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On Creativity

10 Oct

Gosh. How much do I love TED? I heard this a few weekends ago on NPR and thought it was a really lovely collection of thoughts on creativity.

I love this quotation from Abigail Washburn:

“Is it an original idea? Or is it something where you’re literally a creative collagist? You’re taking pieces of the world that you see around you and that are inside of you and put them together in a way that you see fit.” — Abigail Washburn

I am most definitely a creative collagist at heart. For most of the decades of my life, I’ve kept a journal. I’ve taken a hiatus over the last few years (thanks a lot, kids!), but I’m definitely ready to get back to it and have slowly begun that collecting that used to be so central to my life. In my little purple notebook so far – teaching ideas, thoughts about the garden, funny things the girls say, quotations from texts I’m reading, charts, drawings, and diagrams, a pressed flower, general musings, memories, lists – I’m getting back to my old habits of collecting words and ideas, and I’m really thankful for that.

What’s your medium for creative expression? How do you make time for your art, whatever it is? Are you a creative collagist? How so?


Flash Fiction

4 Oct

Check out the NYTimes’ post on reading and writing flash fiction. There are some great questions here about what makes a story and some fun ideas for expanding and compressing texts. There are also links to all sorts of interesting related materials. Fun!

Have you or your kids tried your hands at flash fiction? Do you have a favorite piece? Please share 🙂

Telling Stories

26 Sep

Um, how amazing is this?

TED curated a series of six lectures on the topic of storytelling, all of which are so wonderful and would be so rich for kids to watch in school. I particularly love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s piece on the danger of a single story. You can find her piece as well as the five others in there series here.

It’s narrative-writing time in our school, and I’m also in an essay-writing course at the local U. So, stories are on my mind these days, big time.

I don’t know any human being that would have the ability to lead this bunch.

25 Sep

Regardless of what you think about the current political situation, you have to LOVE this metaphor, which is new to me:

First of all, he’s a skilled legislator who cares deeply about the process, and he is attempting to manage a wheelbarrow of frogs who, you know, every time he thinks he’s going down the garden path, a couple of them jump out. I don’t know of any human being that would have the ability to lead this bunch. You’re dealing with some people who just don’t want to be led. But at the end of the day, he is the leader of the Republican conference, and as long as he is in that position, he does sort of have an obligation to follow the will of the conference. (Here’s a link to this interview.)

Could someone please pen a political cartoon right quick? I need to see this illustration. Pronto.

And if you want to learn more about this idiom, you might check here.

Memorable Experiences in Science and Math

2 Sep

Sigh. I love the New York Times’ Learning Network. As a long-time polisci geek, the idea of learning with the news is totally in my court. Actually, let me say that differently, as a person living in the world, I love teaching other people living in the world about living in the world. Ahh, can’t you hear those cinder-block walls crumbling? Anyway, that’s a side note. The Learning Network does a lot with all disciplines, and even though I’m kind of an English-y person, I love science, and I aspire, someday soon, to come back to math.

TLN posted this interesting set of questions on their blog:

What moments or concepts do you remember best from your education in science, technology, engineering or math, the so-called STEM subjects?

What high or low points come to mind when thinking about classes you’ve taken in school? What do you remember learning informally, outside of school, whether on your own or with friends or relatives?

I’m looking forward to seeing what students have to say in response to these questions. If you’d like to give your kids an opportunity to respond to this question publicly, take a look at the guidelines for submission at the bottom of the page: Learning Blog. And, look at that, writing in math and science. Sweet deal.

Commonplace Books

1 Sep

I am definitely not the first to refer to a blog as the contemporary version of the commonplace book. Here’s the transcript of an interesting lecture on the topic: The Glass Box and the Commonplace Book. In my teens and early twenties, I was an excellent steward of the commonplace book, though I’d not heard of the practice at that point. I was an avid reader of poetry and fiction, and I collected lines, phrases, and words that I loved. Maybe part of why I developed that practice was because, at that point in my life, I was rarely the owner of the books I read – most belonged to the school, the college, or the library – and I needed some way to remember what I read and loved. I also fancied myself a poet, and I kept these books so that I had something to write about. 

Flash forward a decade or two, and though I still read, what I read has changed, and though I write, what I write has changed too. Nonfiction is the ruler of the roost (aka my desk) these days. Even the physical space is revealing – when I think of myself reading and writing these days, I imagine sitting at my desk, book on the left, computer on the right, reading and taking notes simultaneously. This is a fairly far cry from the curled-in-corners reading and writing of my youth. And though I think that some of that has to do with the switch from fiction to nonfiction, most of it has to do with the switch from reading for pleasure to reading for information. In “The Transactional Theory of Reading and Writing”, Louise Rosenblatt writes about the efferent-aesthetic continuum, explaining that readers who are reading efferently are concerned with what is to be “extracted and retained” after the reading, while readers who are reading aesthetically are more focused on the “sensations, images, feelings, and ideas”. In my reading life, I think this steady move towards the efferent, away from the aesthetic, explains my own abandonment of commonplacing. However, I don’t think that this is at all necessary, and I’d like to use this blog as a way to reclaim that drive to record, not always evocative language, but evocative ideas. Just because I am reading for information does not mean that I am not moved by what I read. This blog is basically my attempt to heard all of those “WOW!” and “I LOVE THIS!” and “NO WAY!” Post-it notes that are peeking out of all of my books and all of those abandoned electronic bookmarks into one place so that I can begin to reflect on patterns and share my reading and thinking with others. So glad you’re here!