Overnight Field Trip

We’re leaving today for a three-day, two-night overnight field trip to the Marin Headlands Institute. This is the first time for us at Lafayette Elementary for this field trip. We’re all a little nervous and a little excited at the same time. I think it’s going to be a great field trip, and I’m very much looking forward to it. The other teachers and I hope that this will become a tradition for fifth grade students, a field trip experience that we will repeat in the future.

The bad news is I’m going to be on an overnight field trip when NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow. I bought a journal yesterday, so I will be handwriting for the first couple of days.

The good news is I attended a meet-and-greet with fellow Wrimos yesterday at a Starbucks in Redwood City. It was fun and energizing to meet others who live in my region who are also going to be writing this year. There were at least fifteen people who showed up, and three of us are teachers.

I got a couple of NaNoWriMo stickers at the meet-and-greet, and I’ve stuck them on my journal. One reads “Your Story Matters” and the other one says “You are part monkey, part ninja, part stairmaster cyborg.” I think my students will get a kick out of that one.

I’ll have a NaNoWriMo update when I return on Wednesday. And I’m sure I’ll have a thing or two to say about the field trip as well.

Going to The Night of Writing Dangerously

Three weeks ago, I set up a fundraising page to help the Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that runs National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and its Young Writers Program. I am so pleased that I have helped raise $350 for them. A heartfelt and sincere “thank you” to all my friends and family who donated.

I will now be attending The Night of Writing Dangerously on November 20, the culminating event of this fundraising drive. I will be bringing along my friend, fellow teacher, and fellow poet/novelist, Michael Drum.

I won’t speak for Michael, but I have plenty to say on my own behalf. Over the last three years, my life as a writer has grown considerably. That first year, on November 11, 2008, I discovered Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem in a bookstore’s writing section. I bought the book that night, went home, logged onto the website, and began my adventures in noveling. I had no plot, but I jumped in anyway. I only wrote 16,000 words that month; I did not win that year.

But I came back, and I have won the last two years, writing 50,000 words in 30 days, completing first drafts of two novels. My goal is to win again this year.

In 2009, I told Michael about it, and he also began participating. And for the last two years, he and I have each brought NaNoWriMo into our classrooms via the Young Writers Program. And we’re doing it again this year too.

In the forums at NaNoWriMo, I learned that many people were planning to write a poem a day in April as part of National Poetry Month. I tried my hand at that in April of 2010. That didn’t stick right away, but I came back again in April 2011. And since then, I’ve continued to write poetry. And, along the way, I’ve met some amazing people and made some new friends.

There are a lot of us out here whose lives are made richer by the poems and novels we write. And by the relationships we’ve forged in our love of literature, our common ground. I do this weird, solitary thing, putting little marks on a piece of paper. And then I put it out there for others to read. I’d like to say that writing is magical. It’s not. But the relationships I’ve formed because of it – that’s magical. And I am grateful.

Thank you again to everyone who’s donated. I truly appreciate your support, both financially to the Office of Letters and Light, and in the kind words you share with me that encourage me to write – and to keep writing. This means a lot to me. And what’s important to me I have to share. I am so lucky to have a colleague like Michael, who has become a good friend – and for us to discover this other thing besides teaching that we share.

I share my passion for writing with my students. That’s no special thing. Lots of teachers do that. But it is special to me, because of the meaning that it carries for me. I’m blessed in that I can do the work that I love, teaching, and the play that I love, writing, and combine them as I do.

I’ve donated to NaNoWriMo the past three years. (I always feel a little guilty ordering free materials from them and not making a contribution.) I’m so thankful to everyone else who has donated on my behalf. They will put your money to good use, including supporting teachers in bringing writing to their students.

Please spread the word about NaNoWriMo to friends and family, and about their Young Writers Program to teachers. If you can’t donate financially, encourage crazy people like me who attempt to write so many words in such a short span of time.

In these tough financial times, you might also consider using GoodSearch. Every internet search you make from their website earns a penny for the Office of Letters and Light.

Night of Writing Dangerously update

First and foremost, a sincere “thank you” to the following people who have donated to The Office of Letters and Light on my behalf: Joss Burnel, Brenda Warren, Paula Wanken, and Kim Nelson. I truly appreciate your financial support of this wonderful nonprofit organization.

I’m pleased (giddy, actually) to announce that I have now reached my goal of $250, which means that I may now attend The Night of Writing Dangerously, the write-a-thon that will be happening in San Francisco on November 20th.

I’ve now set my sights a little higher, to $350. If I can raise $100 more I will be able to take a guest. I want to take my friend and colleague, Michael Drum, with me. He also teaches fifth grade students at Lafayette Elementary. When I told him about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) a couple of years back, he was instantly on-board. He wrote 50K words that November, and, like me, brought his students along for the ride. (He also writes poetry.) This will be our third year bringing NaNoWriMo into our classrooms thanks to free materials we have requested from NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program.

Please spread the word about NaNoWriMo and their Young Writers Program. Let your children’s teachers know about it. Got grandkids? Let their teachers know too. Are you a teacher? Sign up. Do you have friends who are teachers? Give them the link to NaNoWriMo. It’s easy for teachers to sign up with the Young Writers Program and then request free materials to inspire students to write. The Young Writers Program also has PDF files of “100% NON-LAME workbooks” that you can download for free from their website.

Please consider sponsoring me on my fundraising page. (There you you can see a couple of photographs of former students of mine, from two years ago, writing in my classroom.) Your tax-deductible contribution will help The Office of Letters and Light bring National Novel Writing Month and the Young Writers Program to adults and children all over the world this November.

Richard (aka Mr. Walker)

he shouldered causes

he shouldered causes
the ones that were broken
or which someone had dropped

he would bolt through the door
burst onto the scene
never asking to be forgiven

he would pull nonprofits from their shallows
jump through red tape hoops
as if he were dancing

his feet constantly moving forward
then gathered together to leap
over whatever hurdles there were

toppling indifference only
he was a burst of joy
striking like a bolt of love

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 26 at The Sunday Whirl.

I’m raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post, or check out the sidebar note between the two NaNoWriMo web badges. (I’ll be posting an update here tomorrow.)

I’m an obsolete

I’m an obsolete
the antonym of athlete
because I don’t like rambunctious people

I remember the days
of polite swallows
of teas and crumb-cakes,
when men wore fedoras,
as handsome on their heads outside
as on the hat-rack in our foyer

and you had to admire the way
they’d open the door of their automobile
and wait for a lady to seat herself
before gently closing the door
and driving us to the Palladium Ballroom

now I sit by the pond in my garden,
left fallow in my obsolescence,
so I ring the bell to summon the nurse
for my pills and some pleasant conversation

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 25 at The Sunday Whirl.

I’m raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post, or check out the sidebar note between the two NaNoWriMo web badges. I’m one-third of the way to my goal!


what does that mean?
falling short

is that a poke
at the vertically challenged?
that’s not funny

or is it the punchline
to a politically incorrect joke
about a Native American name?
that’s not funny either

falling a short distance
just might be a good thing
dust off your knees
and hop tall again

what I worry about is
falling behind

I’ve got emails to send
papers to grade
poems to post
a novel to write

and my butt is sagging

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the Rise and Fall prompt at Poetic Bloomings.

I’m raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post, or check out the sidebar note between the two NaNoWriMo web badges.

Thanks to Paula for her donation. You are a writing hero. I’m one-third of the way to my goal. Thanks!

Ron Koertge

A little prose diversion for today.

This past weekend I was checking out some of the 101 Best Websites put together by Writer’s Digest every year. Since I’m planning on writing a children’s book this year for NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d check out some of the sites related to writing for children.

And am I glad I did.

One of the sites was Cynsations, a blog by writer Cynthia Leitich Smith. On her blog I found a guest post by Ron Koertge. All I knew about him before that was a poem that he wrote that I have read aloud to my students: “Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?” (It’s a great poem – you should read it.)

Well, I discovered that he writes books for young people. His blog post was about a sequel he had written to a previous book. What caught my attention was a book called Shakespeare Bats Cleanup. I quickly went online and found that they had a copy at my second-closest Barnes & Noble. In running errands on Sunday, we didn’t make it over there, but I went Monday night and picked it up.

Here’s the blurb on the back page:

At fourteen, Kevin Boland is a straight-talking MVP first baseman who can’t tell a ballad from a salad. But when he is diagnosed with mono and is forced to spend months at home recuperating, Kevin secretly borrows his father’s poetry book and starts writing, just to pass the time. Inside the book, Kevin discovers more than haiku and sonnets. He gains insight – sometimes humorous, sometimes painful – as he records his candid observations on junior-high romance, daydreams of baseball stardom, and sorrow over the recent death of his mother, and learns how words can open doors to the soul.

Makes you want to read it, doesn’t it? I bought it. I can’t wait to read it. As soon as I’ve finished it – which might not happen until I finish my first set of report cards for this school year – I’ll post a review here.

If I like it, I may read parts (or all) of it to my students as part of my Elementary School Poetry 180 project.

/ / /

I’m raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post.

Thanks to Brenda and Joss for their donations. You are writing heroes. I’m almost one-fourth of the way to my goal. Thanks!

It Had Been

his energy waned
he was fearful
he didn’t mind being alone
except that he was lonely now
it hadn’t always been this way

he had lived a life of adventure
his face had known many smiles
he had myriad loves
he could play music and jokes
it had been that way for a long time

he had wandered
and been lost
had looked for signs in headlines
and slept on concrete
it had been that way for too long

he regretted leaving the church
he remembered the circle of love there
he hoped the philosophy he’d cobbled together
would hold him in his final days

it had been his way
he just hoped it was the right one

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 24 a la Leo at The Sunday Whirl and Wither Goest Thou Kevin Bacon? – Prompt #23 at Poetic Bloomings.

I’m raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post.

And, in case you missed it, there is my interview with Sherry Blue Sky at Poets United.

The Night of Writing Dangerously

I’m looking for people willing to sponsor me financially, so that I can raise money for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that puts on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every November.

There, I said it. Got that over with.

“Why?” you ask.

Because, I say, it’s a worthy cause.

This will be my fourth NaNoWriMo, and the third where I’ve brought it into my classroom. They also have a Young Writers Program, which provides free materials to teachers. There are great “100% NON-LAME workbooks” that teachers can download for free. And many teachers also order the free Classroom Noveling Kit. I’ve ordered one again this year, as I did the previous two years. (If you don’t know already, I’m a public school teacher.)

I’ve made monetary contributions all three years that I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, and I’ve already done so again this year. But this year, I’d like to raise more money for The Office of Letters and Light – and attend The Night of Writing Dangerously, a write-a-thon to be held in San Francisco on Sunday, November 20, 2011.

Please consider sponsoring me on my fundraising page. A tax-deductible contribution of $10 will help put another Classroom Noveling Kit in the hands of a teacher somewhere, who will use that to inspire children to write. How cool is that? Pretty cool, I think. I’ve seen it myself upfront and close. Any amount that you can contribute in these touch economic times would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Richard (aka Mr. Walker)

Elementary School Poetry – Week Four

“Radio” is another great poem from Poetry 180. It’s accessible and fun. City kids get this one real quick.
I can’t locate where I found “Could Have Been Worse” at the moment. It’s a humorous poem from a poetry book for kids, probably one of those anthologies of poems that kids like. It’s one of those “underwear” poems that makes kids groan. Lots of fun to read.
Addendum: I decided to do an internet search before I posted this, and sure enough, I located it. It’s from Kids Pick the Funniest Poems – and I found it reposted online as well. Enjoy!
“The Farewell” is a great poem to read. It’s also one that I might bring up later when we talk about trust and distrust.
“Knoxville, Tennessee” is a great poem by Nikki Giovanni. It’s in our reading anthology; there’s a small unit on poetry. But it comes with illustrations. I like students to read (or hear) poems on their own without illustrations. Pictures made by someone other than the poet guides student interpretations, and I want them to come up with their own interpretation.
“The Poet” is a fun one. Poets write poems about poetry and poets. This is a good example of that.