Writing is easy

Writing is easy

I first wrote this post in 2013. The purpose of this section of my site remains the same:

The purpose of “On Writing” is to take a different approach to my work: To write short, to use an image or piece of multi-media, to focus on one point. I want to look at design, how something looks or feels or works and how that affects the formation of ideas or creative decision making or the way a final piece turns out.

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Just Write It

Just Write It

This is more or less a spiel about Young Writers Project. It's a spiel, too, on the need for us all to just, write.

In August 2006, when Young Writers Project came to be as a nonprofit, I created a Web site and within weeks it was out of control AND had become a community. Before Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter and Instagram, this was a social media site before anyone had heard the term.

The site, the community, was based on trust: No moderation, treat people with respect. For teens, respect and civility means safety, the safety to take creative risk, the safety to write how you really feel and think and not worry about getting slammed. The activity exploded with posts and commenting and collaborations. I was, in all this, an afterthought, a ghost, as in "who's gg?" Cool.

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The Photograph

The Photograph

I remember the first time I saw this photograph. I was in the library in high school. My assignment was to do some research about the time and conditions surrounding The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Even then, I loved Steinbeck's writing, the power of his subjects, his characters, his descriptions. And I was deeply moved by Grapes of Wrath.

Like so many photographs, this one can lead to personal connections and writing.

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A Photo Story -- How audio can unlock storytelling.

A Photo Story -- How audio can unlock storytelling.

In 2010, concerned that teachers don't have enough time or equipment to pull off complex digital stories with their kids and still achieve quality,  I decided several years ago to show the teachers how to do something simpler -- a photo story. Get a powerful story from an elder, a compelling photo and podcast the text (add music if time for tone).  I created a model and asked them to do the same -- when teachers write with students or share personal stories the impact on student engagement is profound.

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Going viral

Going viral

So an odd thing happened to me in a space of 36 hours: A story I wrote and posted on cowbird.com (now posted here) in 2011 went viral, thanks to a recommendation from upworthy.com. Wow.  

It began as a dribble. A message from a friend who said she got a message from a friend who'd gotten a message from a friend to read my story Lili  about a small moment in my life with my youngest daughter.

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What teachers need ...

What teachers need ...

For many years, Young Writers Project had the privilege of guiding a graduate-level exploration of technology and writing that we call the Digital Writing Practicum. And every year we ask the teachers to reflect on their year and to write a rant of sorts to outline what they need, as professionals, to help them do better as digital teachers.

This is one of the most extraordinary responses we have received. It is written by Rick Schluntz, a highly talented science teacher in the 7th and 8th grades.

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Shhh ... please don't write (talk) about that.

Shhh ... please don't write (talk) about that.

Young Writers Project has always sought to go against the current, to get kids to linger, explore, create together and reach a more substantive level. Elaborate and collaborate. We firmly believe that kids yearn for this -- yes they love the momentary, the fun, the whacky, the immediate -- but they also seek to be challenged. They want to make sense of things, too.​ And sometimes those topics are the ones no one will talk about. Writing helps.

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I like ...

I like ...

I can't remember when I started using this prompt: "I like..." Finish the sentence. Do one long, run-on sentence of Faulknerian length or do a list or a couple of sentence. Tell the world what you like."

My friend, Rusty DeWees, uses it sometimes. He even wrote a column of I Likes. For those of you who don't know Rusty, he may be better known as The Logger. Rusty's brilliance is in his ability to spin humor, a routine even, out of a tiny detail, even a mistake, that he jots down and works over in his mind or his writing. ​

Several months ago I was at a school and taught a class to a group of struggling readers.

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Hats off to Champlain College -- And a prompt

Hats off to Champlain College -- And a prompt

Every year I get the pleasure of doing a workshop or two at Champlain College's Young Writers' Conference, a gaggle of 200+ teens from all over who spend the weekend writing, revising, performing, critiquing and writing some more. The conference is led by poet and fiddler Jim Ellefson. What's most exhilarating about that one hour session is that you have the undivided attention of 35+ souls eager to write, explore, push themselves. They get so ​much done. And they loved this year’s prompt …

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