One Liner…Or: the inspiration I get From Work

I know I haven’t posted in a while guys. I am very sorry about that! I keep thinking I’ll get everything scheduled out and be able to be on here more often but…we all know my ability to stick to organization is a bit iffy. However! All hope is not lost!

Today I wanted to talk to you for just a second about the types of inspiration I get at work. See, I am a music teacher for pre-k – 12th grade students. My children’s and Middle Grade stories are fueled through real life experiences and little character quirks of my ever day existence. However, I don’t usually get a lot of inspiration out of my 7th-12th graders. Every once in a while that does change…last week, for example, we were doing a group project in the Jr. High class. When it came time to perform, a couple of groups either didn’t have anything done OR were very obviously only carried by one or two lead girls. I don’t say this to be sexist, it is fact: The boys just didn’t want to do the work and expected their girl folk to carry them. So later that evening I texted this line to myself:

The problem with hiding behind the girls’ skirts so that you don’t have to do the work is that those skirts keep getting shorter, and you do not.

I know it isn’t much, but sometimes the smallest line can start off the greatest story. Maybe this will be that line! Or maybe it will sit here, lonely in its italics. I guess only time will tell.

 

Buzzing: Autism

In a recent discussion on personal buzz words for books I admitted to fellow BookTuber Acacia Ives that fairy tale re-tellings, specifically appealing to or talking about nerds, and autism are three of the big buzzes for me. When she asked why I realized that maybe my answer would require more than a few lines in the comment section (Mostly because I deleted three paragraphs worth of response before settling on a somewhat lengthy shortened reply).

So why is autism a buzzword for me? I haven’t ever been diagnosed as being on the spectrum, I didn’t grow up with a close friend or family member on the spectrum…so what’s going on?

I honestly cannot tell you when the first hook grabbed me. I can’t remember the first person I met with Autism, though I’m sure there were autistic students in school with me when I was younger. However, I can tell you that I can always remember being interested in the idea of autism. If you aren’t familiar with ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder) you can find some helpful facts on the webpage for the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and on the Autism Speaks webpage.

For me the idea of autism resonates in a way that most perceived ‘special needs’ do not. I say perceived because I have begun to see autism as merely a different way to see the world. Having spoken to many students and peers with varying levels of ASD, as well as reading articles written by and about those who have been diagnosed, what I’ve found is that a great majority of autistic people find more issue with how people perceive them and with struggling in the ‘normal’ sector of the world than they do with their ‘special need’. To them, the only thing ‘special’ is how hard they have to work when placed beside those of us who don’t think in their type of brain. Yes they might need help discerning things like emotional intent, expressions, and even imagination. However, ‘special needs’ and extreme levels of help are often not what people with ASD really need.

As an author autism both intrigues and frightens me. I love the way autism works, the way the brain works with autism. Each person with ASD has a different tick. It changes, it evolves, it moves with them in ways others disorders and/or illnesses cannot. I am enthralled by the way people with autism work, the way the different levels of autism force people to change and create in order to make their way through the world. The intricacies of beautiful minds that become somewhat of a fear factor for those of us who aren’t forced to live with it. I often write characters who, in my mind, have a touch or more of autism. I never specifically state that, however, because I am afraid writing yet another autistic character who is just a stylized, simplified, watered down version of their true self. A candy coated pill for the ‘normals’ to swallow down and say proudly to each other that they read a story about autism. Or, conversely, an over dramatized, emphatic, in your face autistic character who makes everyone uncomfortable because those are so rare in real life that I would be completely untrue to those I love and who I feel have entrusted me with their significance. You see, that must be it. Autism is a buzzword for me because people I care about, a cousin, some students, a nephew..those people deserve me to care. They deserve for us all to care and to want to understand. That is why I think it Should be a buzzword.

Here, though, is what I do know about why Autism is a buzzword:

  1. It has been used as a scapegoat. 

When I say that it is used as a scapegoat, I’m not just talking about classroom inclusion discussion or lively debates about inoculations. While both of those have been batted around like a tired yarn ball given to a kitten, those aren’t the only things that like to use autism as a main battle point. In fact, when people discuss things like ‘mental retardation’ they like to also bring autism into that mix. While the rise in autistic diagnosis for the past 15 years or so has actually led to a decrease in the diagnosis of ‘intellectually disabled’ the likelihood is that the actual issues haven’t changed, but our abilities for detection have. As our understandings and tests have evolved, our ability to recognize those who learn, comprehend, and develop differently has become slightly more sophisticated. normal-wiring-compared-autistic-wiring

Now take all of that last paragraph and set it aside for a moment because I have also seen a few cases of ‘autistic scapegoating’ while in a teaching capacity that had nothing to do with whether or not a repetitive motion or strict schedule should be allowed in with the ‘normal’ kids (remind me to post about normal sometime…).

For Example: I have seen a student who was placed on academic plans, had ‘special’ classes, etc etc etc due to their ‘severe level of Aspergers Syndrome’ but who only exhibited signs of ASD when they thought about it. That’s right, the only time that student actually showed any discernible signs were basically when they didn’t want to do the classwork or wanted to get out of a project. It turns out that the family had been so insistent that a love for farm animals and interest in horses was a ‘fixation’ that must be a mental issue, the therapist finally gave in and diagnosed it. A new doctor did an examination and declared that said student just needed to be made to follow rules and stop being coddled..and that they had mild Attention Deficit Disorder and should be allowed to work on the family farm more.

  1. It is an unknown

The term ‘Autism’ has been around for roughly 105 years. On the WedMD’s A History of Autism page the discussion ranges from early diagnosis, to the combination of schizophrenia and autism, to the use of LSD as a treatment for autism in the 70s, and on to the 1980s and 90s as we slowly began to use behavioral therapy as a way to ‘treat’ autism. All very interesting and enlightening things. All facts that you should check out. However, none of the facts are definitive. Unlike many of the other mental or physical illnesses we deal with, autism has not been completely defined. We cannot pinpoint one or two specific activities that cause or worsen autism. In fact, each case is different.

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What that means for those not dealing with autism is that we have no idea what to do. We don’t know what it is to have that difference in our heads. This means that most of us will be made uncomfortable by the difference. No matter how progressive most people might claim to be, change makes us uncomfortable. Funnily enough, the change that makes us uncomfortable makes them uncomfortable from the other side of it. Think about that next time you encounter someone a little different from yourself.

 

  1. It is on the rise

 

As I mentioned before, the occurrence of an ASD diagnosis is up and rising, mostly because our understanding of the disorder has helped to create more appropriate understandings for people with what would have previous been lumped under the title of  ‘mental retardations’. However, the statement that 1 of 45 children is being diagnosed with some sort of ASD could throw people off. That does seem like an awful lot of newly minted autism sufferers.

 

All of this comes together, in my mind, to show that we are still bumbling through the world of the brain. That we still don’t truly know anything about autism, and that ASD is a term deserving of our buzz.

I didn’t realize that this term held so much importance for me until Acacia asked me that innocent ‘why’ and I hope that I have fired you up a little along the way as well.

Are you an Autism buzz worder? Do you have other buzz words that attract you to things, or repel you from them? Are you a writer that deliberately writes, or doesn’t write, a certain type of character because of things like Autism or tropes on special needs? Leave a comment and lets get a good conversation going!

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Teacher Review: Next Lesson

*I was asked to give my honest review of NextLesson in return for a small payment and membership*

There is often a struggle for teachers to find a balance in their lessons. Not just to keep the students behaving and listening…but really to keep them engaged and learning. This struggle seems to get more difficult each year and is especially evident in upper elementary and middle school students, who have grown into themselves and their social stigmas enough to start worrying more about what their friends are doing or thinking, than what the teacher is!

A site that can help you find these types of lesson is NextLesson.org. They have interesting, engaging, and multi-directional lessons that are sure to please administrations, teachers, and students. I have spent the last few days excitedly searching through lessons for various subjects and age groups, finding dozens that I would have either used as is or found a way to adapt to the correct age group if I was teaching this year. However, I am not in my own classroom (so far) so I decided to review a lesson that grabbed my attention as soon as I saw it on the site.

The NextLesson set of plans I chose to review for this post is geared toward sixth graders and should immediately grab the attention of your students, engaging their minds and actively helping them to learn in a way that makes it fun and inviting for them.

Entitled “Build a Time Machine”  with the driving question/subtitle “How Can We Learn From People in the Past?”  this lesson begins with your own choice of activity that will peak student interest in the subject of time, specifically points of time. Look at the science book, look at the history book, and let them know where in time you’ll be studying (traveling). then discuss the driving question. Sound odd? You betcha…but guess what’s next? A video introducing the idea of time travel and, specifically, building their own time machine.

That’s Right!

Students will build their own desktop time machines from repurposed, recycled materials found around their homes or towns. No purchasing materials, and no having other people (like your family!) bringing them to you. This project is scheduled to take 5 weeks, corresponding to ‘time traveling’ in class while learning world history and while discovering the possibilities of making time travel work using science.

During this month of lessons, NextLesson provides you with ideas, suggestions, and print outs so that students (AND TEACHERS!) have what they need at their fingertips. With ideas like a ‘Tweet Board’ on which students write ‘tweets’ to brag about their projects, a ready to use ‘how it works’ page for students to explain the science behind their machine, and a group video or essay giving advice to the next generation of time travelers (And giving the teacher student reflections) this set of lesson aids is sure to get your gears whirring!

*warning: Geek Moment Approaching* So, warm up your Tardis, grab your Sonic Screwdrivers, and come on! The Ancients are waiting…

Dragon on My Neck – For Teachers!

I am very excited to let you all know that, along with writing, I have now started a TPT seller’s page. This page currently includes reviews and quizzes for Barbara Hay’s The Ill-Gotten Catfish, and Tim Tingle’s How I Became a Ghost, as well as Quizzes, Pronunciation, Writing Prompts, and Lesson ideas for the first 3 chapters of Dragon on My Neck. 

While you can find all of these things on my TPT site: HERE, and find the books on Amazon.com: Here, Here, and Here; I have a special offer for you teachers.

I am well aware of how much money we make, and how much out of pocket most teachers spend to make the learning experience more fun and easier for all those involved. So here’s the deal: If you are a teacher looking to purchase one or more classroom copies of Dragon on My Neck, or an entire set of the Stone Dragon Saga, you are invited to contact me here, or message me via our Facebook page Tyree Tomes. I will give you a large discount on the books and, if you would like, will even have them shipped to my house, where I will autograph them for you before sending them on your class.

If you would like to utilize the quizzes, lesson ideas, and suggested vocabulary sheets I have set up, I will also provide those at a large discount for you! I am really not looking to make a fortune off of these things, I just want to get the books into hands that will enjoy and use them, and hopefully learn something in the process!

If you, or someone you know, might be interested, Please let me know! You can look at a few preview pages on TeachersPayTeachers if you’re curious about the set up.

**UPDATE** I forgot to put this in originally but I am willing to visit your classroom, either in person or through Skype/Facetime calls, and discuss writing, ELA, my books, and even the connections with other topics, such as Science or Social Studies. Possible activities include a ‘special’ lesson for me to teach (corresponding to your content area and current lessons of course), writing with the students, discussing books, discussing Dragon on My Neck (or the other books in the series), and so on. I would like to think that this could be considered a great reward for students who work hard or a classroom reward for everyone making a certain percentage on their quarter grades etc.

Thank you and have a marvelous Day!

A little Advice

Lately it seems like every time I go out to the store or to grab a bite, someone recognizes that I’m an author, a teacher, or both. I live in a small community and there are only so many times you can purchase colored pens and notebooks before people start asking questions! Recently, a student at the local college asked me what boils down to the same questions everyone else asks but phrased it so well that the questions inspired this post! (Way to go, random friend of a friend of a kid I used to babysitter, well played!)

Here are her questions, phrased as closely to her actual words as I can remember it:

Aren’t you Beth Tyree? That goes to church with….? They were telling me that you’re a writer. That’s pretty cool…I’ve never heard of your stuff but I’m thinking of looking it up. (Ok, that part doesn’t count toward the ‘phrased well’ portion!). I like to write too. In fact, I am taking a class this fall that includes a lot of writing. Do you have any advice on how to get it all done? 

Why yes, yes I do. Thank you for asking.

*WARNING – Longer Post than Usual in 3-2-1-ACTION:*

Advice for Students:

1) Whatever the reason for your writing is, always ALWAYS do your best. There absolutely no excuse for a strong writer to execute weak and horribly written essays just because you didn’t feel like writing to your class topic.

2) Likewise: DO YOUR READING!! Make sure that you are researching, reading, and working everything the teacher assigns, and possibly a little extra. I know the thought of all that work panics you (especially at 2 am Sunday when the project is due by 7 am Monday) but I promise, it is worth it! Take it from someone who flubbed off a lot in College…You NEED to pay attention!

3) Use your time wisely. Most professors include projects and their due dates IN THE SYLLABUS! That means that unless something drastic happens to change things, you have known about that insane presentation since the first day of class (or possibly earlier considering friends, online chats, etc connected to the school). I’m not saying to get hyper and do all the classwork week 1 (MOM!) but use that schedule book you bought with the school logo on it for something other than girl’s nights and dress up at the bar weekends. When you organize it all out and do the work in small segments, you tend to get it done earlier and with better grades. (You also impress teachers).

BONUS:  Realize that most teachers are not being ‘mean’ or ‘hard on you’ because they don’t like you or think you’re stupid. Most teachers are hard on you because they believe you can do better. I am speaking from experience here…I had a couple of professors who rode me hard about showing up, taking the time to work on my assignments, writing style, etc. At the time I thought they must hate me, but now I realize that they loved me. Students that show potential but don’t live up to it will get more guff from their teachers than students who work hard but just don’t get it.

Advice for Teachers:

1) Make your expectations very clear from the beginning. Unless something drastic happens, don’t change your rules or plans in the middle of the semester. That is unfair to the random student that might actually have started work on their projects…and creates more work for you in the long run (even if its just repeating your reasoning for the 543rd time)

2) Remind students of upcoming deadlines, projects, etc. Speak about it in class, often. Use the last five minutes of your time to ask if they have questions or comments. Make sure you maintain office hours and have an email account they have access to. Most students won’t utilize this availability, but the few who do will thank you later!

3) Show your students that you aren’t just being ‘mean’ or ‘hard on them’! Share some of your work in class. This may just mean that you discuss how a similar class helped you finish your degree, or a book/article/play/song/equation(ugh, math!) you are currently working on. Let them be your beta audience. Grammar class? Drop the normal (i.e. BORING) paragraphs about Sally’s cupcake stand and have them edit an intentionally messed up page from your most recent story. Some sort of Mathematics teacher? Assign a house plan or put your remodel blue prints on the board and work through the issues with them. Use real life experiences and show them tat you are also human and, as all teachers are, a perpetual student.

Advice for Authors:

1) Just write already! I know that as a student or a teacher, (or a full time CPA or a Mommy, or whatever it is that you do) your time is precious and limited. Whatever it is that you do, whatever it is that takes up your time, you will not be completely satisfied with yourself until you take the time to write that idea out! The question that usually riles me up the most is: I have this great idea I’ve been kicking around for years, want to hear it? NO! If you really like the idea that much, I’ll be more than happy to READ your drafts, but I don’t want to hear an idea you’ve had for that long and never written down. By this point it has probably disintegrated so much that I wouldn’t even be hearing the real idea that started you thinking anyway.

2) There will always be someone pushing you, nay-saying you, or ignoring you. That is life, no matter what you do. Writers are the brunt of a lot of this! Friends and family ask why you haven’t finished that new novel yet (you know, the one you started writing last week?) and in the same breath with ask how you plan on living as an author, ask what ‘real’ thing you’ve done lately, and tell you about 3 other people who are authors but just got published in a magazine or hired to write ads for some major television syndicate. DO NOT LET THIS STOP YOU! Get discouraged, be sad, be mad, but don’t be done. Take a break if you need to, clear your head, then get back to writing. Everyone has a different story and it is up to you alone to write yours!

3) Finally, allow yourself to take that break without guilt. Honestly, the breaks will help your writing grow and thrive. And, real talk here, your characters will go with you anywhere all the time. No matter what you do or where you go, they’re part of you. Taking a ‘break’ doesn’t mean that you walk away and completely put them out of your mind. It means your mind needs to focus on something else for a bit and that is perfectly acceptable and, I would say, encouraged. Have fun, meet your friends, get some fro-yo and ride in a carriage just because. Go to the lake or the zoo…but take a notebook and some pens along because you never know when the next idea or chapter will pop up and need to be written immediately even though you are on a ferry watching dolphins jump off the coast of the island you’re visiting.

Do you have any stories or questions? Let me know! I can’t wait to hear from you all!

Writing Portfolio

At the beginning of the school year I put together a writing portfolio with my students using a combination of old teacher manuals, a new book on teaching writing, and Pinterest ideas I had been pinning for years. What came about was, in my opinion, a fun and interesting container for student writing, notes, and ideas. We used the portfolio 173 out of 180 days this year, the others were review and state testing days! Special Needs/IEP students used the exact same set up and papers as their classmates and working in these portfolios was like having an automatic active assessment as well as an immediate chance for remediation.

I have been asked a few times, by a few different people, to lay out how I set this up. I don’t think this is a hugely different design from the rest of the portfolio ideas that are out there, but I took some pictures and will now walk you through the set up and use of my Writer’s/Writing Portfolio.

Materials List:

1 – 1 inch 3-ring Binder (We used the ‘view’ type)

1 – Set Page Dividers/Tabs (OR tape and construction paper in

a pinch)

Loose Leaf Notebook Paper

Set of Graphic Organizers (grade/class appropriate)

Crayons/Colored Pencils/Markers Etc.

Scrapbook Paper (optional)

…………..I also used the book Getting to the Core of Writing (level 5) by Richard Gentry, Jan McNeel, and Vickie Wallace-Nesler. (My state repealed Common Core but the writing standards are similar and this book is GREAT!)

A Treasury of Critical Thinking Activities By Teacher Created Resources

And Pinterest ideas from various Bloggers for Anchor charts and craft ideas.

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This is what the scrapbook paper was for! We decorated covers to slide into the viewable fronts…just another way to personalize student writing. When they have that much time and interest invested, students might take more care of what’s inside (about a 50/50 chance!)

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As you can see, the first few pages of the portfolio offer more chances for personalization and connection with the students. The interior title page (“Ms. Tyree’s…) can be decorated etc, allowing for personality to show itself immediately. The dedication page makes future assignments go from horrid homework to being for someone students actually care about…whether they be friend, family, or famous. Dedicating their work in such a manner both transfers the responsibility from teacher to student (I dedicated to MY friends/family…I am the AUTHOR and must do MY best) and gives students a sense of ownership for their portfolio and their work.

The Table of Contents page gives students a way to quickly flip through to needed information. When coupled with the page dividers (shown in these pictures are actually strips of paper or sticky note written on and then attached via clear tape) the table of contents provides an extra organizational tool for all.

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In the “WRITING IDEAS” tab we have the ‘AUTHORITY LIST’. The authority list is literally a list of items the portfolio builder feels authoritative about. For example:  my list (shown above) includes mythology and movies (writing research…really!), and Tinkerbell, Minions, and Crochet. These are things I feel very knowledgeable about and if I need to decide on a topic for a quick in class essay, I can choose from this list and whip up a first draft fairly easily. That’s the point, after all, of the ‘ideas’ section: The ability to recall what you know about and write it down without too much of that frustrating contemplation that gets students down before they ever write a word.

Next comes the Heart Map. Students (or other authors) draw a big heart in the center of the page with the words “I LOVE…” written inside. They then haphazardly fill the page with the names of things that they love. These are not necessarily items that they have to know a lot about, but merely things that they feel emotionally attached to. Many students will write things like ‘my friends, my family, soccer, music…’ and this not only gives you an insight into that particular student, it also provides them with topics for research projects, science experiments, or even art projects (to name a few).

Third in line is the Treasure Map (not pictured). The Treasure Map is an interesting art piece in which students think of a place that holds a lot of memories for them. Hopefully this place will be a holder of both good and not-so-great memories, or mostly good (most people will not draw a map of a bad memories place holder). They then draw an outline/blue print of that place…much like a pirate’s treasure map would be laid out. Then they place an X over the places with the strongest memories (i.e. the tree house fort behind Grandma’s house, the creek next door, etc.). If they are asked to write a narrative and don’t know where to begin, a look back at the treasure map can provide a bevy of inspiration. WARNING: Younger students and some IEP students will have difficulty differentiating between writing a fictional account and writing the bare bones of whatever actually happened. With these students make sure that you either tell them to write the facts, or are VERY specific when it comes to the fiction you want. Don’t write it for them, but make sure they understand the difference.

Finally, we have the memory hand, I also call the Emotions Hand. Students trace their hand and write a different emotion on each finger, the thumb, and their palm. They then (in a different color works best) list a few things that make them feel the emotion listed. (i.e. ANGRY often includes siblings, teachers, homework….PROUD was a difficult one for elementary students and usually just included good grades, winning a race, or praise from parents/teachers).

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The beginning of our ‘Writing” section is a page for Goal setting. This is really included so that the teacher can have individual conferences with each student and set goals for their writing. You put the date set, the goal, and then eventually the date met. Pretty simple right? Well I apparently can’t just leave well enough alone, so I not only did conferences, I also had students do small group/peer readings and discussions…and then they set another goal as well! This really pushed them to view their work not as another grade, or another essay for homework, but as something personal to them. Some of the best goals were set, and met, by my ‘special’ students, because (and I quote) “No one told us we could before”.

After the goals page is a set of loose leaf papers for story ideas and first drafts. The first page was a mini table of contents…students were asked to put the date written, the title, and the page number of their works.

Then came the graphic organizers and outlines section. I passed out 13 pages of organizers and 3 types of outlines during the first week of school. These included a KWL Chart, A Fact Chart, A Vinn Diagram, a Tree Chart, A Brainstormer, and a Cause and Effect Diagram.

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Since I taught fifth graders, we did some minor modifications to these pages, allowing them to use these much more easily. For example, the KWL chart had an extra column to allow for ‘things we couldn’t find the answer to’, while the Timeline page was alternately described as a paragraph outline…giving students a slightly different way to outline their essays along with the typical bulleted or roman numeral set up.

The final thing in our portfolios was, in my opinion, the most important; the writing journal. Every entry began with the day’s date in the upper left hand corner, then the word ‘prompt’ and the day’s prompt written out. Most day’s I gave the students 10 minutes to write to the prompt, usually while playing music softly in the background (a variety of artists and types). About 1 day a week I made students write without music, so that they would be used to noise or silence and able to work through during the testing (you never know what the ‘quiet’ class work next door might include!). Friday’s were always ‘free Friday’…allowing student creativity to come out as they wrote to their own inner muse for the day.

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Over the course of the school year, most of my students went from maybe getting a sentence or two written in the 10 minute time limit, to getting at least a half page. Most of them started writing more than a full page! More than anything else in the portfolio, even more than the differentiated (yet all the same) outlines, graphic organizers, and ‘what we know’ pages, I believe that the daily timed writing allowed my students the room to grow as authors, which is the best aid you can provide for students or aspiring authors! (one more quick example: an IEP student upped their score from a 4th grade writing test score of UNsatisfactory {but about 2 points from limited Knowledge} to ADVANCED on the 5th grade test. Writing, just like anything else, has be a daily habit. Like exercise, your muscles get used to be worked and can easily jump back into the push ups and chin ups of your mind!)

Presenting: Highland Park

Today I am going to post for you a very special book review…it is not for any book that I have received (yet), it is not for a friend of a friend who happens to be an author, and it is not for Tyree Tomes (though we did edit and publish it). This review is for my students. My 80 awesome fifth graders who worked hard, pushed through, and wrote.

That’s right, we are finished! As of today Highland Park Presents is available in both paperback and Kindle edition.

I wish I could tell you that this is the best compilation of short stories that you could ever possibly read. As their teacher I want to brag on my students and let you know that they worked SO HARD for this. If you could see the excitement on their faces today as I showed them the amazon.com pages for their book…well I have no words to explain it. I will, hopefully, remember those moments forever.

However, they are still fifth graders with a lot to learn about writing. Every student is on a different level and some of them are in a different world…but they have done their best and overcome a lot of self doubt to get this put together.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to click the link and see what their had work brought about. Any royalties received from the sale of these books will go to our school PTO for our grade level, so if you like what you see please go ahead and order a copy. We tried to keep the price as low as possible! Whether or not you get one, please share this with your friends. I want the kids to see that people in other counties, states, and countries have the chance to read their words.

The kids also want to send a special shout out and thanks to Dr. Wilson Jay Tyree, my father and Tyree Tomes partner, for his part in the final edits of the book. We couldn’t have done it without you Daddy!

May you all have a blessed and wonderful day!

Creativity is just Intelligence having fun ~ Albert Einstein

Confessions of a Sort

My mind is not linear. It is a swirling, spinning, sassy mass of song lyrics, television and movie quotes, and characters begging for release. I only do math under protest…extreme protest…but I could happily play my flute or write my stories for days on end.

I love teaching, but I have to be careful not to write with them on days I’m really feeling creative…because I get so deep into my story that I can’t deal rationally with the world around me. I don’t want to teach, i don’t want to listen to them, I don’t want to answer their questions or deal with their grades; I just want to write! On days like that I have to just take a step back and I’m afraid that I’ve taken away from my novel, and certainly my novelizing time, by forgetting the whispers from the back of my mind as I try to concentrate on teaching instead of the multiple lives within me.

When I do that, When I don’t write, when I work or take care of my daughter, or make myself do whatever it is I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing instead of taking those few short minutes to jot down an idea…I become a beast. If I have waited too long, suppressed myself too long (usually two to three days) I become moody, almost angry, like a Ms. Hyde…a Lady Hulk…a, well you get the picture.

*Sigh I feel better now. Confession is good for the soul!

Happy Day and may your Inspiration flow like a river that bubbles and babbles infinitely.

Projects

I don’t know why we do this to ourselves. Pile up projects, due dates, and D.I.Y.s until we just turn in confused circles, trying to decide which way to go first or, possibly worse, which paint color matches the worksheet our boss assigned today that’s due yesterday. Maybe some of us, myself included, thrive on such craziness. Perhaps the organized and zen approach to life would make us insane, crazy with boredom and aching for stress within a week (probably sooner). I wouldn’t know, I’ve never gotten to point where I could find out! As soon as one thing is finished, three more jump up to take its place, waving like an elementary student who thinks they know the answer.

In fact, I am currently smack dab in the middle of at least 5 different projects:

Dragons in the Deep: Book 4 in the Stone Dragon Saga. A centuries old pirate ship is discovered and could hold the key to finding Aliphonsore’s parents. In fact, it could hold the key to ending the Fairy Queen’s insidious plans. With new friends, both human and otherwise, the return of Passiona and her pet sorcerer on the loose, and ancient obscure texts you never know what could be waiting around the corner!

Fifth Grade Dragons: A spin off of the main Stone Dragon Saga. This book finds Aliphonsore and King Ferdinand as professors at an academy in Realta, having made their way back home after the final battle with Passiona. Anna, who is now a writing teacher for a local fifth grade, is asked to help Aliphonsore and Ferdinand teach some students the basics of ‘human’ story telling/writing…to (hopefully) hilarious results.

Highland Park Presents: A short story compilation written by my fifth graders. They each worked hard on providing a short story that shows their abilities, their interests, and their weird senses of humor. Tyree Tomes is transcribing and editing the stories, turning them into one impressive book with a forward written by none other than the proud teacher…ME!

Plants and Ecology: A unit in science that teach students about things the food chain, energy consumption/output, and the ways communities are coming together and using Science to help save their local environments.

Organizing My Rooms: I have 4 rooms that ‘belong’ to me in this house. My bedroom, my sitting room, my closet, and the writer’s loft. We (meaning Dad) are building shelves for the back of my bedroom and will be getting those put in (hopefully!) soon. After that it is my sincere belief that I might be able to get my rooms organized and things up off of my floors! I KNOW that it HAS to be possible! I JUST KNOW IT!

Crocheting/DIY: I almost forgot…I promised a crocheted ear flappy hat to a friend a few months ago…he reminded me about that the other day so maybe I should hop on that! And don’t get me started on the DIY play house and cutesy painting I was hoping to get done this week cus…that ain’t gonna happen!

YOWZA! Putting them all in a row like that is a bit shocking to the system. Quick…somebody line out their to-do list for me! What are you getting done right now? Are you one of ‘us’, with the mile long constant list or are you one of those people who have it all lined out and finish one project before starting another one? If you’re the second type…HOW DOES THAT WORK???

I can’t wait to hear from you! Good luck with all your projects!

The First Mythical, Magical, Inter-Species Taco Stand

Today, much like every other day for the next 2 weeks, my classes are concentrating on refreshing their minds, spirits, and creative fingertips on narratives. For those few hundred readers out there that are NOT 5th or 8th grade writing teachers in the state of Oklahoma, let me fill you in really quickly…state tests for writing are beginning on february 24th, the prompts include reading passages (2 passages and a prompt usually), and they state just announced that the prompt will definitely be some sort of narrative piece. (PHEW!)

Since every passage based narrative prompt I find is some sort of Folk Tale (Of which there are 7! sub-genres) we have been happily diving back into that unit. While discussing pre-writing today, Mrs. L’s home base and I connected my ‘brain blurb’ of 5 random characters/items in order to create a truly epic brainstorming….I give to you, (ON MY BRAND NEW WHITE BOARD) The pre write for my children’s picture book (Oh yeah, hey mom if you’re reading this..I need to discuss something art related with you…):

THE FIRST MYTHICAL, MAGICAL, INTER-SPECIES TACO STAND!

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I LOVE THIS IDEA! I can’t wait to get started…my other 2 novels may just have to take a back seat for a hot beefy minute!

Though you can’t see it clearly, what happened was that my five ‘fairy tale’ words were “Dragons, Fairies, Unicorns, Humans, and Tacos” since 4/5 of that list love to eat Tacos…well, you see where this is headed right?