Wednesday, January 25, 2017

WATCH: Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

In today's world, being connected is more possible than ever. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to connecting with others through social media but the fact is that technology makes it must more possible to connect with someone in another part of the world. 

I'm a person who thrives from being connected to others. Being part of the writing community and having critique partners helps me continue to write. Without others who are there with me along the way, I know I wouldn't be where I am at this point in my life.   

There is power in being connected. I'm sharing Steven Johnson's TedTalk: Where Good Ideas Come From because it helped me think a little more closely and a little more differently about where ideas come from and why being connected is so critical.

Did you catch these words there at the end:

"That is how innovation happens.
Chance favors the connected mind."

Watch and think about some ideas you've had recently. Did being connected to someone or a group of someones in some way help this idea come to mind? How does sharing your ideas with someone else help make your idea better? How does being connected impact your writing life?

I know for me, I use mentor texts to help me think about how others have written stories and how I might try what they've done. Whether it's word choice or how to get into a story or how to work towards the climax in a story, mentor texts help me so much. Similarly, when I'm writing, I love to hear what others do to navigate the writing process. I love Stephen King's On Writing and Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird but also Blake Snyder's Save the Cat and Kate Messner's Real Revision and 59 Reason to Write...not to mention all the blog posts I read about writing and all the ideas friends share with me when I ask, "How do you analyze your chapters as you revise?"

I'm so glad WE are connected!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the power of being connected.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating the Women's March

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

I won't be in Chicago marching with so many others in the Women's March today and it breaks my heart. 

But, in less than two hours, I'll be at school with third through eighth graders. Today is the first day of our Saturday enrichment programs and I'm teaching three sessions: Telling Your Story as a Graphic Novel, Vocabulary Fiesta: An Introduction to Spanish, and Silly Videos. As a technology integration specialist, I get to work in schools with teachers and students but I don't have my own students any more. Teaching these three mini-courses is super exciting because I get to teach again. 

So even though I won't be with friends downtown, I'm celebrating that I can still stand for the cause in teaching my classes. 

I'm a working mom. 
My kids know I'm teaching these Saturday classes.
One of my sons is in my classes and will see my excitement and enthusiasm. 
He'll see me alive and passionate.
They'll both see the work I do today. 

The kids I teach today will experience and learn something new.

My courses will inspire 
critical thinking, 
and communication.

Kids will be 
drawing and dancing and singing
laughing and having fun as we learn. 

But more than anything, I hope they'll be engaged learners. 
Kids are our future.

I won't be at the Women's March.
But I will be making an impact in another way. 

Thank you to everyone who is marching, in Chicago or anywhere else. 
I wish I could be there but even though I'm not, I'm with you. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Introducing #lifecaptcha!

Introducing #lifecaptcha! My friend Erin from Mischief Managed and I are super excited to share a project we've been working on. We hope you'll follow along and maybe even join in!
Stories are the heart of the human experience.

Life is but small moments,
         one after that another,
                   woven together.

I have a story.
He has a story.
She has a story.
You have a story.

To live is to have a story.

We have long seen the value of telling our story.
As bloggers, educators, mothers,
we share our stories
to impact change.

Right now, we live in a time of endless avenues to
tell our story
show our work
leave our mark
make the world a better place.

When we tell our stories, we
celebrate our actions
inspire others
show how change is possible.

when we listen to stories, we
recognize noble actions
are inspired
see how change is possible.

We wondered:
What if we dropped everything and took a picture at random times throughout one day?
Would this tell a clearer story of our lives and empower others to see that they can impact change too?
What if we asked others to join us and take pictures at random times throughout one day?
Would this let us learn from the lives of others and empower us to do more?

And so, #lifecaptcha was born.

#lifecaptcha to share.png

Because we’re fans of Chimamanda Adichie’s TedTalk The Danger of a Single Story and we strongly believe it’s relevant to life today as much as ever. But we also agree with Sisonke Msimang and the message of her TedTalk If A Story Moves You, Act On It.

Because Donald Trump makes unkind remarks directed towards African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and women (to name a few…). But we know his eyes aren’t open to the beauty in each and every individual on this Earth.

Because Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” But to do work to move justice for all forward, we need to continue to learn to see the world through others’ eyes.

We all share the human experience.
bring us together
bridge us together
bind us together.

The more stories we share
the more our understanding and empathy grows.

Life is short and there’s work to do.
So we asked ourselves, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

We do.

And now we’re asking you, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

You do.

Small moments tell your story.
Small moments amplify your impact.

We’re blending Instagram and spontaneity throughout the year
to share “a day in the life” as a way to tell our stories.

What exactly is a “day in the life” really like?
What are the small moments that add up to a day?
What are the small moments that add up to a year?
What are the small moments that tell your story?

We invite you to join us.
Follow #lifecaptcha on Instagram.
Ever hour at 44 minutes past the hour,
drop everything and take a picture.
Share on Instagram using #lifecaptcha.
Connect with others.

Tell your story.

Show how change is possible.
See how change is possible.
Make the world a better place.

To join Erin and I on our #lifecaptcha journey this year, follow us on Instagram:

Jen Vincent - @mentortexts
Erin Jackle - @maraudererin

While Erin and I are both educators, 
we hope to share this with educators and non-educators alike. 
If you know someone who would be interested in #lifecaptcha, 
please share with them!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating John Lewis and Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

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

In November of last year, I was in Atlanta for a conference and I went to The Center for Civil and Human Rights with my friends Brian, Beth, and Kevin. It was a powerful and moving experience, especially since it was shortly after the election that shocked so many of us.
I wish everyone could experience this beautiful homage to people who have fought for civil and human rights here in the United States and all over the world. It's haunting and harrowing but also hopeful. I'm more aware of the history and of how history plays into today's context but also more inspired than ever. 

You may have seen Donald Trump's tweets targeted at Representative John Lewis. John Lewis is a remarkable man who has experienced so much as a civil rights activist. I had been meaning to read his graphic novel trilogy but seeing the tweets made me go out and buy them from my local independent bookstore. Sales of the books have skyrocketed but it doesn't hurt to buy more copies. 
If you haven't read them, you might want to check them out. And if you already have your own copies or you've read them, maybe you'll donate a set to your local school or public library. John Lewis should be celebrated, his work and the work of so many others should be recognized now and always. 

On Monday, I'm honoring Martin Luther King Jr. by teaching my kids about him and his work and taking my nine-year-old to see Hidden Figures. We also have plans for gathering items such as blankets and socks to hand out to homeless people. And lastly, I need to buy yarn to make myself a hat from the Pussyhat Project. I won't be able to march next week because I committed to teaching an enrichment program but I'll definitely wear my hat!

It doesn't feel like enough, especially compared to what Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished along with the people like him who gave their lives for improving our country...but it does feel like something. And something is always a start towards something more. Little somethings add up to a bigger something.

Do you have plans to honor Martn Luther King Jr.? 
I'd love to hear them. Thanks for stopping in!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I Believe I Can And I Will

I experience a lot of change in 2015. My word one little word was grace and I worked on managing every change that came my way and every change that I sought out that year. Stretching and growing was my game in 2015 and it's also when I adopted this mantra for my life:

I believe
I can
and I will. 

The growth mindset is my thing. After deciding the only real way to encourage others to have a growth mindset was to show them how, I've strived to live and model the growth mindset throughout my life. 

Just the other day, someone said to me, "You have so much energy. How do you have time to get it all done? Do you sleep?" 

I've heard this before. Yet I'm still not sure how to respond. To start, I believe I can and I will...but I only put my energy into things I believe are worth my time. I've learned to pass or say no when it's not something I'm enthusiastic about and I've learned to engage with things I'm definitely excited and enthusiastic about. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed but for the most part I manage my time and bring my love to whatever I'm doing. 

Yes, I do sleep. (Between 6-8 hours a night actually.)

No, I don't do it all. (I'm behind on laundry, need to empty the dishwasher, and there are toys I need to inspire the kids to pick up. Not to mention my husband does lots and lots of stuff. (I'm a lucky girl.))

But most importantly, I do the things I love. I make time for the things I love. I look for opportunities to do the things I love. Because spending time doing things I love is energizing. 

Let's Write! Change helped me find out what I really want to be spending my time on. I took a position in my previous district that wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be and it meant less time reading and writing and sharing my love literacy with students. During that year, I did an activity that I discovered in book. I invite you to try it now. Set your timer for 5 minutes (and give yourself more time if you need it when the times up), and free write your answer to this sentence: My life is ideal when... Write anything and everything that comes to mind, just let your mind wander and smile as you think of everything you really love about life. You want more of what you love in your life, right? When the time is up, look at everything you have written and identify themes. I was able to boil mine down to three specific things. My life is ideal when: 1) I'm spending time with family and friends, 2) I'm reading and writing and connecting with others who read and write, and 3) I'm being healthy (eating well, practicing yoga, staying active, etc.). Then I used those as an anchor to think about where I wanted to go with my life. It's easier to say no to things if they don't fit into your ideal life. 

Bonus: Let's Write! Do you have a mantra? A why? A phrase that continues to spur you forward? This year my one little word is zealous and my catchphrase, "I believe I can and I will", is more powerful and helpful to me than ever. You might know exactly a phrase that you live by or you might need to search for one. Pay attention over the next few days and see if you can notice anything you find yourself saying a lot or ideas that come to mind that encourage you. Write it down, label it your mantra, sit with it for a week and see if you like it. Then, post it somewhere you can see often and live it. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Writing Habits!

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

Today I'm celebrating how I've kicked off 2017 by thinking about my writing habits. I thought I would share some of the activities I've used to reflect and plan for the year. 

It started when I joined Julie Hedlund's 12 Days of Christmas for Writers. Each day, she emailed videos that helped me reflect and plan forward for 2017. Reflecting on 2016 helped me think about what I want to focus on doing more of in 2017. Here's a drawing I did (which was one of the exercises Julie had us to) that sums up my 2016 reflections and my hopes for 2017. 

My friend Sara Biren also shared this post on Seven Steps to Setting Goals You Can Achieve from the Institute For Writers. From that I came up with a list of things to learn, teach, quit, face, start, try, and practice. 

Cheryl B. Klein shared a suggestion for some lists to create instead of resolutions in her last newsletter. Thanks to her thoughts, I wrote out lists of things to read, practice, and experience for this year. Just for fun here are the things on my experience list:

To Experience in 2017:
Getting a tattoo
Being zealous!

There was some overlap and I reached the point where I needed to start really thinking forward instead of reflecting. So now I'm taking the Seriously Creative course through YARWA. My friend Marcie Atkins shared it with me and we signed up together. It really helps to have her doing it with me! I want to be more disciplined in my writing and to create a consistent habit of writing everyday. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week, I actually woke up a bit earlier so I could write for ten minutes before getting ready in the morning. It was awesome! I actually ended up writing for more than ten minutes, I found myself thinking about my writing and wanting to get back to it, AND I felt free to work on housework in the afternoon/evenings because I didn't feel pressure to get to my writing since I had already spent time on it in the morning. It was pretty awesome. I didn't realize how trying and creating a totally new habit would shift how the rest of my day went. It's been pretty cool and I'm hoping to continue it. 

Do you have writing habits that work for you?
I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

JOIN: Celebrate the Start of 2017!

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

It's 2017! Hooray for 2017! I'm super excited to start a new year.
I'm celebrating with a latte! Cheers! Salud!
I love having time at the end of the year/beginning of the year to reset. We've been decluttering and getting organized and making plans for this year and it feels awesome. 

Last year at this time I had a lot to celebrate as we started 2016. I celebrated our new puppy but now we've had Perdi for over a year and she's still such a great part of my life. She's adorable and sweet and it's so neat to see how she's another family member now. I'm super glad to have potty training and puppy training behind us for the most part...she could still work on not jumping on people and on not stealing food...but that's okay. 

This year, we have another new addition to the family. My oldest son asked us for a bearded dragon for Christmas. He's wanted a lizard for a long time and it finally felt right. So now we also have a reptile running around. His name is Zeke and he's pretty fun too. 

Besides Perdi and Zeke, I have a list of what I also loved about 2016 to officially celebrate (and move on...).

 What I Loved About 2016:
  • My OLW for 2016 was 'revel' and I tried to soak up all the fun things we did in 2016. I used Instagram to snap and share pictures. We did so many fun things but I also tried to just be happy with little things too, like time to write at Starbucks or reading books with my kids.
  • I connected with so many new writing friends this year. I met Kelli Newby, Traci Chee and other friends from my 2014 Pitch Wars group in real life. I found new CPs and was buoyed up by CPs I already had. (It's neat to watch how relationships develop over time...the ones that get more special as time goes on are so wonderful.) There are so many wonderful new writer people in my life I can't even list them. How cool is that?
  • This year, I made it to Nerdcamp and NCTE again. I'm always honored to present and learn so much from connecting with others there. There's always something to learn and both of these conferences teach me so much. 
  • We also did some great traveling. We stayed close and went to Indianapolis for a spring break road trip to visit with my college roommate and her family and then we also did a trip to Wisconsin Dells and had fun at all the waterparks (the kids had never been). But the best trip from 2016 was the two weeks we spent in Guatemala. I had never been before and it was so perfect to be there with all of my family. 
  • After Guatemala, the best experience this year was getting an agent. I signed with Danielle Smith from Lupine Grove Creative and I couldn't be happier. Hooray! I'm still so excited and think I will be forever. 
  • And finally, I love to live the growth mindset and I did that a few times this year. I hiked a volcano (so cool!), I entered a few contests (like Pitch Wars) and a writing bootcamp, I dressed up like Elena of Avalor (thanks to my mom!), and  I started sending a newsletter.

My 2016 Best Nine

So now it's time to celebrate 2017! Hooray!!! I shared my one little word for 2017 on Instagram and now I'm sharing it here...

*drum roll*

Here's what the word zealous means to me: having great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. This is the first year that a word chose me and I'm all about it. I've already got lots of ideas and plans and I'm full of energy and enthusiasm (it might have a *little* do to with that latte I started this post with...). I'll share more about my plans for living this one little word this year. Let's do this! 

What did you love about 2016?
What are you excited and energetic about for 2017?
I've got (virtual) confetti at the ready. 
Thanks for stopping in to explore with me!