Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Feature for the New Year: Wednesday Writing Workout, plus a Book Giveaway!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I hope you're all rested and refreshed and ready to plunge ahead into 2013.

While on our winter blogging break, we TeachingAuthors were busy working behind-the-scenes, planning a new weekly feature. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know we often include Writing Workouts with our posts. As it says in our sidebar: "We invite classroom teachers to use these writing exercises with their students, and adult writers to try them on their own." Many of you have told us that you especially appreciate and look forward to our Writing Workouts. So we've decided to pull them out of our regular posts and create a separate feature: the Wednesday Writing Workout (or WWW)!

As you can see, we've added some text but kept our former Writing Workout image--a set of barbells and a ribbon with a medal. The logo represents how everyone who works out with us is a winner! 
Note: if you're a blogger and you'd like to share your response to the WWW in your own blog post, feel free to copy and paste the above logo onto your own blog. We ask only that you link back to our corresponding WWW post. 

While continuing with our regular posts on Mondays and Fridays, we'll devote Wednesdays to Wednesday Writing Workouts. Each WWW will be written by one of the TeachingAuthors or, as is the case today, by a Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor.

To introduce the new feature and celebrate a new year, we're also having a Book Giveaway! Every writer and writing teacher will want a copy of our giveaway book on his/her reference/inspiration shelf: Keep Calm and Query On: Notes on Writing (and Living) with Hope (Divertir Publishing). And the book happens to be written by today's Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor.

I'll share our Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor's bio before giving you his Writing Workout. See if you can guess the author's identity before I reveal it below. (No fair looking up the MGTA's books online before that!)

Today's MGTA has the kind of resume our readers love: A former teacher of grades 7 through 12 and a writer of children’s fiction, he’s the editor of the forthcoming book for teens and tweens, Break These Rules (Chicago Press). He co-edited Burned In: Fueling the Fire to Teach (Teachers College Press) and Dedicated to the People of Darfur: Writings on Fear, Risk, and Hope (Rutgers University Press). Teachers College Press also published his latest book for teachers, A Call to Creativity: Writing, Reading, and Inspiring Students in an Age of Standardization.

Does this bio sound familiar? That's because Esther reviewed Keep Calm and Query On back in October. She gave the book a big Thumbs Up!

Before I reveal the identity of our Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor, here's his TERRIFIC Wednesday Writing Workout:  

Give Logic a Lollipop:
I am one of those people who believes that we’re all still children, really. Whether we’re 32 or 64 or 96, there’s something innate in us that stubbornly refuses to grow up no matter how much coffee we drink (in my case, a lot), how much we worry about paying bills, or how professional we look in our formal attire.  The kid-like parts of us are often covered by layer after layer of logic. While the growth of logic is hugely beneficial to things like paying our bills, walking out of the house with matching socks and a straight tie or proper dress, and generally being responsible, an area that is bleached of vitality by our intense focus on forcing everything to make sense is our writing life.

This Wednesday Writing Workout, then, asks us to momentarily allow logic to sit by himself on the far bench, way over on the other side of the room. Give Logic a lollipop and the latest Time magazine, and then sneak off to your writing desk and try something illogical to fuel those writing muscles.

1.    Visualize your favorite film actor or actress.
2.    Close your eyes, and continue visualizing that person, and then reach out—literally!—your hand and shake their hand, up and down. Then smile knowingly (eyes still closed) like you and your favorite film star are sharing some inside joke even though you haven’t spoken any words yet. You’re that tight.
3.    Open your mouth (literally!) and speak the very first words that come to mind.
4.    Now open your eyes, pick up your pen or open up a Word document on your computer and write your name, then a colon, then the words you’ve just said.
5.    Then write the actor’s / actress’s name, a colon, and his / her response.
6.    Continue writing your ‘scene’ with dialogue that emerges organically and no matter how seemingly ridiculous it is, just follow the exercise through.
7.    Every once in a while, try to insert a small note on the setting—the weather outside, what you’re eating (lollipops?), what noises occur in the background, and anything else that creates the mood of your conversation.
8.    Try to continue this scene for at least two pages. This is a perfect opportunity to work our writing muscles by putting ourselves into a situation that allows the kid-like part of us to trump the adult part of us.

So often, as writers, we can think in terms of productivity and progress. And these are both great things in the life of a writer. Hey, who doesn’t want to add a few more pages to that novel, or bang out a few more notes for that picture book? But sometimes, persistent focus on productivity and progress have the side effect of hiding us from the kid-like parts of our writer selves, that are concerned—almost entirely—with joy, engagement, emotion, quirks, and creativity.

My seven-year-old nephew loves writing stories. When I talk with him about what he’s writing, he doesn’t give me the latest page count or the stats on which publishers have checked out his work yet. Even while I sometimes focus too much on those things, I try to shake my head and heart to return to what matters: the creation itself. The sheer beauty, hilarity, pain, joy, and love of it. And this process must, by definition, involve flights of fancy and the decision to leave logic a little lonely at times.

Today, for your Wednesday Writing Workout, craft this scene and let the kid in you lead the way. I promise you’ll discover pearls that—if nothing else—will make you laugh, and possibly even provide a kernel for a louder pop later.

* * *
What a wonderful Wednesday Writing Workout to inaugurate our new feature! And now, finally, it's time for the big reveal. Today's Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor is (drum roll please):

Luke Reynolds!
Special thanks to Luke for helping to launch our new feature! Readers, if you'd like to know more about Luke, see his website. I also encourage you to check out his blog, Intersections: One Writer's Journey Through Parenting, Living Abroad, Faith, Publishing, and Social Justice.

As I mentioned above, Luke is the author of Keep Calm and Query On: Notes on Writing (and Living) with Hope (Divertir Publishing). If you read Esther's review, you're going to want to enter our drawing for a chance to win your very own copy.

To enter our drawing, you must follow the TeachingAuthors blog.  (If you’re not already a follower, you can sign up now in our sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.)

You may enter the contest one of two ways:
1) by posting a comment below OR
2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.

Whichever way you enter, you MUST:
1) Just for fun, tell us whether you guessed Luke's identity before the big reveal. We'd also love your feedback on his Writing Workout and/or what you think of our new Wednesday Writing Workout feature.
2) give us your first and last name, AND
3) tell us how you follow us (via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs) .
4) If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way:  youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment.

This contest is open only to followers who can provide a mailing address in the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. The entry deadline is 11 p.m. (CST) next Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. We'll announce the winner on Friday, Jan. 11. Good luck!

Happy writing, and happy 2013!


Alison K Hertz said...

Love this writing workout. I have often closed my eyes and typed a conversation/scene with my mc in order to figure out how she would respond to a given situation but have never done this with an actor. Fun! Keep Calm and Query On looks great, too.

Janet said...

Janet McDonnell here. Loved this. No, I didn't guess Luke's identity, but I will check out his website. Sounds like my kind of guy, linking creativity, hope, and social justice. I follow y'all on FB, and I very much enjoyed having an imaginary conversation with Peter O'Toole. I'm at

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for your comments, Alison and Janet. Let us know if you try Luke's version of this writing exercise, Alison. And good luck in the drawing, Janet.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

What a lovely gift to begin the New Year. Thank you!

Margaret Simon said...

I am curious about where my conversation with Anne Hathaway goes. I want to know why she keeps dying.
Luke Reynolds is a pleasant surprise to me. Looks like a book I would enjoy. I follow your blog by email. My email is
I'm not sure I will blog about my crazy conversation, but when I blog, I am at
Thanks for your fun inspiration, Luke.

Carmela Martino said...

Pen and Ink Team: you're most welcome. And Margaret, I love that you picked Anne Hathaway to talk with. If you end up blogging about your conversation, do let us know. :-)

bildebok said...

I did not guess Luke's identity, but nonetheless I enjoyed enjoyed his post and clicked over to explore the offerings on his webpage.

I enjoyed my dialogue with Kermit The Frog, as we held a lively debate on whether or not it IS easy being green.

Cathy Ballou Mealey - I follow via email through cathy54321 [at] hotmail [dot] com

Looking forward to see what January 9th will bring for a
Wednesday Writing Workout feature!

Linda at teacherdance said...

I'm still moving things around, trying to settle into my new home, still looking for things I cannot find. Perhaps I should write a dialogue with someone out there about organization. The holidays didn't help! Thank you for such a great start to the year. I'll look forward to the Wednesday workouts, Carmela, & try to find time to give them a try. My goal this year is to get some things "behind" me & find more time to read & write. Luke's book looks like one I would need! Thank you!

Pam said...

Pam Courtney, here. I follow this blog by email:

No, I did not guess that Luke was the Mystery Author. However, I was excited about the writing workout. I love Bette Davis. So when I responded in a very rural and ethnic manner with, "Oh no you di'nt!" Bette responded, "Oh don't be foolish, darling. Of course I did, dear!" I can't wait to finish this conversation with my favorite "big shoulder broad."

Linda said...

I love the idea of the Wednesday Writing workout. I don't know if I can find time now to do them, but I'm going to print them out and stick them in a folder for school holidays/summer break, etc. Right now, I'm trying to get back into the teaching/writing hard to do after a hectic holiday season. Luke's book sounds wonderful. Thanks for telling us about it.

Linda said...

Oops! I forgot to included the information you requested. I've always heard teachers are the worst at following directions! : )
1. No, I didn't guess Luke's identity.
2. I follow on Google.
3. My email is
Have a great weekend!

Storykeeper said...

This was such an interesting work out. I was really amazed at what came out in the conversation. Definitely something I will try in my classroom. I just signed up to follow you by email. I did not guess Luke's identity.

Carmela Martino said...

Cathy, I love that Kermit was your celebrity. :-) I wouldn't have thought of him. Or of Bette Davis, Pam. Linda at Teacherdance, hope you're feeling settled soon. Linda K, I hope that Jill and Jeanne Marie's latest posts help you get back in the groove. And welcome, Storykeeper. Let us know if you try any of our WWWs in the classroom--we'd love to know how that goes.

Luke Reynolds said...

Thanks for all of your lovely comments--and so excited to hear from those of you who tried the exercise! I often used it with my Secondary school students--and then later with my college students. The stuff that emerged was such fun--and there were always hidden pearls within the material. I hope you try it again--perhaps with a different actress or actor. Or, alternately, you could imagine you ARE the actor or actress, and send a few e-mails to friends that way. (lately, I have "become" Ryan Gosling--quite a fun experience!)

Thanks Carmela, Esther, and the other fabulous TAs for including this post, and much continued peace and courage to all of us on the writing journey!! Every day, may choose to keep calm, write, and then query on.