Saturday, July 28, 2012

Seminar in Nonfiction: Summer 2012

What a wonderful writers' community we created. And, oh yes, how we suffered.... 
Click on photo to enlarge. 

One Writer's Life

On Friday, our last class, I spoke about my journey as a writer for the past 34 years. These few moments reminded me how time has slipped forward. I enjoyed thinking back to my first article about skiing "Indy" written for the Indianapolis Star. And then remembering some of the poems, articles, columns, and books that have marked the time of this writer's life. Thanks to my classmates for letting me talk through my journey; you were very kind to listen.

Road skiing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway c. 1978

The books of my life not including the 6 unpublished books that sit in the over-sized closets of my home.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kate Kennedy

Kate's writer's cabin in her backyard. 

“Research, Resources, and the Writing” of More than Petticoats: Remarkable Maine Women

What a delight to enjoy Kate Kennedy's insights, wisdom, and humor in class today. Not only did she give us background on writing a nonfiction piece such as More Than Petticoats, she also explained how a real life story of a murdered girl turned into a novel titled End Over End. And what a beautiful way to end the morning with Kate's Nate sharing a story of how to motivate that next chapter.... 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thinking Revision

We spoke today about revision. I offered a few of my revision techniques as well as activities I use with my students. Then, we heard from others who use a variety of techniques both personally and as teachers. I enjoyed the session and, as always, I discovered a new technique or a twist on one that I hadn't used before.
Revision techniques from July 25, 2012. Remember: Click on the photo to enlarge! 

Part of life some days....

And with revision, don't forget....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Truth vs. Story Truth and Blog Truth: If I don't tell you the whole story, am I lying?” with Emilie Brand Manhart

Blogger, mom, magazine editor, marathoner, triathlete, and English teacher Emilie Brand Manhart visited us today in Shibles 204 to share her thoughts on truths in writing. 

Click on photo to enlarge. 

Here's some of what we thought in response to Emilie's talk:

A blogger person isn’t a fake, but it’s not the whole story either.

You inspire with me...

Loved hearing about your process and how blogging disciplined your writing.

Your honesty was touching.

I will endeavor to find my voice as you have.


An important topic well illustrated….

I was very impressed with your candor…

“That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly -- Tom's Aunt Polly, she is -- and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.”

You made blogging real…

You got me thinking about exposure in writing…

Thank you for putting yourself out there.

As you were speaking to us, I couldn’t help but think, “I wish she had been my English teacher.” 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day One, Nonfiction Writing at UMaine

QuickWrites on...

"What makes writing hard for you?"  

"What makes writing easy for you?"

What makes writing hard (blue)/easy (red) for you?  
This is where we began... and didn't the conversations flow.

Next, we wrote letters to someone we have been meaning to write to. Some of us chose to avoid issues; we danced around the deeper conversation. As a result, we felt a wide range of emotions. Lesson learned: writing is powerful stuff.  

Maja Wilson helped us think about voice and audience by sharing letters she and her editor Gloria traded back and forth at the beginning stages of her book Rethinking Rubrics. What a thoughtful teacher-scholar. Weren't we lucky to have Maja as a guest.   

We read George Ella Lyon's poem "Where I'm from" and then trucked off for lunch and precious writing time to begin composing our own poems. A bit of workshopping, a discussion... and how about the reading of those poems. I admired the diversity, your voices (!), and your willingness to share. 
What do we need from our editors in a conference? 

At the end of the day, we penned our thoughts on 4x6" cards. Here's a synthesis of lines taken from that writing: 

What we said….

First off, the day went by relatively fast & I thank you for that.

I was rather anxious when we began class—I struggle with confidence as a writer.

I’m glad you freed us up to write what we want instead of what we feel we “should” do.

No worries— “Fired up and ready to go”

Maja’s discussions are always on point.

Considering how nervous I was to begin my first graduate class, this day has done wonders to allay my fears. 

Nonfiction writing is out of my comfort zone, so it is a nice change for me.

Conversations around voice & audience this morning were key to thinking about how to set up my writing.

Maja is engaging and intelligent, and she gave me some great things to think about in terms of my own writing life.

I’m strictly writing out of my head to start, so I can focus on what I know first.

I thought, “Oh, no! This is going to be a looonnng week” But as the day progressed I realized writing isn’t so bad and I’m looking forward to writing and conferencing with others throughout the week. 

I have always set my mind on the purpose of my writing but not to the voice.

“Here is what I think happened: Daddy was a prick—but we loved him.”

I like the freedom . . .  freedom of choice – freedom of format – freedom from reading – freedom from teaching and Englishy type things.

The whole nonfiction thing is still scaring the hell out of me so just so you know I’m trying.

My idea is a feature article on running/fitness at middle age. 

Here's to tomorrow's adventure! 

Just write. 


And so it begins....

This really looks like one of my first drafts!

Let's write!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Beginning to Write

Gearing up for our nonfiction writing class. And remember, my friends:

Beginning to Write

To know how to begin to write is a great art. Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble; on paper, not eternal bronze; let the first  sentence be as stupid as it wishes. No one will rush out and print it as it stands. Just put it down; and then another. Your whole first paragraph or first page may have to be guillotined after your piece is finished; but there can be no second paragraph until you have a first. --JACQUES BARZUN

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Ad for Coaching Management Magazine
In October of 2011, I sold an article on Athletic Team Notebooks and Journals to Athletic Management magazine (circulation: 30,100). The editor came back to me after its publication asking to use the article in other upcoming editions of sister publications called Coaching Management (football, volleyball, and baseball editions). 

For each edition, I revised my article to fit the specific sport. The revision may have taken me 20 hours or less.  Each version included an author's biography and my book's website:

For this publishing company, writers do not receive additional money for revised reprints, so I asked the editor if she'd consider running a free ad. She checked with the publisher and ... yes! 

One quarter page ad in Athletic Management is pricey, so I feel good about the trade. Heather Boyle, my book's marketing person at Peter Lang/USA, created this ad that's set to run in the fall. 

Lesson learned: just ask--you never know.   

Friday, July 20, 2012

Finalizing the Soccer Team Notebook and Running Black Mountain

Available August 1, 2012
The last few weeks have been focused on finishing this new book. The Soccer Team Notebook offers a variety of learning opportunities for coaches and their players. The book is co-authored with Amy Edwards, head coach of the Gonzaga University women's soccer team. I enjoyed working with Amy because she has a background in using "writing as a way to learn" with her teams. 

For the past four years, Amy has been using my writing protocols with her Zags and previously with her University of Missouri team. Amy has a deep interest in sports psychology and has several friends who offered their feedback on the Team Notebook's drafts.

Handed out by the coach, a team notebook has activities that assist players in thinking more deeply training and games. The players write in the notebook in response to the various prompts.

Team Notebooks and Journals inspire writing. I think a lot of my English teaching friends would be surprised to read their student-athletes' writing in these books. Voice, detail, passion... it's the real-deal that writing teachers hope for and work toward with their students.

Team Notebooks add to the ways athletes learn in their sports. Here's a graphic I created after interviewing athletes and coaches throughout this study. This chart gives a glimpse at how writing can add to athletes' learning (as with all the pictures in this blog, click on the graphic to enlarge). 
Reprinted from Writing on the Bus (page 4)

The book also includes 100 journal prompts to help athletes think about soccer and about themselves as people, athletes, and teammates. This book is the first of 10 sports team notebooks co-published by the National Writing Project. NWP also co-published Writing on the Bus with Peter Lang/USA. I'm excited to work with a variety of coaches from different sports over the coming years. Next up, I think: the Basketball Team Notebook. 

After I finishing the final draft of the Soccer Team Notebook, Bailey and I took a celebration "run" up Black Mountain (my PR for the year: 28:52 to the top) and then ran down. Bailey hit several streams on the way down, and after the 60-minute run, knowing nothing of this book, he lounged in his favorite swimming hole with an ear-to-Big-ear grin. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The growing silence of a writer's life

I spoke on National Writing Project radio last night, interviewed by my friend Tanya Baker. We spoke about Writing on the Bus and the two companion books. Joining me were Amy Edwards, head soccer coach of Gonzaga University; Emilie Manhart--marathoner, triathlete, blogger, magazine editor, and English teacher; and Sam Morse, a 17 year old alpine ski racer and journaler from Carrabassett Valley Academy at the base of Sugarloaf.

Since arriving at UMaine in 2003, I've been hunkered down writing. Often, I say that writing a book takes me around 1200 hours. Honestly, I have no idea how many hours it takes--1200 sounded like a good round number. It's usually 1-2 years of work mixed in with my other obligations. As for journal articles, they take 4-6 weeks of work over the course of a year or a bit more. For example, "Charlie's Words" took 14 months to complete. Here's the list of my books and articles:  

The Soccer Team Notebook
The Athlete’s Workbook: A Season of Sport & Reflection. 
Writing on the Bus 
Teaching the Neglected “R”
A Guide to Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers

Writing About Place

Foreword in:
The Successful High-School Writing Center 

“Writing Across the Disciplines: Athletics”  
“Charlie’s Words: Supporting Gifted Male Athletes Using Athletes’ Journals” 
“Team Notebooks & Athlete’s Journals” 
“Power of the Pen” 
“Writing, Learning, and Competing with Team Notebooks”  
“Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers, Grades 6-12: Thoughts for College Writing Center Tutors (and their Directors)            
“Room 109’s Portfolios and Our High School Writing Center” 
“Funny Guy: A Look at Boys Who Act Out in Class” 
“Revision: Different Editors for Different Drafts? How different editors for different drafts help students to discover themselves and their writing” 
“Boys & Reading: Responsive Instruction” 
"Team notebooks: Writing to the next level, Part 1"
"Team notebooks: Writing to the next level, Part 2" 
"Team notebooks: Writing to the next level, Part 3"

I write this because I felt uncomfortable on the radio. Since the 1970s I've been on radio and TV; I've given keynotes and speeches ... and I actually looked forward to the experiences. But last night, I just wasn't feeling it and this feeling has been escalating over the past few years. 

I think I've spent so much time hunkered down behind the computer throughout my writing life that my brain has shifted in some way and my speaking abilities have dwindled. Although some writers love talking about their writing, cats, or process, I don't anymore. It's a bit frustrating to be silenced in way, but I suppose I'll get over it. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hiking/Running Black Mountain of Maine

We just hiked and ran BMOM in Rumford. 90 degrees with a comfortable wind and not much humidity. Bailey lavished in the stream at the end of our hike. I sucked down Gatorade and water. 

Yesterday, Bailey, Simon, and Anders (Denmark) headed out on the paddle board at Weld. They had the best time.