Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Slice of Life Tuesday: Story’s Sneak Attack

September 14, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know that Story has been a recurring character in my not-so fiction. If you want the rest of the story, you’re welcome to dig in to our past “conversations:”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

It was a long day. A bone-tired day. The kind of day where she comes home from school and wants to get right into pajamas. But she doesn’t, because there are dishes and laundry and housework and cooking and homework. It was the kind of day where going to bed feels terrible because she knows she’s going to just have to get up and repeat the whole process the next day.

THAT kind of day.

She kicked away her sandals at the front door, narrowly missing the dogs. She gave each one a head pat and a butt scratch before shooing them into the yard for a long-awaited doing of business. School bags got dropped, one after the other, on the floor or the kitchen table or the counter – it didn’t matter, so long as she didn’t have to shoulder them any more.

What to tackle first, she thought. Empty the dishwasher? Walk the dog? Call her mom? Answer emails? Vacuum up the dog hair dust bunnies from the family room rug? Sometimes, she thought, the best solution to too much is nothing.

A few moments, she thought. Just a few moments to sit outside on the deck, to absorb some sunshine, to listen to the cicadas, to let myself just…sit…still. She made her way to the deck, found the chair in her favorite, sunniest spot, pulled another one up for her feet, and sank down to spend some quality time with the inside of her eyelids.

“It’s been a minute.”

She didn’t need to open her eyes to know who had just pulled up beside her.


Maybe if she just sat there without responding, Story would go away, kind of like when the dog wakes her up at three a.m. Five seconds went by. Ten. Fifteen.

Story cleared her throat. “You know I’m still here, right?”

“About that. You’re HERE. Usually you wait until I’m at a Starbucks to catch me off guard. Somewhere in public, where I know you’ll behave yourself. Can’t you give me just a little bit of peace in my own back yard?”

“Now that’s a good one,” Story chuckled. “When have you ever known me to give you a bit of peace?”

“I don’t know,” she responded. “You haven’t visited me for a while. I thought maybe you had moved on.”

“Moved on? HA! Oh, my friend, you may not have seen me in a while, but I am always, always here. Whether or not you acknowledge me, I’m wherever you go.”

“I’m not sure if I should be comforted or creeped out.”

Story shrugged. “It’s your imagination. You decide.”

“That makes the question even harder.”

“Well,” Story said, “all I know is you’ve been scarce. I miss you. Listen, not to guilt trip you or anything –“

“Too late.”

“–but it’s not just me. I’ve been talking to Poetry, to Memoir, to Essay, the whole gang. Nobody’s seen you around. What gives?”

She felt her shoulders go heavy, her stomach clinch. Why had she been staying away? Was it lack of discipline? Dried-up creative juices? Plain old apathy? Perhaps, she figured, it was a mixture of the three. “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess…I haven’t felt like writing lately.”

“Haven’t felt like it? Haven’t FELT like it? C’mon. How many writers sit down and write every day because they FEEL like it? Honey, both you and I know you’ve let yourself go. It’s time to slide on back and hang out a little more often. No pressure, no guilt or shame.” Story thought a moment, reconsidered. “Well, maybe a LITTLE guilt or shame. You’ve hung me out to dry, you know.”

“Mmm, I like the no guilt or shame route. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s been a rough go these last months.”

“All the more reason you should be writing. You’ve got things to say, my friend. It’s time to get saying them.”

She sighed.

Here we go again, she thought, as she opened her computer, squared her shoulders, and placed her fingers at the keyboard.

Slice of Life 2021 Day 4: Kid Wisdom

March 4, 2021

Today marks Day 4 of the Slice of Life challenge. Join me as I work to write every day in March – and maybe beyond!

As I alluded to in yesterday’s post, I used my own writing as a mentor text for my fourth graders. The goal is to use student writing as the literature from which we conduct reading discussions. The REAL goal is to farm out the strategy, if it works. Who knows? Maybe we can have whole classes – whole SCHOOLS worth of children who see themselves as writers, who delight in creating literature that’s just as worthy of analysis as something they’d pick up off the bookshelf.

But I get ahead of myself.

Today, I read my students’ written responses to my work. I set them up with a 4-quadrant response chart before our class discussion. Reading their work, and then hearing them TALK about my writing? Friends, if you haven’t listened to other people talking about your writing, YOU. ARE. MISSING. OUT. I’m highlighting a few questions and ideas from my perceptive kiddos:

Something I don’t understand…
“Why is Lainie’s friend so mean? Why can’t Story be nicer?”
“Why should Story give Lainie a smirk if she already said ‘suit yourself?’ “

A question I have…
“Why does Lainie hate writing narrative fiction?”
“Maybe she is talking to her writing and doesn’t like it but STORY wants her to try again?”

Oh! This seems important…
“Story is telling Lainie she can’t tell her students to do one thing and do something else herself.”
“The friend is encouraging her.”
“Story is named…STORY.”

It’s interesting that…
“A lot of people don’t like writing things they can’t get wrapped up in.”
“Lainie always tries to encourage others but doesn’t try to encourage herself.”
“Lainie tells her students to do things she doesn’t want to do herself.”
“She is standing up for what she likes and doesn’t like.”

I want to let this wisdom stand, so I won’t belabor the point with a lot of extra chatter. But I will share TWO things:

  1. My favorite moment came when the students realized that Story smirked because she had tricked me into writing fiction. That’s when the kids were REALLY able to infer the “tough love” relationship I have with her.
  2. I mean, LOOK at what these kids observed and wrote. They have my NUMBER.

Now. If you need me. I’ll be sitting here, heart aflutter, waiting for what’s next around the bend. I can’t wait – and neither can my loveys!

Slice of Life 2021 Day 3: Story Has Her Say

March 3, 2021

Today marks the third day of March, the third day of the Slice of Life blogging challenge. I’ve committed to write each and every day during the month of March and – who knows? – maybe even longer. Join me! This entry was inspired by the conversation I had with my students this week after sharing a snippet of fiction I wrote. That writing is linked at the bottom as Part 1 of this series.

“You know they called you mean, right?”

Story stopped scrolling through her Instagram long enough to look up. “What?”

“My students. They read about you and me in the coffee shop, and they thought you were being mean to me.” Lainie shrugged her shoulders. “I can’t help what they say about you.”

Story rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on. You can’t help what they think of me? You don’t really believe that, do you?”

“It’s true,” an indignant Lainie huffed. “I say it all the time. ‘You can always write what you want, but you can’t control what happens with your work once you release it out into the world.’ “

“Yeah, yeah,” her companion snapped. “All of that trusting in art and all that blah blah.” She paused a beat. “But aren’t you ALSO the one who says that ‘as authors, we have the power to do anything we want as long as we make it readable and believable?’

“So what’s your point, Story?”

You know the point.”

“Of course I do. I’m the author. I know EVERYTHING about my story.” Lainie added triumphantly, “I say THAT to my kids, too.”

“Then give the whole story. I bet you didn’t even let them read the second and third installments of our conversations, did you? I look much better in those. Instead I just end up looking like the bad guy.”

“I’m perfectly fine with that,” Lainie replied.

“Well, I’m not. And you can tell those kids I’m not mean. I’m honest. I’m the friend who tells you what you need to hear. If I’m rough around the edges, well, that’s just how you see me. So if you don’t start taking all the advice you keep doling out about this ‘power of a writer’ nonsense, I’m going straight to your students and telling on you.”

A silence settled between them. The barks of a neighborhood dog and the rumble of a passing truck outside filled the space. Lainie couldn’t speak. She had too much stuck in her craw. She’s got me again, Lainie thought. How does she always know how to get me?

“I suppose,” Lainie begrudged, “that I could tell the kids that sometimes I get stuck.”

“And?” Story asked expectantly.

“And that sometimes I know I just need a good talking-to to get me going.”


“And maybe I should let kids read the rest of the story.”


Heavens, Lainie sighed. She’s going to make me say it, isn’t she? “And I’m grateful for the way you come to remind me that I need to be less of a scaredy-pants about pushing myself in writing.” Lainie waited for Story’s response. “Happy now?”

Story held her gaze for an extra moment before returning to her newsfeed. “Guess the kids will be the judge of that.”

Now, if YOU want the rest of the story, you’re welcome to dig in to our “conversations:”
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

At the Edge of Wild, Part 2

April 16, 2020

You may want to read part 1 before this post. Or not. Who knows? It just may stand on its own. But I’m trying a hybrid fiction-poetry piece, and to be honest? I’m kind of digging it.

she sat
a pixel
suggesting a curve in the road,

away from her lines
and her lists
and her rules
and her places
and her things

and she worried
about opening up
to this space

and she worried
would the ground hold her feet?
would gravity still hold her
to her moorings?

what if

when she stepped,
she stepped out,
her world fell away, if
she plunged into wild?

or what if

when she stepped,
she stepped in,
her world came alight, if
she had at once

to be continued…

thanks again to Memoir of a Writer for the inspiration!

At the Edge of Wild, Part 1

April 15, 2020

thanks to Memoir of a Writer for providing the inspiration for this post.

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed … We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.”
― Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water

Had she been driving with the windows down, playlist off, phone notifications silenced, she might have felt at one with the growl of tires on loose gravel, or allowed the matted damp musk of a forest after the just-rain to even her keel.

But she, hands at ten and two, cruise control set, knew by her navigation app that this place, this pixel on her screen, was not the programmed destination. That this space of curved routes, of buffering coverage, would give way to the comfort of lines upon lines, to the contentment of street names and strip malls and traffic lights. Of places to go, things to do.

Until the fox.

She almost missed it, shaggy and sauntering, trotting its way at the side of the road. But there it was. And she had never seen a fox before, not one outside of a cage, or an exhibit, or a museum display. Not one ever in its intended space. And all of a sudden, she was not sure if she’d never seen one because they’d been elusive, or if she had simply never looked.

Despite herself, she found herself off-course.

She broke. Shifted. Killed her engine.

There, in that very particular silence that fell, in that very stillness she had guarded herself from, in that very quiet she had for so long kept at bay, she now sat.

(to be continued)

A Heart, Moved

April 3, 2020

There were so very many things
That moved my heart
In one direction or another:

There were times
My smile reached past my ears
And perhaps to my toes

There were times
My smile faltered
Just a little bit
I heard it crack
Right along with a few
Pieces of my heart

There were times
My smile held firm
In the enough
Of now.

Poetry Month: Piece of Mind*

April 2, 2020

I sit on the floor, legs splayed,
Jigsaw pieces scattered
My work is cut out for me.

Most people open just one
But I wonder where the fun
Is in that.

Take out one box, two boxes,
Dump the pieces out and
See how it comes together.

You say you like to sort for
Good luck with that.

It would be nice
For pieces to make sense
Between themselves, but
Too bad they are now swimming
In different ponds.

You’ll find a match,
Make forward progress on
Switch your attention
To the next
Or the other
Or was that the first?

No mind.
Plow through the jumble
Keep trying
Until something
Resembles anything.

It may not be prudent
Or efficient
Or practical
Or wise,
But think of the satisfaction
When at last
You have a fit.


*I’m not going to lie. This is the kind of stuff that I did as a kid. I’d dump a bunch of puzzles together and solve them at the same time. My days of e-learning feel very much like that challenge.

April Fool’s

April 1, 2020

If ever there were a year that April Fool’s were both welcome AND despised, this would certainly be it. NO ONE is in the mood to mess around with anything. And yet, at the same time, we need humor and levity more than ever.

As a teacher, I’m often conflicted about April Fool’s jokes in the classroom. There’s an uneven power dynamic, and it generally makes me uncomfortable to have any sort of humor at my kids’ expense.

Still, there were two times I was able to pull a stunt off. I’ll tell you about one of them (and perhaps save the other for next year?).

April 1, 1999. Fourth grade. A few kids asked me if they could do an April Fool’s joke on the class. I agreed. They stayed in from recess. We swapped four or five pairs of desks, then swapped the name tags so it looked like all desks were in their original spot. The rest of the student desks remained untouched.

Cue the recess bell. Kids file in. I ask kids to take out their journals for writing. MASS CONFUSION as there are a lot of kids who have the wrong journals. There is some grumbling from people who could swear they left their desks cleaner than how they found them. Somehow we press ahead, and everyone gets their own journal. But the natives are restless. We’re going to need a reveal, and SOON.

“OK, class, let’s get started writing. What’s today?”
“Yes. And what day is it today?”
“Yes, but what DAY is it today?”
“Yes, but…” I say, moving to the chalk board and gesturing to the date quite pointedly, “What’s today? What DAY is it?”
“April first.”
“What day?”
“April first!”
“Yes, and…” I say, folding my arms and looking around, “What does that mean?”

There is a moment of silence before the recognition sets in, before the kids realize they’d been had, before the kids realize how messed up things were, before kids realized that some of their classmates had been in on the fun.

That was PRICELESS. Many laughs were had. My guess is that some of them still remember that day.

#SOL20 Day 31: A Conversation with Story, Resolved

March 31, 2020

I thought that this piece, a continuation of my first and my second “conversations” with Story, might be a good place to bring some closure to this month-long writing challenge.


“Well?” She drummed her fingernails on the table.

“Well…what?” blinked Story, letting the right corner of her mouth twitch up into an almost-smile.

“Oh, come on. You know. You were the one who came in here a month ago, rocking all kinds of boats and upsetting all kinds of apple carts. You were the one who dragged me into this.” She folded her arms expectantly. “Don’t you think I deserve some kind of recognition?”

Story didn’t miss a beat. “Sure. Make yourself a cookie.”

Her face fell. “Ouch.” Then, “That’s a little harsh, don’t you think? All I’m asking for is some kind of acknowledgement that this month was hard. That it took courage and discipline to write fiction when all I really wanted to do was to stay comfortable in my journal and poetry zone. Is that too much to ask?”

“Why are you asking me? Who ever said you needed validation from me in the first place?”

She sat for a moment, looking at her hands, twiddling her thumbs, first forward…then backwards…

Story continued. “Was I the one who signed you up for writing every day?”

“No, but -“

“And was I the one who magically decided that you wanted to write more fiction?”

She cleared her throat. “I – I thought that you…”

You thought! That’s the point!” Story shook her head. “You’re sitting here insisting I’m the one who put you up to this? That I’m the one who is somehow responsible for making you take this all on?”

She banged her palm on the table “That’s exactly what I’m saying. You’re the one who keeps showing up, who keeps following me, who keeps calling me a chicken if I don’t flex my writing muscles.”

“Honey, I hope you know by now that I like you.” Story looked her in the eye. “So I’m sure you will forgive me for telling you that’s a load of bull.”

She sat, confused, though nothing would surprise her at this point. “What on earth do you mean?”

“Oh, come on,” Story said. “It’s time for you to give yourself credit already. Yeah, I drop in from time to give you grief about things, but think about this: who’s sitting in front of the computer every day? Who’s deciding what to write? It sure as heck ain’t me.”

“But – but, the guilt trips? And the teasing?”

“All you, sweetie. I’m just a voice in your head.”

She sighed, loosened her shoulders. “So…I don’t need you after all then, do I?”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s not go that far. Everybody needs me.” Story set her jaw. “And don’t you forget it.”

#SOL20 Day 28: On Boredom

March 28, 2020

As a writer, I very much stand “guilty as charged” when it comes to planting seeds…and then forgetting about them. Today I spent some time walking among the rows of drafts that I’ve planted on my blog, and I found this one. It strikes me as timely right now, especially as so many of us are grappling with new ways to face the boredom that comes to greet us. I gave it a little tending, and here I offer it to you.

Boredom gets a bad rap. It’s my sense that boredom is more like that 70’s kitchen with the avocado fridge, brown walls and the carpeting. Still useful and important, but maybe it needs an update or two.

Maybe if you’re talking about boredom as that anxious, antsy, holy-cow-how-am-I-going-to-occupy-my-time boredom, maybe that’s not so great. But that’s not how I see it. Here’s where I’m coming from.

Despite what my husband may think, I’m an introvert. Yes, I can schmooze when I need to, but boy does it wear me out. And one of my favorite things to do is to get lost in my thoughts.

I’ve always loved being on my own, entertaining myself. Even when I was little. I would disappear for hours inventing a new nature hike, or hang out in my room putting on puppet shows for myself, or stare out the car window counting things.

And even now, as a grown-up. Yes, I have sat through my share of hours of mind-numbing meetings, lines, car trips and airport waits. But for the most part, I can’t often say that I’m bored, because I always have some way to occupy my brain.

Why do I mention this?

Because it’s what I want for my students. For most of them, the only time they have to be alone in their thoughts is when they’re laying awake at bedtime. In those moments, the mind that’s been anxious to explore all day now has free rein. And as anyone who’s lain awake at night with a racing mind knows, that’s not always a good thing.

So I’ve introduced time in class for students to just sit. Sit and think. It was funny to watch them at first, strange and awkward. I could see their questions in the way they fidgeted and looked around. What do we do with our hands? What do we look at?

But once kids get past the awkward, something magical happens. They start to LIKE it. They start to enjoy and look forward to the time I give them to let their brains explore wherever they’d like to go.

I think we’re on to something!