What’s Your Mission (Statement)?

Mission StatementYears ago, one of the workshops I attended at a writing conference was on the topic of crafting a mission statement. The premise was, with a mission statement, a writer can be more focussed and effective. The instructor was a retired businessman, and he prefaced the hands-on part of the workshop by discussing how businesses and organizations use mission statements to help themselves function more effectively. And he sold me on the idea that any person, any lifestyle can benefit from a mission statement.

I have since served as part of a team crafting a mission statement for a nonprofit organization, and I loved teaching my students how to write a mission statement for where they were in their lives. It’s a different form of writing from the compare and contrast or analytical essay, and for most of them, probably a much more practical skill for life.

Why a Mission Statement Now?

As those of you who follow this blog know, I have been ill for a solid month–lie down and don’t do much of anything ill. As mentioned in my previous post (view Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain! here) I’ve learned some things from this experience and want to apply them to my life. Thus, I have written a new mission statement.

My Mission Statement

My mission is to:

  1. teach and nurture literacy
  2. celebrate creativity, imagination, awe, and wonder
  3. serves as a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ.

How I Am Implementing or Will Implement this Mission in My Life

Here are some of the ways I plan to “fulfill my mission.” To teach and nurture literacy I will:

  • continue my work as a writing teacher
  • continue reaching out and encouraging others in building a literate lifestyle through this blog
  • nurture a love of reading and writing in my grandchildren
  • joyfully serve as my husband’s personal librarian (I love that he lets me/counts on me to do this for him!)

To celebrate creativity, imagination, awe, and wonder, I will:

  • again continue reaching out and encouraging others through this blog
  • read
  • write fiction and poetry
  • participate in my writers’ groups
  • serve in the writing organizations to which I belong.

To serve as a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ I will:

  • continue my work as a writing teacher
  • continue reaching out and encouraging others through this blog
  • continue to write fiction and poetry
  • read the Bible as close to daily as I can get (I confess I am not a get up before the sun and do it before anything else kind of woman. I’m pretty groggy in the early part of my day. I can learn and absorb more if I get a chance to wake up a bit)
  • participate within my church family
  • love the people I have been blessed with in my life–my husband, children, grandchildren, parents (I am so blessed they are still alive), friends, colleagues
  • strive to love my neighbor (and remember all humanity is my neighbor) as I love myself

What Stays and What Goes?

Having established this understanding with myself, I am now better equipped to evaluate  opportunities that come my way and make wise choices that will serve my mission and prevent burn-out.

Your Turn

Use the comment box below to share what you would put on your mission statement.



A Reading and Writing Lifestyle: Who is This Blog Written For?

Mini orange coffee cup with notebookYesterday, I had an awesome day with one of my best friends. We’ve known each other since I was five-years-old. We’ve done a lot of “life” together, and she is a beta-reader and encourager of my writing. One of the things that made it awesome (besides going to the craft store, eating decadent fudge for a our afternoon snack, and doing an entire jigsaw puzzle in one afternoon–okay, confession, it took us until midnight) was she sat down with this blog, asked me questions, provided some pointed critiques, and made lot of useful suggestions.

The Question

The question that floored me was, “Who is your reader?” This was accompanied by the observation that lots of times I talk about writing as a profession, and when I do, it makes her feel like this blog is really only intended for pros. Whoa!

That rules out a lot of my intended readership, including her!

So Who am I Writing To?

The stated purpose of Literate Lives is to encourage a reading/writing lifestlye.  This means I want to encourage a lifestyle that invests in reading and writing as a means of enrichment for anyone.

Anyone? That’s Kind of Vague

Yeah, it is isn’t it. Here are some mini portraits of potential Literate Lives readers:

  • someone who once loved to read but has been having a hard time prioritizing that pleasure in their life
  • someone who loves to read and loves to celebrate the pleasures and rewards of prioritizing reading in their lives
  • someone who interacts with young people and wants to facilitate skill and pleasure in reading, as well as writing, in these young people.
  • someone who enjoys journaling, letter writing, or otherwise capturing their thoughts and lives on paper or on screen
  • someone who aspires to be a professional writer, or already is, that can use a little encouragement
  • someone who is interested in the lives of writers
  • someone who enjoys multiple fiction genres, but has a special love for fantasy
  • someone who enjoys fiction across multiple age levels: that written for adults, young adults, and middle graders–kids from third to eighth grade

A Whole Lot of Anyones!

My mission is to love, serve, and encourage all of you.

There is work I need to do. Some of it is as simple as making some changes to the actual appearance of my blog to make it more reader friendly. Some of it is much broader, like tracking the kinds of posts I write and making sure I write across this broad range of readership.

Your feedback is highly valued. What can I do that would make following my blog a better experience for you ?

Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #87: Guess Your Age

bday cakeThis weekend was my birthday, and a very nice birthday it was. On Saturday, my husband and I went out to lunch with our younger son. The restaurant where we ate decorates it’s wall with plaques containing rhymes, quotes, and other thought-provoking or food-celebrating sayings.

Across from our table was a plaque that read:

  • If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you say you are?

Hmmm? Pretty apt for a birthday lunch.

Now, I’m not going to tell you how old I am or how I’d reply, but I couldn’t help thinking that was a darn good writing prompt. How old would you say you are? Why? Write about it.

Writing fiction? Choose a character you are still trying to figure out and ask him/her the question and demand an explanation.

If you feel like sharing your responses, please reply. Maybe you will even tempt me to share my response with you!

Fortune Cookie Writing Prompt: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt # 83

searchFridays used to always be “Play With Your Words” days here at Literate Lives, where I regularly featured writing prompts to get you, your kids, or your students writing.

My husband has found a new “signature” dish at our favorite, local Chinese restaurant, and so my little stack of fortune cookie slips has begun stacking up.

This week I offer a choice of two prompts. You may want to think of them as journaling prompts, get-to-know-your-character prompts, or story starter prompts. Whichever way you tackle them, have fun, and feel free to share the results as a comment.

  1. “You will be making changes before settling satisfactorily.” What kinds of changes? What, for you or your character is the definition of “satisfactorily”?
  2. “You will be called upon to celebrate some good news.” Hmmm. Whose good news? Do you or your character want to celebrate it? Why or why not?

Have fun. Happy writing!

A Blissful, Summer Sunday


It is a blissful, Summer Sunday. I went to church last night, and so the morning has consisted of reading, writing, Bible Study, and a little puttering around the house. Thunder has been rumbling off and on for the last three hours, and cool summer air has been drifting through our windows, driving out the staleness left behind by yesterday’s heat.

What peace. There is nothing I like better than to read and write my way through a Sunday. This one in particular has even inspired a poem.

Summer Thunder

Crack! Thunder rumbles,
roils, majestic, brings ego
to its trembling knees.

And to finish the day off? We’ll go for dinner at my daughter’s house, rounding out the quiet with time spent with those I love.

What about you? What are the ingredients of your ideal Sunday?


The Writing/Teaching Lifestyle Balance

J Tower LogoWhen I chose to become a Language Arts teacher, I thought what better career could there be? If I can’t be writing, I can at least be teaching others how to write.  Since then, helping students learn to communicate effectively has been my joy, but also my challenge. As an employed teacher, I have so much less personal reading and writing time than I had as a writer. (I also have better health care and health care insurance, a steadier income, and of course, those three months of summer when I can be just a writer again.)

When September rolls around, it is always hard to let go of that writing-only lifestyle. However, with the big changes rumbling through our school districts with implementation of the Common Core State Standards, I am finding satisfaction in trying to help make the adjustment to more stringent literacy standards easier for both my colleagues and students.

In addition, I have come into this new school year committed to maintaining my own reading and writing lifestyle, even if in a more abbreviated form. How am I doing it?

  • I’m coming home from work and working on writing for an hour at least three days per week.
  • I am continuing to read writing periodicals and blogs. Because my husband and I commute together and he starts working earlier than I do, I use my early half hour at work to read about ways to continue building my skills and keep up with what’s happening in the writing world.
  • I am making myself go to bed early so I can get in at least an hour of reading time before going to sleep. (Is there anything more comfortable than reading in bed!)
  • I am committing to having something to share at my writing critique group meetings. (I once challenged one of my writing friends saying, “Anyone can bring a page.” Last spring she had the opportunity to hand that challenge back to me. And it’s true. We have two weeks between meetings. I should be able to bring at least a page.)

And so far, I feel pretty balanced. Yes, I yearn for more time to write and revise my fiction. However, I am also finding satisfaction in my time spent in the classroom. I feel like I am contributing to something worthwhile.

So, three weeks into the school year, how’s my balance? I can report that so far it is feeling pretty good. And by the grace of God, I can hope that it will stay that way.

Thank You

friends w starI have written this in my head many times, even written it in my head in the shower, even jotted down notes while dripping wet wearing only a towel. This post is a hard thing to do, but it shouldn’t be. It’s only acknowledging reality. Working full-time is not going to allow me enough free time to write novels and short stories and maintain a regularly scheduled blog.

And so, I want to take this time to thank those of you who have been following me here at Literate Lives.

When I started Literate Lives, I just wanted to put up something that might be helpful to parents, teachers, and other writers. Thank you for your willingness to receive what it has been my pleasure to provide.

Like my creative life, Literate Lives will not end, but will endure in a more free-form format. I plan to continue to post writing ideas, quotes I love, and information for writers and those who teach reading and writing. I simply will not be able to do so on as frequent or regular basis as I did in the past.

To those of you who took a chance and adopted my Greek and Latin Roots Vocabulary and Spelling Program, I extend my sincere apologies. This is a pet project of mine and when I started, I had every intention of completing a school-year’s worth of lists. Alas, that too must go on hold.

Thank you again, for continuing to follow me. I wish you a joyous holiday season!

Fall Football! Ya Gotta Love It, or Do You? Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #77

It’s Fall, and on Thursday and Friday nights the sounds of football echo over our little valley from the high school up on the hill. Today’s Play With Your Words Writing Prompt will have you writing about football, or some other sport if you prefer, from two different points of view.


Brainstorm a list of words you associate with football or the sport of your choice.


Write a description of football (or your other sport) from the point of view of someone who loves it.

Next, write a description of football (or your other sport) from the point of view of someone who hates it.

Revise and edit as necessary. Make certain both descriptions reflect powerful emotions.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share here as a comment. Consider the kinds of words you used to evoke the feelings you intended. What was particularly clear or expressive in your writing? What may have seemed weak compared to the rest? Compliment and encourage one another—and enjoy the process. Writing about strong feelings can be fun!

Defend an Epigram: Persuasive Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #60

I received the following epigram in the wrapping of a chocolate bar:

“Expect the best, and you may get it.”

Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Prepare to write about it.


On a piece of scratch paper, draw a “t” chart. Label the top left section of the chart, “Agree,” and the top right, “Disagree.” Brainstorms the reasons you might agree or disagree with the epigram in the columns under the appropriate headings.

Now, look over what you have written and decide which perspective for which you would like to craft an argument.


Open your persuasive essay with an introductory paragraph that includes the epigram and your thesis (theory) describing in simple terms your agreement or disagreement with it.

In the body paragraphs of your essay use ideas from your “t” chart to support your point-of-view.

For an even stronger essay, state ideas from the other side of the “t” chart and demonstrate how they are not true.

When done, wrap it up with a snappy concluding paragraph that ties all your ideas together.

(If you are pressed for time, just write the introductory or concluding paragraphs and list the ideas you would use in the body of your essay to support your argument.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share it as a comment here on the blog. Compliment one another on the strengths of your arguments, the clarity of your examples, and the vividness of your descriptions. In the end, will any of you change someone in your group’s mind?

What Could You do with a Butter Knife? Expository Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #49

Today’s expository writing prompt calls for you to use your imagination and your logical, concrete/linear thinking skills as well. Ready to stretch your brain?

What else could you do with a butter knife other than prepare food?

Could a butter knife be a tool that could help you with yard work? Housecleaning? At your desk? In building and construction work? With your car?

Suspend the scoffing voice that’s saying, “Don’t be silly.” A mark of creative people is their ability to use old things in new ways. So brainstorm—truly brainstorm. Don’t throw out any idea as too wacky. Then write a how-to article that details the many incredible uses for a butter knife.

When done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment one another on the breadth of ideas, clarity of expression, and the organization of your writing. Share your article as comment. I know I’m not the only one who would love to discover some innovative uses for the common butter knife.