Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “inspiration”

NPM: The Hand


April is National Poetry Month and my plan of sharing poems of significance to me fell to the wayside as life happened (or didn’t happen).

Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is a Thing of Feathers” was the first post, and now I am ending the month with Mary Ruefle’s “The Hand” as a tribute to students, teachers, the general education community. I miss being in the classroom.

The Hand

The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air.

This poem is a poster that I place prominently in my classroom, to remind me, and to remind my students, that we all have something to share, yet if we don’t make that effort to speak out no one will know what we had to offer.

This poem has even greater meaning for me since I am now separated from my students and I am unable to hear their voices and we are unable to share our ideas with one another. Distance teaching provides learning, yet it’s in a vacuum since I am unable to interact with my students. They might be gaining knowledge through the lessons I send out to them; however, how are they receiving that knowledge, what it means to them is somewhat lost. Electronic response is not the same as seeing that hand raise and hearing their voice.

Yes, I miss being in the classroom. I miss my students.

PADding About with Poetry


Teaching poetry to a class of teens is almost intimidating as being the student learning the language of metaphors and similes and alliteration and such.

For one thing there is the DWA

factor–Dead White Authors.

Occasionally I detect a certain resentment of having to study the antiquated language and suspect ideas of people who lived in times current adolescents have a difficult time relating to, especially when many of these authors were among the 1% of their day. Understanding that religion revolved around one belief and not a myriad seems wrong to some of many students.

Getting students to remove their 21st century hats in order to not be hindered by Frost using “queer” when describing how the speaker’s horse thinks it’s strange to stop in the middle of the woods is a little challenging but not insurmountable.

Another challenge is getting students to embrace poetry as a necessity. Actually, for that concern I have a ready reply:

If you can figure the meaning of a poem and explain it in such a way it is comprehensible to others, you will no doubt succeed in other endeavors in life, such as presenting a new scientific concept to your co-workers or even putting together that bike in a box for your kid some day.

I do sympathize with my students about the saturation of 18th and 19th century poems we tend to study, especially in AP Literature. This is why I subscribe to services that provide a poem everyday. It’s like those word a day subscriptions except more words and they sometimes rhyme.

Over the past few years I have amassed quite a collection. Now what? Aha! I pulled together a monthly menu and created a PPT what I call the PAD–Poem A Day. While I take attendance, students read the poem on the projector screen and then discuss some aspect. Most of these poems are contemporary and the topics, as well as formats, tend to be more relatable for my students.

The other day we covered Robert Bly’s moon poem. I then had students find three objects in the room and describe them in a new way. The best one involved calling our box fan a meditation counselor since it had the ability to provide a cooling off whenever we were heated up. Nice.

I remember Robert Frost and his puzzled horse in fifth grade and I have taught it to my tenth graders and seniors. I’m hoping once we have chatted about meaning and metaphor they will think poetry is lovely as they move through life. My hope is they’ll carry a verse in their pocket or be able to pop out a ready line to fit any occasion.

Well, I Never…


There are so many lists out there dealing with resolutions of sorts these days: Buckets, Blessings, Brags, and I toss out my own B.I.G. (“Before I Get–too old, too lazy, too nervous…)

I think I’m on to a new kind of list. Instead of a wish list or a hopeful list or even a done it list, I’m starting a “Well, I Never and Glad of It List.”

Truthfully, aren’t there some things you’ve never done, and you are glad you haven’t?

Here are a couple of starters for me:

  1. I have never had a cup of coffee.
  2. I have never read or watched Harry Potter.
  3. I have never Twittered or Instagrammed.
  4. I have never been inked.

The first admission is usually met with surprise or doubt and sometimes an offer to buy me a cup of java.

The second one is met with shock, and once with outrage. Devotees can be so sensitive.

The third often involves a knowing nod and camaraderie, or a puzzled concern, as if the person is in the company of a technological dinosaur. 

The fourth is tricky as it involves which age group I’m talking to, since tattoos are seen differently by different generations.

Of course there are some “Well, I nevers” I shall never contemplate:

  1. Swimming with sharks.
  2. Spelunking
  3. Staying in an ice hotel.

    travelchannel.com

    So–do you have a couple of “Well, I nevers” to share?

The Giver et al


I have rediscovered The Giver. 

the-giver

sometimes the movie reminds the reader the greatness of the book image: bookopia.com.au

When it arrived on the scene in 1993 I was not an impressionable YA reader. No, I was a thirtysomething wife/mom/librarian and read books no matter what age they were intended for. Hmm. the only thing that’s changed is my age and the fact that I’m a librarian at heart while teaching English.

Like most readers, I felt a bit cheated at the ending. It was not neatly wrapped up and presented as a conclusion of satisfaction. Ambiguity can be quite frustrating, yet that’s one reason why The Giver is so memorable. We all want to know what happened to Jonas. Having rediscovered The Giver through watching the 2014 film led me to discover the other books in the series: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. And here I thought all these years that the story ended with that famous sled ride.

Apparently it took twenty years for the book to become adapted to the screen. Jeff Bridges bought the rights and had originally wanted his father Lloyd to play the part of Giver. It didn’t happen, but viewers can watch a family reading of The Giver as one of the special features selections on the released DVD. Having finished reading the entire quartet I am smitten with the entire story. I hope there is a continuation of the series since each adds to the overall understanding of Jonas’s world.

An added bonus to rediscovering The Giver was reading the latest edition which contains author Lois Lowry’s twenty year reflection of The Giver’s impact.

A goal for this year: revisiting novels, particularly juvenile and YA novels, to gain a different perspective and insight.

Anyone interested in doing the same?

 

Blog Spotlight: Book to the Future


My latest spotlight is on another blogger whom I’ve exchanged commentaries since the beginning of my blogging foray.

In his own words:

Everyone calls me Ste J.
I am an obsessive book creature, in fact I spend more time between the (book) covers (I read in bed as well though) than I do with ‘real’ people.
Which means I probably spend more time with you guys than anyone else. Feel privileged.

Ste J is a bona fide bibliophiliac. He loves books. That’s a bonafide fact. Proof: he once read 100 books in 362 days, just to see if he could do it.  His blog is neatly organized into genre and with a mere click, a person can investigate reviews and titles. His tastes are eclectic, his insights meaningful, and his replies clever.

For a sampling of his classics page, click here.

Lately, his posts have wandered a bit off the original track of being primarily bookish in content and he writes on whim. I can relate.  I too have strayed from my original intent of providing astute book reviews that would dazzle and benefit bookdom and have taken to writing as serendipity taps the muse.

So, I hope you will check out Book to the Future and meet the intrepid Ste J, where as his banner states “more book than a mad ‘orse.”

Unexpected Bits of Wisdom


Lately I’ve been noticing more and more products are sporting bits of wisdom as part of the package.

Halls Defense Multi-Blend Supplement Drops, Harvest Cherry

The first notice came with my occasional binges on Dove Dark Chocolate Bites.  It took me a wrapper or two to realize pithy little “promises” hid within. For instance, “Encourage Your Sense of Daring” and “Smile Before Bed. You’ll Sleep Better” are two gems.  I started calling these my chocolate fortune cookies and began collecting them.  If you are trying to cut down on chocolate–I know I need to– *GaSp* did I really just say that?–you can unwrap a few calorie free promises at https://www.dovechocolate.com/epromise.

Recently I discovered Honest Tea and upon popping open the cap I found some great quotes.  What I really like is the variety:

“Now I know the secret of making the best persons; it is grow in the open air and eat and sleep with the earth.”–Walt Whitman

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”–Albert Einstein

“The truth is a beautiful and terrible things, and should therefore be treated with caution.”–J.K. Rowling

“The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”–Helen Keller

“A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”–Douglas Noel Adams

“In order to a realist you must believe in miracles.”–David Ben-Gurion

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt.” –Samuel Ullman

Finding bits of wisdom on drink caps probably isn’t too unusual, after all you can often find prizes and such depending on the drink.  But what really surprised me was finding “A Pep Talk in Every Drop” as I popped a cough drop.  I’m not much in the habit of caring about getting inspired when my throat’s scratchy. Although it probably isn’t so bad to make people feel good when they are feeling bad.  Would these words cheer you up once your cough in under control:

“March forward!”  “Keep your chin up.” “Now you get it in you.” “Elicit a few “wows” today.”

I think when I’m done teachering I will look into wrangling up a job for some company supplying these pity bits of wisdom.  Hmm, I wonder how I find that listing at Linked In–“Wisdom generator available–light and deep bits created upon request.”

Any other bits or promises hiding out there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrap Up or Fall Flat


After five years of stop and go writing on my historical novel I’m nearing the end chapters. It’s rather intimidating. The ending involves the reuniting of a homestead mother with her family. The way I have presented the conflict is that there is some ambiguity of whether the mother left the family due to the grind of daily life as a pioneer women or if she wandered away due to fever delirium.
Here’s what I need to figure out:
-Is the husband readily accepting her leaving the family and not returning once she was better? (He’s a good guy overall, but was left with six children ages 3-15 to raise in her absence)
-How will the daughter (her POV) feel about her mama at this point? Anger, relief? This girl took on the task of raising her three ornery brothers and packed up her petticoats and put on pants to do so in order up keep up with them.

The right grab really counts… image: bodyresults.com

 

Reaching the end chapters is a lot like rock climbing. A cadence is developed in both–the reach and pull up towards progress. Just when the top is in sight, flat is sometimes hit, meaning no handholds and no way to go up. Finding a new path is sometimes the only direction left. Then again a risky move can be tried and what a sensation of exhilaration when it leads to success and pulling over the top.

Write now? I’m at that looking for a move that will pull me over the top.

So, writers–what do you do when you hit flat when the top ledge is in sight? Do you press on or look for a new route?

Poem in Your Pocket?


Yes!

Pick a poem

from the offered bouquet

carry the fragrance

of words which refresh

and delight

Place a poem in your pocket

and travel

to new lands

make new friends

discover old memories

enliven the senses

and then

share it

Way Too Cool Library(ians)


I am a bona fide bibliophile. I not only love (phile) books (biblio) I adore all that  is connected to them: writing, reading, bookstores, and libraries. If we go on vacation I seek out the library. Some seek out shopping, eating, beaching, hiking, or cycling–I seek out reading. My idea of the perfect vacation tour would be to visit libraries all around the world.  The cool part about libraries is the librarians. There are plenty of movies about super heroes as well as super agents, along with super smart folk who solve crime, save the world, etc.–but rarely is the librarian given credit where credit is due. Being a librarian at heart, I had a fair amount of fun watching The Librarian series–all that knowledge put to good use saving the world. Yeah, librarians do have skills.

image: pinterest.com

Libraries around the world preview:

  • clementinum int 10 of the world's most spectacular libraries

    This is in Prague. Oh, yes, I do want to go. I do. I do.

The Book I Would Like to Write


Sometimes the rumblings of hunger manage to induce some amazing culinary renderings on my behalf.

“Let’s see–some rice, a dollop of pesto, assorted veggies, ooh a garnish of nuts, oh yeah there is that leftover sautéed chicken breast.”

Yes, it was tasty. No, didn’t snap a photo.

I wish I could do that with my writing. Here are the ingredients that are rumbling around in my writerly mixing bowl:
-an irrepressible protagonist who transcends time
-address a political issue in a manner that is neither knee jerk, condescending, nor didactic
-scatter in memorable minor characters who majorly affect the plot
-set the story in a picturesque small town of yesteryear
-provide a handful of quotes that will resonate long after the book has been reviewed, shelved, studied, and reread
-have one maybe two iconic symbols that shift paradigms
-explore old thoughts in a new way
-create a subculture that spans time, culture, and political decorum

Wait a minute…
This book is already available, attainable, and darn right delicious.

Harper Lee’s classic remains my ideal of perfect novel.  I have too many ideas rumbling around to only write one book, but oh what a book to have written as the one-claim-to-fame.
Do you have a ONE book that you feast on as a reader?  Or is there one special book that inspires your writer creativity towards boil, simmer, and serve?

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