Thanks to Stacey, Dana, Tara, Betsy, Anna, and Beth, the amazing writers and thinkers who host the Slice of Life community every Tuesday. Everyone is welcome to join with posts or comments at twowritingteachers.wordpress.com!
One of the sessions that I attended at NCTE14 was about writing college essays. Full disclosure: this was my selfish session. I did not go as a professional; I went as a mother of a high school junior and a high school sophomore. I was curious to hear what college admissions professionals would have to say about college essays.
Rebecca Joseph, Valerie Gregory, and Evan Read offered some great tips for college essay writers, but one of the most important take-aways for me had to do with journal writing. Every. Day. For just five minutes, but every day. A collection of moments.
This was an easy sell for me. I'm our district's writing coordinator. I love to teach writing. I love to write. I could get my family writing. I would get my family writing...
When I got home on Sunday, we went journal shopping. For the family members (we have a lot of family members) who weren't there, we chose for them. (I came home from NCTE with an inspirational journal which was my literary gift from Stacey!) Almost every night since, we have finished dinner by writing for five minutes. Of the three daughter who are still home, two of them are more compliant than one of them. My husband knew well enough to go along. My mother went along, and even my dad, who has significant dementia, has taken up writing every night. We all have the option to share or not to share.
Here are some results:
- My youngest daughter, who is 12, has written several stories in her new notebook. Her writing life in school has been pretty non-existent, so she is thrilled to have time and an audience. She has noticed things during the days that she may not have and written about them in the longer than five minute writing sessions that we have kept up for eight days. (We took Thanksgiving off.)
- My 15 year-old daughter has started a novel. Her sessions have evolved into chapter writing and we all look forward to the nightly updates on her characters who are stuck at sea.
- My husband has written about some of his worries that none of us realized were worries until he shared.
- My mother has gotten us all laughing with some of her recounts of family moments.
- My father has written psalms and songs and some of the connections that he has to them.
- Even Julia, the chief resister at age 16, has written some poems and some commentaries about the absurdities of high school life.
- I have a collection of vignettes, some of which I have realized would fit into the book I am working on, adding needed levity.
We have lingered at the dinner table, since many of the entries lead to more stories and connections. Even my father has lasted in the conversations. Even Julia, who is always in a hurry to get to her homework, has found herself sticking around and laughing with us.
I have worked hard to keep the time limited to about five minutes, but sometimes people keep writing while others are sharing. We have unofficially decided that this is okay. No rules seems to be working as the rules. No one has to share. No one has to stop writing. No one even has to keep writing when they feel done.
I recommend writing together as a family--not to come up with the best college essay, but to share silly moments and special times. We have found that we talk much more than we write as a result of our latest ritual. Hopefully, this one will have some staying power!
This is so impressive! I don't know if I could have done this with my girls when they were home. My family tends to think lightly of my writing passion, but who knows? What an awesome gift you have given your family.ReplyDelete
I love how this has impacted your entire family! Writing is definitely a passion and you are such a great writer!
This sounds wonderful. So great that you took what you learned at NCTE and brought it home to your family. After reading your slice, I want to try this with my family.ReplyDelete
This is awesome! Writing is a beautiful skill and to do it together must be a very rewarding experience.ReplyDelete
Melanie, it's like I said - writing together builds an instant community! Every time! I love that you're doing this, and I can't wait to do this with my own family once my girls are older! Love, love, love.ReplyDelete
Oh, well done! I am picturing the Meehan table, with lovely notebooks scattered around and being read from. Bliss!ReplyDelete
I love that you're having family writing time. This is WONDERFUL and INSPIRATIONAL, Melanie. (Maybe we can get Julia to slice with us. Maybe.)ReplyDelete
Ha! Don't count on that. We have a better chance at getting Larkin to do it again from college!Delete
What a wonderful idea. Sadly, that never happened in my family and just trying to visualize it, nope, can't but so glad you are writing as a family community. So cool.ReplyDelete
I love this time you are spending as a family and even the older folks! How awesome that you are giving it a try. Maybe I might try it with Dave....maybe I could even get my kids...far away to try, thanks for the inspiration.ReplyDelete
Tammy and I did Family Writer's Workshop with our kids for many summers -- we wrote a few articles about it for Choice Literacy. All of our kids still remember those summers with fondness. It would be great to get that going again.ReplyDelete
I also found another connection between us---my mother has dementia and I am her primary caregiver. I am sure we would have many stories to share.
Many, many stories! I wish that you lived a little closer...I know that we would be friends.Delete
I cannot wait to try this with my family. Thank you for sharing from such a great session.ReplyDelete
Love this idea! Just 5 little minutes? I want to try it...like Clare my mom also has dementia. My dad is her primary care giver for now though. It's amazing how everyone brings their writing to the table and no rules! Great idea-less is more...
This is really incredible. I'm especially moved that your father is writing. What a testimony to the power of words, which can conjure up connections and meaningful memories.ReplyDelete
Melanie, I think this is the absolutely sweetest idea I've heard in a long time. I love hearing your examples and the fact that the family is lingering to hear and to share more. It is so special in many ways, to include your father who must feel left out much of the time, & now he is writing and connecting. It brings tears.ReplyDelete
It definitely gets him involved in a more meaningful way and it's fascinating to see what he can still remember and write. It's gotten him laughing and I love that!Delete
I love this, Melanie! Bravo to you and your family for making time for writing together. You're creating so many special memories.ReplyDelete
I love this so much! We used to do this when our kids were little. I wonder if my family would be game as young adults. I think it's wonderful that your whole family is involved. What a wonderful way to bring you all closer together. Good luck to your high schooler getting ready for those college essays.ReplyDelete