Linda Kulp Trout

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Until We Meet Again

Dear friends,
Today, I'm full of mixed emotions.  I'm a little sad that the March Slice of Life Challenge is ending. Your comments and support have meant more than you can imagine. Writing for an audience has been very rewarding.  Most of my slices were posted late in the evening,  and every morning, I looked forward to reading your thoughts about what I wrote the night before. I'm going to miss the feeling of being connected on a daily basis to all of you.  Our group has beomce more than anonymous writers, we've become freinds.  I've been touched and forever changed by your stories. I'm especially impressed by the quality of writing in our group! It's amazing how much everyone was able to relate to each individual's  slices.  I look forward to reading your future blog posts, but I may need to take some time away.  Things are really hectic right now.

We finally have a contract on our house so we're going to be quite busy in the near future. Our buyers want to settle by the end of April, and things are moving very quickly. If the appraisal and inspection go well, we'll move in just two weeks into an apartment.  We'll live there for a few months while our house is being built and then move again! Our next house is less than half the size of our current home, which means we have a lot of downsizing to do!  So, until we meet again, I'm sending you my best wishes for peace, love, and joy in all things!

Happy writing!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Poetry Friday, SOL, and Poetry News

One of my favorite things about being part of Poetry Friday and SOL is the connections I've made with folks who share my passion for words.  We're teachers, writers, librarians, parents, and poetry lovers who support and encourage each other through our comments and blog posts. Writing can, at times, be a lonely endeavor.  I don't have a writing critique group or friends who enjoy reading poetry.  Having an online community of friends nourishes me in a way my face-to-face friends cannot. I feel as though I've found my tribe. I look forward to reading their blogs, and seeing their work in print is always a thrill.  Just the other day, while I was skimming through the April edition of Storyworks Magazine, I noticed a poem written by Irene Latham. Her poem, "Same Hands" was breathtakingly beautiful.  Being an avid reader of Irene's blog, made the experience even more special for me.  Thanks to Poetry Friday and SOL, my soul has found a home. I hope yours has too.   I love this Maya Angelou poem because it reminds me how important it is to make connections.

by Maya Angelou
Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

A small slice of good news!
I rarely send anything out to publishers, but last fall I decided to send a few poems to Spider magazine. I was so excited to get an email from the editor telling me they wanted to publish one of them!  I didn't want to tell anyone until I signed the contract. I guess I was afraid the editor would change her mind.  I don't know when my poem will appear in the magazine, I heard they have quite a backlog so it could be a while, but hey, it's something to look forward to!  

A Half-Billion Dollars!

I rarely buy a lottery ticket, but today's newspaper headline: "Mega Millions Jackpot at $500M" got me!  I bought not one, but three tickets!  Hey, what's three bucks when tomorrow I might be rich? Now I'm dreaming about what I'd do if I win the jackpot, so I decided to make a list. Since this is just for fun, and just off the top of my head, I didn't worry about putting them in any particular order. 

1.Give $50M to each of my sons.
2. Set up a trust fund for my grandchildren.
3.Split $100M among extended family members.
4.Move my mother in to live with me. Hire a private nurse to help care for her.
5.Take our entire family on a cruise. (I'll decide the destination later.)
6. Retire.
7. Make a large donation to each of the charities I help support.
8. Fund a scholarship program for single moms.
9. Pay off our mortgage.
10.Enroll in the Vermont College Children's Writers' Master program.

Well, that's all I can think of.  My chances are slim to none, but oh, it's so much fun to dream!
What would you put on your list if you were suddenly rich?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


A very short slice today. I have a migraine so being on the computer is especially difficult. I've been having 6-8 migraines a month for the past 30 yrs.  A variety of things can trigger a migraine. Perfume, bright light, and weather changes seem to be my biggest hazards.  I try to avoid them as much as possible. I teach in a middle school, so avoiding perfume is almost impossible. The boys are worse than the girls when it comes to over applying it! 

I have a rescue medication I take once the migraine starts, but it takes a couple of hours to work. I think I've been on just about every prescription medication out there, but none of them work all that well for me.  I used to take a daily preventative med until I experienced some negative side effects.  Now all I can do is to I try to take the med as soon as I feel a headache about to strike.  My insurance only pays for 6 doses a month so I usually wait until I'm sure it's going to be a migraine before I take the medicine. Migraines take the fun out of life. If you experience migraines, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  If you are someone who suffers from migraines, I would appreciate hearing about your experiences and anything you've found that helps with this condition.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

After The End

With only a few more days in the March SOL Challenge, I've been thinking about how I'll spend my writing time each evening.  It's  been a challenge, especially in the beginning, to find time to write a blog entry every day, but since it was a priority, I made time.  I admit that most of my posts have taken a half hour or less, but those half hours add up.  It's funny that for years I've talked about scheduling writing time into my day, but I never thought I could find even a short amount of time. I was wrong!

So, it's got me thinking that if I'm able to set aside time for a challenge, I should be able to set aside to work on a writing project. I really want to do that. I'm just a little concerned that writing privately, without comments from a writing community to encourage me and keep me accountable, I'll get discouraged and give up again. I believe that if I could think of a project I'm excited about, it might be enough to motivate me to keep going.

I've been wondering if anyone else is feeling this way?  What are you going to do to keep yourself motivated to write after the challenge has ended?

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Integrity- The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. 

Choosing to live with integrity can be a challenge.  Sometimes people can make you feel guilty for trying to do the right thing instead of taking the easy way out.  When that someone is a person close to you, someone you admire, it hurts even more.  And yet, we all have to be able to live with our own conscience. Maybe it's a benefit of getting older, maybe we grow a bit more confident, or maybe we just become less willing to compromise our beliefs out the fear of being rejected.  Whatever the reason, we no longer allow others to bully us into decisions we're not comfortable with.

I'm currently involved in a situation that is causing some turbulence in my life. It would be easy to agree to go along with the other person's suggestion. No one would get hurt, no one else would even know we lied. But, does that make it okay?  Not long ago, I would've agreed to do it just to keep peace.  But I've come to realize that dishonesty never brings peace.  By choosing integrity, I'm making things harder on someone I love, and I'm very sad about that.  It will cause us more work, more money, more risk. Still, in the end, I truly belief we'll both look back and be glad we did the right thing. At least, I hope so.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Last year, we tried to sell our house.  It was exhausting trying to keep the house "perfect" all the time, but we were very motivated to sell. We priced the house low- almost 200,000 below what it was worth when we bought it.  We did everything we could to make the house attractive to buyers. After nearly six months, we were so excited to finally we get an offer.  We decided to do whatever we could to try to make it work, but the offer was WAY lower than our asking price, and the potential buyer wanted an additonal 30,000. to put toward his moving expenses!  We were shocked that anyone would make such a request until our agent told us that it was typical for the market we were in.  We couldn't afford to give the extra cash so we turned the offer down and took the house off the market.

We thought about refinancing, but we're getting close to retirement age, and the upkeep on a house this big is getting to be too much for us. So, 11 days ago, we put our house back on the market. We've had about 9 showings so far, 3 of them today.  A couple of hours ago, our agent called and said we have an offer. She didn't have the details yet and asked if we could meet her in the morning. After last year's experience, we're trying to to get too hopeful. What a relief it would be if this works out, and we can finally move into our next home!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SOL and Poetry Friday: A Poem for My Granddaughter

Today is my granddaughter's second birthday. I can't believe she's already two! It wasn't that long ago that I sat with the rest of the family watching her on a 3-D sonogram. Back then, I couldn't have imagined the overwhelming joy she would bring into our lives.

I wanted to write a poem for her birthday.  I tried to come up with something cute and clever, but nothing seemed to work.  So I decided to write a letter poem from my heart that she can read when she gets older and know what I was thinking on her second birthday.
Of course, I got so busy this week that I didn't get to work on the poem until tonight.  I wanted it to be a special keepsake for her.  This is pretty much a first draft, and I know it needs a lot of work.  I don't have a writing critique group so I don't have anyone to give me feedback. If you would be willing to share your thoughts and suggestions, I would be most grateful.

I Want You to Know
    for Evie

I don’t get to see you
as much as I wish I could
I’ve missed so many
special moments in your life

I missed your first breath,
your first word, your first step,
your first tooth, your first haircut,
your first boo boo—

But I want you to know
my reason for not being there
has never been because I don’t care.

I think of you every morning,
and wonder how’ll you spend your day.
I think of you when I see other children
who are just about your age.
I think of you before I go to sleep
and every night I pray for God
to watch you, to guide you.

Because you are so young,
sometimes I worry—
you’ll forget about me.
It’s hard to remember a grandma
you hardly ever see.

And sometime I worry
that you’ll never know
how your laughter,
your hugs, your kisses
your bright blue eyes
and auburn curls
have become my reason
to try harder
to be someone—
worthy of your love
worthy of your trust
worthy of your forgiveness.

Most of all, I want you to know
that no matter how far
we are apart
love will keep us close—
and no matter how many firsts
I might  miss,
you will always be first
in my heart.

Love you forever,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Taking Anne Lamott's Advice

Here are some things I've learned so far by being part of the SOL community. 

1.  It's hard to find time to write everyday, but I can do it. Small bits of time add up.  I might not be able to write a complete draft at any one sitting, but I can write a paragraph, sketch a poem, jot down a few ideas, write an outline, list, web a story,  or add to/revise something I already have.  A lot can be done in short slices of time.

2.  I'm not yet sure what kind of writer I'm supposed to be, and I 'm still trying to figure out the form that I have the ability to write best.  But, I've narrowed it down to the forms I love to read: essays, poems, verse novel. Can I write in one of those forms well enough to touch readers?  I'm still trying to find that out. Is there one form I'm best suited for?  I think I'm getting closer to finding out.

3.  Being part of a writing community feeds my soul and makes me feel like I've found my home.

4. Sharing our stories is important because I see my own reflection in the window of your words.  I've laughed, cried, and learned with you and othe slicers.  I've come to look forward to seeing what you are up to each day. I cheer you on, and think of you as I drift off to sleep.

5.  When I write from my heart, I feel truly alive!

I have been a fan of Anne Lamott's for many years. I've read most of her books because I feel like she's a friend sharing her wisdom with me. Lately,  I've been reminding myself to take this search for answers I've bee on,  bird by bird.  I read this interview today in the Huffington Post Blog where she shares some wonderful advice. . I hope you enjoy it!


Right Now

Based on recent conversations with family, co-workers, and folks who have commented here,  I'm starting to understand that the happiest people are the ones who just go out there and try something.  They don't sit around and worry if it's their "life's purpose." They just try something they want to do, and if it doesn't work out, they move on and try something else. Through this process, they find out what gives them meaning and purpose.

Last night I read a quote that made me realize how important it is to be grateful for what we have right here, right now.

"My advice to you is ot to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate." -Thonton Wilder
Wow! A lot of wisdom in those words!  I decided to write a little "poem" to sum up my realization. It isn't anything much, but it's my personal reminder to lighten up and enjoy what I have right now.


All day I carry worries
About things I haven’t done
By the time I set them down
I've missed out on the fun!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Have you read ONE MONTH TO LIVE?

Thank you to the folks who stopped by and made comments on my Saturday slice Figuring Out My Life's Purpose. It meant a lot to me that you took time from your busy day to share your thoughts and advice.  You helped me realize that I'm not alone in my search.

I was feeling like I needed some time to myself yesterday so I skipped a few chores and went to one of my favorite places, Barnes and Noble.  As I browsed the "New Arrivals" table, a title caught my eye.  One Month to Live by Kerry and Chris Shook. I thumbed through and read a pages.  The tone seemed very compasionate, and I wanted to read more. I have so many questions about the direction and purpose of my life, I wondered if this little books could help me find the answers I need to feel at peace. I took the book to the cafe' and sat down with a cup of chai. Much of what I read was not new to me. Over the years, I've read dozens of self-help books that promise to guide you in finding your life's purpose. One thing I did like about this one is that it consists of daily strategies, small steps to change your life and live with no-regrets. Many of the steps like forgiving people and letting those you love know it, I've always done. 

I read the stategies that most applied to what I'm looking for. Once again, most of them were not new to me.  I left without buying the book because I thought it might end up on my shelf with the others. We're living on my income alone these days so I try to spend money on needs over wants. As I said, I already own a lot of self-help books. Also, the title One Month to Live grabbed my attention, but after a while the thinking about that concept started to feel depressing. I think it might make me even more anxious about finding my purpose before my time runs out!  : )

I'm wondering if any of you have read ONE MONTH TO LIVE, and if it really helped you find your life's purpose.  Was there another book you found more helpful? 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Help! This Mouse is Driving Me Crazy!

I got a new Samsung laptop for Christmas.  It has a nice wide screen, Windows 7, and Microsoft Office 2010. It's a lot faster than my last laptop, and the keyboard is very comfortable with a place to rest my wrists as I type. So, I really like everything about it...well, make that almost everything.
It has this automatic mouse thing that I can't seem to shut off. While I'm typing, it suddenly appearing and scrolls up causing me to lose my place.  Sometimes it goes completely crazy and jumps to another page. 

I looked it up online and found directions to turn off the auto mouse. I went into the controls and tried that.  It seemed to work briefly, but then it came back on.

Have you had the same problem?  Do you know how to get rid of this thing? It makes typing very difficult. I'm not good with technology so I'm lost here.

I would appreciate your suggestions. Thank you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Figuring Out Our Life's Purpose

I've been watching Oprah since the days when she was on a local TV station in Baltimore.  I find her to be a source of inspiration.  For years, she's been telling us that we each have a life purpose and that it is our duty to figure out what that is and then share our "gift" with the world. Every time I hear her talk about finding our purpose, I'm reminded of my seventh grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Zimmerman.

Mrs. Zimmerman wore heavy makeup to cover scars on her face.  I never knew the full details of how she got the scars, but the rumor was that she had been in a car accident.  Some of the kids made fun of her,  but I thought she was beautiful. She had an inner beauty that came through in her smile and gentle disposition. She knew that we, as adolescents, were trying to figure out where we fit in the world. She had a knack of applying every novel, every play, every poem, that we read to our own lives.  One of the most memorable lessons she was us was that we each had a special talent, a gift, something we were really good at doing.  I took that lesson to heart and began the search for "my gift."

But somehow, while going through all the challenges and changes of growing up, I forgot that lesson. I stopped searching and just lived for each day.  When Oprah began reminding us to figure out our purpose, I was in my late twenties and the search started again.  Here's the thing, it's now thirty years later, and I still haven't figured out my "purpose."

I can usually figure out other people's gifts pretty quickly, but I can't seem to figure out my own. I'm even starting to wonder if I have one!  Now that I'm getting older, and feeling time is running out, finding what I'm good at has become more important than ever.  I have thought about it, journaled about it, and prayed about it.  Still, I'm lost. I think that it's more than just being passionate about something, it has to be something I do well enough to make a difference.

I raised two sons who despite any shortcomings I had as parent, grew into wonderful men that any mother would be proud of.  I'm a teacher, and that has been an important part of my life.  I hope I've made a difference in the lives of my students.These roles have given me a purpose to wake up every morning, but I'm not sure that is the same as a life's purpose.  Does that make sense?  It seems like there is something else that I'm meant to do that I haven't figured out yet.

Maybe I'm over thinking it, but I don't want to grow old and have regrets or feel that some part of my life was unfulfilled.

So, I'm wondering how other people have found their gifts, their life's purpose? Does our life's purpose change through the stages of our life?  How is it that some people are born knowing what they came to this earth to do?  How did you figure out what you are good at?  Did someone tell you, or did you just know?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  It's late and my vision i blurred so I'll close now.  I hope I haven't embarrassed myself by revealing too much about my inner craziness, but if I''m struggling with finding my pupose, maybe some of you are too?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Madness 2012- 1 and Done

Well, the voting is over.  My poem didn't win. I'm a little disappointed, but I enjoyed the experience. My "opponent" wrote an outstanding poem. She deserved to win, and I'm actually quite happy for her. Being in the poetry challenge taught me that I'm more competitive than I realized.  I didn't think I cared about winning until the voting started. I found myself checking the scoreboard several times today to see how many votes I had. The final tally was her- 60 to my-37.  I was worried I might not get any votes, so I'm grateful for the 37 kind folks who voted for my poem.   
Another cool thing that came out of the challenge happened when I showed the scoreboard to my students and gave them time to click through and read the poems. They couldn't vote because only one vote was allowed for every IP address.  Next year, I'll make voting sheets for them and tally their votes. Then we can enter one vote as a school. Several kids asked me if we could do a poetry challenge. .  I think that would be a great National Poetry Month activity. First, I need to think of a way to keep the poets anonymous so it doesn't become a popularity contest.  As middle school students, it will be hard to keep them from telling their friends the title of their poem. I also worry that poems that don't get any votes might cause the author to feel hurt.  If anyone has ideas on how to handle these types of things, please let me know.

If you haven't checked out Madness 2012 at Think Kid, Think, take a look. I think you'll like what you see!  Maybe next year, you'd like to join the challenge. It was a little tense for me worrying about the word I was going to get,, if I could actually write a poem in such a short period of time, and if anyone would vote for my poem. Would I do it again?  You betcha! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just for Fun?

When I signed up for the March Madness poetry challenge, I told myself it was just for fun.  As my turn to write grew closer the idea of fun turned to fear, espcecially when I saw the list of "real" poets who would be participating.

I'm not fast when it comes to writing poetry, and this challenge requires one to write a poem in 36 hours after receiving an assigned word.  Thirty-six hours doesn't seem like long, but because I teach an extended day program, I only had a window of about four hours to come up with something I hoped would at least make sense.  Again, I tried to convince myself that it wasn't that important, it was just for fun. 

So, my poem went "live" this morning, and the voting got started. I didn't think I cared about winning, but suddenly, I REALLY wanted to win.  I guess that's human nature. We become competitive, and want to know that our efforts matter.  I know I won't get very far in this challenge, but it would be nice to at least get to round 2!   I admit my "opponent" wrote a very cool poem.  DARN! Why did she have to be so good? 

If you haven't checked out the March Madness challenge, take a peek.  I'm so impressed by the poems the others came up with. I really am having fun to voting for my favorites. I think you will too!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


With the time change, it's dark when I leave for work.  I don't like driving in the dark because the older I get the weaker my night vision becomes. To make things worse, there are a lot of hazards on one particularly dark road.  Deer dash out from nowhere, cars back out of their driveways, and things like lumber and cardboard boxes from a nearby construction site often litter the road.  So, I drive pretty slowly and try to stay mindful of what's happening around me.

This morning, as I drove along  I saw something up ahead lying in the middle of the road.  It appeared to be a large box, but as I got closer I saw that it wasn't a box at all, it was a small doe.  I slowed to a crawl afraid that she might run out in front of my car.  As I approached, my headlights lit the place where she lay in a puddle of blood.  She raised her head and looked at me.  Her brown eyes alive with fear and confusion. I stopped the car. She didn't try to run. She couldn't. She just lay there watching me. 

I didn't know what to do.  There wasn't any place to pull over safely.  Another car was coming up behind me, and I knew I had to move.  Tears gushed down my face as I drove.  I grabbed my phone and dialed 911. I described the emergency and location of the deer to the operator.  He promised to send an officer and animal control to rescue the little doe.

I sat a few minutes longer shaking and crying. I should have done more for her, but my fear for my own safety caused me to leave her there alone.  I've been very down all day.  Some people might not understand my sorrow over the life of one deer, especially when the area I live in is practically overrun by them, but she was one of God's creatures all the same, and she was beautiful.  She didn't deserve to die alone. No creature does. I wish I would've had the courage to save her.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A "Poem" About Reading

We're in our second day of testing.  My job, as a test examiner is to walk around the room and monitor students taking the test. We cannot read or work on anything during test-taking time.  I'm working with eighth graders, and they've been doing a great job.  They are pretty much self-sufficient with very few questions. Yesterday was the longest day of testing so while they were working, my mind started to wander.  The first stanza of this "poem" came to me.  This morning as I walked around the room, a few more stanzas started coming together. 

I've never been good with meter. I don't know why, but I just can't seem to get it right. Maybe it's some blockage in my brain, or my country twang. So, I really would appreciate any suggestions you have for improvement.  I'm thinking that after I work on it some more, I might use this poem as a writing prompt to encourage students to write about their own favorite books. Thanks for your help!

The Book on My Shelf

When I was little
and tucked in my bed—
I’d listen to stories
that Grandpa read

about a young boy,
his silly Pooh Bear,
a Hundred Acre Woods,
and the adventures there.

Grandpa read those stories
again and again—
until Christopher Robin
became an old friend

It’s been a long while
since we’ve read together
but I’ll remember those
stories and Grandpa forever

It’s a book on my shelf
I got when I was three
A very special book—
my grandpa gave to me

-Linda Kulp

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Promises We Make

Yesterday, like most Sunday mornings, I arrived at the nursing home around 9:00 AM.  Mom is sitting in her room strapped in her wheelchair trying to feed herself.  When she hears me come in, she looks up from her tray but doesn’t recognize me, at least not at first.  Food littered across her tray and down the front of her blouse is a sign she is getting weaker. I smile and tell her she looks good. I I can’t let myself think about what's happening to her—so I just keep smiling. I ask if she needs help with breakfast. She shakes her head. I pretend not to notice as she lifts her fork, but misses her mouth. Feeding herself is one of the few things she is still able to do.

The nurse comes in to check on her progress.  Mom introduces me as “a visitor.” The nurse smiles in recognition and takes the tray.   I ask her how she's doing.  She tells me about her physical therapy and how she is able to walk on her own now.  She doesn’t remember that the doctor gave up on physical therapy months ago.  She believes she’s getting better. She describes how she walks through the halls all night long while the others are sleeping. She believes she’s going home, and asks when I'll come to pick her up. I quickly change the subject and begin to update her on family news.

I see a little spark in her eyes as she finally remembers me. She if I'll bring her a cell phone the next time I come so she can call her friends.  I know I can't do that because the last time she had a phone, she kept calling 911 and reporting her roommate missing. Besides, the one her friend she had is gone now. But, I tell her I'll bring the phone.  I don't want to upset her.  “Do you promise you'll bring it?" she asks. I nod and change the subject to the weather.  She thinks it's July and thinks it's funny that I'm wearing a jacket. I tell her that all the air conditioning makes me cold. She laughs.

When it’s time for me to leave, she asks me to meet her at the church later for Friday Night Bingo. I smile and nod. I don’t tell her that it's Sunday. I don’t tell her that she cannot leave the nursing home-
ever.  I don't tell her that she is never going home. Instead I smile and nod when she asks, “Do you promise?” 

I take her hand, “Yes, Mom, I promise. “ An hour from now, she won’t remember our conversation, she won't even remember that I came to visit. But, for a little while she is laughing and making plans. I can’t take her away the hope that keeps her believing in tomorrow, so I make  promises I know I can’t keep, and I pray that forgives me.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reflection: My Writing Journey

Disclaimer: This is a stream of consciousness (rambling) piece so I hope it will make sense to readers.

I've been thinking a lot about writing. In fact, I've thought about writing most of my life. From the time I was very young, I would make up little songs and carry them in my head. I never wrote them down on paper. Reading and writing were not valued in the world I grew up in. When my sons were born, I read to them every day and fell in love with picture books.  I wanted to try to write one, but I was raising my sons, going to college, and working full time.  I decided writing would have to wait for that time known as  Someday.

When I started teaching, I wrote stories and poems to use in my classroom. I went to every workshop on writing I could: Donald Graves, Ralph Fletcher, Shelley Harwayne... , and I read dozens of books on teaching writing.  I loved to write and somehow found time to do it.  This was pre-internet and home computer days. I wrote longhand then typed my stories and poems on  a computer at school  My students encouraged me to send my poems out to try to get them published. Amazingly, some of them did get published. I even became a contributing editor to a small publication for teachers. I wrote a poem and a monthly column. I didn't get paid, but it wasn't about money. Writing was fun, and I looked forward to it.   I earned my living as a teaxcher so publication was exciting but not my main objective. I wrote to model for my students, and I wrote about topics I was teaching to help my them learn.

Then came the internet and Facebook.  I started reading about the success other writers were having. I felt like I should be doing more, maybe I was a little jealous of them for making more of an effort than I had.  About the same time, I went through a divorce.  My sons were grown, out of college and on their own. I no longer felt there was purpose or meaning in my life. I sunk into a deep depression and held a daily pity-party for myself. I no longer knew who I was or what my life was about.

Suddenly, publication seemed very important. I felt like I was missing something. Having a book published became my goal (obsession), but I decided I needed first to take classes to learn how to write. So, I took class after class and read every how-to write book I could get my hands on. I worked on each assignment revising and revising until I was exhausted and lost all passion for it. I questioned the value of every thing I wrote and lost all confidence in my writing.  Rejections, lots and lots of rejections were delivered to my mail box.  I began to realize just how bad my writing was. There are so many great writers out there who are masters who can write much better than I can.  It must have been a fluke that I was ever published at all. I stopped submiting and hid inside my journal.

Guess what? It didn't take long until writing became fun again. It was safe with no one to judge me, no one to reject me. Now I started writing for my students again, and once in a while, I'll send something out.  I expect to be rejected while hoping that just maybe I wrote something worth publishing.  I wish I could say that I'm over the whole publishing thing, but I can't let it go.  It's not about fame or fortune. I think it's more about acceptance and having someone saying that my words mean something.   Maybe it's also about leaving part of myself behind. I'm nearing retirement age and time is running out. My mother had a dream that she never acted on, I worry I won't figure this out in time.  Sometimes, I wish I could walk away from it and find another passion, another dream. Why won't this writing dream let go?  If I were meant to be a writer, why don't I know where I fit?

It's embarrssing to admit that publication became more important than writing. I'm trying to find my place (if I have one) in the world of writing. I'm hoping this SOL challenge will help me find some answers.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What Was I Thinking?

Last month when I read about the March Madness Poetry Tournament over at  Think Kid, Think!, it sounded like fun so I quickly added my name to the list of participants. Hey, it was a gray day in February, and a little madness seemed like just what I needed to move out of the winter doldrums. The few folks who had signed up before me were online friends and other kidlit bloggers. Besides, the challenge was weeks away.  I've dreamed of writing poetry for children and young adults, maybe this would motivate me to step out of my comfort zone and through caution to the wind.

All of that seemed well and good, except now, here we are, and the tournament begins tomorrow with a video so each participant (notice I'm avoiding the word: POET to keep from totally freaking out) will see his/her seeds.  I'm not sure I understand exactly how it will all work, but I'm pretty sure that I'll be in the "write one and done" group!  Just take a look at the list of folks on the list, it's like a who's who of children's poets!  Yikes!  At least it be over quickly, once my number comes up, I'll have 36 hrs. to write the poem, and then the voting and elimination will begin.  Is that the same as sudden death? 
Now, I'm going to hop on over to the March Madness page and read more about how the tournament will work.  I hope I can figure out what it's my turn to write!  I don't need to add any additional humiliation to this thing!   What was I thinking?


Friday, March 9, 2012

So Many Slices, So Little Time!

Are you enjoying the SOL challenge as much as I am?  I usually don't get to write until sometime after 9 PM, but I find myself thinking about my topic throughout the day.  I often "try out" an idea in my mind and let the excitement build until I can't  wait to get home, get my chores done and sit down to write!  Before the challenge, I mostly confined my writing to my journal.  It felt safe.  But because of the encouragement and support given by other slicers, I'm beginning to feel less self-conscious about sharing my words. I'm not quite to the point of feeling safe yet, but maybe that's not so bad.  Feeling too safe might cause me to be less attentive to improving my writing.

I also look forward to reading what other slicers are writing.  What a fascinating group of people we have in our writing community!  Each day, I look forward to reading your thoughts, poems, and stories. I try to read and comment on as many as I can.   I wish I could read more because I know I miss some great slices every day..

We're still in the early days of this challenge, and it's already helping me make writing a priority.I made a commitment when I joined the challenge, and that gives me permission to write every day. Having a daily deadline, is very motivating! But,I'm a little worried that after March 31, I might slide back into my old habit of putting writing on the back burner. I sometimes feel self-indulgent taking time every evening to focus on something just for me.  There's always plenty of housework and schoolwork I should/could be doing. So, the next challenge will be for me to KEEP writing when no one is looking.  I'm just not yet sure how I'll do that.

How will you keep yourself writing on a daily basis when the challenge is over?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Co-Curricular Period

Our school, has a 30 minute co-curricular activity period four days a week.  At the beginning of the year, teachers write descriptions for the topic they want to teach.  Then students choose the activity they will participate in for that term. The idea is to allow students to be enriched in an area they wouldn't normally have during the school day.  The list of topics range from astronomy to yoga.

Teachers and students and students have mixed feelings about the co-curricular activities.  One advantage of the program is that it give teachers an opportunity to share a topic they are passionate about with students. Students make connections with others who share their interests and see another side of their teachers.

But, there are some disadvantages too. For teachers, it is the extra planning and prep work it takes to teach an extra class every day.  I'm currently teaching a memoir writing class.  I put as much time into planning for this group of students as I do for my other classes. Another concern is that many of the students who end up in the class aren't there by choice. Students are asked to make first, second, and third choices on their sign-up sheets.  If a large number of students sign up for the same activities, some of them will end up in a class they may not want to be in. This can cause unhappy students,  and unhappy students can cause behavior problems for the teacher to deal with.

I'm not sure how this co-curricular period will mesh with the changes the common core curriculum are sure to bring. I like the concept of students having an enrichment period, but how much more can we pack in a day and still be effective teachers?

Does your school have a co-curricular program?  If so, how does your school use the time to benefit students without adding to teacher workload?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Here We Go Again!

Last night we met with a real estate agent to put our house back on the market. We tried to sell it last year, but houses just weren't selling in our area. We're hoping this year will be different.  We love our house, but it's no longer practical for the two of us to continue living in a huge house that needs constant upkeep. 

Our house has gone down about $200,000 in value.  When we bought the house, we thought we were making a good investment for our future. Then the economy fell apart, lay-offs happened, and my salary became our main (and often our only) income. We're losing money by staying here.  We just replaced the heating system, remodeled the master bath, replaced the garage doors, and we'll need a new roof soon.  I'd like to retire in a few years, but until we get a lower mortgage payment, I can't even think about it.  It's time to move on, but giving up my home will be hard.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Small Slice

What a day!  We have our state testing next week, and it's crunch time at our school.  We didn't pass last year so we're under a lot of pressure to make AYP.  All year long, we've been practicing test-taking strategies, providing after school tutoring, and collecting data to monitor student progress. Stakes are high for us this year, and with only a few days left before the test, tension is growing.  I've been going since 5:00 AM, and I still have laundry to fold and a dishwasher to empty.  So, I'm going to keep this slice short.

I just read all the kind comments on the slice I shared yesterday.  Thank you for your encouraging words.   I'm so glad I joined the SOL community!  I just wish I had time to read more slices every day. I try to read as many as I can because every one of you have something interesting to share. Now, I'm off to make a cup of tea and see what you've been up to today!

Monday, March 5, 2012


Writers are told to get used to it. We’re told it goes with the territory. We’re told not to take it personally.  We’re told it’s no big deal.  All this advice sounds good, but it sure doesn’t take the sting out of rejection. lists the following synonyms : refusal, brush-off, elimination, exclusion, kick in the teeth, no dice, no way, slap in the face.  Wow! So much for not taking rejection personally! The thing is, writing is VERY personal, and rejection is hard.

Yesterday, I received an email informing me that my poem was rejected.  I had worked long and hard on that poem.  Researching the topic, writing and rewriting until it finally felt right,  I  finally sent it off knowing  rejection was possible, even probable.  It wasn't the first time I’ve received a rejection so why did it hurt so much when that email came?

I think it's because no reason was given by the editor. I rarely submit anything for publication so my experience is limited. However, in the past, when I 'd send a submission snail mail, I'd send a  reply post card with a checklist so the editor could simply choose a reason. The editors who reply via email, also usually state a reason. For example, I recently sent 3 poems to a large children's magazine. One poem was accepted, the editor wrote that other two "don't fit our upcoming themes."  In that case, I knew where I went wrong. 

But with this one, I have no idea why it was rejected. Did the entire poem stink? Was there a line that didn’t work? Was the topic all wrong? The more I thought about it, the more embarrassed  I was for submitting the poem, and then negative self-talk too over.

Now, I know editors are busy. But when an editor is also a writer, they know the questions and self-doubt a rejection brings.  If the editor had taken the time to include a brief but specific reason for the rejection (meter is off, too abstract, imperfect rhyme, etc.), I would have something to work with. I would’ve grown as a writer instead of wondering if  the poem was a total failure.

A teacher would never put an “F” on a piece of student writing  without a comment explaining why.   Writers need to know what went wrong. Editors are,  in many ways, our teachers. We listen to them and learn from them. The point of all this is not to bash editors. No way! They work hard and do an important job. We need them. I just think that it would make us better writers if we knew why when our work rejected.

It's almost 3 AM, and I've been up all night.  I hope this doesn't come off sounding bitter. I'm just trying to figure out if I have anything to offer the world as a writer.  

Saturday, March 3, 2012


"But there never seems to be enough time 
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them..."
           -Jim Croce
Time. There never seems to be enough of it. We all wish we had more.  Time is fleeting. Time is precious. Time passes by. We take time, and we spend time. We manage it, we save it, and sometimes, we even kill it. But, no matter what we do with it, we all get twenty-four hours each day. It sounds like a lot so why can't I find time to do the things that I want to do instead of always rushing and hurrying to get the things I should do done?  And, when I finally do get some free time, I'm too exhausted to enjoy it. Spending my days at break-neck speed has left me feeling that there has to be more to life.  I have goals and dreams. There are people and places I want to enjoy.  I need time to refresh and renew my spirit.

When we're young, it seems like there is an abundance of time.  By middle age, we realize time is limited.  Many years ago, my mother would talk about her dream of going on safari in Africa so she could see lions in the wild. She wanted to travel and see the animals she loved in their natural habitats. She talked about her dream, but she never did anything to achieve it.  There were kids to feed, diapers to change, floors to scrub. Someday, she'd have more time. Years passed, and she finally had the time, but she still didn't pursue her dream. She was often depressed and angry. She spent her middle years a hyperchondric constantly fearing she had an undiagnosed disease.  She grew old and sank into the void dementia. Time is now her enemy. She can't remember the past, doesn't connect with the present, and she has no dreams for the future. I can't help wondering how differently her life might have turned out if she'd followed her dream.  Each time I visit her, I'm reminded how quickly our lives can change.

So, I've vowed to myself to make time to work toward my dream.  Even if it's only a few minutes each day.  I don't want to look back someday and wonder what if... I've these two songs on my ipod to remind me to slow down and give myself the gift of time.

Time in a Bottle- Jim Croce

I'm in a Hurry- Alabama

One Writer's Process

Survival of the Fittest: The Last Hope for the Human Race
by Michael Taylor
For today's slice, I decided to interview friend and colleague, Michael Taylor who recently published  his debut novel, Survival of the Fittest.  Many of my students have read his book and absolutely loved it1 I think one reason the book has become so popular is because readers identify with the characters and see themselves through their eyes.

The story begins one night when the seven teenagers awake to find they are completely alone. Their parents are gone, and it seems everyone on earth has disappeared as well. The electricity is off. Surrounded by darkness, the differences among them that once seemed so important no longer matter.  They are the sole survivors of an alien attack and the last hope for humanity.

A big thank you to Michael for giving us a peek inside his writing and publishing process.

1. What made you want to write a science fiction novel?
I didn't really pick the genre of the book before I started. I began writing and this is where my story took me.

2. Where did you get the idea for Survival of the Fittest?
Most of my ideas come from movies, reading, and television.

3. How has being a teacher influenced your writing?
I think my style of writing has been greatly influenced by teaching. When I was in college I had a professor who hated my creative writing because I didn't use a lot of imagery and metaphor, but I think my style is what teen readers really look for. I feel kids today are part of the instant gratification generation and to make them stop and think about what they have to picture in their mind is, at this time in history, too much. Let's hope this will all swing back to more thoughtful writing.

4. As a full-time teacher, how do you fit writing into your schedule?
I make time. Writing is what I love to do, so no matter what, I'll build my fun into my schedule. It's very much like people who golf, do ceramics, or are active in social groups.

5. More writers are beginning to consider self-publishing over traditional publishing fpr various reasons. Why did you chose to self-publish your novel? Would you tell us a little about the process?
I self-published because I was getting nowhere by sending my manuscript to literary agents. The market isn't scrambling to find authors. So in doing some of my own research, I read that most literary agents won't even look at a manuscript until the author has been published. It's a smart thing for literary agents to do, it shows them who actually wants to be an author and who might be wasting their time.
The process was easy for me. I worked with iUniverse who basically walked me through the whole process. I had to pay for everything, but in the end, realizing a life-long dream, it was well worth it.

6. I know that you are an voracious reader of YA fiction. Which authors have been the biggest influence on you as a writer?
The biggest influence for me has been Neal Shusterman. I think this man is an unstoppable force in the realm of young adult literature.

7. What can your readers look forward to next?
I'm in the process of editing the first book in a second series I'm writing, The World Beyond - Ancient History and hope that the first book will be out by spring. I've also just finished the second book of Survival of the Fittest, subtitle, The Closest Enemy. The second book is a whole lot edgier than the first. And spinning in this head of mine are a million other stories that I hope to write. If all goes well, and writing turns out to be successful, I will keep readers well stocked with series upon series.

Here are a few of the comments students shared with me:
"My favorite character is Trevor because he acted very closely to the way a person would be expected to act in these circumstances. I really loved the ending, it was very interesting and suspenseful. The ending left room for another book, but it was still exciting." -Serena (7th. grade)

"The best part was when the blade comes out of Trevor's arm because it was really surpising. It was the beginning of the end! - Alexei (7th. grade)

If you enjoy reading fast-moving, action-packed science fiction,  Survival of the Fittest is for you! You can read more reviews here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Poetry Lessons

I am a big fan of Mary Oliver's poetry. I learn so much from her poems. 


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't

a contest but the doorway

-Mary Oliver

I especially love the lines "pay attention, then patch/a few words together and don't try/to make them elaborate..." because it reminds me to keep it simple and just get what I want to say down on paper.  I tend to over-analyze things and make them more complicated than they are. That kind of thinking keeps me stuck not only in my writing, but also in teaching and in other areas of my life.

I also like the lines "this isn't/a contest but the doorway..." I'm not seeking fame or forunte with my writing. For me, writing is a doorway to learn about myself, keep memories alive, and connect with others. 

I jotted this list of  lessons poetry has taught me so far.
What I've Learned From Poetry

Be still.
Look, listen, feel.
Pay attention.
Say what you mean.
Speak from your heart.
Wait for the words.
Believe they will come.
Thank them when they do.
Tell your truth.
Take risks.
Make mistakes.
Learn from them.
Embrace your voice.
Embrace others.
Work hard.
But most importantly
Celebrate the joy!

-Linda Kulp

So what has poetry taught you?  Leave me a comment and share your own poetry lessons.

I never know how much of a poem I can print without interfering with copyright,  so you can read the last lines of Mary Oliver's lovely poem here.

Ready for more Slices of Life? You can find a plateful here.
Then head on over to Dori Reads for Poetry Friday.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Making Connections

Today begins the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This is my first time participating. One reason I decided to join the challenge is because I want to connect with other teachers and writers. I often write in my notebook, it's a very safe place because it's for my eyes only.  But, listening to my own voice can get a bit lonely, and sometimes I feel the need to reach out to others. Going public with my writing is very hard for me. I've had some pieces published, but I rarely send anything out anymore. Lately, I just don't feel like anything I write is good enough, and like most teachers/moms I struggle to find the time to write. Author Anne Lamott suggests starting with short assignments and writing only what can be seen through a one-inch picture frame. So, that's how I'm trying to think of my SOL posts, just a collection of small bite-sized bits of writing. I'm not sure where this adventure will take me, but I can't wait to find out.  I'm hoping that by going public for the next 31 days, I'll begin to feel more comfortable sharing my writing.  I look forward to reading what other slicers are writing and joining a writing community.

Read other what other slicers are saying here.