Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Day at St. John the Baptist/King Edward

I am recovering again the morning after . Oh boy I wear myself out on school visits but I always come away glad that I did them. Yesterday was no exception. I left home around 8:00 and found my way to the school along the maze of streets on the south end. I don't know if I've ever noticed the school before. I lived for awhile on Duke st when I had my first apartment but I guess I never ventured a few streets down and paid attention to the brick building housing K-8 students . I parked, went in and then was redirected to the teacher's parking lot which is kind of hidden off of Pitt st. Then I reentered an interesting building of ramps and railings and welcome classrooms. I presented to the 3-5 students first. They were wonderful. They sat on the floor perfectly still and attentive. Many kids asked many great questions.One grade three girl toward the end raised her hand and asked" Are we writing with you?" I explained that I wasn't doing a writing workshop with this group and she seemed a bit disappointed. I like to think she was one of several future writers in the crowd. The next group was 6-8 and it took awhile for them to all show up. One teacher seemed reluctant to stop teaching and bring his kids. That is not a bad thing. When they all got there I began and again they sat on the hard floor staying as quiet and still as any group could. "Were you good at L/A before you became a writer?" Good question. I did tell them I was an underachiever in school and described my path to finding or claiming my strengths.I had a quick lunch in a very typical staff room where teachers claimed a few quiet minutes and hurriedly ate their lunch. Then I faced the challenge of the day. Often times when I do writing workshops I have a smaller group who have been picked by the teachers because they like to write and will willingly participate. Now I am not complaining because I was happy to offer whatever I offered to all the middle school kids at St. John the Baptist/King Edward but let's just say it wasn't a smooth and easy two hours. Initially I was to have 50 kids for two hours. I strongly refused that scenario and took 25 for an hour each. I must say I am thankful for that adjustment as I may have left the building screaming after the first five minutes. Even though the two workshops were not the easiest I have ever conducted there were moments that shone through.Now I normally try to learn the kids names when I have a group of 25 or less but yesterday proved to be more of a challenge. Each name though lovely in itself, seemed unfamiliar and difficult to remember. My overworked brain could not kick in and I gave up after about six names. I do remember some: Jasmine, Marcel Mohammed, Danielle, Conner, Divia, Natalia, Tyson. Cayson, Jaden, Zachary, Alex, Brian, Braden, Willow, Jacob, Tiana , Aimee. Now listing them, they don't seem so daunting but believe me my head was not as clear as it is this morning. Anyway I got a bit of writing out of the kids. Tiana and Aimee wrote impressive 'I remember' pieces as did some others. We talked about why we write and things that get in the way of our writing . I read a bit and lots of good questions were asked.I did for two hours what countless teachers do everyday; try to engage a room full of personalities, backgrounds, struggles , challenges and abilities,try to juggle the class clown , the class introvert, the hidden geniuses, the underachievers, the unhappy, the unsure, the angry and the confused. Sounds impossible but yet it has its rewards. The students of St. John the Baptist /King Edward welcomed me and gave me a memorable day in their midst. I applaud each staff member and encourage each student as they enter that building each day. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of it on one foggy Wednesday in February.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Another Sunday for Mourning

Oh boy! It is with a heavy heart I write this morning. I will write and again as on so many Sunday mornings try to get out from under a blanket of sadness. It is the day after what has been for nine years the day of the terrible loss of a beautiful woman, wife , mother, daughter, sister and friend. A day when the terrible news of a head on collision rocked us to the core and left a hole so massive and so deep. Nine years ago a father and his two precious children died on a highway and left a grieving mother behind. Nine years ago a precious young man left his parents and sisters to mourn his loss. Ten years ago a man filled his truck with sand to cover the kind of ice we see on our driveways today and never made it home.Twenty five years ago a small girl died in her parents arms. This week high school students and teachers died in a gun attack intended to slaughter.In New Brunswick Becca left her family mourning a daughter , a sister and a force for kindness. They watched her and supported her in her valiant fight against Butterscotch and assisted with her legacy of kindness and courage. Through tear filled eyes I struggle with the sorrow of this all. I daily manage my own sorrow . I hold in my heart the sorrow of my kids, my husband , my friends and strangers. This morning I pray for the Schofields , and each family touched by the losses above. Columbine happened almost nineteen years ago just two days after my son died. I remember feeling sorrow for the parents of the boys that carried out that slaughter and held on tightly to the fact that Zac didn't take anyone with him. Will Becca's parents feel the connect of their beloved daughter's death to the Parkland shooting? May they take comfort in their daughter's lasting message of kindness. Perhaps that is all any of us can do as we find ourselves reeling from the magnitude of loss and sorrow. Be kind, be kind, be kind; to ourselves and to each other. Today I will figure out the best way to do that not forgetting, but hoping that the kindness Becca pleaded for will somehow lessen the burden of so much sorrow.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I Remember Rothesay Park Middle School

On Tuesday I visited Rothesay Park Middle School. As part of my author visit I conducted a writing workshop with grade eight students in the afternoon.I gave them a writing assignment that required them to pinpoint a memory and explore it by writing a series of sentences about that memory , each sentence beginning with 'I remember'. The kids wrote impressive and moving pieces. It was a great end to a very rewarding day for this author. I will attempt to remember the day . I hope the kids who spent those moments with me will read this and remember too. I remember walking up the steps of RPS for the third time as an author, thirty eight years after walking in the building for my first teaching job interview and fifty six years after posing on those steps as a grade one student.I remember a face , a boy I quickly recognized with a connection so strong to the precious boy I bring to each presentation. I remember the first class of grade sixes sitting and listening as I told my story of mothering, of teaching of writing, of sorrow and loss,of dreams and accomplishments and of gratitude. I remember questions and answers that curl and grow and take off in so many directions. I remember the question that uncovered the treasure I was gifted in that room. I remember the girl , quiet and unassuming as her friends unraveled the connection and stated who she was. I remember the name , the reporter, the reason it is Mrs. Montague crying in the classroom where Taylor Anne spends her grade four year . I remember the feeling of gratitude that nineteen years later I could acknowledge the part that young reporter played in the existence of The Year Mrs. Montague Cried and I could meet his daughter and later his son.I remember each hour and each new group that allowed me into their day, each attentive and engaged face and each thoughtful question and comment.I remember the writing , the emotion, the wisdom . I remember the laughter , the talk of tears, the near tears and the gasps of compassion. I remember the reason I put myself through such a wringer of emotion . I remember the sunshine. I remember the feeling of hope,of purpose and promise. I remember Rothesay Park Middle School.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Snow, Rain , Repeat

So it appears the winter of 2017-2018 is a continuous pattern of snow, rain ,repeat. One day the fields and wood roads are covered with a lovely fresh snow cover , then the heavy rain comes followed by frigid temperatures and everything is covered with ice.We shall see how treacherous walking will be today.The lightly falling snow this morning is supposed to turn to freezing rain later in the day. I have only snow shoed twice, I have walked most days, and on several occasions have chosen to stay home because of road conditions. It is the reality of winter . Another aspect of winter for me has been the pattern of edit, revise repeat. For the seventh time I have spent January and February working with my editor with the end goal of preparing a book for publication. It is a process I have come to appreciate very much. I have been fortunate to work with three wonderful editors.I worked on my first two books with the same editor and remember panicking when my publisher assigned a different editor for book three. She was wonderful . Then book four offered a different editor and again I felt panic. Now after working on four books with Penelope we have a bond of trust and respect. She is so patient with my bad habits. I have learned so much in the process.I hope for the snow, rain pattern to end. I hope for more days when snow falls without the rain, allowing me to trek up the wood road and snowshoe off the beaten track. I look forward to holding my next book which will be the reward for embracing the winter of 2018.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

This Book Stinks

I am possibly stalling my Sunday morning bathroom cleaning by listening to Michael Enrights's discussion with Elizabeth Renzetti, Kerry Clare and Nicole Blades about books and reading. I am engaged in the discussion and I am glad I stayed in my office long enough to hear it. I often ask kids during my author visits if they ever pick up a book and after reading a few pages know they are going to love it or hate it. If I am being totally honest there are many books I start reading and give up on very quickly. There are books that friends recommend that I try to read and quickly deduce my friends must be way smarter than I am because I can not understand head nor tail of it. Some books that others love I don't like at all.I have attempted to read classics like Anna Karenina over and over again and despite good intentions can't get further than fifty pages. I know some books I've read I almost gave up on but were worth it when I kept reading. As a writer I love it when people first of all actually read my books. I love it when they say nice things and I love it when they want to read more but I also get it when they don't. Michael quoted someone(can't remember who ) who said a good book is one you want to reread. One of the women in the discussion said a good book is one you carry around. A good book is one you can't wait to pick up again or one you don't want to end.For me a good book is one I clutch to my chest after reading having felt such a strong connection it feels like a friend. Whatever a good book is, one thing for sure is a good book depends on the reader. Not everyone will like every book. Books will have lovers and haters, will have good and bad reviews, will be praised and criticized. If an author writes believing their work will only be loved they are delusional. But write they do none the less and every book that gets written, published and makes its way to a reader has value in just that. The rest is gravy.I have the books I love, the ones I couldn't put down, the ones I didn't want to end and the ones I reread. I have the books I never read, the ones I couldn't get into, the books I gave up on ,the books I read and didn't like.So that is the truth of it.I will keep reading and keep writing.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Day at QES

It is snowing and blowing. The sun is just about to set and I am already in my jammies. My house is warm and cozy and I am happy to be at my computer and reflecting on the day I had at QES. I was up bright and early. Last week my visit was cancelled when school was cancelled because of snow and freezing rain.I held a small glimmer of hope the couple of times I woke in the night and when I woke up minutes before my alarm went off that maybe it was snowing and school would be cancelled again. I was anxious to go to QES but I still love the moment I hear school is cancelled and I can go back to sleep. My regular routine has me getting up around 8:00 so when I have to get up at 6:30 to get ready for a school visit I always find that a bit challenging. It is however always worth it and today was no exception.I had a great day presenting to the grade 3, 4 & 5 students at QES. The kids were wonderful. They were kind, engaged and attentive. The staff welcomed me and I felt very much at home. I also had the pleasure of sitting in the gym for the concert provided by the Saint John String Quartet. That certainly brought memories of my teaching days when they would come to MCS. I did a writing workshop with 25 kids in the afternoon. As always I was very impressed with the interest and the ability of our young writers.We began with a few writing exercises and then they all started work on a story from the same prompt.Running out of time I wasn't able to hear everyone read their beginnings but the ones I heard were creative and unique. I really hope Danielle, Eric and Mackenzie finish theirs and ask their teachers to send them to me. Brooke had a wonderful beginning. Connor, Luke and Zac started comic strips that looked promising. Abby started a poem. All the students did an excellent job and brought their own imagination and flare to their work.My day held all the good things school visits offer to me. I get a brief taste of the things I loved the most about teaching. I see smiles and expressions and the beauty in each unique child. I get to share my stories, funny, and sad and always receive compassion and honesty.A visit tires me out for lots of reasons but every time I am so glad I had the opportunity to share my work and my writing journey. What a lucky mother,grandmother,retired teacher and author I am Thank you QES!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Why We Should Remember

A year ago a gunman attacked a mosque in Quebec City.Six men were killed and nineteen injured.Lives were ended and lives were changed forever. News coverage ran its course and then it faded in the background as the cycle of every terrible event does. But of course for the people affected it does not fade. Last year I wrote the victims names on paper Ibrahima, Mamadou Khaled, Aboubaker, Abdelkrim, Azzedine and repeated the names of six men who left wives and children, parents, siblings, friends and communities. I carried the piece of paper in my pocket and included the men and their loved ones in my prayers as I walked each day. I gave voice to the tragedy for a short time afterwards and then that faded too.Days, months and a year go by. News coverage revisits it acknowledging the one year anniversary and again we remember. I realize that is the normal course of things. Each day we only hear a fraction of the suffering and terrible events in this world. We receive the somewhat manipulated accounts which give more attention to some tragedies than others. , which focuses on some losses more than others. Some victims and some assailants become household names and some get brief mention. But whether we recall names and details each tragedy leaves behind those who have no choice but to remember.So this morning I say their names again and I hold their loved ones in my prayers. I pray too for all of us because every time hatred and fear walk into a mosque, a Baptist church, a school or drive into a crowd we mourn and we should remember.