Room 313

adventures in teaching creative writing

Archive for the tag “travel”

Writing Retreat Excitement

3 students & teacher

OWP Spring 2016 Conference with winning writers: Andrew (short story), Taylor (memoir), Katie (poetry), & me (poetry)

I am the teacher I am today in large part because I took a chance and applied for the 2009 Oklahoma Writing Project summer institute. I was accepted and joined other teachers in becoming better teachers, better writers, and better teachers of writing. We met for a month on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, participating in workshops and ultimately creating and leading our own.

My continued involvement with OWP has seen me presenting workshops for teachers around our state. I’ve been to three of the four corners. If any of you teachers in the Idabel area need some PD from me, hit me up! Ha ha. In years past, I have also been the co-director of the summer institute, and now I’m the editor of the anthology for the summer institute. I take my high school creative writing students each semester to the OWP conferences.

For  over a year now, I’ve been in a writing group with some other OWP teacher consultants. Deb, Lisa, and Diahn are very dear to me. We meet monthly in each other’s homes to share a meal and our writing for feedback. These meetings are balm to my soul. I look forward to hearing another one of Deb’s adventures from her childhood in Colorado, Lisa’s next novel installment, and Diahn’s heartfelt pieces. I usually bring my poetry, but I’ve also shared some memoir and fiction pieces. I teased my group with the beginning of a novel project I’m calling Panhandlers. They keep asking me to write more, which is good accountability.

Tonight and tomorrow OWP is having a writing retreat at Roman Nose State Park in Watonga. My writing group is going, so we plan to meet during part of the retreat. I’m bringing two new poems and a bit more of my novel. It will be fun to be surrounded by my tribe of like-minded teachers. I’m going to soak it up. Writers write. It’s as easy as that. It will be nice to take a break from being Teacher and Student Council Sponsor, so I can be Writer, if even for a handful of hours.

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What I’ve Been Up To

Crickets have taken up roost on my blog, but I’ve returned after a nearly year-long hiatus. The main reason for my absence is I needed to focus on completely my master’s degree in English. I took a course in block two in fall 2014 [young adult lit], a SPOC (self-paced online course) mainly over Christmas break [steampunk lit], and a course in block one of spring 2015 [Native American lit]. As part of my final master’s project, I traveled to New Orleans in April 2015 as part of the Popular Culture Association national conference to present on a panel with Dr. Laura Bolf-Beliveau and Dr. Timothy Petete on Native American literature. Then I wrote my qualifying paper on diversity in creative writing with a case study on Sherman Alexie and successfully defended it. This was a shorter paper, one that I could one day submit to English Journal as an article. I graduated with my master’s degree in English (20th & 21st century literature) in May 2015. This was a big accomplishment for me because I was teaching the whole time I was working on this degree, which I started in 2007. After I racked up all my required hours, I began work on my master’s thesis, but I hit a roadblock. Ashamed of myself, I completely quit work for a few years to focus just on teaching, not knowing I was losing credit hours because I had a limited time frame. That’s why I had to take three more courses in this past year. I give credit to Dr. Bolf-Beliveau (who wasn’t even officially my advisor but is definitely my mentor) for getting me back on track and helping me form a workable plan. Going through this long journey has taught me to be more patient with my own students.

As student council co-sponsor at my high school, I oversaw our 15th annual Wonderful Week of Fundraising (WWF) where we raised over $100,000 for Hope Chest OKC in the first half of the spring semester. This was my last WWF with my co-sponsor who has now left DCHS for Francis Tuttle. I’m going to miss him, but I’m excited to work with my colleague who is joining me this fall.

I also oversaw a student teacher from OU, Melanie McNatt, in the spring 2015 semester. She was a stellar candidate who taught the Julius Caesar unit (her request) in Pre-AP English and the scriptwriting unit in creative writing. She introduced us to the very handy, free scriptwriting software website Celtx. Her excellent work scored her a job in the English department at DCHS, so she will be my colleague this fall. In fact, she and two of my colleagues, Gena and Dionne, are coming over to my house for brunch and curriculum discussion.

This summer, I led an EF group from DCHS to London, Paris, Switzerland (Lucerne), and Germany (Munich / Munchen). As part of a training program, EF flew me and other first-time teacher leaders to Paris over Valentine’s Day weekend. My group’s trip in Europe in June was pretty fantastic. My favorite country was Switzerland because it was so beautiful, but every country offered a new view of the world. It was such a good experience that I’m planning to lead a trip to Scotland and Ireland in summer 2016.

In late June I traveled to Chicago for the Poetry Foundation’s teacher institute. This was a fantastic learning opportunity with fellow enthusiastic teachers of poetry. We attended workshops with poets like Erik McHenry, Maggie Dietz, and Carl Phillips. The evenings were ours to explore the city, so I ate lots of good food (deep dish pizza, Little Italy, Thai food, Shake Shack) and saw lots of awesome sights (a Second City comedy show, Cloud Gate, Arts Institute of Chicago with American Gothic, Nighthawks, etc.). I even got to grab dinner with a former student who is now in college in Chicago. Chicago is now one of my favorite American cities, and I plan to return one day.

Looking back over the past ten months, I’m amazed at what all I accomplished and experienced. That’s not to say I didn’t experience any setbacks or failures, but 2015 is shaping up to be quite a year. I really don’t think I will ever travel this much again in such a short time frame in my life: Paris, New Orleans, London, Paris, Switzerland, Germany, and Chicago in less than five months!

As I return to my blog, I hope to share my thoughts and experiences on teaching English and creative writing. One day I’d like to write a high school creative writing textbook. Perhaps this blog could be a place for me to try out some sections / chapters for this future textbook.

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