writing

MAUD by Melanie Fishbane

MAUD (Penguin Teen, 2017) is based on the life and times of the prolific author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Crafted by author Melanie Fishbane, a lifetime L. M. Montgomery devotee, this debut novel is as unforgettable as the countless novels, short stories, and poems Lucy Maud created. MAUD is an inspirational testimony to a life led by faith, determination, and a deep-seeded passion to write.

Fishbane examines aspects of Maud’s, at times, traumatic childhood with tender consideration, gradually revealing the truth about her parents’ relationship, a mysterious burden Montgomery unwittingly carried her entire life. She experienced a perpetual feeling of misunderstanding and lack of acceptance within the community in which she lived, as well as from her father, with whom she loved. Guided by opportunities Providence provided, Maud found solace in her love of writing.  She poured her soul onto pages and pages on her beloved journals, recording fodder that would later become the emotional core of publications winning the hearts of readers for ages to come.

The Educator’s Discussion & Project Guide created for MAUD deeply delving into the themes tying this beautiful novel together. The notions of faith, reputation, sacrifice, and perseverance are just a few of the concepts explored in the discussion questions and through written expression.  The guide serves as an insightful compliment to Melanie Fishbane’s stunning masterpiece!

A Discussion Guide Discussion

Suitable for all genres, Discussion Guides serve to guide understanding of not only the text, but its emotional connection with the reader. They contain interesting, probing, and enlightening questions that get the reader thinking and talking. These guides and be quite short, perhaps ten or so questions long, or can be several pages in length, depending on the needs and intent of the publication.  Quite often the questions posed serve as effective writing prompts, leading to a deeper study of a variety of topics.

When a reader connects with the story, they are more likely to be led through analysis of all sorts of literary elements.  Character motivation can be closely considered. Plot twists can be pointed out. Structure can be scrutinized. Voice and point-of-view can be made visible.  In short, Discussion Guides keep kids and teachers talk-talk-talking about a book—an author’s and librarian’s dream.

The Discussion Guide created for The Secret Side of Empty is an example of an in-depth guide, which works perfectly for this fascinating YA. In it, the protagonist struggles with the limitations her illegal status brings. She cannot go to college. She cannot work. The forecast for her life after high school is ‘empty.’  And so, she emotionally drops out. She drinks, experiments with drugs, and contemplates suicide. Much fodder for deep discussion, don't you think?

In-depth writing prompts have been added to this Discussion Guide, as well. Students are asked to express themselves through short narratives, informative essays, and opinion pieces. While not all Discussion Guides include specific prompts such as these, the well-developed questions in most can be utilized in this way.

And, yes, the questions and writing prompts for this Discussion Guide created for The Secret Side of Empty have been aligned with the Common Core State Standards. This not only validates the acts of questioning, discussion, and written expression, the alignment will hopefully help Maria  Andreu's great work find a lasting place on the curriculum shelf. That's the goal, right?

CCSSI and Me

The rule seems to be that each guide I make offers new and interesting opportuntites for me to stretch and grow. My latest project was no exception the guide creating rule. I had a ball with it!

Poet and Author Eileen Meyer presents the coolest school visits, ever. For a wide range of ages, too. When she asked me to correlate the content of her presentations with the Common Core State Standards, I said sure, why not? 

I have to say that I really got into creating this document for her. She's got four great presentations involving writing, reading, public speaking, and craft-making. The lessons are vivid and lively. I wanted her CCSSI annotation documentation to reflect the energy she puts into her visits. So, I colored-coded those puppies. There is nothing boring about the school visits Eileen Meyer presents. Hopefully the CCSSI Annotation Documentation booklet I created for her reflects that.

Check out Eileen's school visit document by clicking here. Cool, isn't it?

You'll let me know if I can make one of these for you, won't you? We'll make yours rainbow bright, too!

A Delightfully Creative Day

At 10:00 this morning, I high-tailed my caffeine-infused self down to East 6th Street to lead a creative writing workshop for Badgerdog at the coolest, most hip place in town - Write By Night. This was one of those experiences that - while I wasn't completely certain what it was I agreed to do - turned out GREAT!

The attendees were, hands down, the most boldly talented writers I've ever known. We worked their current works-in-progress. Good stuff, I have to say. Under the guise of character development, plot structure, theme, and story trajectory; together we dared to enter the innermost cave of literary darkness and light.

We played that wonderfully delicious game writers love to play - What If? Throwing any limitation out the groovey Write By Night window, we considered all creative aspects worthy of enhancing the potential of their tales. What if a death caused by a botched herbal healing poultice? Can the errors made in the past haunt a contemporary girl of today? What can she do to break the spell that binds her and the rest of her family? How can one small boy defeat the all powerful evil Night Mayor (Clever word play, don't you think? I wish I could take credit for it, but I can't. Drat.)? What powers must the boy possess? What powers are inherent within? What is he lacking? And, how, in the heck, can we structure these epic tales in some logical, plausible way that will pay tribute to these amazing young writers' intent?

Hours sped by like the strike of a match. Creative juices pulsed. Goosebumps prickled. Funny bones were tickled. The best is that, within two short hours, people who were once strangers became supportive friends, all because of the love of crafting words on the page. Thank you, Badgerdog and Write By Night for sharing your vision and space with us. Know that magic happened today and that I'm honored to have played a teeny role in its manifestation.

Up Next? Monster Stew by Stephanie Greene

My next guide project is going to be a fun one - Monster Stew by Stephanie Greene. It takes a great book to make a great guide and this one is sensational!

I love Princess Posey, in fact I met her double the other day while buying dog food at Petco. From time to time I take Tripod in the store with me. (He loves to sniff the cat nip!)

Anyhow, while there I met a chatty little girl about Posey's age. Her headband caused her hair to puff in the most ridiculous way. She asked about Tripod's missing leg, as they all do, and she stopped talking. Her entire body was wrapped in concern for him. After a bit, when she began to tell me about her terrier - oh my - she shuddered with delight. Chatting resumed.

When our all-too-short conversation ended, she put her arm around Tripod and gave him a hug. (He's a great hugger.) As I watched this silly, sweet, charming little thing bury her pale arms into Tri's chocolate fur a shudder came over me. I realized that she is who I write for. She is who I must work to meet at the page.

Simple Saturday: Nature Soup

 No need to sneak kitchen utensils to mix ingredients for our Simple Saturday Nature Soup. Everything we need - other than a 2 to 4 foot long string, a pencil, and notebook - can be found in nature. Be it the beach, a hiking trail, or a neighborhood park, the ingredients required to make Nature Soup can only be found in the great out-of-doors!

Here's what you do. Take your happy self and your Simple Saturday supplies outside someplace. Tripod and I went to a lovely shaded park. We strolled together along the creek. I admired the ducks' acrobatic buoyancy. Tri trash-talked with the squirrels. (I don't think they were too wary of him. He's all bark and no bite.)

Search the ground to find a nice bed for your Nature Soup.  Tie the ends of your string together to form a loop. Lay the loop on the ground, spreading it wide enough to capture as many interesting items as possible. Then simply sit and observe. What's inside the loop? Look close, close, close. What do you see? Make a detailed list of the items. Detailed now - colors, shapes, sizes - you know. And then write a recipe for your little looped spot of the Earth. Use your imagination. Get crazy. Have some fun!

Here's what I came up with:

Peaceful Park Pizza

4 ivory colored sea shells (various degrees of tiny)

2 rocks of chipped limestone

1 long, thin grey stick

1 chunk of weathered driftwood

1 piece of wood (perhaps chipped off of a picnic table) 

1 mega-McNasty cigarette butt

1 brave little green elm leaf (curled)

Sprigs of desperately dry grass ranging in shades of green to tan

Arrange ingredients on a dry bed of small leaves of multiple shades of brown and various decomposed states. Bake in the 104 degree Texas sun for weeks on end.

Pray for rain. 

Simple Saturday Prep: Nature Soup

 Me, again. The perpetual teacher. Can't help it. Erasers and rulers are just part of my DNA.

Once again I'm going to remind you that your child's teacher suggested that you do some language arts practice during the summer, didn't she? Good gosh....you're thinking with camps and vacations and ball games and perpetual pool time, when in the world can you fit language arts practice in, right? I feel your pain, honey. I do.

  Tomorrow I'll show you a little simple something that can be done as part of a summertime outing. Bring a pencil, a notebook, and piece of string and join Tri and I as we hit the park to make some Simple Saturday Nature Soup. East McPeasy.

It's fun, fun, fun! Tasty? Ummm, I'll let you be the judge.

Simple Saturday: Private Pen Pals

You and your partner must make a pact. A pinky swear to keep a secret to the depths of your graves. Tell no one the deeds you are about to embark upon. You have the note card and pen, right? You need only one card to begin this writing voyage together. However, in the days to come, you'll want to have a surplus on hand to keep this quirky correspondence with one another going.

First you two must decide upon a place for notecard exchange, a sort of 'X marks the spot', if you will. Under a rug? Behind a chair? Near the dog bowl? Hmmmm, probably not. On the bookshelf? Yeah...that's a good idea. Decide on a place where notes can be occasionally hidden. Not every single day, mind you. Our game would get old then. One person writes a note and hides it. The private pen pal sneaks about, snags it from the designated spot, then finds a quiet place to read it. Now it is their turn to correspond!

Write silly jokes, light-hearted comments about work or school, find some specific wonderful attribute to praise, or express your affection for one another. Slip a little flower bud between the folds of the card. Maybe a handmade book mark or a nice piece of stiff, pink, cardboard-like bubble-gum. Simple treasures to be shared. Precious memories to cherish forever.

I have found that this game is particularily helpful when a parent has to travel frequently or shares custody of a child. Playing Private Pen Pals helps to ease the burning ache of absence from one another in a fun, simply silly way.

Warning, parent! This is not a time to lament over invented spellings. For now, enjoy your child's message. We'll work on that spelling later.

Simple Saturday Prep

Is there a child in your life learning how to read or write? One that may be needing emotional support of some kind? Or a child who simply enjoys a good joke? Well, Saturday's activity is one for you.

Do you have a stash of funky stationery? Stuff that you'll never use? Pull it out. We're going to use it tomorrow. The supplies needed for Simple Saturday fun are a note card and envelope, pen or pencil, and a pal to share in the adventure with you.