Monthly Archives: July 2016

Making Writers

Sometimes writing feels like standing all alone in the fog–shivering in the damp–uncomfortable and vulnerable, waiting for the worst.

img_2284-1

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Writers write best in a supportive community, in a place where attempts are celebrated and seeds are planted–some intentionally and carefully like those meticulously cultivated gardens and some flung far and wide like dandelion seeds floating in the wind.

dandelion seed

And writers also need to play and break the rules, find their own voice in the cacophony of others.  Occasionally they need a nudge to take those carefully stacked plates and push them over, flinging the words here and there, then gathering them again to make meaning of the shards of ideas uncovered in the process.

IMG_7754

Sometimes writers need to lean in close, breathe in the sweet scent of what it means to create new life as ideas emerge from words rubbed together.

img_9905

At other times, writers need to step back and take in the long view.  What new understandings reveal themselves when you look from the heights, from places you hadn’t dare stand before? Writing can be a process of discovery, exploring new territory or old territory from new perspectives.

DSC06678

Writers need inspiration, sparks that send them on wild chases and deep digs.  And to be inspired, writers must open themselves–listen carefully, look widely, pay attention to the mundane, and seek out the ordinary. Nothing is too lowly to inspire words and ideas. Consider even the cat, asleep, with its head in a box.

img_1895

But mostly, writers need to trust that they have something to say–to themselves, to their neighbors, to readers and other writers.  They have to trust that words matter, thoughts matter, and the world matters.  They must want to write, and need to writer, but most of all, they actually have to do that thing that so many resist, and WRITE!

IMG_7306

If you want to make a writer.

***Note:  This piece was inspired by the article Hey Matt by Molly Toussant where she writes about her beliefs about teaching writing.  This piece was created as a “found photo essay” inspired by a peek at my media library as a way to think about writing and writing instruction.

 

 

Poetry Play

We challenged the SDAWP SI folks to transmediate their own writing by adding sound and/or animation.  And that meant that I had to figure it out too!  I know I am most comfortable with still photographs and words, so this pushed me out of my comfort zone.  After some frustrating attempts at other applications, I turned to iMovie for my make.  I used my original photos along with a couple others had taken of our group, added a poem I wrote on yesterday’s writing marathon around the UCSD campus, and then recorded my voice.

Here’s my first attempt:

I am wishing that I had taken some video on the writing marathon to add some other texture to the piece. What suggestions would you make to improve this piece?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sound

I tend to be drawn to silence, those quiet spaces where my mind can wander while my feet move. But it’s summer in San Diego, crowds gather and space becomes a premium.  The sounds of the waves are dwarfed by the screams of delight as kids rush into the cool, salty waves, families laughing and talking over chips and sandwiches, and the loudspeaker of the lifeguards reminding swimmers to stay in the zones deemed safe from the dangerous rip currents.

img_2287

But early in the morning, the quiet remains. The beach is mostly empty, wide open for exploration and introspection. Damp morning air kisses my cheeks as my feet delight in the almost warm summer surf.  (I did say almost–probably not warmer than 68 degrees!)

img_2253

I notice others who revel in the sounds of the morning beach too. A seagull tucks his head as I appreciate the mirror-like effect of the wet sand.

img_2284-1

I wonder about the sounds the surfers hear as they ride the waves.  Are their ears filled with the whoosh and roar of waves and water?  Or is there an exquisite quiet that happens when the waves wash away sounds from the shore?

img_2266

img_2261

And what is the sound of dilemma?  Rock or surf or smile?  You pick which direction to head!

snapseed-1

I can hear the sounds of conversation in these windows, fun artistic silhouettes I found in these warehouse buildings.

img_2323

So…take a look around for sounds.  Sounds of silence, of delight, of pain, of loneliness, of summer–you decide.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #sound for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Listen with your eyes this week–what sounds do you hear and how will you represent them in your photographs?  Be sure to share…I can’t wait to hear your sounds with my eyes!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Appreciating the Ordinary

Some weeks just don’t lend themselves to extraordinary photography. Now I’m not complaining about my week–it’s been fun and busy, with lots of writing and thinking as we complete week two of our 4-week SDAWP Summer Institute.

Sunsets are not always a sure thing here on the coast–night and morning low clouds can interfere with sun sightings.  Last weekend, we decided to risk it and headed to the beach near sunset.  We were treated to some pretty orange as the sun dipped low.  If you look closely you might noticed the pelicans in the upper left corner flying through the frame.

img_2190

It’s not unusual to see these flying billboards–banners attached to small planes that buzz the coastline mostly advertising alcoholic beverages.  I noticed these two different planes flying by and saw that they would cross paths right overhead.  They were not dangerously close, but I’m glad they were paying attention to each other!

img_2200

We’re pretty fortunate that the beach we frequent is mostly free of garbage in spite of the heavy usage, especially in the summer.  Balloon trash is pervasive though.  This balloon looks to have been around for awhile–with most of the words worn off.  The #Litterati movement (and my friend Janis) reminds us to pick up trash where we find it and dispose of it properly.  I love the sky and the sea in this unfiltered photo, there’s something about the clouds and the sea foam of the waves that creates a texture and an echo.

img_2196

The walk from the parking lot to the building where the SI takes place each day can be both ordinary and interesting.  I noticed these two small orange birds as they perched on the sign near the sidewalk where I walk. Using the app Colorsplash, I turned the photo to black and white and then allowed the bird color to remain in my hopes of highlighting them.

img_2216

I was reminded of the power of nature…even just a tree in a parking lot…to affect my mood.  Rachel Carson’s quote captures the jolt of strength and sense of oasis that I experience when I look up through the leaves of the tree.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
— Rachel Carson

img_2228

The practice of noticing makes an incredible difference in my life.  The photos I take capture only a fraction of what I notice, and noticing helps me appreciate the little things in the ordinariness of my life. So take a look around, how might you view the ordinary in new and more appreciative ways?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #ordinary for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

What will you find when you pause to appreciate the ordinary?  I can’t wait to find out!

 

I Used to Be…

Summer is the time for the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) Summer Institute (SI), a place where a group of teachers (K-16) dives deeply into the teaching of writing.  Part of that experience means sharing an aspect of your own teaching practice through a demo lesson.  Today’s lesson, presented by Nicole, invited the group to consider the idea of change…I used to be, but now I am.  As I considered that prompt I was reminded of an experience a few weeks ago during our visit to the Pacific Northwest.

My eyes scanned the horizon, I was hoping against hope that I would spy a whale out on the Puget Sound. Would I see an orca breaching or a humpback emerging for one of those infrequent breaths? That endless blue remained endless, unbroken by emerging whales.

img_2026

As we neared Victoria by ferry, my attention was drawn to the sky. I heard that familiar buzzing that I recognize as an airplane. But wait! This wasn’t the usual biplane or other small plane I am accustomed to seeing off the coast at home. The plane clearly had something on the bottom of it…pontoons. This was a seaplane and I watched it bank and turn, get lower and lower until it was right above the water and at that moment transformed from a plane to a boat.

img_2025

Walking around Victoria after leaving the ferry, I kept noticing these seaplanes taking off and landing. Standing on a bridge, I noticed one land nearby and braved the conversation with my husband. “How much do you think they charge for a ride in a seaplane?” He replied in his typical, “It’s probably more than $250 a person” fashion. And then made a comment that I continue to think about. “Why do you ask? You wouldn’t want to ride in one anyway.” I pursued the idea, “Let’s go find out!” A walk down onto the pier led to a miniature airport where we found a seaplane airline offering flights into Seattle and Vancouver…and tours of Victoria. It wasn’t long before we had our boarding passes and a boarding time.

So why did he think I wouldn’t want to tour the island in a seaplane? I do admit to a fierce fear of heights. I’m reluctant to walk to the edge of a railing, to look over the edge of a cliff, even to watch someone else do those things. My hands sweat watching people scale heights on TV! But in spite of that fear, I have been climbing higher and working to endure the discomfort in order to appreciate the thrill and view that heights have to offer. Last summer I stood 103 stories up on a clear plexiglass platform in the building formerly known as Sears Tower in Chicago…and that was after a Ferris wheel ride view of the city from Navy Pier the day before. I’ve been hiking up mountainsides and inching closer to the edges of railings on rooftops and bridges.

And I’ve taken a seaplane tour of Victoria! Seatbelted in the plane wasn’t fear invoking at all—it felt much like a commercial airline flight, only better. The small plane meant I had both a window and aisle seat—and plenty of opportunity to see the island from a variety of angles.

img_2031

From the plane I had a breathtaking view of the beauty and variety that Victoria has to offer.

img_2050

img_2049

I’m working to change my narrative from fearful to risk-taking. I’ve even been toying with the idea of skydiving…just once, for the experience, inspired by Esther who skydived for her 80th birthday. But for now I’ll just keep inching closer to the edge (and carry a small towel to wipe those telltale sweaty hands!).  So…I used to be afraid of heights, but now, even though I’m still afraid, I’ll keep climbing!