Monday, September 11, 2017

Caroline Starr Rose: An On-Going Private Conversation

Notebook Tabs
(Click to Enlarge)

I

Oh, notebook mine,
the place I gather records, thoughts
before I know the way a story winds,
unsure whether or not
I’ll need what I’ve written down,
or if the scribbling of a word will be mere passing fact,
a jot to teach, inform me of the world I’m learning,
a collection of phrases to ground
me in the things I sorely lack,
to multiply my yearning.

II

You are a place of lists,
dates, maps, quotes, sometimes a sketch,
this novelist’s definition of bliss,
my source when I long to catch
a whiff of history, a summer berry’s hue,
a sense of place, the voice of one long dead,
the temperature when kerosene solidifies –
truths I can bend and shift, make new,
and like a ball of dough transform to bread
with heat and time. You stoke the fire in my mind’s eye.

III

You are a testament to months of labor,
a tribute to half-formed thoughts and starts,
a vestibule which leads to something greater,
the fresh firsts of a future art,
a net that gathers every object nearer,
sifts and filters, groups and sorts,
until like seeds that push to germination,
truth and story blend, grow clearer:
dear notebook, you help me bring forth
a story to its liberation.

****

I write historical fiction, so the idea of keeping a notebook to gather my research and questions about a new project isn’t a new one. But over the years my notebooks have expanded into something other than just a collection of historical tidbits. They’ve become an on-going private conversation where I can noncommittally explore the fragile beginnings of a new idea or work out troublesome knots once the story’s under way.

In other words, my notebooks are teaching me the importance of writing about the writing.

My novel JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY'S MINE didn’t yet exist when it sold as part of a two-book deal. For a few weeks I was thrilled with my good fortune, but then panic settled in. I pulled out my notebook and scribbled down my worries: I’m not very good at plotting and have never created with a deadline. There’s pressure knowing I’ve sold something I haven’t even begun.

Worries
(Click to Enlarge)

Then I made myself try and answer these worries, to the best of my ability. Plot comes, I wrote. It can be discovered in character development and drafting. My agent and editor believe I can do this. If I can’t see this in myself right now, I can borrow their belief. I returned to this page in my notebook throughout the drafting process any time I needed a little courage.

The word “writing” is sometimes a heavy load for me to carry. My mind fills with word counts and productivity — the opposite of how my projects often progress. I’ve allowed myself to replace “writing” with terms that don’t hold so many expectations. Now I explore. Create. Discover. Tinker. Wonder. Practice.

This might mean figuring out what’s working with a premise and what isn’t. Or creating a list of historical details I need to further study. Some days it includes questions I have about a story’s timeline and plot or notes on characters — their secrets, their fears, the stories they tell themselves to make sense of the world — and their relationships with others. My notebook becomes a running commentary, an in-the-moment chance to reflect.

Notebook Sluice
(Click to Enlarge)

Photograph of Washerwoman & Notes
(Click to Enlarge)

In going back over my notes, I witness a book slowly taking shape. Each page records challenges that I eventually find my way through. Writing about the writing becomes a promise that someday my book will come together. Though it might be hard to believe in the moment, I hold the proof my story has made it this far, that it will reach the end.

Notebook Tip: My notebooks aren't usually organized in any way, so finding things can be tricky. One easy solution is to make sticky-note tabs to label key topics. I use the same color and placement for the same topic throughout the notebook (for example: If I have three separate pages on setting, I'll use a green tab for each and make sure all three tabs line up together. That way, everything is easy to find). This lets me go with the flow while working in my notebook and allows for simple organization at a later date.


Caroline Starr Rose is an award-winning middle grade and picture book author whose books have been ALA-ALSC Notable, Junior Library Guild, ABA New Voices, Kids’ Indie Next, Amazon’s Best Books of the Month for Kids, and Bank Street College of Education Best Books selections. In addition, her books have been nominated for almost two dozen state awards lists. In 2012 Caroline was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author for her debut novel, MAY B. Visit her at carolinestarrrose.com.

Caroline has generously offered to give away one copy of JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY'S MINE - to a reader of this post.  Please leave a comment (and a way to contact you should you win) by Saturday, October 14 to be entered into this random drawing.  


Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am accepting all notebook entries and am especially hoping to receive some entries from boys and men who keep any kind of notebooks.  If you are interested in writing in this space, please contact me, Amy, directly.  I welcome you!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Jessica Fries-Gaither - Keep a Scientist Notebook

Very Exciting News Connected to This Post:

NOTABLE NOTEBOOKS: SCIENTISTS AND THEIR WRITINGS is one of two books from NSTA Press that have been selected to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) later this summer to be part of the space station’s Story Time from Space(STFS) program, a project supported by the Global Space Education Foundation and CASIS that aims to foster literacy and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning.

The books—published by NSTA Kids, a division of NSTA Press—are among a small bundle of STEM-themed children’s books that will be packed aboard SpaceX-12, a cargo resupply mission to ISS, currently scheduled to launch in August. Once aboard the space station, astronauts will record videos of themselves reading the stories. The resulting videos will be available for viewing later this fall.

For updates on the launch of SpaceX-12, visit www.nsta.org/publications/press/stfs.aspx.


What makes a notebook special?
It’s a place to think and dream,
to write down thoughts and questions
about all that you have seen.

NOTABLE NOTEBOOKS: SCIENTISTS AND THEIR WRITINGS

When you think of a scientist at work, you probably think about tools she might use: test tubes, a microscope, or even a telescope. But there’s one tool that every scientist uses, no matter what topic she’s studying: a notebook.

(Click any image to enlarge)


Marie Curie’s Notebook, Wellcome Library, London [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists use notebooks to jot down questions, sketch observations, plan experiments, collect data, and write about what they’ve discovered. You can read about famous scientists throughout history and how they used notebooks in my children’s book, NOTABLE NOTEBOOKS: SCIENTISTS AND THEIR WRITINGS (NSTA Press, 2016). One of my favorite scientists from this book is Beatrix Potter. Most people think of her as an author and illustrator, but she was also an important mycologist (a scientist who studies fungi). Learn more about her and others by reading the book!


In my science classroom at Columbus School for Girls, my elementary students use notebooks every single day to draw, write, and think. Their notebooks are a safe place for them to try out new ideas and make sense of what they are studying. Some of my girls even take their notebooks out to recess to sketch the interesting things they discover on the playground.




We organize our notebooks in several different ways. First, we number all the pages and add a blank table of contents in the front. Every time we start a new lesson, we add a header to the top of the page and record it in the table of contents. It makes finding your place much easier. We also hot glue a ribbon on the inside of the back cover to use as a bookmark. Finally, we add tabs to divide our notebook into separate sections for each unit.



By the end of the year, the notebooks really tell the story of all the science learning that has happened, and my girls love to look back and see how much they’ve learned and grown. (They also often are amused by how much neater their handwriting is by the end of the year!)



While notebooks are great in science class, you can make your own at home, too. Summer is a great time to keep a science notebook! Here are two things to try:

1) Start a nature journal to take along on all your outdoor adventures. Find interesting things – rocks, insects, trees, flowers – and use your notebook to record your observations. I like to divide my page into four boxes. In one box, I write the location, date, and name of whatever I’m observing. In the second box, I describe it in words. The third box is for a sketch, and the fourth box is for a magnified, or close up, sketch. 

2) If you plant or a garden, start a garden notebook. Record what kinds of seeds you planted and when. Take notes on how each type of plant is going and maybe sketch its progress. Record the weather conditions, too. You might even glue in seed packets and take photographs to add to your notebook.

Every time you write in your notebook, you are collecting data – just like a real scientist! Happy exploring!


Jessica Fries-Gaither is the Lower School Science Specialist at Columbus School for Girls in Columbus, OH and the author of several books, including Notable Notebooks: Scientists and Their Writings (NSTA Press, 2016). She loves all things science, reading, and writing. You can connect with Jessica on her Facebook page, on Twitter at @ElemSciTchr, or by email at jfriesgaither@gmail.com. She is currently developing a personal web site, so stay tuned!

NSTA has generously offered to give away one copy of NOTABLE NOTEBOOKS: SCIENTISTS AND THEIR WRITINGS- for a reader of this post.  Please leave a comment (and a way to contact you should you win) by Friday, September 1 to be entered into this random drawing.  


Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am accepting all notebook entries and am especially hoping to receive some entries from boys and men who keep any kind of notebooks.  If you are interested in writing in this space, please contact me, Amy, directly.  I welcome you!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Two Happy Winners of Linda Rief Books!

Inside the Writer's-Reader's Notebook pack

Congratulations to Sarah Addison, winner of Linda Rief's INSIDE THE READER'S WRITER'S NOTEBOOK!  Please drop me a line at amy at amylv dot com with your snail mail address, and I will kindly send your book to you.

Read Write Teach

And congratulations to Janice Hamilton, winner of Linda Rief's READ, WRITE, TEACH!  Please drop me a line as well!

Much gratitude to Linda for opening up his fabulous notebooks for all of us.  If you have not read her post yet, please don't miss it.  You can find it HERE.  And thank you to Heinemann, for this generous giveaway.

Tomorrow, I am excited to welcome  Jessica Fries-Gaither, author of NOTABLE NOTEBOOKS: SCIENTISTS AND THEIR WRITINGS...a book that will soon go up in SPACE!

Know that Sharing Our Notebooks is full of blog posts and writing ideas....have fun poking around and trying new things.  And if you keep a notebook or know someone who does, I am always interested in featuring all kinds of notebook keepers. All are welcome - just let me know.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Linda Rief: Keeping a Notebook Makes Me Pay Attention

Notebook Shelf

Don Murray used to carry around laminated cards about the size of a bookmark, that said, “Nulla Dies Sine Linea—Never a Day Without a Line.” He gave them to anyone and everyone who asked him about writing. It was his mantra—and the most important advice he gave to all of us, the reminder to put our thinking down every day, or it would slip away.

Every day Don wrote in his daybook. “The most valuable writing tool I have is my daybook… All the writing in the daybook is a form of talking to myself, a way of thinking on paper….The daybook stimulates my thinking, helps me make use of those small fragments of time that on many days is all the time I have to write. There is no sign of struggle. I’m not fighting writing. I’m playing with writing. …The daybook also keeps my writing muscles in condition; it lets me know what I’m concerned with making into writing; it increases my productivity….(it’s a place) where you can do all the bad writing and bad thinking that are essential for those moments of insight that produce good writing.”

Influenced by Don, I keep a Writer-Reader Notebook. I have more than 25 years worth now, and I can trace every piece of writing I have ever done either personally or professionally, to these notebooks. I admit that I don’t write in my notebook every day —and I realize so many things I wanted to remember are gone. Still, what I have, gives me a lot from which to work and with which to play.

Every note I have ever taken at a workshop or conference, every passage I have wanted to remember from books I am reading, and all the pictures, sketches, and random notes I just didn’t want to forget, reside in these notebooks. The notebooks hold the nuggets of ideas I have saved that help me remember my thinking. In most instances I have no idea where or when I will use some of this writing, some of these sketches, or some of these professional notes, but they are there waiting patiently for the right moment—the moment when I need them.

I have moved from lined spiral-bound notebooks to large bound notebooks with blank pages. These work best for me—inviting sketching and leaving me room to set up the page in any way I choose. 

My students are prominent in my notebooks. My grandchildren have crawled, toddled and walked their way in also.

As we were watching the Anne Frank movie in class, I was sitting behind my students, watching how reverent and shocked they were throughout this movie. 

Sketch of Students
(Click to Enlarge)

On my oldest grandson’s graduation from high school I found pictures of him picking apples at our house, wanting to remember those little hands that have now become those of a young man. 

Photos of Hunter
(Click to Enlarge)

I have been teaching myself drawing—practicing what I read in journaling and sketching books. What have I learned, just like writing—practice, practice, practice--the more I sketch, the better it becomes. Sometimes the sketches lead to writing. Other times they simply allow me to slow down, take a breath.

I sketched Rye Ledges on a marine biology field trip with our students after several years of trying to get rocks looking like rocks. 

Postcard of Rocks
(Click to Enlarge)

Sketch of Rye Ledges
(Click to Enlarge)

As I was working at my computer one day I watched a squirrel at our bird feeder, grabbed my notebook, sketched and wrote. 

Bird Feeder

I ask students to sketch their thinking as readers and do it myself when the book creates images in my head. As I was reading The Great Gatsby I wrote out my frustration. 

Joy Sketch
(Click to Enlarge)

Reading A Separate Peace, there were so many passages I wanted to capture that I thought they had to be written on that tree I kept imagining. 

Tree
(Click to Enlarge)

And as we were reading and discussing “Nothing Gold Can Stay” from The Outsiders I kept thinking about how quickly the years go by and put together my thinking with images and writing from being a grandchild to watching my grandchildren. 

Circle of Life
(Click to Enlarge)

Painting & Reflection
(Click to Enlarge)

When I go to conferences and workshops I take notes in this notebook. Sketch notes from a workshop with Kylene Beers and Bob Probst last December in Maine. 


Workshop Sketch Notes
(Click to Enlarge)

Penny Kittle and I gave a presentation at the New England Reading Association. She asked us to draw our hands after showing Sarah Kay on YouTube saying her poem “Hands.” This has stimulated lots of stories for me, some of which have become longer pieces. 

Sketch Notes, Hand
(Click to Enlarge)

And what are the last two pages in my current notebook? An article cut from the newspaper pasted into my notebook with notes from Anthony Doerr after hearing him speak at the Portsmouth Music Hall, written in April. The cover of the latest book from one of my former students, Abby Carroll, and notes from her reading. Then nothing—until two emails from today that I did not want to forget. Jotted down—and dated. So much to remember.

Anthony Doerr Notes
(Click to Enlarge)

Book Cover, Notes, E-Mails
(Click to Enlarge)

One of the greatest pleasures of keeping a Writing-Reading Notebook, and asking students to keep one also, comes from hearing from one of them every now and then. Four years after having Lil in 8th grade, and having heard nothing from her for four years, I received this email:

Wednesday, January 17   9:51 PM

“Mrs. Rief,  I counted my journals tonight. I have written 21 since eighth grade. Thank you!”  Sincerely, Lil”

Keeping a notebook makes me pay attention to the world. It slows me down. It lets me breathe. It makes me a deeper listener, a stronger observer. It lets me think. It captures what I want to remember. It gives me a place to think, and think again.

Here's something to try.  Watch “Hands” by Sarah Kay on YouTube. Then, read the text of "Hands." Ask the students (I would suggest 8th grade and higher) to find a line they like and write off that line for several minutes. At another time they could trace their hand, as I have done and put some dash facts on each finger that remind them of a story that has to do with hands, as I did. They can go back to any of these pieces and extend the quick write to a more developed piece. This summer, carry your notebook with you. Sit in front of a painting at a museum and sketch it. Take it to the beach, sit by the lake or ocean and sketch what you see, write what you are thinking.


Linda Rief is the author or coeditor of five Heinemann titles, including Inside the Writer's-Reader's Notebook, The Writer's-Reader's Notebook, Adolescent Literacy, Vision and Voice, and Seeking Diversity , as well as the author of 100 Quickwrites. She is an eighth-grade teacher at Oyster River Middle School in Durham, New Hampshire, and an instructor in the University of New Hampshire's Summer Literacy Institute. She is also a national and international consultant on issues of adolescent literacy. In 2000 she was the recipient of NCTE's Edwin A. Hoey Award for Outstanding Middle School Educator in the English/Language Arts. Her classroom was featured in the series Making Meaning in Literature produced by Maryland Public Television for Annenberg/CPB. 

Linda and Heinemann are generously offering 2 giveaway books, so we will have two winning commenters on this post. Please leave your comment by Thursday, July 29, 2017 to be entered into a drawing for one of two of Linda's books: Inside the Reader's Writer's Notebooks or Read, Write, Teach.  I will announce the winners in this space on Friday, July 30, 2017 as well as on Twitter and at The Poem Farm Facebook page.

Inside the Writer's-Reader's Notebook pack

Read Write Teach

Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am accepting all notebook entries and am especially hoping to receive some entries from boys and men who keep any kind of notebooks.  If you are interested in writing in this space, please contact me, Amy, directly.  I took a little break from this blog to write Poems Are Teachers: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres (Heinemann, Fall 2017)...but I'm back and welcome you!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Congratulations to Linda Ashman...Book Winner!


Congratulations to Linda Ashman, winner of Austin Kleon's SHOW YOUR WORK!  Please drop me a line at amy at amylv dot com with your snail mail address, and I will kindly send your book to you.

Much gratitude to Tim Needles for opening up his fabulous notebooks for all of us.  If you have not read his post yet, please don't miss it!  You can find it HERE.

Know that Sharing Our Notebooks is full of blog posts and writing ideas....have fun poking around and trying new things.  And if you keep a notebook or know someone who does, I am always interested in featuring all kinds of notebook keepers.  Just let me know...

Please don't miss so many generous notebooking ideas from all kinds of folks! Find them at the tabs above, or click HERE for starters, to get your own autumn notebook rhythm.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Tim Needles: I Begin Each Page With An Open Mind





I’ve lived most of my life attached to a sketchbook.  As an artist and writer I’ve found my creative process has evolved over the years but it nearly always begins in the book.  I have a closet full of sketchbooks from the last 20 years.  I’ve digitized a few pages from a selection of books and posted a few on my website but for the most part these pages are for me and are generally only seen by my art students, a few select friends and acquaintances.  As an artist I feel that these books may represent the most pure artistic creations I’ve made and are some of my greatest successes as an artist.  The irony is that these books are rarely seen and have no audience.


I like thicker, heavy paper so I use Canson sketchbooks and keep a few pieces of scrap paper underneath a page as I work on it for notes and to prevent bleeding.  I also use smaller Moleskin watercolor sketchbooks for when I travel or when I’m temporarily between books.  I often complete the 108 pages in under a month but in general I use a book between 1-3 months.  I also will film my creative process in creating work with short videos and share it via social media.



I write, draw, take notes, and paint in my book daily and I’ve been working in them so long my process itself has become something of a meditation.  I’ll write down and sketch out ideas, paint over it, glue, layer, collage, and see what happens.  I use words and images but the two often meld together and I let the work choose it’s own direction.  I often begin without any set idea or intention by putting a pen or brush to the page.  I’ve become confident in this practice that once may have caused doubt or fear.



I work each page until I feel satisfied, whether it’s complete or not.  The more I work the less I try to control the process.  I begin each page with an open mind and no idea of what I’m going to do.  Over the years I’ve noticed certain trends and I understand that my work has some fluidity but I try to push it further and innovate.Most of all I create for myself. As an artist I try to be authentic, in the moment, and enjoy the process of making art.




I also participated in the sketchbook project last year and that book which was focused on creating portraits each day throughout the month of October is available to view online.  The video below shows the process of creating one of the pages.  The project asks artist and writers to create a sketchbook with a theme that can be shared online and housed in their headquarters at the Brooklyn Art Library in Williamsburg, NY.  You can learn more about it here at The Sketchbook Project.


My philosophy is that every day is another opportunity to be creative.  I began drawing and writing for myself and that is what I try to do each day.  I think creating art in any form is a wonderful thing.  As an educator I encourage everyone to create and find what gives you a sense of meaning and let it be a beacon in your work.  Don’t worry about your audience, create first for yourself.  The most important advice I give to my students is simply to work, regularly and diligently- each day if possible, it is the only universal secret to success.

Creative Challenge: Use this image from my sketchbook as a writing or art prompt. If you want to share it via social media add the hashtag #terpart which I use for my annual month of creative challenges.  This is an ongoing challenge, so you may share at any time.


Tim Needles is an artist, writer, performer, and educator from Port Jefferson, NY.  He has been teaching art and media at Smithtown School District in NY for 17 years as well as working as an Adobe Education Leader, a PBS digital innovator, an educational consultant for The Japan Society, and as an adjunct college professor.  His work has been featured on NPR as well as in The New York Times, the Columbus Museum of Art, SVA Gallery, the Talks With Teachers podcast, and LitReactor.  He is also the recipient of the National Art Educators Association AET Outstanding Teaching award and the Robert Rauschenberg Power of Art award at the National Gallery of Art.  He is active on social media guest hosting education chats and sharing his thoughts on arts and education-you can find him at TimNeedlesArt on Facebook or @timneedles on Twitter and Instagram. You can view a few pages and covers of some of Tim's sketchbooks at his website, Tim Needles.

Sharing Our Notebooks is offering a giveaway of a book Tim recommends - SHOW YOUR WORK! by Austin Kleon - for a reader of this post.  Please leave a comment by Sunday, November 20 to be entered into this random drawing.  Please be sure to leave a way to contact you in your comment as well.


Please know that Sharing Our Notebooks welcomes all kinds of notebook keepers - of any age and interest - to open up their pages and share their process.  At the present time, I am accepting all notebook entries and am especially hoping to receive some entries from boys and men who keep any kind of notebooks.  If you are interested in writing in this space, please contact me, Amy, directly.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Congratulations to Brenda Harsham! Book Winner!


Congratulations to Brenda Harsham, winner of Mary Oliver's EVIDENCE - please drop me a line at amy at amylv dot com with your snail mail address, and Kiesha will kindly send your book to you.

Much gratitude to Kiesha Shepard for sharing her inspiring notebooks.  If you have not read her post yet, please don't miss it!  You can find it HERE.

Know that Sharing Our Notebooks is full of blog posts and writing ideas....have fun poking around and trying new things.  And if you keep a notebook or know someone who does, I am always interested in featuring all kinds of notebook keepers.  Just let me know...

Please don't miss so many generous notebooking ideas from all kinds of folks! Find them at the tabs above, or click HERE for starters, to get your own autumn notebook rhythm.