Sunday, October 8, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Our First MDA Walk


Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


This weekend I'm celebrating because we participate in our first Muscular Dystrophy Association event! My husband was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy in 2011 and even though his grandmother also has it, it was a shock to him and to us. 

He thought his life was going to significantly change and he wondered what it meant for him but he's lucky to still have a lot of use of his muscles. A few months ago he announced that he wanted to participate in the MDA race this weekend, he told his story, and he started collecting donations. We are lucky to have an amazing support system and he raised over $2000. Not just that, look at all of our friends and family who came out to support and walk with us today! It felt really great. 
This shows the power of telling a story. For a long time, Chad didn't want to tell his story. He didn't want people to know he was dealing with this disease or to think of him differently because of it. But by telling his story, he felt more empowered, he inspired others, and he raised awareness. And in participating in the event today, he connected with others who have Muscular Dystrophy. I'm so proud of him and happy to be on this journey with him!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Family, Friends, and Books


Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


So much to celebrate this weekend but I'm going to focus on three that stand out! 

1. The biggest celebration is that my parents and my aunt are home! They were on a once-in-a-lifetime, month-long trip to Europe. It was fun to follow along on their adventures but we missed them and are so glad to have them home. 

2. My seven-year-old is in a mother-son book club! We had our first meeting this weekend where all the boys talked about Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was so cute and they seemed to love it. One of the discussion questions asked who they would take with them on a trip like Charlie takes Grandpa Joe. He stuck his thumb at me and said, "This one." And then he explained it was because I'm really nice. Aw!

3. On the writing side of things, I pulled the book The Productive Writer off of my shelf and remembered how much I loved it when I read it a few years ago. I definitely need to share it in one of my READ posts so I'll be doing that here soon. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Story Exploratory LIVE and Younique



Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


Today I'm celebrating a new adventure. I like new adventures. A lot. There's something in me that likes doing new things. This could be as simple as trying a new drink at Starbucks to as wild as indoor skydiving.

This new adventure is a two-for-one. It all started over the summer when I watched a video on Facebook and another video popped up. This new random video was a woman talking to the camera while she put her makeup on. I was mesmerized. She was funky and cool and I watched the entire thing. It wasn't until the end that I realized she was a Younique presenter and that she was selling makeup. Then later in the summer my friend Erin started posting about Younique and I joined her group. She talks about books and her life and makeup as self care. And she was having fun going live in her Facebook group.

Here's where my fun comes in. I realized I could buy the Younique kit and get all the amazing products. And I could start my own Facebook group where I could share videos with my friends and host parties. So I did it.

The adventurous thing is I don't know much about makeup and I've never been live on Facebook before. So it'll definitely be an adventure! But I think it'll be super fun and I'm always up for something new.
The cool thing is I get to hang out with amazing friends in what I hope will be a warm, fuzzy place of positivity. Do you want to join Story Exploratory LIVE? Send me an email jen [at] teachmentortexts [dot] com or request to join the group and we'll work it out!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating 826CHI Diversity in Literacy Panel


Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


I'm celebrating something super exciting this week! Yesterday I was invited to be part of a literacy panel with 826CHI. Maria, the Director of Programs at 826CHI, invited me to be part of it and I was thrilled and honored to be in such great company. 
Here's Maria introducing our awesome panel. The space at 826CHI was transformed into a fancy setup with rows of seats and special lighting. So cool. 

And here are the wonderful people I was so excited to learn from: Dr. Horace Hall, Maria Rivera, and Dr. Sakeena Everett. They were fantastic and had such great insight to share. It was so evident that they are passionate about the work they are doing and that was the best part.  
Besides the honor of being on the panel with fantastic people...Chad and the kids came with! They got to shop the Secret Agent Supply Co and explore the writing and tutoring space behind the storefront. I wish I had a video of their gasp when Tyler who works in the store opened the secret door! It was awesome. But then they saw the space behind the wall and they were amazed all over again. They stood on the stage, tried to hula hoop, and found lots of fun games to play with. It made me so incredibly happy that they got to see how awesome 826CHI is and that they go to see their mom doing something so special. 

Someday I hope they look back on all the things we do and have great memories that inspire them to do good in their own lives.

If you aren't familiar with 826CHI or their other branches, be sure to check them out! They are my favorite organization and doing much needed work!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WATCH: Katy Perry - Chained To The Rhythm Video

I often describe the town I grew up in as a bubble. It wasn't until I went to college that I started to even remotely realize just how sheltered I was and how different the whole town was compared to the rest of the world. 

Watching Katy Perry's performance at the Grammy Awards made me think of my childhood but also of the world we live in today. There are so many things we perceive that might or might not be true. And there is so much that we have to question and analyze and decide about, especially in a world of supposed fake news and social media.


I wanted to bring awareness to this song and this performance because it impacted me in terms of how I think about and view the world but also in my own writing. I've been working on revisions of a young adult novel and in this particular book, the main character has a lot going on in her head. She's trying to cover the sadness and insecurity she faces. So much of this story in particular is about what people see on the outside versus what a person is experiencing on the inside. Many if not most books are like this and it's one reason I love reading and writing so much. I've discovered so much from getting to know a main character as I'm reading. As a writer, I love that I have the opportunity to help readers see that there is more to us than meets the eye. It's fascinating to think about and I hope you get some inspiration. 

Watch and think about your own life or your own writing. Can you recognize examples of how something portrayed to others is different from the reality? Explore this in your own writing - either about yourself or in connection to your main character. I've recognized that in order for readers to connect with your character, they need to know what the scoop is. Here's a great blog post from Adventures in YA Publishing about a blueprint for writing that I found to be super helpful. It refers to your protagonist and what's going on under the surface and I hope you find it helpful!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Embracing the Suck



Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


Earlier this week, thanks to a friend, I discovered Gail Crust's blog. It's new! She's a new blogger and I was excited to read her first post. I remember when I first started blogging. A friend had suggested I try blogging and I had no idea what I was doing but I set up my blog and I started. That was in 2008. Since then, I've written tons of blog posts and connected with so many amazing people online and in real life. 

I especially love how Gail talks about being a writing teacher instead of a writing teacher...and she means a teacher who writes with kids instead of a teacher who teaches writing without also doing it herself. If only every student could have a teacher who writes. It makes a huge difference. In my comment to her I explained why i believe this is so important.

"My family and I went to an amusement park near us today and I saw a guy with a shirt that said, 'Embrace the Suck'. I have absolutely no idea what the shirt was referring to* but I was really close to asking him if I could take his picture because sometimes I really do feel like writing means embracing the suck. It's also embracing the creative life that comes with being a writer and the awesome...but there's a lot about writing that feels like "the suck". The thing is, if we (as teachers) are in the arena with them, it's more like being writers together rather than, like you said, being a writing teacher who doesn't write. I'll never forget when I started writer's notebooks with my students and I realized I was going to have to write in my own to model for them and write along with them...it felt like pressure but it was a good pressure because just having a notebook with them helped me start to think like a writer. I started noticing things so I could put them in my notebook and I still love my notebook. I love that I get to read your very first post and I'm excited to see where this writing journey takes you."

I looked it up and it seems that "embrace the suck" is a military term. You can read more about it in this NPR article here if you'd like.

My idea behind Story Exploratory was that it would be a place to share in the suck together...and to share in the fun and excitement of writing too. BrenĂ© Brown talks about being in the arena in Rising Strong and how your trust is different when someone is in the arena with you. 

I'm here. Living the writing life as best I can. Celebrating all that comes with it, the fun times and the suck. I'm glad you're here too!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

READ: How To Reboot Yourself


I find power in others telling their stories and 
I hope you do too!
Check out It's Monday! What Are You Reading? at Book Date
For the kidlit version, visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

It's summer and for me, that means time off with my family and the headspace to focus on my writing and to reassess my life in general...which means I've been reflecting on all the plans I had for this blog and what I hoped it would be. I haven't kept up with posts as much as I'd like to but I do love having this space to talk about writing in general so I'm starting with this post and hoping to get back into the swing of at least posting once a week here. 

The post How To Reboot Yourself from Mike Vardy at Lifehack reminded me of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and her podcast Happier. In the book and on her podcast, Gretchen talks about how when you have some kind of life change, it gives you an opportunity to start fresh. It can be something huge like starting habits after you move or when you start a new job. For me the summer is like a clean slate. It's a clear breaking point when I can start up new habits. This year I really wanted to focus on yoga so I got an unlimited membership at my favorite local yoga studio. I've been going at least 4 times a week so far and am hoping to keep it up for the rest of the summer. I also wanted to zone in on writing revisions of my YA novel and to get that done before the end of June. I'm making good progress but I know I need to step up my game a bit. And then there's blogging. I also want to zone in on my blogs and making sure to keep up with them because they are a wonderful opportunity for instant publication and it helps me to have a place to get my thoughts out of my head.

Maybe you don't have the summer off like me but even starting a new week on Monday can be a sort of restart. Don't feel that you have to have summer off or move to a new city. If you feel like you might need a reboot, read Mike's post and try one of the idea he suggests. When it comes to writing, even a new notebook could be a great restart or finding a new place to write and making a commitment to write every Tuesday...just do it once and then do it again and over time it becomes a habit. But also, I know there are times when I've needed a break from my writing and maybe that would be helpful too. Take a break and plan to start up again with a fresh outlook. 

Have you ever tried a reboot for your writing or something else?
Can you recognize a time in your life when you experience a reboot 
and maybe you weren't even trying?
How did it feel? How did it impact your mindset?
I'd love to hear your stories!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Yoga and Just Doing It



Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


A little over two years ago, I ran an 8k without enough training and my plantar fasciitis was in full effect. It's taken me a really long time to get over it and still have some heel pain if I try to run even for a few minutes. I'm slowly adding one minute at a time to my running but until I can (hopefully) run again, I'm putting lots of energy into yoga and walking. So today I'm celebrating a week with lots of yoga! 

I signed up for unlimited yoga for the month at my favorite local studio and went everyday this week except for yesterday. My body already feels stronger overall. I got to use the new wall ropes they recently installed, focus on my breathing, and work on my chaturanga. 

At the end of my first class where we used the walls ropes the entire time, the teacher asked if we were all okay with going upside down. We were all pretty skeptical but at the same time, we all said yes. I wasn't sure how this was going to work...at all. But he asked another person in class to show how to do it and then we did. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it was going to be! And it was fun!

Which leads me to the biggest lesson I learned - or was at least reminded of - from this week. Too often our heads get in the way of what our bodies are able to do. If I can just distract my brain for a few minutes, or tell my brain to stop holding me back and just do what I don't think I can do...I can actually do it. 

The same goes for writing. So often I sit down to write and feel stuck but as soon as I can tell my brain to stop getting in my way, my words start flowing. It's not easy, but it's helpful to know that it's really possible. I can revise this novel I'm working on. I have to stop thinking about it and just do it. 
  
Which reminds me of my mantra: I believe I can and I will. It works for yoga, it works for writing, it works for lots of other things. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Summer and First Line Mentor Texts



Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

It's summer! At least for a few of us in our house it is. My husband's school gets out on June 9th but the boys and I have been off for a week already. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous. We've been to the pool twice and my mom, my sister, and I took the boys to Cedar Point for a few days. I had never been and it was super fun!



While we were away, I left my computer at home and it was nice to have the freedom to just enjoy being away and spending time with my family. We have some great stories to share and so many laughs. While we were at the water park, I found a seed idea for a middle grade novel. We'll see if I ever write it but I was glad that I at least had my writer's notebook with me so I could jot down ideas. A writer can never underestimate the power of living. It gives you ideas! If I just sat in front of my computer all the time, I wouldn't have stuff to write about. 

Speaking of writing, I've been working on a picture book and I find that using first lines from other picture book as mentor texts really helps me. Too often, my first versions are more to the point and would be considered "telling". The good thing about picture books is it's super easy to just start again since they are so short. After I write a first draft, I'll go back and pull some mentor texts, read them for ideas of how the story rolls out, and then I'll pull a line or two and try writing my own lines with the same rhythm or style. I've done this a few times with different manuscripts and with different mentor texts. It helps me so much! If you want ideas for snatches of text, you can visit Teach Mentor Texts for lots of ideas!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Getting Through Stuck


Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


I'm taking a quick break from revisions to share how I got through stuck. 

I was stuck. 

I had lots of reasons for being stuck. 

But then those reasons started to feel like excuses.

So I made time to sit down and get unstuck. 

But little bits of time here and there became me just staring at the words that were there and not knowing where to go next.

I was still stuck. 

Stuck on chapter three. 

I'm revising a young adult novel and chapter three was like a muddy rut and even though I was there, splattered with mud, desperately wanting to get out, the tires just couldn't catch. I was going no where. 

Two things helped me finally get through stuck. 

1. I found a nice chunk of time to actually really feel like I could get past chapter three. Something about knowing that I had enough time to wrestle with it made a difference. My mind was in the mode of knowing I had to do whatever it would take. Sometimes it's all mental but I find that if I pay attention to what's going on in my head, I can get past it. (For example, not that long ago, I was convinced I need a candle to be able to revise. I spent some time and a little money going to buy a candle, but then I could sit and focus. Moral of the story: It helped me get stuff done.)

2. I found other things to do than just figure out what would come after chapter three. I already had a list of thing to do with this novel based on CP feedback. I needed to add some description of a few places and characters so I focused on that. It felt like progress even though I had no idea where these descriptions were going to go. Free writing helped me feel like I was adding words to the page and it got me connected to the story again. 

And now I'm not stuck any more!

I'm way past chapter three and it feels good. I'm celebrating getting through stuck today. Maybe you've been there too and what got me through might get you through. Maybe you have ideas to share with me. (I'd love to hear them!) Maybe I'll need to remember what worked this time I was stuck...because I'm sure I'll be stuck again.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Podcasts


Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


Last week, I had to spend an hour in the car driving to visit a school. They're doing something called blended learning and a small group of us were going to see what it looks like in action. 

Knowing I would be in the car for an hour, I looked up some podcasts. I had a This Creative Life episode waiting for me and also an episode from Dear Hank & John. I listened to both and then I also listened to a couple of episodes from I Should Be Writing.

I used to drive at least 45 minutes both way but now I barely have a 5 minute drive so I don't listen to audiobooks like I used to but I decided I really like podcasts so I started looking for others I might like. 

Well, I found Happier with Gretchen Rubin and I'm in love! I've listened to almost 20 episodes now. I love that they are short (about 20 minutes) and they have good ideas to share about life and building better habits. I've been telling all my friends about it so I wanted to share here and tell you!
I'm so curious! Do you listen to podcasts? I know a ton of people do...and if you are one of them, I'd love to hear which podcasts you love most and why. Thanks for sharing!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Spring Break and Time



Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


I'm celebrating the fact that I had time to relax this week. I didn't realize how much I needed spring break. 

I had time
to sleep in
to play with my kids
to meet up with friends
to wander a flea market
to cook healthy meals
to read
to write
to catch up on homework
to make a video
to organize the house
to build two dressers from Ikea
to do research
to play with Perdi
to visit the library
to recharge.

It was much needed! 
And now it's the weekend. Whether you have a spring break or not, I hope you enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

WATCH: Thoughts on How Education Can Change the World By Jen Vincent


I am and always will be an educator at heart. 

Sometimes being an educator keeps me up at night.

And that leads to me creating a middle-of-the-night video that shares my thoughts on education because I'm so fired up I can't sleep. 


Teachers have the power 
to change the world
because we are charged 
with changing the lives of children.

I believe every teacher has to show kids they see them and they have to inspire them. And the easiest way to do that is to get them fired up to be consumers and creators. That's why I blog at Teach Mentor Texts and Story Exploratory to share ideas for how we can all be consumer and creators. With everything I share, I hope someone is inspired in some way.


I'm over doing things how they have always been done when we know better. 

I'm sharing this education-focused video here because I'd love to generate more discussion about how education can change the world. Whether you are an educator yourself or not, I appreciate your thoughts on education! 

Here are some things you can do to join in or share:
  • Visit and share my post at Teach Mentor Texts. You can comment here but I'd really love to keep the conversation there if possible.
  • Watch this amazingly powerful speech from Chris Emdin. It helped me solidify some of my own thoughts. (Thanks to Kathy Burnette for sharing it with me.)
  • Create your response to the question: How can education change the world? Link or share it in the comments here.
  • Share the post and my video. We need more people in this conversation! Please invite others to think about this and join in. 
Thanks for listening! I see you. You inspire me.