Book Review: Chasing Eveline

As you may have guessed from previous posts, I love Twitter. I have found wonderful writing communities, teaching communities, and people who share my interests, too. Every now and then, interesting tweets will pop up via one of the daily hashtags, and you will have no choice but to acknowledge them.

One such tweet entered my feed in early April from a new author (who also happens to teach and share a similar last name to mine): Leslie Hauser.

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Leslie went on to add: “I place a cupcake in every novel I write!” (Intrigued, yet?)

About a month later, Leslie was asking for readers: a free copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review. Her novel, Chasing Eveline, would debut a few months later (July 2017).

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Having already been interested in her writing, I agreed! Although I didn’t share how many times cupcakes were mentioned when I reviewed her lovely novel, I will share the review I wrote:

Book Review as it appeared on Goodreads

(I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review. I do not know her, nor have I ever met her personally.)

Book Review: Chasing Eveline by Leslie Hauser

Single parent. New best friend. Lost identity. Ivy Higgins has a lot to learn in Leslie Hauser’s new YA novel Chasing Eveline.

Ivy, a 16-year-old who still doesn’t know where she wants to go for college, is lost after her mother walks out of her life. She seeks answers in the lyrics of her mom’s favorite band, “Chasing Eveline,” a (fictional) 1980s Irish rock band.

After seeing her dad slowly become a new person these last two years, Ivy decides that she must reunite the band if she wants to find her mom, which she hopes will also reunite her family and help her father.

Ivy draws you in with her determination to put her family back together, a determination that drives her spontaneous decision-making. Some choices she makes are only half-heartedly supported by her new best friend Matt, who is still obsessing over his former girlfriend Charlotte.

One of Ivy’s wild ideas leads the duo on a dangerous path through the Internet, a place that isn’t as safe as she thought. Their adventure takes you on a spontaneous ride, complete with 1980s music and movies, tears you don’t see coming, and laughter, specifically at a hilarious – albeit slightly disturbing – zoo fundraiser.

Hauser hooks you from the first moment Ivy speaks of finding her mother, and she keeps you reading throughout Ivy’s journey of self-identity and discovery.

I recommend Chasing Eveline to readers who love to be surprised, who love music and movies, who are making new friends, and especially to readers who are trying to find a piece of themselves when a piece is missing.

Connect with the author:

I hope you get a chance to find all the cupcakes in Leslie’s new novel! Here are a few ways to follow her, too:

Website and Blog: “Writer of YA Novels”

Twitter: Leslie Hauser

Goodreads: Author Page

Facebook: Author Page

Have you read Chasing Eveline? Tell me about it in the comments!

Writing Goals for the Classroom

We all know that goals are important in our lives; they give us a purpose. Students need that, too. They need a purpose in the classroom, one they choose.

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I’ve been incorporating writing goals in our class for the last couple years. They have changed significantly from when I started due to student feedback and my growth as an educator.

This year, these writing goals have changed again. This post is dedicated to sharing the beginning of this process, how it’s worked in the past, and how it will change this year.

“A long, long time ago…”

Okay, it wasn’t really a long time ago, but that song popped in my head when I moved on to this section.

What are writing goals? How does they look? Are these questions spinning in your mind right now?

When I first started using writing goals in the classroom, my purpose was to encourage a variety of writing. Students had six different sections on their goal sheet to work through.

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8th Grade student’s goal sheet from the first six weeks of school – 2015 school year

The top four sections (which can be modified for students who need modifications), were “free” in the sense that the teacher doesn’t choose the topics. The “Word Collector” part is based on Corbett Harrison’s Vocabulary Workshop.

The bottom two sections were assignments that students worked on in class, and they changed based on the unit we were in. Both of these sections encouraged the the writing process.

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Problem 1: As the school year progressed, I encountered the problem of students simply trying to fill up space without any cares toward the content or presentation of their writing. Paragraphs that should have had multiple sentences would be written in large print with only one sentence.

Problem 2: I also noticed that many students would wait until the last week of the grading period to complete their goals, which resulted in Problem 1 above.

Solution: In order to encourage students to take their time on pieces and use the entire grading period, I changed the goals again. Drastically.

“Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes/Turn and face the strange…”

I decided to keep with the musical headings. Music helps me through planning, so it fits, right?

At the end of that school year, I asked for student feedback about the writing goals. I already knew the things I wanted to change, but I wanted their insight, too.

  • “There were too many entries.”
  • “I never felt like I had enough time to finish what I started.”
  • “I didn’t like the limit in how many poems I could write.”
  • “We should get to choose how many entries we want.”

These insights helped show me how to change their goal sheets. Along with many other comments, students showed me the things that worked and didn’t work from their perspective.

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7th grade writing goals for the 4th six weeks — 2016 school year

As you can see, the format of the goal sheet completely changed. The calendar at the top served as not only a visual reminder of writing days, but it also served to help students keep track of their stamina over the grading period.

Each section of this new goal sheet was differentiated per each student’s needs and modifications.

  1. Stamina – dedicated to improving handwriting and writing daily (or semi-daily).
  2. Craft – dedicated to improving grammatical errors, which depends on skills each student needs to work on.
  3. Format – dedicated to improvement using the writing process. (The STAAR writing process I teach excludes the 2nd draft.)

Problem 1: Students wrote fewer stories, essays, and longer pieces.

Problem 2: Some students still waited until the last week to complete their goals.

Problem 3: I did not conduct regular student-teacher conferences to address progress in the craft section.

Solution: I again reached out to students, researched better ways to incorporate goals, and looked back at what did and didn’t work from my end. These wonderful goals have once again changed. I changed the goals a few times during the school year, which changed the goal sheet slightly throughout the year.

“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone/I can see all obstacles in my way…”

Okay, maybe I’m having a bit too much fun with the songs in my head… And I definitely can’t see every obstacle I could encounter, but I do know what I hope will happen.

Student feedback at the end of last school year helped me focus on what needed to be better.

  • “The stamina goal didn’t help me. I felt like I was just writing a sentence sometimes to get my day.”
  • “I didn’t like doing just one skill for the whole six weeks.”
  • “I liked the format goal, but some people chose easier ones than I did.”
  • “The revising and editing on the rubric should be part of the goals.”

I started researching different methods earlier in the year when students first started having issues with their writing goals. During this research, I came across Jeff Goins and his 3-Bucket Writing System.

Each bucket represented a different part of the writing process, and I wanted to see if I could incorporate this into writing goals since students wanted the revising and editing to be a part of their goals.

I added a bucket to his system and created a foldable that will help students identify which step of the writing process they’re on.

front and back

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Writing Ideas list to put under the foldable

As a writing teacher, I know students are constantly making lists or creating idea banks for when they don’t know what to write. The list above helps students take those ideas and write something with them.

I’ve used a version of this list every year, and students find it quite helpful. In Google Classroom, there is a student-created prompt list to help with generating ideas, too.

What can they do with these buckets, and how do they relate to this year’s writing goals?

I’m not sure why they look like different colors, but this document is front and back (I always use the back for the rubric to encourage responsibility). Click here for a Google Doc Copy of Goal Sheet.

On the front, you can see the incorporation of the bucket system. These sections are differentiated per student by allowing students to choose their own goal. Buckets 1 and 2 allow for us to focus on whichever skills we’re currently learning in class as well as the skills students already know.

There are still lines to fill in, which was a problem the first time around. The difference here is that every single line does not need to be filled.

For example: If a student chooses ‘7’ for their Bucket 1 goal, then they only need to complete seven different planning tasks. I would encourage them to leave the other lines there (instead of marking them out) in case they plan a lot more than expected.

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These goals also follow the S.M.A.R.T. Goals format. They are a bit ambiguous when it comes to the ‘what,’ but that is where student choice comes in.

  • Specific – Who: each student; What: differentiated per student, each section tells what is needed; Where: may work on in or out of class; Why: to improve writing skills; Which: minimum is the set goal, and maximum is more.
  • Measurable – Students can visually see when they’ve reached their goals, and there is a rubric with it.
  • Attainable – Each section must be reachable; there is no point setting a goal you’re not ready to reach.
  • Relevant – All skills are needed for class and writing in the real world.
  • Timely – Work on throughout the grading period, and due at the end. Students may need to set short-term weekly goals to complete their long-term six weeks goals.

“In the future when all’s well…”

School starts here next Monday (8/28), and we’ll set up our writer’s notebooks before we talk about goals.

The first few weeks —  During the first few weeks, we’ll work on different assignments in class that will help students complete items for each bucket. They will learn how to add it to their notebook and their goal sheet.

Student-Teacher Conferences —  One of my most successful years of teaching involved one-on-one conferencing. Students have what Corbett Harrison calls Sacred Writing Time. Students will meet with me during that time once or twice every two weeks in order to conference about their writing.

photo from Corbett Harrison’s website

Students should complete pre-conferencing before their day. During pre-conferencing, they will answer a few questions and find examples of each answer in their writer’s notebook.

  1. What are two things I’m doing well?
  2. Where have I worked on my “conference” skill, and how am I progressing with it?
  3. What is one thing that I don’t understand?
  4. Do I have any other questions?

Foreseeable Problems —  Not taking time to do the best work possible or waiting until the last week to complete goals.

Possible prevention for those problems — Since we are working on most of these as class assignments this six weeks, students will hopefully feel the need to do their best from the start. This will also keep them from waiting until the last minute. I’ll walk them through setting short-term goals to see how much they need to accomplish each week, which will also help encourage “timely” completion.

All in all, I’m looking forward to this new format, and I’m hoping that it goes well! I’ll definitely post an update sometime next grading period.

What are your tips and tricks for writing goals and writing in the classroom? Which resources do you use? Share with me in the comments.

Resources

I’ve already added the links above, but I’ll create a comprehensive list here in case you need it.

Corbett Harrison

Jeff Goins

Other Sites

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award!

I’ve been nominated! Woohoo!! I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award! I’ve been nominated for the — wait a second…

What exactly is the Liebster Award?

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The Liebster Award

Questions. I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Dianna Gunn, but I was left with questions. What is this award? Who’s it for? Why pick me? These were some of the questions in my head.

Dianna answered a few of them on her blog post, which also listed the rules. Yes, rules. Rules the nominee has to abide by should he/she choose to accept this award.

I wanted to know more.

From what I can gather, this award originated sometime around 2010. It’s an online award intended to encourage new bloggers as they settle into the life of blogging and build their readership.

We definitely need encouragement. That’s for sure!

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Rule 1: Thanks!

Thank you Dianna Gunn for thinking of me and for nominating me with this award!

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Rule 2: Display the award.

I did this up there! ^^^

Rule 3: Answer the questions.

Dianna asked 11 questions, so I will answer them here!

  1. What is your favorite color?
    • Tie-Dye! I’m not kidding. Josh and I even had a tie-dye wedding cake!img_5954
  2. If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
    • I would like to say pay off debt or set aside enough for a college fund for our kiddos, but who am I kidding? I’m more likely to upgrade my phone and buy a laptop.
  3. Cats or dogs?
    • So… I used to be a cat person, but I am slowly becoming a dog person.
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      Athena: our almost 4-year-old terrier mix (Staffordshire Bull Terrier mixed with Fox Terrier)
  4. Cake or pie?
    • Cake… Sometimes pie, but mostly cake.
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      Josh’s groom’s cake at our wedding!
  5. What’s your favorite genre?
    • Historical fiction. This is my favorite book in that genre:Image result for the guernsey literary and potato peel society
  6. What’s your favorite series?
    • A tough question to answer…Image result for a modern witch series
  7. Favorite book to screen adaptation?
    • Books are almost always better than their movie counterparts. However, the movie was better this time. (Given, it could be because this one was based on a short story and not a full-length novel, but still…)Image result for shawshank redemption
  8. If you could be any character from a book or movie, who would it be?
    • I think I’d be Hermione Granger. Not only does she get to use magic, but she gets to ride a dragon, too!
  9. Do you read one book at a time or many?
    • Many
  10. What are you reading RIGHT NOW?
    • I’m about to start a Middle Grade fantasy. I checked out four from the library.
  11. What’s the one big thing you really want to accomplish before 2017 ends?
    • I want to have the third draft (yes… I said third) of my novel written by the end of this year.

Rule 4: Random Facts…

Random facts? What in the world do you want to know about me? I’ll try to think of 11…

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  1. I’m semi-ambidextrous. I write with my right hand, but I do most everything else left-handed: bowling, tennis, playing pool, etc.
  2. I’m the oldest of four children.
  3. Only my little brother and I were born in the same state — my parents, sister, and baby brother were all born in different states.
  4. Oddly, only my youngest son and I were born in the same state — hubby and oldest son were born in different states.
  5. I love Judy Blume books, but I haven’t read any in quite some time.
  6. I am one of those weird teachers who can’t wait for school to start again!
  7. I hate having my hair up, but I hate having it in my face, too…
  8. I played French horn in band, and before that I played the trumpet.
  9. I can solve a Rubik’s Cube (I still have to look up the patterns online for the yellow part, though).
  10. I don’t believe in ghosts… sort of…
  11. I can’t play video games with the music on.

Rule 5: Nominations!

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  1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Dunlap — Lizzie launched a new book last month (second in the series), and she’s working on reaching her readers.
  2. G.R. McNeese — George not only shares his stories with his readers, but he also shares his struggles.
  3. Cori Miller — Cori writes about family, parenting, and the trials and blessings of motherhood.
  4. Remus — Remus writes about writing and how to get a little better at it.
  5. Leigh M. Lorien — Leigh encourages writers with helpful tips on writing and self-care.

Rule 6: Your questions… And some non-question type questions…

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  1. If you could meet any author (alive or from the past), who would you meet and why?
  2. Describe your first happy memory.
  3. What is your favorite scent, and has it ever appeared in your writing?
  4. Describe your favorite place in the whole world.
  5. If you could only listen to music from one decade in history for the rest of your life, which decade would you choose and why?
  6. Describe how it looks outside right now.
  7. What do you remember about your favorite teacher?
  8. Describe your ideal vacation.
  9. If you could live in one fictional world (that you didn’t create), which one would you live in and why?
  10. Describe a time when you wish you had a camera, but didn’t.
  11. What would you do with a million dollars?

Rule 7: List the rules.

Already done, too! ^^^

Rule 8: Inform your nominees!

I linked them in, but I’ll let them know, too!

What now?

That was fun! I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about me, and I can’t wait to hear more about you!

What now? I’d like to hear a few random facts about you. So, feel free to share a couple or answer a few of my questions above about yourself in the comments section below!

Dianna, thank you again for this nomination!

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3 Steps for Writing a Poem

Poetry: a mellifluous word all by itself. Does it sound so beautiful the first time it’s written down, though? Or is there a process for writing poetry? That’s a hard question to answer. Some poets will say no. Others will say yes. The answer, however, depends on you and the purpose of your poem.

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For me, poetry is a process. I have to have somewhere to start and somewhere to end. I can write a micropoem on Twitter, but it’s not always a quick process. It takes a few drafts before I can make it sound right or fit into the 140-character limit.

How does that transfer to longer poems or poems that follow a specific format? Is the writing process necessary for poetry? For me, the answer is yes. Let’s take a peek into what that process looks like for me with three different poems…

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1. I need to research.

The type of research varies depending on the poem I want to write.

Example 1: A poem that doesn’t follow a format

My friend Veronica asked me if I could write her a poem because her current life circumstances were making her feel helpless. I asked her one question: What is your favorite animal?

A hippopotamus. I didn’t know much about hippos, so I searched for information about them through National Geographic. I now had details I could use in my poem.

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Example 2: A poem that does follow a format

I like the challenge of learning new poetic formats, so I’ll often learn about different ones. I don’t know how many poetic formats are out there, but there’s such a variety that poets will never lack for challenges.

Two such formats I’ve tried were the Pleiades format and Huitain format. I started by researching how each of these formats worked.

2. I write a rough draft (or two); then, I revised and edit it.

I know this step actually combines several steps of the writing process, but I didn’t think you’d want to see each individual step. I also don’t have pictures for each step, either, so it’s okay. Poetry is shorter, which means you can fix a bit more of it in one step anyway.

The most important thing, though, is getting your idea on paper before adding imagery, figurative language, and other poetic techniques. If you keep a writer’s notebook, then you’ll have a plethora of ideas at your disposal.

Example 1: The hippo poem was a bit easier to start since I already had a topic. However, it took the most drafts. I had to decide which parts of the research to include, what the theme would be, and if I wanted it to rhyme or have a rhythm.

Example 2: Topics for the formatted poems weren’t as easy to discover. The trick with poetry, if you’re interested, is similar to the Robert Frost quote above: use your emotions.

The Pleiades poem was inspired by the emotion I felt for a close family member, one who suffers from mental illness. I chose the letter ‘A’ to use with the format because it worked with the title, which I had first.

Family seems to always play on my emotions because the Huitain poem was inspired by a different member of my family, one who had recently went back to an abusive relationship.

With both of these poems, you can see that the idea, or rough draft, is written before I start changing the rhythm to match the pattern of the format. It’s incredibly hard to count out syllables while you’re writing, so my suggestion is to always write out your idea first — then fix it up how you like.

3. I write the final copy.

This last step can include publishing, too.

Example 1: Since Veronica, who goes by Roni, was going through a hard time, I decided to illustrate her poem. I am not the greatest at drawing, but I can do a decent job if I take my time. After I finished up her poem and drawing, I sent her a copy: published.

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Example 2: I chose not to illustrate my other poems. (It truly takes a long time for me, and I almost always have to have a point of reference.) I think it’s important to have a legible final copy for whatever you choose to do with it next (blog post anyone?).

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That’s it.

That’s my process when writing a poem, but it’s not everybody’s process. How do you write a poem? Do you plan it out? Do you research? Do you go through a process? Feel free to share with me in the comments.

Resources:

What is micropoetry?

List of poetic formats I use for my students

List of more advanced poetic formats

 

Book Review: A Modern Witch

Quite a few years ago I came across a wonderful book series with fascinating characters and plot elements, both of which gave readers a new way to look at the world of witches. This is my review of the first novel in the series, which I highly recommend!

Review

In her series premiere of A Modern Witch, Debora Geary captivates her readers in the light, fantastical journey of Lauren, a successful real-estate agent who didn’t know she was a witch until she was almost 30 years old.

Through Lauren’s encounters of a world filled with gregarious witches, heart-melting witchlings, and life-changing decisions, Geary leads you on a path of true friendship, caring family, difficult choices, and powerful magic.

From the very beginning, you’re literally (yes, I mean literally… okay, I mean literally for Lauren…) sucked into the lives of the Sullivans, who Lauren accidentally links with during one extremely strange online shopping trip – after all, she only wanted a little ice-cream.

“This is one weird February.” –A Modern Witch

After the odd online meeting, Lauren is surprised a second time when a handsome Sullivan shows up on her doorstep in Chicago, Illinois from Berkeley, California to explain to her that she really is a witch — and not just any witch, she’s a mind witch. Then, after a few convincing magic tricks, Lauren and her best friend Natalie head to “Witch Central,” where Lauren is faced with life’s next big decision — what do you do when you find out you’re a witch?

What do you do when you find out you’re a witch?

Love and support overflow in Geary’s “Witch Central,” which allows you to feel like a part of the family while reading. Anyone who came from such a loving family can easily relate to the hearts of Lauren’s new friends.

On the other hand, those who came from the opposite end of the familial spectrum find themselves easily wrapped in the arms of this group and wishing for more when they read the last page. For readers who enjoy a variety of emotions and deep character connections, Geary captures you under her spell and leaves you eager for the next adventure!

Geary’s series is available in paperback (I’m not sure why they’re not available on Kindle anymore). Be sure to add these to your “to be read” list because they are sure to inch their way into your heart starting on page one!


Resources:

Visit Debora Geary’s website for a complete list of books in this series and her spin-offs.

A Modern Witch on Amazon