{fmf} Writer

AnitaI’m linking up with other writers at Lisa-Jo Baker’s for a Five-Minute Friday exercise in writing. The prompt this week is: Writer. The assignment? Write for five minutes and hit publish. Join us!

My students sort baggies of M&Ms and count each color. Groans and exclamations spread across the classroom as they glance up at the board.

“EIGHT orange ones? I have to add EIGHT lines of dialogue to my story?”

“I’m lucky, I only have two red ones,” another student crows. And then suddenly realizes how many blue M&Ms he has, “Ah, man, I have SIX blue ones! What’s a sensory image, Mrs. Ojeda, I forgot.”

“Well, I have to remove FOUR uses of the verb ‘to be’,” another student moans. “How will I ever do that?”

“Wonderful question,” I jump in and flash my work in progress on the overhead projector for all to see. My naked baby in the bassinet. “I wrote this 14 years ago, and I’ve let it sit for a very long time.”

“How come we only got to let our stories sit for two weeks?” a cheeky student interrupts. “You got to let yours sit for 14 years!” Leave it to a student to point out the injustice of adult inequality.

“If I let you not work on your stories for as long as I didn’t work on mine,” I assure them, “you’d never graduate form high school.” I highlight four uses of the verb ‘to be’ on the document and ask, “how would you rewrite this sentence to make it active instead of passive?”

Blank stares meet my eyes. I almost give up hope that everything I’ve tried to teach them about dynamic writing has fallen on deaf ears when a hand shoots up and a student gives an alternative. “Excellent!” I type in her suggestion in all caps. “Now read the section using the new sentence, doesn’t it sound better?” Nods and grins and bent heads greet my gaze.

“Ok, it’s your turn. Remember, don’t eat your M&M until you make the change—it’s your reward for revision.”

Between answering questions, I return to my manuscript and revise along with my students. I need this community—this safe place of teenagers who bravely revise their first stories and good-naturedly chide me for letting my work sit too long. In my disappointment at rejection so many years ago, I had forgotten the joy of writing, revising and sharing with a community. Life, parenting, cancer in the family, new careers and a host of other excuses have gotten in the way.

It’s times to breathe some life into this baby. I need to practice what I teach. I am a writer.


Five Minute Friday

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • This is beautiful. You have a gift and the joy of it is contagious!
    Jen Ferguson recently posted…FMF: WriterMy Profile

    • Thank you for your kind words, Jen, and thank you for stopping by!

  • Ah! I LOVE this idea! My children often have writing assignments where they must follow a checklist. A quality adjective, strong verb, -ly word, vocabulary word, a preposition opener, an -ly opener, who/which clause, because clause, etc., etc., etc… in each paragraph.
    I love the thought that they would have to change it up according to the M&M package!
    Tanya recently posted…Writer {Five Minute Friday}My Profile

    • Chocolate makes revision so much easier! Especially when they don’t really see the value in revising and ‘making it stronger and better.’ Now, if I go out and buy myself a giant bag of dark chocolate M&Ms, maybe I can get through my middle-grade novel revision project ;).

  • I love this! Especially “Practice what I teach.” You ARE a writer, and a wonderful one. I am so glad you’re breathing life into your baby. 🙂
    Laura Melchor recently posted…Thoughts on Steinbeck’s East of EdenMy Profile

    • :). It was time for a little mouth-to-mouth, and I thank YOU for your example and encouragement!

  • We would have a blast talking “shop” – LOL. I love your M&M idea – already passed it along. I use a JellyBelly activity to develop 5 sensory detail description. I also would have my students do what you did for verb activity. I also had them go through and eliminate every and, but, or, for, nor, so and yet – and only use them every 3 sentences. I so enjoyed your mighty fine ideas!

    bluecottonmemory recently posted…Jane Austen had No DaughtersMy Profile

    • Yes, yes we would! Some times its discouraging when I focus on everything that’s wrong with the stories and I have to toss off my editor’s hat and just let those kids write with abandon and comment and cajole and encourage each other (plus I tire of reading about zombies invading our school and how dystopian the world is 😉 ). It’s fun to find ways to let them edit (food rewards ALWAYS help!).

  • What a blessing to be involved with those students and to hear their often unfiltered feedback! Glad you are seeing it for the encouragement that it is and getting back to work on your manuscript. Have a wonderful weekend, Anita!
    Holly Barrett recently posted…WriterMy Profile

    • They make me laugh, that’s for sure! I get to spend my weekend hanging out with my students ;), so it should be a good one (although not a restful one, most likely).

  • Amy

    Anita, I love the ‘practicing what you preach ‘ you show. What an example you are to those young ones. I love the thought that because of what you are teaching them today some will develop a love of writing and we will be reading their words one day.
    Amy recently posted…Writer {Five Minute Friday}My Profile

  • Brilliant post, my friend!!! Yep, you are a writer. The rejection is part of it, but the community and the chocolate make it sweet. Please don’t stop writing- or taking pictures- or chasing birds. 🙂 Your passions in life are truly a gift!
    Becky Daye recently posted…I’m Writing! I’m a Writer! I Write!My Profile

    • Thank you for the warm fuzzies :). I get to go big time bird chasing in two weeks–until then, I’m enjoying the backyard birds and the return of the migrants.