Monthly Archives: July 2010

Live From Austin II: What We Did

Worked. Ate. Worked. Ate again. Worked some more. Most people worked on their resources; I got to coach a few of them.

Lots of teams here working on phenomenal resources to enrich the lives of rural sites and rural teachers. I love this network and I love this work. Here’s some reasons why.

Bye y’all,


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Live from Austin I

Part I, in which Wordamour drives to the Crossings in Austin for a National Writing Project Rural Sites Network Resource Development retreat. The idea? Writing project teacher-consultants doing interesting site work at rural sites across the nation come together to begin transforming this work into a resource available for other sites to adapt and use.

Some photos from the Crossings, a lovely zen-like environ outside the city:

The walkway to the dining hall:

The best scones I have ever eaten in my life:


The infinity pool. That’s Austin in the distance.

The hot tub. Haven’t tried the pool or the hot tub since I got here; hoping this might be in my future tonight.

The kitchen garden, where all our delicious healthy meals begin. The chef was out there harvesting this morning but I didn’t have my camera.

Next Up: Live from Austin II: What We Did

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The Giving Tree: Sassy Gay Friend

Warning: If you love the book The Giving Tree, you probably shouldn’t read any further; I’m just going to make you mad.

Because I have never liked it. It always seemed pretty creepy to me. I don’t think Shel Silverstein necessarily meant it as a sweet tale, either, but rather a cautionary one. He wasn’t a real sentimental guy, our Shel. Anyway, my view was vindicated some years back when Walter the Giant Storyteller, a well-known children’s book champion and critic who came to the Arkansas Literary Festival, told me he never liked it either. But then along comes The Giving Tree: Sassy Gay Friend, wherein said friend finally helps the tree stand up for herself. What I love though, is how they sneak in another famous book at the end. Check it out:

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Inappropriate Little Golden Books

Pixar big guy Josh Cooley is coming out with a book called Movies R Fun with illustrations and captions from “Inappropriate Little Golden Books” based on movies like Silence of the Lambs and The Godfather!

I can’t wait. I may love my vintage LGB’s but I also have a sense of humor.

In other writing/reading news, the writing project finishes up this week and I have about a week free to catch up before heading off to a National Writing Project Resource Development retreat in Austin, TX.

I’m awaiting news from the editor on Rethinking Creative Writing in Higher Ed; they didn’t think they would get to look at it till the end of June. I’m kind of in suspended animation right now; I know I’m going to have to do a lot of work on it when they send it back, just because they’re really smart editors over there and they always see lots of things I need to do that I missed. Of course, that’s why they’re called editors.

Teaching Creative Writing: A Resource Guide and Sourcebook has been pushed back to August but any of you who teach courses in teaching creative writing could probably still order it in time for a fall course. Contact Fountainhead Press.

Older son is back from Duke TIP in North Carolina where he studied cryptography/code breaking and number theory, created his own enigmatic codes and generally had an awesome time bonding with his fellow geeks. The main thing this means for me is that he is now fluent in yet another “language” beyond my comprehension. And yet, bless his heart, he wants desperately to share it with me, at his usual breakneck talking speed. As my mother recommends, “Just nod and smile and let it wash over you.”

I’m just glad he’s home.

More later. Bye ya’ll,

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Great Bear Writing Project featured in the Arkansas Demozette

So I know I’ve been away awhile.  I’ve been tres caught up in the 2010 Summer Institute of the Great Bear Writing project.  I have more posts in the hopper though, so I promise to catch up.

We were featured in the state newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, today.  Reporter Debra Hale Shelton embedded herself with us during our Little Rock writing marathon.  Honestly, she could not have captured the spirit of the writing project more perfectly.  I’m copying the article in its entirety below. Enjoy, y’all. SV

When Illene Stewart walked into a used bookstore in Little Rock’s River Market District, she wondered about the authors whose works ended up on the shop’s shelves.

“How many authors are deceased? How many are still alive?” she wrote in an essay penned in a composition book she toted throughout the district on a sunny day last week.

When Eulea Kiraly entered the same bookstore, she left with a haiku, a Japanese poem of three unrhymed lines: On a shelf in a bookstore: Inspiration, as if you can buy it.

Inspiration wasn’t for sale. But Kiraly and 11 other University of Central Arkansas graduate students found it was readily available for free in the River Market area, where they participated in a day-long writing marathon as part of the four-week Great Bear Writing Project.

The project is one of 200university-based National Writing Project sites aimed at introducing teachers in all subject areas and at all grade levels to strategies they can use to help their pupils write well.

Divided into groups, the graduate students – including Kiraly, an English teacher in the Drew Center School District near Monticello, and Stewart, a counselor in the Batesville School District – were free to roam the area and scribble their thoughts.

They ambled along the banks of the Arkansas River, where birds chirped and children played in the bookstore, in nearby art galleries and a piano bar, even in the Peabody Little Rock hotel lobby, where ducks waddle daily down a crimson carpet to a marble fountain.

That afternoon, they and the UCA project’s director, associate writing professor Stephanie M. Vanderslice, gathered in a restaurant’s rustic basement to read aloud their creations – essays, poems, memoirs, the beginnings of short stories or novels, even a restaurant review.

Joining them were three co-directors, including Monda Fason, a writing instructor at UCA, and others.

This summer’s session has included a workshop on digital storytelling, book discussions, two writing-group sessions per week and teaching-idea exchanges, Vanderslice said.

Emily M. Abram, a fourth-grade teacher in Conway, opened the read-around last week with a poem she wrote that day and told the group what had inspired her.

“I took a streetcar ride. It was like Disney World,” she said.

Her poem spoke of “bright eyes,” “rumbles, shakes and horns,” “undiscovered treasures,” “moments in time hidden” and awakening her “love for the city.”

Bri Spicer, a UCA alumna who teaches writing as part of her graduate studies in Virginia, penned more somber words after she viewed an exhibition of photographs of Arkansas National Guardsmen who had fought in the Korean War.

“His face was still young, but that darkness was there,”Spicer wrote. “They weren’t men yet, and they were already looking” through binoculars “down the barrel of a gun.”

Other compositions brought laughter.

“I want to be the duck master. What a job!” wrote Kelly Wolfe, a Sheridan band director who stopped by the Peabody and saw its duckmaster, who wears a scarlet and gold-trimmed jacket as he directs the birds to a pond with a brass head duck cane.

“And when ducks talk back, it’s just cute,” Wolfe wrote.

Vanderslice offered her own humorous memoir after she and Fason stopped by a nearby furniture store.

“Monda and I just found heaven in a chair,” she wrote. But in this case, heaven came with a $600 price tag, she added.

“I could sit in this chair for the rest of my life,” she wrote. “There are three things that matter in life, the saleswoman told us, your shoes, your chair and your bed.”

Vanderslice and Fason said the leisurely marathon was about giving the students “permission” to write freely all day.

“A good part of our society says only certain people can be writers,” Vanderslice said. “Everybody else is just pretenders.”

By the end of the annual writing project, she said, participants realize they, too, can write.

“And if they can do it, they can give that experience to their students,” she said.

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