A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this Month

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this Month
One of the wonderful things about the holiday season is that it is—wonderful: a celebration of family and friendship, magic and awe, and contains feast days of many faiths, including mine, which commemorates the season for the birth of our Savior.

Another wonderful thing about the holiday season is that it goes away. It sweeps like a joyous madness from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, and then it is gone until next November.

I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to resuming normal life this January, and that includes a normal, for me, reading and writing life. (As you can see by the delay in this post, full “normal” has not yet been achieved.)

Here are some practices and links to articles I am looking forward to reading this month.

Pleasure Reading

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this MonthDuring the holiday season I enjoy reading holiday novels, and now that it’s over, it is with pleasure I resume my regular reading rotation (after I finish reading the gift book,  The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons, which my husband received for Christmas—I know, his book. Yeah, that’s another story.) What’s next?

  • a Celtic fantasy—whichever one is next in line on the shelfDebby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Fresh New Year: The Literate Lifestyle I’m Looking Forward to this Month
  • something from the Library—I’m thinking more of Rachel Caine’s Great Library Series.
  • a historical novel—I’m not sure which one I’ll pick next.

Online Reading

This month I am looking forward to reading saved posts on a variety of topics:



Bullet Journaling:

Writing Craft:


Rather than make a rash New Year’s resolution, I plan to use the month of January to reflect on:

  • my practices from the past year
  • changes I want to implement
  • and maybe craft a personal mission statement.

I look forward to reading the following posts to aid me in the process.

From Little Coffee Fox:

More Reflection Posts:


I also look forward to resuming the final editing of The Swallow’s Spring, my folkloric fantasy novel. Last August, before I came down with the sinus infection from #*%%, I was down to the last half of the last chapter to complete edits on and run through my writers’ group. Due to both illness—three solid months and then recuperation—and the resulting depression I did not trust myself to do my best work. And then, of course, the holidays…

When my husband, a teacher returns to work next week, I will, too. At last, I am looking forward to it.


For more great reading, check out the following applicable Pinterest Boards:

  • A Literate Lifestyle
  • Crafting Fiction
  • A New Year!
  • Celebrate Winter

Your Turn

  • How does the joyous, crazy holiday season impact your literate lifestyle?
  • What practices do you look forward to resuming this month?

Please share your thoughts in the comments box below. Let’s encourage one another!


A New Season, A New Year, A New Life

A New Season, A New Year, A New Life; literatelives.wordpress.com
Having lived most of my life aligned with the academic schedule (as a student, mother of students, and educator), the start of September and school have always felt like my true “new year.”

A New Season

Here where I live, September signals the end of summer, even if it does not yet hold the gold-leaved glory of fall. It has already rained, three times since the start of the month and people were glad to see it! Although it is not yet officially arrived, that won’t happen until the equinox, September 23, autumn is definitely coming.

A New Year

As stated above, the beginning of the academic calendar is my true new year. It is a time to re-evaluate routines, maybe drop some old practices, incorporate some new…

One of the practices I am really excited about this year is that of using a planner. I never used a planner until I was in grad school and tracking assignments became too difficult to do in my head. That practice carried over into teaching with the necessity of a lesson plan book. One of my principals wanted it sitting open on our desks at all times. Through years of tracking lessons and the preparation and gathering of materials for lessons, my planning skills (and planner dependency) grew.

This last year I started using a planner at home to establish routines and make sure none of my “to-do” items dropped off into the abyss of forgetfulness, and this summer I’ve been reading a lot about planners and bullet-journaling and enjoying incorporating some of those principles into my own efforts at personal organization.

A New Life

The biggest change of all for me is that this September, I am not returning to the classroom. (Fear not, however, my husband is also an educator, so the academic year shall still rule supreme on our calendar.)

I am very excited at the prospect of having more time for writing (and a little less excited for having more time to care for our long-neglected home).

However, what I looked forward to with joy, also carries its own sorrows. I miss my colleagues at the DTLC; I miss the high privilege of being entrusted to diagnose students’ individual learning needs and make plans and design lessons to address them; and I miss the opportunities to see my students learn, mature, and achieve.

(This will be to your benefit, however, as the drive to nurture readers and writers will be channeled into this blog and my upcoming Facebook page.)

New/Old Challenges

Back in June I was so excited to “hit the ground running” with both my fiction projects and this blog when my husband returned to work. But September finds me weary, recovering from two July colds and the culminating three weeks of sinus and ear infection that gobbled up the end of August.

In addition, these past eighteen months has seen our family knocked about with numerous blows that included death, traumatic brain injury, near loss of eyesight, and serious chronic illness. Both my husband and I did what we needed to at the time and just kept going. However, now I feel like these rough waters have washed me, sorrowful and exhausted, into a still pool and it is time to reflect on the impact of these life changers. (If I were to write a memoir, I think I might call it When Lightning Strikes, & Strikes, & Strikes…)

Therefore, I am looking forward, a little more quietly, to a season of learning, reflecting, and writing, and, of course, sharing my love of reading, writing, and teaching with you.

Your Turn

What are you looking forward to this new season? Please use the comment box to share. Let’s encourage one another!


New blog posts will now be available the first, third, and occasional fifth Thursday of each month.

Stay tuned for the launch of my Facebook page.

Happy New Year! Hopes and Dreams for Your Literate Lifestyle in 2018

Your Literate Lifestyle in 2018 literatelives.wordpress.comHappy new year! I hope your holiday season was peaceful, joyful, filled with abundant blessings.

And now it is a new year. I love the opportunity for a new start, so much so I think “new year” in both January and September. Having been a student, been the parent of students, and the teacher of students, September is just a very logical restart.

However, for me, January is a little more magical. It starts with clean new calendars and clean new plan books. And after the inevitable joyful excesses of the Christmas season, it feels like being washed by a raging current into a quiet side stream. Time for quiet. Time for reflection. Time for dreaming and goal setting. (I love the quiet of January after December!)

What hopes and dreams, plans and goals do you have for the new year? I have two I’ll share right now:

  1. to blog about how having a literate lifestyle keeps me sane during crazy-busy/sick seasons
  2. to add an additional day of content this year (coming late spring)

I pray this greeting finds you refreshed and dreaming.

Use the comments box below to share your hopes and dreams for your literate lifestyle in 2018. Let’s inspire each other!

New Year’s…Goals

Weekly Goals



Happy new year–to those of you who live by the public school calendar! Today the true new year begins.

This week at the Downtown Learning Center we will be talking about goal setting. The lessons will focus on SMART goal setting, which advocates for goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

We’ll begin by having students set a goal for the school day. The next day we’ll have them select a goal for the week. During that week we’ll work with then to practice thinking more long-term, concluding with them setting a goal for the school year.

So, am I practicing what we’ll be teaching? Yes. You should see the daily goal lists I’ve had for myself this week. And wow, has it made a difference in how tidy my home appears. I even had a weekly goal: to have a new section of my nonfiction picture book ready for writer’s group on Saturday. I brought 6 pages for critique.

What about long-term goals? Here is my list of weekly goals for this year:

  • Bible–read 1 chapter  5 days/week
  • Writing–500 words written or revised 4 days /week (This beyond my regular Wednesday writing days.)
  • Set in Stone, my middle grade fantasy novel, sent out to a new agent or editor each week
  • The Swallow’s Spring, my retelling of the early portions of the medieval Romance of Tristan and Iseult, sent out to a new agent or editor each week
  • Walk for fitness once per week. (I know, that number sounds ridiculously low, but I have not been doing even that these last few months I’ve been battling colds.)

What about you? Do you have any goals for 2015? Just hit reply and share them. I’d be glad to cheer you on.

The True New Year has Begun

School houseSeptember 1–the true new year has begun.

The sun is shining, the air is still and warm, with a cool that lingers in the house long after sun-up. It is September. Summer is over and school starts on Tuesday. While I have railed at all I was unable to accomplish over this summer, today I find my heart peaceful, still.

I know, as I resume my teaching career, that it will require discipline and energy in order to remain faithful to my writing life as well. With the Summer of the Three Sinus Infections behind me, along with many unmet goals and unexecuted plans, I realize my ability to “perform” does not belong to me at all!

And so, it is with humility and faith that I step into this new school year. I know it is God who has given me the story ideas, ability to write, and the opportunities to grow in my craft and exercise my skills. He has also placed me in the wonderful teaching position I hold. He is the master of my health and my energy. And so I will step forward in faith and trust.

Discipline and faith will be my watchwords of this new year. I look forward to helping this years crop of students find their voices and learn to communicate effectively. I look forward to another quick revision of my novel, The Swallow’s Spring, and the adventure of finding it a publishing home. I look forward to reading, and writing, and pinning, and loving my family and home. I don’t know how I will do it all, but I know, by the grace of God, what is needful will be attended to and I can settle my heart in peace.

(Now to remember to reread this when the storms of autumn settle in!)

Literate Lives: A Preview of Coming Attractions

Happy Labor Day! (Or as my kids used to call it “Last Day of Freedom!”)

The start of the school year has always been the true New Year for me, first as a student, later as a parent, and now as an educator. Therefore, instead of our usual Monday reading response exercise, I’ll start school with you tomorrow with a preview of my plans for Literate Lives this upcoming year.

(But, I’ll give you one, quick hint, thanks to the continued interest of visitors, Greek and Latin Roots will be back.)

So, see you tomorrow. It’s going to be a great school year!

Willamette Writers Conference 2012 Report

I had a great time at Willamette Writers annual conference last weekend. I learned a lot, pitched my novel to professionals, and came home recharged for a new writing year.

Willamette Writers offers some great classes for writers of any genre and any level of experience, from beginner to pro. I attended workshops ranging from the quirky (Put Shakespeare in Your Writing—taught by Jimmie Moglia), to how-to (Book Design for Print and eBooks—taught by Jennifer Omner), to outstanding writing craft workshops (taught by Eric Wichey, Larry Brooks, and Hallie Ephron). If you ever have the opportunity to take a class with any of these authors, particularly the last three, I highly recommend you take advantage of it.

I pitched both my novels at the conference. The Swallow’s Spring was invited for review by the two agents I pitched it to, and Set in Stone, was invited to be submitted by the two publishers I pitched to. I am excited to this week’s normal work out of the way so I can focus on conference follow-up.

And I’m excited for a new writing year. The experience has cleared my head, enabling me to look objectively at my daily and weekly routines and rethink the way I approach both daily responsibilities and my writing life. I’m doing some reprioritizing, moving writing and personal health up the list a couple of notches. I’m looking forward to an awesome writing year.

How about you? September is coming. (As first a student, then a mother, and finally a teacher, September has always felt like the true beginning of a new year.) What practices and priorities are you looking forward to implementing in this new year?

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #18: Datebook Poem

Write a poem in the form of date book entries representing your goals, hopes and/or dreams for the coming year.

When done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment one another on the strengths of language, emotion,  and imagery. Share as comment.


January 2000—Falling in Love Again

Friday, December 31, 1999—“I’m sorry,
I won’t be able to see you again.
You are still married.
I won’t date a married woman.”
Note to self: I guess it’s time to finally sign the papers.

Tuesday, January 4, 2000—Call soon-to-be-ex.
Call attorney.

Monday, January 24, 2000
11:00 Sign papers
12:00 Lunch with friends
1:00 Appointment with counselor.

Tuesday, January 25, 2000—email him.
Are you going to Saturday’s dance?

Saturday, January 29—Salem Singles’ Dance.

Saturday, February 13— Valentine’s Dance…
and dinner with him!

While this poem was written as a memory poem, there’s no reason not to dream for your future. After all, isn’t that what turning the page on a new year is all about?

Write First!

Ten years ago, just as my writing was beginning to sell, I took a break from my writing life to earn my masters degree in education and teach English/Language arts first in high school level, and then, where I had really wanted to be, in middle school.

When my youngest son graduated high school, I decided it was time for me to graduate as well and return to writing. I have spent this last year and three months learning about the changes that have occurred in the children’s publishing industry, polishing up manuscripts that had been neglected for nearly a decade, studying markets, going to conferences, and submitting to publishers and agents. And I’ve felt frustrated. My writing just didn’t seem to be moving anywhere with any speed.

And then I came across Leonard Marcus’ The Wand and The Word. It contains a series of interviews Marcus conducted with a number of well-known, highly regarded writers of children’s and young adult fantasy. Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, and Jane Yolen are just a few of the many beloved authors included.

In putting together the interviews, Marcus asked each author a similar series of questions, and as I read interview after interview, it finally came clear to me what my own pursuit of a writing life is lacking.

The answer is so obvious! I am embarrassed to confess it had eluded me for so long. The answer is to write. To write first. Almost every writer said they wrote daily.

I had been working at writing—learning about the impact of social networking on the business, researching publisher and agents to whom I might send my work, submitting manuscripts and resubmitting manuscripts. Not only had I worked at it, I’d carved out a weekly schedule so no area of the writing business got neglected.

What I forgot to do is make sure I have time to write.

Well, thank God it’s September, my new year. And this month I am turning over a new leaf. All my little plans and schedules have been revamped. This month I began writing first. Every workday, I get two hours for writing before I dedicate myself to any of the business of writing. I cannot tell you the joy I feel. I love to write! At last I have given myself permission to do it.

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you, but for me the start of school has always been my “new year’s day.” First as a child and student, then as a teacher, as a parent, and as a teacher again, my life always begins anew when school starts.

And, as someone whose passion is to encourage literacy in the home, this September represents, as ever, a new year. Therefore, I have taken a closer look at “Literate Lives” and the rhythm of posts and prompts and worked out a calendar for the upcoming school year.

Each Sunday, I will post a reading response question that can be used with your student’s reading during the week. Reading response questions will address student understanding and evaluation of various elements of literature and if responses are written out, will provide exercise for them stating their ideas and opinions in writing.

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I will blog on a variety of topics centering on the development of literacy and reading and writing in the home.

On the first Wednesday of each month, instead of blogging I will post an English/Language Arts assignment. I will include instructions and criteria for completion of the assignment and a scoring guide that can be adapted to evaluate student work.

On the third Wednesday of each month, I will focus on preschool literacy.

Thursdays will continue to be “Play with Your Words!” days. The first Thursday will focus on writing poetry, and the third Thursday will feature an Art writing prompt. Other Thursdays will rotate through imaginative, expository, narrative, descriptive, and persuasive prompts—all forms of writing students are expected to master.

The last blog day of each month, as has been my practice, will be “Best Book of the Month” day. I will continue to recommend a title or two. And I hope you will too. Write about your favorite book you’ve read that month, and tell me about the favorite of any children too young to write. I’d love it if your kids who can write would recommend their own favorites. It’s a good chance for them to engage in writing that is both purposeful and persuasive, and to see their writing “published” in a public forum.

I am so excited about this upcoming year of reading and writing together. Please tell your friends about “Literate Lives” and encourage them join our community!