One final note on the Catholic Homeschoolers of Georgia conference, which I had the honor of attending yesterday: On my website, I say that in the workshop, “teaching points arise organically.” Here is one good example of what that means.

Now I should have know that when I picked three kinds of magnetic poetry to bring to the conference — the haiku edition, the genius edition, and the zombie edition — it could make for some pretty crazy poems! Exhibit A:

Zombie poem written by a group of five very cool siblings

the vicious undead zombie
destroys the mindlessly wild world
an obtuse dandelion mushrooms grotesquely
she cried in mellifluous blood zeal

(I decided to replace “blood” with zeal to make it a little less scary!)

A group of five delightful siblings convened around my table, and we had a blast working on this poem together. We were trying out all kinds of combinations, when one of the children, Tom, put together the combination “mindlessly wild world” and said it aloud. All six of our faces lit up, and we all smiled and said, “Yeah!” So, there was the teaching point.

I asked them what they thought it was about that combination that made everyone react the same way, what it was in the language that we were all responding to. I pointed out the music in the words: the internal rhyme of long i’s in “mind” and “wild,” the alliteration with the w’s in “wild world,” and the consonance of the “ld” endings in “wild world,” not to mention the l’s and d’s in “mindlessly.”

THAT, I said, is poetry, and look: It came naturally once they started working with the words.

In a typical writing class, students might study the concepts first, reading famous poems that demonstrate them, and then attempt to apply the concepts by writing verse. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is one way to learn. But in a workshop, these things often happen naturally, and when you discover what it is that you did that made your writing “work” or “click,” there is something extremely satisfying about that.

Well done, Tom!

Meet Selah!

Posted: April 29, 2012

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I met another young writer at the Catholic Homeschoolers of Georgia Conference: Selah, age 9. Selah was hard at work for over 30 minutes composing a fictional narrative. The magnetic poetry didn’t provide her with all the words she needed, so she started using the marker. Very resourceful!

Selah hard at work.

When her family said it was time to go home, Selah said, “But I can’t. I need to finish my story.” (The mark of a true artist!) Her family kindly obliged while she added those finishing touches. In the end, it was something she could be proud of.


Here it is if you’d like to read her story. By the way, I was wondering where she got her writing chops, until her mom told me about her blog: Use Your Momstinct. It’s pretty cool. You should check it out!

A Story by Selah

Meet David!

Posted: April 29, 2012

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I had so much fun at the Catholic Homeschoolers of Georgia Conference yesterday. It was a real treat for me to be able to talk with some homeschoolers face-to-face. As an online writing coach, I don’t often get that opportunity. I was very impressed with a few young writers who stopped by my table to compose “magnetic poetry.” Meet David, age 13.

David loves long words, adjectives, and word play.

David composed a haiku, a limerick, and a poem in free verse. His haiku was probably my favorite:

wet, wretched concrete
must the wind always wander?
then cicadas laugh

Things I learned from David:

1. The prefix “un” looks the same if you flip it upside down.
2. Paradoxes always come in two’s. (Get it? “Pair”-adox?)
3. Nothing rhymes with the word “orange.”
4. The heart of a tree and the tail of a dog have something in common: They are both farthest from the bark!