Sunday, December 04, 2011

Leaving this recess behind

I have decided to discontinue updating this blog. It's just become too time-consuming to update this blog and the one I started at WordPress. It's the same blog, so it's a little silly for it to be in two places. Thank you to everyone who has read my words here and who has followed me here. Please find new posts at Sadly Waiting for Recess at WordPress. Thanks.

I'm not going to migrate these posts over. Many recent ones are duplicates anyway, and I want to retain the history here. This is where I started blogging.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day Nineteen Update

It's been a crazy week.

I did really well on Monday, writing 2,017 words, tying for my third best day so far this month. Tuesday was an average day, at 1,748 words.

Wednesday was my worst day all month. I only wrote 183 words that day.

It's generally been more difficult for the last couple of weeks. I try to write about 400 to 500 words every morning before work. It's quiet, and I can get started on a scene. When I get home after work, it's relatively easy to pick up where I left off and then reach my word goal for the day.

Since the smartboard was installed in my classroom, I've only had a couple of days when I've been able to write in the morning. I've been spending my time adapting my lesson plans to the smartboard.

On the other hand, it's been fun putting the pep talks from the Young Writers Program website into the smartboard software to share with my students. Not all of them have logged into the site, so I'm able to share the pep talks with them this way.

Wednesday was a particularly bad day for writing. I worked all day. Then I spent an hour with my kickball co-coach on the first day of our school's kickball team tryouts. Then I rushed home, picked up my younger son, got us all fed, and back to San Francisco for Family Math Night. We didn't get back home to San Bruno until 9 p.m. I was so tired, I only managed 183 words. I kept falling asleep sitting up at my laptop.

I gave up, updated my pathetic word count for the day on the NaNoWriMo website, and thanked my lucky stars for the word buffer I'd been able to build up so far this month.

I got back on track on Thursday with 1,731 words. Friday, I was very tired, and only wrote 1,045 words. I figured I'd easily reach my wordcount goals on Saturday and Sunday, so I could slack off a bit on Friday.

It was also a good day at school on Friday. Two of the girls in my class have already reached their word goals for the month. I filled in the progress chart hanging up in my classroom for both of them, and gave them their First-Class Novelist buttons. I hope they both keep writing until the end of the month.

Do I really keep track of how many words I wrote each day? Yes, I have an Excel spreadsheet where I do just that. (Yeah, I'm really that nerdy.)

Right now, it's early Saturday afternoon and I've already written exactly 1,600 words. I'll write more this evening after dinner. I'm shooting for about 2,000 words again today.

Tomorrow, I go to the Night of Writing Dangerously. I'm so excited. They reached the goal they wanted, with $50,587 raised. There have been 327 people fundraising for NaNoWriMo, with 216 of them making it to the Night of Writing Dangerously. I'm honored to be one of them, and so grateful to everyone who contributed. I'm sure I'll have lots to say about the Night of Writing Dangerously.

Who knows? I might even post a blog entry from the event itself.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update - Day Thirteen

I had my best day yet. I wrote 2,513 words today. I am currently at 23,759, which is 47.5% of 50K.

I thought I'd do a little data comparison today.

According to NaNoWriMo, I'm averaging 1,827 words per day. Young Writers Program (YWP) says 1,828.

NaNoWriMo says, at this rate, I should finish on November 27, 2011. YWP says November 28, 2011.

NaNoWriMo says I need to write 1,458 words per day to finish on time. YWP says 1,544.

I think I have figured out the discrepancy. Both sites agree that this is the thirteenth day. NaNoWriMo says there are 18 days remaining, while YWP says 17.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update - Day Twelve

I write like Neil Gaiman
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

So, I tried I Write Like this morning with what I wrote this morning for my NaNovel. Interesting. Maybe I should read some Neil Gaiman. All I'm familiar with so far is his work on the Sandman comic, which I loved. And I've got The Graveyard Book on my wishlist.

Yesterday, apparently, I wrote like Kurt Vonnegut.

It's now about 12:30 in the afternoon and I have already hit my wordcount for today. I wrote 1,812 words today, with a running total of 21,246.

I've been over 1,667 words per day for nine days in a row now. I'm averaging 1,770 words per day. At this rate, I will hit 50K on November 28th.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update - Day Nine

They have the wordcount widgets up and running at the NaNoWriMo website. I've put the basic Participant Widget in the sidebar on the right.

I like the My Month widget, but it's not working now, so I've taken it down.

Obviously, I need to write more today to reach my goal. I'm currently at 16,327, and I need to reach 16,667 today. I only wrote 362 words this morning before work.

[updated 11/19/11 because the My Month widget hasn't been working for the past couple of days]

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update - Day Seven

I'm currently at 12,103 words, which according to the stats on the Young Writers Program website, puts me at 24.21%. Oddly enough, the NaNoWriMo website doesn't have exactly the same stats; it doesn't tell you your percentage.

They also don't have the word count widgets up and running with their new website yet. I'm not complaining. The new website is clean and fast. I just miss the widgets. I like to include them in my blog posts, and I haven't been able to do that so far this year.

I attended my first write-in on Monday (yesterday). There's one close to me at a Panera. Got there a little late, but was there for over two hours.

My story is proceeding nicely - and I'm having fun.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

NaNoWriMo and Field Trip Update

The field trip was great! We're already talking about doing it again next year. I hope it becomes a tradition for the fifth grade students at my school.  There were two other schools there at the same time we were there. One was a group of Muslim girls from Sacramento; they've been going there for eight years. And I think one of the teachers from the other school said they'd been going there for seven years.

It was a great experience. I learned a lot about watersheds - and I hope my students did too. The people at the Marin Headlands Institute were awesome. The Field Science Educator with my group, Casey, did a great job. Jen, our coordinator, was attentive and helpful. And everyone was pleased with the food.

As a vegan, I can count on just about any restaurant having pasta with marinara sauce. I've had it everywhere - and then some. I must say the marinara sauce I had in the dining hall at the Marin Headlands Institute was probably the best I've ever had.

While I enjoyed the visit to the pond to collect samples of macroinvertebrates, the night hike to the beach to listen to the waves with "animal" ears was great. And only superseded by digging in the sand to find bioluminescent plankton. That was really cool!

I did get some writing done. The students were to stay in their bunks quietly until 6:45 a.m. I woke up earlier than that, slipped out of the dormitory and headed over to the Owl's Roost around 5 a.m. or so, my usual wake-up time. The Owl's Roost was the room set aside for adults, a little child-free sanctuary. There was a little kitchen just down the hall with coffee, and comfy chairs in the roost itself. I wrote both mornings we were there.

On the first, I only wrote 1,485 words. To win NaNoWriMo and reach 50K, you should write 1,667 words per day. On Wednesday, I wrote in the morning again at the Owl's Roost, and then again in the afternoon after arriving back at home: 1,701 words.

On Thursday, I only wrote 1,535 words. The good news that day was that I had a smartboard installed in my classroom. The bad news was that they installed it over my whiteboard, which I wanted moved to another wall. And since I haven't received any training yet, I had to jump in real quick to be ready to teach on Friday. I didn't even use it on Thursday itself. The students had a couple of tests, and we took it easy after the field trip, plus we had some grade level planning time.

Again, I didn't write at all Friday morning, still familiarizing myself with the software for the smartboard, and planning some lessons. But this afternoon and evening, I put on my new fedora, my writing hat, and cranked out 2,022 words. I am now at 6,743 words, just slightly ahead of my word goal of 6,667.

Monday, October 31, 2011

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.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Going to the Night of Writing Dangerously (10/24/2011)

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 (10/17/2011)

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)

Monday, October 17, 2011

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 see the sidebar note between the two NaNoWriMo web badges. (I'll be posting an update here later today.)