Puffy stickers on a Trapper Keeper, a smile glistening with strawberry Kissing Potion, and a pencil box filled with scratch-and-sniff markers, and you were off to a great start for the school year. But how do you restart your writing after a summer of listening to the Pretty in Pink soundtrack on your Walkman? This Back-to-School Retro Summer post has the perfect checklist.
~ by Amanda Smith
The luggage is unpacked. The house is put back together. The kids are settled in their back-to-school routines. Which lends me to ask, in the words of our good friend Joey,
As much as we itch to get back to writing, finding our groove after the summer can be challenging. Here are a few strategies that help me focus my writing for the last quarter of the year.
Do you belong to a critique group or book discussion group? Often these groups take a hiatus over Summer. Don’t forget to press reset and get back to your normal routines.
When I was a kid I used to hate the “back to school” commercials that appeared on TV mid-vacation. We used to say “back to jail” or “back into the cage.” Now I view this time of year differently. I love the excitement of new teachers and learning. I appreciate routines clicking into place, like the gears of a well-oiled machine. And I enjoy the quiet house and increased productivity that it brings. This fall, may you find your desk, reset your schedule, go back to school, and set aggressive goals to finish the year strong!
During the dog-days of summer we are time-traveling back to elementary art class. Grab your Crayola Caddy, draw Harry, and while you are adding Pound Puppy features, consider your story's structure and details, just like my first graders taught me back in 2018.
~ by Amanda Smith
As a substitute teacher I often walk into an emergency, with lesson plans drawn up quickly by someone whose mind was in a much more urgent place. On one such a day, the art teacher left me, in her words, “sketchy plans” – most of which involved students finishing current projects followed by open studio. Now, I’m all for open studio and free draw, but first grade had no projects to finish first. That meant 45 minutes of free draw: The definition of chaos.
Thankfully, I had a planning period. And an ally in the school librarian. After thinking for a second or two, she pulled Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion off her shelf.
“You know,” she said, “kids love dogs. And they always enjoy Harry’s adventures.”
Together we studied Margaret Bloy Graham’s illustrations, and a lesson plan was born.
Fast forward to the first-grade class. I read the book. The kids were delighted. Then I held up Harry the Dirty Dog. “We are going to draw Harry,” I said.
Shock and mayhem.
“We can’t draw like that!”
I turned a deaf ear to the protests as I handed out a sheet of paper with a rectangle already drawn on it. I explained that we would have to work together to draw Harry, as it is a step by step process. Then the students and I drew Harry using the parameters of a rectangle.
As their dog drawings took shape, their joy was contagious. And here’s the thing: even though they all followed my instructions, not one of the dogs looked the same. We had skinny, long nosed dachshunds, and pudgy, round nosed puppies. We had droopy eared dogs and shaggy tailed dogs. Boy Harrys with spiky collars and girl Harrys with pink bows. Every student loved their own Harry, and was amazed that they could indeed draw like that.
Here’s what I learned by drawing Harry, and how it pertains to writing:
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