Saturday, June 30, 2012

Writer's Notebooks

At the end of the school year I received two nice new writer’s notebooks.  I’m writing in one of them now.  (Of course I copied from it for this post.)  One was a gift from a student in my classroom.  She spent the last two years filling up her own writer’s notebooks.  And did she ever fill them up!  She wrote marvelous bits of fiction, memoirs, a biography, craft exercises in which she focused on setting, character development, and making her dialogue real and effective. 

It was such an honor to see her smile at what she had written, laugh at her own funny dialogue, to watch her read a piece to her peers in an author’s circle and hunker down to make revisions. It was a fantastic feeling to edit her piece with her and listen as she read final drafts to the class, to applaud as she finished reading her stories and listen to the appreciations from her classmates as she called on them from the author’s chair. 

It is breathtaking to bear witness to children’s evolution as writers.  And since I was with her for two years I got to be a part of an incredible amount of development and change.  Her writer’s notebooks over these two years are archives; timelines to her growth. It is a record of her development of writing mechanics as she went from large mixed capitals and lower case letters with frequent spelling miscues to tight lovely cursive.  Beyond her mastery of skills, her writer’s notebooks are testaments to her craft development.  From cramped little bed-to-bed stories that reached exactly down to the last line on the page, to lengthy complex stories filled with emotions and colorful characters and intricate settings.

This little girl, my student and my friend, gave me a gift far beyond the cost of the notebook.

My other new writer’s notebook was a parting gift from my student teacher this semester.  She also knows the value of a writer’s notebook.  While she was only in my classroom for a single semester, that is a lot of time to spend in the presence of young children who are growing and changing before our very eyes.  Liz was able to witness the power of outgrowing yourself as a writer by trying out new genres, studying specific aspects of the writing process or cloning a favorite author’s style. Liz was there as children developed their writing voices.  She was able to witness their metamorphosis.  And she had the eyes to see.

I receive lots of notebooks as gifts.  It is fitting as I am a teacher of writing.  Some of these gifts are transcribed so that many years from now, as I fill a notebook and open up a fresh one, I’ll know who to mentally thank.  I’ll remember the face and some stories.  I’ll remember the feeling of having written with that person and sharing what we have written with each other.  I’ll recall some of the time when our paths crossed in a classroom and we were both growing together as writers. 

I can’t say that I haven’t regifted a few that have the first pages left blank absent of personal messages.  They make it to good homes.  But the transcribed ones are the ones I use.  I have to, right?  One of my former student teachers gave me one with a beautiful transcription about how much I helped her on her path to her professional dreams, etc.  I sensed that IT was a regift because it had a bright yellow bouquet on the front cover and flowery designs throughout.  I had to use it, right?  I couldn’t very well cut out the front page and give it away.  It would have been too obvious.  So I used it as my classroom notebook.   The kids didn’t care.  They knew I was in touch with my feminine side.  But when a colleague noticed it at a faculty meeting and riffed on me about it, I covered the front and back with duct tape.  Now it looks really manly.  What can’t duct tape fix?

A new writer’s note is so blank, so empty, so full of promise.  In these pages I could write my best poem, my most meaningful memoir, my finest lyrics, my saddest story.  I could write the draft of a memorable letter or a whimsical fairy tale.  A fresh writer’s notebook is so filled with promise and potential.  The gift of a writer’s notebook is a dare to write, to outgrow yourself as a writer.  It is a little daunting holding this new notebook with it’s flawless cover and spine, and smelling it’s fresh blank pages. 

A new writer’s notebook holds infinite possibilities. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sink or Swim

If I didn’t read it, I wouldn’t have believed it.  It takes all kinds to make this wacky world go round, right?  I mean there are people who literally believe that the earth is flat.  There are people who believe that there were no such things as dinosaurs.

But legislating scientific findings be stricken from public records?  Prohibiting government agencies from preparing for rising sea levels, which a state appointed panel predicted?  I understand we don’t like global warming.  It is upsetting.  It is, dare I say, inconvenient.  But I didn’t realize that state legislatures could do such a thing.  How can there be a decree that we ignore scientific evidence? 

Google - Did NC legislature prohibit information about climate change?

I’m guessing that you will be shocked, saddened, surprised, dumbfounded.  And you might even chuckle a bit.  There are some very serious fools who would just as soon we bury our heads in the sand and ignore the scientific evidence before us.  And they want to mandate that other people be ignorant too.  

It’s right there in the Charlotte ObserverI know, I know, it sounds like I am kidding.  I wish I was.

Coastal N.C. counties fighting sea-level rise prediction
Science panel predicts 1-meter sea-level rise by 2100; counties say that could harm economic development
State lawmakers are considering a measure that would limit how North Carolina prepares for sea-level rise, which many scientists consider one of the surest results of climate change.
Federal authorities say the North Carolina coast is vulnerable because of its low, flat land and thin fringe of barrier islands. A state-appointed science panel has reported that a 1-meter rise is likely by 2100.
The calculation, prepared for the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission, was intended to help the state plan for rising water that could threaten 2,000 square miles. Critics say it could thwart economic development on just as large a scale.

The N.C. Division of Emergency Management, which is using a $5 million federal grant to analyze the impact of rising water, lowered its worst-case scenario from 1 meter to 15 inches by 2100.

Several local governments on the coast have passed resolutions against sea-level rise policies.
When the General Assembly convened this month, Republican legislators went further.
They circulated a bill that authorizes only the coastal commission to calculate how fast the sea is rising. It said the calculations must be based only on historic trends, leaving out the accelerated rise that climate scientists widely expect this century if warming increases and glaciers melt.

Read more here:
Does the Republican dominated legislature in NC really think that by making a decree that the oceans will not continue to rise that anyone will be convinced?  That is like a Saturday Night Live skit.  Do they really want NC’s own climate researchers to change their predictions based on historical data rather than current predictive information?  And can they mandate it?  If this wasn’t so pathetically funny, it might be sad.

One of my big questions concerning a government’s ability to limit bad news is – who will believe them?   I understand that North Carolina might lose millions of dollars to developers if the bad news about climate change got out.  But isn’t the horse already out of the barn?  Can anyone truly go back and retrofit the false information that the NC legislature is pushing and forget what we already know?

It would be great if we could just ignore reality for a while and plan ahead as though the seas won’t rise.  It would make a few people a lot richer.  We might sleep better at night. 

But imagine the cost if we are not prepared.

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