one another on their creative details, use of logic, writing strengths and the things you simply enjoy. Please, share your writing as comment. It would be so fun to see what different people have come up with.

Preschool Literacy: get a box and show it to your child. Ask him what you could send in that box. Brainstorm a list of ideas and write them down. Read the list back to your preschooler, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoken words. Ask the child to choose one item to think about then ask her who she would like to send that item to. Ask your preschooler to tell you what they would like to say in a note to that person if they were really going to send the item. Write down his message on a fresh sheet of paper. Read the note back to the child when done (again, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence). Imagine together how the recipient of this unusual package would respond. Get silly. Have fun.

Expository Prompt/Success vs. Fame: Play With Your Words #40

Respond to the following quote:

Know the difference between success and fame. Success is Mother Theresa. Fame is Madonna.                                                                         ~ Erma Bombeck

Do you agree or disagree? Why? Explain your thoughts.

When you are done, share your writing with your writing partners. Compliment the strengths of each others’ arguments. Have a civilized discussion about your differences.

Feeling bold? Share your writing as comment so we can have a civilized discussion here.

Play With Your Words Prompt #38: Writing Fun with Travel Brochures

Are you going on vacation? If so, you may want to collect some travel brochures.

As you are planning your trip, take your kids with you to the travel agency or AAA and pick up travel brochures for your intended destination/s. With your family, go online to your destinations’ travel bureau sites and together consider all your options. Print out photos from places you’d like to go.

Sit down as a family and plan your trip. Have each person select and cut out some pictures from your collection of brochures and printouts. Get out some paper, and tape or paste your pictures on, about two pictures to a page. Then give everyone a pen or pencil and ask each one to write why he selected each picture and what that picture inspires her look forward to on your trip. If you have a preschooler in the family, have someone whoever finishes his own writing first take dictation from her.

Put everyone’s pictures and writing into a binder and take it, along some extra paper, with you on your trip.

After visiting each location, read what was written about it when you were planning your visit and discuss how it met or exceeded your expectations.

Get out a fresh sheet of paper, and ask everyone jot down a favorite memory from that excursion. Place it into the binder along with the original picture and writing.

This provides your family with the opportunity to engage in a variety of literacy activities: putting their thoughts and feelings in writing, evaluating and discussing their opinions about events, engaging in narrative writing from a first person point of view. And it’s all in service of having fun together and building memories!